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Creeks and Crawdads was originally published by M. Martin Costa in 1986. It's a fun little game, especially in concept - one of those games that I heard about for most of my gaming life before finally getting my grubby little hands on a copy. I was lucky to manage to convince some friends to play it, and in the process we noticed that the game mechanics, while functional, were very 80's in style (unsurprisingly). The rules were very firmly rooted in their wargaming and D&D ancestry - an unfriendly and overly complex combat system, and little rules to encourage the ideas in the game.

The night after we played, I fell asleep, and had a slightly feverish dream that plopped the concept that follows right in my lap. This is meant to be an entire replacement for the original Creeks and Crawdads game, using the "Impact System". It has been playtested now, once - find the results here. The same dice system will also be used in my upcoming game Shangri-la, though obviously in a very different form.

In addition to providing the game itself, much of the flavor text that follows is not my fault, but rather the fault of the original Thinker, Martin Costa. Thank you, CreekMaster Martin, for your absolutely excellent idea for a game, and I hope one day I get to hear the results of your attempts to play Creeks and Crawdads: Reimagined.

Now I know there's some food around here somewhere. What is it you do with a door again>?

Creeks and Crawdads available in PDF!

Creeks and Crawdads - Impact System

Much like the original game, this game uses a d6 dice pool. If you don't know what that means, don't worry, just grab a bunch of six-sided dice and read on.

Character Creation

There are four characteristics in this version of Creeks and Crawdads, unlike the original, which had nine. Nonetheless, I feel confident in saying that these four attributes COMPLETELY and REALISTICALLY define the TOTAL parameters of a crawdad, only with less attributes. So shut up.

The four attributes are:

  • Fighting Ability (FA) - This attribute tracks how well you can hit things, how strong you are, and how well you can take being hit. You roll this attribute to lift things, and quite often in combat.
  • Intelligence (IQ) - This attribute tracks how well you can remember things, understand them, invent new things, and generally be clever. You roll IQ to see how well you can remember things, understand them, etc.
  • Tool Use (TU) - Not only is this rolled to use and build tools (but not invent them), Tool Use also does double duty as a generic dexterity and speed attribute. If two crawdads are in a racing contest, use Tool Use.
  • Awareness (AW) - Awareness tracks how well you notice new things, situations, hidden stuff, etc. You roll this for those things.
Attributes are rated in dice (remember those six-siders you grabbed earlier?). Players have nine points to distribute between the four attributes - this can be distributed any way you desire, as long as each attribute has at least one die.

Crawdad society is divided into four castes. This is a very important distinction - crawdads don't do too well when performing tasks outside their specialization. Crawdads, even hyper-intelligent ones, aren't too smart - they have to specialize because, well, there just isn't room in their tiny crustacean brain for a lot of stuff. These castes are:

  • Fighter - Fighters tend to be dull-witted sorts; even for those with a high IQ, counting is usually beyond them. As befits grunts, they are always able to follow orders from their Thinker, or whoever might be in charge if there are no Thinkers around. They do not always understand the orders, alas, but such is the life of a crawdad. The combination of unswerving loyalty and abysmal stupidity can lead to some amazingly amusing situations. After proles, Fighters are the most common type of crawdad - there are a lot of dangerous things in the water.
  • Tool-Users - These are basically the crawdad mad scientists. They are brighter than the rank and file, can generally count to two, and are also fairly loyal. They are, however, easily distracted - often wandering off from a fight to check out a neat looking rock, and then failing to remember they wanted to hit the bad guy with it.
  • Thinkers - The main problem Thinkers have is that they're in charge of the crawdads, and they can think (well, better than their brethren, anyway). Imagine yourself as the poor fool in charge of these pitiful creatures, and you'll see the state they're in. Also, thinkers aren't as smart as they believe - just because they can think doesn't always mean they can do it well. Thinkers can count to seven, one for each leg. (You need a leg to point, of course.)
  • Proles - Generally not a player character caste, proles are mainly responsible for sleeping, eating, performing repetitive tasks, and occasionally mating, and can't really do any of that well. These represent the bulk of any crawdad society, because they specialize in nothing and therefore do nothing well. Even for a crawdad. If a player really wants to be a prole, he can, assuming the group doesn't mind having an incompetent wimp along.

The key to Creeks and Crawdads is to remember that you have a character that is much more stupid than you could ever be. For all but the most basic stuff (eating, obeying orders), if a player wants his character to do something (comprehending orders, finding food) an IQ roll is required. An IQ roll is NEVER required for a failure.

Game Mechanics

The Impact System uses six-sided dice, which even non-gamers seem to have. They're everywhere. But they're not edible. Anyway, when a task needs to be accomplished, players roll a number of dice equal to their appropriate attribute, and counts the number of fives and sixes rolled. These are called "successes" - as much as success has any meaning to a crawdad. There's a twist, however - as long as you have rolled at least one six, you may choose to reroll all your dice, and add the successes from the second roll to the first.

