Monday, 4 March 2013

Lets Read Mythus pt 24

"On a lonely planet spinning its way to damnation amid the fear and despair of a lonely human race, who is left to fight for all that is good, pure and gets you smashed for under a fiver?"
A scholar of Mythus exegesis displaying best practise, yesterday

Such an introduction can only mean one thing: its time to continue the thankless self-inflicted swedge through the Advanced Mythus spell descriptions. Y U do this? In search of stuff that might be useful in games people actually play.

Today's main event is The Gygax Forgotten Classic, a flat race over pages 284-294 of the Dangerous Journeys: Mythus course.
Going: dull to middling.
Weather: overcast, dry.
Anticipated obstacles: opaque language, repetitive format, unintuitive mechanics, massive drinking.

Previously: Dweomercraeft (wizardin') and Priestcraeft (godbotherin').
Today: the filthy specialist matjickqkcks of Apotropaism, Astrology, etc.

As before, each grab bag of example castings covers Casting Grades I-V, with 3-5 example castings per level. Casting time is hidden away in the name of the spell, for which see LRM pt 23. Heka costs are as noted in LRM pt 22.

And with that: "Bog snorkels on gentlemen."

Apotropaism I

Abram's Safekeep Formula
Protects 1 small object from mundane damage (small fires, rot, being eaten by pests, etc.). Also makes it remarkably uninteresting to thieves or vandals, who have to make a DR "Hard" test vs. their Spiritual Metaphysical CATEGORY to notice it. Duration is 1 week/10 STEEP.
Semi-useful. Might steal. *gluk*

Iron Nails Charm
Enchants normal nails with warding aura.
Two crossed nails ward area against "...Netherrealm, malign nature and Evil creatures or beings..." (this particular recurring wordy mythus-ism will henceforth be denoted by the shorthand "[Team Evil]"). One nail can hold closed doors, windows and the like. Entering warded area or opening secured item requires DR "Hard" check vs. Mr Evil's Spirit TRAIT and causes 1d6+1 Physical damage.
Protection from evil with nice folkloric mechanic.

No Surprise Spell
Subject gains infallible spider sense to imminent danger for 5 minutes.
I honestly have nothing to say about this spell.

Protection from Fire Cantrip
Magickal smoke alarm, awakens from sleep if needs be. Thankfully only applies to uncontrolled fires. If subject is targeted by fire they gain a one-off +10 Avoidance bonus. Lasts 1 day/10 STEEP.
Semi-cool in a petty magic/cantrip way.

Safe Passage Ritual
Allows caster + 1 mate/10 STEEP to amble past natural hazards with ease (precarious pathways and aggressive animals are the cited examples).

Useful, if a bit "Screw your skills, I have Heka!" for my taste.

Apotropaism II

Harn's Hidden Passage Spell
Anyone within a 1-rod area centred on the caster vanishes from normal vision so long as they don't talk or do anything wildly conspicuous. True Sight casting and/or guard dogs negate. [Team Evil] have 1 DR penalty when attempting to target apotropaist using this casting, even if they spot him.
Quite cool. Not so much classic invisibility as a mobile "IGNORE ME!" field.

Protection from Deception Cantrip
Causes lies to sound grating to the ear. Criminal Activities, Mental and/or Deception are useless against this Casting, because phuq muggle skills. Visual deception like Sleight of Hand is not negated.
Detect Lie. Nothing more need be said.

Protection from Paralysis Charm
Grants Paralysis Resistance at 20% + 1/10th caster's STEEP + 1% per Heka spent. Test against DR "Moderate"(x2) in most cases. So, if you boost Resistance to even 50% only an Autofail on your roll = "Gak! I cannot move!" And this is another reason I hate Mythus' screwy take on d% mechanics.

Warning Alert Formula
Causes tinkling sound and silver glow to limn any [Team Evil] or hostiles who enter a 1-rod radius/10 STEEP centred on the caster or any point he designates.
Detect evil with a side order of detect hostility. S'ok I suppose.

