Mark Rose


John Christopher Adams


Caverns & Chameleons Copyright © 1980, 1983, 1997 Mark Rose & Chris Adams. All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION to the 1983 revision

(or, "FRP Stands for Fantasy Role-Playing, Dimwad")

For the uninitiated, role-playing games that are in publication these days (Dungeons & Dragons® Runequest®, Traveller®, etc.) seem nothing but a chaotic jumble of charts, rulebooks, dice, addenda, and painted lead figurines - all of which cost far more than they are apparently worth. The uninitiated watch their friends, children, and siblings rolling huge fistfuls of colorful plastic dice, announcing statistics as if they meant something, and always calling one of the players "Master", or an equally authoritarian title. To the uninitiated, role-playing games seem more than a "hobby"; it looms more akin to an insane Religious Cult, seeking the innocents out to sap their imaginations and monies, only to leave them addicted as any heroin user; left to wither away socially and intellectually, as The Game becomes the center and end-all of the player/victim's life.

The uninitiated are right. That's what this book is about.

But the uninitiated are also wrong. Speaking as one who is "initiated", The Game is just a game, after all. Role-playing would be no more faddish than collecting unicorns were it not for one thing: the infinity of its assets and the limitlessness of its potential. That statement would only be so much B.S. were role-playing games equivalent to boardgames or baseball. Sports and boardgames' are limited by their rules and statistics. A new player or a revised rule creates renewed curiosity, but the object is still to win, you still draw a card when you are on the right square, and no one has ever batted 1.000.

In other words: rules limit potential. In a role-playing game, the most optimistic and far-sighted players emphasize the persona of the characters they play. And in a fantasy role-playing game, players seek an alternate reality, unlimited by known science or cultures; built on logics, faiths, and desires of the players' own devising. (The "Master" of the game is but a referee, who must entertain the other players and keep the game balanced for all.) What the role-playing boom is, dear readers, is the return of social storytelling. With the advent of motion pictures and the irrevocable invasion of television into the world's homes, storytelling was depersonalized: Hollywood and studios in New York told us nearly every tale to be had. Today, the bonds are loosed, and fiction-creation is our own again.

Unfortunately, corporations will be corporations, and just as one soft drink has to be "better" than another, there are product wars in the roleplaying market. Claims that a role-playing game is "original" or "most complete" are absurd. People have played character roles since at least the time of the Greeks, and identification with personality drives other than the self date from earliest known tribal man. And absolutely no one I know plays any FRP game now available without changing some of the rules to suit their tastes. Attempts to stifle rule changes, constant revision to ensure greater product sales, patronization of product purchasers - all these are symptoms of game publishers' vanities and excesses that only confuse and anger players. This, too, is what this book is about. Caverns & Chameleons was originally written when the role-playing industry still published rules in bits and pieces, and was in turmoil to put organized comprehensive rulebooks together. C&C has evolved over the years along with its serious counterparts. Changes in the book's format and humor reflect the various phases of development FRP has gone through over the past several years. The blood'n'guts jokes come from the experience of badly-run games, where the only object is to kill and plunder. The sexual humor comes mostly from anger with the sexism prevalent in most major games. And boy, do we have fun designing confusing matrices.

All in all, Caverns & Chameleons is a statement on the terrible potential for cliche in fantasy writing. Lists of wands and spells and how they work limit "magic" to mere technology and puzzle-solving, instead of the non-rational wonder and mystique it is supposed to evoke. The same principle applies to strange creatures. If their abilities are so well catalogued, it makes it all the more difficult for players to imagine encountering the creatures in ignorance of their powers. With too many guidelines, FRP degenerates into repetition and stagnation. It is in answer to the foolish and the needless in role-playing that this work was undertaken.







Dedicated to

Wade Hutchison


Tim Molnar

the two suckers

who were conned into

first playing C&C






To friends

Lynn Petry

Patti Ruller



Charlie Hoover

For keeping me

Sane and alive

All this time.

- MR




To the many

people that dolphins

are definitely smarter than*


to the four dolphins

that people are

definitely smarter than*

*(Lists of these are available for 50 cents plus 20 cents postage. Send to TSAR, 1 Non Existant Road City, State 00000.)






