Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt13

Perhaps inevitably, the curse of 12a struck. Guess who lost his article on Sunday afternoon, and then managed to copy the blank save over his back-up? Who's a clever Chris, eh?

Right now we are deep in the roiling digestive mess that is Advanced Mythus. I do not like it in here: it is dark and gloopy, and there are enigmatic nodules scattered about that belch mysterious mind-warping substances in the faces of the unsuspecting.

What began as a clean, clinical autopsy has turned into something darker and more primal: a chaos-f**ked abomination fathered by Heart of Darkness on Fantastic Voyage, probably with onlooking sweary Muppets. Perhaps some day I will have delved far enough to be restored to a world of light and air and sanity, and will be able to once again perceive the whole of Advanced Mythus as the fat harmless ruminant it is. But now, the beast is the world.

Torturous extended metaphor aside, today I share with those few of our readership who have not yet fled screaming some thoughts on Advanced Mythus Physical Skills, J-Z. The usual rules apply.

You comprehend the esoteric mysteries of bodging (which is actually a skill in itself, not just a pejorative. Who knew?).

Six sub-areas:
  1. Carpentry
  2. Construction (all)
  3. Masonry
  4. Mechanics
  5. Printing
  6. Smithing/Welding
Unlike almost every other skill in the game each sub-area possessed functions at 40% of the skill. So actually worse than skill speciousization specialisation, and with none of the (dubious) benefits of same? How does that make sense? No idea why this skill even exists. Ludo agrees:

“Smell bad!”

Just pay attention in class and get the real skill.

Clown college skill. Rules for ‘roll to flamboyantly not drop things’ spreads over a page or so. We are cautioned that juggler != jongleur. This is nice to know, coz I'm always getting those two types of loud, badly-dressed public nuisances mixed up.

Juggling has sub-areas (I can almost hear Biology, Engineering and the like raging):
  1. Balancing Self and Items
  2. Fire "Breathing" (sic)
  3. Knife (et al.) Throwing
  4. Sword Swallowing
  5. Tossing and Catching of Objects (juggling /per se/)
Balancing and Sword Swallowing are pretty self-explanatory.
Fire-breathing does 1d6 damage and may set someone on fire.
Knife Throwing can be used instead of Combat, Hand Weapons, Missile, adding 1 yard to range per 20 skill points.
Tossing and Catching can be used to snatch missiles out of the air and throw them back according to the following table:

Juggling cross-feeds to and from Acrobatics/Gymnastics by 10%. In an additional wrinkle a player may take 10% of the average of their Juggle + Gym skills and add it to any one of their Criminal Activities or Combat skills.

(This skill description is dedicated to the memory of Juggling, which was recently found beaten to death in an alley by skills unknown.)

As clothwork, but with animal skin. You know every part of turning integument into inventory. The skill description gives construction times for various leather items. Crude shoes or shield cover: 1 day. Good shoes: 1d3+1 days. Leather armour, boots or saddle: 1 week. Cuirboulli: 2 weeks. Might be handy for your game.

Stage magician tricks: "...close up magic, card tricks, prestidigitation, ventriloquism, misdirection and illusions..." Can be used for stealing on a successful check. Treads shamelessly on the toes of the Criminal Activities, Physical sub-areas of Pick Pocketing and Shoplifting/Pilfering (probably as a deliberate distraction tactic...)

You heap up stone, and hit to make pretty. The Construction skill sits there wondering "WTH jackass? That's my shtick." Masonry "...includes the skill of carving inscriptions and decorations in stone, but is far from true sculpture" which implies that EGG never saw a rose window or fan vaulting. Knowing Masonry offers no benefits to finding secret doors (physical or mystical), which seems an odd oversight.

Blue-collar version of Engineering. A bodging skill for things with moving parts. Too plebian for sub-areas.

Mines & Mining
Horny handed 'dig holes to get stuff out of ground' skill. Distinct from Speleology and Subterrenean Aerth knowledge in ways that actually make sense! (Oh be still my beating heart) No sub-areas though, coz mining is all just swinging a pick, innit?

Mountain Climbing
Another terrain bothering skill. Tethered, free-climbing and rappelling. Ascend at 10% walking speed, descend at 25%, or rappel at 'trotting' pace. Once check per BT (30 seconds) during a short climb, or once per 4 hours for extended schleps up Everest.

Useful for Spellsongs (q.v.), or to accompany singing for one's supper.

Seven sub-areas:
  1. A Cappella
  2. Horns
  3. Keyboards
  4. Percussion
  5. Stringed, Bowed
  6. Stringed, Plucked
  7. Woodwinds and Reeds
Each sub-area taken allows you to play one specific instrument.

Perception (Physical)
Noticing things using your senses, modified by your intelligence. This skill is wholly and entirely distinct from Perception, Mental; which is the knack of noticing things with your mind, modified by your senses. ...
Nope. Me neither.

Four sub-areas:
  1. Noticing
  2. Hearing
  3. Searching
  4. Tracking

The sub-areas are basically belt-and-braces copies of other skills or sub-areas. One difference is that Physical Perception, Tracking is defined as understanding how and why a person/creature moves where they do, rather than spotting spoor. Physical Perception, Tracking: "He should be over there", Tracking/Hunting skill: "Told ya so." Far too fiddly for my tastes.

