May is D&D Sale month

DriveThruRpg.com are having a 33% off sale for D&D products of all editions, and Crypts and Things and all its releases are available in pdf until the end of May.

Since its pdf only, I’m matching that 33% discount on the print with free pdf bundles I sell on the D101 Games web store on items I currently have in stock until the end of May.

So at the moment, that is

  • Crypts and Things Softcover £13/$17.5 (normally £20/$27).
  • Tombs of the Necromancer £4/$5 (normally £6/$8).
  • Life and Death £9/$12 (normally £14/$19).

Shipping is free to UK addresses on orders over £10.

Mythras in Review

I’m a long-time fan of Mythras. In many ways it’s the Rolls Royce of the D100 gaming world, being clean and dignified, as well as being a robust ruleset. It came from the same branch of the D100 systems tree, Mongoose RuneQuest (MRQ), as my own OpenQuest (OQ) and while I cut down and rationalised the MRQ SRD, Mythras’s authors (Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash) kept the complexity added with MRQ and refined it. I’ve promised myself that I would do a quick review of Mythras and its supplements when it came out two years ago in 2016, and the current Bundle of Holding seems to be an excellent time to do that. So if you are wondering whether Mythras is for you, read on.

A Bit of History and Context

For me, Mythras is the logical inheritor of all the non-Gloranthan RuneQuest (RQ) that got played in the 80s/90s via the Avalon Hill RQ3 ruleset, which us lucky Brits got via much improved Games Workshop hardcover releases. It came via Mongoose Publishing’s efforts when they had the RQ licence in the 2000s. Mythras’ authors Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash were then Mongoose staff writers who were tasked with producing a second edition of the somewhat wobbly first edition. This they did to much acclaim, and when Mongoose lost the RQ license, they put out the version of the MRQ2 that they wanted under their Design Mechanism moniker as RQ6. Mythras is the final link in this chain of releases, highly polished, with its own name and with all the Gloranthan references removed.

Presentation

305 pages of clearly laid out text, with clear black and white line art. Very evocative of the games’ 80s/90s roots.

The Pdf is fully bookmarked, and the contents, index and in page cross-references are all fully functional hyperlinks.

I’ve got the printed version, which is a very robust and cleanly printed hardcover which I can see easily surviving many years of use/abuse.

Characters

What are characters like in Mythras?  Well, they are mythic but based on realism. So you could quickly do the heroes of Homers Iliad/Odyssey with Mythras. They have exceptional abilities, but are fragile and bleed, with even the mightiest hero being at risk of death by a well-placed lucky blow by a minor character.

The character generation system breaks down into three chapters

  • Character
  • Culture & Community
  • Careers

Each of these sections focuses on building the characters’ abilities up while putting them in context of these three areas. For example the Culture and Community chapter, gets the player to decide which culture the character comes from (Primitive, Barbarian, Nomad, Civilised – are the defaults in the core rulebook) and from that they determine what social class they are members of that culture, as well as what ties and bonds (known as Passions) they have to fellow members. The chapter ends with a Background Events table of 100 entries. I’m a big fan of these (after first coming across them in Cyberpunk 2020 in the early 90s) since they stop characters who are numerically the same being identical and give the character an excellent in-built adventure hooks.

The System

The skill system is a roll equal or under percentile system. Each character (and monster) has a set of percentile skills that when it’s not clear what is going to happen are tested using two ten-sided dice.  Extra levels of success and failure are brought in with special results. If you succeed in the lower tenth of your success range (for example if your skill is 40%, 1-4%) you Critical, conversely if you fail and roll 99-00%  you fumble.

That’s the basics of it, and there are numerous quick and easy subsystems which elaborate on what happens in certain circumstances.

Combat gets a chapter of its own. Mythras combat is the most complex of all the D100 systems but is well thought out and streamlined. If you don’t want to use all the options, such as combat effects which bring in special effects dependant on weapon type on a critical, the system is modular enough to drop these without breaking it.

Five Magic Systems

D100 fantasy lives and breathes on its magic systems which unlike D&D is flexible and based upon spells costing magic points to cast. Mythras has five magic systems, which all share common features while having their own differences and focus.

Folk Magic the most common but least potent of all the magic systems. It gives characters quickfire utility type magic , such as Bladesharp which offers extra damage points and an improved chance to hit, with low bookkeeping. It’s the type of magic that if your players want a little bit of magic to improve their characters without magic becoming their speciality or focus.

Theism is the magic provided by the gods. It’s much more powerful than folk magic but similar in complexity bookkeeping wise. While you don’t need to spend Magic points to cast spells your character does have a relationship with a deity that you need to maintain to keep on using their magic.

Animism is primitive magic from using bound spirits. It’s flavoursome and powerful but relies on the character having a good relationship with the spirit world, and the player getting their head around the concept of spirits.

