Monday 25 February 2013

Lets Read Mythus pt 23

This week in Let's Read the Garynomicon we'll look at the sample Dweomercraeft (wizardin') and Priestcraeft (godbotherin') Castings on offer to players who foolishly assumed that Dangerous Journeys: Mythus was a complete game in itself.

Reading scores of Mythus spells castings descriptions: it'll do that to ya.

For those playing along at home we're starting on page 278 of the big brown book. Expect the usual acronyms, neologisms, and wordiness, and - for this week only - the introduction of an additional rule: drink once each time you've seen this somewhere before.

Sample Castings

Casting Grades (aka Spell Level in D&D-ese) I-V, 3-5 example castings per level.

Casting time is included in the name of the spell. This wouldn't be so annoying except that the text explaining required casting time isn't even listed in this chapter. The casting times are all the way back in the Mythus Prime section on p22! "Put magickal casting times in the magic chapter? Oh what a card you are my lad..." For the record:

Mythus Casting Times
Eyebite - instantaneous
Charm - 1 CT (3 seconds)
Cantrip - 5 CT
Spell - 1 BT (30 seconds)
Formula - 5 BT
Ritual - 1+ AT (5 minutes)

Oh, and the E/F/M notation that precedes the descriptive text of each spell. If you check Mythus Magick you discover it means "Effect, Force, Material". So "spell effect" in any game that got edited to make sense to the people of Earth.

Dweomercraeft I

Armor, Physical Cantrip
Anti-kinetic energy effect. Useless against Mental or Spirit attacks.
Costs the base 20 Heka + 1 per point of protection desired to to a max = Caster's Mental TRAIT. Lasts 50 minutes, or until destroyed.
Basically a fiddly combination of the D&D spells mage armour and stoneskin. Sucks.

Detect Heka Spell
*ping* presence, type, source and strength of Heka in a 1 Rod radius.
Detect magic, innit.

Reflections Spell
Basic scrying spell. Requires a reflective surface.
Spy on someone for 5 mins per 10 STEEP.
Difficulty depends on how far away they are and how well you know them.
Lead, stone and various dweomers block your tele-perving.

Trigger Effect Formula
Creates trigger for other magical effects. Used in conjunction with another casting. Description is gobbledegook.

Remember the nightmare of nested effects that was 3E contingency? All that for 20 Heka. *shudder*

Wickaflame Charm
Spark 1 or more small non-magical flames in existing tinder. Range is 1 Rod per 10 STEEP.
Probably meant to be a "wave hands, lamps light" spell; actually an arsonist's charter.

Dweomercraeft II

Armor, Mental Cantrip
Anti-brainfondling defence.
35 Heka + 1 per point of Mental defence. Max = Mental TRAIT if caster is Full Practitioner Master Race, MRCap if Partial Practitioner Untermensch.
Otherwise as Armour, Physical Cantrip above.

Forcedart Charm
Creates a single "dart-sized missile of golden energy".
Dart does 2d6+1 per 10 STEEP Physical Impact damage at a range of up to 1 chain per 10 STEEP.
Hits unerringly, ignores physical armour. Muggles cri moar plz.
A magical missile you say? How unprecedented.

Heka Trap Spell
Magic landmine on on object that endures until triggered.
Say the wizard's chosen safe word or take damage = 3d6(+caster's MRCap+any extra he buys at 1:1 Heka). Damage is any non-continuing type.
Boring "gotcha!" version of a guards and wards effect.

Ritual of the Heart Ritual
Expend a week, Heka equal to 2xSpirit TRAIT and make a DR "Hard" Dweomercraeft roll to bind a 'mascot' or totem item.
Why would you want to do this? Refer to Mythus Magick for more.
This casting is one you may find familiar (pun intended, for once).

Dweomercraeft III

Armor, Spiritual Casting
50 Heka +1 per point of Spirit defence.
Doesn't prevent attempts to forge Spiritual Links, just grants ablative soul padding.
Otherwise as Armor, Mental casting.

Avoid Heka Attack Ritual
Grants an Avoidance roll (aka Saving Throw) against any one Heka-powered effect.
Base chance to avoid is the average of your Physical Speed scores + 10% of you STEEP in the skill used to create the effect. This chanced is then modified by arbitrary GM-fiat difficulty levels.
Don't waste your Heka.

