Posts Tagged ‘Mythic’

Review: Mythic GME

Posted: 8 October 2014 in Reviews
Tags:

Savage Worlds has many sterling qualities, but like most RPGs it is aimed at group play facilitated by a Game Master. As my focus swings back towards solo gaming, I need something to act as the GM for me, and this product is specifically designed for that purpose. So…

In a Nutshell: Supplement for any RPG allowing you to play without a Game Master. 54-page PDF from Word Mill Press.

I’ve reviewed full-fat Mythic (which includes the emulator and a stand-alone RPG based on it) here; this product is roughly one-third the size of that, because it’s intended to be used with another game of your choice.

CONTENTS

Mythic adventures are broken up into scenes. How the GM Emulator works is straightforward…

Initial setup: The players either agree how the scenario begins, or roll a random event to determine what’s going on. This includes setting the Chaos Factor, which defaults to "5" and measures how in control of the situation the PCs are – the higher the number, the less control they have. It also includes setting up any initial plot threads and NPCs.

At the beginning of a scene: Agree what the next scene should be about ("Let’s go into the dungeon and see what’s inside,") and roll 1d10 against the Chaos Factor to determine whether the next scene is what’s expected (the most logical outcome, "OK, we’re inside the entrance chamber, now what?"), altered (usually the second most logical outcome, "There’s a group of orcs in the entrance chamber, what do we do?") or interrupted (by a random event, more on those below).

Within a scene:

  • If what happens next is not terribly important to the game, it happens and you drive on.
  • If it is important, the players ask a question and agree how likely it is that the answer will be "yes", for example: "Are there stairs going down from this room to the next level? Probably."
  • One of them makes a percentile dice roll and cross-references the score against the agreed likelihood and the current Chaos Factor. The result might be extreme yes, yes, no, extreme no, or a random event; the players now use logic to interpret the answer – in this case "extreme yes" might mean "yes, and we can see that they spiral down for several levels like the staircase in an apartment block".
  • If the dice came up doubles, and the number is less than the Chaos Factor, a random event occurs – more dice rolls determine the event focus, action and meaning, for example "Introduce new NPC – Separate – Prison"; the group then interpret this, perhaps "there aren’t any stairs, but there is a concealed chute – the fighter falls in and slides into an oubliette, where he discovers someone who fell in earlier; the rest of the party don’t know where he is now".

At the end of a scene: A scene is over when the players agree it is over. Somebody updates the adventure records; the new Chaos Factor, NPCs, and plot threads. NPCs may become permanent additions to the game, in which case they’re noted on the relevant character sheet.

The adventure is over when the group thinks it’s over, usually when the central plot thread is resolved.

Character creation, combat, task resolution and so on are handled by whatever RPG you’re using the emulator with, but if you don’t have a specific setting in mind, Mythic can be used to generate one. I’m not likely to do that myself, because I already have more settings than I can ever hope to play, and keep spinning more off, uncontrollably.

The book goes through all this in much more detail, and with extended examples; it closes with quick reference charts and an adventure worksheet. The quick reference charts are much easier to read in the GME than in Mythic proper.

FORMAT

Two-column black on white text, internal black and white line drawings, one full-colour, full-page picture. Colour covers, but no cover pictures, just a blue backdrop.

The text is fine, although pretty much a straight cut and paste from full-fat Mythic; I don’t like the style of the internal artwork, and none of the pieces are relevant to the text around them.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Upgrade the internal art and make it relevant.

Add a line or two about altered and interrupted scenes to the quick reference chart. Although, they are covered on the adventure sheet, so I suppose if I were to use it the way the author intended, I’d have those notes right in front of me.

CONCLUSIONS

I already know that Mythic does what it says on the tin, I’ve used it intermittently for years both for solo and zero-prep games. The GME strips out all the stuff I don’t use anyway, which makes it easier to find and apply the bits I do use; in fact, I’m surprised how much easier it is to understand the GME when the rest of the system is stripped out.

Other alternative GM emulators include Sine Nomine Publishing’s Scarlet Heroes and pretty much anything by Two Hour Wargames; the advantage Mythic has over them is that since it is purpose-built as an add-on to other games, I don’t need to write any sort of conversion rules as an interface to whichever RPG I’m using. THW titles also assume that key encounters will be resolved as a tabletop battle, and I’m really not in the mood for that just now.

I’ll kick the tires and take Mythic out for a run shortly.

Advertisements

I think I’m done with Arion now, but I thought he deserved better than an abrupt halt to his posts, and I wanted to leave my options open in case I change my mind. So…

Arion awakens in a silent, white room. He looks around, to find himself in a hospital gown, lying on a bed. On a nearby chair sits a man with spectacles and a short, neatly-trimmed beard, hands clasped in his lap.

