Monday, 7 May 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt12

Welcome again to our drink-fuelled study of EGG's 400 page RPG about the hazardous misadventures of small white rabbits with sphincter-looking cross-shaped mouths: Dangerous Journeys: Miffys.

(Cover art for the setting book)

Well, something like that anyway.

Facetious gittery aside, this is week three of our extended cloacacrawl through the Advanced Mythus skill rules in search of possible salvageable value. Today we stare unblinking into the abyss of Physical skills: 14 pages of full bore textwall-and-table haut gygaxiana. Here’s what we’ve got to look forward to:

I... I can feel my enthusiasm withering already.

You may notice from the above table that a handful of Physical skills offer Heka gain. Specifically Endurance and Smithing skills make your character more magical, which makes sense in a kind of odd Wayland Smith-meets-Flex Mentallo 'forked beards/muscles are innately magic' way. There's definitely some wacky Discworld/Orky 'believing in it makes it work' thing going on in Mythus-world.

Which observation segues us nicely into our first skill description:

"Jabbing people with needles to heal them? S’not natural! That Edward Jenner is a dangerous maniac."
-- The Royal College of Physicians, back when they still considered bleeding the weak and ailing with leeches to be sound good sense

Skilled prodding in Advanced Mythus can relieve people of any pain, reduce the strength of any disease by 25%, or double natural healing rate. The latter is pretty much any non-magical healing rule from RuneQuest onwards.

I’ll give this instance of the dubious 'western medicine is bunk; alternative/oriental medicine is superiah!' (ORLY?) meme a pass, mainly coz Advanced Mythus is a fantasy game. This forbearance endures only so long as there's no whiff of homeopathy having magical powers on Aerth. We get *that* deep into the realms of wootastic Blue Rosey bollocks, I set the place alight and walk!

Thief Acrobatmanry. No word of a lie. The correspondences between this section and the UA class abilities descriptions in AD&D Unearthed Arcana are... notable. But hey, there's no law against re-using your own research.

Six sub-areas:
  1. Tumbling
  2. Jumping
  3. Vaulting
  4. Landing
  5. Tight-rope Walking
  6. Swinging
The rules in and of themselves are just ok. Typically distance jumped, vaulted or swung is some percentage of your movement rate per Critical Turn (combat round). Whether you'll derive any use from Acro/Gym depends on how prescriptive you like your acrobatics/tumbling rules. If you have an Acrobat or Jester* class in your game it might be worth a look, otherwise pass.

* And you thought Bard was the nadir of worthless "Why do we bring this jackass along again?" classes. But, apparently, there are people out there who consider a cackling motley-clad village idiot a classic fantasy archetype. The horror!

Arms & Armour
Covers the ability to use, repair and even make any and all types of pre-gunpowder arms and armour. The 'use' aspect has precisely no meaning in game mechanical terms (AFAICT Advanced Mythus has no unskilled use penalties for armour, just weight penalties), so this is effectively a craft/construct skill.

Ten sub-areas:
  1. Forging Swords
  2. Forging Other Edged Weapons
  3. Making Non-Edged Weapons
  4. Making Bows & Arrows & Fletching
  5. Making Crossbows and Quarrels
  6. Making Plate Armour
  7. Making Chain Mail
  8. Making Lamellar Armour
  9. Making Armour of All Other Sorts*
  10. Making Shields of All Sorts
* covers padded/quilted, leather/cuiriboulli, studded/plated/ring, scale, banded and/or splinted.

I’ve a couple of minor procedural grumbles here. Bowyer and Fletcher were historically distinct skills, and sub-area 9 (Armour of All Other Sorts) seems wildly generalised. So you can make anything from Polynesian wicker armour to Greek linothorax to Assyrian scale armour with this one area? Right-oh. Over-specific meets handwaved again. Oddly enough, the equally catch-all sub-area 3 doesn't bug me: that's just weaponising farm implements, which is cake for a species that can make a weapon of almost anything.

Bob about on glorified log skill. Roll to avoid sinking. We’re magisterially admonished that "...a boat is not a ship!" in the worst late-period gygaxian manner (ie: no explanation or justification offered).

