Wednesday 31 May 2023

Gaining the Upper Hand

I've spoken about how I give Bonuses before, but I've revisited the topic for Mythic Bastionland. The current rules look like this.

 And here's what the Oddpocrypha has to say. 


Moss and Tal are sparring using wooden swords (d6 hefty) and shields (A1). Ref has ruled that any damage sustained from this can be shaken off afterwards.

Ref: Okay so you both agree that this is a duel, right? That means you’ll roll and deal damage simultaneously.

Moss: Okay, let’s go.

Both players make a normal attack to begin with. Moss rolls 2, Tal 3.

Ref: So you’re both sort of feeling each other out first, wooden sword clattering against shield, a few probing jabs. No sharp blade to worry about, but a wooden sword to the ribs isn’t a barrel of laughs.

Tal: Hey, Moss, aren’t you scared you’ll fall in the mud again like when you fought that brand new squire?

Moss: Hey!

Ref: Are you actually trying to distract Moss here? It might backfire and give an opening.

Tal: Yeah sure.

Ref: Okay, Moss, make a GRA Save.

Moss rolls a 10, passing the Save. Ref looks at the Upper Hand section of the Combat rules.

Ref: Okay, Moss, you keep your cool as Tal mocks you, capitalising on their lack of focus to drive them back onto a patch of gnarled roots. You’ll get +d8 on your attack this turn.

Tal: Argh, fair enough I guess.

Both players roll to attack again, Moss getting +d8 this time. Moss rolls 3 and 7, keeping the 7, and Tal gets 4. The shields take this down to 6 and 3 damage.

Ref: Tal, you struggle with your footing here, letting Moss knock your attacks aside and smack you across the head with their wooden sword. You’re down to VIG 7 so it’s a wound, but you’re still in the fight. What do you both do next?


In combat, sometimes one side just has a clear upper hand. Consider two knights fighting in pitch darkness, one with perfect nightvision.

While these are straightforward, more often players will try to earn the upper hand through their own actions.

As mentioned in the Combat section, there are typically three ways to do this, and here we see Tal taking a Risk. There are a few ways this can go. The classic is "roll a save, if you pass then you attack with bonus if you fail then something bad happens instead" but there's a lot of fine tuning that can be done in there. Here we see Ref has Moss make the Save instead of Tal. I think either would have worked, but here I think it makes sense as the question is really “will Moss keep their cool” rather than whether Tal knows the right thing to say.

Even with Risky actions, there are cases where you might not call for a Save, and just allow a bonus in return for taking a burden. Maybe you can fight recklessly and both sides you will get +d8 to attacking each other. If they join in the recklessness maybe it goes up to +d10! Here the Risk element is still present, even without a Save.

The second method is through having useful Information. Perhaps you've learned something that would help here. This how I might handle the classic “hit the monster in their weak spot”. Not glowing targets, but a reward for going out and talking to hunters and those who have fought the creature before. That stone mammoth has VIG 19, Armour 3, so getting a +d10 to every attack because you learn of its hatred of fire is practically necessary.

The last method is to reward good Preparation. Action now to enhance action later. The classic is "setting up" an ally for their attack, or driving the enemy into a disadvantageous position with an Onslaught. In essence, if a player can point back to a previous action that specifically set up the current attack I'm happy to give them a bonus for it.


Art by Midjourney

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.

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Wednesday 24 May 2023

Taking Damage

No plan survives getting hit in the face. How does that work in Mythic Bastionland?


Tal and Moss have decided to stand and fight against a Warband of raiders from a belligerent neighbouring realm. They’ve already taken a little damage from arrow fire. 

Ref: Okay, now it’s the Warband’s turn. As you’re both individual combatants, they get +d10 and gain Blast, attacking both of you.

Ref rolls d6 and d10 for each target, taking the highest single die against each. The dice against Tal are 4 and 8, the dice against Moss 6 and 6. 

Ref: The horde of attackers surge onto you both as you try to stand firm, spears and axes coming from all directions. Tal is looking at 8 damage, and Moss 6. Actually, with your armour we can knock that down to 7 and 5 respectively. 

Tal: I’ll stand as firm as I can, using Endure to remove the 8 rolled.

Ref: Sure, so you gain Ache from the exhaustion but manage to deflect the worst blows away. That leaves the roll of 4, down to 3 with your armour. 

