Monday, 18 June 2012

Lets Read Mythus pt17

After a couple of weeks of slacking off like some kind of lazy slacking slacker from Slacksville it is time for the performing bogmonkey to once again shoulder the yoke and plough on with Let’s Read Mythus like he means it.

Having finished our extended swedge through skills - which has probably driven away all but the most ghoulishly fascinated of readers - we finally enter the dark and bloody ground that is Chapter 12: Combat. Or, as I prefer to think of it:

As anyone who has ever read an RPG may have anticipated, the Combat chapter of Advanced Mythus is a big brütal chunk of text and tables. To be precise it is no less than 67 pages (pp208-275) of the rulebook, which some people would consider enough space in which to write an entire game.

Thankfully for the sanity of all involved the Combat chapter is broken down into a series of largely self-contained sections, which seems to indicate that some proofreading and meaningful editorial input happened.

Not visible in this image: Physical Combat, Kitchen Sink

The delightful new discovery of clear and distinct subject headings does make my job of précis a little easier, but it’s still not exactly a walk in the park of RISUS-ine brevity.

I don’t exactly begrudge Mythus this profligate expenditure of page count for a couple of reasons you may (or may not) agree with. To whit:
  1. There is a lot of meat here. I mean a *lot*. Mythus combat appears to be substantially more involved than many well-loved classic "I roll to whack ‘im!" systems. I mean, you have rules here for about 8+ ways of thinking people to death even before you get to ‘how to stab’.
  2. Many gamers (at least in my experience) consider the combat chapter the point at which an RPG stands or falls. Rightly or not the logic seems to be that if a game can’t model combat in a coherent, interesting manner, then why trust that the designers did anything else right? Contrariwise: get the rules for the fast-moving, high-stakes situation of combat right, and you probably have a workable game chassis half done...

One last detail that may or may not be relevant: this chapter has a different page header image to the one found in the preceding chapters. The themed page headers are a nice touch, which makes for a handy 'flip to' guide if nothing else.

Not Frazetta by any stretch, but it fills the space

And now, to quote the opening sentence of the chapter: "So, the HPs have got themselves into a fight?" (Mythus, p208)

Advanced Mythus combat -- as those who have followed this archaeological misadventure since the Mythus Prime may expect -- is devoutly RPG orthodox:

Surprise > Initiative > Hit > Damage/Effect

Such adherence to the time-hallowed traditions of RPGs (and wargames) is only to be expected from the man instrumental in bringing us the RPG to which all others are mere 'fix this game' fantasy heartbreakers. For once in Advanced Mythus "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" appears to be a general governing principle.


Stuff you need to do before the glorious bloodletting can start. Hey, don't knock it; even the Vikings did their prep work before setting of on a slaughtering spree (their due diligence involved running longships over condemned prisoners: Mythus combat doesn’t quite ask that much).

(Just an aside: these boxouts are a godsend, and you can probably run combat based on them alone.)

Establish the Environment

Three paragraphs to tell us that the GM needs to decide who is where and what the local environment is like. The text adds very little to the boxed combat summary.

Determine Surprise

This section opens with the admonition that "The next thing to do before wading in and swinging is to determine whether either of the parties has surprise." You can tell someone was having fun writing the Combat chapter.

Natural Surprise
Not strictly 'surprise' as you or I might understand the word, Natural Surprise in Advanced Mythus actually covers everything that D&D did with its rules for encounter distances, evasion, and the like. Long story short: one side or other always gets Natural Surprise, and can choose to evade for 1d10 rounds, or peacefully confront for the purposes of parley, or attack (with automatic initiative in the first round). Sadly there’s no option in Advanced Mythus for hilariously dumb "stand and gawp at each other for up to two rounds" mutual surprise situations that could arise in AD&D.