Heka Darts Charm
Creates multiple darts (1 per 10 STEEP), each doing 1d6+2 Physical Piercing damage at a range of 1 yard/STEEP. Darts Strike unerringly and ignore physical armour.
Several magical missiles, eh? The innovation! It burns!!!

Implant Spell
Photographic memory of written text for 24 hours. Caster can duplicate anything memorized for the duration of the casting.
Semi-interesting, I might use that in a Classic game. Actual usefulness, is that you? *gluk gluk*

Dweomercraeft IV

Armor, Heka Cantrip
75 Heka +1 per point of anti-Heka armour.
Otherwise as Armor, Mental Casting.

Barrier Formula
Magical electric fence in 1 foot radius/STEEP.
Lasts 5 minutes per STEEP +5 mins per Heka spent.
Barrier causes 1d3+1 damage to any creature touching it. Physical beings take Physical damage, otherworldly beings and ghosts take Mental or Spirit damage.
A creature damaged must save or, sorry, wrong game make a DR "Hard" check against its PNPow (or MRPow, or SSPow *gluk gluk*): success = pass through barrier taking an additional 1d6+1 damage, fail = recoil.
Successive tests to push through the barrier are at DR "Moderate" for 2nd attempt, "Easy" for the 3rd.
Non-absolute protection from evil spell. May be of interest for your Classic game if you dislike the existing spell.

Mask Heka Spell
Renders the Heka aura of an object or area undetectable.
Up to 1 rod diameter per 10 STEEP. Permanent until dispelled.
Masking an area from Supernatural and Entital Heka requires additional castings.

Dweomercraeft V

Cloud of Magick Spell
Heka smoke bomb.
Lasts 5 minutes per 10 STEEP and makes everything in a 1 foot diameter per STEEP *ping* equally when detected for Heka.

Heka Bolt Charm
Straight line burst of Heka hitting every target in a line out to 1 furlong.
Does 5d6 Physical Piercing damage +1d6 per 10 Heka to a maximum of 10d6.
Hits unerringly. Ignores physical armour.
Wizard HAET queueing!

Invisible Alert Formula
Creates an alarm bubble up to STEEP feet in diameter.
Lasts 1 AT per STEEP + 1 AT per Heka spent.
Any physical thing ("...including gaseous liquid...") entering this zone of misanthropy alerts caster to "...direction of passage, point of breach, and who or what passed into or out of the sphere."
Might be useful for paranoid sleeping wizard, except: nocturnal animals exist, that is all.

Priestcraeft, General
Rites and rituals which affect only those who follow a particular ethos (white hat, black hat, one of Mythus' three shades of ambiguous hat), pantheon or religion.

Priestcraeft General I
Rites Ritual
Seven quasi-sacramental rites:
  • Birth
  • Death
  • Marriage
  • Separation/Divorce
  • Acceptance of Ethos, Pantheon and Deity
  • Service
  • Penitence
Regular participation in these rites is required to keep in good standing with one's religion.
Basically the clerical ceremony spell from Unearthed Arcana.

Priestcraeft General II
Blessing, Minor, Spell
One-off +/-5 bonus to next die roll.
May only be cast on person who follows the same pantheon.
Yeah, the bless spell for a percentile system. It's even reversible.

Priestcraeft General III
Consecration Formula
Hallows a sacramental object or area so that any sacrilegious action or profane touch causes 1d3 Spirit damage to anyone not of the ethos. Damage from multiple acts of desecration stack.
A direct damage equivalent to the d20 SRD hallow spell?

Priestcraeft General IV
Blessing, Major Ritual
Negates opposing curses resulting from Grade I or II Castings, or grants +/-10 bonus to one die roll. Can also be used for non-mechanical social effect (blessing crops, animals, ships, etc.) if you want to burn Heka for the sake of seeing the peasants smile.
Additional subjects can be blessed in the face for 5 Heka each.

Priestcraeft General V
Guidance Spell
Allows the caster to bother Upstairs for advice, or to give good counsel to others in accordance with the tenets of their ethos, pantheon and religion. Anyone following the advice enjoys the benefit of the Blessing, Minor Casting.
A classic 'clue me' spell, with a minor mechanical benefit. Is a clue worth +65 Heka to you?

Priestcraft, Basic
Common spells. Less 'pastoral care' than General Castings.