Tal: Wait, can I use Endure twice? I have two Burdens now. 

Ref: Yeah you can, but remember at 3 Burdens you become Exposed, so you’d go down to 0gd and couldn’t use more Feats. 

Tal: Right, let’s not do that then. 

Ref: So you’ve got 3 damage coming in against 2gd and 11 VIG. With your Guard depleted you’re wounded, losing 1 VIG. One spear strikes just well enough to draw blood. Meanwhile, Moss, you’re also on two Burdens, but using Endure once won’t actually help. You’re on 2gd and 6 VIG, right?

Moss: Yeah…

Ref: 5 Damage means 2 to your gd and the remaining 3 off your VIG. As you’ve lost half of your VIG in one go that means a Mortal Wound. Moss is overwhelmed by the Warband, kicked to the ground, an axe buried in their gut. They’ll die if left untended, and I wouldn’t expect mercy from these raiders. What’s the plan?


Keeping your Knight alive involves managing a few different resources. Armour and Guard are the first lines of defence, with Vigour and Burdens (usually taken from using Endure) as more precious resources. 

The Referee has to balance keeping the players are aware of these while also indulging their senses in the description of the actual battle. Too much focus on numbers and resources and it becomes just a dice game, too little and you risk the players not being able to make informed choices on how to proceed with the fight. 

Ref strikes a decent balance here, but as I’m writing this for an example of play, there’s perhaps more explicit explanation of the numbers than I would expect at the table. 

As a general procedure I describe what the attacker is doing, roll their dice out in the open, give a chance for the Knights to use Endure or other feats to modify those dice, and then tell the player how much damage they’ve taken. 

The player can then report back whether the attack caused a Wound (VIG loss) or Mortal Wound (half of current VIG lost), and I can describe the attack and its impact accordingly, shifting the focus back to what’s actually happening to the characters. 

As players get more experienced they’ll feel more confident weighing up their options when faced with damage. The dilemma faced by Tal here is a good example. They could have used Endure a second time to prevent damage altogether, so going down to 0gd would actually be a slightly better position than where they ended up here.

Still, that extra Burden would linger after the combat is finished, leaving them effectively on 0gd until they can relieve at least one Burden somehow. 

More urgently, keeping that final Burden slot free might allow a use of Endure later on in this combat, perhaps to prevent taking a Mortal Wound themselves, or could be used to attack with a Frenzy, being more effective against the enemy warband. 

Still, I’m not optimistic about their chances in this situation. Perhaps a chance to consider whether surrender is Knightly.


Art by Midjourney

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 17 May 2023

What is Primacy of Action?

 Here's what the rules of Mythic Bastionland have to say:

Even when using the rules for travel, exploration, and combat, remember this, the  most important thing:
Past action taken by the players supersedes  content generated by prompts or rules. Their deeds are reality.
Remember the core of giving players information, honouring their choices, and describing the impact of their actions. 

But I think it needs a bit more explanation. This is where Oddpocrypha comes in handy. 


The group encounter an Omen of the Troll, which the book describes as a clumsy burglar fleeing from the Troll’s cave-house. 

Ref: Running away from the cave you see a figure. Actually, you recognise her, it’s Sam the burglar.

Ref had previously used Sam as an incidental character, randomly taking them as a prompt when they needed a shady character. By coincidence the same character has now been prompted by an Omen.

Moss: I guess she got over her broken leg?

Ref: Wait, what happened again?

Tal: She got caught trying to break into the Seer’s tower, remember? The guards beat her up and later we found out her leg was broken, but that old woman was looking after her? I think this was after we did the Season change, so can’t have been long ago in game.

Ref: Ah yeah, right…

Slightly awkward pause. 

Ref: No, no, this is fine! Well above anything else, all that stuff you remember definitely happened, but sure enough you see Sam sprinting away from the cave, no sign of a broken leg. Weird huh?

Moss: Huh.

Tal: Okay let’s flag her down and see what’s up.

Meanwhile Ref flicks to a random page scouring the prompts for an explanation. They see “Toxic Plants”, and during the conversation Sam explains that her leg was miraculously healed by a travelling herbalist, but they used methods and materials that nobody in the shire had seen before. 

Ref makes a secret note that these bone-mending methods use toxic plants that are going to spell future trouble for Sam. They plant the seed by having Sam have a small coughing fit in the middle of their conversation before laughing it off. 


