Monday 11 March 2013

Lets Read Mythus pt 25

Mythus spell lists: my face when.

Last section of the Advanced Mythus spell lists sample castings, which so far have been boring enough to make a Chaos Sorcerer throw his hands up and rededicate himself to the service of the lord of the skull throne. Oh well, time to haul on the waders, broach a bottle of something nice and numbing, and once again enter the perverse world of Dangerous Journeys: Mythus.

Previously: Apotropaism and Astrology.
Today: Herbalism, Mysticism, the art of the section.

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.

First up we have Herbalism, which is a little different to what we've experienced so far. Don't get too excited though: different != better. The wrinkle of this clump of spells is that some Herbalism Castings are used to create potions, oils and similar. These Castings include a Materia Cost in their entry, which -- AFAICT -- is the cost per potion created.

Herbalist infusions are the Twinky of Mythus arcana, in that they last indefinitely until opened and then have only a 1% cumulative chance/day of going off. This might be a nice variation on the old 'potion roulette' game if it wasn't so damn fiddly. I mean, does your idea of high adventure include tracking "date potion was opened"?

As far as I know Mythus has no potion miscibility rules either. Shame that. It seems that your Heroick Personaeaeae can glug Heka-charged potions down like a dipsomaniac without any of the lolarious side-effects we know and love from the One True DMG. *sadbemusedface*

Herbalism I

Auraread Spell
Scan one target's aura to get a sense of their innate Heka ('none', 'little', 'lots'), general level of health, and whether their aura is "...beneficial, neutral or baleful".
A general purpose detect magic + status + Mythus-ised version of know alignment(?).

Botanomancy Spell
Determine the composition of Mundane or Preturnatural herbal substances. 1 substance may be identified per BT for BT = 1/10th STEEP.
Identify plants, presumably useful in the context of other Herbalism castings.

Detect Poison Charm
Touch ranged, infallibly detects the presence of poison "...or similar toxic substance..." (huh?) in one subject, living or otherwise.
The dull! It burns! In a really tedious way.

Healing Poultice Spell
Magic(k) Elastoplast for your boo-boos.
Enchants a prepared poultice to heal 2d6 Physical damage when applied. Also doubles healing rate for remaining damage. Has no effect on poison or disease.
The first spell with a Materia Cost: 120 BUCs.
Enchant bandage of CWL. Might be handy to put a cost on low-level healing for your old school game. Otherwise dull.

Love Potion Spell
Creates a potion which causes the imbiber to "...become enamoured of, or attached by filial or brotherly love..." to the first living thing they see. Effect is similar to the Magnetism K/S Area and lasts 1 day/STEEP!
Materia Cost: 100 BUCs.
If you said philter of love you're probably not far off. The exploit potential of this for a cunning user is off the charts.

Herbalism II

Detect Disease Spell
You channel the spirit power of Dr Gregory House, but skip straight to the third (correct) diagnosis.
Caster can identify type, cause, contagiousness and strength of an disease, and whether it was Heka-induced. Casting can also uncover "...disease vectors on non-living sort, so that contagion potential from objects or places can be determined."
So a combined diagnosis/forensic epidemiology detect cholera-infested pump spell. Very handy for the grubbier, wermspittled sort of Classic game.

Identify Disorder Spell
Uncovers presence and type of Mundane or Preturnatural mental disease/disorder in one subject. Useless against Supernatural disorders of the mind. I've no idea what the distinction between Preturnatural and Supernatural insanity is and, guess what, no page ref. is offered.
Diagnose madness for those who simply can't be bothered with the patented Mythus madness guessing game. May be useful for your game if you use insanity rules.

Identify Poison Cantrip
As Detect Poison Charm + type and strength of poison, how it was administered, and nature of antidote and treatment. Casting can identify Entital (godly?) poisons, but won't reveal cure.
Another instant diagnosis casting. I do worry that the way these are presented may reduce the herbalist to either "Ok, I follow standard practise" or "We drop everything to get the cure, then treat according to standard practise".

Sleep Potion Formula
Creates an odourless, tasteless 1fl.oz. potion of roofies at a cost of 20BUCs.
Imbiber with Physical TRAIT < herbalist's STEEP gets drowsy for 2d6 CT, then drops into a deep sleep for 1hr/10 STEEP + 1 AT/potion's potency - target's M TRAIT.
Multiple potions may be administered to extend duration of effect.
Quite apart from the obvious date rape/kidnap applications this may have medical utility as a general anaesthetic. I'd still feel a bit dirty introducing this to my own game though.

Herbalism III

Adjust Chi Ritual
A 15 minute ritual restores 1d3 damage to each TRAIT and "...balancing a like extent (1d3 from stronger to weaker)". Also lends 3d3 points of the caster's Heka, whatever good that might be.
Duration is 5 minutes/STEEP. Cost is 30 BUCs.
Not sure of the utility of this spell. May be intended to stop people on their last legs from pegging out until more permanent assistance can be rendered.
Would not use as written.

Herbal Poison Formula
30 BUCs of herbs and malicious intent combine to create a colourless, tasteless, odorless poison which can be added to food or drink.
Poison's Str = caster's STEEP. Onset time can be quick (1 AT - CT=caster's STEEP) or slow (up to caster's STEEP in AT), depending on whether or not you want to savour the gagging, choking and throat-clutching fun.
Sly little 'inheritance accelerator' effect, the sort of thing that some consider beyond the pale in a heroic fantasy setting. Gary, by contrast, seemingly agreed with the Ankh-Morpork Assassin's Guild dictum that when a man is tired of checking his every meal for poison he is tired of life.
Would I use IMG? Oh heck no! The bodies would be hip-deep by tea-time.

Resist Poison Formula
Imbiber gains immunity to the effects to one poison (selected at creation) for 1 AT/STEEP of creator. Poison remains in system and may take effect when this effect ends.
Costs 30 BUCs.
Slow poison as a potion. Handy if you have the slightest inkling what's coming...

Resist Disease Formula
Resists the effect of diseases up to Str 50 + 1/extra Heka expended for 1 hour/STEEP.
Although not directly affected anyone under the effect of this infusion may still be a carrier.
Costs 30 BUCS.
Slow disease. Might be useful if away from meaningful medical care.

Herbalism IV

Identify Potion Charm
Identify 1 potion with a successful Herbalism check. DR is "Easy" for mundane potions, "Moderate" for Preturnatural, and "Routine" (x1.5) for Supernatural potions. This is an especially Mythus-ey casting description, combining a bad case of Manglish with a fade out at the end.

