Greg Stafford, a huge visionary in roleplaying games and founder of Chaosium passed away in his sweat lodge yesterday.
This is a bit more sad since Runequest and Glorantha got beautiful new editions this year, yet the man had a pretty awesome run as a game designer. While we (unfortunately) did not get into Runequest as kids, we definitely did the Call of Cthulhu and a little bit of Elric. The BRP system (designed by Steve Perrin) is the best RPG system (in it’s modern forms) there is and we all owe a great debt of gratitude for years of excellent gaming with Call of Cthulhu as kids and gaming to come with Mythras and Runequest.
Stafford came up with his ideas for Glorantha while at Beloit College, proving yet again that Wisconsin is where all the critical RPG ideas came from and will come from in the future.
What’s more, without Glorantha/Runequest there would be no Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and likely the Warhammer old world and 40K would be VERY different than it is today (discounting Age of Sigmar entirely as it’s fluff is basically fanfic).
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a great game with some pretty glaring burrs on the system in actual play (yep, in all three editions). For First and Second edition, the combat system is very whiffy, far too whiffy for low fantasy in my opinion and despite the funny critical hit tables in first edition (the 2nd edition ones were not as fun), pretty damn boring.
However, I have a soft spot for it and it’s milieu, despite what it’s become since with GW and Fantasy Flight’s strange 3rd Edition. Third is… very odd and to me unplayable with my group, impossible to play online as well. It’s great it has died and hopefully Cubicle 7 will do something great with the license (there are some EXCELLENT adventures written for third edition though that beg conversion to a better system). With the Humble Bundle giving access to all the 2nd edition material recently, I wanted to post this thing I worked on for a bit about a year ago: creating characters in Mythras using a WFRP style career system. This assumes that you know a bit about WFRP (or just got the books) and you know Mythras or Runequest 6.
Mythras core is all system and can work for all sorts of genres, especially low fantasy. It’s got an explicit Sword and Sandal feel to the main book but it’s not really pushing any type of world on the players. It’s a massive toolkit game with an amazing combat system, and easy levelling /XP system and while difficult to grok in some cases (Animism), a very rich magic system.
What it doesn’t have is easy character creation. It takes a bit of time to build characters, and I’ve built about 10-15 of them so far myself and for my players and con games. Players have a lot of choices in skills and the points buy system gets a bit tedious when you spend a set of 100 points 3 times during character creation to build up your skills, and man that is tiresome when you want to grease up and get playing! I first got this idea while running Thulian Echoes (from Lamentations of the Flame Princess) with Mythras. I had to make pre-gens for the … diary characters in Thulian Echoes, and while that was OK for me in prep, actual Character generation took a bit of time and my players are impatient, especially when they know most (non 13th Age) adventures I run have a 20-90% death toll (per session). They didn’t know for the first 2 sessions, Thulian has no possible death toll to the original characters…
What I wanted to build on top of Mythras is a career system like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for starting characters only. The XP system in Mythras is perfect so once the initial career is set, the rest of the WFRP career stuff is not useful, however quaint, and you don’t have to look back or be bound by your career (which you don’t do anyway since you are a murderhobo now).
The reason to run WFRP with Mythras is obvious: it’s a better system, but why do this to Mythras? It will be easier to make characters. It will be faster. It will still define the character (more in some ways) than the base careers/culture in Mythras without having to roll on all the family and background charts.
What you lose: the age of the character won’t give bonus points like in normal Mythras, you just roll your career and all selection is taken care of except for a couple skills. You also lose the WFRP signature ‘skills’ in the game, like Strike Mighty blow, Dodge, Flee!, etc. If you play Mythras you will realize that these are no big loss at all since they are handled by the skill and combat systems more elegantly than WFRP 1,2 or 3. Also lost are the advanced careers. If you use the Mythras XP and guild system, this won’t be missed. Yes, I know some people loved jumping around from Pirate to Pirate Captain, from Rat Catcher to Bodyguard to Student (?!), trying to become a wizard after hundreds and hundreds of spent XP, but that all can be handled via the normal Mythras XP system and Guilds/Affiliations.