Apotropaism III

Alchindus Sigil Formula
One shot anti-evil claymore. Causes 2d6+2 Spirit damage to the first [Team Evil], thief or desecrator to come within 1 ft/10 STEEP of the sigil.
No ruling on whether the sigil has to be in plain sight, whether it can be hidden away, or what.
Another guards and wards effect, though Unearthed Arcana's sepia snake sigil was cooler.

Eviltracks Agony Charm
Hammer nails into a hand-/footprint left by a [Team Evil] member to cause them 2d6+2 Physical damage (ignores armour). One nail per print. Other castings can enhance the damage inflicted or pin the bad guy in place.
Tin-eared name aside this spell is semi-cool. I remember a cheesy horror film (Warlock?) that used this gimmick to good effect. So bonus points for folkloric precedent.

Full Consecration Ritual
Wards a 1-rod radius against [Team Evil] for 5 minutes/STEEP. Malign gribbler with a Spirit TRAIT < the caster's STEEP shun the area. More powerful creatures can enter warded area, but take 2d6+2 Spirit damage.
Another variation of the protection from evil spell, as previously mythusized by Priestcraeft castings. Nowt to write home about in a game where Spirit = 6x(3d6) or so.

Unseen Sentinel
Forces a minor spirit to guard a 1 chain diameter area for 5 mins/STEEP. Spirit can only warn those who enter the area, and alert caster of intrusions.
So, an alarm system. *meh* We have these things called dogs...

Apotropaism IV

Invisibility to Undead
Does exactly what it says on the tin: da undead no can see you.
Unliving creatures (WT-? *gluk gluk*) are less affected. They can spot you and your delicious brainmeat/blood/lifeforce with 100% - apotropaist's STEEP vs DR "Hard".
Again with the non-intuitive probabilities Mythus? Seriously, FRO!

Protection from Drowning Cantrip
Magic life vest lasting 1 day/10 STEEP. Causes you to bob about in water, mud, quicksand, etc. If held under you do into suspended animation until a breath can be drawn.
S'alright. Might be worth a level 1 spell slot in a Classic game.
Usable content? Consume! *gluk gluk*

Protection from Fear Spell
Negates fear from any source. ANY source. The description is very specific about this:

Synonym abuse? Oh my yes. *gluk gluk*

Don't see what's inherently magical about negating fear, trepidation and apprehension; where I come from we have a wonder substance called 'alkyhol' with similar effects.
Reason Advanced Mythus Sucks #1,593: the game lacks any dutch courage and/or medicinal booze healing rules.

Apotropaism V

Abjure Spell
No, doesn't allow you to become an oathbreaker with impunity. Actually causes 5d3 each of P, M and S damage unless to anyone in the 1 foot diam./STEEP area of effect who doesn't truthfully announce their membership in [Team Evil].
No idea what's going on here. Some sort of "confess your crimes!" *slap, slap* thing going on?

Chant of Guarding Cantrip
Negates Heka-powered compulsion (Attacks to Control, -to Influence, etc) around the caster for 5 mins per 10 STEEP. Mundane forms of persuasion still work.
Alright counterspell to all the 'boogly-boogly, you must obey me' mechanics scattered hither and yon in Gradgrind's Piffledross. Dunno if I'd use it in a Classic game though.

Protection from Curses Spell
Negates the first Curse inflicted by [Team Evil] on subject. Max Casting Grade negated = caster's grade in Apotropaism.
Kinda handy. Might be adaptable to a Classic D&D game if your evil types use a lot of curses.

Astrology I

Astromancy Spell
Three paragraphs of 'goes nowhere fast' waffle wrapped around another uninspired 'clue me' spell. The caster has to reveal their plan to the GM, who determines likelihood of success based on a bunch of ass-pulled criteria and DRs.
Screw that! Dice for it.
This spell is bad, and those involved should feel bad. It is classic "How not to..." material.

Influence of Scorpio Spell
Detect precious metals in 1 rod/10 STEEP diam. General direction only, no clue as to relative values of detected loot.
Stealable. *gluk gluk*

Know Disposition Cantrip
Know alignment + detect reaction. Can be blocked by Castings or - probably - sheet lead.
Dull, and no mention of whether it is socially acceptable to *ping* people with such an intrusive spell.

