Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Whole Place is Infested with Buggerwumps!

Or, that time when emergent complexity generates more fun than you can eat.

Regular readers will know that I've a tendency to write silly open-ended placeholder names in my wandering monster tables. Case in point, the Masked Sleepers. Another case in point, the mysterious Buggerwump.

Note to the confused. This is a Buggerwump:

Art by Zak S. Name coined by crow. Originated here.

And this is its stat block:
Originated in White Dwarf #009 IIRC.

I don't know what the dice were doing the other night, but almost every time an encounter occurred up it came up as "7: Buggerwump". As the Stair Stalker Buggerwump is, by its very nature, a % in Lair: 100% beastie that meant each one needed a new staircase to lurk on. Me being a simpleminded creature, I assumed that the vast majority of these staircases had to lead somewhere.

Cue a smoke break for the players as I desperately thumbnail in a d12 "Where do these stairs go?" table, then chuck some dice at a page to generate new sub-areas using the Advanced Fighting Fantasy method, and then scrabble for the dungeon stocking table.

Of course, some of the new rooms were stocked with monsters, and - my dice being in full-on trollface mode - a disproportionate number of these rooms were inhabited by, yep, more Buggerwumps. Which meant more staircases. And more rooms. And more...

Before I knew it this one boring little cluster of empty rooms on the way to somewhere else was a mad Escher-channels-Piranesi mazework of scuzzy little sub-areas connected by a stupid number of twisting, overlapping, no-sense-or-logic staircases. The whole section - quickly dubbed The Labyrinth of Countless Stairs ("Of course it was here all along. Look, s'got a name and everything.") - echoed to the high-pitched "Blubalululup" cries of the resident Buggerwumps.

As time went on, the players got a bit weirded out by the situation ("Why are there so many staircases? And why are there nothing but these weird bloopy things living here?"), so they pressed relentlessly on in search of a way out. Of course, their charging from room to room went via the staircases, which provoked attack after attack from the (territorial) Buggerwumps as they went. Their reaction when they finally encountered a ramp leading upwards was just comedy gold ("Not a staircase? I call trap!").

Meanwhile I'm merrily rolling dice for the heck of it, making random "blubalululup" noises, and laughing myself breathless. Some days it's good to be DM.

My point? Not much. I just had a "I know! Right?!" moment about random generation and had to share. If nothing else I'll say thanks to Gorgonmilk Greg for making me look at the Stair Stalker again.

Pic Source: Buggerwump by Zak S. Stair Stalker nicked from Gorgonmilk blog.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt18

Week 2 of our textual interrogation (*puffs Gauloise in pretentious French manner*) of the Dangerous Journeys: Mythus Combat chapter. Having previously disposed of the mechanics for making people's heads explode (not a patch on classic WH40K Ork Weirdboyz mechanics IMO) we move onto the Advanced Mythus take on using kicking, punching and throttling to get what you want. Hopefully there'll be something here worth looting for Classic D&D players. If not I'll have to find a way to pay the due and proper JOESKY tax.

Note: The full filthy exposé of the sordid details of Lethal Combat in Advanced Mythus has been pushed back to next week. Personal reasons, subheading: meatworld obligations.

For those keeping score at home the usual rules apply. And remember:

Physical Combat, Non-Lethal

Crushing your enemy in a manner that leaves the poor sucker alive to suffer your gloating, tea bagging, knocking over his favourite vase, etc. So anything from boxing to kung-fu to wrestling. 

All forms of non-murderous fighting use the Combat, HTH (Non-Lethal) K/S Area. The essential rules for beatdowns are contained in another of the Combat chapter’s handy sidebars of usefulness +3, without which confusion and raeg would reign unchecked.

Our only defence against gibbering madness.

You could pretty much use the above sidebar as the non-lethal combat section. Everything else on the relevant pages is footnotes and worked examples to the above.

And brace for new jargon:
  • Base Attack Chance (BAC) - PMCap Attribute + bonus from table + HTH (non-lethal) Skill. This is, as you might expect, your chance of hitting someone before any modifiers are applied.
  • Physical Resistance (PR) - PM Category + 1/2 HTH (non-lethal) Skill. This is your ability to avoid unwanted manhandling by grabby types.

Non-lethal combat in Advanced Mythus is resolved using the opposed K/S vs. K/S method introduced back in the Core Mechanics section. As previously explained Difficulty Ratings are derived by deducting one skill from another and comparing the remainder to a table, so having the better skill total is *really* advantageous. I'm once again struck by how far Advanced Mythus is from being a straight percentile system.

The rules mandate re-rolling ties until there is a winner, which seems rather arbitrary. I mean; it's not like the image of two fighters locked in combat, every nerve and muscle straining for advantage lacks verisimilitude. I'm sure it all made sense in Uncle Gary's head though.

Once successfully latched on to the foe like a mad dolphin-groping sex octopus (link SFW) you can do one of three actions: Overpower, Stun or Disable. These additional skill rolls are the ‘roll damage’ part of HTH, Non-Lethal. Interestingly there seems to be no quick, simple ‘smack in the face for minor effect’ option. This is because muggles can’t have nice things.

Attack to Overpower

Grab and lock/hold/pin for the purpose of manacling, dragging away to your lair, or whatever other kinky crap floats your naus. Speed Factor 5. DR to succeed depends on relative weight of combatants, per the following table:

Cake: making you a better fighter since 1992.

Enemy is pinned for 2d6 CT (4d6 on a Crit), and is unable to even speak if his grappler so wishes. You can re-roll a successful Attack to Overpower to extend pinning. No option for taking advantage (stabbing, picking pockets, writing rude words on their forehead, etc) while you have an enemy pinned: someone else has to come along and help you with that.

Attack to Stun

Smack about for the purpose of "knocking the defender silly".
Speed Factor 3.
Does 1d6 Stun damage per 10 STEEP, or fraction thereof. So STEEP 27 = 3d6 damage. Double damage on Crit.
If Stun damage > Target’s PNCap stat they’re stunned for CTs = excess. Also suffers 10% of Stun damage as Physical damage. Stunned condition is treated as overpowered above, but the attacker doesn’t have to remain sat on them. Extending a Stun is a DR "Easy" BAC roll for the attacker. After the worked example there’s an additional KO/kill coup de grace rule. Take one CT to kill opponent with any weapon capable of doing 18 or more damage.

Attack to Disable

Exert force and leverage for lasting damage. An additional wrinkle to either an Overpower or Stun attack, although you have to declare the attempt before you even roll to hit. Work through one or the other, as above, and then roll HTH, Non-Lethal again ("Hard" difficulty) to dislocate or break a limb. Speed Factor is 3 or 5, depending on whether you’re putting icing on a Pinning or decorating an Overpower cake. If adding Disabling to an Attack to Stun 20% of rolled Stun damage is inflicted as Physical damage rather than the usual 10%.

Success = 1d10 Physical damage + limb Disabled for d% ours.
Crit = 1d10+10 Physical damage(?) + limb Disabled for d%+20 days.
Fail = no damage, no Disable ~and~ your previous Overpower/Stun attack is negated.

Yeah, you can actually suck so bad at inflicting lasting injury that your target can actually recover from a fairly inflicted Stun solely to marvel at your incompetence. Why? Because life is unfair, and because EGG believes in nothing being final until its final. Not too keen on that ‘fall at the last hurdle and all your previous work was just a waste of time’ element; it has a definite ‘snatch away at the last minute’ air which is likely to discourage people from *ever* using Attack to Disable.

Weapons to Enhance Non-Lethal Attacks

This is a vague waste of two paragraphs that explains (poorly) how blunt weapons (coshes, clubs, quarterstaves, etc.) can be used to enhance HTH, Non-Lethal attacks by inflicting more Stun damage. Damage from weapons is added to Stun points derived from skill and 30% of Stun points are applied as Physical damage. The explanation of weapon Speed Factors in HTH, Non-Lethal is a mess, and would have been better replaced with a simple "use weapon’s Speed Factor if slower than the norm for the type of attack" rule.