Police Work
Hateful anachronism, just like the Criminology skill (see LRM pt 10 for that rant).

Four sub-areas:
  1. Stakeout
  2. Shadowing
  3. Interrogation
  4. Evidence Analyzing
Sun-areas 1-2 should just be usages of hiding and sneaking. Interrogation should just be Influence, Persuasion with menaces. Evidence Analyzing is a function of those otherwise worthless science skills. I know Cadfael (CSI: Shrewbury Abbey) was already a thing in 1992, so there’s no excuse for this skill.

You can squidge ink onto pages and have it make words and pictures, because you have the clever. You can also abuse this skill to forge documents, which makes Criminal Activities, Forgery sad.

The traditional 'make enslaved dumb animal carry your lazy biped ass' skill: "...when riding you receive your mount's/draft animal's movement rate and don't expend a lot of energy walking." One of the skills everyone gets, because all humans are exploitative monkeys.

Seven sub-areas:
  1. Horses, Mules and Asses
  2. Camels
  3. Elephants
  4. Racing
  5. Difficult/Unbroken Animals
  6. Mounted Combat
  7. Teamstering
Racing uses the Gambling mechanic, although why it's a sub-area in itself instead of just "resolve races using the Gambling mechanic and your Ride skill" is unclear.

Mounted Combat limits attack ability to Riding skill, but adds height advantage bonus to attacks. I have no idea how the two interact. Is height advantage bonus to weapon skill capped by Riding, or is it situational? We are not told. As Riding skill is a function of SEC you can expect upper class people to regularly beat your peon self from a great height.

We're also given a helpful table of sample trotting/running speeds so we don't need to refer back to the equipment section. Camels can't trot, apparently.

Operate ship, also navigating by sun, moon and stars (Why does the Navigation skill exist again?) No sub-areas, which is perfectly fine: it's not like ships are the most complex and diverse machines ever devised by pre-industrial man, or like ships and seamanship are integral parts of some of the greatest adventure stories in the canon of human story-telling. ("Rassa-frassa mid-western landlubber.")

Bend metal to your will. No rolls necessary, as banging on something will always make it do what you want eventually.

*pffft* Where's the skill in that? It's just a matter of time and repeated hitting.

No sub-areas, probably for some zen 'all metal-bashing is one' reason. Similarly no skill cross-feeds, not even to some of the Arms and Armour sub-areas you might think were related. Smithing/Welding adds to Heka, which gives me a new respect for the arcane knowledge possessed by MIG/TIG/dog welders.

Exploring and mapping caves without "...getting lost, falling, or running into pockets of poison gas." Completely distinct from Subterranean Aerth in that there are no cheesily named sub-areas: you either know caving, or you don’t.

Sublimated aggression displays, beloved of philosophers and the less academic kids.
  1. Mounted Individual Sports
  2. Mounted Team Sports
  3. Individual Non-Violent Sports
  4. Individual Violent Sports
  5. Team Sports
Mounted Individual = racing, hunting, jumping, jousting, etc. Would be less irritating if the Riding skill on the same page didn't already cover these. Cross-feeds 10% to and from Riding, which just heaps on the annoying.
Mounted Team = polo, buzkashi, pig-/peg-sticking, and such. Cross-feeds 10% to and from Riding.
Individual Non-Violent = tennis, golf, track-and-field, and about 90% of all other sports. Consult your GM for skill cross-feed.
Individual Violent = boxing, wrestling and "mock combat afoot". Sheer completism when Combat, HtH, Non-Lethal already exists.
Team Sports include lacrosse and "team mock combat". Cross-feeds Combat, Hand Weapons "...at the usual 10%." Fear the netballists!

Subterranean Orientation
Direction sense, like a pigeon. Also works above ground. Waste of words: Navigation already has a 'natural compass' ability.

This skill makes me both sad and angry. Surveillance/Security, is "...used when guarding or protecting an item from theft, acting as a bodyguard, or monitoring an area to prevent intrusion..." WAAHARGLBARGL! These are already covered by Perception checks, or by using stealth skills in opposed rolls, surely? You don't need a separate 'guard thing' skill! High skill level here apparently serves to "...negate Total and Natural Surprise"; a whole new area of (unexplained) Advanced Mythus mechanical jargon for us to toast.

Roll to not die of exposure/starvation/thirst/own stupidity in the wilderness. It's explained that arctic survival != desert, jungle or island survival, but apparently this isn't sufficiently important a distinction to merit sub-areas. We're informed that surviving indefinitely in a non-native environment would require a skill of 61+, which is (referring back to the skill level table on page 70) "Pioneer-level knowledge and mastery. Past-master skill." little short of Nobel prize skill.

I think you misheard me Edward. I said 'past mastery', not... Oh, never mind.