Clarity, concision, completeness? Sorry mate. We're all out of those.

Dear, oh dear. (*gluk gluk* on many levels)

Minimize Poison Spell
Creates a potion which minimizes damage caused by a single poison when drunk. Toxins still have to be neutralised after the fact.
  • Staged damage poisons do minimum damage each time they take effect.
  • Fixed Str poisons do 1/10th of their normal damage over a period 10 times as long, but with 10 times as many stages of damage.
Do you care much? Nope. Ne meither.
Costs 40 BUCs.
Far too fiddly for my simplistic tastes. Either you're poisoned, or the poison has been delayed and you're a bit woozey, or it's been neutralised. Anything else is just TL;DR. You seriously want us to track "1/10th the damage 1/10th as often for 10 times longer than normal"? FRO! We have adventures to be getting on with.

Painkiller Formula
Imbiber gains 4d3 Physique and feels no pain from Physique Damage, but suffers a 25% penalty to their Mental Reasoning and Mental Mnemonic Categories for 1 hour/10 STEEP.
Formula created is listed as 12 oz. in volume. Is that an American beer measure or sommat? *chuckle*
Cost 40 BUCs to create.
Bah! Would not use. Simpler, superior 'rageahol' rules are available which use proper Imperial measures (pints, ya pansies!), and they didn't waste a perfectly good Judas Priest title.

Semi-related: While we're on the subject of energy-restoring, SAN-blasting beverages, do you want to see something even crazier and more perversely masochistic than the geek show that is LRM? Here! Here's a link to a man blogging the experience of drinking an expired can of Brawndo of his own free will. Why? For (post-apocalyptic) SCIENCE!

Herbalism V

Flying Potion Formula
Creates a potion that confers flight for 1d10 ATs + 1 AT/10 STEEP. Duration is always variable, so the subject will never be certain how much flying time they have left.
No speed or type of flight (birdlike? perfectly controlled? hovering possible?) listed. Shabby.
Costs 500 BUCs.
Random flight duration? Yeah, enjoy your screaming Icarus impersonations. Pass.

Healing Infusion Formula
Creates a potion which cures 5d6 Physical damage.
Costs 250 BUCs.
Potion of CSW. Pass on, nothing of interest here.

Hekaberry Spell
Create magic grapes of matjgickqkalness.
Infuses no.# of berries = STEEP with 1 Heka each. Eat them to gain the Heka.
Casting costs nothing and berries are good for 1 day/10 STEEP.
Goodberry, the mana years. Dull.

So Herbalism Castings -- at least as far as presented here in the DJ:M rulebook -- are pretty much the 'palliative care + potion creation' school: low octane healing with a side order of dull and obvious. I'm not sure if things get more interesting at higher levels, but thus far: no'mpressed.


Herbalism dispatched we move onto Mysticism Castings. As you may recall from way bck when in our skills K/S Areas overview mysticism in Mythus = Californian mysticism (yoga+crystals). So brace for earnestness, self-satisfaction, and elongated vowels.

Mysticism I

Clairaudience Formula
Hear what goes on in a 1 rod radius at a range of up to 1 chain/STEEP. Effective range is reduced by wood, brick or metal walls, and completely negated by lead, gold or Heka barriers.

Clairvoyance Formula
The classic remote perving spell.
See what goes on far away. 1 chain radius at a range of 1 furlong/STEEP. Barriers reduce range as Clairaudience.

Crystalomancy Spell
Overclock your mystic hippy crystal.
You can treat it as a crystal of +1 quality (see the Mysticism K/S Area description) for 1 hour + 1 AT/10 STEEP.
Pretty boring buff to your pet rock. Would not steal.

Faith Healing Ritual
Cure 2d10+2 damage to one TRAIT in one target. Amount of healing is limited by the tagret's faith in the mystic, so max healing = their Spiritual Psychic Capacity. Half the damage healed vanishes when the casting duration (1 day/10 STEEP) expires.
Sort of interesting. CLW with a couple of minors twists.

Fakir Cantrip
Confers temporary ability in Endurance or Yoga K/S Areas for 1 AT/10 STEEP. Skill conferred = 1 point/Heka spent, max = caster's Mysticism. Stacks with existing skill.
A fiddly-er version of the control body spell from EPT. Stick with the original.

Mysticism II

Discern Presences Spell
Grants the ability to *ping* normally invisible incorporeal spirits at up to 1 chain/10 STEEP away. What constitutes an incorporeal spirit?

Note that spirits sniffed out by this casting are colour-coded for your convenience.
Might be useful for a game where ethereal creepers and ghosts are a big thing.

Hemisphere of Yang Cantrip
Caster radiates pure masculinity and UV in a 1 rod radius/10 STEEP. I am not making this up:

The caster is so yangtastic his mere presence causes 2d3 Physical damage to light-sensitive creatures. He also casts at 90% of normal Heka cost, with any ranges measured from the edge of his aura of manliness. This zone of bulging vascularity lasts 1 AT/10 STEEP.
Muscle Wizard approves.

 A mystic goes about his business, yesterday.

Penetrate Disguise Formula
"That's not a real nose. Look, it comes right off!"
Negates mundane disguises automagically and can penetrate magickal ones with a DR "Hard" roll vs. Spiritual TRAIT. Able to detect were-creatures (given as "Therianthropes" in the text *gluk gluk*)
Negates the utility of a couple of K/S Areas, because muggles can suck it. Do not want.

Sending Ritual
Sends a mental message up to 1 mile/STEEP + 1 mile/Heka spent.
Must be in a language the recipient understands.
Similar to the Influence of Gemini Astrology casting, but half the price. Mystics probably run the Aerth Telegraph Service.

Mysticism III

Mystic Skill Bonus Formula
Grants +1 point/10 STEEP in any K/S Area. This lasts for an hour/10 STEEP. Caster cannot use on himself. Multiple castings do not stack.
Big whoop. +bullshit bonus in a (wonky variation on a-) percentile based system. Pass.

Mystic Visions Spell
Another "clue me" spell. 5 minutes going "Ooooom. Ooooom." grants a vision of some event "...that is destined to occur." A Special Success on the casting roll grants the effect of a Divination Casting called Prevision, a casting which isn't even in this book! *gluk*
Bonus effect: restores 1d3 to each TRAIT. Because meditation.
Care much? Nope.