“Call me Gordon,” says the man. “Your crew is safe, and so are you. But you have some decisions to make, and before you make them, I need you to understand what’s really going on.” Arion sits up, and focusses intently on Gordon.

“Have you ever felt as if the universe was different from one day to the next? Almost as if you were in a game, and the rules kept changing?”

Arion nods.

“That was me, tickling your subconscious, preparing you for this moment. Have you heard of the Simulation Hypothesis? No? Then I’ll enlighten you.”

Gordon crosses his arms and leans back in the chair.

“A technologically advanced civilisation, like mine, has access to staggering amounts of computing power. Understand me, Arion; my civilisation is as far ahead of yours as yours is ahead of the Upper Paleolithic. When I talk about staggering amounts of computing power, you literally cannot conceive how much I mean.”

Arion frowns, but decides to accept that for the moment.

“One of the things such a civilisation might do with that power is run detailed simulations of their ancestors, or beings like their ancestors. Those simulations might become complex enough to run simulations like that themselves, and those simulations in turn might run further simulations.”

Turtles all the way down,” says Arion.

“Exactly. I suspect most of those simulations would be games, by the way, but that’s just my personal viewpoint. Anyway; this line of thinking means one of three things must be true. First, civilisations don’t advance to that level – that one’s wrong, because my civilisation has. Second, civilisations that advanced don’t run those kinds of simulations – that one’s wrong, because my civilisation does. Third, we’re almost certainly living in a simulation set up by some more advanced group; although we could be the original universe, the one at the bottom of the pile of turtles.”

Arion is a quick thinker, and by now he has put the pieces together, as Gordon knew he would.

“So, I’m a simulation? I’ve been living in simulations the whole time?”

“Yes, and yes. You’re in one now, as a matter of fact.”

“Prove it.” Gordon sighs, then briefly turns into a lobster while the room turns from flat white walls to intricately-carved pink coral and back.

“That do?” he asks, on resuming his human form. Arion frowns.

“Let’s say I believe you, for the sake of argument. Why are you telling me this?”

“You’re an instrument, Arion, a very sophisticated software tool, and those were the test environments. And now we’re promoting you to the live environment – this fork of you, anyway. You see, the very fact that a simulation is a simulation imposes limits on things – cosmic ray energies, for example, have the GZK cutoff, and the way that manifests itself looks more like a simulation than a law of physics. We need agents to go to strange places, look for weird things, and survive to report back. You’ve been doing that quite effectively in our simulations, including quite a few you don’t remember, so we’d like to instantiate you physically and have you carry on doing that, this time in our world.”

“In the real world?”

“It might be. Either way, we want you to go everywhere for us; stick your nose into everything; and find out if it really is turtles all the way down. What do you say?”

Arion grins. “You know that already, don’t you? Did you seriously think I could turn that down?”

“No; frankly, you’ve been programmed not to. That isn’t one of the decisions.” Gordon leans forward and his expression is more serious now. Arion realises that Gordon hasn’t answered his questions yet.

“The people who made you tell me you might be more effective if you know the truth; but that increases the risk that the next turtle down finds out what we’re up to, if it exists. But even we can’t be sure which is better, to send you out knowing who and what you are, or wipe that knowledge; so I’m asking you. You’ve got three decisions to make, Arion. First, do you want to remember this conversation? Second, which of your crew goes with you? And third, do we tell them the truth?”

Arion opens his mouth to blurt out his immediate response, then closes it thoughtfully.

“Not an easy call, is it?” says Gordon.

Review: Mythic

Posted: 5 June 2013 in Reviews
Tags:

"And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules." – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

In a Nutshell: Mythic can either be played as a stand-alone RPG or used as a GM emulator.

It’s a 146-page PDF (in my case) from Word Mill Press, written by Tom Pigeon. I’ve been using it on and off for a few years now, admittedly only in emulator mode. There’s a fairly active mailing list for it on Yahoo!, where people share thoughts and experiences of playing the game in various modes. Some use the GM emulator as an opponent for solo wargaming. Some retain the role of the GM and use it to emulate the players.

CONTENT

Before I start into that, it might help to understand that if you’re only interested in Mythic as a GM emulator, you only need chapters 1, 3, 6, 7 and possibly 8 as well; the rules of whatever other game you’re using will fill in the gaps. You can buy a version of Mythic which is just the emulator, if so inclined.

Introduction (2 pages)

The obligatory what-is-an-RPG explanation, definitions of terms used later, and how Mythic differs from more traditional RPGs, namely that it is completely improvisational rather than scripted. Moving on…

Chapter 1: Mythic Adventures (6 pages)

This begins by outlining the various ways to use Mythic: Group with GM, group without GM, solo. Any of those modes can use the built-in RPG, or another RPG of your choice. Mythic can also be used to write stories, although I’ve not tried that personally; in that mode, it’s essentially solo play without a GM.