Here is how it works:
1) Create a character up to the step where you start picking skills (roll or points buy as normal), you will need to pick a RACE at this point (dwarf, wood elf, human, halfling) and create that according to the rules in Mythras
2) Pick a Class – warrior, rogue, academic, ranger which defines the set of careers you were BEFORE starting on the murderhobo career of an adventurer
3) Roll on that Classes Starting Career table see below for the list (or pick if you must, you wuss)
4) Add the bonuses listed in the Career description for all skills listed to your base skill.
5) Add the bonus and any listed professional skills
6) Add the bonus points listed to the combat skill (or skills)
7) Take the spells listed for that career if applicable
8) Take the trappings for that career listed
9) Name the character
10) Passions (if you use them) -work these with your GM.
11) Go play!
Alchemist’s Apprentice, Artisan’s apprentice, druid, engineer, exiseman, herbalist, hypnotist (!?), initiate, pharmacist, physician’s student, scribe, seer, student, trader and the oft-sought after but never-rolled Wizard’s Apprentice.
I also have the excellent WFRP 2nd edition career compendium from Fantasy Flight with hordes of careers that are crying out for some sort of use, that would be a LOT of work to convert all those careers.
There’s the base system for character creation, now someone has to bust out the remaining 62 career templates in their spare time. I’ll throw up a magic user type next week as an example with some ways I was thinking of doing battle magic spells. Really it’s just the same as creating a ‘cult’ in Mythras that gives magical knowledge/power to it’s members. Some of the WFRP hedge and battle magic spells are iconic however.
It’s Sunday night and I’m beat. We were up until 3am playing a cracking game of A Study In Emerald wherein MOUTH failed to disclose via his actions in game which faction he was on due to rather erratic play. I was in the lead after destroying a couple royals but the Loyalists could have pulled out a win if they crushed my partner in restoration who was down to a single agent on the board. Mouth, shockingly, played a card to push the Loyalist War Track up to 10, ending the game, at which time he revealed himself to be a Loyalist. This after murdering another Loyalist player’s agents with the Vampire (Matt’s). Madness.
ASIE is a fantastic game, every time I play I get better at it and it gets more fun!
I spent some cash at the con, needless to say. Notable stuff I picked up: Decision at Elst, a Squad Leader starter kit campaign, SECRETS by Eric Lang, Ethnos, 1914 Quartermaster General and I went ahead and spent the 30$ to get the board game geek exclusive Blood Rage miniature (Hili).
I got to see CMON’s Rising Sun played, and saw someone walking around with a copy (they won it in a charity auction) so I think Rising Sun may be closer to shipping than we have info on from Kickstarter. I also got to see Massive Darkness played, which, while I kickstarted it, I’m not totally sold on the co-operative gameplay yet. Nice minis though right?
One odd game we got to play was Mr. MeeSeeks (from Rick and Morty) which is pretty great if you can play with girls and are drunk. It is not an all-guys game WHATSOEVER. I saw, but did not get to play Anatomy Park, also from Rick and Morty.
RPG’s were fun but a bit scarce this year. I played in an excellent game of Mythras based on the 80’s sci fi world Luther Arkwright. I’m going to pick up that book and see if it will work well for a BPRD style game. We played as Luther, Rose, another sex-addict character from the graphic novel, the Avengers (emma peel, johnathan steed) and Dr. Who (8th) in a sort of murder mystery, find the bomb game with dueling psychics and science! It was great fun.
My Mythras game was set in 1648 during the battle of Roicroi and the characters were Walloon deserters from a defeated tercio who fled into the town only to find it very strange indeed. Everything ended with a double hendersen and I feel I did a good job for only two hours of play.
The following day I ran Sailors on the Starless Sea, a DCC funnel adventure) for a big and rotating group of people who got exceedingly drunk during the affair. It was a lot of fun for me to try to manage the chaos, but it became too loud with the yelling for anyone to hear, so we didn’t get the adventure done on account of gin and the like. Someday I will finish running that all the way through: it is a pivotal module for DCC fans.
