Monday, June 24, 2013

Mythic why it works and Why it dosn't

So I've worked out why I love Mythic as a game master emulator but am not so keen on it as a standalone RPG. And it all comes down to the Fate Chart. In both versions of the Mythic book there is a chapter of play advice. And of the items in that chapter says don't ask the fate chart too many questions. Go with one, or two at the most and then do whatever seems the most logical in context.  This is great advise because using the fate chart is a bit of a mechanical process.

The problem with Mythic as an RPG is that it breaks this rule. To resolve one attack you need to ask the fate chart at least three and possibly four questions. And that can take a while.

Worst still how you look up the fate chart is much more complicated. When doing emulation you use the same column of the chart for the entire scene, and the only thing you need to do is estimate the probability. Better yet you do this by basically asking and answering the question in a very natural way.

Has the the Don's Bodyguard got a gun?
Sure thing.
Is the Butler still carrying the murder weapon?
That's very unlikely.
Easy quick and simple.

In the attack version things are not that simple. Firstly both the row and column vary from roll to roll, with the Column representing the defenders most relevant attribute or ability. And even though both edges of the chart have textual labels, you have to do maths on them. So lets see I'm attacking and and I have a +1 shift for being so quick so that's a High, but I'm wounded for a -2 shift so that brings it back to average. VS your Exceptional ability, ow but your wounded as well so that's a -1 shift.  OK so now I can roll. to see if I hit. Really if your going to make me do maths its better for my character to have a strength of 7 then a strength of "average".

But back to the example. I've already rolled to establish that I get to go at all. And then to hit, lets assume I do. Now we do the same dance again, with a different set of abilities and modifiers to work out if I do damage. And possibly again for a fourth time to see if you succumb to you injuries. And the end result is that it all takes too long. The attempt at realism is just hard to implement with dice, paper and brain.

And if we where playing a supers game things could be even worse ad the full fate chart is open ended, while the the GME version is fixed. 

Now I have a campaign running with my Son which is using Mythic and will probably continue to do so. But realistically I think its the one and only game I'll run using full mythic rules. And Even that's not a sure thing, If I can work out a nice way of making Pokemon Trainer into a Dungeon World Class.

But the Mythic Game Master Emulator is another question entirely. The GME is awesome, and a Really good fit for Dungeon World by the way. I'll say more about why I think these two rule sets work well together next time.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Techniques of the Rules Author

I make sporadic attempts to write something good enough charge people money to read. So far these have not resulted in a published work, though they have made me a rather brutal literary critic at times.  Over the course of these various attempts I've amassed a little writers bookshelf.  Some of the books seemed good but I've never gone back to while others have become standbys that I refere back to and re read all the time. One of these standbys is Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain What has struck me is how much of this book I've seen in RPG rule sets recently. So much so that it seems to be the unsung hero of rules wrting, unlike Hero of a Thousand faces which gets mentioned all the time.

Two systems in particular stand out in this regard. Marvel Heroic Role playing1, which has an explicit structure of Scenes and Sequels, and even calls them this in the rules. And the various games derived from Apocalypse World. Apocalypse World and its derivatives, of which I'm most familiar with Dungeon World, have  the interesting idea that the Dungeon Master does not roll dice, only the Players do. And based on the role they either fail, succeeded at a price or succeed outright. IF success is not outright the Dungeon Master gets to make a Move in response which may involve just dealing damage, or a host of other things. End result is that every dice roll matters to the story.

The standard rules in Dungeon World is present the situation, the looming threat and ask "what do you do?" The player then responds and probably rolls their dice. In Dwight Swain's terminology the chunk of converstation between the Dungeon Master and Player is a Motivation Reaction Unit. Indeed go to any example of play in the Dungeon World manual and you will see a seqnece of prefect MRU's strung together into a scene. And that accounts for everything the game calls a basic move.

Then we have special moves, which could just as well have been called sequal moves. They are things like making camp or making an entire perilous journey through the wilderness, and other such bridging details that go to make a smooth narrative wihout getting bogged down.

I've also being playing Mythic RPG both in whole (Pokemon inspired game with my sons) and the Game Master emulator subsystem (solo play dungeon world on the train). What has struck me in the last day as missing from Mythic is any mechanic for dealing with sequels. The system as it stands works very well for scenes but I can't seem to get it to frame sequels at all. At the table with my sons we just narrate them, while in my solo play they are quit conspicuously missing, mostly because I'm not motivated enough to type them in on my tablet. That said The Mythic GME is a great product, and has worked very well for me both at the table and solo. Mythic as a generic system not so much though, but thats a post for another day.
  1. What? Marvel Heroic Roleplaying has been pulled. I went looking for the link only to find that the entire product line is gone from the Margret Weiss Website. I'm assuming their relationship with Marvel soured for some reason, but man I didn't see that coming,