Carved in Stone project will help bring the age of the Picts to life

15 November 2021
Carved in Stone, a new collaboration between tabletop roleplaying game designers and archaeologists, is bringing the Pictish age to life for storytellers, players and heritage enthusiasts of all ages.

Edinburgh-based game design company Dungeons on a Dime and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project have teamed up to combine the latest archaeological research with a new tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) that will enable the public to learn more about life in Scotland 1,300 years ago.

TTRPGs are collaborative storytelling games in which players take on the role of characters in the story. Typically, one person, sometimes called the Game Master or Narrator, manages the world and the challenges while the players explore and problem-solve. One of the most famous and elaborate examples of a TTRPG is Dungeons & Dragons, which appeared in the hit TV show Stranger Things

In most TTRPGs, all players need is dice and a system of game rules. Setting books such as Carved in Stone describe the world in which the adventure takes place and can be used with any TTRPG rules system, whether that is Dungeons & Dragons or systems created by independent game designers, many of which are available for free online.

 Carved in Stone

Carved in Stone covers the period just after the Battle of Nechtansmere in 685CE when the Picts defeated the Northumbrians to become the leading political force in what is now Scotland. Game Narrators can use it to build adventures in which players explore the landscape, meet members of society, and create their own stories. 


The book provides historically accurate details about elements that could help or hinder players during their adventures, but that does not include skirmishes with the stereotypical naked Pictish warriors covered in blue tattoos. Dungeons on a Dime explain that Carved in Stone ‘is designed to address these types of misconceptions about the past, encourage critical thinking, and spotlight contemporary archaeological research which proves that Scotland has always been a multicultural, multilingual and socially diverse country’.

The team have created concept art and layouts and now need to raise enough funds to produce the book. The Carved in Stone crowdfunding campaign launched last week on Kickstarter with a range of digital, printed and special rewards for supporters, including game designing and fantasy writing workshops.  

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If successful, Carved in Stone will be available for purchase with copies donated to School Library Outreach, Glasgow’s school library service, which has provided literacy and education advice on the project. The text will later be released digitally under a Creative Commons license, which means that anyone will be able to access, use and remix this project for free.

An archaeological revoution

Dan MacLean, Community Engagement and Finds Specialist at the Northern Picts Project, said: “We are currently experiencing an archaeological revolution in terms of understanding the 1st millennia CE, particularly the Pictish kingdoms. Excavations and project work by universities (especially Aberdeen and their Northern Picts project), commercial companies, community groups and museums are writing a new and exciting chapter in Scottish history. Carved in Stone lets you get in on the action - just in time for Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022”.

Lizy Simonen, Learning Assistant at Glasgow Life (School Library Outreach), added: “Roleplaying games are a mix of literature, storytelling, improvised theatre and visual arts. They bring people together to tell stories, problem solve and challenge each others’ imaginations. Research shows that these games have exceptional benefits, aiding in the development of identity and unity across minority and majority groups, teaching vital social skills and engaging vulnerable people. This is an exciting part of Scotland’s story and we are looking forward to helping tell it.”

Dig It! is coordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (Charity No SC010440) and primarily funded by Historic Environment Scotland. 

For more information about the game, visit the Kickstarter project page.