Monday 9 April 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt8

Welcome again to our weekly examination of the Dangerous Journeys: Mythus RPG, the post-TSR fantasy heartbreaker in which EGG parodied and deconstructed his own mystique as the father of role-playing. Look upon his works, ye nerdy, and despair.

Today we will be taking an exploratory spork to the heap of financial auditing tapioca that is Heroic Persona Resources, an especial delight exclusive to "...this game far beyond any other."

Chapter 10, part 6: Heroic Persona Resources

After several pages of legible and potentially usable tables (dissected for possible value last week) the infamous Mythus textwalls reappear with malicious intent and a decidedly rapey glint in their eyes. Most of pages 112-113 are a straight word-for-word reprint of the coinage and general item price notes from Mythus Prime. Even the Metal Values table and its accompanying footnotes are reproduced verbatim. This was windy and overlong first time around, and doesn't get any better on second reading.

There are short new sections on coinage and the value of money in inflationary or deflationary areas. This is exactly as dull as you picture it being. A copper standard (5x the value of Mythus normal BUC) is suggested for particularly high cost-of-living locales: worlds away from D&D's assumption that chunks of gold should be the normative coin of exchange. On which subject there is a note on converting prices to Mythus BUCs from unnamed 'other game systems' which use gold as the assumed price base.

There's also an aside on valuing gemstones in BUCS - 10,000 per carat up to 10, more per carat for larger stones. So many zeroes! Of such little use.

Determining HP Wealth
Another reprint of material we first saw in Mythus Prime: Net Worth, Cash on Hand, Bank Account and DMI are all defined again. There's an expanded Initial HP Finances table which contains the data on all these things orphaned on p114. Looking at this table rams home the point that it's really good to be high SEC in Advanced Mythus. Good as in, your starting money and kit can be up to five orders of magnitude richer than that of the low-caste peons with whom you associate. I sincerely wonder why any high SEC character ever bothers going off adventuring rather than sitting safe and comfortably at home atop their fat stacks of cash.

Wealth Adjustment For Age
A new wrinkle. One paragraph saying that the younger you are the poorer you are, and the older the richer. The accompanying table modifying starting money could be simplified down to two columns and a footnote with no loss of meaningful data.

Spot the potential for simplification

So between the skill adds and the wealth increases that accrue to older characters in Advanced Mythus that's everyone with an eye to the main chance playing rich fogies. In that respect Sadvanced Yiffus is little like Traveller, only with a chargen system that won't kill you (however much you might pray for the merciful release of death).

Net Worth
This is Bank Account + value of Possessions. Possessions are divided into Dwelling, Clothes, Weapons & Armour, Transportation, Misc. and Securities.
  • The stuff you own is valued at half purchase price for the purpose of determining Net Worth. Your stuff is worth what you could get for it if you sold it, not what you paid for it.
  • Your horse doesn't count as part of your Net Worth at all. Which is odd...
  • Exception to the 'half value' rule is Securities (real estate, gems and coins), which are always costed at full purchase value. No one cares if a house/gold/jewel is 'used'. Quite how this last ties into the earlier 'gemstones in BUCS' section's assertion that purchase price mark-up on gems is 2-7 times their resale value is gracefully ignored.
There is also some non-useful guidance on buying equipment: "Housing, clothing, weapons, armour and transportation should take top priority."

This whole section is almost tear-inducingly dull and makes me actively hate it. As a taster for the tone of the section, here's a table from the worked example of an HP's Net Worth:

I hear Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser weeping.

No, they are not joking.

This part of the Papers and Paychecks Advanced Mythus comprehensive chargen mini-game is absolutely not fun; it is a nitpicking, beancounting chore above-and-beyond the standards of earlier sections. Any sane gamer should just disregard this whole mess and use something like ckutalik's Quick Start Gear Tables (to be found at his damn fine Hill Cantons blog): 4 quick die rolls and you're ready to go. Life is too short for aught else.

Special Connections
HPs get one NPC contact for each Trait they have at >90. So an HP can either be skilled and popular, or they can end up with crap stats ~and~ no mates. This particular 'reward for winning' at chargen is a classic gygaxism, much like extra XP for high stats in Classic D&D (a rule I never grokked).

The actual Special Connection tables (orphaned overleaf from their parent text) are naff: d20 gives you the occupation of your special imaginary friend's imaginary friend, and that's it. I presume you're expected to roll on the Instant HP Information Tables we looked at last week for more on these characters; no guidance is given. There is nothing here that the One True DMG's Quick NPC Generation tables didn't do first and better.

