lunes, 28 de diciembre de 2020

Mythras Companion review

2 comentarios
Mythras Companion is a supplement with optional rules for the Mythras (RQ6) RPG published by The Design Mechanism. Its authors are Pete Nash and Lawrence Whitaker, creators of the core rulebook, but also Rodney Leary and John Snead. Below you can read my review and my opinion about these rules.

In the introduction, the authors make it plain and clear that these rules are optional, and therefore they do not substitute the ones found in the Mythras rulebook. They just provide more tools to use in your games. I love having available different ways of running certain scenes so I can choose the rules that fit the most with a particular scene. You can tell I eagerly expected this book's release so much by looking at the length of this review. Above all, I have focused on the social combat rules and the rules for chases, and I have even included a short commentary about subsystems in RPGs.

--Puedes leer esta reseña en español aquí--
The cover of Mythras Companion

The look

Mythras Companion is a 58-pages-long softcover book with interior color art. I find it odd that they published this book in color since it has just a few pieces of art. Actually, there are more pieces in black and white than in color.

The art on the cover is by David Benzal. It is a third of the full piece of art that graces the GM screen kickstarted during Runa Digital's Spanish edition of RuneQuest 6. The same picture is repeated in every section headers in the book, which becomes a bit monotonous. Interestingly, pieces of the original GM screen art have been used for 3 different covers: the Character Creation Workbook (rightmost piece), Mythras Imperative (central piece), and Mythras Companion (leftmost piece). You can complete the puzzle if you put them together side by side. :-)

One of the few pieces of interior color art in the Mythras Companion. Picture by Lawrence Whitaker.


As the Ships & Shieldwalls supplement, this book compiles several rules previously published in other Mythras supplements. This is useful because, even if you are a fan of the game, that does not necessarily mean that all of its supplements will appeal to you. So it is a way of having the interesting rules published in those supplements so you can use them as you please. The rules included are tactical combat, sanity, vehicles, skill pyramids, pulp and paragon characters, and resources for Mythras.

On top of that, the book includes two new rules systems: social conflict and races & chases. These are the ones I find the most interesting, so I bought the book just to have a look at them. I will comment on these at the bottom of my review. Let's see first the other ones.

The contents page and introduction in the Mythras Companion

Tactical combat

These rules were created by Rodney Leary for Classic Fantasy. Their goal is to allow the use of miniatures on a grid and so get a play experience more similar to D&D.

However, they can have a more general appeal since the action point and movement dynamics in the Mythras combat rules have led to many discussions in forums and in some actual games. The thing is that according to the core rules, the exact distance characters can cover in their turn is left for GMs to judge.

Fortunately, I can only recall a couple times when this topic caused any trouble in my games, which tend to be more "theater of the mind". But for gaming groups who are more used to certain RPGs such as D&D, it is more common to want to know exactly where each character is at all times. In principle, the tactical combat rules let you avoid arguments with a simple rule: movement does not cost any action points, and it happens after the action of your first two turns in a round.

That's interesting because this rule was already included at the back of RuneQuest 6, under the "Tactical combat" section of the Appendix. In Mythras however, this section was deleted, so up until the release of Mythras Companioin you had to refer to Classic Fantasy. Rodney Leary included those rules from RQ6 in it and many other details on top, like miniature facing and the maximum speed allowed for movement after each combat action. For example, if your action was Evade, you can then walk or run, but not sprint.

These rules can get a bit complicated since they also include how to move around the grid, how line of sight impacts combat, and other details like where your thrown weapon falls when you fail your attack. But if you enjoy that level of detail, they are pure gold.

Part of the detailed tactical combat rules from Classic Fantasy

A doubt: How can you avoid engagement in combat against an enemy who is close but who is charging towards you? For example, I cast a spell and then I can move half my walking movement allotment, but I decide to remain where I am because I don't see any threat. However, an instant later an opponent disengages from melee and then he turns against me. As I didn't know he was going to close on me, I didn't move earlier, but in the real world, if you see someone coming at you, you can always flee, right?

Perhaps the best way to solve this would be to go back to that old rule from RQ3 and RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha: declaration of intent. After determining initiative, and before the start of every cycle, every PC and NPC declare the actions they are going to take that cycle, beginning with those with the least initiative. Then, actions are resolved by descending order of initiative.

