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Basic Principles


The Warden’s role is to portray the rules, situations, NPCs, and narrative clearly while acting as a neutral arbiter.


A character’s role or skills are not defined by their class. Instead, a character defines themselves by their experiences, equipment, background, and by their own ingenuity.


Characters may be powerful, but they are also vulnerable to harm in many forms. Death is always around the corner, but it is never random or without warning. Combat is not necessarily a fail state, but this game hopes to gain just as much tension out of the moments before swords are drawn, as the ones in which arrows fly, blades strike and spells singe.

Fiction First

Dice do not always reflect an obstacle’s difficulty or its outcome. Instead, success and failure are arbitrated by the Warden in dialogue with the players, based on in-world elements. However, some systems in this document use dice as prompts to inform the fiction.


Characters are changed through in-world advancement, gaining new Careers, Skills, and abilities by surviving dangerous events and overcoming obstacles.

Player Choice

Players should always understand the reasons behind the choices they’ve made, and information about potential risks should be provided freely and frequently.


The Warden and the players each have guidelines that help foster a specific play experience defined by critical thinking, exploration, and an emergent narrative.

Shared Objectives

Players trust one another to engage with the shared setting, character goals, and party challenges. Therefore, the party is typically working together towards a common goal as a team.

Expanding The Foundation

This document is meant as an expansion of Cairn - I hope to provide several systems and toolkits to make it feel like an interpretation of Advanced Cairn. Many basic building blocks from Cairn are included - enough to hopefully make this document able to stand on its own - but not all. Should some parts be missing or lacking context, check out the full Cairn rules by Yochai Gal.