So after the relative clarity and brevity of the sidebar summary the Physical Combat, Non-Lethal ultimately peters out in one last sorry splurge of jargon-riddled wordiness. Sad really. I think that deserves one last drink to salve the disappointment. (*gluk gluk*)


As with almost every D&D-derived unarmed combat system more complex than B/X’s "you do crap damage with your fist" rule, these Non-Lethal combat rules are an overcomplicated shambles. AD&D brawling rules: mess. D&D3E grapple rules: mess. Advanced Mythus Non-Lethal HTH combat rules: yep, mess. Whatever his undisputed merit as a game designer, EGG was no masterful writer of fast, fun, evocative brawling rules.

Would I use these rules IMG?

No. Really, no. From the general 'calculate, compare to table, recalculate, then roll to hit > recalculate and roll against another metric to damage' rule to the specific Attack to Disable 'failed last roll undoes all previous actions' tosh, these rules are just too fiddly and time-wasting to bother with. I wouldn't touch them with yours.

My personal simplifying, lightness-adding fix would change Physical Combat, Non-Lethal from the ground up to a unified simultaneous action mechanic (which may look familiar to /Necromunda/ players; that's because I know to steal from the best). Thus:

Combat, Non-Lethal
Combatants make an opposed roll of their HTH, Non-Lethal skill.

Tied rolls (or both fail) = the two fighters struggle for advantage this round.
Undisputed winner = check to stun/pin/throw loser + option to Disable on next attack if stun/pin successful.
Winner Crits = as win + option to Disable right now.

There’s no concrete mechanic advantage to having the initiative, but the attacker does get to set the terms of the fight. After all, no one is likely to initiate a grappling contest they think they’ll lose, right?

And that’s brawling in under 100 words.

PR? No such thing. A character can either has a relevant fighting skill, or they don't. If the latter your (crap) fighting ability is derived from stats alone.

Add the sidebar’s Bonus to BAC table, some clarified pin/stun/cripple rules, some proper rules for smacking people about with blunt objects, and you’re gold. If you want additional complexity then add a matrix of possible outcomes (crit, pass, fail or fumble vs. ditto), a note on the hazards of brawling with monsters/guys with actual weapons, and maybe - if you're feeling especially frisky - some rules for using Heka in martial arts.

 This, or you're just wasting our time.

Above all, Keep It Simple Stupid!

To put it in terms familiar to all D&D players any non-lethal fighting rules more complex than a simple "roll to hit > save vs. paralysis or be pinned" operation will turn off any but the most hardcore grapple fans. There’s no point to rules for attacking to not kill a dude being slower and more complicated than the ones for killing outright: such rules WILL just sit there unused.

Once again the hobbyist with five minutes on his hands sits there asking the professionals what was so hard about that?

Next Time: at last! the long-expected skinny on Lethal Combat in Advanced Mythus.

Pic source: Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, the intarwubz

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Fungal Murderhobos of the Wilds

Hey you! Do you want to play a vicious bastard murderhobo who is also a giant toadstool? Sure, it might be a bit too weird for traditional tastes or insufficiently haut weird for others, but some people want to play a giant toadstool with an incomprehensible agenda, right? Beats playing another bloody elf, amirite?

Myconid Class/Race
Requirements: WIS 9
Prime Req.: Wis, Con
HD: d6
Attacks as: Cleric
Save as: Cleric
Weapons: any 1-handed weapon (melee or thrown missile)
Armour: leather, chain, shield

(or use the Mutant Class from the Mutants & Mazes chapter if you have access to Goblinoid Games damn fine Mutant Future retro-clone)

Oh come on, you know these guys. Big meaty ambulatory shrooms with humanoid limbs and eyespots; pacifist underworld hippies who just want to tend their fungus groves and groove on the communal telepathy spores.

Mycon adventurers are rare in the extreme. No one know why they arise, what their long-term aims are, or exactly what a giant fighting truffle wants with sacks of swag. Its theorised that they're an evolutionary (or possibly a psycho-cultural) response by the Myconid communal intelligences to the threat posed by surface-dweller incursion into the mythic underworld. But who knows what mushrooms think.

Whatever the cause, one of them has left the cave-commune and gone on a looting spree with a bunch of upworlders.

General Guff
Mycons stand about 5' tall and weigh 140lbs on average.
They 'speak' (well, communicate in a weird fungusy way) Mycon and hoot a pidgin Common through their creepy sphinctery mouth holes.
Mycons absorb nutrients through mycelial mass extruded from their footpads when at rest.
They don't sleep, but instead go into extended blissed-out trance/fugue states for 3-12 hours a day (random 3d4 per night). Sleep spells work on Mycons, and push them into this fugue state early.
Their flesh is delicious.

Racial Abilities
Myconids enjoy the following natural advantages:
  • Move silently 2in6 (+1 at levels 4,6,8)
  • Nightvision - see 60' in conditions of non-total darkness (as MF)
  • Chemosynthetic diet - a varient form of Photosynthetic diet, involves the Myconid standing in a pool of biomass while they rest. Can derive sustenance from almost any old crap.
  • Tireless - do not suffer from forced march/lack of rest penalties.
Coming as they do from a world you may not understand, Myconids suffer a couple of minor hassles:
  • Weak Eyespots ("Funglyboy no like sunlight!") - suffers -2 to hit and all checks in bright light (as Albinism drawback, see MF).
  • Fussy About the Thermostat ("Funglyboy no like hot/cold!") - suffer +2 damage/die from extreme heat or cold (as Thermal Sensitivity drawback, see MF).
  • Alienation ("Funglyboy no like lonely.") - if unable to meld with other Myconids over an extended period suffers fungus equivalent of depression (treat as if cursed, as the spell)

Although unable to cast spells Myconids do gain innate fungus-themed abilities as they advance in level.

Lvl XP       Abilities
1    0          -
2    2,500   Poison spores(1)
3    5K        Fungal rapport(2)
4    10K      -
5    20K      Hallucinatory spores(3)
6    40K      Fungal alchemy(4)
7    80K      Create fungal zombies(5)
8    160K    -
9    320K+  Sporelord of the Mycelial Underlands

(1) as Poison Spores power (MF) - 1d6 damage in 10' radius 1/day. Increases to 2d6 dmg, 2/day at 5th level and to 3d6 dmg, 3/day at 9th.
(2) as Neural Telepathy power (MF) or tongues spell (LL), 1/day.
(3) as Mental Phantasm power (MF) or confusion spell (LLAEC), 1/day.
(4) may brew any potion it has previously ingested at zero cost, 1/wk. Yes, this includes poison.
(5) as animate dead spell, 1/day.

Unless otherwise noted rate of ability use increases +1/day per 2 levels after first gaining access to it.

Sporelord of the Mycelial Underlands (name level)
At 9th level a Myconid may establish a colony of their own sporelings in a warm, moist sheltered location cleared of hostile presences. If sufficient biomass is available the Myconid will take root and sporulate, generating 1d6x10 1HD myconid followers practically overnight. The colony will grow in a slow, inexorable, passive-aggressive manner so long as sufficient biomass is available.

Pic Source: Planescape Myconid Sorcerer by sebbythefreak

Friday, 22 June 2012

Bestiary of the Vaults: Turboghouls

No. Enc.:  - (2d6)   
Align:  Chaotic Noisy
Move:  240' (80'), special   
AC:  6
HD:  3
Att:  2 or 1 (2 claws, overrun or lasso)   
Dmg: 1d3/1d3 or special
Save:  F3   
Morale:  9

An experiment in thaumonetic augmentation gone horribly wrong, or fallen ophanim, or damned human remnants cursed to perpetual nomadism, or a reified manifestation of settled mans' fear of the predatory nomad, or the result of an unknown memestorm, or just some mad wizard's twisted joke; whatever their origin the people of the Wilds know and fear turboghouls as monstrous speed freaks from a surreal otherworld.

These hyperactive cannibals hoon about the Wilds on self-powered prosthetic wheels sowing chaos and fear. Their idea of a fun evening: tear into an isolated settlement under cover of night, capture the inhabitants, and gnaw off their legs. Those few who survive the agony and trauma of a turboghoul 'hazing' are turned into more turboghouls by methods obscene and obscure.

