[GPNW] Mythender -- Ending Thor

edited July 2009 in Story Games
To take a page from the ever fantastic Joe McDonald, I'll start a thread with a question to those who played Mythender at GPNW.

I have some favorite moments from both games, but maybe one of you seven who played in either game would like to talk about it first, get your impressions before I chime in with mine?

Thanks!

(Insert embarrassment here if there's nothing but crickets. Epic gaming indeed! ;)

Comments

  • yo, Ryan, sorry for taking so long to get to this, but work has been crunching. :(

    I found the Mythender character creation was involved but superb. I really liked the character it provoked from me. Actual play was highly entertaining. Brendan and Michael and David and you brought the fire. I'm sorry to be annoyingly non-specific about this but I'm choked on time right now.

    I thought the script was a brilliant way to teach the game's mechanics. Kudos on that.

    Obviously I want a reference sheet. :)

    My main critical reaction to the game is that it feels like there's a lot of mechanical friction and ritual that needs to be honored by the narration, and that flummoxed me a bit because I'm not very good at intuiting a complex game's flow and tactics simply by looking at the rules. I would have to play Mythender some more before the goodness of the complex storm->thunder->lightning->effect economy would be revealed to me.

    If you contrast that to other extreme-narration type games like Beast Hunters or Danger Patrol -- those games have mechanical / game resource / narrative interplay that's simpler and more direct. I felt like I understood their flow within the first couple turns of play.

    So I'm interested in asking what prompted you to choose that economy, and what benefits do you see from it? I apologize for the blunt request that you justify your game's foundation; the answer to this question might be obvious to everyone but me.
  • John,

    If I can't handle someone asking that bluntly, I have no business publishing to a public. :)

    I have to start with a round-about answer.

    So, I love 300. And even the CGI Beowulf flick is a guilty pleasure. They action sequences are about crazy badassery -- but they each have an arc. They start off low and build up, with people trying risk maneuvers out of crazy desperation because they *feel* that they have no other choice.

    Mythender is meant to engage the senses as much as it does the imagination -- especially tactile. That's why there's an insane number of dice, and that's the criticism against it that I've chosen to live with. When you see me rolling 20 dice, and see that I'm grabbing 6 more dice because of than and grabbing these other tokens to hurt you with, you've got a sense of where you stand when you're only rolling 10 at the moment.

    When someone says in D&D "hey, this foe has a Strength of 20," you might think holy fuck -- and I've been in plenty of games where the noting of how badass something is has had an impact (including my own "All halflings are one level higher than you" D&D trick). But, it's paled in comparison to seeing, for yourself, that your opponent has a crapton of dice, and you're going to have to pull out all the stops to kill that die pool down.

    Since the Thunder dice you keep accumulating are also effectively your hit points, you also *feel* the effect of being hurt (or, in those rare circumstances where you don't lose any dice, feel the near-miss).

    To get back to a direct answer to your question: the economy intends to link some of the more primitive (for lack of a better word) parts of our brains to the rises and falls in the fiction, marrying unconscious and conscious reactions, in an attempt to bring these dramatic fights more alive, to provoke similar feels that I get out of watching Three-fucking-hundred. However, they never do that during the first game, because people are working to make sure they get the rules right. They do once uncertainty of the rules gets out of the way.

    As far as inspiration, well, playing Beast Hunters actually fed into Mythender -- the actions you did to gain advantage points, and then the buying of an effect with those advantage points. (If I'm recalling playing it two years ago right). I haven't played 1.5 yet, but I really should. And then a couple years back I made a note about some die mechanic where successes on one die gave you these other sort of dice, and those dice gave you current to hurt something. That started as an intellectual way to model "let's assume you're always hitting with your attacks, but we only care about critical hits when it comes to damage" while ensuring that such critical hits would actually happen. It grew from there.
    Posted By: johnzoMy main critical reaction to the game is that it feels like there's a lot of mechanical friction and ritual that needs to be honored by the narration, and that flummoxed me a bit because I'm not very good at intuiting a complex game's flow and tactics simply by looking at the rules.
    And you're right to call me on that. That's something I'm working hard to turn into something more easily understood without changing the mechanics. Right now, that text is being worked through really hard, because the complexity is just enough to, well, make it so that I *have* to have an Introduction to Labors chapter where I just give you a script on what to do for three turns. Granted, it seems to work, and thank you for the kudos there, but I feel like having to rely on that is a weakness of the game.

    Or maybe I'm just being hard on myself and a tutorial mode is fine.

    In any case, that answer your query?
  • I was a big fan of the script as well, although I agree about the cheat sheet--once I had a decent handle on the flow of the dice, I wanted to see all my options laid out flat instead of in a guided sequence.