Total Surprise
Again, not surprise according to a plain English interpretation of the word. Total Surprise covers ambushes (usually) planned and executed in advance through use of skills. Requires a skill roll against Criminal Activities, Physical (the Ambush or Hide sub-areas are suggested, which seems logical enough). It's suggested that the better the plan presented by the players, the easier the DR should be.
Success = your side gets a free round and automatic initiative (as Natural surprise) in the second round.
Crit = 2 free rounds + automatic first go in round three.
Fail = you only get Natural Surprise.
Fumble = you get no advantage. If the GM fancies the opposition might even gain Natural Surprise on you.

There’s also the option to try and enhance Natural Surprise to Total Ambushtastic Surprise without the benefit of prior planning by making individual "Moderate" DR Criminal Activities, Physical (Ambush) rolls for each ambusher. The rule is a bit odd, in that some having ambushers fail their rolls doesn’t negate the success of others. So you can still be ambushed by /some of/ a gang of bushwhackers, even though spotting their mates will have you on your guard. Oh well...

The whole Surprise section could do with a good hard proofreading. The text is ambiguous and poorly worded in places, and the rules for Natural vs. Total surprise could probably do with some re-ordering. You know: "Total Surprise? (Y/N), then Natural Surprise", rather than vice-versa. And the idea of partially successful ambushes still granting a free round of action ~and~ automatic initiative in the next round: that’s an outright unexploded minefield of arguments waiting to happen.

TL:DR: surprise rules in AM are passable, but nowt revolutionary. You probably have access to more entertaining rules already. *cough* GURPS Goblins *cough*

Initiative and Persona Actions

Strictly RPG Orthodox, albeit with the inevitable Advanced Mythus fiddlyness:
Declare action, and then roll 1d10 +/- modifiers.
  • One action/character/round. 
  • Actions taken in ascending order.

The basics are all there in the boxout. Additional details, worked examples and optional rules then pad this slick elegance out to a full two pages. (*gluk gluk*)

Stat modifiers to initiative are pretty intuitive ("A decent Physical Neural Speed score makes you a quicker shot. Makes sense"), but the Speed Factors definitely merit some additional mention. Yes you perverted, masochistic AD&D/OSRIC-lovers, that means exactly what you think. I’ll just leave you to go hog wild on these, shall I?

Everyone else: Speed Factors mean that anything and everything you might want your imaginary gonk to do modifies your stat-modified initiative score in some way. Speed Factors will probably be catnip to AD&D players.

They’re all a bit much for me though: I'm a dumb-and-happy 1d6/side/round Basic boy. YMMV.

There are some right howlers in the Initiative section, not least in the combat movement rules, which are vague enough to make abstract combat games like OD&D seem hardcore simulation-ey. Movement at full speed (modified by other actions taken) is assumed, so at least there’s no fiddly square counting. But this movement is abstracted as instantaneous, simultaneous and uninterruptible*. So, for all intensive porpoises, movement in baseline Advanced Mythus combat is by instajumping blinkyportation.

(* Wot, no Wait/Reserve Action option? Nope, sorry. Only an ‘elect to go last’ option. So no ‘waiting to react to his move’. Keeps things simple, but its likely to merrily kick immersion in the crotch.)

Want to half-move and attack? You can, but it costs you both penalties to initiative (move = 6 + weapon Speed Factor) at full whack. So your quick lunging dash into combat likely goes off *after* the other guy instantaneously moves (twice as far) away from your attack. No I’m not joking. I here quote: "...movement is always assumed to occur before combat in simultaneous action!" (AM, p211) Cheers.

*sits back to listen to the simulationist types froth and gnaw their shields*

Then there are the turboghouls in one of the worked examples. These guys close to melee range at a speed of 180 yards/CT, or 36 metres/second (about 80mph unless my maths has been adversely affected by the boozahol). Are speed freak biker ghouls a thing on Aerth then?