This may be done as many times as desired, as long as each roll brings up at least one six. However, if any re-roll comes up with no successes at all, the entire collection is lost, leaving the character with nothing. In other words, if you roll five dice, getting five sixes, and then roll a second time to get 1,2,3,3,4 - your final total is zero. It's a crapshoot, yes, but that randomness is part of what makes this game fun, and part of what being a crawdad is all about.

If your character is not a prole, he gets a benefit when performing tasks connected with their profession. Normally, this only applies to tasks involving the appropriate statistic (IQ for Thinkers, TU for Tool-Users, FA for Fighters) but in rare circumstances, it can be another one - most often AW. If the CreekMaster determines that the roll is associated with your profession, you may also re-roll the dice if any 1s come up - although 1s don't count as successes, so you can still lose your whole wad, even if you get to roll again.


The more original something is, the more difficult it is for a crawdad to try it, or think of it, or do it. Innovation is invariably a response to a challenge - crawdads aren't smart enough to think things up because they "might come in handy later." It has to be useful now.

At the baseline, before considering innovation, crawdads require two (2) successes to succeed at an action - although particularly easy actions might require only one, at the CreekMaster's discretion. If the action is original, however, this difficulty quickly rises.

Small leaps of logic are easier than very large ones - the CreekMaster should try to imagine every separate new idea that would be needed, and add an additional required success for each one. Don't take too long at this, however - just wing it, go with your gut. If your characters get something too advanced, they'll forget about it soon enough.

In addition to innovation, crawdads have horrible memory decay - even the best Thinker in the world might forget a simple thing if it hasn't been reinforced for a while. Rule of claw: if it hasn't been done, thought of, or discussed in a while, treat it as a new idea. Yes, your crawdad might carry something important all day long, only to forget what he's carrying and toss it aside before reaching his destination.

Certain things, however, crawdads always remember. Thinkers always remember everyone's names, and how to count. Fighters never forget how to use weapons. Tool users always remember how to count to two, how to use the tools they've seen all their lives. Everyone remembers how to eat, speak, obey thinkers, and how to recognize the various castes. It's the stuff that isn't 100% vital that slips through the cracks.

Oh, yeah, by the way, if crawdads get hungry, both loyalty and attention get worse. Add one success needed to all actions for every "sleep" passed without food. Sleeps, for those who don't own the main book, is "one sleep/wake cycle" and is the longest length of time most crawdads understand. The general pattern for crawdads is to wake, find food, and sleep again.

(The game goes much faster when the players take the initiative and start rolling the IQ and Awareness dice themselves. Encourage this!)


Crawdads strive. Sometimes they fight. It's a dangerous mutated world out there. Besides, the original game had fighting mechanics, and there is an entire caste called Fighters. So, without further ado...

When in a fight, all participants on both sides roll Fighting Ability (for Tool Users, keep in mind that weapons are "tools" for the purpose of counting 1s). If a combatant is facing multiple opponents, he may split his dice before rolling. Whoever gets more successes gets to inflict "damage" on the loser. Ties mean both sides are unhurt - and if it's crawdads, maybe they'll wander away before any more pounding happens.

Damage is rolled separately, as follows:

  • Fighters roll 2 dice, plus one per success by which they beat the opponent.
  • Tool users and proles roll 1 die, plus the above.
  • Thinkers roll 0 dice, plus the above.
Weapons can add to damage (halved for Thinkers, rounded down, and proles can't use any weapons at all):
  • Rocks add one die
  • Pointy sticks add two dice
  • *Sharp rocks add three dice
  • *Glass shards add four dice
  • *Sharp metal adds five dice
(*These are weapons unknown to crawdads at the beginning of the game. Oooh, magic weapons...)

Crawdads have a carapace that requires a certain minimum damage to pierce - this subtracts from the successes rolled. Fighters are rated at 2; Proles at 0; and all other crawdads are at 1. Non-crawdad creatures have their own minimums, which will be defined in the upcoming Bestiary

Every success rolled over the minimum can be used to reduce the attributes of the loser - in any way the winner chooses, although the winner may not reduce the "primary statistic" of a casted crawdad unless all the other attributes are reduced to zero. All crawdads except Fighters pass out when any one of their attributes goes to zero - Fighters don't pass out until they die. Crawdads die when all of their attributes reach zero.


Damage heals "Eventually." Fastest for Fighters, slowest for Thinkers. Even proles heal faster than Thinkers. A good rule of thumb is one attribute point per sleep or two.


The entire game should happen entirely underwater. It is a three-dimensional environment, even though crawdads generally walk on the bottom. Also, the environment is constantly in motion. Keep this in mind.


No. Shut up.

Last modified: Thursday January 01 1970 00:00:00, by Alexander Cherry