Power of Wood Charm
An odd little casting which grants a smattering of wood-themed benefits for 5 minutes/STEEP.
  • grants +1 bonus/10 STEEP of caster when using a wooden tool or instrument.
  • gain "renewing Heka armour" (¿Que?) = 1/10th STEEP against attacks with wooden weapons.
  • target rendered immune to attack vegetable spells for the duration.

*sigh* Shall we just take as read the extended rant about whether adding more petty situational bonuses to something useless makes it worthwhile, or if doing so just complicates things pointlessly?

True Sight
Allows the caster to penetrate Preturnatural disguises, illusions and shadows, as well as detecting the alteration of "...material, object, creature, being, or aura...". Does not render the invisible or hidden visible.
What the balls? This casting description just raises more questions than it answers:
  1. Why bother when you already have Penetrate Disguise for less Heka?
  2. What's all that tosh about "...maskings...affected by illusions or shadows..." vs. plain old hiding?
  3. How does this casting interact with the existing (if demented) Perception rules.
  4. Gary: Y U hate non-caster characters?
Another exemplary "How Not To...", courtesy of Batdance Sniffus.

Mysticism IV

Heka Sight Spell
Caster can see Heka flow in a 1 rod/10 STEEP radius. Useful for typing Heka (Pretur-, Super-, Pos, Neg, charm, strange, etc); detecting magickal items; uncovering concealed Heka landmines. Allows a rough numerical estimate of the Heka in the area.
Another bleedin' detect magic? Pass.

Mass Hypnosis Spell
Radiate Jobsian reality alteration field.
Causes 1 target/point in caster's SP Category in a radius of 1 foot/STEEP to stand and gawp at the caster if they fail a DR "Extreme" (x0.1) Spiritual Psychic Category test. This lasts for as many Battle Turns (30 second intervals) as the amount by which the targets failed their test. So all you have to do is keep track of how long anything up to 20 creatures are affected.
Got that? Good.
And here, in a nutshell, is why Advanced Mythus is not good, and why those responsible should be ashamed of themselves. No one looked at this and bothered to ask "Are you serious Gary?"

Mystic Bullets Charm
You can blast out MIND BULLETS!!! which cause 4d3 Spirit damage to [Team Evil]. Hit unerringly out to 1 yard/10 STEEP. You get 1 missile and can expend Heka for extras (up to +1 per 20 STEEP).
Seventy-five Heka for an average of 8 Spirit Damage. Seems legit, and not at all a waste of words.

Mysticism V

Baraka Ritual
Create secret Heka well of secrecy.
Caster has to find a remarkable natural feature, then cast this rite once a week for five weeks in succession. This creates a reservoir with starting Heka = 1/10th caster's Mysticism STEEP and a max = Mysticism STEEP. This well generates 1 Heka/day and increases its capacity 1/month, up to a maximum for its type:

Draining a Heka reservoir completely destroys it.
You can have 1 Heka well/10 STEEP and they are rated "remarkably uninteresting, probably background noise" by most Heka-detection castings.
Very gygaxian naturalistic, a nice change from some of the contextless WTF-ery in this section. This might actually be a useful steal for Birthright or Dark Sun influenced games. (*gluk gluk*)

Mystic Missile Charm
Another magical projectile spell. Does 5d6+5 damage to 1 member of [Team Evil] up to 1 chain/10 STEEP away. If you said that this hits unerringly and ignores Physical armour you'd be right.
Another "pew pew" spell? Really? Say it with me Gary: "scaling by level".

Power of Aerth Charm
Another multiple minor enhancements casting, like Power of Wood above. Dirt, clay, sand and all things formed from them ("...brick, ceramic, glass, pottery, porcelain, etc...") count as earth for the purposes of this casting, no mention of stone though. Target is able to:
  • Move overland at 2x normal movement speed
  • Walk through earth at normal movement speed.
  • Breathe while immured in dirt.
  • Immunity to earth-based effects from castings (damage, restriction of movement, etc).
  • Identify the general nature of anything stored in an earth-derived container.
These effects lasts 5 minutes/STEEP, which means at least 4 hours at Casting Grade V.
Irritatingly the spelling "Aerth", rather than the plain English word 'earth', is used throughout the casting description.
Less futile than Power of Wood. Would steal.

So Mysticism. I'd sum it up as "all over the shop like a pissed-up unicyclist". A couple of stealables vastly outnumbered by the tosh.

Art of the Section

There are only a couple of b+w flavour pieces in this chapter, both by Daniel Gelon.

P287 - Creepy merchant - Gelon
Seemingly posed for a portrait before his cupboard of arcane paraphenalia. Visually interesting, excellent use of hatching and shading, if subject matter is taken as wizard rather than merchant it even makes sense in context with the text. I really like this piece; it has a really characterful 'Jimmy Saville as skeevy Renaissance gentleman' vibe.

I see that and think WFRP or maybe Russ-illustrated Fighting Fantasy. Believe me, that is high praise.

P291 - I dunno monolith - Gelon
Robed wizard/druid type activating a mystic triathlon. Presumably a rendition of the Baraka Ritual.
Specimen sample of good use of hatching and shading.

This chapter has been kind of a disappointment really. Given the word count expended on Heka-capable K/S Areas -- and the implied *Unf! Unf! Unf!* Phuq da muggles! Casters are lord! that went with that -- I was expecting the sample Advanced Mythus castings to be more impressive than they are. This was the designers' chance to showcase their originality and give me reasons why "I must have this other book!" was the appropriate response to Mythus Magick (sold separately). What do we get instead? A bunch of 'seen if before', a bucket of boring, and a couple of semi-good ideas. Very disappointing.

Next Time: We examine the deep arcana of Chapter 14: The Campaign and Gamemastering. Expect the gygaxisms to be strong with this one.

Pic Source: the Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, Russ f-ing Nicholson, teh intawubz

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

Monday 25 February 2013

Lets Read Mythus pt 23

This week in Let's Read the Garynomicon we'll look at the sample Dweomercraeft (wizardin') and Priestcraeft (godbotherin') Castings on offer to players who foolishly assumed that Dangerous Journeys: Mythus was a complete game in itself.

Reading scores of Mythus spells castings descriptions: it'll do that to ya.

For those playing along at home we're starting on page 278 of the big brown book. Expect the usual acronyms, neologisms, and wordiness, and - for this week only - the introduction of an additional rule: drink once each time you've seen this somewhere before.

Sample Castings

Casting Grades (aka Spell Level in D&D-ese) I-V, 3-5 example castings per level.