So standard Advanced Mythus initiative is a bit, let’s be nice and just say ‘wobbly on its feet’. The section might not fit  any of the strict catagories outlined for the Mythus Drinking Game but the sheer emergent oddness on offer is definitely worth a drink. *gluk gluk*

Optional Spacing of Actions
This rule, which moves things away from stop-motion combat into a more fluid form, seems a little RuneQuest inflected to me. You take one action, and then take your next action (move, attack, whatever) again every 10 -Attack-Ranks- initiative spaces later (faster for non-standard weapon attacks).

Martial artists: not dissimilar to Woody Woodpecker

The round ends once the slowest (highest Init score) character involved has taken an action.

For the purposes of unopposed (Total) Surprise rounds we’re told that 20 initiative counts = one CT (~5 seconds). So this rule offers the option of measuring actions in combat by the ¼-second, or about as fast as a human can consciously react. Even AD&D didn’t get this anal about things! "Granular enough for ya?"

One possible oversight: there's no guidance on how/if the Speed Factor rules for different actions (moving, tumbling, etc.) are supposed to interact with this optional system. Do you, for example, move 10 initiative positions after your initial action, or 16 later? Nope. Nothing. That could either indicate a lack of playtesting of this option, or just an implicit authorial view that such decisions are best left to the tastes of individual gaming group. Who knows?

Spaced Action Initiative would appear to change the dynamic of Mythus combat from the standard "Your init comes up: go nova, then stand around to survey the carnage" method to one with more ebb and flow within a round. Whether spending this additional time and bookkeeping on combat is your idea of fun is a personal matter. Would I use this? No. Oh dear lord no! But then I am a simpleminded creature who balks at anything more complex than "I go: you go". If you like the RQ combat action economy it might be worth a look.

One small mercy: at least the writers of Advanced Mythus didn’t go for a Judge Dredd RPG-style map of actions divided up by initiative segments.

Just goes to show: it could always be worse.
(Funky slant and drop shadow as original formatting)


Rules for avoiding unwanted situations if surprised. Not mentioned at all in the Combat Summary boxouts, which might have actually been helpful.

Given the examples on offer (avoiding bandits, dodging falling rocks, avoiding the gaze of a vampire and basilisk) these rules seem to combine into one simple rule everything divided up between the evasion tables and saving throws in all known forms of Classic D&D. This sort of universal mechanic appears more than a little lost and lonely in the ‘a rule for everything’ world of Advanced Mythus, but its brave, to say the least.

"Tell me little rule, are you quite certain that you are in the right place? 
This is Mythus you know. We’re all detailed-fixated neckbeards here..."

Avoidance is a straight d% roll against the combined Speed Attributes in a given trait  (sorry) TRAIT. So a Physical avoidance roll would be PMSpd + PNSpd, a Mental avoidance roll would be MMSpd + MRSpd, and a Spiritual one would be SMSpd + SPSpd. Factors against the HP (e.g. blast area effect) increase DR by 1 or more; factors in their favour (e.g. stuff to duck behind) make things easier. So, nice and simple, if a little swingy for some tastes.

It’s a GM call on whether a roll against Fort, Ref or Will Mental, Physical or Spirit is appropriate. Gee, did you see that silly Freudian slip there? How did that ever happen? Joking aside, the Advanced Mythus Avoidance mechanic is pretty much the D&D3E three save schema, as done first by Gary in 1992. So that’s yet another layer of irony to the claim that Gary was ripping off D&D.

Some guidance on what Avoidance roll to use when would have been nice, but the Mythus original sin (glossing over) leaves this mechanic open to all sorts of hilarious abuse by cunning players. Can you resist an unexpected rock fall or ambush with a Mental Avoidance roll? Rules don’t say no. Why not see if you can sell it to your GM?

"I disbelieve the incoming arrows and demands that we surrender or die."

You know, between the turboghouls, stop-motion combat solipsists, gangs of wandering murderchemists, and crushing economic inequality the implicit setting of Advanced Mythus is beginning to seem like a pretty cool place: more like The Muppets Take Athas than Epic of Aerth (*spit*).