Priestcraeft Basic I

Lightsee Charm
Causes 1 object per 10 STEEP to glow like a candle for 5 minutes per STEEP.
Renders books readable, dark passages navigable, etc.
Light is visible from 100 yards in darkness.
A less torch-negating light spell.

Prayer Cantrip
Increases the STEEP of one of the caster's K/S Areas by 10 for about 2 minutes.
Can be used to enhance caster's own Priestcraeft K/S for cheesy synergy shenanigans.
Half the Casting description is spent advising the GM to punish uses of this spell which are contrary to the ethos of the caster.
Interesting meta-magic effect, not sure if it would be back compatible to Classic games.

Produce Meal Ritual
Produces one typical priest's meal (as appropriate for the religion) per 10 STEEP.
So: 20 Heka/day, no expenditure on rations.

Pronouncement Spell
Caster spends 1 Battle Turn (30 seconds) pulling rank and proclaiming [preferred flavour of god] is on our side. The player is required to state exactly how 'we're right, they're wrong' today.
All within 1 chain radius enjoy/suffer a half-strength version of the DR modification granted by Joss in their support/opposition to the stated fact.
An actual worked example would have been helpful here.
Pronouncement can also compel agreement and obedience from any co-religionist with a lower STEEP than the caster. This lasts 1 AT per STEEP.
A supercharged version of command affecting a 40yd diameter? Not bad for 20 Heka.

Smokecloud Formula
Generates stable, non-moving incense smoke (complete with caster-selected scent) in 1 foot radius per STEEP.
The smoke lasts 1 AT per 10 STEEP and reduces visibility to 6 feet.
Fog cloud, sponsored by AirWick?

Priestcraeft Basic II

Healing, Minor Formula
Restores Physical damage: 2d3 damage per 10 STEEP of the caster.
Touch range, instantaneous effect.
CLW. That is all.

Heal Mental Damage Ritual
Restores Mental damage to someone other than the caster: 1d6 damage per 10 STEEP of the caster.
Touch range, instantaneous effect.

Meditate Spell
Allows meditating casters in a 1 square rod/10 STEEP area to gain the benefits of an hour of meditation in 5 minutes.
D&D4E style short rests: done first by EGG.

Rightcourse Cantrip
Divinatory casting which indicates whether a given course of action will result in transgressions against the ethos of the caster.
No idea why this has an area of effect, duration and range.
Spend 35 Heka to play "Mother may I" as an in-game effect? Not to all tastes. Pass.

Priestcraeft Basic III

Bounds of Action Charm
Restricts a physical target to a 1 rod radius area centred on their current location for 1AT per 10 STEEP.
There's a paragraph of rules about breaking free of this effect, but its limited to characters with a PMPow (aka Str) of 30+.
This is an interesting, pulpy variation on the old standby of hold person.

Enhance Spiritual Power Formula
Boosts the caster's Spiritual Mental Power and Spiritual Psychic Power to the maximum Capacity possible for each Attribute for a duration of 1AT/10 STEEP.
If no increase is possible then both Attributes are enhanced by +1 each instead.
Resembles nothing so much as the stat enhancing spells of the SRD.

Enlightenment Ritual
The player gets to ask the GM one "Yes/No" question about past events or contemplated activites, which must be answered truthfully.
Another "clue me" spell, one with echoes of the contact other plane Classic D&D spell.

Heka Defences Cantrip
Grants the target 1d6(+caster's SMCap if a Full Practitioner, SMPow only is Partial Practitioner) protection which wards against all damage types.
Otherwise similar to the Physical, Mental or Spirit Armor cantrips.

Priestcraeft Basic IV

Protection from Lightnings Spell
Generates a magical Faraday cage of 1 yard diameter/10 STEEP centred on the caster.
The spell dissipates _dice_ of electrical damage equal to the caster's STEEP (1/2 STEEP if a Partial Practitioner).
A nice counter-balance to the hair-raising (no pun intended) power of electricity in Advanced Mythus.

Sanctification Ritual
Can either double the damage inflicted by the Consecration Formula (above), or can be used to enhance a single consecrated object (for example, the priest's holy symbol). For each 100 Heka expended the sanctified object will cause 1d3 Mental and Spiritual damage on sight, 2d3 Physical damage upon touch, to any being of an opposed ethos within a 1 rod radius.
An interesting variation on clerical turning. Probably a bit number-crunchy for players of Classic games though.