Casting time is included in the name of the spell. This wouldn't be so annoying except that the text explaining required casting time isn't even listed in this chapter. The casting times are all the way back in the Mythus Prime section on p22! "Put magickal casting times in the magic chapter? Oh what a card you are my lad..." For the record:

Mythus Casting Times
Eyebite - instantaneous
Charm - 1 CT (3 seconds)
Cantrip - 5 CT
Spell - 1 BT (30 seconds)
Formula - 5 BT
Ritual - 1+ AT (5 minutes)

Oh, and the E/F/M notation that precedes the descriptive text of each spell. If you check Mythus Magick you discover it means "Effect, Force, Material". So "spell effect" in any game that got edited to make sense to the people of Earth.

Dweomercraeft I

Armor, Physical Cantrip
Anti-kinetic energy effect. Useless against Mental or Spirit attacks.
Costs the base 20 Heka + 1 per point of protection desired to to a max = Caster's Mental TRAIT. Lasts 50 minutes, or until destroyed.
Basically a fiddly combination of the D&D spells mage armour and stoneskin. Sucks.

Detect Heka Spell
*ping* presence, type, source and strength of Heka in a 1 Rod radius.
Detect magic, innit.

Reflections Spell
Basic scrying spell. Requires a reflective surface.
Spy on someone for 5 mins per 10 STEEP.
Difficulty depends on how far away they are and how well you know them.
Lead, stone and various dweomers block your tele-perving.

Trigger Effect Formula
Creates trigger for other magical effects. Used in conjunction with another casting. Description is gobbledegook.

Remember the nightmare of nested effects that was 3E contingency? All that for 20 Heka. *shudder*

Wickaflame Charm
Spark 1 or more small non-magical flames in existing tinder. Range is 1 Rod per 10 STEEP.
Probably meant to be a "wave hands, lamps light" spell; actually an arsonist's charter.

Dweomercraeft II

Armor, Mental Cantrip
Anti-brainfondling defence.
35 Heka + 1 per point of Mental defence. Max = Mental TRAIT if caster is Full Practitioner Master Race, MRCap if Partial Practitioner Untermensch.
Otherwise as Armour, Physical Cantrip above.

Forcedart Charm
Creates a single "dart-sized missile of golden energy".
Dart does 2d6+1 per 10 STEEP Physical Impact damage at a range of up to 1 chain per 10 STEEP.
Hits unerringly, ignores physical armour. Muggles cri moar plz.
A magical missile you say? How unprecedented.

Heka Trap Spell
Magic landmine on on object that endures until triggered.
Say the wizard's chosen safe word or take damage = 3d6(+caster's MRCap+any extra he buys at 1:1 Heka). Damage is any non-continuing type.
Boring "gotcha!" version of a guards and wards effect.

Ritual of the Heart Ritual
Expend a week, Heka equal to 2xSpirit TRAIT and make a DR "Hard" Dweomercraeft roll to bind a 'mascot' or totem item.
Why would you want to do this? Refer to Mythus Magick for more.
This casting is one you may find familiar (pun intended, for once).

Dweomercraeft III

Armor, Spiritual Casting
50 Heka +1 per point of Spirit defence.
Doesn't prevent attempts to forge Spiritual Links, just grants ablative soul padding.
Otherwise as Armor, Mental casting.

Avoid Heka Attack Ritual
Grants an Avoidance roll (aka Saving Throw) against any one Heka-powered effect.
Base chance to avoid is the average of your Physical Speed scores + 10% of you STEEP in the skill used to create the effect. This chanced is then modified by arbitrary GM-fiat difficulty levels.
Don't waste your Heka.

Heka Darts Charm
Creates multiple darts (1 per 10 STEEP), each doing 1d6+2 Physical Piercing damage at a range of 1 yard/STEEP. Darts Strike unerringly and ignore physical armour.
Several magical missiles, eh? The innovation! It burns!!!

Implant Spell
Photographic memory of written text for 24 hours. Caster can duplicate anything memorized for the duration of the casting.
Semi-interesting, I might use that in a Classic game. Actual usefulness, is that you? *gluk gluk*

Dweomercraeft IV

Armor, Heka Cantrip
75 Heka +1 per point of anti-Heka armour.
Otherwise as Armor, Mental Casting.

Barrier Formula
Magical electric fence in 1 foot radius/STEEP.
Lasts 5 minutes per STEEP +5 mins per Heka spent.
Barrier causes 1d3+1 damage to any creature touching it. Physical beings take Physical damage, otherworldly beings and ghosts take Mental or Spirit damage.
A creature damaged must save or, sorry, wrong game make a DR "Hard" check against its PNPow (or MRPow, or SSPow *gluk gluk*): success = pass through barrier taking an additional 1d6+1 damage, fail = recoil.
Successive tests to push through the barrier are at DR "Moderate" for 2nd attempt, "Easy" for the 3rd.
Non-absolute protection from evil spell. May be of interest for your Classic game if you dislike the existing spell.

Mask Heka Spell
Renders the Heka aura of an object or area undetectable.
Up to 1 rod diameter per 10 STEEP. Permanent until dispelled.
Masking an area from Supernatural and Entital Heka requires additional castings.

Dweomercraeft V

Cloud of Magick Spell
Heka smoke bomb.
Lasts 5 minutes per 10 STEEP and makes everything in a 1 foot diameter per STEEP *ping* equally when detected for Heka.

Heka Bolt Charm
Straight line burst of Heka hitting every target in a line out to 1 furlong.
Does 5d6 Physical Piercing damage +1d6 per 10 Heka to a maximum of 10d6.
Hits unerringly. Ignores physical armour.
Wizard HAET queueing!

Invisible Alert Formula
Creates an alarm bubble up to STEEP feet in diameter.
Lasts 1 AT per STEEP + 1 AT per Heka spent.
Any physical thing ("...including gaseous liquid...") entering this zone of misanthropy alerts caster to "...direction of passage, point of breach, and who or what passed into or out of the sphere."
Might be useful for paranoid sleeping wizard, except: nocturnal animals exist, that is all.

Priestcraeft, General
Rites and rituals which affect only those who follow a particular ethos (white hat, black hat, one of Mythus' three shades of ambiguous hat), pantheon or religion.

Priestcraeft General I
Rites Ritual
Seven quasi-sacramental rites:
  • Birth
  • Death
  • Marriage
  • Separation/Divorce
  • Acceptance of Ethos, Pantheon and Deity
  • Service
  • Penitence
Regular participation in these rites is required to keep in good standing with one's religion.
Basically the clerical ceremony spell from Unearthed Arcana.