Mental Combat

Giving people terminal ice cream headaches in Advanced Mythus is easy and fun:

Step 1: have access to mind-affecting powers, spells or skills
Step 2: establish contact by staring at them, bidding Heka vs. their mental defences
Step 3: expend more Heka the following round to take a blender to their precious cranial matter
Step 4: maniacal laughter

The full and official summary is as follows:

No maniacal laughter step? For shame!

Hmmm. The mechanics presented here -- link, then activate power -- smell more than a little like the AD&D2E psionics mechanic, which dates to the Complete Psionics Handbook © 1991. Given that I’ve no idea who, if anyone, was cribbing off whose notes let’s just chalk this similarity up to parallel idea development.

Several paragraphs of jargon-rich textual commentary restate in more words the delicious brevity of the summary, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one by now (*gluk gluk*). The reader is warned that someone who has no relevant skills won’t even know that a mind-wizard is hobnailing about their consciousness, and certainly won’t be able to fight back. So that’s the Muggle vocations fuxxored them. We’re also cautioned that Cranial Lobe Fighting only works on entities that actually have minds: you cannot brainstab plants or inanimate objects. Spirits and demons, fine: domestic furnishings, no.

We’re also given a paragraph on expected outcomes of Mental Combat skill rolls. This is a chunk of very useful mechanical info’ which would have been better placed in a table, not lost in the textwalls. Basically, using any mental power requires a skill roll, which can have the following effects:
Pass = You're in thur brain, killing thur cells
Crit = Your thrusting invasive presence is HUEG and causes double damage
Fail = Their lobes are unresponsive to your sultry blandishments. No further mental attacks for 1 AT (5 minutes)
Fumble = You dun sprained your third eye and suffering 3d6 Mental damage. No Mental Attacks for the rest of the day.

There are four types of mental effect in Advanced Mythus: Drain, Paralyse, Derange and Control. Each has distinct effects and comes complete with a worked example. Helpful. (Good Mythus! Have a cookie.)

Drain -- symptoms include "...numbing fear, shock, panic and confusion." Cost to establish link = victim’s MRCap, with a successful attack causing 1 point of Mental damage per Heka expended. The victim becomes Dazed and has to make an Insanity check once they have taken their EL* in Mental damage, and a drooling vegetable once they’ve taken damage = Mental TRAIT. There are lots of useful page references to OMJ** terms and related materials here, which is nice.

* You remember this from back in chargen, right? It’s a damage threshold thingie.
** OMJ = Official Mythus Jargon: usually capitalised, often acronymic, and generally non-intuitive. Not to be confused with OMD.

Paralyse -- symptoms include being "...immobilised and unable to think clearly". Cost to establish link = victim’s MRPow + MRSpd, which seems costly until you recall that paralysis is generally a "save or lose" effect in most RPGs. If damage caused either raises Mental damage past their EL, or exceed their MRPow + MRSpd in one attack, the target is paralysed for BTs (30 seconds) = excess damage. It the attack meets both criteria the target is paralysed for both durations in sucession.

Seems pretty straightforward. But this is definitely not the plain old "save vs. paralysis" all Classic D&D players know and love. Why not? Well, mental paralysis effects in Advanced Mythus stack. An already paralysed victim can be stunlocked much more easily: they are paralysed for additional BTs = total (not excess) damage inflicted. They can also be mindwiped by spamming enough paralysis damage to exceed their Mental TRAIT. If the latter happens to an otherworldly/spirit entity it is banished from this plane. If it happened to an HP, well, prepare to spend the rest of the evening rolling a new dude.

