Over the years many gamers have expounded the virtues of the so-called “rules lite” roleplaying game but I’ve rarely found them appealing. Cairn, a game developed from Into the Odd, is a rare exception: it might be the first such game that I’ve read and thought, “I really like the look of this.”

As far as games go, it’s inexpensive (free in .PDF and about £3 on Amazon) but this thin little booklet packs a meaty punch. Although Cairn won’t roll to hit, it certainly got a whopping 1d12 of enhanced damage to my Hit Protection (yeah, it’s a terrible in-joke but what can I say?)

What I like is the clear set of principles outlined in the first three pages – ideas which immediately communicated that this was my kind of game. I also liked the simple use of multiple random tables to generate a character and the assertion that what makes each one different will be their equipment. The rules are simple and easy to understand. There are a few example monsters and just enough advice to get you started.

The only thing I am less keen on is the core mechanism being a 1d20 roll, but that’s because I enjoy multiple dice and bell-curves. That said, I’m more than happy to give it a go because the whole thing hangs together very convincingly and (for the first time) persuades me that rules-lite might be fun. Yes, there’s abstraction but it’s all in the right places. I am pleasantly surprised… and am a little embarrassed to admit that my rejection of all things “lite” might be misplaced.

Here’s the plan: I aim to take this to the school club and run a few sessions to give it a test drive, strictly as written in the first instance. If I find we enjoy the game in play as much as I do after reading it, well… this could change a lot of things for me. Thus, as I work towards giving Cairn an honest try, I want to give a big thanks to Yochai Gal for writing it.

Game on!

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