Sanity and Corruption

The sanity rules are barely 5 pages long and they are copied from the Luther Arkwright supplement. They are clearly inspired by Call of Cthulhu but these look easier to remember and run, because sanity points, here named "tenacity", do not range from 0 to 99, but they are the same as the character's POW, and they can go as low as their POW negative points. In fact, the Mythras core rulebook already suggests using tenacity points to represent the loss of mental health, but these rules further develop that idea. They include temporal and permanent mental conditions such as amnesia, catatonia, paranoia, and even others that can't be found in Call of Cthulhu, like nightmares, obsessions, melancholy, and others. They also include ways to regain lost sanity.

What I find the most interesting is that they can be used for other genres aside from horror. For example, to represent consequences from trauma such as torture. The example of play shows Anathaym, who belongs to a sword & sorcery setting. Like the rest of these optional rules, every GM will need to decide if they include mental effects in their campaigns. If, however, they look too complicated to you, the White Death scenario also includes an easier but less detailed alternative.

Part of Anathaym's Saga where the heroine faces horrible visions that test her mental stability.

Aside from this, the rules for corruption allow you to turn a character's passion into a corrupting influence. Everything hinges, obviously, on how important every GM will deem this rule necessary for their campaigns. Strangely, the first part of these rules refers to the Pendragon RPG, since every time a character succumbs to his passion in the famous Arthurian knights game, it is raised several points if he succeeds in it, or loses some if he fails. I can see this being used in almost any campaign, and it could be cool to see characters change through its use. However, it also requires GMs to actively create scenes that can test their characters' passions.

After that, you can find a table of possible addictions characters can fall into in order to bear the remorse caused by their excesses. Again, if everyone at your table is interested in exploring these sorts of stories, it can provide lots of realism and drama. Finally, you get a table of physical effects of corruption that are first and foremost focused on sorcerers who are tempted by the dark arts but also include a couple ideas to use it in other ways. The example of play in this case is very evocative.

Part of the corruption rules

The Skill Pyramid

This alternative way of assigning skill points during character creation is way faster. It is perfect for creating game stats for non-player characters. If you care about doing it by the rules, that is. It can also be useful for those times when you need to create a character real fast. For example, if your character dies in the middle of the session or if an unexpected player shows up.

On the other hand, the increased freedom in assigning points can result in characters that would not be possible with the usual process. For example, the core rulebook says beginning characters start with 3 professional skills listed under their occupation. But with this alternative way, you must begin with 6 professional skills, chosen from the ones provided by your culture, profession, or otherwise. If you prefer, you can even start with 6 magical skills, and so be able to cast 3 different kinds of magic from the start! Obviously, the GM can veto this, so no problem whatsoever, munchkins can still be kept on a leash. For example, I would limit professional skills to the ones listed under your culture and profession.

A quick and easy way to remember how to assign skill points when creating new characters.

Pulp Heroes and Paragon Characters

This was weird. When I read the header on the contents page I thought this would be the rules to create over-the-top characters like the ones included in After the Vampire Wars or Worlds United. But no, these are much easier rules to create pulp characters, meaning a bit more powerful than usual, think Indiana Jones, and then paragon characters such as Sherlock Holmes or Batman. That is, characters who can face any adventure on their own.

Even so, the advantages you get to choose to achieve that aren't really that great. More points for attributes and skills, and then several additions to choose from: increased hit points, increased action points, increased Luck points, or bonuses to saving rolls such as Endurance or Willpower.

Rules to create pulp characters in the vein of Indiana Jones or paragon characters such as Batman


These rules are copied straight from the supplements After the Vampire Wars (read a review) and Luther Arkwright. In the former, you can find the rules for normal vehicles, and in the latter, you can also find spaceships. They are written with vehicle combat in mind and provide the necessary data to use the chase rules included in the Mythras Companion. You can tell an effort has been made to keep these rules simple and at the same time usable with all kinds of vehicles, from motorbikes to colossal motherships. Because of that, they are rather abstract. This has pros, but also cons.

On the plus side, the rules are easy to use because they have the same elements as other pieces of the game. For example, they include armor points, hit points, locations, traits, and obviously size and speed stats. Moreover, they are flexible so you can use them with any kind of vehicle. Would you like a flying submarine? These rules cover it. As in the sci-fi RPG M-Space (read a review), this is done by listing modules or functionalities you can add to your vehicle, such as "walker" or "tractor beam", to name but a couple.

Game stats for a sedan in Mythras

The downside is you need to know how to deal with this abstraction. For example, if you are in a sedan that gets hit by a gatling gun burst, you then need to roll for location. If the crew section is hit (a 33% chance), half your team will suffer a Major wound even if the burst only caused one damage point, and they will die straight away if they do not succeed in an Endurance roll. The result would be the same if you had suffered just one 9mm gunshot that manages to punch through the hull. In other words, simplification entails a high lethality in this case. However, the fact that lethality is higher than if you had been shot outside the vehicle can lead to complaints by the players.

