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Super-lightweight RPG Cairn dives back into the forest with a more fleshed out second edition

Putting the “Oh, sh–” in OSR.

Cairn 2E key art showing a trio of adventurers watching giants while in a tree
Image credit: Space Penguin Inc.

A second edition of stripped-down, old-school tabletop RPG Cairn is hitting Kickstarter on March 27th in order to create a more robust second edition that fills in its predecessors rough sketches.

Originally designed by Yochai Gal, Cairn 2E picks up a full team of editors, artists and layout designers to transform the once-dead simple OSR title into a boxed set with some real meat on its bones. The core rules, which are available for free online, have been revised beyond their intentionally broad beginnings back in 2020.

The boxed set will include three books - an expanded Player’s Guide that contains enough character creation options to roll 700 possible combinations, while the newly added Warden’s Guide provides tons of details about the world of Vald and its many deadly environs. The last is an adventure, Trouble in Twin Lakes, that introduces a mystery in the fantasy settlement of Isthmus for players to solve.

What is OSR? Retro RPGs keeping old-school D&D alive Watch on YouTube

Like Knave and Into the Odd - two major inspirations, Cairn 2E prioritises player knowledge and problem solving over combat prowess. The Wood is dangerous on its best day, and not all threats need to be answered with steel. Careful planning and a good instinct for “tactical retreats” will keep characters alive well past the median expiration date.

Players will roll their characters quickly, while wardens can lean on the expanded crawl construction rules and random tables to create compelling sessions without hours of prep - there’s even guidance on building personalised quests tied to character advancement.

Box mockup for OSR tabletop RPG Cairn 2E
Image credit: Space Penguin Inc.

Cairn 2E’s team includes editor Derek Bell, layout editor Adam Hensley, cover artists Bruno Prosaiko, character artist Keny Widjaja and Space Penguin Inc’s Dai Shugars handling marketing. Joining this group are a few contributors from the wider industry - Amanda Lee Franck created the bestiary, Rob Matthews provided the adventure map and Licopeo designed the character sheet.

Cairn 2E’s Kickstarter campaign launches on March 27th and runs through April 26th to create a physical boxed set complete with GM screen and a pad of tear-off character sheets. The press release didn’t explicitly mention a digital version, but it would be surprising to not offer PDF versions given Cairn’s origins as a digital-first RPG.

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Cairn 2E

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Chase Carter avatar

Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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