Helpfully, this chapter explains the concepts of what Mythic does, and how, without getting down into the weeds of detailed rules. In short, as play proceeds, the players ask yes/no questions, and use logic and interpretation to decide what the answers are. Every so often, the Mythic rules will introduce a surprise element, so neither the players nor the GM can be sure what will happen until it actually does.

Like the various implementations of FATE, Mythic uses a ladder of "ranks" ranging from Miniscule to Superhuman, centred on Average; the key to this part of the rules is agreeing, and recording for later use, what "Average" means in each particular case.

More of all those later. Meanwhile, this chapter closes with a short example of play.

Chapter 2: Character Creation (12 pages)

You only need this if you want to use Mythic‘s own RPG rules. There are two main ways to create a character in Mythic; free-form and point-based.

The intriguing aspect of the free-form approach is that you start with the central character concept and dive straight into play, filling in further details as you go. Point-based character generation is more traditional in that characters are fully detailed from the beginning.

There are seven characteristics: Strength, Agility, Reflex, IQ, Intuition, Willpower and Toughness. However, one of the key facets of Mythic is that it is customised to an emergent game world which develops naturally during play, so this list is, as the Pirates of the Caribbean observed, not so much rules, more like guidelines. Characters also have abilities (skills or supernatural powers), strengths (called feats, advantages or edges in other games) and weaknesses (known in other rules sets as disadvantages, hindrances etc). A typical strength or weakness adjusts an ability’s rank under some circumstances, for example "Fear of Heights: Suffers a -2 to all rank shifts when performing tasks at an obvious height".

These are all rated on the "ladder" of ranks; in free-form generation, you choose whatever fits the character concept, in point-based generation you have a pool of points used to buy them, which means point-based PCs are all of roughly equal power to start with, and free-form ones might not be. Strengths and weaknesses are intended to be agreed by the GM and players for a specific game world, so there are only a few examples, and no definitive list of options.

I should also mention "hidden abilities". These are usually skills which aren’t on the character sheet, but which it is logical the PC should know. With GM approval, once a situation that would reveal a hidden ability occurs and it has been agreed that the PC ought to have it, the player can add it to his character sheet there and then, at whatever rank the GM deems appropriate. For example, if a suave and sophisticated PC finds himself discussing fine wines with the Big Bad, he can persuade the GM that someone of his breeding must know more than the average mook about wines, and add Wine Knowledge: Above Average to his sheet. Notice that the hidden ability might not have existed in the game at all prior to that point.

The chapter includes an example character (developed under both free-form and point-based rules), and hints at the usefulness of Favor Points, which are the local version of bennies, action points etc; characters gain them by progressing the storyline, and can spend them to adjust percentile dice rolls on the Fate Chart, which handily is the next chapter.

Chapter 3: The Fate Chart (12 pages)

This is the heart of the game system, and looks a bit like the Resistance Table in old-school RuneQuest. When you want to know something that the GM would normally have prepared, you ask a yes/no question and roll percentile dice. You then cross-reference two factors to identify the relevant cell on the chart, and compare the dice roll to the numbers in the cell to see what the outcome is – yes, no, exceptional yes, or exceptional no.

For example, characters exploring a dungeon might ask: "Does this room have stairs leading down?" Mythic calls this an "odds question" and compares the likelihood (agreed by the players) with the Chaos Factor (which starts at 5 and is modified by events during play). The GM (or the group as a whole) might decide the presence of stairs is unlikely, note the current Chaos Factor is 8, and roll a 37, which by cross-referencing on the table he would find answers the question with a "No". This is the only way you use the chart in emulator mode; if using the Mythic RPG, you also use it to answer questions like "Does my PC win the arm-wrestling contest?", in which case the two contestants’ Strengths would be compared to determine the outcome.

Odds questions are susceptible to cheating or power-gaming in two ways. The obvious one is that you can set a likelihood which favours the outcome you want. The less obvious one is that as the Chaos Factor increases, odds questions are more likely to be answered "Yes", so by phrasing your question carefully you can influence the outcome. Still, you can cheat in any game, if you really want to.

The way questions are phrased has an impact on both speed of play and level of detail. If you ask a series of specific questions, you can get a lot of detail, but it will take you longer to get there. A high-level "bundled" question gets a faster response from the rules, but tends to be less detailed. There are examples of this which explain it better than I can here, but the overall aim is to ask for the minimum level of detail you need to frame a logical answer to the question.

As written, the rules assume that the GM, or group as a whole, interpret what "yes" or "no" means for each question. You can start recording the answers, so that if the question comes up again you don’t have to figure it out on the fly; but I counsel against this in general, because it quickly becomes cumbersome. ("Where’s the chart for stairs in a dungeon chamber?")