Wound, Spiritual Charm
Causes Spirit damage of 1d6(+1d6 per 10 extra Heka, max added dice = 1/10th caster's STEEP) to one target within yards = STEEP.

Priestcraeft Basic V

Heal the Soul Spell
Heals Spirit damage: 1d6 per 10 STEEP (1d3 per 10 STEEP if Partial Practitioner).
The target must be of the same ethos as the caster.

Thunderbolt Cantrip
Calls a lightning bolt from the blue within 1 yard/STEEP.
This causes 5d3(x1d6 Exposure roll) Electrical Physical damage to the primary target and 3d3(x1d3) to all subjects within a 1 rod radius.
The accompanying thunder startles all creatures with a Mental Reasoning Power (aka Intelligence) of 10 or less; startled creatures run in panic for 1d3 Critical Turns (or stampede if animals).
A numerically fiddly version of D&D's call lightning spell with a nice panic!!! fillip.

Word of Command Charm
Causes 1 subject(+1/10 STEEP) within earshot to obey a single word command for the next CT.
This is the Classic D&D command spell, right down to the proviso that "Die!" results in auditors only appearing dead for one round CT.


If you're at all familiar with any of the spell lists from Classic D&D your deja vu will be going nuts by now (feel free to drink until it abates). The Castings on offer indicate a typically Gygaxian folkloric implied setting; one where wizards lurk over scrying pools, sling various sizes and shades of burning arcane arrow, and leave cursed objects lying around, while priests alternately bless their flock and call high-amperage arcs from the sky onto the heads of the unbelievers, etc.

Some of the spell variations from the more familiar D&D norms are interesting (and the similarities are certainly not worth a lawsuit); it's just a shame the spell names are so, soooooooooooo tin-eared. Seriously, "Ritual of the Heart Ritual" is only the stand out offender in a full and busy field: "Summon Familiar" is quicker to say, conveys more information, and doesn't repeat itself in an awkward Dept of Redundancy Dept way. Once again Advanced Mythus reminds us that editing is not optional.

In the Small Mercies column of the ledger: at least the bad joke that was material components didn't make it into Advanced Mythus.

Next Time: Apotropaism, Astrology, Herbalism and Mysticism Castings.

Pic Source: teh intawubz

Monday 18 February 2013

Lets Read Mythus pt22

Today's subject for dissection in the ongoing Let's Read Mythus debacle is Chapter 13: Heka and Magick. Please be warned that this post may contain higher than recommended levels of gibberish and is likely to induce second-hand outbreaks of:

The customary rules apply, with an additional fillip that one should also drink every time the reader is prompted to "buy our other book for full details of this". Because nothing builds bonhomie like a naked cash-grab.

Heka and Magick is a self-confessed crippleware chapter comprising pp276-294 of the Dangly Jibblets: Minkdust rulebook. The introductory paragraph admits that the Castings which follow are no more than "...a sample listing of basic Castings, sufficient to get your campaign off the ground." Where can you get the full skinny on casting in Mythus? Well, if you said in the Mythus Magick book (sold separately), then reward yourself with a drink.

So what do we actually get for our money? Two pages of poorly cross-referenced rules/notes text and a bunch of what anyone not being trollsued out of the industry by Lorraine Williams would just call 'spell descriptions'. Oh, and a new page header: a still life of a squished wizard amid the paraphernalia of his trade.

Insert your own "Caryatid squashed by the weight of verbiage" gag here

After a paragraph of shilling for the patch to this broke-ass 400-pages of half-a-game we jump straight into the subject of Heka (pron. HEE-ka). Two paragraphs rehash what we've already been told about half-a-dozen times now: that Heka works like magic electricity; that 'impure' versions of Heka -- variously called Baraka, Orgone or Mana (Mmmmm, thesaurus abuse! *gluk*) -- exist in worlds not as dominated by the Pure Spellcaster Master Race as is Aerth; that even unintelligent creatures can use Heka instinctively; and that Pure Heka is of three sorts: Positive (from the higher places and spheres), Negative (from the Other Place), and Mixed.

Yeah. So far this feels like what it is: a précis of something longer, more involved, and baroquely over-complicated.

Next up: Demographics of Heka. A paragraph spent explaining the prevelance of Heka-slingers in the populace. The figures boil down to 1-in-100 for people able to cast at all, with various sub-breakdowns for who can use what type of Heka; who draws their Heka from one, two or three Attributes; and who gets to be a touched-by-the-dice-gods Full Caster. This is dull stuff and probably billonga setting book, not rules chapter. A more practical use for this section would have been putting the bloody shifty, elusive rules for determining Full Caster-ness here.