Being inherently nomadic (and understandably averse to stairs and ladders) these creatures are never encountered underground or in a fixed lair. They are undead and can be turned by clerics as 3HD creatures.

Thanks to the snarling howls of their engines and their constant excitable screaming turboghouls never enjoy surprise. Their assaults rely on crazy bravado, rudimentary hit-and-run tactics, and sheer speed.

Turboghouls attack with a charging overrun attack, with lassos, or with strikes from their wickedly sharp claws.
  • Overrun: turboghoul moves at triple normal speed (howling like Halford all the while), causing 2d6 damage on impact.
  • Lasso hits: no damage, save vs. paralysis or become entangled. Entangled targets of man-size or smaller will be dragged away at high speed by their whooping, screeching captor (this causes 0-3 (1d4-1) damage/round). The damage stops only when either the turboghoul or character dies. Rules for cutting a rope? Cause 1hp damage vs. AC1d6 (varies round to round).
  • Claw attack: 1d3 damage + paralysis for 2d4 turns (save negates). Steal Momentum: turboghoul adds half the normal movement rate of a creature it has paralysed to its own movement for the duration of the paralysis effect.
Unlike their grave-robbing kin turboghouls have no bite attack. This is because they are all punctilious in wearing head protection when traveling at speed. Roll d30 for each pack of turboghouls encountered:

1    sack w. eyeholes
2    bucket w. eyeholes
3    coalscuttle w. eyeholes
4    mask, clown
5    mask, fanged iron
6    mask, gimp
7    mask, guy fawkes
8    mask, gas-
9    mask, welding
10    mask, hockey
11    mask, tights
12    headscarf, flowery
13    headscarf, beduoin
14    hood, liripiped
15    hood, monastic
16    turban, elaborate
17    hat, sombrero
18    hat, stetson + bandanna
19    hat, fancy feathered
20    hat, wizard's pointy
21    helmet, monstrous skull
22    helmet, common
23    helmet, knightly
24    helmet, winged
25    helmet, pickelhaub
26    helmet, futuristic
27    helmet, football
28    helmet, extra-spiky chaotic
29    birdcage
30    goldfish bowl

Turboghouls have little respect for any being slower than themselves, and none at all for anyone who lacks respectable haberdashery. Those without hats will be lassoed and eaten first.

Known turboghoul variations:

Hoverghoul - Inhabit swamps. 180' move over water or flat land.
Jetghoul - Inhabit wide open plains. 240' flying move.
Tankghoul - punky-looking turboghouls on all-terrain tracks. AC4, 150' move.
Springhoul - *Boing* "Time for death!" 120' move, with non-magical blink effect at will.

And, for Djangos Gurnery

P/M/S: 10/6/12
Skills: Dodge(P) 6, Melee (P) 5, Crazy bike acrobatics (P) 4, Navigation (M) 3, Select cool hat (S) 2
Powers: Paralyzing touch, Turbo nutter superspeed (move up to 80mph in 5 second bursts)

Pic source: an unholy kludging together of existing art by actual artists Kev Walker and Dawn Breaker.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt17

After a couple of weeks of slacking off like some kind of lazy slacking slacker from Slacksville it is time for the performing bogmonkey to once again shoulder the yoke and plough on with Let’s Read Mythus like he means it.

Having finished our extended swedge through skills - which has probably driven away all but the most ghoulishly fascinated of readers - we finally enter the dark and bloody ground that is Chapter 12: Combat. Or, as I prefer to think of it:

As anyone who has ever read an RPG may have anticipated, the Combat chapter of Advanced Mythus is a big brütal chunk of text and tables. To be precise it is no less than 67 pages (pp208-275) of the rulebook, which some people would consider enough space in which to write an entire game.

Thankfully for the sanity of all involved the Combat chapter is broken down into a series of largely self-contained sections, which seems to indicate that some proofreading and meaningful editorial input happened.

Not visible in this image: Physical Combat, Kitchen Sink

The delightful new discovery of clear and distinct subject headings does make my job of précis a little easier, but it’s still not exactly a walk in the park of RISUS-ine brevity.

I don’t exactly begrudge Mythus this profligate expenditure of page count for a couple of reasons you may (or may not) agree with. To whit:
  1. There is a lot of meat here. I mean a *lot*. Mythus combat appears to be substantially more involved than many well-loved classic "I roll to whack ‘im!" systems. I mean, you have rules here for about 8+ ways of thinking people to death even before you get to ‘how to stab’.
  2. Many gamers (at least in my experience) consider the combat chapter the point at which an RPG stands or falls. Rightly or not the logic seems to be that if a game can’t model combat in a coherent, interesting manner, then why trust that the designers did anything else right? Contrariwise: get the rules for the fast-moving, high-stakes situation of combat right, and you probably have a workable game chassis half done...

One last detail that may or may not be relevant: this chapter has a different page header image to the one found in the preceding chapters. The themed page headers are a nice touch, which makes for a handy 'flip to' guide if nothing else.

Not Frazetta by any stretch, but it fills the space

And now, to quote the opening sentence of the chapter: "So, the HPs have got themselves into a fight?" (Mythus, p208)

Advanced Mythus combat -- as those who have followed this archaeological misadventure since the Mythus Prime may expect -- is devoutly RPG orthodox:

Surprise > Initiative > Hit > Damage/Effect

Such adherence to the time-hallowed traditions of RPGs (and wargames) is only to be expected from the man instrumental in bringing us the RPG to which all others are mere 'fix this game' fantasy heartbreakers. For once in Advanced Mythus "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" appears to be a general governing principle.


Stuff you need to do before the glorious bloodletting can start. Hey, don't knock it; even the Vikings did their prep work before setting of on a slaughtering spree (their due diligence involved running longships over condemned prisoners: Mythus combat doesn’t quite ask that much).

(Just an aside: these boxouts are a godsend, and you can probably run combat based on them alone.)

Establish the Environment

Three paragraphs to tell us that the GM needs to decide who is where and what the local environment is like. The text adds very little to the boxed combat summary.

Determine Surprise

This section opens with the admonition that "The next thing to do before wading in and swinging is to determine whether either of the parties has surprise." You can tell someone was having fun writing the Combat chapter.

Natural Surprise
Not strictly 'surprise' as you or I might understand the word, Natural Surprise in Advanced Mythus actually covers everything that D&D did with its rules for encounter distances, evasion, and the like. Long story short: one side or other always gets Natural Surprise, and can choose to evade for 1d10 rounds, or peacefully confront for the purposes of parley, or attack (with automatic initiative in the first round). Sadly there’s no option in Advanced Mythus for hilariously dumb "stand and gawp at each other for up to two rounds" mutual surprise situations that could arise in AD&D.

Total Surprise
Again, not surprise according to a plain English interpretation of the word. Total Surprise covers ambushes (usually) planned and executed in advance through use of skills. Requires a skill roll against Criminal Activities, Physical (the Ambush or Hide sub-areas are suggested, which seems logical enough). It's suggested that the better the plan presented by the players, the easier the DR should be.
Success = your side gets a free round and automatic initiative (as Natural surprise) in the second round.
Crit = 2 free rounds + automatic first go in round three.
Fail = you only get Natural Surprise.
Fumble = you get no advantage. If the GM fancies the opposition might even gain Natural Surprise on you.

There’s also the option to try and enhance Natural Surprise to Total Ambushtastic Surprise without the benefit of prior planning by making individual "Moderate" DR Criminal Activities, Physical (Ambush) rolls for each ambusher. The rule is a bit odd, in that some having ambushers fail their rolls doesn’t negate the success of others. So you can still be ambushed by /some of/ a gang of bushwhackers, even though spotting their mates will have you on your guard. Oh well...

The whole Surprise section could do with a good hard proofreading. The text is ambiguous and poorly worded in places, and the rules for Natural vs. Total surprise could probably do with some re-ordering. You know: "Total Surprise? (Y/N), then Natural Surprise", rather than vice-versa. And the idea of partially successful ambushes still granting a free round of action ~and~ automatic initiative in the next round: that’s an outright unexploded minefield of arguments waiting to happen.

