Monday 16 April 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt9

Rejoice! Rejoice! For our month-long grind through Advanced Mythus character generation in search of useful stealables is at an end. We have emerged blinking into the light which heralds a bright new dawn, and the vista which spreads before our bedazzled eyes is:

Chapter 10: Core Game Systems
123 pages into the Mythus book, and we finally get to some actual proper "roll to do stuff" game mechanics. Hopefully all those numbers, acronyms and such will begin to make some sort of sense.

The K/S Operational System
Opens with four paragraphs of blah-blah on abilities and skills in RPGS and the fact that there are mechanics to determine success or failure, with a couple of facile examples. Not worth remembering, take a drink and skip it.

Making Rolls Against STEEP
I can write the mechanic in the same number of words it takes EGG to write that section title: "d%, roll under TN". Snark aside, this is four more paragraphs of text that explain the core Advanced Mythus mechanic: your K/S Chance (ah, never miss an opportunity for some new jargon *gluk*) is your STEEP (*gluk*) multiplied by Difficulty Rating (*gluk*) of the endeavour.

Difficulty in Advanced Mythus is a multiplier to your base skill, rather than the linear +/- modifiers you may be more familiar with from certain other percentile-based RPG resolution systems.

Yeah, the baseline difficulty is to double your skill. Assumption of competence is a nice change of pace from the "you suck and fail, then you suck some more, and then you die" ethos of WFRP. However. Is it just me, or will multiplying/dividing skills scores lead to actual skill level actually not mattering all that much in difficult situations?
"This means that your level of expertise becomes less important, the more difficult a task gets, and a poorly trained character will have fairly meager chances of success even at an Easy task. Gygax is evidently of the opinion that you can tell a true master from a bumbling wannabe by how well they perform an idiotically simple task. At higher difficulties, the differences tend to even out..."
-- Marius Bredsdorff, review of Mythus
So it's not just me who noticed that. Here's some back-of-a-napkin figuring:

        STEEP     x3    x2*    x1    x0.5    x0.25    x0.1
Low Starting    17    51    34    17    8    4    2
High -"-     33    99    66    33    16    8    3
Masterful     75    225    150    75    37    18    7

Looks like you'll be depending on dumb luck to save your ass in a crisis, coz that hard-earned skill won't.

So far, Chris no like.

Rolling Against HP Statistics

How fiddly do you want your "roll vs. stat" mechanic? You can roll:

vs. TRAIT (3 stat groups) = half it to find base chance
vs. Categories (6 stats) = use as base score
vs. Attributes (18 sub-stats) = multiply by x2-3

I have no idea when a roll against one's Spiritual Psychic Speed might be the correct one ("I can imaginatify quicksier then youz!"), but it’s nice to know it’s an option. Just... not one that I ever see the need to use.

Combined Efforts
Want to try something stoopid hard? Get half-a-dozen skilled friends in to help, and run that Oceans 11 caper as a semi-narrative montage resolved by a single die roll. The more people involved, the less help they are. No formal limit on how many people can be involved in a combined effort action though.

That’s the sort of rule I might actually use, if I was currently playing in a percentile game, or any game that used skill systems.

Combined Efforts of Diverse K/S Areas

Or, ‘pitching in without expert knowledge’. If you only have tangentially relevant skills you can add 10% of that skill to the skill of the person attempting a thing. It's suggested that only 3-6 different skills can be called on for help in this way. It’s suggested that no more than a dozen people can aid on a project in this manner.

Wow, who’da thunk it: Gary had D&D4-style Skill Challenges – situations where everyone pitches in to help – all worked out in 1992. And in less than a page, although you could still easily trim his wording down to a paragraph or two.

Rolling via Guesswork

This is Mythus-ese for 'untrained skill use'; cack-handed attempts to do stuff you saw a dude do once. Once you flay off all the extraneous verbiage, it’s pretty simple and elegant:

Skill you absolutely no have: skill = 01.
Skill you have, but lack the relevant sub-area: +2 DR.

Of course, this being Advanced Mythus, there are additional "elective complexities":

If you have a related skill, or some common knowledge about a thing, you get a skill level up to its corresponding Attribute (GM call). There's a list of 20 or so skills you can do this with, largely commonsense ones (Domestic Arts, Gambling, First Aid, Sports).

Special Successes and Failures

Crit chance is 1/10th your skill: a naked RuneQuest steal.
Auto-fail and Fumble vary by how skilled you are; more skilled characters bungle it less often.

1-in-600 chance of a fumble? Why even roll?

This is a nice change from some mathematically ass-backward (*cough* OWoD) or just plain hateful-to-player-agency (*cough* Fading Suns) systems I’ve seen, but is a little too granular for my tastes.

Determining the Difficulty Rating
A page and change defining the difficulty ratings and offering example tasks.

Oh Gary, you card! You do crack me up sometimes.

