Sunday, November 5, 2017

Griping about Mythras Combat

Recently I've been running a campaign set in ancient Mesopotamia, powered by Mythras. In some ways this seems like a no-brainer: Mythras by design appears to be eminently suited to running a historical campaign set in the ancient world, and it absolutely is.

But....I really dislike the combat system, I've decided. Every time I run Mythras I am confronted with the specter of my more intimate familiarity with the BRP system, especially Magic World and Call of Cthulhu. I keep saying, "why does this game have so damned many special exceptions, variables and obscure little mechanical contrivances to do what the other BRP games accomplish to exactly the same effect, but with fewer rules and less effort?"

I've told my group we can plow on through....the last time I had a successful campaign with the Mythras system it was shortly after RQII from Mongoose released, and I remember I was about three sessions in and hating the combat system before it "clicked" and seemed to get easier, as well. Maybe that will happen here....or maybe I'll wimp out and tell everyone to convert to BRP.

I suppose I could also mod out Mythras a bit. Borrow some BRP elements and simply adapt Mythras to work more to my liking. Instead of tracking action points, just tell everyone "you have  2 APs" and then instead of Evading and Parrying costing APs use the mechanic where each successive dodge or parry incrementally increases in difficulty by 30%.

I could also keep the APs but have each person take a single combat round to spend all three, then reason out order of actions from there. "I run 6 meters that way, draw sword, attack" can become one declaration rather than drawn out over three phases of a round.

I could state that specials don't happen unless they are pre-declared, and use the mechanical reward of specials as the confirmation that the special happened.

If I were ever to have an opportunity to suggest a rewrite to the system, I would get rid of descriptors used in place of actual numbers. No more "increase/decrease 1 increment, go see other chart X that we don't tell you about here" nonsense. No more "Formidable" or other descriptors, just tell me right here what the frickin' value is. I hate it when a system adds two layers to a task by attaching a descriptor and a number, where the number is what you need, then forces the descriptors in the text instead o just know...numbers. FFG's Star Wars RPG does this (sort of). FATE does this. It's all annoying.

Some of this will make it more like BRP, of course, but I consider that a good starting point. Mythras remains forever a weird duck to me, because it changed the mechanical foundation of BRP style combat just enough to throw it all off, and in the name of elaboration and detail it sacrificed flexibility and intuitiveness--at least, until you play it long enough for everything to become second nature. But I just don't have the energy and time anymore to get to that point....I don't think. Do I?

Things I must mull over. But damn if we (my group) don't all agree that Mythras remains the system we love so much until it comes to the combat.

Edit/Update: I feel a bit differently now after giving it time. Will post more soon, but I realize that the problem is a bit more nuanced than I realized, until I considered it carefully. It boils down to this:

1. As a GM I will make a rule call when the specific rule is not obvious in play to speed things up. As I have limited time to prep for games, I often go in to a game with a "learn on the fly" approach, but for games like Mythras that means I'm sometimes applying modifiers I know about, or looking them up...but may not consider something I haven't memorized.

2. I have a rules lawyer in the group. This causes a lot of problems in the play session I mentioned as every time I tried to adjudicate a quick rule he would contradict me and this causes slow down as we looked up the process. This happened enough to get everyone frustrated.

3. The players aren't very savvy to the specials/crit process and the maneuvers. My default is going to tell everyone that they must accept called shot/max damage as defaults until or if they become more familiar with other options for their attack type. No five minute pause to research!

1 comment:

  1. Have you tried Revolution D100? It is very similar to Mythras but I feel the complexity level can be adjusted depending on your taste (and mine certainly tends towards the low end!)