TL:DR: surprise rules in AM are passable, but nowt revolutionary. You probably have access to more entertaining rules already. *cough* GURPS Goblins *cough*

Initiative and Persona Actions

Strictly RPG Orthodox, albeit with the inevitable Advanced Mythus fiddlyness:
Declare action, and then roll 1d10 +/- modifiers.
  • One action/character/round. 
  • Actions taken in ascending order.

The basics are all there in the boxout. Additional details, worked examples and optional rules then pad this slick elegance out to a full two pages. (*gluk gluk*)

Stat modifiers to initiative are pretty intuitive ("A decent Physical Neural Speed score makes you a quicker shot. Makes sense"), but the Speed Factors definitely merit some additional mention. Yes you perverted, masochistic AD&D/OSRIC-lovers, that means exactly what you think. I’ll just leave you to go hog wild on these, shall I?

Everyone else: Speed Factors mean that anything and everything you might want your imaginary gonk to do modifies your stat-modified initiative score in some way. Speed Factors will probably be catnip to AD&D players.

They’re all a bit much for me though: I'm a dumb-and-happy 1d6/side/round Basic boy. YMMV.

There are some right howlers in the Initiative section, not least in the combat movement rules, which are vague enough to make abstract combat games like OD&D seem hardcore simulation-ey. Movement at full speed (modified by other actions taken) is assumed, so at least there’s no fiddly square counting. But this movement is abstracted as instantaneous, simultaneous and uninterruptible*. So, for all intensive porpoises, movement in baseline Advanced Mythus combat is by instajumping blinkyportation.

(* Wot, no Wait/Reserve Action option? Nope, sorry. Only an ‘elect to go last’ option. So no ‘waiting to react to his move’. Keeps things simple, but its likely to merrily kick immersion in the crotch.)

Want to half-move and attack? You can, but it costs you both penalties to initiative (move = 6 + weapon Speed Factor) at full whack. So your quick lunging dash into combat likely goes off *after* the other guy instantaneously moves (twice as far) away from your attack. No I’m not joking. I here quote: "...movement is always assumed to occur before combat in simultaneous action!" (AM, p211) Cheers.

*sits back to listen to the simulationist types froth and gnaw their shields*

Then there are the turboghouls in one of the worked examples. These guys close to melee range at a speed of 180 yards/CT, or 36 metres/second (about 80mph unless my maths has been adversely affected by the boozahol). Are speed freak biker ghouls a thing on Aerth then?

So standard Advanced Mythus initiative is a bit, let’s be nice and just say ‘wobbly on its feet’. The section might not fit  any of the strict catagories outlined for the Mythus Drinking Game but the sheer emergent oddness on offer is definitely worth a drink. *gluk gluk*

Optional Spacing of Actions
This rule, which moves things away from stop-motion combat into a more fluid form, seems a little RuneQuest inflected to me. You take one action, and then take your next action (move, attack, whatever) again every 10 -Attack-Ranks- initiative spaces later (faster for non-standard weapon attacks).

Martial artists: not dissimilar to Woody Woodpecker

The round ends once the slowest (highest Init score) character involved has taken an action.

For the purposes of unopposed (Total) Surprise rounds we’re told that 20 initiative counts = one CT (~5 seconds). So this rule offers the option of measuring actions in combat by the ¼-second, or about as fast as a human can consciously react. Even AD&D didn’t get this anal about things! "Granular enough for ya?"

One possible oversight: there's no guidance on how/if the Speed Factor rules for different actions (moving, tumbling, etc.) are supposed to interact with this optional system. Do you, for example, move 10 initiative positions after your initial action, or 16 later? Nope. Nothing. That could either indicate a lack of playtesting of this option, or just an implicit authorial view that such decisions are best left to the tastes of individual gaming group. Who knows?

Spaced Action Initiative would appear to change the dynamic of Mythus combat from the standard "Your init comes up: go nova, then stand around to survey the carnage" method to one with more ebb and flow within a round. Whether spending this additional time and bookkeeping on combat is your idea of fun is a personal matter. Would I use this? No. Oh dear lord no! But then I am a simpleminded creature who balks at anything more complex than "I go: you go". If you like the RQ combat action economy it might be worth a look.

One small mercy: at least the writers of Advanced Mythus didn’t go for a Judge Dredd RPG-style map of actions divided up by initiative segments.

Just goes to show: it could always be worse.
(Funky slant and drop shadow as original formatting)


Rules for avoiding unwanted situations if surprised. Not mentioned at all in the Combat Summary boxouts, which might have actually been helpful.

Given the examples on offer (avoiding bandits, dodging falling rocks, avoiding the gaze of a vampire and basilisk) these rules seem to combine into one simple rule everything divided up between the evasion tables and saving throws in all known forms of Classic D&D. This sort of universal mechanic appears more than a little lost and lonely in the ‘a rule for everything’ world of Advanced Mythus, but its brave, to say the least.

"Tell me little rule, are you quite certain that you are in the right place? 
This is Mythus you know. We’re all detailed-fixated neckbeards here..."

Avoidance is a straight d% roll against the combined Speed Attributes in a given trait  (sorry) TRAIT. So a Physical avoidance roll would be PMSpd + PNSpd, a Mental avoidance roll would be MMSpd + MRSpd, and a Spiritual one would be SMSpd + SPSpd. Factors against the HP (e.g. blast area effect) increase DR by 1 or more; factors in their favour (e.g. stuff to duck behind) make things easier. So, nice and simple, if a little swingy for some tastes.

It’s a GM call on whether a roll against Fort, Ref or Will Mental, Physical or Spirit is appropriate. Gee, did you see that silly Freudian slip there? How did that ever happen? Joking aside, the Advanced Mythus Avoidance mechanic is pretty much the D&D3E three save schema, as done first by Gary in 1992. So that’s yet another layer of irony to the claim that Gary was ripping off D&D.

Some guidance on what Avoidance roll to use when would have been nice, but the Mythus original sin (glossing over) leaves this mechanic open to all sorts of hilarious abuse by cunning players. Can you resist an unexpected rock fall or ambush with a Mental Avoidance roll? Rules don’t say no. Why not see if you can sell it to your GM?

"I disbelieve the incoming arrows and demands that we surrender or die."

You know, between the turboghouls, stop-motion combat solipsists, gangs of wandering murderchemists, and crushing economic inequality the implicit setting of Advanced Mythus is beginning to seem like a pretty cool place: more like The Muppets Take Athas than Epic of Aerth (*spit*).

Mental Combat

Giving people terminal ice cream headaches in Advanced Mythus is easy and fun:

Step 1: have access to mind-affecting powers, spells or skills
Step 2: establish contact by staring at them, bidding Heka vs. their mental defences
Step 3: expend more Heka the following round to take a blender to their precious cranial matter
Step 4: maniacal laughter

The full and official summary is as follows:

No maniacal laughter step? For shame!

Hmmm. The mechanics presented here -- link, then activate power -- smell more than a little like the AD&D2E psionics mechanic, which dates to the Complete Psionics Handbook © 1991. Given that I’ve no idea who, if anyone, was cribbing off whose notes let’s just chalk this similarity up to parallel idea development.

Several paragraphs of jargon-rich textual commentary restate in more words the delicious brevity of the summary, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one by now (*gluk gluk*). The reader is warned that someone who has no relevant skills won’t even know that a mind-wizard is hobnailing about their consciousness, and certainly won’t be able to fight back. So that’s the Muggle vocations fuxxored them. We’re also cautioned that Cranial Lobe Fighting only works on entities that actually have minds: you cannot brainstab plants or inanimate objects. Spirits and demons, fine: domestic furnishings, no.

We’re also given a paragraph on expected outcomes of Mental Combat skill rolls. This is a chunk of very useful mechanical info’ which would have been better placed in a table, not lost in the textwalls. Basically, using any mental power requires a skill roll, which can have the following effects:
Pass = You're in thur brain, killing thur cells
Crit = Your thrusting invasive presence is HUEG and causes double damage
Fail = Their lobes are unresponsive to your sultry blandishments. No further mental attacks for 1 AT (5 minutes)
Fumble = You dun sprained your third eye and suffering 3d6 Mental damage. No Mental Attacks for the rest of the day.