Swim speed is 25% walking pace, or up to 75% if you push yourself. This seems ...generous. Diving allows you avoid falling damage when dropping into water, according to the following table:

Increasing difficulty per 10 feet. Now where have we seen that before? *cough* monk *cough*

Pass = no falling damage
Fail = half normal falling damage
Fumble = falling damage is if hitting a solid surface

A column of 'resist alcohol/drug/poison by flexing' rules. I have no idea how the 'delay effect' rule of Tolerance interacts with Advanced Mythus other poison rules.

Because "save vs. poison" is just nonsensically simplistic.

Tourism skill. No, really. From the book:

This skill is just a *horf* of over-generalised hot nonsense which treads on the toes of several existing skills. Etiquette, Geography/Foreign Lands, Sociology/Culture (and arguably History, Law, Politics, etc.): all rendered worthless by one over-general catch all skill.
"Expert? Hah, your years of study and exploration are worthless in the face of my Lonely Hipster guide!"

Weapons, Special Skills
Specific tricks you can perform with weapons. In effect, 3E feats - specifically the crappy Fighter-only ‘pay to perform your class role’ ones - a decade early. Nothing you haven’t seen in RQ, WFRP, RoleMaster, etc.

Four sub-areas:
  1. Florentine
  2. Fast Draw
  3. Specific Target
  4. Blind Fighting
You know one trick per 25 skill points, and can apply it to one weapon skill sub-area per 10 skill points. Thankfully we’re offered a worked example, as the wording on how and when sub-areas are gained is less than optimally clear:

Florentine: two-weapon fighting. Base Attack Chance (or ‘Attack Bonus’ in Gamer Phoenician) is limited to the lower of weapon skill and Florentine skill. Ambidextrous people have no use for this sub-area.
Fast Draw: roll vs. a DR (varies by location of weapon) to draw weapon at no initiative penalty. Bit *meh*. I can see a way to make a fun fast-draw/iaijutsu mini-game out of this using the gambling rules. Gary seemingly couldn’t.
Specific Target: called shot. Roll to hit, then roll against this skill, to hit a specific body part. Fail on this skill means a roll on some Hit Location Table at +20, with 100 or more being a straight miss. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the Advanced Mythus hit location mechanics to decide if this ‘trade miss chance for greater accuracy’ effect is a worthwhile skill or not. Fading Suns’ Accenting rules did this better.
Blind Fighting: make a skill check at a DR of Hard (x1) or harder to ignore darkness/blindness penalties for 1d6 rounds.


And there we have the Advanced Mythus Physical skills. As a Frenchman might say, with a particularly world-weary Gallic shrug and a draw on his Galloise: "รงa existe."

This week’s trawl has not been a pleasant experience. Endless infuriating duplication, repetition and redundancy in skills; clumsy wording and opaque phrasing; and occasional claymore mines of poor design waiting in ambush. Little found here would be useful without enough rework to constitute starting from scratch.

Perhaps I should make the stretch to attempt a Mythus version of the D&D is always right thought experiment: but I just can't do it. Lord knows I’ve tried, but the assumptions and internal logic informing the design choices behind Advanced Mythus skills are so far removed from my own ingrained preferences that it’s like trying to comprehend the mores of an alien culture: weird, vertiginous, and sometimes a little nauseating. I like to think I’m a pretty broadminded guy, but I’ve almost lost count of the number of times reading this section has reduced me to "Why? Why would you even say/think/do that?" bewilderment in recent weeks.

Appraisal:14 sub-areas
Never forget

Next Week: we enter the rarefied world of Advanced Mythus Spiritual Skills, including the Gygaxian take on Metaphysics, Painting as spiritual exercise, and no less than 13 appearances by Featured Very Special Guest Star *That* Table. The madness commences next Monday with no less than 3+1/2 pages on Alchemy.

Pic Sources: Dangerous Journeys Mythus rulebook, Quenched Consciousness tumblr, Muppet Wikia, diylol.com, teh intarwubz


  1. From time to time, I have been tempted to bid on some of the copies of Dangerous Journeys that come up on EBay... if this article series accomplishes nothing else, know that the world is, in some small way, better for having, if not cured me, at least restored some sanity points... thank you

    1. You're welcome.

      Strange to say, but I don't consider the ££ I spent on Mythus entirely wasted. Even if I would never in a thousand years play the game, it's nice to have a copy as a cautionary style guide ("Do the _opposite_ of this") and a sort of alternate universe artefact ("What If: EGG was still at the helm for AD&D2E?"). It's ... both instructive and humbling, in a perverse way.

      Also, you can stun small animals with it.

  2. Music

    Seven sub-areas:

    1. A Cappella

    No Singing, complete with fuzzy and unconvincing argument to suggest that it is the same/different/same and different as this one? For shame, Gary.

    1. Silly Mr Green! A little thought would illuminate the salient fact that Singing is quite distinct from Music, and obviously a Spiritual K/S Area in its own right (just like Painting, Metaphysics, Creative Writing, Buffoonery and/or Necromancy). How charmingly amusing that you might think otherwise.

      (I don't even pretend to understand how and why Gary draws distinctions between skills where he does. The internal logic is too abstruse for my simple dice-chucking monkey brain to follow.)

    2. I am now thinking of a game in which the Big Six attributes are swapped out for Painting, Metaphysics, and the rest. It would still be 3d6 in order, of course.


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