My favorite new game of the Con is probably Ethnos, but I really like Quartermaster General 1914 as well. We played about half a game of that and it clicked for all the players (too late at night though!). We’ll see which of those get more play. Ethnos with 6 players is really difficult to manage as a euro.
My favorite non-gaming thing was the Museum. I hope they do that every year. We get a mini one every Gary Con, but this was gencon big and had a ton of really cool stuff.
One thing my brother said on the way home was that Gencon is an anomaly from normal life because everyone is NICE. Packed in to a dealer hall, destroyed bathrooms and feeding areas you’d thing there would be dickheads and fights and yelling (remember, a LOT of people are drunk and high at gencon, like any other convention) but I never saw a single thing that wasn’t nice. That is really saying something, especially sitting in the Trump era where people seem to be going out of their way sometimes to be total cunts.
I signed up for FOUR Runequest/Mythras games at Gencon this year and made it to three of them. The first one we had a big group in and it was very good, probably the best RQ session I’ve had.
The scenario had the Roman 8th Legion which disappeared in England actually make it to the New world and set up a Roman style camp city in the Algonquin lands. The players played either First people or some of the Romans (all pre-generated). A mysterious attack on an Algonquin chieftain brings the two groups together– for a time. This was an excellent short adventure with mystery, exploration, traps and a brutal combat to cap it off. There was good use of passions as well, something I need to work on in my own RQ games. Dice-wise we were rolling criticals ALL day long– and my character, an Algonquin brave, was able to take down one of the mid-bosses with a single arrow shot! All in all, since this one was with friends, a good GM and the historical-weird stuff that is totally in my wheel house, I was super pleased with this game. I don’t want to go too deep into what happened as I assume the GM will publish this adventure somewhere.
The second game was also good, but I didn’t have any of my friends there so wasn’t too great, plus the were some very silly social justice warrior comments made due to the fact that playing a game with characters in 1100’s England is not the same as playing characters in a game set in the post 1995 world. This game was set in an era of the very early middle ages with iron-fisted feudal lords, miserable peasantry, xenophobia on a level incomprehensible to modern man for fucksakes! In this scenario, which had the same GM as the Algonquin-Roman game, we were to free King Stephen from the clutches of Geoffrey of Anjou after his capture at the battle of Lincoln. While this was also a historical scenario, it was very tough to get into at first since I was fairly unfamiliar with this conflict (the Anarchy is the official name) and there were a lot of names to remember. Also the problem, getting into a castle and into that castles dungeon, was quite difficult and could (remember this is Runequest!) have gone very badly for the characters at many points. Luckily and due to some smart play by our priest, we were able to bluff our way into the castle as workmen (workwomen in my character’s case) with a lot of help from the faculty staff and free the king in the end. The highpoint was giving some knights a laxative and then slaughtering them in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay fashion as they charged out of the loo in their long shirts. Rule to remember RQ/Mythras fans: ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET.
I was able to note a couple tweaks from RQ6 to Mythras that I definitely think make it a better game on top of already the best game. You can do a few new things with Luck Points than you could before, such as reversing the numbers on your rolled die or giving your character an extra action point (!).
The last game I made it to was CLASSIC FANTASY, which is a Mythras/RQ take on old school fantasy gaming. We had pre-gen characters again of your standard classes from Basic D&D. I played the wizard and other than roleplaying or providing tactical ideas, I pretty much only fired off my Magic Missile in combat. The scenario was interesting, but the GM did not drop us into the slaughter straight away (a staple of Old school games) but had a lengthy campaign-starting intro description that he actually repeated TWICE for us as there was a player that showed up late.