Next is half-a-column on Types and Sources of Heka Energy, which starts with a seemingly unrelated paragraph about the nine Grades of Casting Power, and an aside that certain special Grade X castings exist and that these are on a par with Supernatural Castings of Grade I. Nope, not a clue. If you want to know more: cough up for Mythus Magick.

There's also a rehash of the three types of Heka (Preturnatural, Supernatural and Entital), which are entirely different from the three types introduced above. If you recall from way-back-when in LRM pt3 Supernatural and Entital are 1:10 and 1:100 Mega-Damage Heka.

And finally a list of things you can squeeze for Heka in the Mythus universe:

Sources 1-5 are pretty much what you'd expect: push button, recieve mana. But source 6 "Entital vegetable substances" confuses the bejaysus out of me. WTH is an Entital vegetable? Some form of otherworldly arcanocabbage? The freshly-peeled god-corpse of Nazi-fighting root veg Dr Carrot? No clue given. Oh look, they do give us a helpful clue as to which book to refer to...

After that particular unintended Mythusian mindscrew we're off again to half a page + a couple of big-ass tables regarding Heka from K/S Areas. This begins with the word "Imprimus" and goes downhill from there with a load of waffle on who can generate Heka from where, how fast, how much, and from which skills. Most of this is semi-familiar from other chapters, but I lack the will (or remaining SAN) to check if there are contradictions between blocks of text.

One thing that jumps out is a table that would have been useful, oh say, back in the damn skills chapter! To whit:

Idiot-savant version of a unified Heka Skills table I ranted about back here.

Now, so far as it goes that is a not-entirely-useless table. At least now -- nigh-on 180 pages after it might have first come in handy -- a player can see at a glance which K/S Areas grant Heka, how much and from what character stats. That might almost be called useful, at least for the purpose of buzz maintenance. *gluk*

And then you realise that thick block of text over there on the right is footnotes.

Yes, the true horror of this brute of a table only really bursts forth when you start digging into the notes. Most of the them either waffle on where a single terse sentence would suffice, or outright re-iterate things we were told back in the relevant skill descriptions. In the latter case "See description, pXXX" is perfectly sufficient.

Call me a grouchy infographics snob, but a case could be made that if footnotes take up more space than the table they accompany, then the way you are attempting to present your information is objectively not right. A first draft is supposed to look like a sharp-cornered, burr-edged, over-complex mess; a professionally designed tool for use in play is not.

A final squeezed-in section on Regenerating Personal Heka tells you how much Heka you get back per hour per skill from your K/S Areas, and also how much you gain back from Attributes, Categories and Traits. It is four paragraphs of word salad that looks like English at first glance only. The accompanying table is especially sad-making.

"Prithee good sir. Art thou shittin' me?!"
"Nay sir, I be not. Now draw forth thy slide-rule and get thee to reckoning."

Yes, excellent. No foreseeable problems with player rebellion here. An excellent response to the oft-heard lament that the AD&D Psionics rules were insufficiently fiddly.

And that's your lot on the subtle wonders and intricacies of Heka and Magick in Mythus.

Oh, wait. You want the mechanics for actually using Castings in play? In the Heka and Magick chapter? How precious. How quaint. Those are way back in the earlier Combat chapter, on p218. Which in turn requires reference to the Core Game Systems (chapter 11) and the K/S Area descriptions in chapter 10.

Hope you enjoy the delicious breezes kicked up by repeated thumbing through big fat books, coz you're going to be doing a lot of that. There's not even a single appearance of That Damn Table in the one place where it might have actually have been of some utility. Useless!

Sample Castings
After the seemingly unedited logorrhoeaic HØRF! that opened the chapter we turn with -- probably misplaced -- relief to the spell Casting descriptions which comprise pp278-294 of this slithey tome.

Sample Castings of levels I-V (Roman numeras as original) are given for the schools of Dweomercraft (wizarding), Priestcraeft (clericing), Apotropaism, Astronomy, Herbalism, and Mysticism, at a rate of several per level, which is nice.

"But Chris, you gormless knock-kneed bogmonkey," I hear you cry "Where are all the other types of magickqkck which the many, many K/S Areas of Mythus use? I count a mere six lists there."