Never underestimate the power of saying “yeah, weird huh?” when you slip a massive contradiction into the game by mistake.

Here we see a group running into a situation that calls for Ref to remember the Primacy of Action, essentially the idea that events that have already happened supersede new events that are generated through omens or prompts when establishing the ongoing fiction of the world. 

So if you cut off the Wyvern’s wings then they don’t grow back because the next omen describes it flying above. 

Here it’s a character reappearing in an Omen, doing something that would be unlikely given the events that have already occurred. 

Ref could have just said “okay, it’s NOT actually Sam, but she looks just like her”, though revealing a secret twin is a risky play. 

Remember the whole point of this is to make the world feel real and not to undermine the players’ previous choices. Here the players are well aware that Ref is pulling this new healer tangent out of thin air, but if they deliver it with confidence and make it an  interesting addition to the fiction then the players will take it in their stride. 

As with other moments of improvisation, it’s best to keep the improvised content as something neither overtly beneficial or harmful to the players. Players accept that improvisation happens, but moments with significant positive or negative impact are best when they feel like part of the impartial mechanisms of the game, rather than something implemented at the whims of the Referee. 

Here, even just flicking to another page of the book to scour for prompts can make the improvised content feel more real to the players, at least spreading the perceived responsibility between the Referee and the book. 


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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.

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Wednesday 3 May 2023

Mythic Manoeuvres

Combat manoeuvres are something I keep coming back to. 

As with so many things I think the specific mechanics are only as good as their actual implementation by the person running the game. So what guidance lies in the Oddpocrypha?


Moss is in the middle of a duel against a rival Knight that’s been tormenting them.

Moss: Right. So instead of swinging my cudgel I’ll draw my dagger and try to stab him right through the eye.

Ref: Erm… hang on

Ref flicks through the combat rules for a moment, thinking about how best to make a ruling

Ref: Okay, so what are you actually trying to achieve with this? Like kill him in a single stab? Blind him permanently? Temporarily?

Moss: Yeah I want to make sure even if I can’t kill him I’ll leave him without an eye. 

Ref: Right. I mean as far as killing him goes, you’re already trying to do that with a normal attack. You could do a Smite if you really want to try to take him out, but if it’s more about leaving a lasting mark we could… hang on…

Ref looks through the rules a bit more

Ref: Yeah how about we do it as a Smite but instead of the extra damage you’ll leave a mark. Probably only makes sense if you actually Wound him too, so you’ll need to take him down to 0gd. I don’t think you could do this to any old opponent, but here there’s clearly hatred between the two of you. 

Moss: Yeah that sounds fair. So I’ll only take the Shame if I actually get his eye, right?

Ref: Yeah that sounds right.

Moss rolls their attack and successfully Wounds their enemy.

Ref: So sure enough, you thrust your dagger at his eye and… urgh, you get the idea! He clutches his face, screaming, but he’s still standing. 


Even with access to Feats and Onslaughts, and the chance of causing Scars, players will sometimes want to cause a specific effect with their attack. Here Ref falls back on the standard Taking Action Procedure, asking for clarity on what exactly the intent of the action is. It’s easy to get bogged down in the specifics of what the character is doing, but here it’s useful to know what the player is actually trying to achieve. 

It’s good that Ref clarifies that with a normal attack the character is already assumed to be trying to cause maximum harm to their target, and going beyond that is usually covered with a Smite Feat. Taking this as a starting point, they change that Feat to apply extra long-term damage instead of simply improving the normal damage of the attack. 

Importantly, the details of the ruling are explained to Moss before they confirm they want to go through with it. Upon weighing up the ruling, a player might decide it’s no longer worth it. At this point the Referee can suggest an alternative, or the player might simply decide to go ahead with a normal attack or Feat. 

I also appreciate that Ref made it clear that the ruling here is a bespoke ruling for the current combat, leveraged by the established hatred between the combatants. If the players tried something similar in another situation the ruling could be different. 

There’s clearly a bit of discomfort from Ref in having to describe the eye-gouge. In a game with this much focus on combat, and a system for Scars, there’s always going to be a bit of gore, but it’s perfectly acceptable to draw a veil over the grisly details if the group isn’t fully comfortable with them, as Ref does here. This is something that becomes easier to judge through experience playing with the same group of players. 

Heed the guidance of the Seers. 


Art by Midjourney

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.