You know all about cloth and the manipulation thereof. No woven material is beyond your ken. No, really. I quote: "...hemp, burlap, and wool, to brocade, satin, and silk, the person with this K/S Area is knowledgable and capable." Were Advanced Mythus as comprehensive and thorough as it claims to be a couple of sub-areas wouldn't have hurt: silk-throwing != wool-weaving != lacework.

You can also use Clothwork to make cloth armour if that takes your fancy. This takes 2d3 days +1d3 days extra for each of up to three more suits. That's a nice little batchwork rule, sadly not used anywhere else in the 'make stuff' skills. I'd probably nick that for my own game if anyone ever wanted to make batches of stuff. A small usefulness, but it counts. (*gluk gluk*)

Combat, Hand-to-Hand, Lethal
Make People Stop Living With Your Fists (hat-tip: the ever-glorious HOL RPG).

Five sub-areas :
  1. Hands
  2. Feet
  3. Nunchaku
  4. Sais
  5. Tui-fa
The last three are ‘hit with rice-flail/gardening fork/quern [link] handle’ respectively. So HtH, Lethal basically = anything used by Bruce Lee.

All martial arts weapons can be used to parry attacks, but fists and feet can only parry blows from similar. We’re referred to Chapter 12: Combat for the full skinny on pummelling dudez to death.

This skill description is padded out with a half-page of tables showing attacks/round and damage for each martial arts weapon. The figures given here start out insignificant and then rocket skywards as skill improves in a manner more than slightly reminiscent of BECMI Weapon Mastery.

 Never mind the quality; just feel the length!

Personally, I’d have integrated all the needless fiddle work above into one short three-column table. To represent the effect of different attacks you'd just shift up or down to different rows depending on skill level and weapon. But that’s my ‘simplify and add lightness’ fetish in action.

Combat, Hand-to-Hand, Non-Lethal
Brawling, boxing, wrestling, judo, etc: martial arts that work by stunning or disabling, rather than by inflicting lethal harm. The skill description itself is little more than a placeholder for ‘refer to the Physical Combat: Non-Lethal section of Chapter 12: Combat.’

Combat, Hand Weapons
The all-important Shove Sharp Things Into Soft Things That Scream And Bleed skill (hat-tip: HOL again) without which no RPG would be complete.

Nine sub-areas, which are pretty much the standard fantasy weapon groups:
  1. Axe
  2. Club/Mace
  3. Dagger/Knife
  4. Spear and Pole Arms (Thrusting)*
  5. One-Handed Swords
  6. Two-Handed Swords
  7. Whip/Flail
  8. Pole Arms (Cutting)
  9. Shields
* Add your own cheap EGG and pole-arms gag here.

Having a sub-area allows both attacks and parries, with the sole and notable exception of shields. Get this: according to the rules of Advanced Mythus you can parry with a whip, but you need a whole extra skill to bash someone in the face with a shield. I’ll just let the sheer *narm* of that sink in for a second, shall I?

Attacks per round increase by skill level, as shown below:

Eat your heart out AD&D fighter!

We’re referred to Chapter 12: Combat for information about damage bonuses for high skill and/or PMPow (aka ‘strength’ in English, and not one of the odder Batman sound effects).

Combat, Hand Weapons, Missile
Murderize with Thrown Objects. No parry option with missile weapons, so bows are objectively more aggressive and less sissy than swords.

Ten sub-areas:
  1. Bows
  2. Crossbows
  3. Blowguns
  4. Slings
  5. Darts
  6. Knives/Daggers
  7. Boomerangs
  8. Axes
  9. Spears and Javelins
  10. Throwing stars
Yes, boomerang is a legit weapon choice in Advanced Mythus. And ninja stars are deemed sufficiently important to count as something other than knives or darts (or, more honestly, just a dubiously-effective gimmick with fanboi appeal). You can throw bolas [link] if you like, but that is apparently uses the 'clubs' sub-area. ¿Que? Wielding a net? No idea. It's not even an option.