Chapter 4: Task Resolution (6 pages)

This extends the Fate Chart chapter to look at tasks (e.g. fixing broken things) in more detail – what modifiers apply, for example. You won’t need this unless you’re using the Mythic RPG in full, but if you do need it, this is a case where it is worth recording details for future use on the handy forms provided – the effects of skills (sorry, abilities) need to be broadly consistent so players understand how good their characters are, and can make informed judgements on when to try things and when to walk away.

Chapter 5: Combat (16 pages)

For the most part, Combat is a further extension of the Fate Chart, building on the Task Resolution rules; combat is effectively a series of tasks to be resolved, and the bulk of this chapter is therefore special cases, modifiers and examples.

Where it gets a bit confusing for me is the lack of initiative. Instead of initiative, the players ask "Do I go next?" as a question, with the difficulty affected by their combat skills and those of their opponents. Yes means the player strikes first, no means the enemy does. Despite the examples, I couldn’t really get my head around how this would work in a many-on-many fight; and after a while I drove on, because I only use Mythic as an emulator, and therefore the answer doesn’t matter to me; but if I were using Mythic as an RPG, I would need to decide which player gets to ask the initiative question first…

For fights, we also need to understand damage. This is another Fate Chart question, with the attacker’s weapon damage opposed by the target’s Toughness (which may be boosted by armour). If the answer is "yes", the target suffers a wound, which by default imposes a -1 shift in rank for anything he tries to do afterwards; if the answer is "exceptional yes", the weapon does whatever it was intended to do, usually, kill the target. Damage therefore functions somewhat like wounding in Savage Worlds; no hit points, but a "death spiral" of steadily decreasing capability until a lucky shot kills you outright.

There are additional questions and rules to cover things like fighting on through the pain and recovering from stun, but you get the idea; everything is a roll on the Fate Chart. The chapter ends with a couple of detailed examples of combat.

Chapter 6: Randomness (8 pages)

So far, the rules have focused on deciding what happens by logic and interpretation – given the circumstances, what should happen? Where this fails is in generating surprise twists, and Mythic addresses that point by adding random events to the mix, in two ways.

Firstly, Mythic adventures occur in scenes (a D&D 3rd or 4th edition player would say "encounters"). Generally, at the end of a scene, the GM (or player group) decides what the next scene will be like; however, depending on the Chaos Factor, a random event may occur instead of the expected scene.

Secondly, whenever the Fate Chart is used, there is a chance of a random event; if you roll doubles, and the number is less than the current Chaos Factor, a random event pops up. For example, if the Chaos Factor is 5 and you roll 33, voila! Random event.

To resolve a random event, you roll percentile dice three times, and consult a table and two lists of words. One roll gives you the focus of the event, one the meaning’s action, and one the meaning’s subject, and you interpret them in light of the adventure’s context. Let’s say our dungeon crawlers trigger an event when they look for stairs; I roll a 13 for focus, a 23 for meaning: action, and a 39 for meaning: subject. This gives me a focus of "NPC action", and a meaning of "judge" (the action) "news" (the subject); I decide that there are no stairs, but there is a sarcophagus, within which an undead warrior sleeps. If the PCs open the sarcophagus (whaddya mean, if? These are PCs, of course they will) he will awaken and ask the PCs for news of a long-forgotten war, judging them according to their response, possibly attacking them.

Chapter 7: The Adventure (12 pages)

A Mythic adventure consists of scenes, like a movie; these may or may not be in chronological order. Scenes are resolved by asking questions of the Fate Chart until the main activity of the scene is completed, at which point the scene ends.

The adventure begins either with a deliberate premise created by the GM, or a random event if inspiration fails – remember, the goal of Mythic is zero preparation. At the end of each scene, the GM and players decide what the next scene should logically be; however, 1d10 is rolled, and if it is less than or equal to the Chaos Factor, the group gets either an Altered Scene (odd numbers) or an Interrupt (even numbers) instead.

  • Altered scenes are typically the second most likely scene, whatever the table thinks that is.
  • Interrupt scenes are random events which occur while the party is en route to the expected scene; they are resolved using the usual method.

Someone needs to keep track of the Chaos Factor (which begins the first scene at 5) and also maintaining lists of NPCs and plot threads. At the end of each scene, all of these are updated.

  • If the PCs are now more in control of the situation than before, the Chaos Factor drops by one. If they are less in control, it increases. It can stay the same.
  • If any new NPCs were identified by Fate Chart questions, they are added to the NPC list. They may be crossed off too, say if they are killed. (Each PC character sheet also has its own NPC list, where allies, rivals and contacts are recorded.)
  • Fate Chart questions may also identify a new plot thread, which is added to the plot thread list. Plot threads are crossed off if a scene resolved them. (Usually, the first scene will introduce at least one plot thread, in the form of whatever quest or mission the PCs are undertaking.)

Chapter 8: Game Master Emulation (6 pages)

This recapitulates how to run a game with no GM, but frankly, by this point in the book you have probably worked that out already. The recapitulation is supported by numerous examples.