Priestcraeft General II
Blessing, Minor, Spell
One-off +/-5 bonus to next die roll.
May only be cast on person who follows the same pantheon.
Yeah, the bless spell for a percentile system. It's even reversible.

Priestcraeft General III
Consecration Formula
Hallows a sacramental object or area so that any sacrilegious action or profane touch causes 1d3 Spirit damage to anyone not of the ethos. Damage from multiple acts of desecration stack.
A direct damage equivalent to the d20 SRD hallow spell?

Priestcraeft General IV
Blessing, Major Ritual
Negates opposing curses resulting from Grade I or II Castings, or grants +/-10 bonus to one die roll. Can also be used for non-mechanical social effect (blessing crops, animals, ships, etc.) if you want to burn Heka for the sake of seeing the peasants smile.
Additional subjects can be blessed in the face for 5 Heka each.

Priestcraeft General V
Guidance Spell
Allows the caster to bother Upstairs for advice, or to give good counsel to others in accordance with the tenets of their ethos, pantheon and religion. Anyone following the advice enjoys the benefit of the Blessing, Minor Casting.
A classic 'clue me' spell, with a minor mechanical benefit. Is a clue worth +65 Heka to you?

Priestcraft, Basic
Common spells. Less 'pastoral care' than General Castings.

Priestcraeft Basic I

Lightsee Charm
Causes 1 object per 10 STEEP to glow like a candle for 5 minutes per STEEP.
Renders books readable, dark passages navigable, etc.
Light is visible from 100 yards in darkness.
A less torch-negating light spell.

Prayer Cantrip
Increases the STEEP of one of the caster's K/S Areas by 10 for about 2 minutes.
Can be used to enhance caster's own Priestcraeft K/S for cheesy synergy shenanigans.
Half the Casting description is spent advising the GM to punish uses of this spell which are contrary to the ethos of the caster.
Interesting meta-magic effect, not sure if it would be back compatible to Classic games.

Produce Meal Ritual
Produces one typical priest's meal (as appropriate for the religion) per 10 STEEP.
So: 20 Heka/day, no expenditure on rations.

Pronouncement Spell
Caster spends 1 Battle Turn (30 seconds) pulling rank and proclaiming [preferred flavour of god] is on our side. The player is required to state exactly how 'we're right, they're wrong' today.
All within 1 chain radius enjoy/suffer a half-strength version of the DR modification granted by Joss in their support/opposition to the stated fact.
An actual worked example would have been helpful here.
Pronouncement can also compel agreement and obedience from any co-religionist with a lower STEEP than the caster. This lasts 1 AT per STEEP.
A supercharged version of command affecting a 40yd diameter? Not bad for 20 Heka.

Smokecloud Formula
Generates stable, non-moving incense smoke (complete with caster-selected scent) in 1 foot radius per STEEP.
The smoke lasts 1 AT per 10 STEEP and reduces visibility to 6 feet.
Fog cloud, sponsored by AirWick?

Priestcraeft Basic II

Healing, Minor Formula
Restores Physical damage: 2d3 damage per 10 STEEP of the caster.
Touch range, instantaneous effect.
CLW. That is all.

Heal Mental Damage Ritual
Restores Mental damage to someone other than the caster: 1d6 damage per 10 STEEP of the caster.
Touch range, instantaneous effect.

Meditate Spell
Allows meditating casters in a 1 square rod/10 STEEP area to gain the benefits of an hour of meditation in 5 minutes.
D&D4E style short rests: done first by EGG.

Rightcourse Cantrip
Divinatory casting which indicates whether a given course of action will result in transgressions against the ethos of the caster.
No idea why this has an area of effect, duration and range.
Spend 35 Heka to play "Mother may I" as an in-game effect? Not to all tastes. Pass.

Priestcraeft Basic III

Bounds of Action Charm
Restricts a physical target to a 1 rod radius area centred on their current location for 1AT per 10 STEEP.
There's a paragraph of rules about breaking free of this effect, but its limited to characters with a PMPow (aka Str) of 30+.
This is an interesting, pulpy variation on the old standby of hold person.

Enhance Spiritual Power Formula
Boosts the caster's Spiritual Mental Power and Spiritual Psychic Power to the maximum Capacity possible for each Attribute for a duration of 1AT/10 STEEP.
If no increase is possible then both Attributes are enhanced by +1 each instead.
Resembles nothing so much as the stat enhancing spells of the SRD.

Enlightenment Ritual
The player gets to ask the GM one "Yes/No" question about past events or contemplated activites, which must be answered truthfully.
Another "clue me" spell, one with echoes of the contact other plane Classic D&D spell.

Heka Defences Cantrip
Grants the target 1d6(+caster's SMCap if a Full Practitioner, SMPow only is Partial Practitioner) protection which wards against all damage types.
Otherwise similar to the Physical, Mental or Spirit Armor cantrips.

Priestcraeft Basic IV

Protection from Lightnings Spell
Generates a magical Faraday cage of 1 yard diameter/10 STEEP centred on the caster.
The spell dissipates _dice_ of electrical damage equal to the caster's STEEP (1/2 STEEP if a Partial Practitioner).
A nice counter-balance to the hair-raising (no pun intended) power of electricity in Advanced Mythus.

Sanctification Ritual
Can either double the damage inflicted by the Consecration Formula (above), or can be used to enhance a single consecrated object (for example, the priest's holy symbol). For each 100 Heka expended the sanctified object will cause 1d3 Mental and Spiritual damage on sight, 2d3 Physical damage upon touch, to any being of an opposed ethos within a 1 rod radius.
An interesting variation on clerical turning. Probably a bit number-crunchy for players of Classic games though.

Wound, Spiritual Charm
Causes Spirit damage of 1d6(+1d6 per 10 extra Heka, max added dice = 1/10th caster's STEEP) to one target within yards = STEEP.

Priestcraeft Basic V

Heal the Soul Spell
Heals Spirit damage: 1d6 per 10 STEEP (1d3 per 10 STEEP if Partial Practitioner).
The target must be of the same ethos as the caster.