Derange -- symptoms include "...short-term Insanity". An attack to Derange is a bit different from other Mental Attacks in that the cost to establish a link = target’s Mental TRAIT and the effect (induced insanity) takes effect immediately. Each point of Heka expended above the target’s Mental TRAIT drives them insane for 1 AT (5 minutes), /cumulative/. The worked example cites an attack expending 100 Heka vs. a target with a Mental TRAIT of 90 which leaves them exploring the outer reaches of unreason for 55 AT (10 + 9 + 8 + ...), or about 4+1/2 hours.

Control -- symptoms include "...victims move slowly, [...] as if they were a somnambulist". Cost to establish a link = target’s MR Category (or half this if they’re over their Mental EL). Exerting control is then either a skill roll, contested only if the target is Heka-active, otherwise just roll the dice:
Pass = w00t! New thrall who does your bidding slowly, as if Dazed
Crit = Your new mindbitch obeys with dexterity and alacrity (not Dazed, still your puppet)
Fail = Nope, wasted that Heka.
Fumble = They are thoroughly no'mpressed and are immune to your control attempts for 24 hours.

Being controlled causes 3 points of Mental damage per hour to the victim, but does render the controlled being immune to further Mental or Spirit attacks (which rule seems tailor-made for cunning player exploitation...). Duration is indefinite, but the invoker of a Control effect usually cannot cast any other effect while their maintain their control. Exception: unlike auras, psionic or innate ‘charming’ abilities Control spells are fire-and-forget.

The Mental combat mechanics are quite crunchy, and could easily be retrofitted by those Classic game GMs looking to give a little add variety to paralysis, insanity or charm/complusion effects.

Spiritual Combat

As with Mental Combat the deadly art of soul wrestling is quick and simple, and will ideally end up with bits of soul ground into the carpet:

Spiritual Combat is not usable on plants or animals. Has a Speed Factor of 5, whereas Mental Attacks have an effective Speed Factor of 0. So in Advanced Mythus punching someone in the soul is slower than abusing their mind. Go figure. On the other hand it does say that range is limited by perception, so the potential for sly lazy man's scry-and-die Spirit assault shenanigans (try saying that three times fast!) is wide open.

There are four Spiritual attack forms, of varying utility. These are: Weaken, Demoralise, Confound, and Subvert. Which incidentally would make a great title for a Burning Wheel-style social combat chapter.

Weaken -- symptoms include " overwhelming sense of apathy, hopelessness, failure, and depression." (aka ‘that Mythus Monday feeling’). Weaken is perhaps best typified as the voracious violation of volition power. It requires Heka = target’s SMCap to forge a link, and then costs one Heka per point of Spirit damage. When damage = Spirit EL the person becomes completely demotivated and apathetic. They won’t move or eat without coaxing, and won’t attack or defend themselves at all. Oh, and they have to make an Insanity check to avoid slipping into catatonia. Damage = Spirit TRAIT reduces the target to a will-less zombie permanently controlled (as the Control Mental attack) by their attacker. So that’s save-or-lose with a side order of character hijack. Nasty!

Demoralise -- covers both fear effects and what players of Classic D&D would call Turning effects. The mechanic applies equally to both the living and the undead (no exception-based "Immune to fear" antics here). If the Spirit damage caused by this attack exceeds the target’s SMPOw+SPPow they will leg it for AT = excess damage. Doesn’t affect anyone who has already taken their EL in Spirit damage: they’re too spiritwracked to care.

One thing which occurs to me is that nowhere in Advanced Mythus have I yet seen any reference to mundane options to intimidate/put the fear into opponents. UWP* strikes again.

* Unconscious Wizard Privilege. Perhaps best summed up as "What do you mean, non-casters should get nice things and the chance to play the whole game?" A longstanding unspoken assumption in RPGs.

Confound -- essentially ‘cause stupidity’. Costs Heka = Spirit TRAIT and results in the victim being Confounded* for 1 CT = excess Heka expended. The target is also unable to use any Spiritual or Mental Heka abilities for 1 AT per point of damage. They can use Physical Heka abilities, but seriously, how often is that going to be an option. This attack has no effect on someone who has taken more than their EL in Spirit damage.

