Wednesday 26 April 2023

Beginning a Campaign: Start & Scope

Mythic Bastionland has quite a different campaign structure to Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland, so any campaign should start with a short conversation about that. Here's the relevant page from the latest version:


Every group that sits down to play the game is different, and you should consider the Start and Scope of a game before you begin. 

The Start is the opening situation that the players find themselves in, and should always present an interesting world to explore, filled with problems to face. 

The Scope is how far you expect the game to go run in-game and out of game. 

The examples below are not a definitive list.


Petty - Young Petty Knights arriving in a Realm, seeking to uphold their Oath and gain Glory. If they feel lost, advise them to seek a Seer’s counsel. 

Exemplar - Mature Knight Exemplars (Glory 6) with 2d6GD. They have a place in the Court of the Seat of Power. Tell them about the first Omen in each of the Realm’s Myths, delivered as news to the Court. 

Noble - Mature Noble Knights with 2d6GD. The Knight with the highest CHA has a Holding, with the others in their Circle. The Seat of Power is under a wicked influence.


Adventure - One session. Start the game with the group encountering an Omen of the nearest Myth. Turn the Season at the end of the session, seeing who upheld their Oath. 

Chronicle - A known number of sessions, finishing at the end of these. Season and Age turns are planned out ahead of time. For 6 sessions this might be a Season turn at the end of each session, an Age turn at the end of each Winter. 

Saga - An indeterminate number of sessions. Here you can let the players guide the scope as they explore the world. 

And what the Oddpocrypha chapter has to say. 


Ref: Okay we should talk about the Start and Scope of the campaign. For the Start you can be Petty Knights newly knighted and out for glory, Exemplars who are older and have a place in court, or Nobles if you want to start already ruling a seat of power. To be honest that last one sounds a bit much for me at the moment, but we could do either of the others.

Tal: I just assumed we’d be starting out as new Knights, but starting with a place in court could be cool.

Moss: Yeah I’m happy with either.

Ref: Well let’s talk about Scope before we lock it in. This is how many sessions we’ll run and how time will advance across them. I know we agreed to run for 6 weeks, so that would fit a Chronicle. We can always carry on afterwards if we’re enjoying it.

Moss: Yeah I’m away for two weeks after that and I think Tal has that other campaign?

Ref: Sure, we’ll do six sessions then. The book suggests each session should end by moving onto the next Season, and at the end of Winter we’ll advance to a new Age, which means advancing like twenty years or so. 

Tal: Right… but what if we end the session right in the middle of something? 

Ref: I mean we don’t have to set it in stone, but things persist between Seasons. Maybe we’ll leave the exact timing of the Age skip loose so that we can do it when it feels right. I think we should push ourselves to move through time though, it’ll be neat to look back on the campaign and have a proper span of your Knights’ lives.

Tal: Okay that makes sense. 

Moss: I guess we try to finish each session in a place that makes sense too, right? Like we won’t end right in the middle of a combat?

Ref: Yeah, and if that happens we can always finish the fight off next session and do the time skip mid-session. It doesn’t take long. 

Tal: Great. Well if we’re doing that shall we start as brand new petty knights?

Moss: Sounds good to me. 


For those used to more traditional campaign structures, the between-session time jumps of Mythic Bastionland can seem daunting. It’s understandable that some players don’t like the idea of releasing control of their characters for these “off camera” months or years that pass during such an advancement. 

Of course, the intent of this rule isn’t to leave players with a lack of control, so here Ref does a good job of reassuring Tal and Moss. 

I think Ref strikes a good balance between keeping plans loose by suggesting some flexibility in when to advance the seasons and ages, but also making it clear that these advances are planned into the campaign, explaining why they want to include them.

I’d possibly be clearer here, telling the group that each session will always be the start of a new season, and deciding ahead of time which session will also advance to the next age. This is no more right or wrong than Ref’s approach here, and comes down to your own preferences and your experience of playing with your group. 

They eventually settle on starting as Petty Knights, which is where I expect the majority of groups to begin their games. Ref even goes as far as to recommend against the most advanced starting point. 

Even if a group is unlikely to want to begin as Exemplars or Nobles, it’s worth highlighting these options at the start of the campaign. Just showing them as possibilities helps players see the likely direction for their knights and gives a bit more context to where they might be after some Seasons and Ages. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Trade Without Money

Mythic Bastionland doesn't really use money, or at least it isn't really a game about earning wealth and spending it on better gear.