Why yes, gentle reader. Although puffing itself as a game that presents nine, sorry, IX levels of magic in nigh-on a score of schools and traditions, the core Mythus book presents only samples of six schools, and only up to level V. As for the rest, they are found in a lost tome of eldritch lore entitled... yes, I think you can see where this is going... *gluk*

Although the vastly superior Imperial measures are used in all instances (I kid you not, there are ranges given in rods, chains and leagues in there!), there are a couple of gross procedural niggles even before getting into individual spell descriptions. The unexplained acronyms are annoying ("WTF is E/F/M? Any corresponding entry in the Glossary? Of course not!), and repeated inclusion of BHC (Base Heka Cost) that remain constant across all schools and levels but are not integrated into a single simple table is just an offence against good design.

Base Heka Cost -- Casting Grade
20 -- I
35 -- II
50 -- III
75 -- IV
100 -- V

That there: not flippin' rocket surgery!

Get past the Mythusisms of the layout and descriptions, and many of the Castings will look familiar to role-playing veterans, albeit with any sense of wonder and magic pummelled out of them by a leaden prose style. For example:


Next Time: We grind the individual Casting descriptions for anything that might actually be of use in a Classic D&D game. It will be as glorious, life-affirming and full of colourful pageantry as Passchendaele. Oh, wait. That's not what I meant at all...

Pic Sources: the Dangerous Journeys: Mythus rulebook, the hark a vagrant webcomic, teh intawubz.

Monday 11 February 2013

Let's Read Mythus Interlude 2

After a hiatus entirely too long, fraught, and full of fractal fail for my own comfort the ill-considered dissection of Dangerous Journeys: Mythus returns, a mere eight months later than expected (in RPG Kickstarter circles this is known as 'business as usual').

This week I have elected to inflict upon the world the long overdue Art of Chapter 12 post; a light amuse bouche of a thing wherein your humble host dons polo-neck and beret, and attempts to channel art critic mojo into his tiny monkey brain.

Those playing along at home may wish to note the following modifications to the customary rules:
  • When a piece of art has no relation to the content: take a drink.
  • When a piece of art would have been better in good, honest black-and-white: take 1 drink.
  • When a piece of art is just downright bad: take 2 drinks.
  • When the writer loses it and lapses into foaming, windmilling "No moron! Do it like this! THIS!!!" mode = drain your glass.
There's a lot of art in the expanses of Mythus chapter 12: incidental art in black-and-white and full-page colour plates.

B+W Lineart

p216 - Ellisa Mitchell - tree, sword + runestones.
Tree has semi-anthropomorphic bole, tree-impaling sword is obviously perilous (in the Arthurian sense), runes may or may not be a bilingual bonus that translates as "Please do not stab the trees". Lightning in the background echoes the anguished twisting of the branches - nice touch; portentious. Fine use of negative space and directional cues. Content is semi-related to text (Heka-based attacks).

Tres folklorique, non?

p229 - Ellisa Mitchell - stylised griffon.
Excellent composition draws your eye to the mad, starey bird eye of the griffon. Consistent penwork(?) across the furred and feathered parts of the beast give it a coherence of form lacked by many monster pics while retaining the heraldic essence of the beast.  A fine balance, nicely struck.  Whoever sculpted the recent GW Empire Griffon model (aka: the Warturkey) should look at this picture and cry in shame.
Picture has no relation to content. Seemingly a space filler. Shame, it deserves better. *gluk*

p232 - Tony Szczudlo - Bad-ass fantasy African warrior standing in a cave mouth.
Once you get past the 'Mbongo McSkullhat of the K'lishe tribe' first impression this picture is kinda cool in a Savage Sword of Conan or Imaro way. The picture is well-executed: good composition, fine detailing, clever use of negative space and shading. The few fantastic elements (the skull helm, the odd pick-mace weapon) convey the idea of a fantasy Earth subtly and well.
Shame it's stuck in the midst of the awful, forgettable, multi-page example of play section. *gluk*

p234 - Ellisa Mitchell - eyes+snakes glowhenge.
A pretty generic henge-as-portal image. Lidless eye and winged serpent motifs add a little weird to an otherwise unremarkable image. Well composed and executed, although some of the linework on the trilithons makes them look a bit wooden.
Seems a bit out of place in the combat chapter. *gluk*

p240 - Ellisa Mitchell - weapons crossed over a shield.
Well drawn in a 70s comic art way; clever use of linework and blocking to convey a sense of shine and reflection, but sadly a bit "yawn" in the subject matter. At least the picture makes sense in context (the endless pages of weapon descriptions), although it would have worked just as well smaller and without a frame, breaking up one of the interminable columns of text.