There are four types of mental effect in Advanced Mythus: Drain, Paralyse, Derange and Control. Each has distinct effects and comes complete with a worked example. Helpful. (Good Mythus! Have a cookie.)

Drain -- symptoms include "...numbing fear, shock, panic and confusion." Cost to establish link = victim’s MRCap, with a successful attack causing 1 point of Mental damage per Heka expended. The victim becomes Dazed and has to make an Insanity check once they have taken their EL* in Mental damage, and a drooling vegetable once they’ve taken damage = Mental TRAIT. There are lots of useful page references to OMJ** terms and related materials here, which is nice.

* You remember this from back in chargen, right? It’s a damage threshold thingie.
** OMJ = Official Mythus Jargon: usually capitalised, often acronymic, and generally non-intuitive. Not to be confused with OMD.

Paralyse -- symptoms include being "...immobilised and unable to think clearly". Cost to establish link = victim’s MRPow + MRSpd, which seems costly until you recall that paralysis is generally a "save or lose" effect in most RPGs. If damage caused either raises Mental damage past their EL, or exceed their MRPow + MRSpd in one attack, the target is paralysed for BTs (30 seconds) = excess damage. It the attack meets both criteria the target is paralysed for both durations in sucession.

Seems pretty straightforward. But this is definitely not the plain old "save vs. paralysis" all Classic D&D players know and love. Why not? Well, mental paralysis effects in Advanced Mythus stack. An already paralysed victim can be stunlocked much more easily: they are paralysed for additional BTs = total (not excess) damage inflicted. They can also be mindwiped by spamming enough paralysis damage to exceed their Mental TRAIT. If the latter happens to an otherworldly/spirit entity it is banished from this plane. If it happened to an HP, well, prepare to spend the rest of the evening rolling a new dude.

Derange -- symptoms include "...short-term Insanity". An attack to Derange is a bit different from other Mental Attacks in that the cost to establish a link = target’s Mental TRAIT and the effect (induced insanity) takes effect immediately. Each point of Heka expended above the target’s Mental TRAIT drives them insane for 1 AT (5 minutes), /cumulative/. The worked example cites an attack expending 100 Heka vs. a target with a Mental TRAIT of 90 which leaves them exploring the outer reaches of unreason for 55 AT (10 + 9 + 8 + ...), or about 4+1/2 hours.

Control -- symptoms include "...victims move slowly, [...] as if they were a somnambulist". Cost to establish a link = target’s MR Category (or half this if they’re over their Mental EL). Exerting control is then either a skill roll, contested only if the target is Heka-active, otherwise just roll the dice:
Pass = w00t! New thrall who does your bidding slowly, as if Dazed
Crit = Your new mindbitch obeys with dexterity and alacrity (not Dazed, still your puppet)
Fail = Nope, wasted that Heka.
Fumble = They are thoroughly no'mpressed and are immune to your control attempts for 24 hours.

Being controlled causes 3 points of Mental damage per hour to the victim, but does render the controlled being immune to further Mental or Spirit attacks (which rule seems tailor-made for cunning player exploitation...). Duration is indefinite, but the invoker of a Control effect usually cannot cast any other effect while their maintain their control. Exception: unlike auras, psionic or innate ‘charming’ abilities Control spells are fire-and-forget.

The Mental combat mechanics are quite crunchy, and could easily be retrofitted by those Classic game GMs looking to give a little add variety to paralysis, insanity or charm/complusion effects.

Spiritual Combat

As with Mental Combat the deadly art of soul wrestling is quick and simple, and will ideally end up with bits of soul ground into the carpet:

Spiritual Combat is not usable on plants or animals. Has a Speed Factor of 5, whereas Mental Attacks have an effective Speed Factor of 0. So in Advanced Mythus punching someone in the soul is slower than abusing their mind. Go figure. On the other hand it does say that range is limited by perception, so the potential for sly lazy man's scry-and-die Spirit assault shenanigans (try saying that three times fast!) is wide open.

There are four Spiritual attack forms, of varying utility. These are: Weaken, Demoralise, Confound, and Subvert. Which incidentally would make a great title for a Burning Wheel-style social combat chapter.

Weaken -- symptoms include " overwhelming sense of apathy, hopelessness, failure, and depression." (aka ‘that Mythus Monday feeling’). Weaken is perhaps best typified as the voracious violation of volition power. It requires Heka = target’s SMCap to forge a link, and then costs one Heka per point of Spirit damage. When damage = Spirit EL the person becomes completely demotivated and apathetic. They won’t move or eat without coaxing, and won’t attack or defend themselves at all. Oh, and they have to make an Insanity check to avoid slipping into catatonia. Damage = Spirit TRAIT reduces the target to a will-less zombie permanently controlled (as the Control Mental attack) by their attacker. So that’s save-or-lose with a side order of character hijack. Nasty!

Demoralise -- covers both fear effects and what players of Classic D&D would call Turning effects. The mechanic applies equally to both the living and the undead (no exception-based "Immune to fear" antics here). If the Spirit damage caused by this attack exceeds the target’s SMPOw+SPPow they will leg it for AT = excess damage. Doesn’t affect anyone who has already taken their EL in Spirit damage: they’re too spiritwracked to care.

One thing which occurs to me is that nowhere in Advanced Mythus have I yet seen any reference to mundane options to intimidate/put the fear into opponents. UWP* strikes again.

* Unconscious Wizard Privilege. Perhaps best summed up as "What do you mean, non-casters should get nice things and the chance to play the whole game?" A longstanding unspoken assumption in RPGs.

Confound -- essentially ‘cause stupidity’. Costs Heka = Spirit TRAIT and results in the victim being Confounded* for 1 CT = excess Heka expended. The target is also unable to use any Spiritual or Mental Heka abilities for 1 AT per point of damage. They can use Physical Heka abilities, but seriously, how often is that going to be an option. This attack has no effect on someone who has taken more than their EL in Spirit damage.

* The definition of the Confounded effect is another instance of the annoying tendency towards circular cross-referencing in the Mythus index. There is no definition in the Attack to Confound description to explain what being confounded actually entails in game terms. Can a character make use of Mental skills while confounded? Refer to Confound in index. "See Attack." Look under Attack, where we find "Confound p214". Which is right back where we started. If that’s intended as an editorial in-joke (like the duplicate deja-vu psionic power descriptions in the 3E Psionics Handbook) it’s not one I find amusing.

Subvert -- symptoms include "...act[ing] as if of the opposite moral persuasion", which sounds like nothing so much as the infamous old helm of opposite alignment. Expending Heka above the target’s Spirit TRAIT turns them into a sneaky traitor intent on furthering the subverter’s nefarious agenda for 1 AT per excess Heka. A subvertee won’t directly attack their former friends, but will indirectly put them in harm’s way. What exactly this entails is left entirely to the discretion of the gaming group, which just seems like a recipe for squabbling and logic chopping.

Unlike the Mental attack to Control there’s no need for a Subverting attacker to puppet-master their new buddy; the convert operates normally and at no penalties. Subverted characters can resist once per AT according to the Spirit Combat Summary sidebar and can be counter-subverted by their allies if correctly diagnosed.

I’m not sure of the utility of Subversion as written. It seems to be another sneaky scry-and-die exploit, which, thanks to the inherent information asymmetry of RPGs, will greatly favour the GM.

The Spirit Attacks could definitely do with a little honing and planishing. Weaken is an outright killer, and Demoralise is a semi-decent save-or-suck mechanic. By contrast Confound and Subvert are the victims of poor editing and insufficient development. Both of the latter are so broad reaching that a sight more definition and clarification wouldn’t go amiss. As written neither is something you’d look at twice: there are easier ways to get what you want.

And then, to cap it all, the terminal paragraph of the Spiritual Combat section just exacerbates the situation:

So there are Spirit versions of the Mental attack forms too? That seems a little redundant. Are you going to tell us anything about them? No. Ok then.