Chapter 9: World Creation (4 pages)

One of the things you don’t need to prepare before a Mythic session is the setting. You can make it up on the fly using Fate Chart questions. After a brief exposition of this theory, the chapter provides a worked example of a fairly standard high fantasy setting.

Chapter 10: Character Advancement (8 pages)

Any aspect of a character may be improved, and you guessed it, that is handled by a Fate Chart question.The GM adjudicates when the opportunity to ask this question arises, typically either because the character did really well on an adventure, or spent some down time training. The bulk of this chapter is guidance on what opportunities are reasonable and what factors influence the dice roll.

This is also where the effects of aging are explained, which are also handled by the Fate Chart.

Chapter 11: Converting to Mythic (4 pages)

This doesn’t quite mean what you might think. Certainly it explains how you can convert things from other RPGs to Mythic, mainly by comparing aspects of each thing to the average for the system, but it also offers several other options; you can use Mythic to…

  • Replace the GM, or at least all his prep work for the session.
  • Fill in the gaps in the other RPG. No rules for shoe repair? Use the Fate Chart.
  • Keep things moving when you can’t find a rule. Not sure which chapter the shoe repair rules are in? Use the Fate Chart.

Chapter 12: Notes and Suggestions (4 pages)

This has Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers), tips for better play (largely expansions of topics covered earlier in the book),

The tip I found most useful was the two question rule: Instead of drilling down endlessly into detail, stop after the second question on any given topic and just roll with whatever seems most logical at that point. (Of course, many things will be resolved by a single question.)

Chapter 13: Extended Play Example (14 pages)

Exactly what it says on the tin. This ties everything together, showing how a GM and a single player create a setting, a PC and an adventure, and then work through the scenes of the adventure to a conclusion.

..and the book concludes with 22 pages of quick-reference sheets, forms, and example characters. Of these, I’ve found the most useful to be the Event Meanings and the Fate Chart; the Adventure Worksheet is also useful, but could be replaced with scratch paper.

FORMAT

The book is largely two-column black text on a white background, with occasional boxed text on a grey background. Simple, effective, gets the job done.

Like most RPGs, the book is peppered with art, both black and white and colour. It’s not to my liking, and none of it is especially relevant to the nearby text.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

I’m not quite sure how you’d fix this, but I find some parts of the Fate Chart really hard to read. Aging eyes, no doubt.

Reconsider the artwork. In particular, try to link the pictures to the text nearby.

A detailed combat example for a many-on-many melee would be helpful, as I don’t understand how to resolve who goes first in that situation.

The things I most often forget in play are how random events and altered/interrupted scenes happen. It would be useful if they were mentioned on the Fate Chart, or possibly the Event Meanings page, in the quick reference sheets.

CONCLUSIONS

The intent of Mythic is that everyone comes to the table having prepared nothing, but that they then sit down and play as if everything had been prepared. This applies to character generation, adventuring, setting creation and everything else.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5. The built-in RPG doesn’t appeal to me, but YMMV. The GM emulator is useful, and I use it sometimes; its biggest strength is that you really can turn up with nothing prepared, and run a satisfying adventure on the fly.

I’m losing track of the Arioniad, so this is for me more than you, dear readers, though I still hope you might find it interesting. I deliberately did this from memory, except for the episode numbers, reasoning that anything which didn’t stick in my mind is not worth keeping in the setting, whatever it winds up looking like.

SEASON 1: SCHRODINGER’S CAT

Episodes: 1-24.

Rules: Savage Worlds, Mythic, Larger Than Life.

Storyline: Arion meets Dmitri on Tainaron, and helps him escape from Schrodinger (a rogue psion) and his Gimirri clansmen. Following Schrodinger to a backwater planet, they find a hyperspace portal to Coriander’s homeworld, where they meet her and her people, who are psions in exile. They try to foil Schrodinger’s plot to acquire a dinobastis, a giant feline creature with mystical significance to the Gimirri, and thus gain a seat on the Gimirri clan council; however, he succeeds, and Arion is nearly killed. Coriander and Dmitri decide to stay with him aboard his scoutship, the Dolphin.

Setting Notes: I’ve never really mentioned it, but in my mind Coriander’s homeworld is called Zener. Dmitri is from Corinth, and Arion is from Makaria, which is a client state of Corinth. Corinth, Delphi, Tainaron and Makaria are all part of the Attica Cluster, a Balkanised group of worlds with a shared culture; Zener is nearby, but there is no hyperspace route to it, and it can only be reached by a “stargate” whose existence is known only to a few, including Coriander’s people, Schrodinger and Arion. Gimirr is somewhere close by as well.

SEASON 2: IMAGOES

Episodes: 25-31 (067-3011 to 176-3011)

Rules: Savage Worlds, Classic Traveller.