There's also a waste-of-space table showing skill-derived multiplier (x0.5 to x4) to missile attacks per round. Should have been integrated into the preceding table IMO. We're again pointed in the direction of Chapter 12: Combat for information about damage bonuses from high skill and strength.

This Old House skill. Covers "...carpentry, roofing, plumbing and the like". We're informed that a character "...with this K/S could [...] virtually build a cabin or house without assistance". A skill of 31+ allows you to draft/read blueprints and do fine carpentry - which helps to find secret compartments and the like. No sub-areas(!), because all forms of manual labour are wholly interchangeable and equally ghastly. No cross-feed to other skills, because the skills used to construct a house have no application to anything else in the world.

Construction, Naval
Two words: build boat. Combine with Engineering and you have a shipwright. No sub-areas, because crafting a birchbark or dugout canoe, or an Egyptian reed boat, is basically the same as piecing together a trireme, longship or caravel. It's all just re-arranged plant matter, innit? No mention of skill cross-feed either, despite the fact "...there is immense interest and education in watching a ship being built." - T.R.Glover.

Is it just me, or do you get the feeling EGG didn't give much of a toss about certain skills? The ones he knows/cares about get all the love; others get acknowledged as existing, and that's about it.

Construction, Transport
Build cart and/or sled. Also wheelwrighting. This skill exists, and does history a great disservice. There is no more to be said for it.

Criminal Activities, Physical
Thief skills. See my earlier grouching about Criminal Activities, Mental as misnomer. In fact, redouble it and add more swearing. There is nothing inherently criminal about sneaking or hiding.

Nine sub-areas:
  1. Sneaking
  2. Hiding
  3. Lock-Picking
  4. Ambushing
  5. Pick-Pocketing
  6. Forced Entry
  7. Strongbox Breaking
  8. Shoplifting & Pilfering
  9. Mugging & Robbery

The first three sub-areas I have no problem with, they have cultural traction and - let's face it - you need sneak, hide, and B&E skills in a skill-based game. Areas 4-9 are a right dog's breakfast though: lots of confusion of 'skill' with 'skill usage'. Ambush is just attacking from hiding. Pick-pocketing should just be a function of the Legerdemain skill. How does applying force to the weakest point for purposes of Forced Entry differ from doing ditto for Strongbox Breaking? How is shoplifting anything but use of sleight-of-hand for theft? And why is mugging & robbery even a sub-area at all?

Cultured Palate
This is pretentious foodie skill, literally "...knowledge an HP has regarding the finer things in life."

Eight sub-areas:
  1. Foods
  2. Beverages
  3. Herbs/Spices
  4. Wines/Winemaking
  5. Beers/Brewing
  6. Spirits
  7. Perfumes
  8. Gourmet Meal Preparation
Areas 4, 5 and 8 only allow you to both appreciate and create, the others are 'incapable critic' ability only. So being a plonkie, beer snob or foodie makes you a passable vintner, brewer or chef, but knowing all about perfumes doesn't mean you can mix them. Erm, ok. No explanation for this exceptionalism of course.

Skill at playing dress up with intent. Apparently not to be confused with the wholly distinct Impersonation skill. Also completely different to the field of Thespianism (Oh wow, that's the first "set away from the thesaurus" skill name we've seen in a while. *gluk*) for reasons which remain opaque to my limited understanding. Disguise just seems like a duplicate skill thrown in there to pad out the Physical skill list. No sub-areas, but Disguise cross-feeds 10% to - and is cross-fed 10% by - Impersonation.

"Oh hi sub-areas. Where you been?"
"Us? We've been Criminal Activities, Physical sub-area Hiding..."

Good for making maps, renderings, and plans. Also sketching, copying, and creating fraudulent art. One of these things is not like the others, and was IIRC already covered under Criminal Activities, Mental, Forgery. Another instance of:
  1. duplicated skill usage, and 
  2. 'how not to do it' proofing/editing practice. 

No sub-areas, coz in the enigmatic mind of Xagyg all drawing is same-same (paper + scrawly implement; how specialised can it be?)