In old school fashion, the game was a dungeon crawl with some interesting traps and tricks scattered about and, of course, constant combat. We probably got into six fights during the session (I could only stay for 3 hours of it though), so many that we were a bit fight-numb. However, this was the first time I had play RQ with miniatures on a grid, like Pathfinder. It seemed to work well, with very little confusion about where everyone is. However, this turns a dynamic, imagination game into a tactical miniatures game where the focus is solely on the board and pieces in front of the players. If I was going to run a Classic Fantasy game, I would eschew the use of minis and especially a grid unless truly necessary. I use a map with miniatures in 13th Age all the time for fights, but it’s a gridless game with very loose (yet mechanically integrated) distances. Counting off spaces when you are playing Space Hulk or Advanced Heroquest (and you could lump 4E D&D into this board game group) is fine, but in and RPG? It’s just not necessary and is pretty annoying.
The Magic system in Classic Fantasy is just what you would expect– RQ mechanics on top of the standard Sleep, Magic missile, Cloud Kill, etc. I really had only magic missile, as noted earlier, and fired it off quite a bit, but mostly missed my casting rolls. Due to the class and level system being applied to RQ in Classic Fantasy, characters start a bit weaker than your standard RQ characters. A fighter in RQ is going to to have a 60%+ in his main combat skill, sometimes even into the high 70’s. Magic users in standard RQ will have a high casting value for Sorcery or Theism– they will fail from time to time, but it will be rare– usually their skill will come in to play when in opposition to something else. Classic Fantasy characters, at least the pregens we had, had 40’s and 50’s for their skills, so there was a lot of whiffing. While in close combat a whiff can mean death as the opponent can parry and get a special effect, casting spells or shooting arrow whiffing isn’t too fun when it’s close to 50%. When both sides have sub 50% skill at fighting, it can make for a long fight if special effects aren’t used.
Since there were so many combats, some vs monsters and odd things, there was some hand waving around the special effects. As a GM and player of RQ: don’t do this. Special effects are an integral part of the game, and it’s one of those things that makes RQ/Mythras D100 far better than Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Special effects make combat go quickly and make your rolls, especially in close combat with actual weapons matter every time you touch the dice.
Lesson from this last game for GMs: when you sit down to run a CON RPG game– time is fleeting so GREASE UP AND GET FUCKING. This isn’t your home campaign! Any dithering will be seen of as terrible. Throw the characters immediately into a situation and get them making choices, don’t wait, don’t explain much, just start PLAY. In my Lamentations game, after character creation, the players were at the base of the Tower of the Stargazer within minutes and the first roll for death was just a few minutes after that. Go go go. Players aren’t there to SHOP or listen to back story!
To show off the combat system for those who had not experienced it yet (and Matt, who has), I decided to put together a little player vs player gladiatorial combat action using Runequest 6 based on this article. I rolled about 15 Gladiators for RQ, priced them based on their stats (mostly looking at AP, Combat Style, Damage mod, Evade and Endurance) and had the players buy them with 1000 sectartiis. Most gladiators were about 300s, but a few hardcore guys were more. The only requirement was that they had at least 3 fighters for 3 rounds of that day’s games. The winner of each round would receive $$ and if any gladiators were killed, the owner of the killer would have to pay up, just like in real life.
If they had $$ left over after buying fighters, they could buy luck points for 50s. These could be used at any time for any gladiator to force a reroll on another player, or reroll the dice themselves. Once used for the day, they were gone.
I did use miniatures for this fight to keep things clear. Everyone was close together and there were no ranged weapons, so it made it easy. We had three players for these events, again with 3 gladiators each and a few luck points between them.
When Animals Attack
The first round was a fight with a bear, naturally (I recommend all new players and GM’s start with an animal combat of some kind, like a hunt or bear attack). The players threw in one gladiator each and they went to town. The combatants were:
Beaire the Nasty, a Thracian (note, these guys have big shields, but only a hooked DAGGER)
Nesset the Ugly, a Provocator (huge shield, shortsword)
Tecocia the Reaver, a Retiarius (the net and trident dudes)
There was some early confusion as to what the bear would do with the net being thrown onto him, but I made the call since he didn’t know what it was, he wouldn’t parry. Needless to say, the bear didn’t spend a lot of time parrying, and mostly spent his time attacking.