Minor Horoscope Formula
Another vague-to-uselessness 'clue me' spell. Allows the GM to foreshadow coming events within a 1 week horizon. He can do this anyway, coz he's the GM!

Star Chart Place Formula
Psychometry on a place.
Affects 1 chain dia./10 STEEP. Caster picks up general impressions about things that happened in the location. Can be performed remotely at unspecified DR penalties.
Similar to the old AD&D psionic ability. May be of interest to others.

Astrology II

Best Time Formula
Cast the auspices for the most opportune time to do a thing. Can result in DR modification in your favour. So, time-constrained free Joss (Mythus probability-shifting Fate Points).
Thematically appropriate, but a bit bland as written.

Influence of Venus Cantrip
Short duration charm person effect which causes the target to become "...temporarily enamoured of the astrologer or another of the opposite sex..." Allows caster to manipulate target per the Magnetism K/S Area. Bit creepy in the date-rapey implication that "...the target will only vaguely recall the Influence of Venus Effect, and what transpired when it was active."
Erm, no.

Influence of Virgo Ritual
Grants a 20 point STEEP boost to a not-Astrology K/S area for 2 hours + 1hr/10 STEEP. Requires the subject to be within spitting distance of scholarly books or a living expert in the subject. On a Special Success 1d3 STEEP are retained permanently.
Free skill points. Why would you not cast this exploit as often as possible?

Star Chart Item Spell
Psychometry on an object. Success as DR "Moderate" Astrology checks grants impressions about the creator, how the object has been used, etc. Max checks: 1/10 STEEP. Failure = no meaningful impressions. Fumble = no impressions from this item ever.
More specific than the area psychometry casting above. May be semi-useful if you like that sort of thing.

Astrology III

Ascendant Cantrip
Allows the caster to have two Influence of castings active at once, rather than the normal restriction of one at a time only. Both expire when the shortest duration is up.
Meta-magic effect. Utility outside Mythus - limited.

Influence of Cancer Formula
Doubles healing rates for 1 day/10 STEEP. Negates Shock, soothes fear, and suppresses the desire to self-harm.
Handy long-term 'peaceful healing' effect. Might be useful for NPC hospitallers and general down-time healing in your game. *gluk*

Influence of Mars Spell
Grants 10 Physical Attribute points and +10 STEEP to one Combat K/S Area for 5 mins/10 STEEP. Special Success = 20% chance permanent +1 to a Physical Attribute, 80% chance +1 to Combat K/S Area.
Another 'spam this daily for great justice!' casting. Why spend hard-earned Accomplishment Points (Mythus XP) when you can just set easy-to-renew Heka on fire?

Know Truth Charm
Causes people to blow glue, sorry, glow blue in a 1 rod/10 STEEP diameter. A person's glow will turn black if they lie.
Area effect detect lie with nice FX. B+, would use. *gluk*

Astrology IV

Influence of Mercury Spell
Doesn't cause Mad Hatter-ish behaviour. Instead amps Mental Mnemonic Power (Int.) by +10 to a maximum of 40 for 5 mins/10 STEEP. No chance of permanent increase.
I'm not sure how/if modifying one's stats in Advanced Mythus modifies K/S Areas. I'll leave the full implication of such a cascading nightmare of char sheet adjustment to the reader... *shudder*

Influence of the Moon Cantrip
Creates a 1 rod radius/10 STEEP cloud of sleep mist. Eveyone in the area has to make a DR "Easy" test vs. Spiritual Psychic Capacity or spark out for 1AT/10 STEEP of the caster.
A non-HD-capped, area effect version of the classic D&D "You Win" button.

Kayyam's Wisdom Ritual
Has up to 4 effects, each of which takes 5 minutes to invoke.
  1. caster renders himself immune to drugs which would impair Phys, Mental or Spirit.
  2. caster can detect lies flawlessly.
  3. caster can take ectoplasmic form.
  4. caster can grant a Spirit bonus to 1 person/10 STEEP equal to 1/10th the Caster's Astrology which acts as Spirit armour. The caster gains a pool of bonus Heka = twice the Spirit points bestowed.

