jueves, 11 de noviembre de 2021

Brace Yourself! Mythras Combat Module review

5 comentarios

The combat rules in Mythras are similar to any other iteration of RuneQuest or the BRP system, but have an extra layer on top that make them much more strategic. This is the varied combat effects you can choose whenever you achieve a better degree of success than your opponent. However, mastering the fine art of what effect is best in every situation takes time. Therefore, characters who are proficient in combat, say 85% in their combat style, will often attack and defend successfully, but they won't necessarily make the most of the combat effects, as choosing the best one depends greatly on the proficiency of the player. In order to shorten this steep learning curve for players, Dan True has produced a series of Combat Modules for Mythras that help both players and GMs master the combat effects system. Below I review the third installment: Brace Yourself!

Choosing the best combat effect in any given situation depends on many variables. Consequently, each of the Combat Modules focuses on one particular set. In Breaking the Habit, the author's aim is to show players how the all-time favourite "Choose location (head)" is not always the optimal combat effect to pick. It also demonstrates how effective shield walls are, and how to break them. In Take Cover! the author focuses on ranged combat, how to use it for maximum effect and what to do to survive it if you are on the receiving end. Brace Yourself! tells players how to deal with big monsters and how GMs can play them so they become a real challenge for players.

I was interested in reading Brace Yourself! because in my campaign I faced the trouble this module aims to address. Namely, how to make big monsters an actual challenge. The root of the problem is that in Mythras almost every player character has 3 action points to spend in combat. Characters spend those every time they do an action, like attacking or parrying. That means 3 PCs surrounding a monster leaves it in a 9 actions against 3, meaning the monster can only defend against 3 of those attacks, while the other 6 will damage it if successful and enough damage is rolled. Although big monsters usually have many hit points to soak that damage, unparried attacks generate a combat effect on top of damage, meaning your monster can fall down, lose its next attack, be hit on the head, and a long list of insults added to injury. Long story short: the big monster that you as a GM threw against the PCs expecting a long, hard-won fight is quickly dealt with.

This happened at least twice in my samurai campaign. First against a jorogumo "final boss". In order to offset her "action point inferiority" I placed several minions defending her and she cast a spell that created fake doubles. That helped a little, but when the PCs had the minions sorted out, the remaining PC stuck a spear in the poor monster's head rather easily. Some time later I threw a small army of oni (hell giants) against the PCs. The PCs were clever enough to first pepper the oni with arrows as the monsters charged towards them, and then retreat to the carefully prepared combat ground, but still, the surviving oni fought 3 or 4 PCs/NPCs each, and they were easily dealt with.

Combat Modules teach you by practice. They are each an encounter GMs can include in their campaigns or just run on their own as a learning exercise (their actual name is "Combat Training Modules"). In the case of Brace Yourself! the setup is 4 pregenerated characters against 2 big monsters: a giantess and her pet grizzly bear. If you want to use it for your ongoing campaign, there is advice on how to use it with 4 existing player characters. This is kind of a middle ground between the two experiences I have shared previously, since the main monster (the giantess) is accompanied by a minion (the bear), so her "action point inferiority" is not that big to begin with. Still, it is a 12 (3x4) action points against 6 (3x2) situation. In order to make the module more interesting than just a straight fight, the main goal of the adventurers is to rescue the villagers the giantess has kidnapped. Therefore, players can potentially dodge the learning exercise by focusing on rescuing the villagers and escaping instead of fighting the monsters. To be fair, the module states "they all feel an obligation to at least try to slay the beasts who have terrorized the area for so long", although it remains to be seen if players will actually do that.

Strategies for creatures and player characters in Brace Yourself!

Aside from that, the module describes how each monster acts in combat in the high level of detail I expected. Since they have been under such an action point inferiority often in previous combats, they know how to best counter that. The module describes what they do before engaging, what they do when engaged, their preferred combat effects and what they do when they are hard pressed. I wish every Mythras scenario included such a detailed description of the NPC strategies. In fact, any good scenario regardless of the game should include such information.