We are also offering an expended table of no less than ten degrees of difficulty ("Routine x2.5", "Very Hard 0.75", etc). Great if you want that much granularity, but IMO the extra modifiers in this table should have just been included in the core table as optional rules.

K/S vs. K/S Rolls

Or, as we say in my country (say it with me now): "contested roll". Degree of difference between the two skills involved modifies difficulty in the favour of one contestant and against the other. Both then roll: Special Success beats Success beats Fail beats Fumble. It both degrees of success are the same = tie.

If I read the table (and its page or so of accompanying explanation) correctly having ~20 skill points less than an opponent makes your roll Very Difficult (skill x0.25) and his roll Easy (skill x3). It is obviously REALLY advantageous to have the higher skill in Advanced Mythus.

Frequency of K/S Rolls
Tells you to use your discretion as GM. Subsumed in this non-useful advice are two additional rules which – in a book laid out by the sane - would probably have been entirely separate sections:

Try and Try Again, which defines situations you can and can't attempt a second bite of the cherry. It's column of blah-blah which boils down to

That's ALL you had to say. (*gluk gluk*)

The second needlessly subsumed section, Handling Long Projects, advises breaking large things down into smaller challenges with more rolls (and thus more potential points of failure). *sigh* And for a moment I thought Mythus had left 4E Skill Challenges eating their hearts out in shame. Oh well...

So that's basic core mechanics spread out over six densely packed pages. Although new jargon has been kept within sane levels there are whole chunk of rules would have benefited from an on-the-ball editor with a swift and merciless red pen. It would have been nice to have some better organisation and clearer marking out of what's an essential mechanic vs. what's commentary and advice.

Useful steals? A couple, if you’re a skill-inclined GM. But really, there’s nothing here that shakes the heavens with its innovation or mechanical subtlety.

The Many Uses of Joss
At long last, on page 129, we are given the full speil on Joss. Narrative control points for player use.

Your bucket of Joss points has 9 possible uses:
  1. Modify a DR - can improve your chances, those of an ally, or nobble an enemy by one DR per Joss spent.
  2. Ha ha! I/You hit/missed! - Can cause a single attack by or against you to succeed or fail automagically.
  3. A Mere Flesh wound - Can modify the severity of an inflicted hit; increase to Crit or reduce to normal.
  4. With One Bound... - Escape capture, stranding or imprisonment - 1-5 Joss depending on alertness of guards and degree of isolation.
  5. Clue me - 1-6 Joss depending on magnitude of your "sudden inspiration".
  6. Need a friend? - 1-6 Joss to gain a one-time Special Connection.
  7. Need cash? - 1-5 Joss to simply happen upon no-strings cash = Disposable Monthly Income.
  8. It's Not So Bad - Reduce severity of bad situation: can reduce poison or disease effect; stop your horse from fleeing/being stolen, etc. 1-6 Joss, more "...if it was due to your own carelessness." (A classic little bit of EGG tough love there)
  9. Oh No You Don't! - Negate Joss spent by others on a one-for-one basis.
Pretty standard Fate Point/Grace of God mechanic then. But it is nice to see the limits of what Joss can and can’t do set out so clearly.  Ah, numbered lists and indenting, where have you been all this time?

Movement and Time
Pages 131-132 are rules on movement speed by foot or mount. The hiking/jogging/running rules are pretty unsurprising for anyone who's ever played a classic FRPG, although the inclusion of crawling speed (1/10th normal) and stacking adverse terrain effects are nice. I’d have simplified the latter further and included bloody encumbrance effects, but that’s just silly old me.

The mounted movement rules have much more detail, including mount speed and endurance, and some over-complex rules for riding your horse (donkey, elephant, camel, w/e) to death if that’s what gets you off.

The game time rules are largely a rehash of the nested Action/Battle/Critical Turns introduced in Mythus Prime. Two columns of worked examples and hypothetical situations, but otherwise RPG standard. To my shame I only just noticed the A/B/C notation, which is intuitive, but obviously not /that/ intuitive.

The Game Time vs. Real Time section is nothing that the AD&D DMG didn't do first and with more character (and ex cathedra ALLCAPS). The suggestion that a week of real time between sessions = a month of Mythus game downtime is quite cool. That’s your monthly living costs, training time, recovery time, etc. all covered by one simple rule. Knocks the old '1 adventure per level = lord of all you survey in 10 weeks of game time' thing on the head slightly.

Accomplishment Points
Advanced Mythus has three types of not-at-all experience:
  • General, 
  • Specific K/S STEEP and 
  • Exceptional Performance APs. 
This is obviously both logical and necessary. I mean, how on earth did we manage for 20 years with only one type of XP? As you'll see below, they seem almost like two entirely separate advancement systems kludged together and/or thrown in for the sake of completeness.