* The definition of the Confounded effect is another instance of the annoying tendency towards circular cross-referencing in the Mythus index. There is no definition in the Attack to Confound description to explain what being confounded actually entails in game terms. Can a character make use of Mental skills while confounded? Refer to Confound in index. "See Attack." Look under Attack, where we find "Confound p214". Which is right back where we started. If that’s intended as an editorial in-joke (like the duplicate deja-vu psionic power descriptions in the 3E Psionics Handbook) it’s not one I find amusing.

Subvert -- symptoms include "...act[ing] as if of the opposite moral persuasion", which sounds like nothing so much as the infamous old helm of opposite alignment. Expending Heka above the target’s Spirit TRAIT turns them into a sneaky traitor intent on furthering the subverter’s nefarious agenda for 1 AT per excess Heka. A subvertee won’t directly attack their former friends, but will indirectly put them in harm’s way. What exactly this entails is left entirely to the discretion of the gaming group, which just seems like a recipe for squabbling and logic chopping.

Unlike the Mental attack to Control there’s no need for a Subverting attacker to puppet-master their new buddy; the convert operates normally and at no penalties. Subverted characters can resist once per AT according to the Spirit Combat Summary sidebar and can be counter-subverted by their allies if correctly diagnosed.

I’m not sure of the utility of Subversion as written. It seems to be another sneaky scry-and-die exploit, which, thanks to the inherent information asymmetry of RPGs, will greatly favour the GM.

The Spirit Attacks could definitely do with a little honing and planishing. Weaken is an outright killer, and Demoralise is a semi-decent save-or-suck mechanic. By contrast Confound and Subvert are the victims of poor editing and insufficient development. Both of the latter are so broad reaching that a sight more definition and clarification wouldn’t go amiss. As written neither is something you’d look at twice: there are easier ways to get what you want.

And then, to cap it all, the terminal paragraph of the Spiritual Combat section just exacerbates the situation:

So there are Spirit versions of the Mental attack forms too? That seems a little redundant. Are you going to tell us anything about them? No. Ok then.

In conclusion: Poor-to-middling, and not suited for my game anyway. Pass, though YMMV.

Heka-Based Attacks

A slight misnomer, given that both the preceding section were also technically about Heka-based attacks. This is actually the ‘cause Physical damage with Heka’ spell-chucking section of the combat rules. It’s a pretty substantive chunk of stuff; no less than 5 pages on putting the hurting on someone with magic. Lotsa tables, lotsa little details to be teased out and examined for value.

Attack Forms

Four types: Targeted, Area Effect, Summoned Spirits/Creatures, and Illusions.  At first glance this just looks like some serious ‘defining for the sake of it’ *gluk gluk* territory. However a little bit of digging turns up all sorts of unconsidered trifles.

Specific Target -- a catch-all category covering any spell with a one person area of effect: defensive spells, magic missiles, "...gravity-modifying Castings"(!), and so forth. This section has passing references to casters being able to absorb incoming Heka and cautions about the hazards of overload on same. All this implies some kind of magic duelling mechanic -- no page reference though, shame. There’s also an unelaborated hanging reference to something called Negative Heka, which appears to absorb a character’s inherent Heka.

Area Effect -- everything from fireballs to weather manipulation to anti-Heka effects. Can be absorbed or resisted to Heka Armour, but not negated by Magick Resistance (which is probably the Advanced Mythus equivalent of the powered-by-arbitrarium Magic Resistance ability possessed by some of AD&D’s more powerful monsters).

A Heka-based Area Effect Attack in action, yesterday

Summoned Spirits/Creatures -- "Minions. Kill that asshole over there!" That is all.