Only the rich deal in coins. Most trade relies on more practical matters:

  • Finding somebody who can supply
  • Securing raw materials if needed
  • Giving something in return, or owing

The value of any given item depends on the bargaining positions of the person holding it, and the person desiring it. Long-standing trade agreements often form into pledges of ongoing service or protection.

Let's look at how the Oddpocrypha section handles this.


Moss: So we heard there’s some brilliant blacksmith in this castle, right? How about before we go and meet the Lady of the Castle we try to get some better gear?

Ref: Sure, down in the maze of passageways beneath the castle you follow the metallic clangs and radiating heat of the forge. Sure enough you find a blacksmith hard at work, the walls lined with all manner of arms.

Tal: We said about getting bows, is there a bow on the wall?

Ref: So arms are generally split into Common, Specialist, and Rare.

Ref opens the book for the players and gestures over the list.

Ref: Since this guy is a proper weaponsmith I reckon they’ve got plenty of Common stockpiled, and some Specialist and Rare tucked away in storage or made to order.

Tal: Wait how much money do we have?

Ref: You have a bit, but big bags of money are for rich merchants. You’re knights! You need three things to make a trade: somebody who can supply the thing, raw materials if needed, and something to give in return.

Moss: Okay, let’s see what this Blacksmith’s deal is first.

The group play out a conversation with the Blacksmith, who seems fiercely loyal to the Lady of the Castle.

Tal: Okay, well we’re here to help the Lady, so could we take a couple of bows?

Moss: Wait, I also want a proper sword.

Ref: The Smith happily pulls some bows off the wall and hands them to you, a quiver of  arrows each.

Tal: Actually why would a blacksmith have bows? Are they metal bows?

Ref: I guess this is also just a general weapon store. When you ask about the swords he seems less open. “I’ll have to speak to the Lady about that, I’m sure you understand”

Moss: Okay, all the more important we make a good impression.


Playing a game without tracking of currency or abstract wealth ratings is an adjustment for most players. The intent was to get players into more of a feudal mindset, where longstanding exchanges of service, labour, protection, and goods make up the majority of trade. Aside from any sense of immersion, this approach encourages players to consider the place of the characters in the world and the network of relationships between non-player characters.

Here we see that in a well-worn scene of RPGs, shopping for weapons.

What does the Blacksmith want? Ref thinks they’re quite content. Working for the Lady  gives them a relatively secure life in the castle. When Knights arrive to help the Lady it seems fitting that the Blacksmith would help up to a certain point, but still ultimately need the Lady’s approval to give out Rare items like swords. The players could have tried to bribe them, but does this Smith really need money? I suspect they wouldn’t be so easily tempted. Instead, as the players learn more about this character, their place in the Castle’s society, and their relationship with the Lady, they might be able to pull their strings a bit more effectively.

Later, Tal points out that maybe the bows should be located elsewhere, as they’re made from wood, not metal. It’s pretty common for players to question apparent errors like this, and shouldn’t be considered malicious.

Instead of immediately hitting undo, consider why the seemingly inconsistent element could be true. Here it’s obvious, but you can create some interesting situations by throwing such queries back at the players.

“Yeah, that is weird, right? Why do you think that could be? Do you want to ask somebody about it or investigate?”

Sometimes they’ll shrug it off, sometimes it’ll set them on a tangent, but wherever possible I like to keep to my word as a Referee, which means we’re sometimes discovering and justifying the details of the world together.


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Taking Action

It was a while ago that I wrote this. Since then I'm working with a slightly different procedure. Let's look at the Oddpocrypha entry for it.



Ref: With its walls torn down, the village is now a bit of a sitting duck if the Legion decide to attack again.

Tal: We could stay and guard them but the Seer told us the Legion always comes back in greater numbers, right?

Moss: Yeah, how about we help them build some better defences? 

Ref: Right, right. That would be a Task, so it would take a phase of the day, taking you up to Night. Let me just…

Ref flips to the Taking Action Procedure to remind themselves of the steps.

Ref: Okay, Intent. So what are you actually trying to do? Get the walls back to how they were? Make them even better?

Moss: Could we make them better?

Ref: Well let’s work through the rest of the steps before we commit to that. What’s your Leverage for this? How are you actually going to make it happen?

Tal: The serfs here would be on board with helping with the work, right? Plenty of wood around too.

Ref: Yeah. I mean with the limited skill, materials, and time you have I think the Intent is really going to be limited to getting it patched up as a solid but makeshift wall.

Moss: Fair. 

Ref: Cost… I mean it’s taking up time and the work of the local serfs but they’re already inclined to help out. Stakes… now I don’t think the Legion are coming imminently, so there’s no risk of them showing up before the work is done. That means there’s no need to roll if you’re happy to spend the time on this. 