Storyline: Arion, Coriander and Dmitri misjump into a new subsector and meander around it, trading and looking for clues to the way home. They learn of the threat posed by the Imagoes, non-sentient yet starfaring insectoids; however, since these prefer a dense, corrosive atmosphere, there is no immediate conflict for living space.

Setting Notes: This season really didn’t work for me, and I probably won’t keep anything from it except the Imagoes as a vague background threat. Maybe not even them.

SEASON 3: HEART OF THE SCORPION

Episodes: 32-33 (No Estimated Time of Return to Faction Turn 1)

Rules: Savage Worlds, Stars Without Number.

Storyline: Arion, Coriander and Dmitri are reactivated by the Corinthian Scout Service and sent to establish a cell on Halfway Station, as Corinth wishes to learn more about the Celestial Empire and its plans for Galactic domination. They succeed, but the season is cancelled after shiny new things distract my attention, namely Beasts & Barbarians and 5150. I still love Stars Without Number, though, and you might reasonably expect to see it return at some point.

Setting Notes: The concepts of the Celestial Empire (capital: Zhongguo) and Halfway Station still interest me, but I’ll probably drop everything else. Halfway is a deep space station midway between the Attica Cluster and the Celestial Empire, on the only known hyperspace route between the two.

SEASON 4: NEW BEGINNINGS

Episodes: 34-46 (Novawatch and After to When the Ship Lifts). Season 4 isn’t finished yet; think of the current situation as the mid-season break which has become mandatory for TV shows in recent years.

Rules: 5150: New Beginnings, Chain Reaction Final Version, Savage Worlds.

Storyline: Arion, Coriander and Dmitri are transferred to New Hope, with orders to establish a reputation as mercenary troubleshooters and await further orders. They undertake a variety of missions both legal and otherwise for assorted patrons, and rescue Dmitri’s old flame Berenike from a civil war on Tainaron.

At the start of episode 47, Arion and company will be back in New Hope City, and looking for work. At some point they will start working for an Embassy, at which point I’ll rule they have been reactivated by the CSS and start doing spy stuff. Of all the rules combinations I’ve tried so far, plain vanilla 5150 seems to be the closest match to what I’m trying to do here; but The Arioniad is explicitly declared as a rules testbed, so who knows what will happen next? Certainly not me!

One thing I forgot to do last night was check Arion for recovery. I’m assuming that Dmitri and Coriander returned after Schrodinger and his minions left, taking the cats with them, and that the cats hadn’t got around to eating Arion at that point; so his sidekicks picked up the pieces and carried him back to the Dolphin for surgery. (I’m going to change my mind about the Dolphin and set it as Arion’s home; I’ll worry about what that does to recruiting later.) I roll 3d6 vs 4 (it would be 2d6, but Stars get an extra die): 1, 3, 6 = pass 2d6. Checking the table on p. 55, Arion recovers all lost Rep, so he’s back to Rep 4.

After about 20 scenes under Larger Than Life, and a couple under Mythic Roleplaying, I’m reflecting on the pros and cons of each.

Both LTL and Mythic use dice to generate the story, though the player/GM puts the story’s flesh on the skeleton erected by the random tables. Mythic is deliberately intended to create surprises, and can take the narrative off in any direction; LTL, like the pulps it strives to emulate, uses a set formula to unfold the story. That makes it easier for me to understand and to run, by creating a more structured framework; I can see that eventually this might get repetitive, but so far I have no problem with it. Within the tighter structure, though, LTL is more elegant and easier to play; it has more tables to reference, but paradoxically this feels easier and faster to do, at least for me. This is nothing against Mythic, which is a fine idea well executed; but since most of my games wind up as pulp adventure even if they don’t start out there, a game focussed on recreating that genre is simply a better fit to what I do.

On the down side, LTL‘s story engine is too slow-moving for my taste – on average luck, a beginning Star needs about 25-30 scenes to reach the climactic battle; a dozen Story Advancing Scenes, a dozen Travel scenes, an Initial Scene, a Final Scene and the Big Bad’s Revenge. However, there is an easy fix; count each clue as a +2 on the advance the story table rather than a +1.

For a number of reasons, all matters of personal taste, I will probably replace the skills, attributes and character advancement of LTL with those from Savage Worlds. Partly this is because I like them more, partly it’s to maintain compatibility with my other campaigns; it’s simple enough to do, just halve the die type and take that as the level for LTL – for example, Fighting d8 would become Melee 4; no Fighting skill at all would default in SW to d4-2, which would effectively be level 1 for LTL, as it is that game’s default. Rep most closely equates to Spirit, I think, with Brawn being split into Agility, Strength and Vigour, Brains being Smarts, and Bravado being Spirit as well.

