The Bone Age
On a living planet, there exist two cultures of primitive humans. Their survival is threatened by an alien race known as the Invaders. These Invaders possess technologies far greater than humans. The fight for control for the planet, a harsh and unforgiving landscape
, filled with dangerous flora and fauna. But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time before the Bone Age.
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The story began long ago. An advanced spacefaring alien race known as the Eure is at odds with an aggressive species, the Aeskari. The Aeskari chases the Eure throughout the galaxy with the intent to wipe them out. As the Eure were chased, they came across a suitable planet to inhabit. Not wanting to alert the Aeskari to their colonization plan, they send their best and brightest to the planet to lay dormant in stasis for ten years in the hopes that the pursuing Aeskari would pass them by. The other Eure continues to lead the Aeskari away and only to return when signaled by those they left behind. Their plan didn’t work. The Aeskari bombed the planet anyway, destroying all but eleven of the stasis units–damaging them in the process. Instead of waking in ten years, a hundred million years passed.
In that time, the human race branched out into the galaxy and discovered the same planet, which they then named Kalsentia. They chose to colonize it. As they were teleported to the surface, the colonists’ transporter was sabotaged by an eco-terrorist. When they materialized, their intellect was removed, leaving them as primitive beings.
For centuries they lived a primitive existence on Kalsentia. Eventually, the eleven Eure rose from their stasis chambers only to realized their original plan had gone awry. With their fellow brethren long gone, they sent a message out into space with the hope of rescue. While they waited for a response, the eleven encountered the human inhabitants. The humans revered the eleven as gods, and the eleven lavished it in. The Eure became corrupt with power—enslaving the humans. Four of the Eure, not liking what they have become, broke away to start their own settlement.
One day, one of the four breakaway Eure was found dead. Its wounds were caused by means greater than what existed on the planet, signaling that their message into space was received by a hostile species. These invaders waged war with the inhabitants of Kalsentia. Their ships leaked toxic radiation clouds mutating all life on the planet. The corrupt Eure allied themselves with the invaders, while free humans with their knowledge gained from the four breakaway Eure continue the fight in this new Bone Age.
The Bone Age is an OSR game that uses a simple D20 dice mechanic. Results are compared to a modified target number—the higher, the better. The result’s margin of success or failure is then used as a guide to add narrative flavor to the story. A positive margin of success gains a positive narration, while a failure receives a negative one.
All characters possess six statics: Agility, Constitution, Instinct, Intelligence, Strength, and Will, ranging from -3 (bad) to +4 (good). 3d6 determines each stat value with players choosing their placement. The players then choose between two cultures to play, Tuzanian or Cruach. The Tuzanian people live in a sweltering jungle in three elaborate tree villages in the tallest trees. They are excellent climbers and brachiators. The Cruach people live in three mountain settlements and hold superstitious beliefs about the removal of earth rocks. They are cautious when traversing new land and distrust most Tuzanians. Each village gives characters a bonus to one of their stats and a special ability unique to its settlement.
Characters in these villages hold tribal roles. There are eight to chose from,
; some specific to a culture. The first is the Bone Collector, who harvests the bones of large beasts for tools, decorations, and weapons. They can identify the species of any animal from its bones. The Bone Shaper shapes bone into weapons and tools. The skill to work with bone is natural, along with identifying the age, location, and strength of a species by its bones. The Gatherer forages for food, poisonous plants, and creatures to harvest for their toxins. The Stitcher is a healer with the knowledge to mend wounds, blend salves, and make dressings. They can identify poisons ingested in a person and gauge their likelihood of survival. The Vine Weaver (Tuzanian only) collects and works with vines to build bridges and ladders. They are keen to locate weak spots or purposely create one to fail at just the right moment. The Judge of the Challenge (Tuzanian only) is an accomplished warrior who mediates organized armed challenges. They are most revered and respected in Tuzanian culture. The Rock Listener (Cruach only) communes with rocks and can feel the presence of non-native creatures some distance way. The Gummer (Cruach only) are masons. They can mix together various rock materials for the structures they build. From these tribe roles, a character gains his daily tasks, special talent, and starting equipment.
Players next choose one of the eight classes. The Abnormals start with numerous mutations and are susceptible to future mutations from the colored radiation winds. The Beast Stalkers are elite hunters. The Elder Prophets wield limited magical powers and help coordinate allies against the invaders. The Kytenne Drivers (Cruach only) are mounted warriors. The Sentinels are warriors who will protect all no matter their cultural affiliation. The Silvertongues (Cruach only) are psychotic warriors. Their namesake comes from their ritual of swallowing scalding liquid silver. The Untouchables (Tuzanian only) are defeated champions exiled from their tribes. They travel extensively—enduring hardships that embolden them. The Wing Riders (Tuzanian only) are aerial mounted warriors. Each class progresses in level with improvements to abilities, hit points, combat skills, intelligence to figure out alien technologies, mutations, and other traits that make it unique.
