Mythic Adventures Playtest

Last Wednesday Paizo released the much anticipated Mythic Adventures playtest. The book is not due out until a Gen Con release in August 2013, but true to Paizo fashion they allow plenty of time for playtesting new rules.

I must preface the comments in this post as being based on a read through of the playtest document and not actual play. My comments are more an overview and overall impression of the new rules and less a dissection of what does and does not work at a finely detailed level. For people seeking to playtest the rules in their game, please read the announcement post and follow the directions there for a proper playtest.

Mythic Adventures will add significant power to your Pathfinder game through the additions of a mythic tier. Many D&D gamers are familiar with epic level rules that kick in beyond typical levels in D&D play. The mythic rules are a little different in that you could start a campaign with mythic powered at level 1 or your could apply them partially through a campaign or you could even apply them temporarily during your campaign.

I readily admit I have rarely had any interest in epic level play. I typically feel a D&D or Pathfinder character starts to become a little too superhero-ish in the mid-teens levels of play. It is fun for awhile, but mainly as a pinnacle of a character’s adventuring career. Playing extended campaigns at “epic” levels is not an area I have historically had a lot of interest in.

This is one of things about the Mythic Adventures rules that is really unique. They offer a way to apply these power boosts right at level 1. No need to play through 20 levels of play and then become “epic” or “mythic”. No need to build pre-gens at levels 20+ just to start there with “epic” or “mythic” level characters. I think the way Paizo has figured out a way to layer these mythic rules into play is quite significant.

I also like that for people like me, that don’t necessarily want to play a whole campaign at “mythic” levels can craft ways to add these rules in on a temporary basis. There are some examples of this in the playtest. A perfect way for players or GMs like me to make use of these rules without committing to an entire campaign at “mythic” levels.

Another tool for the GM is the option of only applying mythic rules to particularly noteworthy opponents or creatures. They could be applied to a human adversary or even an animal-like adversary if the GM saw fit.

There are a multitude of ways to use the mythic adventure rules in your game even if you do not want to commit to an entire campaign at that power level. Very flexible, much more flexible than I thought the rules would be.

The playtest is freely downloadable from Paizo for those that wish to see the details of the rules. So I am only going to hit some of the highlights without going into significant detail.

The mythic rules use ten tiers to scale the power level of the mythic character upwards. These tiers do not necessarily correlate to character (i.e. you could have a 10th level fighter that is only at the 2nd level mythic tier). Tiers are gained by lesser and greater trials.

Each mythic tier grants base mythic powers that are independent of the mythic path you choose. Base powers include things that make you more difficult to kill, flaws, mythic power itself, initiative bonuses, and more as you advance.

There are six main mythic paths a character can choose to apply to their character. Each is geared towards a specific genre of class. The mythic path is what more specializes your mythic power to your class abilities. The paths can include access to mythic flavored spells, feats, and such. Paths also include mythic abilities a player can choose as they advance tiers.

The playtest document also includes many examples of lesser trials mythic characters can choose from to gauge their advancement. The GM is welcome to create their own as well.

Tips on running a mythic game gets a chapter in the playtest document. These tips help show how versatile the system is. From running a game where only creatures can be mythic to temporary use of the rules to running a whole campaign with mythic characters and creatures.

Some example mythic magic items and monsters also get a couple of chapters in the playtest. Mythic magic items and monsters open up whole new realms of play to design in and craft clever challenges for your players.

The playtest document wraps up with a short adventure allowing a GM to tryout the playtest rules with their group. It also is another example of the flexibility of the rules for those GMs that only want to dabble in the mythic realms of power instead of running entire mythic campaigns.

The playtest document weighs in at 52 pages. The layout is excellent, even Paizo’s playtest documents ooze quality. There is some artwork peppered about in the document in the form of sketch art.

When I first heard about Mythic Adventures I was a little skeptical. But after reading through the playtest document I certainly admire the framework. It appears to be extremely flexible for GMs and players and has made itself readily usable by new campaigns and old campaigns already well under way. I am anxious to see how it evolves over time. It looks quite promising even at this early point in the playtest process.