Resist Hardship/Torture/Bagpipe Solo skill. You can slog on without air, food, water or sleep for 1% longer than normal for every point you have in the skill, which seems *very* specific. You also find being tortured a minor inconvenience; one DR easier than normal to resist. DRs for torture? No idea squire. Endurance adds to Heka, and a character can blow this Heka to extend endurance effects to twice the normal amount (+2% per point), or make torture into little more than a vigorous massage.

*headdesk* Usage as skill strikes again. Escape covers contortionism, lock-picking and general MacGyverish coffin jet-ski making in the service of self-liberation. These are all things which could be covered by other existing skills as part of an 'escape from captivity' scene/montage/mini-adventure. Even the skill description is hazy about the point of Escape, and we're cautioned that "It is hard to say exactly what one roll on the Escape K/S will cover...". So that's helpful. A waste of two paragraphs.

First Aid
Slap bandage on bloody bit skill. Reduces shock trauma (we're referred to the Shock section of Combat, p258, but I presume it’s not dissimilar to the System Shock rules of AD&D fame), heals injuries (1d10 damage on a successful check, once per person per wound) and reduces poison strength. An interesting counterpart to the palliative effects of Acupuncture, but nothing you haven't seen 100 times before.

Games, Physical
Individual physical contests of strength and endurance. I have precisely clue=0 how and why this skill differs from the Combat, Hand-to-Hand, Non-Lethal and Sports, Violent, Individual. (And, no, I'm not making up that last)

Four sub-areas to Games, Physical:
  1. Boxing
  2. Wrestling
  3. Arm-wrestling
  4. Leg-wrestling
No idea if you resolve Games, Physical using the combat rules or the opposed bid rules for Gambling and Mental Games. We're simply not told.

The skill cross-feeds to Combat, Hand-to-Hand, Non-Lethal at 20%. Yes, twenty. Gym class: training ground of future killers. Reminds me a little of the old Palladium Game System gimmick of taking all the sporty/athletic skills to boost physical abilities into the realms of the absurd. Whether "this thing is like Palladium" is praise or cautionary note I leave to the taste and judgement of the reader.

Distinct from the Gemology Mental skill. That was the 'know about where gemstones live' skill; this is 'shape gems (and precious metals) for the purposes of infusing Heka into them and making magic items'.

Four sub-areas:
  1. Engraving/Enameling
  2. Gemcutting
  3. Metalsmithing
  4. Jewelry

This skill generates Heka. No cross-feed to other skills, but it's noted as a fitting accompaniment to the Alchemy and Heka-Forging skills.

Omnicompetent 'make do and mend in the wilds' boy scout knowledge. Someone with this skill can basically turn raw materials into the stuff of domestic comfort.

This + Hunting/Tracking + Survival = you are unkillable survival hobbit Ray Mears. No further skills required to bootstrap your own civilisation from scratch. Certainly not Cultured Palate, which will be first against the wall come the revolution.

Heka-Forging (+Heka)
Characters with this skill can channel Heka power from particular named sources into prepared objects to make charms, amulets and other magic items. The basic, half-complete rules for doing this spread over a page of dense text and a half-page boxout containing three tables. We're given a rather prescriptive table of forging difficulties based on item quality and the amount of Heka power being imbued into an item. It's rather 3E avant les lettres in its reductionist, budget-juggling attitude to item crafting; but what else would you expect of Adventures in Excel Advanced Mythus?

Heka-forging can imbue an object with one of nine abilities, gained as skill level increases.

Possession of this skill also adds to Heka and allows the casting of Heka-Forging spells in accordance with another appearance of That Damn Table(tm). Heka-forging spells are covered in full in the Mythus Magick book ("Buy our stuff!").

This skill isn't outrageously offensive, and with a bit of work might make for a half-decent Super-Scientist/Arcane Artificer class. If only Humanspace Empires and Eberron hadn't already done that schtick first and better. Shame.