Page 116 has more waffle on stuff your HP owns, including a snidey little rule that 'if you forget where your character is carrying it, he left it at home'. I quote: "...what your Heroic Persona has on hand must be known at all times." This just screws players over in the name of simulation IMO. Your mates at the table will not - and arguably shouldn't - take as much care and attention over the imaginary gear of their imaginary character as actual real people will take over preparing for an actual expedition. YMMV however.

After the avuncular advice that any soldier (or boy scout) knows the importance of distributing carried weight evenly, encumbrance gets handwaved. No, really. After all the nitpicking we've endured so far Enc is handled via player discretion and GM fiat.

So let's just unpack that last in the light of recent reading, shall we? According to Advanced Mythus calculating every last brass razoo of net worth and the location of each and every carried item are worthwhile investments of player time and effort, but tracking the bulk and weight of this same swag and survival gear is just *snerk* absurd.

Now that's just lazy. If you're going to be comprehensive in the "...elective complexities..." of your 400+ page RPG then you don't knock off early when it comes to putting actual numbers to things that might be some use in play. It's not like Advanced Mythus lacks sufficient mechanical detail on which to hang some quick-and-dirty Encumbrance rules. Simply writing something like
"An HP suffers a cumulative -10% to move rate and all skill checks each time pounds weight carried exceeds his/her Physical Muscular Power Attribute" 
ain't rocket surgery. (note: it actually took me longer to look up what the Advanced Mythus Strength stat was called than it did to think that rule up!)

Instead of any actual useful bloody rules the Encumbrance sub-section is padded out by paragraphs of waffle about situational kit lists (adventurers don't march around town in full fighting kit, you don't go ghoul-hunting in courtly garb, etc.), an unexpected tangent about how players are expected to "...think, reason, imagine and solve problems on your own against a background of sketchy information...", and by repeated admonitions on the importance of tracking nature, cost and location of each item.

I can (*gluk gluk*) feel... my... (*gluk gluk*) braurgh... (*gluk gluk*) melgipublin...

Thus far the Heroic Persona Resources section has been 5 pages of non-useful gab: an 'orrible mishmash of the overly specific and the hand-wavey which has kept my drinking arm even busier than expected and filled me with uncharitable feelings to all involved in the creation of this game.

Oh well, I'm the one who volunteered to scour this particular Augean Stables of a game. Press on.

Special Equipment
Some notes on equipment scarcity: Standard, Specially Constructed and Rare items (in order of increasing rarity). You'll probably have to wait for non-standard kit to be made to order. Again, vague to the point of uselessness; I know what 'rare' means as an abstract concept. Give me actual mechanics or GTFO. (*gluk gluk*) For the record: WFRP has better (for which read ‘actual’) scarcity rules.

Half a page on how the various types of horses, camels and elephants you can buy to ride around on differ. Do you need to know the difference between a genet, a garron and a palfrey? Nope, me neither. And if I do I can look it up in an encyclopaedia. (*gluk gluk*)

Equipment Lists
Pages 118-122 are kit lists, a dull but necessary element of traditional RPGs. Rarely have I been so relieved to see page-after-page of bland price lists. It may just be Mythus Stockholm Syndrome setting in, but mere well-tabulated dullness is a relief after the dense-yet-vague blah blah of what has come before.

You have separate price lists for Standard, Specially Constructed and Rare general equipment, and then additional tables for specialist Heka Equipment, Mounts, Land Vehicles and Ships.

General kit (Standard, Specially Constructed or Rare) is as you'd expect for a fantasy RPG. The list entries will be immediately familiar to anyone who has perused the AD&D equipment lists, albeit with a couple of extra zeroes tacked on the prices. Livestock, tools, musical instruments, furs, broadcloth, torture devices; its all in there. Its nice that EGG was able to recycle his research into the costs of the minutiae of medieval life. All told it's a dull but worthy, and at least logically organised in a way that is entirely too rare in Advanced Mythus.

Heka Gear is non-magical but necessary trappings for ‘doing magic’, and covers everything from tweezers and magnifying glasses up to tomes of spells and alanthors. Some Heka gear (cauldrons, prayer beads, tomes, etc) is marked as being able to store Heka points. Such things are expensive, which keeps alchemy a rich man's hobby.