A detail that could have been easily improved is that the vehicle weapon table includes traits of weapons that are not described. For instance, a ballistic missile has the "Fragmentation", "Self Guided", and "Mounted" traits, but you don't get any description of what all that means. That information is in the free Firearms supplement, but this should have been stated somewhere in the book, otherwise, some people will think the information is incomplete.

The rules also include game stats for 12 standard vehicles so you don't need to create a normal car or motorbike from scratch. There are helicarriers, dirigibles, yachts, fighters, etc. There is only one spaceship though. It would have been great if every example had included exactly what systems they have because as it stands, you need to figure that yourself. For example, I guess a car has: drive, crew area, and controls, but it is not specified. To finish with, I miss a vehicle sheet to keep track of their stats. All in all, although both are easy to use, these rules look less detailed than the ones in M-Space, especially in regard to spaceships.

Part of the vehicle rules in Mythras Companion

Races & Chases

Having rules to cover these exciting scenes is a must for most roleplaying games in my opinion (Lindy Beige agrees with me). Not so you can use them at every opportunity, but to have them available in case you decide to challenge your players with a cool race. A challenge that can be as detailed in rule terms as combat. Of course, provided you think your players are going to like them!

Unlike the rules I have mentioned above, these rules are completely new, they hadn't been published in any other previous supplement. They are tightly connected to the vehicle rules, but they can also be used for races and chases on foot. Not only that, but they can also cover any kind of terrain, be it on the ground, in water or air, and for every setting imaginable! Then again, to both achieve this ambitious goal and keep it simple, a certain degree of abstraction is needed.

The basic mechanic is making differential rolls using the skill every participant uses to move. For example, Athletics if you are running, Ride if you are mounted, Drive if you are in a car or chariot, etc. The degree of success indicates the number of abstract distance points you advance, which you need to roll. As in the combat rules, if one participant gets a better level of success, a special effect can be used on top of that, and there are plenty of them. To name a few: Make Attack, Take Shortcut, Sideswipe, Leap Across, Double Back, and basically every cliché we are used to seeing in movies.


Most rules from other RPGs do not cover both races and chases, but the rules in Mythras Companion allow you to do both. That's a point for The Design Mechanism.

Modeling these rules like the combat rules helps players get used to them more easily since you don't need to learn a totally new system.

Part of the rules for chases and their tables


The downside is all the tables with modifiers and special effects, are totally new, so players will need some time to adjust to them and to be able to master them. This means that if you suddenly introduce these rules in the middle of a game, you will ruin all the pace and all the tension that you may have built up to that point, because now instead of enjoying a chase scene, you need to figure out how to win in this new mini-game. A way to avoid that is to hand out the rules to the players sufficiently in advance for them to study them so that when the chase scene does happen, the mechanics can flow more easily.

Still, the list of special effects includes many that are only used in chases, not races. Therefore, if you are running a race there are some you don't need at all, and then they just become clutter. The same goes for effects that can only be used with spaceships. And there is the additional layer of critical success only effects, so the time you need to process all that is ramping up and the exciting chase scene can turn into a chase for the effects I can actually use. Clever GMs will prepare a handout with the list of options trimmed down to just the ones you are going to need in a particular chase or race. It just takes a bit of work.

I wonder if overlaying the combat mechanics onto chases and races is actually the best option though. For example: Why is a hard 180º or 90º turn only possible after you get a better degree of success than your opponent? Shouldn't that be possible regardless of that? If they had limited special effects to vehicle combat, perhaps this would all match better, but having everything thrown in the same bucket looks jarring sometimes. I still need to try these rules out to judge them in all fairness, but right now I'm thinking I would turn some "movement" effects into simple actions players can undertake in their turn.

Another part that could perhaps be improved is the fact there is no base movement rate for vehicles. You only get the base speed score of cars and supersonic airships. But why not add this value to the vehicle stats in the previous section? According to the authors, "Due to the vast differences in setting, period and technology, vehicles must be assigned a suitable value by the Games Master". However, the base speed of characters and creatures is well defined, since that is derived from its movement attribute (6 for humans). So for the rest... it's up to you. I guess the reason behind this absence is that all the vehicles that are listed in previous supplements like Luther Arkwright and After the Vampire Wars do not include this information, and they didn't want to do a new edition just so you could use these new rules with those vehicles (?). Provided I haven't misunderstood anything, which is more than perfectly possible, that's a negative point for The Design Mechanism.