p243 - David Miller - generic mitteleuropan watchman mit polearm in generic mitteleuropan townscape.
Adequately drawn, but nothing that would dare show its face in, say, a WFRP book. Again, "yawn". *gluk, gluk*

p245 - ??? (no visible credit) - conquistador being loomed over by two giant skeevy balds.
A nice little piece of doomed pathos in 90s fantasy art, this is the antithesis of the flavourless genericrap that infested the contemporary AD&D2E rulebooks. Good composition and line use; a sense of captured movement; my simple brain and untutored tastes actually like. This belongs somewhere better than in the midst of weapon descriptions. *gluk*

Insert your own "You're boned!" caption

p251 - Dave Miller - conquistador on a ship, Grecian temples in background
Presumably supposed to represent Mythus' default anachronistic hotch-potch setting of Aerth, this is ok. Good composition and use of space, workmanlike rendering of content. The problem it that it's the sort of picture the eye would skip over without pausing were it in a comic. No wow! factor; just another day in the life... *gluk, gluk*
I suppose the conquistador's armour is semi-relevant to the surrounding text (armour types).

p274 - ??? (no legible credit) - Sven Beardsson, knotwork chiseller, poses before his latest work
A burly viking type wearing Greco-Roman armour, presumably an intentional anachronism. The linework is fine, but the composition is a little odd, with the central figure off-centre. The background (Norse knotwork and Bayeux Tapestry-style human figures) is so-so.
No idea what the picture has to do with healing (the related text). *gluk*

p275 - Ellisa Mitchell - Angrycorn is angry! GRRRR!
Although the content - an angry charging unicorn in close-up - is unexpected, the technical execution of this picture is very good. Fine flow of lines, excellent less-is-more crosshatching. Another picture where Mitchell uses directing lines and shading to draw your attention to the beast's eye.
Not sure what a unicorn has to do with healing rules though. *gluk*

Colour Plates

After the "Mythus art not terrible! shock of the preceding pictures the full-page, full-colour, gloss paper-printed "Behold our magnificence!" images that follow are generally disappointing given what they might have been. As a general rule what art there is is spread over a larger area than it probably merits...

p257 - Midgette and Meyer - Armwrestling in the tavern
Another scene from the rich and exotic world of Aerth, in this case renaissance arm-wrestling. The composition is cluttered, the background a featureless wash, the facial proportions and eyelines of the score of onlooking characters are fuxxored, the central drama is uninteresting.
I'm really not keen on this picture, and can't imagine why it would merit inclusion, let alone an entire page. *gluk gluk*

p260-261 - Midgette and Meyer - knights brawling in the road
Let me start by saying that 3/4 of this two page spread is worthless space-filler. No, seriously. Look:

Are you f-ing kidding me?!

That's the image as it appears in my Dangerous Journeys: Mythus soft cover. 11" x 17" of next-to-nothing. It may seem unremarkable to you, but I find this picture profoundly offensive. It's no more than a piss-poor knock-off of a Prince Valiant comic panel, but it has adopted in my mind an almost totemic status. This picture can stand as a microcosm of the entire Mythus experience: needless bloody boring bloat overwhelming what should be interesting and exciting.

Watch this:

20% of the space: 100% of the action

Even after trimming to its essentials the piece is unremarkable; even a bit dull. Can you imagine if, for example, a Games Workshop artist circa 198X had the temerity to turn this in as a completed piece? John Blanche (GW Art Director and sensei of blanchitsu) would have had his head!

This should be a black-and-white incidental piece breaking up text somewhere; it lacks sufficient clout for its canvas.