Rolemaster: An Evening with Character Law

The post below is written by UbiquitousRat, a guest blogger for The Iron Tavern.

The public playtest of Rolemaster began a few short hours before our regular Friday Night Roleplay meeting. To be honest, I was holding out hope that this would be the case because I’d been bigging-up the start of our new campaign using these rules for months. The hour was here and this is an account of how things went down. This is slightly longer than usual, but we’ve got a lot to cover.

The Rolemaster Books

Two of the five core books for Rolemaster got released in the first wave: Spell Law and Character Law. The latter book is what we spent time using at our first session, although the guys did dip into Spell Law a tiny bit to choose Spell Lists. We’ll drop you another article on Spell Law just as soon as we’ve explored it in depth.

Character Law covers the core rules relating to creating and running a hero in Rolemaster. In addition to the material dedicated to a step-by-step walk-through of designing a hero, you also get chapters covering Equipment, Experience and Advancement, Maneuvers and Movement, and The Environment. Combat, for the curious, is found in Arms Law which (at the time of writing) is expected to release to playtest in a few days.

Character Law

Overall we were mightily impressed with Character Law. Bearing in mind that we received the rules a scant 2 hours before meeting, we managed to build four heroes (with four players involved) in around two hours. This included about 30 minutes of time spent by the players writing notes in answer to the background questions in Chapter 3 (of which more in a moment).

The book is nicely laid out over 77 pages, with two columns of text. Even without art it looks neat and is very accessible. As far as playtest documents go, it makes the usual “Word file turned .PDF” look laughably cheap.

There is a very nice introduction and overview of character creation to draw you in. In terms of style, this is a very clean read which is clear. The only problems we had with understanding it were due to players (and me) trying to speed-read sections; on a proper read the text seems very clear. The game comes over as simple to understand and play, but certainly not simplistic.

Making Heroes

We dived in the deep end. Certainly my players are nervous about whether they have made appropriate choices but, as GM, I’m going to allow some tweaking of the numbers after a session or two of actual play. Overall, however, everyone seemed happy with the rules and seemed to grasp the main concepts readily.

The nice thing about Rolemaster is that it begins character creation with a chapter entitled, “Background”. Here you are invited to think through a strong concept for your hero with a series of relatively easy-to-follow questions. The text explains the process of thought quite nicely, and my players set to reading and scribbling down thoughts for around 20-30 minutes. This was reportedly a positive experience, and really set them up for the next series of steps. For me, this was refreshing as most games tack the background thinking on at the end. Not so with Rolemaster: characterisation and story are front and centre.

Stats and Potentials

There are 10 Stats, exactly as veteran Rolemaster players will expect. Everything plays off of a d100 or d10-based roll. So far, we’ve not had to roll another die type. There is a choice of random or points-buy system for choosing your Stats.

We chose to points-buy and I am REALLY pleased that we did so. Rolemaster uses a really cool system whereby you choose the Potential value of each Stat – i.e. the best your hero will ever be in that ability – before you choose their current Temporary value. The players, although initially taken-aback, quickly reported that they liked this because it meant that they immediately envisioned the hero as he or she will ultimately be.

Essentially, Rolemaster sets the expectations of the players and draws them towards wanting to play their way to their potential. Actual starting values are relatively modest, meaning that you are a slightly-above-average hero to begin with. That being said, GMs have options to raise or lower the power level of their campaign by altering the starting points allowed.

As an aside, min-maxing seemed very much harder to achieve because the players realised that everything is important… and the first rule of Rolemaster, to my mind, is that you can choose anything but you are always making sacrifices of other stuff.

Races

Rolemaster offers Dwarves, Elves, Goblins, Halflings, Humans, Orcs and Trolls as character races. It also gives the GM rules for designing their own races, which is a very simple process. Each race is balanced with the others through the one-time blessing of extra (never reduced) Development Points, used to buy Skills and Talents.

Each race modifies your Stat bonuses (not the Stat), Resistance Rolls (think: Saves), and other core details such as how many Concussion Hits (think: Hit Points) you begin with.