Table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction to the Game

Part 2: Player Character Information

Example Character Profile Sheet

Part 3: Spells

Part 4: The Adventure

Part 4B: Self-Explanatory

Part 5: Bloodletting

Example Rh Test

Part 6: Nasties

Bugbear Scratch 'N' Sniff Square

Revealing Succubus Centerfold

Part 7: Magic Treasure

Part 8: Master of Caverns' Bloodletting

Mysterious Underground Complex Map

Part 9: The Ending

Other Titles from TSAR



Foreword I

"And now, thou devilish fiend, shall I dispatch...oh, hello. I wasn't expecting company, I hope you don't mind the absence of hors d'oeuvres. Did Adams send you? He did? Bloody ingrate. Yes, that's what I said. Why? I'll tell you why. We wrote C&C together, the two of us, and we agreed that not only would we get equal credit, but we would equally share any potential profit. Hah! One night when we were playing our co-created game, he, as Master of the Caverns, invented a new magical item, the Actual Time Reverse Transporter in Actuality. Well, I stepped into it, and here I am, no money on me, no way to get home, no American Express card, back in the twelfth century somewhere fighting horrible things...which reminds me, excuse me for a sec...

'May the colors of the rainbow spew forth from my hand,

'May you hear the rustle of the Death Angel's wings,

'And may she escort you to the Land of the Undead.' BOOFRAM!!!

"Oh? Still here, even after my fiery explosion? Well, hearty little readers, aren't we? Do you think you can manage to peruse the entire book now without my guidance? Do you? Good. Now go to the salesperson, boldly purchase this literary work, take it home, outen the lights, and read."


Mark Rose



Foreword II

Hello, I'm John Christopher Adams, and welcome to the amazing world of CAVERNS & CHAMELEONS! I'd just like to say that C&C is a terrific game for old and young alike, it's fun and exciting, and it was written completely by myself. I'd especially like to say something about writing it completely by myself. Mark Rose, the "co-author" of this book, and former friend of mine, said at the outset of this project, "Sure. I'll help out," and then enthusiastically sloughed off doing any work. Until now, that is, when the profit is coming in from sales and he counts every penny of it personally. The only way he got his name first on the cover was by doctoring it before it was sent to the publishers. Let me say this to Mr. Rose: "Up thine reare, ye doome is ye comme downe aponne thee."

Squabble on!

John Christopher Adams




How To Use This Book

This game requires at least two players and the use of a NASA Shuttle Tracking Computer (Model 136-1149M) for a few weeks. One player becomes the MC, or Master of Caverns, and he prepares the game for the other player(s), called V(s), or Victim(s).

Please read this entire book, but make sure you buy it first, and then get ready to join in a spiritual cultist experience: the wonderful world of CAVERNS & CHAMELEONS.


Use of the Word "Level"

The meaning of the word "level" in the game CAVERNS & CHAMELEONS is diverse. 1.) It is an instrument for determining whether a surface is straight and even or not. A Holy Joe carries this item, and uses it frequently, though for no particular reason. 2.) A horizontal line. 3.) height; altitude. 4.) Position or elevation considered as one of the planes in a scale of values. 5.) A characteristic and fairly uniform concentration of a constituent of the blood (very useful for the purposes of C&C); and 6.) a line or surface that cuts perpendicularly all plumb lines that it meets and hence would everywhere coincide with a surface of still water. We're not sure what this last one means, but it sounds impressive.


Use of the Term "Self-Explanatory"

The usages of the term "self-explanatory" are self-explanatory.


How To Use the Dice

Players need not be confused by the special dice called for in the game CAVERNS & CHAMELEONS.The procedure is very simple.

For linear curves, use two 12-sided dice for the hit points, multiplying the score by the number rolled on a 14-sided die, subtracted from the square root of the quotient of the 6, 3, and 268 1/4-sided dice on a scale of ¼r2 to the 34th root of 19,475,629,299.999628001¯, or, in the case of exact duplication of equal probability scales, check the W-2 form and reassess the value of Column A by taking the cube of the average of the total scores of the character and lower it to be weaker than anything encountered.

For bell curves, ring a bell the number of times you'd like the score to be.


How To Lose the Game

Many games stress the need to "win" and the avoidance of "losing": (e.g. Poker, Checkers, Uncle Wiggily, Global Thermonuclear War, etc.) Not so in C&C! The player characters nearly always are slaughtered by the maniacal MC, who might be called the "winner" because of this. This is in fact a false perception. As everyone has become disheartened by the end of the playing session (except for the MC who is best described as satiated,) everyone loses. There is the instance where a character survives the horrid labyrinths and creatures the MC hurls at it. It is hard to describe these wretches, (once well-equipped, by the end of play crawling out bloodied and penniless), as "winners". "Lucky", yes. But if all the hack-and-slash seems bothersome or defeatist, why do you want your characters strolling into the lairs of hideous beasts? Who do you think you are, Beowulf? Let's be realistic.


[Part 2: Player Character Information]

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