Another instance of EGG quite reasonably taking the position "My research, I'll re-use it if I want to", this time largely recycling the Unearthed Arcana Ranger's tracking ability. I'm not going to derail myself by whiffling and havering over whether this really should have been divided into sub-areas, or entirely separate separate skills, or what. Tracking is an essential part of hunting, and for once I'm prepared to give the pater ludus the benefit of the doubt.

Hunting grants you two weapon skill picks: spear + one other from a list of classic hunting weapons (bow, bola, javelin, sling, etc). Hunting weapon skills only count for half value if used in combat. I presume this represents hunters being unused to prey that wears armour and/or throws spears back at them.

Tracking allows a character to track per a pretty intuitive table of difficulties ("Spoor is large, fresh, obvious" = Easy, etc) and to conceal the tracks left by his own party: 1 person per 5 skill points (1 horse per 10).

As well as all the above the character gains the ability to make traps and snares:

Reminiscent of the Outdoor Trap Table from p143 (previously seen here), and a possible steal for the construction times, if nothing else. 

Hunting/Tracking cross-feeds Botany, Ecology/Nature Science, Survival, ~and~ Zoology, among others. Hunting weapon choices also to cross-feed to - and are cross-fed by - similar Combat, Hand-to-Hand weapon skills at 10%.

Wow. Just... wow. I know I was bitching about the lack of cross-pollination between Physical skills earlier, but I didn't expect to find all the cross-feeding concentrated here in one skill. It's pretty obvious that EGG had a healthy respect for the broad applicability of woodcraft knowledge.

With all the above Hunting/Tracking has all the makings of a mini-game in itself; kind of Outdoor Survival minus the board.


And with that name-check to an unofficial supplement to the delightfully incomplete-by-design game that made Gary's name, we call halt on the weekly Advanced Mythus chainsaw autopsy. We've had plenty of jargon, though none of it new enough to merit toasting in welcome; the dubious pleasure of parsing some downright wonky skill descriptions (both over- and under-written); and an echo of the mudlark's delight in finding a couple of possible stealables, depending on what you like to focus on in your game.

As for what's going on with Physical skills being so wildly disparate in focus, well, your guess is as good as mine. I'm sure there's a subtly concealed deep logic behind why some of the skills examined above are Physical, but blowed if I can see it. Some could just as readily be Mental or Spirit skills with equal plausibility. Others should just die in a ditch as useless.

Between wonky TRAIT dependency and the sheer duplication of skill uses it looks like EGG was just trying to ensure that Vocations from each different TRAIT had ways of executing their archetypal roles adequately. Maybe? I dunno.

Oh well, if it made an ounce of sense Advanced Mythus might actually have taken on the status of a sought-after treasure tragically killed off before its time, rather than being a largely forgotten 'old shame' game that doesn't even have the punchline recognition accorded to Synnibar, SenZar or FATAL.

The moral of the story: a decent editor (one unafraid to call you on your b*llsh*t) is a treasure beyond price.

Next Time: Physical Skills J-Z. Highlights include a page on Juggling, a paragraph on Masonry, Riding, the skill of Travel, and Weapon Special Skills. (Wait, wut?)

Pic Source: Dangerous Journeys Mythus rulebook, UVOD, teh interwubz


  1. You're valiantly putting yourself through some pain here. Just reading your posts description of all the skills was taxing.

    I think your cloacacrawl neologism can only be answered with megacloacacrawl.

    1. I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the book. Some parts of it are hidden cleverness; others are just spectacularly bad.

      Cloacamaximacrawl: dungeoneering in the 'orrible, gloopy organic dungeon beneath the Eternal City. Answers the long-standing question of where the monsters come from (answer: they're parasites)...

  2. Hang on, Cultured Palate has perfume as a sub-skill? Do people drink cologne in Miffus world?

    1. I suspect its a 'smell & taste are aspects of the same sense' thing.

      And you are a bad man. :)

  3. I admire your tenacity, Chris! :D

    1. I do this so some other poor unsuspecting fool never, ever has to.

      "Read Mythus cover to cover. Someone tried that once."
      "How did it end?"
      "Last I heard he was seen running through the streets naked in a viking hat claiming to be Future Science Gygax..."


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