It is interesting that one is a giantess and the other a non-sentient animal. First off, this choice of opposition is already telling GMs the first lesson is "never have the players fight a lone big monster", possibly even "never have your big monsters have a total of action points less than half that of the PCs". Secondly, it teaches different ways big creatures fight. For example, the giantess has a personality that gets in the way of choosing the best possible maneuver or combat effect. As for the bear, its instincts can make it act in an irrational way. It could be argued that these flaws do not optimize their combat choices, but then we need to remember that, for all its strategic fun, Mythras is not a strategy game, but a roleplaying game. So even if their performance is not 100% optimal, it will still be interesting and fun precisely for that reason.

It is also interesting reading such in-depth discussions about rules, and seeing how other GMs interpret them. Sometimes, you can find out some details you would have never played that way. For example, I was surprised to find creatures such as bears can actually spend action points to parry attacks, and that natural armour can also be sundered.

The module also describes some winning strategies for the 4 pregenerated player characters, so the players can be equally prepared for the fight. Maybe with veteran players you could let them play the module without reading that part, just to see how they fare, and then run it again with that information, and see if it makes any difference (as it should). This section can also be useful for your players even if they do not play the module. I know, players seldom read what the GM suggests them to, but it may be different when it is useful for their characters' survival. On top of that, the character stats include further pointers for choosing the best strategy, and in one case there is a small flaw that can make things even more interesting if roleplayed well.

More useful advice for the characters in Brace Yourself!

Finally, the character tokens and "tactical area" provided look great and make it easy to run online on any VTT. So that is all for now. However, this review won't be complete until I have run the module to some players. When I do that, hopefully soon, I will update this review with a writeup of my experience, and perhaps include some tips for GMs. Who is going to win? The pair of monsters or the player characters? Will I remember everything the book says in the heat of battle? And how determining will dice rolls be? I'm looking forward to finding out!

The good:

  • Useful advice, even if you don't run the module.
  • Beautiful tokens and tactical area for online VTT play or print-and-play.
  • Can be used as a learning exercise or as an encounter to include in your campaign.

The bad: 

  • It's so short!
  • The PCs might dodge the lesson if they focus on saving the villagers and escaping.

A tiny piece of the tactical area included in the module

Brace Yourself! Combat Training Module 3: Fighing Creatures is available from The Design Mechanism's website, from Lulu and DrivethruRPG. It is 4$ for the 16-page PDF or 10$ for the POD edition plus the PDF.

5 comentarios:

  1. Medium size monsters are always hard to handle probably in not most of the BRP systems. Unless they have some kind of vulnerability, they use to quickly die. Also with a large number of attacks, someone will roll a critical hit sooner than later. Another problem I see with them is the massive damage they can cause. But maybe Mythras is less aggressive than older systems.

    Very huge monsters should be immune to most of the effects and survive even to several direct critical hits, but they are too deadly to be used.

    Probably this kind of fights fit better with other systems with a more abstract combat structure.

    1. In Mythras very large creatures are resistant or immune to some special effects. Trip and bash, for instance, have different issues when dealing with large creatures. Bleed does as well, but impale does not.

      Large creature attacks can normally be dealt with by parrying with a large shield or just keeping them out of range.

      As for medium creatures, Mythras is less aggressive on damage and tends to not have any damage additions due to magic - there are a few, but they are very small by comparison to older BRP systems. Even the damage modifier for strength is a bit different. It is still fairly deadly without armor, but a human sized creature with plate armor can survive quite a few sword blows. Even a critical can be survived with a normal parry, as it may force the critical to choose circumvent parry to do any damage at all.

    2. The autor of Brace Yourself! acknowledges right at the introduction that combat against big creatures can be unsatisfying as they tend to either cause a lot of damage and outright kill or disable a PC or be killed easily by the attacks of the PCs. I mostly agree with the points Master Gollum makes.

      Then again, there can be ways around this challenge and that’s why I bought this book! I’d like to read about the experience of any GMs who have successfully used big monsters in their Mythras games and how they did it (without giving away any of the advice included in Brace Yourself!, please! For example, the Monster Island is full of big creatures. :-O

    3. Massive monsters (kaiju size) are better handled outside the combat system. An example of it can be found in Strangers in Prax. The computer game Shadow of the Colossus also gives us tons of ideas how to manage that kind of encounters.

    4. I agree, massive monsters are moving landscape features. :-)


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