In conclusion: Poor-to-middling, and not suited for my game anyway. Pass, though YMMV.

Heka-Based Attacks

A slight misnomer, given that both the preceding section were also technically about Heka-based attacks. This is actually the ‘cause Physical damage with Heka’ spell-chucking section of the combat rules. It’s a pretty substantive chunk of stuff; no less than 5 pages on putting the hurting on someone with magic. Lotsa tables, lotsa little details to be teased out and examined for value.

Attack Forms

Four types: Targeted, Area Effect, Summoned Spirits/Creatures, and Illusions.  At first glance this just looks like some serious ‘defining for the sake of it’ *gluk gluk* territory. However a little bit of digging turns up all sorts of unconsidered trifles.

Specific Target -- a catch-all category covering any spell with a one person area of effect: defensive spells, magic missiles, "...gravity-modifying Castings"(!), and so forth. This section has passing references to casters being able to absorb incoming Heka and cautions about the hazards of overload on same. All this implies some kind of magic duelling mechanic -- no page reference though, shame. There’s also an unelaborated hanging reference to something called Negative Heka, which appears to absorb a character’s inherent Heka.

Area Effect -- everything from fireballs to weather manipulation to anti-Heka effects. Can be absorbed or resisted to Heka Armour, but not negated by Magick Resistance (which is probably the Advanced Mythus equivalent of the powered-by-arbitrarium Magic Resistance ability possessed by some of AD&D’s more powerful monsters).

A Heka-based Area Effect Attack in action, yesterday

Summoned Spirits/Creatures -- "Minions. Kill that asshole over there!" That is all.

Illusions -- these are pretty nasty under the Advanced Mythus magickqykc system, causing damage and/or killing outright. Must either be dispelled or interrupted by Dazing/KOing the caster! An illusion can be disbelieved with a "Very Difficult" roll vs SP but only "...if the target knows it is an illusion". Information asymmetry makes the players the GM's bitches once more.

Attack Methods

Three types: Castings, Heka Powers, Magickal Devices. Castings go off the following round, Heka Powers straight away, Magickal Devices are ‘refer to user manual’. Just replace the OMJ terms with the D&D equivalents of 'spells', 'SLA', and 'magic item' and you have a pretty solid handle on what's what here.

It's kind of interesting to see how EGG restates the magical effects rules of D&D without actually using any of the jargon which /he himself established/. Makes me wonder if we’re going to see Not Brand X references to ‘Brain Flayer’ and ‘Regarder’ monsters in the Bestiary section.

The basics out of the way we get the Heka-Based Combat Summary. Sadly this is something of a dense mess compared to other Combat Summary tables. For example: section A2 under Activating the Casting. That’s at least three or four separate operations kludged together under one heading. A sad drop in standards from the otherwise clear and usable Combat summaries we’ve already seen. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself:

Dense, isn’t it?

Attack Process

And, at last, 217 pages into the book, we have actual game mechanics for how to smack people in the face with magic(k).

Chance of Success
Hitting dudes dans la bouche with your accumulated magic princess pixie sparkle power is a function of your character’s Heka-active skills. The rules are more than a little reminiscent of Chainmail, with variable chance of successful casting based on relevant skill level and Casting Grade (trans. ‘spell level).

Most casters are limited to Castings = their level on our old friend That Damn Table. There is, of course, an exception for Special Snowflake Teachers Pets Full Practitioners, who once again get preferential treatment. You remember Full Practitioners, right? Smarmy silver spoon sucking b*st*rds who rolled well in chargen, and then got lucky on a die roll when they picked a Vocation. These living offences against character balance get the following additional perks:
  • a bonus DR shift when casting a spell in their pet school/ethos
  • the ability to try and cast spells above their pay grade
Of course, Mythus being Mythus it couldn’t possibly be as simple as ‘cross reference your skill with Casting Grade, modify skill, roll’, so we’re offered an additional table of Casting DR Modifiers.

So now it goes: cross-reference skill against Casting Grade, modify DR by circumstances, modify skill, roll’. Nice and simple and mathematically transparent, n'est-ce pas?

After all that palaver you’ll be glad to hear that if your spell does goes off it hits the designated target automagically. Spells don’t require a roll against BAC (Mythus for ‘hit roll’), nor do they roll for hit location.

Spell damage absorption is based on the average of the target’s armour. Thankfully the calculations involved in working that out are the target’s problem, not yours.

Special Success/Failure
Heka-based Attacks in Advanced Mythus can crit or fumble, which is a nice change from the fire-and-forget reliability of magic in D&D.

Crit = Maximum possible damage
Minimal Success (someone blocks the spell by spending Joss) = minimum possible damage
Fumble = roll on the Special Failure, Heka-Based Attack table, d% minus your skill:

Pretty prosaic. Seen better. Stormbringer and WFRP chuckle quietly to themselves.

Damage Types
Heka-based attacks usually deliver one or more types of energy or physical effect, some of which are more than slightly reminiscent of the D&D damage types finally formalised in 3E [link to SRD]. The nine commonest effects are:
  1. Piercing
  2. Cutting
  3. Blunt
  4. Fire
  5. Chemical
  6. Stunning
  7. Electrical
  8. Impact
  9. Continuing

Some damage types have special rules, which each get a paragraph or so of text on p219.

Stunning -- concussive force.  If Stunning damage exceeds the target’s PNCap Attribute they go spark out for BT = the excess damage. Only 20% of stun damage counts as actual Physical damage.  That’s a nice little overpressure/blast rule there.

Impact -- hits across a broad area ignoring physical armour, which grants you legitimate free rein to howl "Ze armour, it does nuthink!" in your best cod-Mitteleuropan accent. Falling damage and 10-ton rocks give the gift of Impact damage.

Explosive -- area effect damage. Does multiplied damage (termed Exposure) to targets. The primary target suffers x1d6 damage; anyone else in the blast area suffers x1d3 the listed damage. Enjoy your pain and screaming.

Continuing -- damage that just keeps on giving. Re-roll and apply damage again at the end of successive CTs until you rid yourself of whatever is causing the hurt. Acid, being on fire, bagpipes, etc.

Completists and nitpickers (probably the only type of people who have actually managed to get this far into the Lets Read Mythus experience) may also remember Electrical damage, which appears to be tragically overlooked on the table above. Leccy causes more damage the more metal armour you wear. A quick flick through the index reveals that the rules for electrical damage in Advanced Mythus are hived off in the Damage from Other Physical Injury section, which is much, much later in the combat chapter. Ditto the full rules for the sweet, blessed caress of lovely, lovely fire, which does at least get a passing nod above.

Applying Damage from Heka-based Attacks
There’s about a page on how you work out averaged armour values against Heka-based attacks. Yes, it’s a necessary element of the rules, but even for Advanced Mythus this is some dry, dull stuff. The sheer ‘RoleMaster for the accountancy crowd’ feel of this section is perhaps best represented by the example table of averaged armour:

Will to live ...fading.

I’m sure that’s very important and useful, but boy does it look too much like actual skull-sweat-involving work for my tastes.

And with final cheerful reminders that especially bad things happen when damage taken exceed a character’s Effect, Wound and/or Critical Level, or -- Heaven forefend! -- TRAIT score, we’re done with Heka-based attacks.

Could you exploit these rules for a Classic game? Well Doug Easterley did something with a Chainmail-derived magic system in his Savage Swords of Athanor a while back, and I understand that Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics also goes down the path of duelling wizards doing something other than just firing rote spell at one another. So it’s definitely possible. But then again, Classic D&D is so simple and robust you can slap almost any magic system onto it, up to and including the ones from Ars Magica and/or Vampire: the Gothening.

Personal quibbles about Spiritual attack forms, poor layout, and sheer wordiness aside there are definitely some stealables in this section. So cheers. (*gluk gluk*)

Next Time: we get down and dirty with the deadly Mugglicious arts of punchjutsu and fechtschtabben, aka Physical Combat.