Illusions -- these are pretty nasty under the Advanced Mythus magickqykc system, causing damage and/or killing outright. Must either be dispelled or interrupted by Dazing/KOing the caster! An illusion can be disbelieved with a "Very Difficult" roll vs SP but only "...if the target knows it is an illusion". Information asymmetry makes the players the GM's bitches once more.

Attack Methods

Three types: Castings, Heka Powers, Magickal Devices. Castings go off the following round, Heka Powers straight away, Magickal Devices are ‘refer to user manual’. Just replace the OMJ terms with the D&D equivalents of 'spells', 'SLA', and 'magic item' and you have a pretty solid handle on what's what here.

It's kind of interesting to see how EGG restates the magical effects rules of D&D without actually using any of the jargon which /he himself established/. Makes me wonder if we’re going to see Not Brand X references to ‘Brain Flayer’ and ‘Regarder’ monsters in the Bestiary section.

The basics out of the way we get the Heka-Based Combat Summary. Sadly this is something of a dense mess compared to other Combat Summary tables. For example: section A2 under Activating the Casting. That’s at least three or four separate operations kludged together under one heading. A sad drop in standards from the otherwise clear and usable Combat summaries we’ve already seen. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself:

Dense, isn’t it?

Attack Process

And, at last, 217 pages into the book, we have actual game mechanics for how to smack people in the face with magic(k).

Chance of Success
Hitting dudes dans la bouche with your accumulated magic princess pixie sparkle power is a function of your character’s Heka-active skills. The rules are more than a little reminiscent of Chainmail, with variable chance of successful casting based on relevant skill level and Casting Grade (trans. ‘spell level).

Most casters are limited to Castings = their level on our old friend That Damn Table. There is, of course, an exception for Special Snowflake Teachers Pets Full Practitioners, who once again get preferential treatment. You remember Full Practitioners, right? Smarmy silver spoon sucking b*st*rds who rolled well in chargen, and then got lucky on a die roll when they picked a Vocation. These living offences against character balance get the following additional perks:
  • a bonus DR shift when casting a spell in their pet school/ethos
  • the ability to try and cast spells above their pay grade
Of course, Mythus being Mythus it couldn’t possibly be as simple as ‘cross reference your skill with Casting Grade, modify skill, roll’, so we’re offered an additional table of Casting DR Modifiers.

So now it goes: cross-reference skill against Casting Grade, modify DR by circumstances, modify skill, roll’. Nice and simple and mathematically transparent, n'est-ce pas?

After all that palaver you’ll be glad to hear that if your spell does goes off it hits the designated target automagically. Spells don’t require a roll against BAC (Mythus for ‘hit roll’), nor do they roll for hit location.

Spell damage absorption is based on the average of the target’s armour. Thankfully the calculations involved in working that out are the target’s problem, not yours.

Special Success/Failure
Heka-based Attacks in Advanced Mythus can crit or fumble, which is a nice change from the fire-and-forget reliability of magic in D&D.

Crit = Maximum possible damage
Minimal Success (someone blocks the spell by spending Joss) = minimum possible damage
Fumble = roll on the Special Failure, Heka-Based Attack table, d% minus your skill:

Pretty prosaic. Seen better. Stormbringer and WFRP chuckle quietly to themselves.

Damage Types
Heka-based attacks usually deliver one or more types of energy or physical effect, some of which are more than slightly reminiscent of the D&D damage types finally formalised in 3E [link to SRD]. The nine commonest effects are:
  1. Piercing
  2. Cutting
  3. Blunt
  4. Fire
  5. Chemical
  6. Stunning
  7. Electrical
  8. Impact
  9. Continuing

Some damage types have special rules, which each get a paragraph or so of text on p219.

Stunning -- concussive force.  If Stunning damage exceeds the target’s PNCap Attribute they go spark out for BT = the excess damage. Only 20% of stun damage counts as actual Physical damage.  That’s a nice little overpressure/blast rule there.

