Having started playing D&D back in the days of Second Edition, one of the things I enjoyed most about the game was the myriad campaign settings for it. Virtually all of them had a setting that was quite dissimilar to other campaign worlds, and by extension, created a very different “feel” for the game. You had campaign worlds giving you a fantastical Arabia, a mystical Orient, a Gothic land of terror. They hit most of the classical high points for fantasy game worlds, with one exception.
The Stone Age.
Now, I really can’t blame TSR (nor WotC, nor Paizo) for that. You see, I tried to put together a Stone Age game once, and it didn’t take me very long to come to the same conclusion that I’m sure those companies came to: setting an RPG in the Stone Age is fucking difficult to pull off! In fact, I’d call it the most difficult of all campaign settings to create, simply because so much is so different from any other sort of campaign. So many things that are taken for granted – particularly basic materials – just aren’t there.
Hence why I’m starting this new series of articles. Into the Stone Age will examine various parts of what it means to set a Pathfinder game in the Stone Age. I’ll be covering each part of the game – such as races, classes, equipment, etc. – in its own post. For this post, we’ll start with a basic overview of what a Stone Age game really means.
Setting a game in the Stone Age means defining what exactly the “Stone Age” is. According to Wikipedia, it began somewhere between 2.5 to 2 million years ago, and ended a few thousand years ago, depending on what part of the world you’re looking at.
More germane to the idea of an RPG setting, the Stone Age was not entirely devoid of inventions. Quite a few weapons were developed during this period, including the bow and arrow. The first attempts at artificial structures were constructed. Basic pottery was made. Food was still mostly acquired by hunter-gathering, but around the last part of the Stone Age – the Neolithic period – even this was starting to give way to the rise of agriculture.
Of course, the Stone Age still lacks many basic elements that more developed campaigns take for granted. For example, there is no writing system. The domestication of animals, much like agriculture, begins right around the end of the Stone Age. And of course, tools and weapons were created with bone, wood, and the eponymous stone; there’s no metal whatsoever. Presumably, these limitations have some fantastic equivalents in a Pathfinder Stone Age game – regarding things such as the invention of magic, the advent of the gods, and the rise of certain races; any of which may not have occurred yet, or is in the very early stages.
Starting next time, we’ll go through Pathfinder topic by topic, examining and critiquing them for a Stone Age game, until we’ve found the path we want this campaign to take. Stay tuned.
Next: Player races of the Stone Age!