Pic Source: Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, HOL rulebook, Judge Dredd RPG (GW 1985), JollyJack's Spider & Scorpion, teh intarwubz

Monday, 11 June 2012

Lets Read Mythus Interlude 1

Précis-ing the Combat chapter of Advanced Mythus into a form comprehensible to the human mind is currently kicking my ass (appropriate really). So, while I try to get my head around the intricacies of killing doodz in the very hautest of haut gygaxian games, here's some supplemental insight on the true meaning of Mythus derived from the long out-of-print Mythic Masters Magazine (hereafter MMM).

This "...NOT a magazine; it's a game supplement" was a bucket of gygaxian musings on-, defences of-, and errata for Advanced Mythus circa 1993. The contents are thick and glutinous in their density of information and opacity of language: this is Gary the wordsmith, unconstrained by an editor, and proudly clad in full no.1 ceremonial dress uniform of the Vancian wordsmith's guild. Even MMM editor Frank Mentzer makes a joke about shuddering when EGG handed him the disk containing these articles.

I'm not going to parse the whole thing. That's an exercise for the (hypothetical) morbidly fascinated reader. Believe me though, it's an eye opener. Here's the contents page. See for yourself if anything tickles your perverted fancy:

Reads like a list of blog posts, doesn't it? Makes yer fink...

The main reason I've taken a digression from drunkenly lashing Advanced Mythus with whips of scorpions is to draw attention to one particular section of MMM: skill errata. Several pages of skill errata. You might not care for it, but as someone who's just spent six weeks trudging the wilds of the K/S Area system this is relevant to my (morbid, horrified, unable to look away) interest.

Feature Section: Knowledge/Skill Areas
The errata on offer here isn’t a simplifying clean up (dear me, no!) of the existing Advanced Mythus skill system: instead it’s full-on American luxury* elaboration. Which is nice. Because I'm sure that we all agree that the sole and overriding problem with the Advanced Mythus skill system was a paucity of detail.

* more = better, and hang the quality.

I've grown accustomed to the sheer baroque density of the Mythus skill system, but this still has to be seen to be believed.
  • Whole new K/S Areas (including Conversational Foreign Language, Dance, Judgement, and the ever-necessary Plumbing);
  • New uses for skills. Dance (Spirit skill: ORLY?) now hones Physical Attributes, Yoga now allows you to sit in fridge for extended periods, while knowing about chess, riddles or wargames grants bonus Mental armour;
  • More new sub-areas than you can shake a stick at. Seriously, if a K/S Area (even a lowly Physical one) stands still too long it gets 6-12 tumours sub-areas slapped on it. Three-and-a-half pages are taken up just listing the things, let alone defining what you can use them for!
  • A revision of how sub-areas are acquired, with even less internal rhyme-and-reason than the original rules.
  • Rules for sub-sub-areas (by product) within the new Economics/Finance sub-area of Mercantilism. Because the fandom was crying out for even more detail on earning a living;
  • A new Rudimentary Knowledge rule, which gives players another option with which to short-change themselves.
  • Page after page of amended and corrected skill cross-feeds. Tharsends of 'em!
Reading this article at one gulp is, well, let's just say bewildering. The Stankhanovite 'all must be codified' madness: It. Just. Doesn't. Stop! In fact, the combined experience of reading Advanced Mythus and then MMM on the subject of skills is more than a little akin to watching Red Army marchpasts from back in the Soviet era. Behold and fear the relentless tread of a bizarre and grandoise philosophy alien immune to rational argument.

I suppose this article does answer some of my bitching about rules insufficiency in the published DJ:M rulebook. But it hardly lightens the load on the poor bewildered player who just wants to play a game of Lets Pretend with his mates.

Advanced Mythus: "What you mean: chargen mini-game? Mini is for the weak!"

There's plenty on offer on top of the "needs moar baroque! MOAR!!!" elaboration of the skill system in MMM. This little volume offers page after page of text confirming that, no, Gary really wasn't kidding when he wrote Mythus; he meant every damn word.

EGGnu. Not joking.

Mystical Manifestations: Mythus Game Rule Expansions
As well as expended skill rules we're also offered revised and corrected rules on skills by age and inherited wealth. These make geriatric toffery an ~even more~ optimal character creation option in Advanced Mythus.
  • Being older grants both more K/S Areas, and additional STEEP points to spend on them.
  • High social class grants bonus skills, languages, special connections, ~and~ the possibility of inheriting supplemental starting swag up to manors, ships, or stables of fine mounts.

Young and/or poor people? They get, well, spat upon. Actual penalties to number of skills and to skill levels in the skills you have left are supposedly balanced by a couple of NPC contacts, Quirks, and maybe a second language for the especially lowly. Right-oh.

Sweet merciful Anansi! I though GURPS Goblins had unjust social standing rules. Its like a socialist utopia by comparison with Advanced Mythus! To favour rich old farts once in your RPG character generation system may be considered an oversight: to do so twice indicates a settled policy.

As well as vouchsafing unto the devout Mythus-ites additional Switzer madness in the chargens, and walking us once again through the risibly simple process of generating an Advanced Mythus character, and introducing his new alternate history Weird Science-Fantasy (or, as we call it: soft scifi) setting, Gary also has some editorial/authorial points to make.

And boy! does he make 'em.

The Town Cryer's Gone Mad
No, really. That's the title of Gary's editorial/soapboxing column in which The Man Himself takes strident issue with the 'whispering campaign' against Mythus, and excoriates those too stupid to understand his simple little game.

Yes, because Mythus is the epitome of simplicity and lightness, and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't understand how to use a reference book. Seriously? That's your counter-argument? It would maybe hold water coming from someone who'd mastered the art of efficiently formatting information (see: That Damn Table, my endless bitching about poor layout, disgressive waffle and lack of page references, etc.). As it is, it just reads like a 'stupid people need not apply' tract.

Of course - as later events illustrated - this 'us and them' ranting about uninformed, unprofessional "so-called reviewers" in certain publications turned out to be something other than merely the paranoia of a man at war with an incomprehending world. Still, this is a little embarrassing to read. I kinda wish Frank Mentzer had spiked it.

Gamespeak...the DJ Patois
A two page(!) essay on the True Scientific Realism of the game systems in Advanced Mythus, and on why this makes an entirely new lingua jargonica a logical necessity.
"During a CT the HP will probably need to know his BAC, WP, FAC, or make a Link, or expend ACE heka (as indicated by casting Grade) to start a casting, and then add more heka points for R&D considerations. Those are the highlights."
-- EGG, Mythic Masters Magazine #1, p4
Yes, 'highlights'. Also *gluk gluk*, because that last deserves a stiff drink.

Gary is seriously calling this reasonable. I've looked long and hard, and even run magnets over the page, and I can't detect a hint of irony in his assertions. Just remind me EGG: what was that you said about "The game is too complex" being 'crap' and 'hogwash'?

We're also presented with the following assertion:
"Those imposing [Dangerous Journeys] books are daunting to the dilettantes and casual participants who believe that shallow milieux with minimal rules enable easy play and empower those employing such devices. Wrong. What these sorts of games do is limit the scope of play to the particular genre and milieu and force conformity through lack of choice."
-- EGG, Mythic Masters Magazine #1, p3
So there you have it. All that fun you've been having with your fast, light, 'rulings, not rules' games: mere delusion arising from false consciousness. You haven't really been having fun at all. How could 'dilettantes' suffering 'forced confirmity' in such 'shallow milieux' possibly be enjoying themselves? You poor deluded fools! Don't you know that simplicity constrains creativity?

Let's just take a moment to savour it fully, shall we?

"...minimal rules [...] force conformity through lack of choice."

That single statement is nothing less than a Genesis Bomb of assbackwardry. It is the totipotent seed for the entire ecosystem of Spaceyan WRONG! we now know as Advanced Mythus. It is a signpost on the primrose path to the perdition of systematised fantastic banality wherein dwell GURPS, RoleMaster and D&D3E.

It's hard to believe - and a little sad to think - that this comes the same man who once asked "Why have us do any more of your imagining for you?" Oh Gary. What happened?

TL;DR: If you have any interest at all in the creative mind behind D&D and/or Mythus - or in the study and treatment of logorrhea - then go read Mythic Masters Magazine.

