Monday, 27 February 2012

Let's Read... Mythus, pt2

Continuing this 'until I lose the will to live' investigation of Gary Gygax's Mythus RPG for material that might be useful for old school games.

We start this post with a two page b+w art spread of humans in 'exotic foreigner' costume posed before fantasy architecture. Pretty cool, would befit Tekumel, Talislanta, Jurone or suchlike. Nice work by Janet Allusio? Big bold headings inform us that, for better or worse, we are entering The Mythus Prime Rules Player Section.

Chapter 1: Creating Your Heroic Persona
Eight pages of chargen? Ok, I've seen entire games with less pages of rules, but we'll persevere. At least the tables and sidebars (complete with faux frayed parchment box edges) break up the relentless blocks of text.

1: Determine Socio-Economic Class (SEC)
OK, this is a little odd to someone habituated to D&D, but makes a kind of sense in an Unearthed Arcana-ish, game-as-simulation-of-fantasy-society way. Social station determines a lot of life chances, and Mythus seems to be a very crunch-heavy, simmy game. Roll 1d6+1, 2 = peasant, non-free, 7 = non-titled aristocrat. No explanation of what use this will be later; no reference to later sections. 2/10 Must try harder.

2: Generate Traits. Sorry, that should read TRAITS
Characters have three TRAITS (allcaps as original): Mental, Physical, Spiritual. 120 points divided between the three, min 20 each, max 60. We get a table that explains 26-35 is Average, while 56-60 is "Incredible! You are as smart as a rocket scientist, as strong as a champion weightlifter, or as full of faith as a saint." We're also introduced to Knowledge/Skill (K/S) areas (aka "skills" to Earthlings), which are related to one TRAIT or another. It takes the better part of a page to explain this.

3: Choose a Vocation

Two columns of blah blah, including a paragraph about how children learn. This is where we first encounter the acronym STEEP (study, train, experience, education, practise), the derivation and meaning of which has bugged me since I bought Epic of Aerth nearly 20 years ago. There's also one small table that contains the information you actually need: 7 classes, their primary TRAIT, and their minimum Socio-Economic Class (SEC) requirement. The next page introduces you to the classes: Alchemist, Astrologer, Cavalier, Merc/Soldier, Mountebank, Thief, Wiseman/-woman. These are pretty self-explanatory to any fantasy gamer.

4. Select K/S and STEEP Points

No, I'm not joking. That's the actual title of the "Pick Skills" section. Mythus loves it some acronyms.

K/S and STEEP are explained again. Then there’s a master skill list. Eighteen Knowledge/Skill areas per TRAIT. Most of the skills are pretty self-explanatory: Boating, Gambling, Smithing, Street-wise, etc. You also have a bunch of less obvious fields like Aptropaism, Dweomercraeft, Tolerance or Charismaticism. There are no actual skill descriptions; those are 50-odd pages away in the Advanced rules, which is massively helpful to a new player. Basic Mythus: SO basic it doesn't include half the information required to play. Was 'crippleware' a word in 1992?

Each class, sorry, vocation gets 10 of these 50-odd skills at a set base score to which is added half the character's score in the related TRAIT. So pretty prescriptive, given the restrictions on TRAITS. Quite how you manage to spread a list of ten skills per vocation (oh, and the news that everyone gets 6 additional skills at 10, as well as Perception, Speak and Ride at 30) over four pages escapes me.

5. There is no section five.
Either there's a chunk of the chargen rules missing, or T$R's legal team claimed that use of the number five was a distinctive property of their most popular RPG, or the Editorial staff were asleep on the job. The error speaks for itself. Let us pass on with no more said.

6. Establish Finances and Possessions
Again, the actual title of the "starting money" section.

A sidebar introduces the concept of the Base Unit Coin or BUC, which is the default coin of whatever setting you're in. One BUC = one buck, and prices are generally based on real world prices. OK, but this does mean that starting cash is going to be a couple of orders of magnitude too fiddly for most people to care about.

How much money do you have? Well, there’s no absurdly simplistic "3d6x10gp" here. *snerk* Oh no. Starting characters have Net Worth, and Bank Accounts, and Cash on Hand, and Disposable Monthly Income, all determined by random rolls derived from their social class, sorry, SEC. On top of this they also have their Basic Possessions: Dwellings, Clothes and Furnishing, Misc. Gear, and GM's Option. We're also told to refer to the Advanced Mythus rules for even more(!) detail.

After two pages of this a disclaimer says "Don't worry about figuring out every last item your HP has right now; all you need to have immediately is a very general idea of what the character owns." *headdesk*

7. Finish Any Miscellaneous Information
A paragraph suggesting that you describe what your PC, sorry Heroic Persona, looks like, and there's a table on which you can roll the Attractiveness of your HP (2d6+8, 1 = Nasty, 10 = Average, 20 = Stunning). Note: no HP is ever less than averagely attractive.

And now we've got our character: 3 stats, a slack handful of skills, and a very, very specific breakdown of net worth. Almost like the game was written by a former insurance adjuster or something...

Chapter 2: Conducting Actions
Two actual pages of text to say "roll d% under your skill K/S or stat TRAIT, or just GM fiat it" and to explain that timekeeping is important. No actual details on travel times: apparently we should refer to the Advanced Rules for those. That is already becoming an annoyingly familiar refrain.

Game time is divided into the Action Turn (5 minutes), Battle Turn (30 seconds) and Critical Turn (3 seconds): HPs can cover 1000:100:10 feet in those periods walking, or three times that running. Easy to remember, and the names are really helpful, because there's no way anyone could ever mix up the names of those three scaling turns in the heat of play.

Any correspondence of these nested turns to the time measurement system of AD&D is obviously purely in the imagination of the reader.

Next Time: Heka, Mystical Force of Magickal (sic) Castings, Combat and XP

Now far into this are we? 20 pages? Oh sweet Raptor Jeebus, that's only 1/20th of the way in.
"Bring us the finest wines know to humanity!"


  1. "We want them here, and we want them now!"

  2. My general observations on Mythus:

    1. It's Gygax writing. If you can't handle reading the DMG, you won't like Mythus.
    2. There were legal issues (with TSR) getting the book out the door. Seeing how petty the lawsuit that shut GDW down was, the acronym/term changes are pretty understandable.

    That said, after I become independently wealthy, I'll be spending a month on a deserted island editing up a "black market" version of mythus.

  3. No sample character? That's a shame!

  4. I think that you are brave.
    Too brave perhaps...


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