Journey into the Paleolithic Era: A Deep Dive into Prehistory

Loren SmallDeep Dive, Game Dev, Game DevelopmentLeave a Comment

cave with shaman telling stories while creating cave paintings of mammoths

When the idea for Born from Ice first took root in my mind, I envisioned a D&D setting that would not just transport players to a different world, but a different time altogether. A time on our very own Earth that was as compelling, mysterious, and challenging as any fantastical realm. Today, I want to take you on a journey back in time, to the world 50,000 to 12,000 years ago, the final chapters of the Paleolithic Era.

What Was the Paleolithic Era?

The Paleolithic Era, commonly known as the Stone Age, spans a vast period from roughly 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago. However, Born from Ice focuses on the tail end of this period: 50,000 to 12,000 years ago. This was a pivotal time in human history as it saw the rise of Homo sapiens as the dominant species on the planet. Our ancestors ventured out of Africa, exploring and settling new lands, battling the elements, and often clashing with other hominid species.

An Earth Covered in Ice

Picture this: vast expanses of white, behemoth glaciers covering significant parts of the northern hemisphere. The Ice Age was in full swing, and its chilly embrace was felt across the globe. But Born from Ice is not just about the cold. It’s about the thaw, the emerging grasslands, and the challenges and opportunities that came with a world in transition.

As I studied more about this period, I was struck by the stark beauty of this era. Imagine mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and giant sloths – majestic mega-fauna that roamed the land, providing both dangers and sources of sustenance.

The Dawn of Human Culture

As a game designer, the emergence of human culture during this period was of paramount interest to me. Our ancestors were laying down the very foundations of what would become complex societies. The people of this age were religious and creative. Animism, a spiritual belief that every object, place, and creature has a spirit, was likely the predominant religious perspective. Cave paintings, such as those in Lascaux, France, were not just art; they were statements, stories, possibly even rituals.

Incorporating this into Born from Ice, I sought to encapsulate the spirit of these early humans. The game setting emphasizes clans, tribes, and the intricate tapestry of relationships and politics that come with it. Players aren’t just navigating a physical world; they’re navigating a cultural and societal one too.

The First Innovators

The Paleolithic Era was defined by stone tools (quite literally – the term Stone Age exists because of the stone tools of the time). From simple hand axes to intricate spear points and needles, our ancestors showcased incredible ingenuity.

This is why, in Born from Ice, the evolution and crafting of tools become more than just game mechanics. For characters in the game, the evolution of tools becomes a vital aspect of survival. Crafting, building, and innovating are not just game mechanics. They’re a tribute to the spirit of our early innovator ancestors, those first thinkers and tinkerers who paved the way for civilizations to come.

Embracing the Challenges

The world of Born from Ice is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal, unpredictable, and unrelenting. But it’s also awe-inspiring, filled with moments of joy, camaraderie, and triumph. This duality, this balance between the harshness of nature and the resilience of humanity, was crucial in shaping the game’s mood and mechanics.

Hunting and gathering weren’t mere activities; they were essential to maintaining life. People relied on their keen senses and intimate knowledge of their environment to track and hunt game. Similarly, understanding which berries to pick, which roots to dig up, and which plants were medicinal was crucial. And knowledge of how to use those items, from preserving food for the winter, or using animal skins for clothing or shelter, were crucial for survival.

Venturing beyond the camp was always dangerous. Besides the mega-fauna, vast quantities of other life teamed across the face of the planet in ways we can barely imagine. Humans were not dominant yet, and predators were constantly a threat. Hunting could quickly be turned around on an unwary human, as the scent of a fresh kill could attract dire wolves or bears.

Without germ theory and modern medicine, injuries that we take for granted today like broken bones or minor infections could prove life threatening. Falling from a height while traversing the wilds or being trampled by prey like an aurochs could crush a rib or break a bone, and there was no certainty of survival.

Exposure to the elements was a real and constant threat. The unpredictability of weather and the gradual changes in climate often necessitated a nomadic lifestyle. Tribes would move with the seasons, following the migratory patterns of animals or seeking more fertile gathering grounds. This constant movement created a dynamic tapestry of tribal relationships. Alliances were forged, trade routes established, and stories and knowledge shared around roaring campfires. Yet, amidst this camaraderie, there were challenges too—competing for limited resources or defending one’s tribe from external threats.

Through it all, the Paleolithic humans persevered, their lives a dance of adaptation, innovation, and unwavering respect for the world that cradled them.

Spiritual Connections

This constant interaction with nature fostered a profound spiritual connection, leading to an Animistic religious view. Everything, from the towering trees to the whispering winds, was believed to possess a spirit. Ancestor spirits could manifest through the calls of the birds and the howls of the wolves, and the great light spirits of night and day that traveled in the world dome, as well as the violent spirits of storms or the gentle spirits of spring rains all provided meaning. This deep respect for the world around them ensured that people used resources sustainably, be it using animal hides for warmth or bones for tools, ensuring nothing went to waste.

Animism provided a way to understand a chaotic world that could snatch life from friends and family without warning. With no science theory or written philosophy to lean on, stories and lore filled the gaps, providing a worldview allowing people to find spiritual explanations for the harsh realities of daily life.

It also paved the way for stories and heroes, those who faced the spirits on behalf of the clan or tribe. Imagination blossomed as a core part of life.

Reflecting on the Journey

Designing Born from Ice was not just about creating a new RPG setting; it was about paying homage to an era that defined us as a species. The game attempts to capture the challenges, the beauty, and the spirit of humanity at a time when every day was a battle for survival, and every small triumph was a step towards the future.

To all the players and enthusiasts out there, I invite you to journey back in time with Born from Ice. Experience the world as it was, find your tribe, craft your tools, and tell your own story around the share firelight of your gaming table.

Here’s to new adventures and ancient stories. Until next time.