The potted highlights above don't do justice to the full experience. To fully savour the crazy you simply have to read MMM for yourself! It's a truly rich and heady brew (albeit probably not in the way the author intended). Part rules supplement, part 'how to', part soapbox, and in toto a surreal time capsule from another universe; MMM is a quantum window showing us that even Hackmaster's Gary Jackson(tm)(c)(r) was naught but a pale shadow of the crazy uncle Father of the Game.

Next Time: Combat (contingent on me finally wrestling that SOB of a chapter to the ground)

Pic Source: Mythic Masters Magazine, Philip M. Jackson's Spider & Scorpion

Monday, 4 June 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt16

[note: His Nibs is away. This posted through the dubious magic of Blogger's scheduled post facility.]

K/S Usage for Economic Gain
This terminal section of the Core Game Systems chapter was co-written by EGG and his son Ernest, and is probably the only example of father/son tag-team game writing I’ve ever seen. It comprises seven pages on accumulating filthy lucre by standard boring capitalist methods (i.e. not glorious merry theft or looting). The rules presented are rather abstract, involving lots of basic sums and die rolling and not much actual adventure.

There are three methods of multiplying money by money in Advanced Mythus:
  1. Ownership of Real Property
  2. Consultation Services
  3. Professional Investment
Three big-ass tables showing which skills governed by which TRAITS are good for which kind of moneymaking. AFAICT without checking thoroughly every skill in the game is mentioned in one or other of the three. Say what you like about Gygax pere et fils, them boys are Swiss in their thoroughness. Thus:

Completist, prescriptive, dubious utility: must be Mythus.

WAKE UP! If I have to be awake while I flense some sense out of this, so do you.At least we have sweet, sweet booze to help us.

Ownership of Real Property
Making money from owning physical stuff and exploiting its use value.

1. Invest up to 5,000BUCs x STEEP in something related to a chosen skill (farmland and tools for Agriculture; a forge and tools for Smithing/Welding; presses, ink and paper for Printing, etc.). This investment is tied up for a minimum period of one game year.
2. Determine start-up period: 4d3 months -1 month per 10 STEEP
3. DM determines Difficulty Class and modifiers to base chance of success. No help here, not even a page reference. I quote: "This is left strictly to the GM."
4. Add 10% of any other relevant skill to base skill, then divide by DR.
5. At the end of the game year, roll d% to determine profit/loss.
  • Pass/Fail = Each percentage point under/over the target number = 1% profit/loss.
  • Crit = As Pass, plus you get an additional d% profit and 1-3 points added to the skill used to make the roll. In future you can squander invest 2d3x5,000BUCs per skill point in this field.
  • Auto-Fail = Break even, but investment money is tied up unproductively for an entire game year. ("Eh?")
  • Fumble = As Fail, plus an additional d% roll loss. Yes, you can end up losing more than you originally invested.

5. Adjust value of investment:
  • Crit = +20% of initial investment
  • Pass = +10%
  • Fail = -10%
  • Auto-Fail = -20%
  • Fumble = you've probably already lost your shirt...

At the end of the year you can either maintain the investment, rolling again for income year after year, or just sell it off. There are no rules for market variations or anything like that: you get back what's left. 

The worked example is a half-a-page or so about farming.

*Phew* Who knew that attempting to own stuff could be such a hassle.

Consultation Services
Making money through the pretence you are a reliable and trustworthy authority on something.

1. Spot/create need for your skilled services in Law, Linguistics, Seamanship, Occultism, etc.
2. Contact potential clients
3. Pitch potential clients
4. Set price and negotiate payment
5. DO STUFF (I think this is where the skill roll happens)
6. Collect payment, or at least try to.
7. Determine reactions of customers and others affected by your interventions. A big deal is made of the complications of trying to get money out of people who owe it to you. It all gets a little Hackmasterish in the sheer level of adversarial GM-ery:

Screw them over. Gotcha.

8. Determine effect on SEC, income, net worth, etc.
9. Determine effect on future uses of that skill.

The worked example has almost nothing to do with the rules presented above, instead being the story of an apprentice wizard consulting a scholar about translating an obscure text. They end up eaten by a demon. And the reader ends up none the wiser.

Do I liketh this?

No, I liketh it not. Not at all. That page could have been used for something! (*gluk gluk*)

Professional Investment
Judging from the list of skills that can exploit this option (Buffoonery, Thespianism, Influence, etc), this would appear to be something of a ‘impresario’ mechanic. Printing and Chemistry are also mentioned as possibilities. I’m not entirely sure why: are roving bands of chemists-for-hire a thing in Mythus-world?

1. Study the market for one week, uninterrupted.
2. Gather resources. Spend up to 2,000 BUCs per STEEP in selected skill.
3. Have an action plan. One which takes into account such things as:

Look! Indenting! Actual, real honest-to-goodness indenting.

4. Have a clear idea of the goal.
5. Invest time: 4d6 - 1/10 STEEP in weeks.
6. Roll skill check, add 10% of any other relevant skills involved the multiply by DR (usually "Hard"). The worked example specifies that you can bring in outside help for either a set fee or percentage of the gross.
  • Pass/Fail = Each percentage point under/over the target number = 1% profit/loss
  • Crit = As Pass, plus you get an additional d% profit and 1-3 points added to the skill used to make the roll. In future you can invest 2d10 x 2,000BUCs per skill point in this field.
  • Auto-Fail = Break even. (Once again. "Eh?")
  • Fumble = As Fail, plus additional 2d% loss.
On a Fail or Auto-Fail you’re out 10-30% of investment on top of your other losses, but you have the option to plough in more money to re-work the plan (and gain a re-roll to the skill check). The cost of this re-working is to top up the lost 10-30% of the initial investment, then spend +50% more money and time.

The worked example for Professional investment (Rodney the Reformed Thief attempts to set up a troupe of acrobats and jugglers) takes up a larger word count than the rules.

Worked Examples
The section ends with one last page of examples showing how you can use three sample skills - Agriculture, Apotropaism, Architecture (Really? The first three on the list. You were really reaching there, weren't you lads...) - to make money.

I'm not keen on this particular part of the Advanced Mythus system. Seven pages of dense text and poorly formatted rules in investments, and the outcome is decidedly sub-optimal IMO.

Section #1 (Real Property) is basically a skill roll, and #3 (Professional Investment) is #1 tinkered with to explicitly include the existing Combined Effort rules (see p124). I'm not sure the two actually differ enough to justify entirely separate rules; a couple of notes to one block of rules would do the trick. #2 (Consultation Services), well, that’s so vague as to be a waste of paper. You might as well just refer to the Core Mechanics section.

It’s a shame really. The whole K/S Usage for Economic Gain mess could have been rejigged into something short-and-sweet - and a sight more flavourful - with a bit of effort. One investment mechanic, one 'hire yourself out for pay' mechanic, plus a big old random table or two of complications to your clever moneymaking scheme (e.g. 75: Your investment is infested with Gnomes, deal with it or lose d% of value). And change the title to something catchier, like "Getting Rich Without Having to Die Trying" or "What Are We To Do With All This Lovely Money?".

In conclusion: skip this bit. Traveller and WFRP (or, more recently, ACKS) did trading/earning a living better. Heck, K.A.Pendragon does return on annual investments with more character in an appendix, and that's a game where money can be handwaved entirely.

Just goes to show: if your problem is runaway Gygaxian acturialisms, the solution probably isn’t to add more Gygaxes (Gygaxii?).

Art of the Section
The best thing in this entire section is this pic of Sir Beardknight de Beard and a dragon having a shouting match about something.

Now where have I seen that before?

Oh yeah:


And that is the end of Dangerous Journeys: Mythus Chapter 11. Let joy be unconfined and frolicking in the park be the order of the day, at least until next we board the Mythus party bus (NSFW).

Next Time: Our first toe-tip into the piranha-infested river of wordswordswords that is the Combat chapter. Early highlights include: the dark arts of surprise and avoidance; enough information on Speed Classes to make the cold black heart of your average AD&D player flicker into life again; and giving those you disapprove of the explodo in the head and soul.

Pic Source: Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, the intarwubz
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