Sorcery is the most flexible type of Mythras magic, and while much more straightforward and playable than its RQ 3 roots, still requires the player to want to dedicate time to working out how the Sorcerer’s spells work the best for them. i.e. it’s only really for players who want to play a magic using character.

Mystic covers those characters who use magic as an expression of their physical and mental skills and is quickly set up to do Martial Arts type characters.

Other Bits of the Framework

The book finally has three chapters which fill out the Mythras rules framework.

Cults and Brotherhoods. Cults are the mini-religions that D100 systems classically use to provide magic and skills training to characters, as well as make their lives interesting with all sorts of inter cult politics. Mythras has a good selection of pre-made examples for each of the magic approaches but also includes non-magical Brotherhoods.

Creatures. In D100 games “monsters are people too”, and Mythras continues this approach giving full stats. Skills and magic for its creature descriptions, which are more templates for the GM to create unique individuals for their games. Also where relevant extra information is given if the creature is suitable as a player character race.

Games Mastery. This GM’s advice section rounds out the whole nuggets of advice that pepper the entire rulebook , with a short, robust article which highlights the features of the game and how best to use them.

Overall Mythras is a complete standalone game, but it is missing a starter adventure – but behold there is a free pdf “Games Masters Pack” which has two introductory adventures and lots of follow up adventures/setting books (some of which are included in the Mythras Bundle of Holding).

Why you should look at this

If you are coming from D&D and are looking for an alternative to rigidly enforced class/level system, were characters organically grow through play and their in-game experiences and can try anything they want to.

Mythras is well established and has a wealth of adventures and setting books, some of which go beyond the established mythic fantasy of the core rulebook. The recently released After the Vampire Wars, explores modern day horror, while Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across the Parallels, based upon the Brian Talbot graphic novels of the same name, is weird time-travelling science fiction.

It’s not for you if

You are a diehard storygamer. Mythras while being a cleaned up and up to date D100 ruleset, is still very much a traditional old-school game from the 1980/90s. It has all hallmarks of that gaming style: characteristics that map back to statistics that can be physically quantified, a clearly defined Gamesmaster/player split with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and a system that is literally peppered with modifiers and rules that simulate the gritty reality that characters find themselves in.  Mythras (and other D100 variants) does support a storytelling style of play, because of its freeform character advancement system and skill use system, but you have to engage with it and understand that to get the best out of it. It doesn’t lead you by the nose, hard coding it into lightweight rules systems like story games like Fate or Powered by the Apocalypse games do.

Coming next in Mythras Review: Mythic Rome.

Lyonesse RPG by Design Mechanism

Yesterday Lawrence Whitaker announced a new licensed Lyonnese Roleplaying game, which while being self-contained will use the Mythras system, based on Jack Vance’s novels:

We are delighted to announce the Lyonesse roleplaying game.

Jack Vance’s high fantasy masterpiece, Lyonesse, is to be brought to life in a new roleplaying game by The Design Mechanism. Licensed and approved by Spatterlight Press, Lyonesse is a standalone game based on the acclaimed Mythras system. The Lyonesse trilogy – Suldrun’s Garden, The Green Pearl, and Madouc – tells the story of the Elder Isles, and the ambitions of King Casmir of Lyonesse to bring its fractious kingdoms under his sole rule. Casmir is opposed by Aillas of Troicinet, the lover of Casmir’s daughter, Suldrun, and father of Dhrun, a child raised among the fairies of Thripsey Shee and destined to sit on the throne Evandig, which King Casmir believes to be his own destiny.

You can read the full press release here [http://thedesignmechanism.com/resources/Press_Releases/Lyonesse RPG Press Release.pdf].

Its early days in development, a 2019/2020 release date has been noted in comments by Lawrence, but the artists have been announced in the full press release, and the following teaser image was released with tannouncementent:

Dark, Deadly and Delicious part 5: Pre-made characters

In this the last of a series of excerpts from an article about running and creating Crypts and Things convention games, I exhort you, nay implore you to use pre-made characters.

Use Pre-made Characters

Pre-made characters are a must for convention games. Two reasons why:

  1. They save time. No matter how quick you think, Crypts and Things character generation are, at the start of a convention game it will eat up valuable game time, while impatient players twiddle their thumbs and unexpected roadblocks in the process get thrown up.
  2. The adventure can be tailor-made to make the most of their abilities. You want happy, engaged players who are having fun. The primary way that you can pre-destine this is by having characters who have the potential to be fun in play. While Crypts and Things use Class/Level based characters, so every character is going to have its own niche, make sure that the composition of your adventuring party is made up of characters who will all have a role to play in the adventure. Fighters always have a place, and Barbarians are good all-rounders. Magicians need to thrive in environments rich in magic and mystery, where their magic detecting abilities make them useful for explaining what is going on and detecting magical threats. Thieves are good sneaking through the shadows, taking out enemies using stealth, but are much more useful in combat than their Swords and Wizardry counterparts. For a four-player game merely make one of the core character classes, and you’ll have enough variation amongst the characters. If you have six players, add another fighter and sorcerer, with different fighter specialities and spells in their books than the others.