    I will say that I really like Mythender's economy, because it engages both the part of my brain that wants to be tracking lots of numbers AND the part that wants to charge up my hammer with a bolt of lightning and split an iron maiden in half. I have fun with "narrate the fuck out of it" games like Danger Patrol, obviously, but there's a little nagging voice that keeps telling me I haven't "earned" the awesomeness I'm talking about. The root cause of that is pretty obvious: I spent years of lonely fun poring over AD&D 2 books and I have a deep-rooted belief that the awesome must show up in the numbers. Mythender provides a tidy shortcut through all that and into fun.

    I did find myself sometimes getting confused about how and one accumulated or spent Lightning versus Might. I found myself thinking of each as "the thing you get from Thunder that isn't quantified by dice," and kept conflating them. I haven't read the book yet, of course, which I hope delineates them more clearly.

    It was cool getting to recreate my character from last year--a cold-eyed, twelve-year-old French girl who was the lone survivor of the Children's Crusade. (Damn, now I can't remember what I named her! It was probably stolen from Les Mis.) The character sheet was more fleshed out, and useful as a sort of flowchart/play mat to guide you through steps and organize your big piles of dice and tokens.

    The refreshment scene, which never came up in my first game at GPNW '08, felt pretty intuitive and made for a nice change in the tempo: I think it's a positive addition. One thing I did miss was Ryan's repeated question from that first game: "What's your action panel?" I know you've explained why you stopped describing it that way on the Master Plan, Ryan, but I remembered it as a really useful expression about what kind of narration you wanted. It would be cool to see the "action panel rule" as an optional sidebar in the game text.

    The only disappointment of the game to me was a flag failure that is totally my fault. I don't remember exactly how the system works now, but basically, you can choose at certain times to amp up your Mantle, either to absorb damage or hit harder. Doing so gives you a boost, AND lets you buy and activate new permanent powers--but of course it also brings you closer to a mythic existence yourself, dooming you to godhood and forcing your companions to hunt you down.

    I'd held off on taking those "sweet, sweet cookies" (as Ryan calls them) because I wanted it to make an impact when I did--my little French girl was a pretty hardcore Christian fanatic, and tempting her into taking on mythic power would be a very serious step. So in the final battle, as Thor was pounding on us and I was starting to take serious damage, I mantled up and bought a new power: Invulnerable, which let me spend Might to take a normally fatal hit and surge back with extra Lightning in my pool.

    Except I wanted this to come as a surprise, so I didn't tell Ryan about it! And I think he was trying to balance the hits out a little bit, to be fair to everyone, so I never actually got hit again. If I had it to do over again, I'd pass him a note.

    I remain a big Mythender fan; it was the crystallizing experience of GPNW '08 for me, and I can't wait to bust it out at my own table when it's published.
  • Ryan, that post just makes me want to play Mythender more.

    There is a part of my brain that is all about the tactile elements of dice mechanics. Not just the physical tactile elements of picking them up and rolling them and sorting them and moving them around and handing them to people. But the mental tactile elements of figuring out what I need to do with these dice to get what I want to happen to happen.

    I can play a game like Fiasco or PTA and be quite happy reveling in the improv roleplaying. But on about hour #3 that part of my brain realizes it hasn't been fed in awhile and after about hour #4 it starts howling at me to give it something to do.

    I like games where the dice don't just get out my way...rather they demand that I get out of their way or they'll punch me in the nuts.

    Sounds like I need to feel me some Thunder and Lightening.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: BrendanI was a big fan of the script as well, although I agree about the cheat sheet--once I had a decent handle on the flow of the dice, I wanted to see all my options laid out flat instead of in a guided sequence.
    Totally. That's on my list to do, once the Labors chapter edits are back in my hands and I do some rewrites. And I have to thank Johnzo again for showing me a way to present it.
    One thing I did miss was Ryan's repeated question from that first game: "What's your action panel?" I know you've explained why you stopped describing it that way on the Master Plan, Ryan, but I remembered it as a really useful expression about what kind of narration you wanted. It would be cool to see the "action panel rule" as an optional sidebar in the game text.
    Noted. I have good reasons for not making it procedure, but as an advice sidebar it could still bear fruit.
    Except I wanted this to come as a surprise, so I didn't tell Ryan about it! And I think he was trying to balance the hits out a little bit, to be fair to everyone, so I never actually got hit again. If I had it to do over again, I'd pass him a note.
    Every now and then, I toy with adding back in a mechanic where you could force the Myth to focus on you -- like your note idea, only it's more of a challenge that I cannot refuse without effort.

    Various versions of that rule hack never worked (including the Aggro circle chart from last year), and Labors are this weirdly complicated moving beast, so I never added it back in. Your comment will give me thoughts as to figuring out how to add it back it (if there's a way that works well).
    I remain a big Mythender fan; it was the crystallizing experience of GPNW '08 for me, and I can't wait to bust it out at my own table when it's published.
    This is also something I am eager for. :) And as I'm sure you can tell from me geeking about your GPNW '08 play, you have had quite an impact on how I think about the game.
    Posted By: ValamirSounds like I need to feel me some Thunder and Lightening.
    Hell yes you do. And I clearly need to feed that part of your brain with a draft of the rules, once done up.
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