The rules also claim that a chase between two participants with very different speeds is pointless unless the terrain somehow makes it impossible for the fastest one to leverage its higher speed. Unfortunately, there is no suggestion as to how a character could try to look for that environment that equalizes the chances. For example, an Opposed roll using the Locale skill could offer that opportunity to the slowest one. "I know there's an asteroid field close by" or "I think two blocks down the street there's a marketplace". And if he fails the roll, then yes, the fastest one just catches up and it's over.

In short: the main advantage of this subsystem is its flexibility, but that's also its weakness. By trying to cover so many different situations, I guess the rules won't work as well as others designed for a more specific scene.

Art from the races & chases rules

Social Conflict

I was very much looking forward to reading these rules since The Design Mechanism announced they were working on them. Roleplayers love discussing whether these sort of rules are really necessary, but as you can guess, I'm strongly in the "yes" camp, as I mentioned in another post. Still, just like with many other rules, you need to know when to use them.


They can be used both to convince an audience and to force someone to accept you have a point. The members of the losing side do not necessarily end up changing their minds, but they are socially defeated. Likewise, the authors claim these rules can also work for seduction. In fact, it all depends on what your players are willing to accept. If they are open-minded enough and don't mind an NPC convincing their characters to do something, then it's OK. Otherwise, it all comes down to social pressure, and then these rules have the same base as the Clash of Cleverness, in which characters do not change their mind if they lose the social fight, but a "jury" forces them to reach a compromise, be it due to the pressure of the audience, a council of elders or the Empress herself.

At first, I found it odd that you can use one social skill to attack and a different one to defend. However, these rules actually favor characters with several such skills, because if their opponent chooses the special effect "Disarm Opponent", you will have to choose a different skill to use.

At the start of the social conflict rules, the authors make an effort to avoid hurting the feelings of some roleplayers.

Moreover, the fact that the rules are modelled like the physical combat rules makes it easier for players to use them and to get used to them. For example, there are "hit points", "hit locations" and "armor", and it all looks credible. What's more, unlike in the case of chases, the special effects are mostly the same, they just deal social or argumentative damage instead of physical.

Lastly, I love that they have included 3 Common magic spells specifically for social combat. You just need to tell your players well in advance that your campaign is going to include frequent social conflicts, so they can be sure these spells are going to be useful.


Some special effects can be difficult to narrate properly. For example, "Disarm Opponent" forces the opponent to use a different social skill in order to attack. But how do you explain that in narrative terms? I'm not 100% convinced someone can force you to choose another skill to communicate. In this sense, these rules are worse than the Clash of Cleverness, because the latter are better suited to narrative flow.

In fact, overlaying the combat special effects onto social conflict does not map the dialectical process that well. They can sometimes be hard to justify when narrating the outcome. For example, the rules state that changing the skill being used for a new one takes one turn. This makes sense in the normal combat rules, when you need to change weapons, but not so much when all you need to do is choosing a new dialectical skill.

Finally, these rules cover 3 possible results: complete victory, complete defeat, and draw. Although at the start they mention both sides can reach a compromise, this is left out of the actual rules. That's why Revolution D100 with its quick exit, HeroQuest with its range of outcomes or, again, the Clash of Cleverness, do offer a broader range of possible results with concrete effects.

In my samurai campaign I used the basic rules for social conflict included in the Mythras core rulebook, but negotiating beforehand with the players what compromises would be reached by each side if they reached a 75% level of success, a 100% or a 125%. I guess the rules in the Mythras Companion could have included a special effect such as "Force a Compromise", or stated how much you need to compromise depending on how much social damage you are left with at the end of the conflict. Despite that, I also got to use the full social conflict rules towards the end of the campaign, and they worked pretty well. I used them in a scene where the characters had to convince a daimyo. He had begun manufacturing matchlock guns and both the characters' clan and a rival clan wanted to buy them for their upcoming war. Using the rules, the character with the best social skills in the party managed to convince the daimyo that his clan deserved to be the sole purchasers of those newly manufactured guns. All the players were involved in the tense debate, as they kept recommending the best special effects to the other player. It was great.

Summing up: On the one hand, they are relatively easy to use if you already master the normal combat rules. A bit easier than these other rules. On the other hand, these rules sometimes make it harder to narrate the attacks and defenses in a credible way. That's a bit easier with these other rules. The text includes a useful, long example that I like a lot. All in all, a good addition to the Mythras toolkit.