Nesset was able to impale with his short sword, but it did not hinder the bear’s skills at all (based on a size chart of weapon to creature/person size). As a group, they were able to fend off the bear for a bit, long enough for Tecocia to net it so it had difficulty attacking and then impale it with the trident (which did quite a bit of damage). Unfortunately, the poor Retiarius decided not to parry a blow from the bear and had his leg torn off for his trouble. The remaining two gladiators were able to hack the bear down with the trident still sticking out of him, and survive unscathed to the cheering of the crowd. While it seems forgone conclusion, things could have gone terribly, terribly wrong for the gladiators. Without the retiarius, I think they would have been bloodied meat in the sand mostly because the Thracian and Provocator use their weapon special effects to good use vs humans, but not so much vs the brawn monster that is a bear.
The second event was the individual fights between gladiators. The players put forth their champions and lots were drawn to determine the fighters. I stepped in because we had only three players in order to give a fight to the odd man.
The combatants in the first fight were
Coprica – Murmillo (Large shield, short sword, Heavy head armor)
Pepominili – Hoplomachus (Short spear, tiny shield and a dagger)
This went back and forth and really caused us to look in the rulebook a lot for being prone, tripping, different weapon lengths and a few other rules since the spear and the short sword were two weapon lengths apart. While I love the RQ6 book, not everything you need for a rule is in the same place, so there’s hunting and pecking. Also in this fight we ran into some trouble with players taking a long time to pick special effects– the android app would have helped here, but no one had an android, so we had to use sheets of paper and my homemade GM screen.
This was a reach fight. The Hoplomachus was able to keep the Murmillo at bay for most of the fight, despite his small shield he was able to defend mostly by backing away. There was a big difference in combat style % here, with the Hoplomachus at 82%!
Eventually due to sheer luck, Coprica kept getting hit in his unarmoured arm (among MANY armored places) and passed out from the shock and blood loss for a win for Papamillia the Hoplomachus.
The second fight was the fastest RQ6 fight I’ve ever experienced. The combatants were:
Nesset the Ugly (the Provocator from the first animal fight)
Necnipro the Doomed (a Dimachaerus, which has only leg armor and two short swords !???)
I figured this would be a chance to see how the FLURRY special effect worked since that’s what the Dimachaerus’s come with, but, Nesset engaged and attacked… and fumbled his attack roll! Necnipro succeeded with her parry giving two special effects (and access to the attacker fumble special effects) which were Compel Surrender and Force Failure. This means the combatant would normally get a willpower roll to resist the compel surrender, but the second effect, only usable when someone fumbles, forced the failure. Nesset, while unhurt, was booed by the crowed and probably died of shame in his heart moments later.
The final battle was a free for all melee with four fighters and would be a long slough to the end.
The combatants (in order of strike rank):
Misuae (I just kept calling him Mouse) – another Retiarius again with a net and trident
Necnipro the Doomed (Dimachaerus fresh of her 2 second win over Nesset the ugly!) – two short swords
Ecaubus the Monstrous (a huge Gual/Sartar with a broadsword and big shield, but no other armor).
Posttastis the Blood Drinker (Provocator, again, big shield, shortsword and armor)
Misuae charged Postastis (here on out, called mouse and potatoes) and while the Retiarius got in some shots without parries from the Provocator, his armor saved him multiple times (warding location with that fuckn big shield helped too). Mouse was just unable to close the distance for long versus that trident and even hit himself in the leg with his shield at one point. Eventually though, the Provocator was able to strike the spear arm of the Retiarius and forced him to drop his trident. Mouse carried on with only his net until…
Necnipro and Ecaubus had the exact same strike rank in this fight, and this was odd since if one declared and attack, the other parried and… could attack again? We didn’t have time to look into the rules much for this but a few times both gladiators simply attacked without parrying at the same time. In one exchange, Necnipro got a bleeder on Ecaubus and nearly severed one of her arms. She stayed in the fight and impaled Necnipro with her broadsword. Necnipro in a display of bravery, pulled the broadsword out of her abdomen, made her endurance roll and fought on, twice forcing Ecaubus to check willpower or surrender (who made very good dice rolls to stay in the fight). Nearly bled out, Ecaubus had the last laugh and took Necnipro (remember, armourless except her legs) out of action.