General AP
Abbreviated AP/G. Awarded at the end of a scenario, 1-20, with around 10 being the average. Expended in a non-obvious manner to buy new character goodness. There are limits to how much AP you can spend on a skill per time period, but AP/G can be saved and expended weekly during downtime.

  1. Add skill points: costs 1-2 AP = +1% to a skill, up to +5% per adventure. Cost varies depending on what your character’s Prime TRAIT is, which is mildly reminiscent of 3E’s hateful concept of cross-class skills.

    Want a skill not related to your TRAIT? Go suck a fat one.

  2. Specialise in a skill sub-area: This self-gimping costs! 5-10 AP and two weeks of game time training.
  3. Buy new skills: costs 5 AP + 1-2 per 1% of skill. Takes one week of study per skill point gained. You don’t add your Attributes to newly-developed skills.
  4. Buy new Heka-Generating skill sub-area: these aren’t gained automatically as skill increases. You have to pay 10 AP, study for 10 weeks, and /then/ make a successful roll to learn a new sub-area. What this roll entails is not defined; we’re referred to a nebulous ‘as above’. You can also learn entirely new Heka K/S Areas. Those costs 20 AP (30 for skill outside one’s Vocation TRAIT) and 20 (or 30) weeks of study and a successful “Very Difficult” (skill x0.25) Occultism or Mysticism roll.
  5. Buy new Joss: costs 1 AP per point you’re buying up to. So buying up from Joss 5 to Joss 6 would cost 6 AP, 6 to 7 would cost 7 AP, etc.
  6. Buy Attribute Points: each +1 to an Attribute is costed per the table reproduced below:
  7. So buying an Attribute up from 8 to 12 will cost (6+6+6+8=) 24 AP. The worked example in the book is incorrect, which is just more editorial job-snoozing. Skill scores are not improved by Attribute additions, which is a small mercy.
  8. Buy Special Connection: 5 AP gets you a new imaginary friend.

Specific K/S STEEP APs
That section heading must be some kind of Mythus jargon yahtzee, and I hereby honour its full alphabetti spaghetti glory in the accustomed fashion. (*gluk gluk gluk*) K/S STEEP APs are awarded for "...making skillful and clever use of one's K/S Areas." They can also be dished out to the screeching gibbons you game with as a ‘reward for winning’ if one achieves a Special Success on a roll of “Extreme” (skill x0.1) difficulty. 1-5 points, added straight to the skill right there during play.

Exceptional Performance APs
Awarded only "...for very expert and clever play..." Expending one of these immediately adds +1 to an Attribute, grants a new Special Connection, or restores 1d6 Joss (to the maximum of 14). Super Magic Mythus Abbreviation is "AP/X", the resemblance of which to the word ‘apex’ can’t be coincidence...

Dammit! Why oh why did I forget to include a “Drink if you spot a sly Gygaxian pun” rule? Oh, that’s right: liver damage.

The Art of Studying & Training
Essentially training costs, but not in the 'pay to play' AD&D advancement sense. Advanced Mythus characters can expend money during downtime to gradually enhance their skills and Attributes.
  • Skill training is relatively cheap: 200 BUCS and three months of training, gain 1d6-1 skill points in a skill. You can train in up to four skills at once.
  • Attribute training starts out at 500 BUCS and three months of training, and rises in cost as one goes above 15 in a score. It gets progressively harder and more expensive to improve Attributes beyond this point, which I suppose is logical.
  • You also gain +1 Joss per game year spent not adventuring.
Don't agree with rewarding people who can't even be bothered to turn up myself, but some might like this.

So all told Advanced Mythus experience rules are the kind of mish-mash that makes the poor player cry out for the elegant intuitiveness of BRP’s tick-to-advance system, let alone the sheer simplicity of D&D’s *ding* level up. Nothing here worth looting I’m afraid.

This depressing barrenness beings us to the end of page 136, and I call halt. Ahead stretches the seemingly endless desolation of the K/S Area Descriptions section: sixty-four pages of detail on skills, skill sub-areas, and the use of skills in the Advanced Mythus game. Next week sees the start of a true Let's Read death march.

I'm now going to curl up under a duvet with a bottle of vodka and read RISUS until my urge to gnaw my own leg off fades to normal background levels.

Art of the Section

Chapter 10 offers only a single picture to relieve the endless swathes of text and tables: page 135 has an Elisa Mitchell pic of awesomeface demon leering around a rock outcrop framing a glowing treasure chest and skull. Well-executed, and nicely old school in the balance of profit and threat.


Pic Source: Dangerous Journeys Mythus rulebook

1 comment:

  1. This is obviously both logical and necessary. I mean, how on earth did we manage for 20 years with only one type of XP? As you'll see below, they seem almost like two entirely separate advancement systems kludged together and/or thrown in for the sake of completeness.

    The One Ring does this too, for no good reason, as far as I can tell. It's one of the more clunky parts of an otherwise elegant system. Gygax lives on in Middle Earth, apparently.


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