Thunderbolt Cantrip
Calls a lightning bolt from the blue within 1 yard/STEEP.
This causes 5d3(x1d6 Exposure roll) Electrical Physical damage to the primary target and 3d3(x1d3) to all subjects within a 1 rod radius.
The accompanying thunder startles all creatures with a Mental Reasoning Power (aka Intelligence) of 10 or less; startled creatures run in panic for 1d3 Critical Turns (or stampede if animals).
A numerically fiddly version of D&D's call lightning spell with a nice panic!!! fillip.

Word of Command Charm
Causes 1 subject(+1/10 STEEP) within earshot to obey a single word command for the next CT.
This is the Classic D&D command spell, right down to the proviso that "Die!" results in auditors only appearing dead for one round CT.


If you're at all familiar with any of the spell lists from Classic D&D your deja vu will be going nuts by now (feel free to drink until it abates). The Castings on offer indicate a typically Gygaxian folkloric implied setting; one where wizards lurk over scrying pools, sling various sizes and shades of burning arcane arrow, and leave cursed objects lying around, while priests alternately bless their flock and call high-amperage arcs from the sky onto the heads of the unbelievers, etc.

Some of the spell variations from the more familiar D&D norms are interesting (and the similarities are certainly not worth a lawsuit); it's just a shame the spell names are so, soooooooooooo tin-eared. Seriously, "Ritual of the Heart Ritual" is only the stand out offender in a full and busy field: "Summon Familiar" is quicker to say, conveys more information, and doesn't repeat itself in an awkward Dept of Redundancy Dept way. Once again Advanced Mythus reminds us that editing is not optional.

In the Small Mercies column of the ledger: at least the bad joke that was material components didn't make it into Advanced Mythus.

Next Time: Apotropaism, Astrology, Herbalism and Mysticism Castings.

Pic Source: teh intawubz

Monday 18 February 2013

Lets Read Mythus pt22

Today's subject for dissection in the ongoing Let's Read Mythus debacle is Chapter 13: Heka and Magick. Please be warned that this post may contain higher than recommended levels of gibberish and is likely to induce second-hand outbreaks of:

The customary rules apply, with an additional fillip that one should also drink every time the reader is prompted to "buy our other book for full details of this". Because nothing builds bonhomie like a naked cash-grab.

Heka and Magick is a self-confessed crippleware chapter comprising pp276-294 of the Dangly Jibblets: Minkdust rulebook. The introductory paragraph admits that the Castings which follow are no more than "...a sample listing of basic Castings, sufficient to get your campaign off the ground." Where can you get the full skinny on casting in Mythus? Well, if you said in the Mythus Magick book (sold separately), then reward yourself with a drink.

So what do we actually get for our money? Two pages of poorly cross-referenced rules/notes text and a bunch of what anyone not being trollsued out of the industry by Lorraine Williams would just call 'spell descriptions'. Oh, and a new page header: a still life of a squished wizard amid the paraphernalia of his trade.

Insert your own "Caryatid squashed by the weight of verbiage" gag here

After a paragraph of shilling for the patch to this broke-ass 400-pages of half-a-game we jump straight into the subject of Heka (pron. HEE-ka). Two paragraphs rehash what we've already been told about half-a-dozen times now: that Heka works like magic electricity; that 'impure' versions of Heka -- variously called Baraka, Orgone or Mana (Mmmmm, thesaurus abuse! *gluk*) -- exist in worlds not as dominated by the Pure Spellcaster Master Race as is Aerth; that even unintelligent creatures can use Heka instinctively; and that Pure Heka is of three sorts: Positive (from the higher places and spheres), Negative (from the Other Place), and Mixed.

Yeah. So far this feels like what it is: a précis of something longer, more involved, and baroquely over-complicated.

Next up: Demographics of Heka. A paragraph spent explaining the prevelance of Heka-slingers in the populace. The figures boil down to 1-in-100 for people able to cast at all, with various sub-breakdowns for who can use what type of Heka; who draws their Heka from one, two or three Attributes; and who gets to be a touched-by-the-dice-gods Full Caster. This is dull stuff and probably billonga setting book, not rules chapter. A more practical use for this section would have been putting the bloody shifty, elusive rules for determining Full Caster-ness here.

Next is half-a-column on Types and Sources of Heka Energy, which starts with a seemingly unrelated paragraph about the nine Grades of Casting Power, and an aside that certain special Grade X castings exist and that these are on a par with Supernatural Castings of Grade I. Nope, not a clue. If you want to know more: cough up for Mythus Magick.

There's also a rehash of the three types of Heka (Preturnatural, Supernatural and Entital), which are entirely different from the three types introduced above. If you recall from way-back-when in LRM pt3 Supernatural and Entital are 1:10 and 1:100 Mega-Damage Heka.

And finally a list of things you can squeeze for Heka in the Mythus universe:

Sources 1-5 are pretty much what you'd expect: push button, recieve mana. But source 6 "Entital vegetable substances" confuses the bejaysus out of me. WTH is an Entital vegetable? Some form of otherworldly arcanocabbage? The freshly-peeled god-corpse of Nazi-fighting root veg Dr Carrot? No clue given. Oh look, they do give us a helpful clue as to which book to refer to...

After that particular unintended Mythusian mindscrew we're off again to half a page + a couple of big-ass tables regarding Heka from K/S Areas. This begins with the word "Imprimus" and goes downhill from there with a load of waffle on who can generate Heka from where, how fast, how much, and from which skills. Most of this is semi-familiar from other chapters, but I lack the will (or remaining SAN) to check if there are contradictions between blocks of text.

One thing that jumps out is a table that would have been useful, oh say, back in the damn skills chapter! To whit:

Idiot-savant version of a unified Heka Skills table I ranted about back here.

Now, so far as it goes that is a not-entirely-useless table. At least now -- nigh-on 180 pages after it might have first come in handy -- a player can see at a glance which K/S Areas grant Heka, how much and from what character stats. That might almost be called useful, at least for the purpose of buzz maintenance. *gluk*

And then you realise that thick block of text over there on the right is footnotes.

Yes, the true horror of this brute of a table only really bursts forth when you start digging into the notes. Most of the them either waffle on where a single terse sentence would suffice, or outright re-iterate things we were told back in the relevant skill descriptions. In the latter case "See description, pXXX" is perfectly sufficient.

Call me a grouchy infographics snob, but a case could be made that if footnotes take up more space than the table they accompany, then the way you are attempting to present your information is objectively not right. A first draft is supposed to look like a sharp-cornered, burr-edged, over-complex mess; a professionally designed tool for use in play is not.