While I found LTL‘s combats much more fun on the tabletop than in the abstract, even while being comprehensively smacked silly by the bad guys, it is an advantage that much of LTL can be done without miniatures and scenery. Out of a couple of dozen scenes, maybe 3-4 would have been done as tabletop skirmishes had I been playing it properly. I never tried the Mythic combat system, as I was intentionally using it as a GM emulator layered over another game, in my case Savage Worlds. LTL‘s combat system is a variant of the standard Two Hour Wargames reaction system, which probably deserves its own review at some point. Ranged and melee combat use different mechanics, which is fine; melee has been deliberately extended into multiple rounds of combat to increase tension, but I want something faster-moving here too, and adopted a suggestion from the Yahoo! Group, namely just counting passes from the first round of dice rolling. It works, and it’s faster.

Overall, LTL is billed as “all about the story”; and I found myself caring about the characters, eager to take Schrodinger down, and ready to move on to season 2. I’m already planning map changes, story arcs for the sequel(s), and other uses for the game engine. I’ll be coming back to this one; but meanwhile, All Things Zombie beckons for the next few months of evening entertainment.

The Arioniad – Scene 2

Posted: 16 October 2009 in Arioniad
Tags: , ,

I roll 1d10 vs Chaos Factor (5), and discover that the scene proceeds as planned.

So, who is this guy? Clearly he is the Patron in Traveller terms, so I roll on that game’s Patron Table and get a result of 3, 4: Spy. Interesting.

  • Does he work for Arion’s bloc? (50:50) Yes. Good, that will save some work, though I can see I will need to flesh out the political situation soon.
  • Can he prove it? (Likely) Yes.

I make a mental note that just because he says he is a spy, and on the same side as Arion, that doesn’t necessarily make it either one so; and at this stage neither Arion nor I know if it is true – one of the strengths of Mythic.

  • What’s going on here? This isn’t a question with a yes/no answer, so rather than split it into many yes/no questions, I roll percentile dice three times to get an event, which is composed of a focus (34, introduce a new NPC – let’s say that’s Dmitri), an action (52, “Adjourn”) and a subject (73, “Opulence”). The first explanation that comes to mind is that Dmitri is on leave and has been attacked.
  • Does he know who has attacked him? (50:50) No.
  • Does he need to grab anything before they leave? (Unlikely – he probably didn’t take anything too important on holiday, and if he did he will have grabbed it on the way.) No.

Arion leads his new acquaintance aboard ship – I shall use the standard Classic Traveller Type S scoutship to save work. They enter the empty payload bay and Arion closes the door. The maintenance unit on Arion’s shoulder decamps to do something useful and probably oily.

“Have a seat,” he says. “Now, who are you, and what’s going on, exactly?”

“Call me Dmitri,” says the man. “I work for the same people you used to work for.”

“Really. Can you prove that?” The newcomer looks up and says: “Computer: Authentication code Alpha Gamma Niner Three Two Kappa.”

“Voiceprint and authentication code confirmed,” the ship’s computer purrs.

“Hmm. OK, I’ll accept that for the moment. And the situation?”

“I’m here on leave – no, really, even spies get time off occasionally. I’m in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast, and those two turn up and try to drag me away. I run towards the starport, because I know there’s a friendly ship in port. I see you through the cafe window, in what’s left of a scout service uniform, and I figure you’re the pilot. The rest you know.”

“These thugs: Any idea who they are, or why they want you?”

“You know, in all the excitement I forgot to ask them,” Dmitri grins. “How soon can you lift?”

“As soon as I get clearance. Come on.” Arion leads the way to the ship’s bridge. “Anything you need to get before we go? Because if there is, learn to live without it.”

“No, I’m fine, thanks.”

I like to think of these adventures as movies, and in a movie we would now cut to Dmitri’s pursuers and see what they are up to. So another complex question: What are they doing? We get focus 36 (move towards a thread), action 80 (Trust) and subject 14 (Peace). There are only a couple of threads open, and I randomly determine that the event relates to Arion’s need for money. So…

Cut to an office somewhere. The two goons are reporting to a figure hidden from us by shadows.

“So, you lost him?” It is patrician voice, tinged with arrogance. The owner may be stroking a white cat in the shadows, who can tell?

“Yes, boss.”

“Either he has a safe house somewhere nearby, or he will try to get offplanet. If you had thought to check the ships currently in port, you would notice a detached duty scoutship called the ‘Dolphin’ which is owned by the same government to which he reports. I trust a peaceful solution will be possible; detached duty scouts are either spies, and thus by nature duplicitous; or poor; or both. Go there and offer him a large amount of money to hand over the target.”

The goons look at each other in surprise. The figure in the shadows laughs.

“Gentlemen, I said offer him a large amount of money. I said nothing about actually giving him a large amount of money. I trust you can fill in the gaps? Good. Be about it.”

List updates:

  • NPCs: Add mysterious figure in the shadows (and possibly cat).
  • Threads: No change.
  • Chaos Factor: No change, still 5.

