Wednesday 26 July 2023

How Many Polearms?

Why are weapons handled the way that they are in Mythic Bastionland

Let's read some Oddpocrypha on the matter.


The Knights are trapped in a besieged citadel, the attackers almost through the main gate.

Tal: I knew this was a trap when we had to hand our weapons over on arrival.  

Moss: But this place must have weapons somewhere. Where did the guards get their weapons from?

Ref: Some guards stuck around, obviously not part of the plot against you. They hurriedly direct you to an arms store at the base of the citadel. There’s basically any common weapon you could want. Some piecemeal armour too, but you still have your own armour at least.

Tal: What looks most dangerous?

Ref: So there are some polearms, like some halberds and… fauchards? You know, blades and spikes on poles. They look the most effective, but they’re also Long, so won’t be great in an enclosed environment.

Tal: Yeah and I guess we’re going to be fighting on that big spiral stair at some point.

Moss: Okay, something one-handed, so I can use my shield. Like a solid mace or axe?

Tal: Hey remember those bone-creatures were tough to kill with sharp weapons? Let’s get a mace and shield each. Actually, I’ll take a mace and another weapon. Is there something I could wield in my other hand?

Ref: Sure, you grab a hefty mace and a light mace that you can wield together effectively.

Moss: Wait, are there any javelins here? Or spears that we could throw if needed?

Ref: Erm, hang on.

Ref makes a Luck Roll and gets 4, an okay result for the players.

Ref: So there are some shortspears. Not really designed for throwing but they’ll work okay. Let’s say you can throw them, but rolls of 6 are discarded.

Moss: Rubbish. Well better than throwing rocks I guess.  


In Mythic Bastionland I wanted weapons to matter, but not too much. I wanted players to feel like their choice of weapon matters, but I didn’t want them to spend lots of time crunching numbers and weighing up options. 

Breaking the weapons into broad categories means that the choice between a polearm or a shortsword matters, but specific polearms generally behave in the same way.

Specialist weapons are special case if you really want a weapon for a niche situation.

Here the players start by looking for the “best” weapon, which Ref reasonably interprets as “the weapon with the biggest attack die”, but their current situation of defending a tower leads them to consider the environment they’re likely to be fighting in. 

Better yet, they remember that blunt weapons would be especially useful against their expected enemy. There’s no “blunt” weapon type listed, so the game relies on the group using common sense. An advantage of this approach is that mechanically identical weapons can become mechanically distinct if the right situation arises. 

When looking for a particular type of weapon, Ref falls back on the ever-useful Luck Roll, a mixed result prompting them to say that they find a weapon that almost does what they want.  Here Ref throws together a ruling out of nowhere, saying that throwing the spears will mean rolls of 6 are discarded, making them less effective than javelins.

They could have gone in other directions with this. Perhaps they’re ineffective at anything but very close range, perhaps they gain the slow type when thrown, or perhaps they’re bulky enough that you can only carry a few of them, rather than a bunch of javelins. 

It’s inevitable that a referee will need to make rulings like this on the fly, and I think this solution is fine. On average this ruling is identical to saying “thrown attacks are impaired” with a slightly different distribution of possible results, but I like the idea that players might roll a 6 and curse the clumsy spears, wishing they had proper javelins instead.


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 July 2023

Mass Combat

Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland both have mass combat systems, but Mythic Bastionland is the game where I expect mass battles to be an increasingly common feature of the game as the Knights grow in glory. 

Here's what the Oddpocrypha section has to say. 


The company lead an army sieging a small fortress. They have four warbands: 2 men-at-arms, 1 archers, and 1 cavalry with javelins. They also have 2 stone throwers. 

Ref: Okay, it’s just after sunrise and you’re all set up, facing off against the fortress. You can see hurried movement along the ramparts, defenders hurrying about. 

Moss: Well I guess we ruined the element of surprise when we let those scouts get away. 

Ref: Yeah, in fact you see the main gate swing open, 2 Warbands emerging. Looks like a band of archers and a horde of aggressive looking fighters, carrying an axe or blade in each hand. Remember you were told to expect the enemy’s mercenaries to arrive some time this morning. Actually…

Ref very roughly sketches out the battlefield, noting a bog and a small forest.

Ref: Okay so… wait, one minute.

Ref tears up some small paper rectangles and uses them to show the locations of each Warband, coloured dice showing the Knights.

Ref: Right, what’s the plan?

Tal: I mean we could just sit back and use the stone thrower to break down the gate.

Moss: Remember the Mercenaries? We heard they might have heavy cavalry, which would be tough to deal with. I think we need to be more decisive.

Tal: Well we outnumber the enemy right now. I think send the cavalry to deal with the archers and everybody else piles into that other warband (Tal pushes some of the paper warbands around on the map).

Moss: Okay, let’s do it.

Ref: Right, so as you advance on the enemy your archers exchange fire with each other.

Ref rolls an attack for the enemy archers, Moss for the allied archers. The enemy are especially effective, Wounding the allied archer warband.  

Ref: The enemy definitely get the better of the exchange, your archers crying out as they take casualties, but holding steady for now. 


Mass combat can be handled similarly to personal combat, but with warbands as the primary unit, rather than individuals.

Much of the guidance I’d give here is similar to that of the Dynamic Combat entry, but it can be difficult to remember when faced with the concept of a full-on battle with hundreds of soldiers. Even though the scale is larger, most of the same principles apply. Here we see a battle with a built in time limit, the impending arrival of enemy mercenaries, which goes a long way to make the battle feel dynamic. As well as this, Ref makes sure to describe what the players can see, from the bustling defenders on the ramparts to the lay of the land in front of them.

This might sound obvious, but this scale-shift can sometimes intimidate Referees, who find themselves trying to keep things as simple as possible to the detriment of the actual game. The ever-present risk that things deteriorate into a numbers game without adequate description of the present situation. 

Drawing out a map, like Ref does here, isn’t part of the rules, but it can be useful when dealing with larger battles involving multiple warband types, even if it’s just keeping track of who’s fighting whom. 

Ref places a forest and a bog on the battlefield, but the combat system doesn’t explicitly have rules for how warbands behave in different terrain types. This is one of those “it doesn’t matter until it matters” situations. Perhaps the players could lay an ambush in the woods, or set up behind the bog to dampen an incoming heavy cavalry charge. These things aren’t detailed in the rules, but they provide vital leverage for both players and referee to perform certain actions that would otherwise be implausible.

I’d like to see Ref asking the players where the Knights themselves are. Are they leading specific Warbands, or hanging back on their own? In a big battle like this, especially when you introduce a map and pieces, it’s easy to lose track of the personal experience of the knights. Battles can feel big and sweeping, but we should always be aware of what the Knights are personally doing. 


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 July 2023

Dynamic Combat

Combat in Mythic Bastionland is already a bit more involved than ITO or EB, but I also wanted to offer some guidance on making combat interesting. Here's the Oddpocrypha on the matter. 


Tal and Moss are launching an attack against 3 Scholar-Knights of the Order, vengeance for their attacks on the Realm.

Ref: So you’re charging in full-pelt?

Moss: Yeah, should we focus on one of them?

Tal: Okay, I’ll send my Raven out to attack another.

They roll their attacks, wounding the Scholar-Knight that they charge, and the Raven scores an Onslaught, dismounting another. The Order fight back, doing some damage but no wounds yet.

Ref: Okay, the Scholar-Knights bark orders at each other. It’s not clear who’s in charge. Still, the two on horseback dismount and form a close formation with the other, pulling their shields up into a shieldwall. 

Tal: Right. I mean they were already hard to damage, I feel like we shouldn’t just dive straight in.

Moss: Yeah you’re right. Is there a way we can break up their formation?

Tal: That one we spoke to before was particularly proud of their horse, right? How about if we try to spook the horses away, they might break away to stop us. 

Moss: Sure, let’s try it. 

Ref: So what are you doing exactly?

Tal: I don’t want to hurt the horses, but I’ll give them a whack with the flat side of my hammer, scream at them I guess. Shoo!

Ref: Okay I guess the horses will definitely break away if you do that, but let’s see if the Scholar-Knights break their formation.

Ref rolls a GRA Save for the Scholar Knights, so describes one of them running for the horses, breaking the Shield Wall.

Moss: Great, I’ll attack the Knight we damaged last turn now that the shieldwall’s broken. Actually, I’ll use Smite to make sure we put them down.


Dynamic combat is the idea that a combat should change with each passing round, rather than being a war of attrition. This doesn’t have to apply to every combat, some are simple and end too quickly to have much of an arc, but it’s especially useful to consider for longer, more significant fights.

Here we see just two rounds of combat, but there’s already a narrative forming. Round 1 is the charge, Round 2 is the shieldwall followed by breaking it up, and on Round 3 Ref could introduce a new factor such as environmental change or new enemy tactic. 

Even just having the enemy show a changing attitude to the fight can work here, showing how they’re feeling about their chances of survival. 

A missed opportunity here is that we don’t see Ref describe the location of the attack. For all we know it’s happening in a generic featureless field. While the players were creative enough to use the dismounted enemies’ steeds against them, this creativity could have been encouraged through including other tactical hooks on the battlefield. These can be mundane, such as describing especially thick woodland, boggy ground, or a nearby waterfall. For more unusual features rolling a prompt can be helpful. This could see the combat happening amidst a roaring fire, in a dim rat-infested cave, or among choking vines hanging from the rafters of an abandoned barn. 

It’s great if these environments carry mechanical weight, or offer tactical opportunities, but sometimes even just the change of flavour is enough to make things interesting. 

Another good element to introduce is a time limit. Perhaps they had word that the Scholar-knights were meeting with more of their Order, so reinforcements were expected in an uncertain number of rounds.


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 July 2023


It must be difficult to build a walking armoured fighting machine. I bet some mistakes slip through.

Do you wish your MACs were more authentically... bad?

Play with Bad MACs mode, where each MAC must have a Flaw.


Wobbly: Test to fall when taking 2 hits from a single attack, instead of 3 hits.

Volatile: Suffers a hit against yourself every time you roll a 1 on an attack roll.

Toasty: Start with 1 Heat and never go below 1 Heat.

Frail: Brawls against you roll twice as many AD.

Exposed: Your Main Gun is destroyed in a single hit.

Capped: Only move up to 9” when Rushing.

Awkward: Only move up to 4” when Advancing.

Unreliable: Start the battle with 1 Hit.

Understeer: Turn only at start or end of a Move.

Blinkered: Your front arc is only 90 degrees.

Bareback: Hits to your Rear destroy modules in a single hit.

Deathtrap: Take 1 Internal Damage whenever a module is destroyed.

Stiff: Take +1 Heat when Moving.

Recoil: Your Main Gun fires at +1TN.

Overclocked: Take +1 Heat when firing your Main Gun.

Barndoor: Attacks against you get -1TN.

Jamming: Roll a die when you activate in the attack phase. On a roll of 1 you do nothing this phase.

Unshielded: When your Heat would go above 6 take an Internal Hit instead of a normal Hit.

Brittle: When you Fall, take an Internal Damage.

Locked: When you Rush you cannot turn before or after the move.

Buggy: Roll a die when you activate in the Move phase. On a roll of 1 you do nothing this phase.

Lag: Attacks against targets with SD3 or higher get +1TN.

Twitchy: Attacks against targets with SD2 or lower get +1TN.

Insulator: Roll each time a point of heat would be lost. On 1 it is not lost.

Explosive: When you have enough Internal Hits to be destroyed in the Meltdown phase you are destroyed immediately instead.


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.