The Mounts table is *insanely* specific. Even the King Arthur Pendragon RPG - a game which is entirely about guys with a horse-centric lifestyle - isn't as exhaustive as Advanced Mythus in the sheer variety of horseflesh on offer. Nor does KAP have prices for three types of camel and two types of elephant.

Two letdowns from what's an otherwise pretty comprehensive table:
  1. No footnote to explain if the prices for the exotic mounts are local or import price: shame that.
  2. No actual fantasy mounts. Mythus is supposed to be a fantasy game, so where's my thoats, war lizards, pegasi, riding tigers and Tarns at?

The Land Vehicles table offers prices for five types of increasingly elaborate cart, from two-wheeled tipcart up to royal carriage. Damage points are listed in case you need to smash them up.

Last but not least in the gear section is p122, a full-page boxout containing a very familiar list of medieval ship types (raft, galley, warship, etc.) along with rules for damage, movement speeds, turning radius and seaworthiness. In effect it’s a potted system of sailing rules, and stands as poignant proof that EGG could actually pack a lot of info into a small word count when required.

And that concludes our examination of the character generation chapter of Advanced Mythus. It's been...emotional. Section 6 in particular has been an unremitting desolation of tosh that makes me want to take those responsible by the scruff of the neck and rub their noses in it. Even the last little surprise Easter egg of unexpected sailing rules only throws the preceding waste of words into stark high relief. There is literally NOTHING here for players of Classic D&D (except possibly that unacknowledged silent minority of accountancy fetishists).

Let us depart (staggering and veering) and never speak of this again.

The only thing I've come away with from this week's masochistic exercise? Desolation of Tosh would make a good name for the wasteland left when a civilisation collapses under the weight of an infestation of banalising systemisers (accountants, auditors, actuaries, etc). The numbingly tedious records they created are still uncovered by unfortunate archaeologists, who recoup their losses by selling them on as insomnia cures, wards against interesting people, and/or the material components of sleep spells.

Next Time: Chapter 11: Core Game Systems - doan stuffs in Advanced Mythus games. Forthcoming delights include combined efforts, rolling via guesswork, 'try and try again', and why ten degrees of difficulty is not excessive.

Pic Sources: Mythus rulebook, Jollyjack's Collected Curios


  1. Quick note on XP bonuses for high stats: Think about it in terms of two students, both laboring equally hard at school. One, however, is absorbing and mastering his coursework more quickly than the other and ends up being skipped ahead one or more grade levels and graduating quicker. He got smarter faster simply because of his high degree of innate potential alone. Because life's not fair.

    1. Aaaaaaaaaaaah. Now I get it.

      Still no like.

  2. After all the nitpicking we've endured so far Enc is handled via player discretion and GM fiat.

    I am almost disappointed that Advanced Mythus doesn't have three pages of complex formulae for working out how much a character can carry. Why so coy, Mythus? Perhaps these rules are in the Advanced Mythus Luggage Companion.

    For the record: WFRP has better (for which read ‘actual’) scarcity rules.

    Well, that's not fair; WFRP is better than Mythus -- and probably every other game -- at everything.

    Nor does KAP have prices for three types of camel and two types of elephant.

    Must resist... suggesting... elephant-centric... Pendragon remake...

    unremitting desolation of tosh

    Wasn't that one of the Mystara gazetteers?

    1. Perhaps these rules are in the Advanced Mythus Luggage Companion.

      We will never know. Mythus leaves us with Encumbrance blue balls FOREVER!

      Must resist... suggesting... elephant-centric... Pendragon remake...

      A Rajah Vijay Bahadur RPG in which brave elephant riders and wise yogis fight the dread emperor Ravana^W Gonchong and his demon hordes using the power of moustache, spangly pants and lollipop maces might actually be cool. Albeit in a bizarro antithesis of your Earthly cool way. of the Mystara gazetteers?

      I believe the original Desolation of Tosh was known among men as Dark Sun, Expanded and Revised. Yeah, because the one thing missing from the original was two types of birdman.

    2. Gods -- literally, I suppose -- that brings back memories of Sunday mornings on BBC2.

    3. Almost! Perhaps they lead to the Desolation?

  3. Following along at home is hard work! :D

    1. Lies and communism! Geordies are known to welcome (with relish) any excuse to drink. It is known. :p

  4. ha i am actually reading the mythus as we speak (it is taking months to find the motivation to push through it) so this is so hilarious to me

    1. Cheers frothsof, and cheers for the shout out on yer blog.

      How you finding Mythus? Too crunchy, or - given that you come at it from a more contemporary direction - not crunchy enough where it matters?


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