All this lasts for AT = caster's STEEP.
Medium-term buffing spell with an odd 'spooky spy form' side. No idea how this got past the Interesting Police. Possibly folkloric origin?

Astrology V

Aetherscan Cantrip
Caster is able to detect Aethereal creatures or Aethereal-influenced Heka for 1 AT/10 STEEP. Theycan also detect illusions as such with a DR "Hard" Astrology check.
Combined detect ethereal+illusions; might have some utility for an old school game.

Arago's Influence of the Sun Cantrip
Caster becomes a solar system. No, really. He radiates bright light in 1 rod diameter/10 STEEP and has small glowing planets orbit him. This bizarre effect causes 5d3 Physical damage per CT to all Undead and light sensitive creatures. Creatures not used to light are dazzled for 1d3+5 rounds after the effect ends.
I kinda like this as a replacement for things like sunray or daylight. The "Yes, in Mythus the universe really does revolve around the caster" factor is beyond parody though. *gluk* for several reasons then.

Influence of Gemini Spell
Magic walkie-talkie. Allows 1-way communication only. Duration: 30 seconds/10 STEEP, range: 1 league/10 STEEP. Can be intercepted by Castings or Telepathy.
Pretty *meh* variation on the various sending and message spells probably already present in your preferred game. Pass.

Mysticism I

Enough! I can take no more. Page 289 and the sheer drudgery of this tosh is forcing me to tap out.

"Screw you!" said my poor, suffering skullmeats "I didn't sign up for this sort of abuse."

Ye gods, is there anything more tedious to read in an RPG than spell/power descriptions, especially low-level ones? If there is, I can't think of it. Page after page of minor modifiers or petty exceptions to this/that/t'other rule. I know you need rules for spells -- otherwise it all degenerates into some sort of degenerate Forge-inflected Magic Tea Party (like Everway), and nobody wants that -- but there's simply no excuse for making the mystery and wonder of magic so. damn. boring.

Long story short: the Advanced Mythus castings are banal systematisation of the fantastic at its very, very worst. To paraphrase an old saw: "Magic system? There's no magic in it!"

Next Time: It all goes a bit bell-bottomed and patchouli-scented when we finally look at sample Herbalism and Mysticism castings. On the bright side: artwork by Gelon and Mitchell.

Pic Source: Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, the environmental graffiti website, teh intawubz


  1. Is it bad that I sort of approve of there use of a apotropaism category? Sometimes I think pulling out the old Smith-Vance-Wolfe vocab pays off.

  2. Yes, it was Warlock. A didgy film, and no mistake, but it was quite keen on bringing in plausible folklorish bits like the nails-in-the-footprints. That doesn't quite make up for Richard E Grant's wonky Scottish accent though.

    Arago's Influence of the Sun Cantrip is brilliant. It reminds me a bit of the summon Sephiroth would cast in Final Fantasy VII in which the solar system was destroyed by a meteor. If you were tough enough, he'd cast it two or three times in the battle. But wait, didn't you already destroy Jupiter?

  3. From whence is that moving image at the beginning of your essay? It is hilarious.

  4. Trey: Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of Vancian grandiloquence in an RPG, but if you're going to go full Vance you then have to maintain a consistent tone. Having such a high-falutin' class of magic as Apotropaism contain proper clunker spell names like "Warning Alert Formula" or "No Surprise Spell" is just failing of your promise.

    @Kelvin: Good old Warlock and I. I mean, was there ever a more 80s-looking villain in the history of cinema?

    I do like the "Summon Pet Solar System" spell, it's a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dull section. Echoing what I said to Trey above, it's exactly the sort of over-blown arcane lunacy that lives up to the bragging Mythus often fails of. 400 more spells like that plz EGG.

    FFVII: populariser of dissociated mechanics and fluff? "Destroy world for 9999 damage. Destruction of world is cosmetic effect only and reverses at expiration of casting."

    @Tallifer: Why that good sir is from The Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar, a tramp who thinks he's living in an inter-war action serial, created by Mitchell and Webb.


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