The Gaul (Ecaubus) then ran and attacked the Retiarius who had regained his trident from the bloody sand and was warding off Mouse again. We were not sure whether or not the longer weapon (trident) could hold off the broad sword and deemed not because one was L and one was M. Ecaubus got a special effect and compelled Mouse to surrender. Even while bleeding out (she was at formidable skill difficulty at this point) Ecaubus the Monstrous was able to hit the Provocator and that was the end of it– until the owner of the Provocator remembered a luck point and using this, was able to keep the fight going and force surrender on Ecaubus the Monstrous who would have probably collapsed moments later from bleeding…
So that was that. There was a lot of discussion about the nature of opposed rolls, which means that if both parties succeed, whoever gets highest without going over their skill wins the contest (an ideal roll would be 95% [corrected from 98%, which is an auto failure] if you had 100% skill). This is one of the subtle yet awesome things about RQ6 to keep the game moving and not have ‘nothing happen.’ Granted attacks/parries are not opposed rolls, so there can be times when, if both opponents have the same weapon size, that they bounce off each other in the attack-parry sequence. However, shortly something will happen when a failure, critical or fumble comes along.
There were a lot of new rules I had not had to deal with in the Vikinthulhu campaign yet, so we had to look up a lot. Things in the heat of the moment could not always be made clear. Issues we had specifically were around:
Arise (special effect) and getting up from prone, and what the effects of being prone are.
Charging – it costs an AP to charge…but you don’t get to attack as I understand it with that AP? strange!
Flurry (special effect) seems pointless? I don’t get this special effect. (only unarmed and two weapon guys can have it, so no big deal).
The use of NETS and tripping and immobilizing
Overall a good time and great practice for me as a GM. The special effect selection slowed everything down more than I would have liked, but this could be helped with a better organized cheat sheet that shows normal special effects, critical ones and ones only on fumbles. A sheet specific to each player with just the special effects they can use based on their weapon-set would be cool to make. OR if that special effect app was either web-based or on IOS would help
It’s been 10 months and we finally got back on Roll 20 for some 13th Age. Unfortunately, the group was right in the middle of a dungeon, so the break between sessions sucked for everyone. I blame this on 1) Summer 2014, 2) Runequest 6 which most of the same group played in person after summer 3) people not showing up on Thursdays on Roll20 (myself included!). 4) Me taking it too seriously and building a huge campaign area and series of prepared adventures (whether original or pulled from wherever) instead of going the lazy route, which 13th Age allows. 5) Moving.
I think it was a good getting back into the game session, but I still have problems spending player’s Icon rolls in these short 2 hour sessions, especially when they roll well and I’ve got a bunch of 5’s there. 5’s are the hardest.
More RPG stuff to read.
Interview with Raggi and the guy that finished the new TOWERS TWO adventure after the GWAR guy died:
Raggi always has a lot of really interesting stuff to say and ways to say it.
As the Runequest name goes back to Chaosium and Gloratha for good, we have Design Mechanism’s new name for their BRP D100 game following the RQ6 ruleset: MYTHRAS. While I won’t need to buy this since I have RQ6 already, I likely will. Best thing is that any supplements based on Mythras will be RQ6 compatible, and that’s fucking awesome for you and for me.
What’s more, DM is coming out with Classic Fantasy, a hack of RQ for dungeon crawling old school style. Here is a preview of it.
For those playing/GMing 5e, below is an article detailing that you can stack your D20’s (like 3D20 and take the worst one or vice versa) and it works. Say someone is wounded, turning to stone, being eaten alive, etc. you can double down on the disadvantage roll and the math doesn’t turn to shit. Overall Advantage/Disadvantage is a great mechanic that has definitely trickled into my games.
Lastly, the Shinobigami translation will be ready for playtesting in about a month. This is a ‘get together for about 5 hours’ type of game like Carolina Death Crawl, so look for that on your calendars in May.