A final squeezed-in section on Regenerating Personal Heka tells you how much Heka you get back per hour per skill from your K/S Areas, and also how much you gain back from Attributes, Categories and Traits. It is four paragraphs of word salad that looks like English at first glance only. The accompanying table is especially sad-making.

"Prithee good sir. Art thou shittin' me?!"
"Nay sir, I be not. Now draw forth thy slide-rule and get thee to reckoning."

Yes, excellent. No foreseeable problems with player rebellion here. An excellent response to the oft-heard lament that the AD&D Psionics rules were insufficiently fiddly.

And that's your lot on the subtle wonders and intricacies of Heka and Magick in Mythus.

Oh, wait. You want the mechanics for actually using Castings in play? In the Heka and Magick chapter? How precious. How quaint. Those are way back in the earlier Combat chapter, on p218. Which in turn requires reference to the Core Game Systems (chapter 11) and the K/S Area descriptions in chapter 10.

Hope you enjoy the delicious breezes kicked up by repeated thumbing through big fat books, coz you're going to be doing a lot of that. There's not even a single appearance of That Damn Table in the one place where it might have actually have been of some utility. Useless!

Sample Castings
After the seemingly unedited logorrhoeaic HØRF! that opened the chapter we turn with -- probably misplaced -- relief to the spell Casting descriptions which comprise pp278-294 of this slithey tome.

Sample Castings of levels I-V (Roman numeras as original) are given for the schools of Dweomercraft (wizarding), Priestcraeft (clericing), Apotropaism, Astronomy, Herbalism, and Mysticism, at a rate of several per level, which is nice.

"But Chris, you gormless knock-kneed bogmonkey," I hear you cry "Where are all the other types of magickqkck which the many, many K/S Areas of Mythus use? I count a mere six lists there."

Why yes, gentle reader. Although puffing itself as a game that presents nine, sorry, IX levels of magic in nigh-on a score of schools and traditions, the core Mythus book presents only samples of six schools, and only up to level V. As for the rest, they are found in a lost tome of eldritch lore entitled... yes, I think you can see where this is going... *gluk*

Although the vastly superior Imperial measures are used in all instances (I kid you not, there are ranges given in rods, chains and leagues in there!), there are a couple of gross procedural niggles even before getting into individual spell descriptions. The unexplained acronyms are annoying ("WTF is E/F/M? Any corresponding entry in the Glossary? Of course not!), and repeated inclusion of BHC (Base Heka Cost) that remain constant across all schools and levels but are not integrated into a single simple table is just an offence against good design.

Base Heka Cost -- Casting Grade
20 -- I
35 -- II
50 -- III
75 -- IV
100 -- V

That there: not flippin' rocket surgery!

Get past the Mythusisms of the layout and descriptions, and many of the Castings will look familiar to role-playing veterans, albeit with any sense of wonder and magic pummelled out of them by a leaden prose style. For example:


Next Time: We grind the individual Casting descriptions for anything that might actually be of use in a Classic D&D game. It will be as glorious, life-affirming and full of colourful pageantry as Passchendaele. Oh, wait. That's not what I meant at all...

Pic Sources: the Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, the hark a vagrant webcomic, teh intawubz.

Monday 11 February 2013

Let's Read Mythus Interlude 2

After a hiatus entirely too long, fraught, and full of fractal fail for my own comfort the ill-considered dissection of Dangerous Journeys: Mythus returns, a mere eight months later than expected (in RPG Kickstarter circles this is known as 'business as usual').

This week I have elected to inflict upon the world the long overdue Art of Chapter 12 post; a light amuse bouche of a thing wherein your humble host dons polo-neck and beret, and attempts to channel art critic mojo into his tiny monkey brain.

Those playing along at home may wish to note the following modifications to the customary rules:
  • When a piece of art has no relation to the content: take a drink.
  • When a piece of art would have been better in good, honest black-and-white: take 1 drink.
  • When a piece of art is just downright bad: take 2 drinks.
  • When the writer loses it and lapses into foaming, windmilling "No moron! Do it like this! THIS!!!" mode = drain your glass.
There's a lot of art in the expanses of Mythus chapter 12: incidental art in black-and-white and full-page colour plates.

B+W Lineart

p216 - Ellisa Mitchell - tree, sword + runestones.
Tree has semi-anthropomorphic bole, tree-impaling sword is obviously perilous (in the Arthurian sense), runes may or may not be a bilingual bonus that translates as "Please do not stab the trees". Lightning in the background echoes the anguished twisting of the branches - nice touch; portentious. Fine use of negative space and directional cues. Content is semi-related to text (Heka-based attacks).

Tres folklorique, non?

p229 - Ellisa Mitchell - stylised griffon.
Excellent composition draws your eye to the mad, starey bird eye of the griffon. Consistent penwork(?) across the furred and feathered parts of the beast give it a coherence of form lacked by many monster pics while retaining the heraldic essence of the beast.  A fine balance, nicely struck.  Whoever sculpted the recent GW Empire Griffon model (aka: the Warturkey) should look at this picture and cry in shame.
Picture has no relation to content. Seemingly a space filler. Shame, it deserves better. *gluk*

p232 - Tony Szczudlo - Bad-ass fantasy African warrior standing in a cave mouth.
Once you get past the 'Mbongo McSkullhat of the K'lishe tribe' first impression this picture is kinda cool in a Savage Sword of Conan or Imaro way. The picture is well-executed: good composition, fine detailing, clever use of negative space and shading. The few fantastic elements (the skull helm, the odd pick-mace weapon) convey the idea of a fantasy Earth subtly and well.
Shame it's stuck in the midst of the awful, forgettable, multi-page example of play section. *gluk*

p234 - Ellisa Mitchell - eyes+snakes glowhenge.
A pretty generic henge-as-portal image. Lidless eye and winged serpent motifs add a little weird to an otherwise unremarkable image. Well composed and executed, although some of the linework on the trilithons makes them look a bit wooden.
Seems a bit out of place in the combat chapter. *gluk*

p240 - Ellisa Mitchell - weapons crossed over a shield.
Well drawn in a 70s comic art way; clever use of linework and blocking to convey a sense of shine and reflection, but sadly a bit "yawn" in the subject matter. At least the picture makes sense in context (the endless pages of weapon descriptions), although it would have worked just as well smaller and without a frame, breaking up one of the interminable columns of text.