Kalsentia is alive. Its trees are its arms, its grasslands its hair, and its soil is its flesh. When attacked, it retaliates in kind. Characters can attune themselves to a region they have not been to before—one hex. This merging of spirit to the land grants the character extra abilities within the confines of the region. If a character does not successfully attune themselves to Kalsentia, they will face retribution. It could be minor or major retribution, depending on the offense. A d20 result of one when attempting to attune oneself will grant minor retribution. Major retribution is bestowed when great injustice is levied against Kalsentia; a fire that burns down a forest or one of its native creatures is killed for sport. The Gamemaster is given autonomy into what constitutes a major injustice. Kalsentia has four terrain types, each with its own retribution charts with minor and major consequences.
The Fevered Continent on where the characters live is covered with sweltering heat. Temperatures of 104* (40*C) are common for the continent. This high temperature comes in two forms—dry heat and extreme humidity. Dry heat will slowly weaken a character with non-lethal damage (recoverable over time), while extreme humidity will add penalties to a character’s rolls. Characters can only survive a day without food or water. They will suffer daily until replenished. Poison is another defense of Kalsentia. Most creatures and plant life possess poisons. Their lethality is measured on a poison chart. Kalsentia views the alien races (Eure, Humans, and Invaders) as plagues. To combat them, it forms volcanos. Creatures near these formations suffer great damage from the quick upheaval of the earth. If they survive, its toxic gases and silvery lava that flows down its peak will surely finish them off.
Combat is played in 10-second rounds in which each character takes a turn. A D20 initiative roll determines the order of the combatants. Each combatant, on their turn, can take one of the following actions: full move, half move with an attack, full attack, or another action relating to a special ability. A minor action may accompany a full action, such as talking or pulling an item out.
In combat, attackers use their Attack ability and Strength (melee) or Agility (ranged) modifiers in their attack rolls against the target number. Their rolls are negatively modified by the defender’s armor class (0 – 10; higher is better). The weapon’s damage, Strenth or Agility modifiers, and margin of success are compiled for the final damage result on successful rolls. Critical hits (natural 20) increases the attacker’s damage. Critical failure natural one) results in the character leaving themselves open for a counter-attack (melee), hitting their opponent (ranged), or breaking their weapon (ranged with no allies close by).
Death and Healing
Characters suffering wounds taking them to zero go unconscious and lose one hit point per round until they reach death at -10. Other characters can stabilize wounded characters with survival checks. Characters’ normal healing rate is 1/4 their maximum hit points with interrupted sleep or 1/2 if they are attuned to the region. When a character dies, there is a chance that the land will resurrect them as their lifeless bodies are absorbed. After 24 hours have passed, a D20 roll on the Character Death chart will reveal the character’s fate.
Sooner or later, characters will walk unsuspectedly into one of the three colored radiation clouds and gain a mutation. There are two categories of mutations (minor and major). They are 50 minor and 46 variations of major mutations based on cloud color.
Tools for the Gamemaster
There are many tools for the gamemaster to utilize in The Bone Age. A collection of 20 plot ideas aid the gamemaster in creating ongoing adventures, as well as a list of 12 toxins to sicken characters. A small gazetteer of 12 detailed locations and a beautiful full-colored illustrated hex map of Kalsentia, along with a bestiary filled with 23 creatures, is at the gamemaster’s disposal. Each bestiary entry begins with a stat block followed by the description of the creature. Some entries feature illustrations but not all. The gamemaster can create more foes with the Creature Creation Chart. Gamemasters can opt to roll on the Wierd Things Happen table to spice things up if the adventure gets stale.
The Bone Age provides a 1st level adventure called “Winds and Water.” Trade between two groups, Kyteholdr, and the Red Waders, has been disrupted by the disappearance of Adelajaja, Elder Prophet Gemekala, the daughter of the Kyteholdr’s chieftain Garash and wife of the most esteemed huntress amongst the Red Waders. Each group blames the other for her disappearance. Since the disappearance, Kalsentia has punished the land with volcanos, changes in wind direction of the toxic clouds, and more. If the two groups don’t do something to appease Kalsentia and prevent a war between them, their way of life will cease.
The Bone Age comes as a hardcover digest-sized book or a PDF. Inside is a clean layout, and skillfully illustrated line art makes for pleasant reading. Its organization of rules and character formatting makes finding what you need a breeze. I find the underlining origin story to be a little convoluted, but it does establish the factions at hand. The game’s simple dice mechanic makes it easy for new players to jump right in. The element of Kalsentia as a living being is an interesting twist to the setting; it certainly will make players think twice about their actions. Overall The Bone Age is a unique post-apocalyptic game that borrows concepts from other like-minded OSR games and adds its own twist for originality. I think any fan of the genre will enjoy an evening living in the Bone Age.
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