I think that was a 'drain your glass' moment there.

p264-265 - Allen Nunis - lizardmen hunt a giant wombat in a mesascape with pteradons.
Now this is more like it! Attention-getting subject matter, good composition and an interesting use of colour palette; almost cartoonish, but in a good way. Although blown up rather larger than it probably merits (another glossy paper double-page spread where a single page would suffice), this picture is pulp as owt! I especially like the slightly bewildered look on mega-wombat's face. Bollocks to Aerth! I want to know more about the world in this picture please.

p268-269 - Allen Nunis - the Zulus (+ their cheerleader) haet little red goblins!
Another characterful piece, the sort of thing that would have worked as a comics book 'pin up' picture back in the day. The content is a little odd, but may be the film "Zulu" as told from the AmaZulu perspective. Although a little comic book in framing and execution for some tastes, the sheer liveliness of the composition, and interesting use of negative space and stylisation to represent a fantastic, dreamlike quality, make for an interesting whole.
Not sure why its in the diseases section though... *gluk*

p272 - Midgette + Lamont - "Gercha!"

My favourite piece of colour art so far: "Rhino HAET street dance!" Yes, I know it's supposed to be a rhino hunt gone wrong somewhere generically East Indian, but I prefer to view it as a dramatic illustration of a lost Just So Story in which rhino and elephant, rajah and archers unite to cleanse the land of verminous infestations of street dance troupes. Yes, the dancers may have disguised themselves in the traditional Indian man-nappy (pron. dhoti) but Rhino knows those synchronised flailers for what they truly are.

Joking aside, the picture share a similar comic book stylised realism of form and colour style with the other colour art in this section. Although there's nothing inherently 'fantastic' about the subject matter, the composition is interesting, the subject matter non-boring, and the only weak point is a background which seems more tree-lined boulevard than wild Indian jungle.


Sadly for the self-styled "...quantum leap in roleplaying games..." there is no quantum leap beyond the 90s gaming industry standard in the use or quality of art. Difficult to believe that Mythus was published only a year before Mayfair Games showed the industry what could be done with the full-colour-and-graphics-on-every-page Underground RPG. A pall composed of deadline fever and vague client definitions seem to loom large over many of the pictures in DJ:Mythus, a confluence of circumstances which prevents "...this game far beyond any others" from even matching the achievements of earlier games like Dragon Warriors in creating a coherent game world with its art.

Not that a unified art style is the be-all-and-end-all of a game. The two biggest names in the transatlantic fantasy gaming industry (TSR, GW) used whole stables of artists - each with their own tastes and styles - to excellent effect. I'd love to know what went wrong here...

Next Time: We peruse, critique and mudlark Chapter 13: Heka and Magick. A chapter in which teeth are ground, heads are scratched, and salient similarities are noted.

Supplemental Mythus Madness: For those truly sick of mind, here is the full text of TSR's "Waaaaah! My toys!" lawsuit designed to strangle DJ:M in the cradle. The sheer effrontery of beating someone with a stick he invented has to be seen to be believed.

Pic Source: the DJ:Mythus rulebook, Double K webcomic, Thrilling Tales' pulp-o-mizer cover generator

Saturday 2 February 2013

Gleefully Late to the Party, Again

Reading Dungeon World.

But lo, mere reading is not enough. I must share its goodness with others (most of whom will probably say "Dude, we know" in Henchman 21 voice).

  • the layout of the free pdf is a bit wonky (section headings at the bottom of the page? No! Bad layout monkey!); 
  • the idea of structuring adventures around Fronts ("...a collection of linked dangers -- threats to the characters specifically and to the people, places, and things the characters care about.") and Moves (IGOUGO as a dungeoncrawling mechanic?) is a bit unusual; 
  • the use of Warhammer-ish ability keywords in the statblocks might not be to all tastes. 

  • the writing is clear and entertaining; 
  • there's at least one instance of "wish I'd thought of that" on every page; 
  • it has the kind of 'obvious in hindsight' GMing advice I'd have killed for back in the day; 
  • this is what the writers think of as an entire stat block:
Group, Large
Bite (d8+1 damage) 10 HP 3 Armor
Close, Reach
Special Qualities: Burrowing
A hide like plate armor and great crushing mandibles are problematic. A stomach full of acid that can burn a hole through a stone wall makes them all the worse. They’d be bad enough if they were proper insect-sized, but these things have the gall to be as long as any given horse. It’s just not natural! Good thing they tend to stick to one place? Easy for you to say--you don’t have an ankheg living under your corn field.
Instinct: To undermine
  • Undermine the ground
  • Burst from the earth
  • Spray forth acid, eating away at metal and flesh

That's it. Next! (I especially like the inclusion of monstrous To Do lists for all.)

In conclusion: Dungeon World, my face when: 
"Ermagerd! So gooood."

Pic Source: the famous Dorf Fortress fun image.
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