My players loved the choices available and really seemed to get a kick out of the Height and Weight chart. We also introduced the first Optional Rule from this chapter: Individual Stride, wherein the hero’s height affects how quickly they can move. Easy to implement and something my rules-wary players asked for. Amazed? I was.

Culture

Next you select a Culture, which is a sort of background package of free Skill ranks. There are loads of cool choices, including Reavers and the Underground culture, both of which we found to be very cool. Rules are also there for GMs to add their own Cultures, and this looks very simple to implement.

In short, the guys thought that this was a good no-brainer choice to round out their heroes. As GM I could see that this side-steps the need to encourage players to take a minimum of 1 Rank in Body Development, and other such bare minimum Skill levels, and adds flavour for the characters to boot.

Professions

Professions are not “classes” but it’s easy to start with that misconception. Professions are what your hero is funnelled towards being good at without constraining you like classes might. We chose to create a Fighter, a Ranger, a Mentalist (we LOVE that one!), and a Dabbler. There are 21 Professions to choose from.

Your character can train in any Skill, but your Profession makes some Skills easier to learn than others. Profession sets up the cost (paid for with Development Points) for your Skills. Each level you get new Development Points and can upgrade your Skills by purchasing Ranks. Each Skill Rank is worth a percentage bonus to your skill, starting with 5% increments. Professions also have nine “Professional Skills” to give you a small top-up bonus each time you buy a rank in each of them.

Buying Skills was the slowest part of the creation… and initially it confused my players. That is, until they read the text instead of just staring at the cost chart. Timing the process, it took about 30 minutes for each totally new Rolemaster player to complete spending their Development Points. What was great, however, was seeing them interact and advise each other.

Thinking about it, I don’t know many games where I have seen quite so much group discussion of which Skills or Talents might best fit another person’s concept. It was really cool to listen in on.

Talents

Talents are one-time bonuses and abilities that don’t fit the Skills list. Examples include bonuses such as Ambidextrous or Darkvision, and Flaws such as Mumbler or Blood Shy. These are simple to implement (bought with Development Points) and really colourful. There are just enough to make it tough to choose but not too many. My players just seemed to pick one and smile knowingly.

Overall?

As a GM this rules set excites me. But then I was excited about it anyway.

My players’ reactions were mixed but overall positive. The guy who fears the grind of “roll-play” was nervous about the arithmetic in totalling up Skill Bonuses (which totals five numbers for each skill), but also admitted that he was tired after a long day at work. Nobody seemed to struggle with this, however, and the other three guys seemed to feel it was acceptable.

What did we like? We like Stat Potentials in this rules set (which I hated in previous Rolemaster editions) because it sets you up with a “target” vision of your hero. We like the choice of Races and Cultures because they are not rigidly paired to force stereotypes. We like the choice of 21 Professions, including Warrior Monks and Sorcerers because they are all pretty appealing.

Overall, we also like the ease with which we have started playing. Two and one half-hours of play time is not bad for a serious RPG character session, and we spent 2 hours doing the details. We have four very cool-looking and totally unique heroes, and we are ready to play.

The only fly in our ointment was that there is not yet an official Character Sheet, and it’d be useful if a decent one comes out soon.

If you fancy taking a look at the playtest rules for Rolemaster, they are free to download once you agree to the basic terms of the test. Check out the Iron Crown forums article, “Director’s Briefing – the Rolemaster Playtest”. Just please don’t be a jerk and file share… get your mates to grab their own copy too.

Game on!

Bio

UbiquitousRat is a long-time roleplayer and gamesmaster who has a history with gaming going back to 1979. In 1994 he joined Games Workshop, spending 12 years in the gaming industry at the coal-face of tabletop wargaming. In 1998 he founded the Friday Night Roleplay group at his home in suburban Nottinghamshire, UK, and ever since has been the primary GM. The group was involved in the playtest of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay, as well as giving air to the development of 6d6 RPG. The core five players are all looking forward to the new Rolemaster and everyone is excited to be sharing the story in The Iron Tavern. Oh, and he’s also a high school teacher during the daytime.