Impact -- hits across a broad area ignoring physical armour, which grants you legitimate free rein to howl "Ze armour, it does nuthink!" in your best cod-Mitteleuropan accent. Falling damage and 10-ton rocks give the gift of Impact damage.

Explosive -- area effect damage. Does multiplied damage (termed Exposure) to targets. The primary target suffers x1d6 damage; anyone else in the blast area suffers x1d3 the listed damage. Enjoy your pain and screaming.

Continuing -- damage that just keeps on giving. Re-roll and apply damage again at the end of successive CTs until you rid yourself of whatever is causing the hurt. Acid, being on fire, bagpipes, etc.

Completists and nitpickers (probably the only type of people who have actually managed to get this far into the Lets Read Mythus experience) may also remember Electrical damage, which appears to be tragically overlooked on the table above. Leccy causes more damage the more metal armour you wear. A quick flick through the index reveals that the rules for electrical damage in Advanced Mythus are hived off in the Damage from Other Physical Injury section, which is much, much later in the combat chapter. Ditto the full rules for the sweet, blessed caress of lovely, lovely fire, which does at least get a passing nod above.

Applying Damage from Heka-based Attacks
There’s about a page on how you work out averaged armour values against Heka-based attacks. Yes, it’s a necessary element of the rules, but even for Advanced Mythus this is some dry, dull stuff. The sheer ‘RoleMaster for the accountancy crowd’ feel of this section is perhaps best represented by the example table of averaged armour:

Will to live ...fading.

I’m sure that’s very important and useful, but boy does it look too much like actual skull-sweat-involving work for my tastes.

And with final cheerful reminders that especially bad things happen when damage taken exceed a character’s Effect, Wound and/or Critical Level, or -- Heaven forefend! -- TRAIT score, we’re done with Heka-based attacks.

Could you exploit these rules for a Classic game? Well Doug Easterley did something with a Chainmail-derived magic system in his Savage Swords of Athanor a while back, and I understand that Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics also goes down the path of duelling wizards doing something other than just firing rote spell at one another. So it’s definitely possible. But then again, Classic D&D is so simple and robust you can slap almost any magic system onto it, up to and including the ones from Ars Magica and/or Vampire: the Gothening.

Personal quibbles about Spiritual attack forms, poor layout, and sheer wordiness aside there are definitely some stealables in this section. So cheers. (*gluk gluk*)

Next Time: we get down and dirty with the deadly Mugglicious arts of punchjutsu and fechtschtabben, aka Physical Combat.

Pic Source: Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, HOL rulebook, Judge Dredd RPG (GW 1985), JollyJack's Spider & Scorpion, teh intarwubz


  1. This week's challenge: write up a statblock for a Ghoul, Turbo.

    Sadly there’s no option in Advanced Mythus for hilariously dumb "stand and gawp at each other for up to two rounds" mutual surprise situations that could arise in AD&D.

    I'd forgotten about that!

    The text is ambiguous and poorly worded in places

    How unusual!

    Speed Factors will probably be catnip to AD&D players.

    Of course. The thing to import wholesale from That Game is one of the systems no one ever used.

    This rule, which moves things away from stop-motion combat into a more fluid form, seems a little RuneQuest inflected to me.

    It's a little bit RuneQuest, but it also looks a lot like Shadowrun.

    1. This week's challenge: write up a statblock for a Ghoul, Turbo.

      We hear and obey, oh gonchong. Just looking for pics to kludge together in an accompanying lazy-ass visual collage.

  2. Link Then Command is the process of "Active Magic" in Fantasy Wargaming, which predates all of this stuff by a decade. Were the TSR folks and Gary cribbing from one of the earlier fantasy heartbreakers? Who knows, but it does look suspicious.

  3. You are my hero for doing this. No scratch that - you are my heroic persona for doing this... uh, sorry, you are my HP. This weeks episode has left me feeling weakened, demoralized, confounded, and subverted. In a good way [though not good in an alignment sense as alignment is too AD&D]


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