p243 - David Miller - generic mitteleuropan watchman mit polearm in generic mitteleuropan townscape.
Adequately drawn, but nothing that would dare show its face in, say, a WFRP book. Again, "yawn". *gluk, gluk*

p245 - ??? (no visible credit) - conquistador being loomed over by two giant skeevy balds.
A nice little piece of doomed pathos in 90s fantasy art, this is the antithesis of the flavourless genericrap that infested the contemporary AD&D2E rulebooks. Good composition and line use; a sense of captured movement; my simple brain and untutored tastes actually like. This belongs somewhere better than in the midst of weapon descriptions. *gluk*

Insert your own "You're boned!" caption

p251 - Dave Miller - conquistador on a ship, Grecian temples in background
Presumably supposed to represent Mythus' default anachronistic hotch-potch setting of Aerth, this is ok. Good composition and use of space, workmanlike rendering of content. The problem it that it's the sort of picture the eye would skip over without pausing were it in a comic. No wow! factor; just another day in the life... *gluk, gluk*
I suppose the conquistador's armour is semi-relevant to the surrounding text (armour types).

p274 - ??? (no legible credit) - Sven Beardsson, knotwork chiseller, poses before his latest work
A burly viking type wearing Greco-Roman armour, presumably an intentional anachronism. The linework is fine, but the composition is a little odd, with the central figure off-centre. The background (Norse knotwork and Bayeux Tapestry-style human figures) is so-so.
No idea what the picture has to do with healing (the related text). *gluk*

p275 - Ellisa Mitchell - Angrycorn is angry! GRRRR!
Although the content - an angry charging unicorn in close-up - is unexpected, the technical execution of this picture is very good. Fine flow of lines, excellent less-is-more crosshatching. Another picture where Mitchell uses directing lines and shading to draw your attention to the beast's eye.
Not sure what a unicorn has to do with healing rules though. *gluk*

Colour Plates

After the "Mythus art not terrible! shock of the preceding pictures the full-page, full-colour, gloss paper-printed "Behold our magnificence!" images that follow are generally disappointing given what they might have been. As a general rule what art there is is spread over a larger area than it probably merits...

p257 - Midgette and Meyer - Armwrestling in the tavern
Another scene from the rich and exotic world of Aerth, in this case renaissance arm-wrestling. The composition is cluttered, the background a featureless wash, the facial proportions and eyelines of the score of onlooking characters are fuxxored, the central drama is uninteresting.
I'm really not keen on this picture, and can't imagine why it would merit inclusion, let alone an entire page. *gluk gluk*

p260-261 - Midgette and Meyer - knights brawling in the road
Let me start by saying that 3/4 of this two page spread is worthless space-filler. No, seriously. Look:

Are you f-ing kidding me?!

That's the image as it appears in my Dangerous Journeys: Mythus soft cover. 11" x 17" of next-to-nothing. It may seem unremarkable to you, but I find this picture profoundly offensive. It's no more than a piss-poor knock-off of a Prince Valiant comic panel, but it has adopted in my mind an almost totemic status. This picture can stand as a microcosm of the entire Mythus experience: needless bloody boring bloat overwhelming what should be interesting and exciting.

Watch this:

20% of the space: 100% of the action

Even after trimming to its essentials the piece is unremarkable; even a bit dull. Can you imagine if, for example, a Games Workshop artist circa 198X had the temerity to turn this in as a completed piece? John Blanche (GW Art Director and sensei of blanchitsu) would have had his head!

This should be a black-and-white incidental piece breaking up text somewhere; it lacks sufficient clout for its canvas.


I think that was a 'drain your glass' moment there.

p264-265 - Allen Nunis - lizardmen hunt a giant wombat in a mesascape with pteradons.
Now this is more like it! Attention-getting subject matter, good composition and an interesting use of colour palette; almost cartoonish, but in a good way. Although blown up rather larger than it probably merits (another glossy paper double-page spread where a single page would suffice), this picture is pulp as owt! I especially like the slightly bewildered look on mega-wombat's face. Bollocks to Aerth! I want to know more about the world in this picture please.

p268-269 - Allen Nunis - the Zulus (+ their cheerleader) haet little red goblins!
Another characterful piece, the sort of thing that would have worked as a comics book 'pin up' picture back in the day. The content is a little odd, but may be the film "Zulu" as told from the AmaZulu perspective. Although a little comic book in framing and execution for some tastes, the sheer liveliness of the composition, and interesting use of negative space and stylisation to represent a fantastic, dreamlike quality, make for an interesting whole.
Not sure why its in the diseases section though... *gluk*

p272 - Midgette + Lamont - "Gercha!"

My favourite piece of colour art so far: "Rhino HAET street dance!" Yes, I know it's supposed to be a rhino hunt gone wrong somewhere generically East Indian, but I prefer to view it as a dramatic illustration of a lost Just So Story in which rhino and elephant, rajah and archers unite to cleanse the land of verminous infestations of street dance troupes. Yes, the dancers may have disguised themselves in the traditional Indian man-nappy (pron. dhoti) but Rhino knows those synchronised flailers for what they truly are.

Joking aside, the picture share a similar comic book stylised realism of form and colour style with the other colour art in this section. Although there's nothing inherently 'fantastic' about the subject matter, the composition is interesting, the subject matter non-boring, and the only weak point is a background which seems more tree-lined boulevard than wild Indian jungle.


Sadly for the self-styled "...quantum leap in roleplaying games..." there is no quantum leap beyond the 90s gaming industry standard in the use or quality of art. Difficult to believe that Mythus was published only a year before Mayfair Games showed the industry what could be done with the full-colour-and-graphics-on-every-page Underground RPG. A pall composed of deadline fever and vague client definitions seem to loom large over many of the pictures in DJ:Mythus, a confluence of circumstances which prevents "...this game far beyond any others" from even matching the achievements of earlier games like Dragon Warriors in creating a coherent game world with its art.

Not that a unified art style is the be-all-and-end-all of a game. The two biggest names in the transatlantic fantasy gaming industry (TSR, GW) used whole stables of artists - each with their own tastes and styles - to excellent effect. I'd love to know what went wrong here...

Next Time: We peruse, critique and mudlark Chapter 13: Heka and Magick. A chapter in which teeth are ground, heads are scratched, and salient similarities are noted.

Supplemental Mythus Madness: For those truly sick of mind, here is the full text of TSR's "Waaaaah! My toys!" lawsuit designed to strangle DJ:M in the cradle. The sheer effrontery of beating someone with a stick he invented has to be seen to be believed.

Pic Source: the DJ:Mythus rulebook, Double K webcomic, Thrilling Tales' pulp-o-mizer cover generator
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...