The special effects table in the social conflict rules is very similar to the one in the normal combat rules.

A comment about subsystems

"Mini-games" in roleplaying games can be a lot of fun, under the following conditions:

1. Your players generally love detailed rules better than leaving things to GM fiat.
2. The rules ideally involve all players at the same time. For example, the Matrix rules in Shadowrun or the spirit travel rules in RuneQuest tend to be boring if you are not playing the decker or shaman PC.
3. They are used only in certain dramatic scenes when there's a lot at stake.
4. They don't ruin the pace of the game. Obviously, this is highly influenced by how used your players are to the rules. Unfortunately, this goes against the previous point, because if you only use these rules from time to time, players will never get properly used to them.

The authors of the Mythras Companion repeatedly remind the reader that all these rules are optional. Moreover, they have tried to follow condition number 4 by copying the pattern of the Mythras combat rules. I mean, if players are already used to those, it is to be expected that they won't have a hard time getting used to these new rules for chases and social conflict.

Unfortunately, I believe that is seldom the case. These rules require some time to master. As I said earlier, a possible solution is to hand out the rules to the players well beforehand. I learned that the hard way in my samurai campaign, specifically with the mass battle rules. My players also groaned when I introduced them to the social conflict rules right before the negotiation scene. Fortunately, and despite my bad GM skills, they were lucky and got the hang of them pretty quickly, so they ended up smashing their rival negotiator in that particular scene. 

Another way to do it is to hide the mechanics from the players and let them only perceive the narration. For example, in a chase, only the GM would be bookkeeping all the details and making the rolls behind the screen. Players would just need to tell the GM what actions they undertake and make some rolls. As for special effects, the GM could choose the ones that better match the players' descriptions.

Regardless of all that, the social conflict rules ought to be used often in a campaign with Roman senators as player characters. As much as the combat rules in a brutal sword & sorcery campaign. And the rules for chases should be often used in a campaign where the player characters are cyberpunk bikers or investigators of the occult. That is, detailed rules should be focused on covering the dramatic situations that take place the most often in a campaign.

Of course, if you want to keep things simple, you can always stick to the social conflict rules in the core rulebook. They are flexible and quick, but obviously less detailed and interesting.

Wrapping Up

The diversity of rules included in Mythras Companion make it a meaty, interesting supplement for any GM. Even if they are not for everyone, I think it is only positive that Mythras has so many options available. The toolkit that is the core rulebook just gets bigger with it! So, all in all:

Mythras Companion is for you if...

  • You enjoy reading new game mechanics.
  • You are planning to run a game or campaign in which the scenes these rules cover are going to be a recurring and dramatic element.
  • You would like to include a new system in your games to spice up a key scene.
  • Your players and you like the "gaming" aspect of roleplaying games.

You'd better not get close to it if...

  • You prefer using easier rules so they don't get much in the way of storytelling.
  • You feel detailed systems limit your creativity.
  • Your players don't mind you describing what happens without rolling the dice. 
  • You already have most of the supplements where these rules were originally published and you do not find the social conflict and chases rules worthwhile.

Mythras Companion is available for 15$ from The Design Mechanism website, and the PDF is available at DriveThruRPG for 6$. Do you plan to use any of these rules in your games? Have you used them already? Perhaps you disagree with anything I've said in this review? Tell me in a comment below, I love reading any comments. :-)

2 comentarios:

  1. Algo que me ha pasado cuabdo llevé clash of cleverness a la mesa es que las reglas mataron el roleo, y la escena quedó muy deslucida.

    Eso fue, sobre todo por eo tema de los efectis, cisa que las reglas del companion también incluyen, por lo qye me da en la nariz qur va a oasar lo mismo.

    Sin embargo, las reglas más abiertas de los conflictos extendidos de rd100/m-space tuvieron el efecto contrario, dinamizaron la charla, se establecieron los turnos, imolicaron a los jugadores que rolean menos... Vamos que fueron un éxito.

    Lo mismo me pasa con las persecuciones, tengo qye ver si vale la pena añadir estas reglas o si prefiero coger detalles para los conflictos extendidos.

    1. Cada uno debe usar lo que funcione mejor en su mesa, sin duda. En mi caso, una vez pasada la fase de "uf, tenemos que ver cómo funciona este sistema" me funcionaron bien tanto Clash of Cleverness como el conflicto social de Mythras Companion. Pero las de M-Space también son muy útiles. Ya me dirás qué tal te van reglas de persecuciones cuando las uses.


© 2012. Design by Main-Blogger - Blogger Template and Blogging Stuff