Tal: Yeah, let’s do it.

Ref: So you gather the serfs and spend the afternoon chopping wood and cobbling together a ramshackle wall. Doesn’t look like much but at least it’s a line of defence against the Legion. The sun sets as you admire your work. 

Moss: Well it’s something but we need a proper plan to beat them for good.


Here we see Ref work through the 6 steps of the Taking Action Procedure: 

Intent, Leverage, Cost, Stakes, Roll, Impact.

It would be lovely if those six words formed a mnemonic, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Even though this ends up being resolved as a Task, shorter Actions follow the same procedure and make the same considerations, except for the fact that Tasks are assumed to consume significant time.

Talking through the specific stages by name is a good way to help internalise the process, but not strictly necessary once the group is comfortable with the process.

Also notable is that Ref feels comfortable leaving the Intent somewhat loose until the group have discussed Leverage. Working through the steps in order doesn’t mean you have to lock everything in as you go. 

I’m glad Ref doesn’t get bogged down in the detail of how long it takes to build a wall, how many workers you need, how much material. No Referee can know all these things, and slowing down the game to brush up on the logistics of wall construction is unlikely to improve the game. Here we’re interested in the fact that the players want to invest time in performing this action, and the impact it has on the ongoing fiction. 

There’s more transparency from Ref than you might expect, outright telling the players that the Legion aren’t coming back today. You want the world to have mystery, but it’s also important to give players the information they need to make their decision. If it was uncertain, Ref might have said “there’s a slim chance the Legion will come back today” or “there’s a high chance the Legion will come back today”, keeping a mental note of the odds they would use on the Luck roll to determine this later.

Giving them certainty here lets them get on with making the decision instead of agonising about something that the Referee knows won’t happen.  


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Getting Rules Wrong

In the most recent Mythic Bastionland update I've added an Oddpocrypha section about Getting Rules Wrong. These sections have a short example of play followed by thoughts on why things went the way they did, what was good, what could have been done differently.

Because this is a topic I don't often see covered, here's that section in full. 


The players have split up briefly. Moss has just been in lone combat, driving a Mighty Newt back into the river.

Ref: Okay, if you’re taking a moment to rest you can restore your Guard back to full, that Vigour damage will be harder to recover. 

Moss: Oof. That thing took away like 4 of my VIG with one bite.

Ref: Wait… Hang on. Your max Vigour is 6 right? If you lost half of that in one attack it should have been a Mortal Wound.

Moss: Oh. I mean I’d probably be dead right, since Tal wasn’t around to help me?

Tal: We can say Tal showed up to help?

Ref: You know what, I don’t think we should go back and change things. The combat went the way it did, we’ll just make sure we remember next time.

Moss: Aah, I dunno, I feel bad. Feels like I’ve cheated.

Tal: I don’t feel cheated!

Moss: No I mean like I should be dead. I want things to be fair. 

Ref: I mean you probably would have used the Endure Feat to avoid the damage if you’d known, right? I think the end result would be the same. Not like you came out without a scratch. If it’s really important then we can roll back and redo the combat. Maybe just go back to right before you took that bite?

Ref scrambles through their notes to try to work out who had taken damage. 

Moss: No, no, you’re right that feels dumb. As long as you both know it was an accident.

Ref: Yeah of course. Hey, first excuse I get this Newt is coming back to finish the job. 


This is going to happen. You might notice immediately, or you might realise months into a campaign that you’ve interpreted a rule differently than the book intended.

The important thing is that you look back and ask yourself what harm has been done.

In most cases the game will have worked just fine. Maybe things will feel better when you start using the correct rule, but I’d warn against going back to try to change the past, even if the consequences would be severe.

When this happens in plain view of the group you can encounter Moss’ reaction here. Some players won’t mind, or might enjoy that they got away with something, but others can feel that the reality of the world has somehow been compromised. 

Ref handled it pretty well here, explaining that the situation probably wouldn’t be all that different with the correct ruling. I  think they were right to offer to roll things back for Moss, but I’m also glad that Moss didn’t take them up on it. I’m not sure what would be gained  by repeating the combat one way or another. 

But what if the opposite had happened. What if Moss had been killed by the Newt, but later realised that the correct rule would have had them live? This is a more difficult situation to manage. Here I’d lean on the principle of being generous to the players, but try to do so without completely invalidating the play that’s already happened. Perhaps Moss was dragged into the water, assumed to be dead, but re-emerged days later. If Moss had already created a new Knight, perhaps that character becomes a non-player character, being a new contact in the realm. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.