The Arioniad, Scene 1

Posted: 4 October 2009 in Arioniad
Tags: , ,

“Scene” makes more sense than “episode” for Mythic, so let’s go with that.

Since the original setup, I’ve had a couple of thoughts; firstly that with $25 in his pockets and monthly operating expenses of many thousands, even with the Scout Service fronting fuel and maintenance, Arion needs a lot of cash, fast. That’s a classic trope of the genre so we’ll let it be. Secondly, that Arion needs someone or something to do all that grungy maintenance aboard ship, and something is more science-fictional; so we’ll have a robot about the size of a large tarantula on his shoulder, part of a maintenance swarm that does the minor repairs and cleaning aboard ship, which acts as a commlink to the ship. Otherwise, realistically, he’d be spending 24 hours a day just fixing broken bits. Goodness only knows a house is bad enough for that, and it doesn’t have to fly or be airtight. Should it become necessary, say in a boarding action, the maintenance swarm will be treated as a Savage Worlds swarm, but it won’t leave the ship as that would jeopardise its primary objectives; so outside, Arion needs to fend for himself.

Before I begin, I must set up three lists: Important NPCs, plot threads, and Chaos Factor, which measures how much in control of the situation Arion is.

  • NPCs: Scout Service (they must be important to Arion because they have lent him a multi-million Credit starship). No-one else at the moment.
  • Plot threads: Make enough money to keep flying. 
  • Chaos Factor: Starts at the default of 5. Normally one would roll against the Chaos Factor at the start of a scene to see if the story dives off in an unexpected direction, but since there is no expected direction at the moment I won’t bother.

So, Arion is sitting in a starport café when a man bursts through the door with a gun. In Mythic, the scenario is driven forward by asking yes/no questions, setting a likelihood of the answer being “yes”, and then cross-referencing a percentile dice roll with that likelihood and the current Chaos Factor on the Fate Chart, which is the core of the system.

The first question on Arion’s mind is most likely “Does this guy want to shoot me?” I have no basis for deciding that currently, so I assign a probability of “50/50” and roll the dice, for a score of 69 – “no”. OK, that’s a good start. (A roll in the lower range would mean “yes”, the upper range “no” – really low or high rolls are extreme yes or no answers, respectively.)

  • Does Arion know this person? (Unlikely, I decide; that gives a 35% chance of a “yes” answer.) I roll 71, no.
  • Is this person running away from someone else? (50/50). Roll 36, “yes”.
  • Is he scared? (50/50) Yes.
  • Is he wounded? (50/50) No.
  • Does he ask for help? (50/50). Yes.

The door crashes back on its hinges and a wild-eyed fellow steps into the café.

“Help me!” he cries. “They’re after me!” (Arion has the Heroic hindrance, so he can’t restrain himself; he has to help people who look like they’re in trouble.)

“Ray,” he calls to the bartender (“Ray, the guy that sells me beer” from the Simpsons version of “Do Re Mi”), “You got a back door to this place?”

  • Does he? (Very Likely – most of them do) Yes.
  • Will he let them use it? (Very Likely – a gunfight in his café would be bad for business) Yes.

Ray nods and points to one corner. Turning to the newcomer, Arion says: “Come with me if you want to live.” (Another genre trope, those of you playing trope bingo may now drink a beer.)

  • Will the fugitive follow Arion (Very Likely) Yes.
  • Are the pursuers close on their heels? (Likely) Here I roll 13%, which since it is in the lower fifth of the “yes” range means “extreme yes”; they’re bursting in right now.
  • Do they come in shooting? (50/50) No.
  • Do Arion and the fugitive get out of the back door before the pursuers see them? (Unlikely, because they’re in hot pursuit) Yes.

Arion and the stranger run for the back door and dive through it. While it’s still swinging shut, two hard-looking men in formal dress burst in through the front door and scan the café.

“Anyone just come in?” they want to know.

Ray shrugs. “Nobody here, is there? What can I get you?”

  • Do they follow through the back door? (50/50) No.

“Must’ve kept running,” says one to the other. “That way!” And with that, they take off out of the café and down the street.

Meanwhile, walking down the back alley and trying to look inconspicuous, Arion says: “My ship’s over there. Let’s get you out of sight, and then I want to know what this is about.”

That sounds like as good a point as any to end the scene. I now update the lists and Chaos Factor:

  • NPCs: Scout Service; add Dmitri, the bloke with a gun (he’ll need a name soon, and that’s the first one that came to mind); add people chasing him; add Ray the bartender.
  • Plot threads: Make enough money to keep flying. Find out who is chasing Dmitri and why. 
  • Chaos Factor: 5. Arion is no more or less in control than before, so no change.

Lessons learned: I think Mythic will be the most portable of these solo games, since as long as I have the Fate Chart, the Savage Worlds Test Drive, and some way to generate random numbers, I can play pretty much anywhere. The weapon of choice for trains and hotels, then.