It’s often joked that part of the style of old-school play is having a pile or replacement characters and it is worth having at least two additional characters in case of impending character death.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death.”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Dark, Deadly and Delicious part 4: Be the Monster Manager

In the penultimate part of this series of posts about Crypts and Things convention games, I look at an important role of the referee.

Be the Monster Manager

Don’t overwhelm the players with streams of monsters, unless that’s the point of the fight scene is that they can never overcome the flood of monsters and should run away!

Don’s mistake combat for automatic-fun. Make sure that you combat encounters are like scenes from a fun film, where the director has placed enemies and scenery in an exciting way, so the combat can play out with lots of unexpected turns and twists.

For example, don’t just throw 1d6+2 Men at Arms at the player characters who are strolling aimlessly through the palace. If you need a couple of men at arms to show up and challenge the characters about there right to be there, do so. It might lead into a fight (in which case they run away to the next courtyard where the rest of the palace guard is hanging out, with the court sorcerer and the King’s assassins who are practicing on various trampolines etc.), but it might also lead to an entertaining moment of role-playing as the players blag their way past the guards.

Next part 5: Pre-made characters.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death.”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Hearts in Glorantha issue 6 now available

The long-awaited return of this Gloranthan Fanzine, featuring 48 pages of Myths, Interviews, Articles, and Scenarios (systemless, HeroQuest and for RuneQuest 2).

(note physical copies of Hearts in Glorantha 1-6 Collected, Gloranthan Adventures 1 & 2 are now back in stock).

Also Drivethrurpg.com where you can pick up both print/pdf bundles and pdf only.

Hearts in Glorantha Issue 6 cover by Stewart Stansfield

Dark, Deadly and Delicious part 3: Rewards

Part 3 of 5 excerpts from the C&T how to run convention games, deals with how to reward the players, both for good play and by encouraging them to have fun.

Reward Exploration and Interaction

Bearing in mind what I’ve just said above, encourage and reward players who explore and interact with their characters surroundings and the non-player-characters that they encounter. Reveal interesting secrets.  Most published Crypts and Things adventures have a special section called “Secrets” in adventure locations, which detail the special treats that can be found by inquisitive players. Dull and uninspired play should not serve up any additional information beyond the basics that are obvious to anyone entering the location.

Remember to let the players have fun

No overshadowing their characters with non-player characters. Let them use their abilities and have their moments (even if it seems trivial to you). Make this a priority and big them up. Unlike a home game where the players learn through trial and error what their characters can do, there isn’t time to do that. It needs to be more immediate.

Next part 4: Be the Monster Manager.

From the upcoming Crypts and Things supplement: Tournaments of Madness and Death.

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

 

Dark, Delicious and Deadly part 2: Pacing

Part 2 of 5 excerpts from Dark, Delicious and Deadly, an article about running Crypts and Things at conventions.

You can Never Have Enough Pace

(as my mate Evil Gaz says).

This is the primary principle to bear in mind when running a convention game. To keep your players entertained you should help to keep the game moving along at quite a speed. Characters should be jumping, running and occasionally fighting their way through the adventure, each location building on the excitement until the big thrilling finale.

If the action drags, something happens

Things that drag the action, which might be acceptable in a home game where you have all the time in the world, need to be quickly moved on from.

For example, there’s a Locked door that blocks the characters’ way. In a home game, you might let all the table of players try something to open the door. The Thief goes through all their abilities; checking for traps, picking the lock etc. Then the magician casts Detect Magic (“is the door magically locked?”), the Fighter uses their strength to force the door, then everybody else follows on because they can all try to bash the door down. Finally, the players extract as much information from the Crypt Keeper, small details such as moss around the door frame, become excruciatingly important (“I lick the moss, to see if it is poisonous or magical.”)

You’ve not got time for this is in a con game. Let one character have a go at unlocking the door. If they fail, a guard (or a passing patrol of guards if the door has nothing behind it) opens the door from the other side to see who is making that noise and play proceeds.

Don’t be afraid to slow the pace

With all this talk about speed, if you or your players are finding it too much, put the breaks on. Slow the pace. Gently put the player characters in a safe place, slow things down to talk to an NPC for example. Let everybody get their breath back and then get back into it.

There’s a time and a place for investigation

I’ll say it up front C&T is not an investigative game. There may be moments where the players have to find secret entrances, talk to an NPC and ask right questions to find out where they are going next, but these are usually quickly sorted out and moved on from. Characters in Crypts and Things, tend to be men and women of action, and the character classes empathise this.

Next part 3: Rewards

From the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death for Crypts and Things (and other old-school class/level based games).

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright