Wednesday 27 September 2023

The State of Mythic Bastionland

I'm still toiling away on the pre-Kickstarter Quickstart version of Mythic Bastionland, which is taking slightly longer than expected. In short, I want this version to be as close to the final rules as I can manage at this point, and I want to get as much of Alec's artwork in there as possible. At the moment I'd put the ETA in early October. 

In previous versions of the game the changes have lurched back and forth between various levels of abstraction. 

Abstraction is useful, perhaps crucial, in how I like my games to work. I like players to have the information to make meaningful decisions, and abstraction really helps with this.

If I say "your sword arm feels tired, and the impact of that hammer took your breath away, but you're still up on your feet" it's not entirely clear how much serious harm you took or how close you are to dying.

If I add "your Guard is reduced to 0 and you lost 4 Vigour, so you're down to Vigour 6" then you know 3 damage will deal a Mortal Wound and 6 will Slay you. 

So I guess I like to have it both ways. Abstraction to represent a fair and visible set of consequences for player actions, but avoiding going so far down that path that we lose track of the narrative situation or feel like we're playing a numbers game. 

The upcoming Quickstart release feels like a nice balance between the two. 

Here are some of the changes you can expect.

These were probably too abstract for my tastes, with each type of Landmark simply causing loss or recovery of a specific Virtue when encountered. The hex crawling procedure is going to feel a touch more abstract than the dungeon-crawling of Into the Odd just because of the distances and timescales involved, but I wanted to pull it back from the precipice of feeling like a boardgame mechanic. 

For example, Dwellings previously restored Vigour, but now they're simply noted as a place you might be able to find hospitality, which is the standard means of recovering Vigour. The effect is the same, Dwellings are good for recovering Vigour, but the presentation is focused on what a Dwelling actually is, rather than being the hex you land on to recover Vigour. 

Sanctums work in the same way, each now housing a Seer, who have been mostly booted out of standard Holdings. Sanctums previously restored Clarity, but getting guidance from a Seer is the main way to restore Clarity, so the Sanctum's benefit is now tied to a specific concrete action (which you might not get if you piss off the Seer) instead of being an innate effect of the hex. 

The negative Landmarks have also been changed, and still carry risks, but present the Knights with some sort of choice or problem instead of just whacking them with the consequences. 

Here's an example of a mechanic where I've actually added more abstraction. 

Previously I wanted to avoid a limit on how many Remedies that can be carried, but I've yielded to reason and said that each Remedy represents a large package of stuff and so a character or beast of burden can generally just carry one.

Yeah this is literally the only piece of equipment in the game with a hard rule limiting how many can be carried. Rules as written you can carry a billion shields but I don't feel like that needs abstracting because it's not that likely to come up and I think most referees would work it out just fine. 

If the Knights want to load up a cart with Sustenance ahead of a big fight then go for it, but I'd imagine that comes with its own complications. 

What is Glory worth?

There was a point where I thought about stealing point 4 from this blogpost and having Glory simply go up by one point every session you play, then you can roll against your Glory to see if somebody has heard of you.

But the actual point of Glory is to have the game feel different after 3 sessions, and even more different after 12 sessions, so I linked it to the idea of Worthiness. More Glory means your knight will naturally stumble into opportunities to take a place in court, and eventually rule their own domain. 

And, of course, maybe go and Find the City.

The specific ways of earning Glory have changed throughout past versions, but right now when a Myth is resolved (one way or another) every Knight involved gets 1 Glory. Are you in the story they'll tell about this Myth? Take your Glory. That's it.

Oh and you passively gain a Glory when you advance to a new Age. When we come back after a time skip things should feel a bit different, right?

It's an abstraction, because one point of Glory doesn't really mean anything to a Knight, but there are real titles and opportunities to be gained as you grow in Glory, so it's more rooted in the reality of the world than something like XP or Level. 

And no, you don't get Glory for "protecting the realm" or "honouring the seers". You'll probably do those things anyway for one or more of these reasons:

  • You took an oath!
  • You want to protect (most of) the people you meet
  • Seers are useful to keep on your side even if they're annoying
  • The realm might eventually become your realm and you'd like it to be intact

And if you don't want to do those things then what do I care? It's your Knight. 

If you want to be first to grab the preview doc when it's released then go and follow the Kickstarter now


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  1. Let me first say that I love what you are doing with everything Odd and think that it's nothing short of amazing. I'm on my own quest to find "minimally viable dnd" to deliver satisfying play with minimal cost in headspace so that I can run it. Your Odd games really nail a lot that I am looking for.
    But I have questions about scars that leave me wondering about that entire subsystem. First, you get a scar when HP/GD is taken exactly to zero. What's strange about that is that you actually haven't taken any damage to your physical body yet. You broke your arm, but you can stop to take a drink of water and be as combat effective as you were at the start of the day--you just have a narrative broken arm. I would expect that you wouldn't actually take a scar until your foe is actually cutting into the meat.
    Secondly, if I roll a character with, say, 4 HP/GD, it seems more likely that I'm going to get a scar from an ineffective attack than a normal attack, and both are more likely to scar me than an advantageous attack.
    I feel like I'm missing something big here, and I'm hoping you can point it out. Maybe it's just a taste preference, which is fine. Again, you are doing the most interesting work in RPGs from where I am sitting. Thank you!

  2. Glad you're enjoying it!

    The Scar system works slightly differently in the upcoming update to Mythic Bastionland, but there's definitely a degree of abstraction to it. If you have 1hp/gd then you're right that you're more likely to get a scar from a dagger (d6) than a poleaxe (d10) which can feel at odds with what you'd expect, but the new system (which will be shown in the quickstart rules hopefully later this week) does mean that the bigger weapon is more likely to cause dramatic scars like mangling limbs etc.