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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mythic GM Emulator quasi-review and self-playtest.

After hearing about it for a while I recently got my hands on the Mythic GM emulator set of rules. I've been flipping through it and I've been itching to give it a shot. So I decided to give it a try and post a summary of the results here. And since I've been working on Battle Royale (previously referred to as PDQ-Fu) I figured I'd take the opportunity to do a little solo playtesting, which sounds like a euphemism if I've ever heard one but I swear I'm wearing pants. 

So, lets whip up a quick character and setting. Since this is meant to be a way to let someone (or in this case something) else GM for a change I'll be incredibly uncreative and just yoink the starting scenario from Jade Empire. We've got a small dojo nestled in a secluded area alongside a tiny village. First we need to adjust the focus correctly using the Battle Royale rules...lets say the Power Level of the characters here is Fantastic (about the level of movies like Forbidden Kingdom or Crouching Tiger) and that Supernatural martial arts are allowed but are considered Legendary Styles thus they are downshifted one Rank. Lets throw together some characters...

First we've got the main character....(using Exalted random name generator)...Willow Dragon. Well let that name guide the character's description...a young, slender man with a fierce temper and long hair. Obviously bare bones but that fills out the basics. 

The next step is the Core Elements which in Battle Royale are Past, Motivation, Focus and Flaw. Lets go with...Good [+2] Young Troublemaker for his Past and he has Good [+2] Motivation: Defeat His Teacher. As far as focus we'll go with Good [+2] Nimble And Acrobatic. His Flaw will be his Volatile Temper. After the Core Elements he gets 3 Quality Ranks. He'll use one to boost Nimble and Acrobatic to Expert [+4] and one to purchase Good [+2] Strong Spirit to get some extra Spirit Dice. With only one left he uses it to buy Good [+2] Cutting Wit. Willow Dragon looks like he's a bit of a scoundrel. If he weren't larking around in mythic Asia he'd probably be wearing a leather jacket and smoking behind the gym. All the girls would think he's so cool and they'd be all like....wait I'm getting off track aren't I? 

Anyway, Willow still has to pick his Fighting Styles. He's got three Ranks and I want to give him at least one Supernatural Style but I also want him to know more than one. So lets say his teacher has taught him Good [+2] Incomparable Thunder Style (again consulting the Exalted name generator) a Wind Form (thus acrobatic and graceful) style which is themed around flying leaps and kicks as well as the use of rope and chain weapons like the meteor hammer. However in secret he's broken into his master's scrolls and has been teaching himself Good [+2] Mountain Lightning Lord Combat. This is a Supernatural style (thus is costs him two Ranks to purchase it at Good) and it is both Flame (reckless and powerful) and Mystic Form. Mountain Lightning Lord involves mostly direct manipulation of wind and lightning. It's a dangerous, powerful style that Willow's master has forbidden. 

He's still got one last step to go, bonus points. Willow Dragon has 6 points to invest so he'll pick up some Techniques...for Nimble and Acrobatic he purchases two Techniques (Flying Leaps and Balancing) for two points (they're cheaper when bought for his Focus Quality). He'll spend 2 more to buy a Technique for his Incomparable Thunder Style of Kicks. He'll use the remaining two points to purchase Average [0] Good Looks.

Counting up his Spirit Dice he's got 2 from Strong Spirit and 2 more from his two Styles. That's a total of 4 Spirit Dice but I'll go ahead and throw two more on top (after all I'm "hosting" the session and he is all by himself). All done. 

Willow Dragon
Strengths: Good [+2] Past: Young Troublemaker; Good [+2] Motivation: Defeat His Teacher; Expert [+4] Focus: Nimble and Acrobatic (Flying Leaps, Balancing); Good [+2] Strong Spirit; Good [+2] Cutting Wit; Average [0] Good Looks
Styles: Good [+2] Incomparable Thunder Style (Wind Form, Kicks); Good [+2] Mountain Lightning Lord (Flame and Mystic Form)
Flaw: Volatile Temper 
6 Spirit Dice and 0 Training Points.

The Game

Okay, getting started I'll do a bit of behind the scenes work first to come up with some basic NPCs. I won't show their complete write-ups here but we'll start with 4 NPCs and go from there. We've got Master Sagacious Diamond (the teacher at the dojo) and his star pupil Wandering Moon (she thinks she's soooo perfect) who comes with a sidekick, the plucky Copper Tree. Let's throw in a random character to which the name generator says is called...Owl and Rainbow Daimyo. Wow, that must be someone important huh? We'll wait until later to determine his role. I'll stat out Master Sagacious Diamond as an "Archvillian" level NPC, Wandering Moon as a "Lieutenant" level (basically as a fellow PC) and when the time comes the mysterious Daimyo will be a "Villian" level opponent. These terms don't necessarily indicate any particular attitude or role in the story, they're just the "power levels" used for PDQ# NPCs. On top of these 4 characters we've got two groups "Students" and "Villagers"

1st Scene (Chaos Factor 5)

So, since I'm going solo here there's no guiding force to set the initial scene. I've got the place pinned down pretty well but I must consult the mighty emulator to see what happens. I roll on the random event tables to determine how the scene plays out. I get Introduce New NPC for the focus and Abuse and Leadership as the Event Meaning. Seems like a pretty good way to introduce the mysterious Daimyo. Meanwhile NJ says that seeing me play RPGs by myself is the saddest thing she's ever seen. We'll see if she's right. A quick roll shows there is no Chaos and the scene continues as normal. 

  Willow Dragon is training with the other students, drilling on forms he's practiced time and time again and getting heartily sick of it. However, the tedium is interrupted by the sound of horse's hooves on the stone path leading to the dojo. This is odd since the village is too small and remote to own any riding horses...it must mean there is a visitor. This unusual event seems to distract the other students as well and together Willow Dragon and the rest leave their practice to peer down from the walls that surround the dojo. Riding up the road are several armed men in ornate armor, in their midst is a man whose face is covered by a faceplate in the shape of an owl. A villager making his way down the path dives out of the way when he sees these horses bearing down on him. 

At this point I consult the emulator, asking a question "Are they attacking the school?" I decide the odds are against it so it registers as "unlikely". I roll and consult the table. I get a 7. Not only is that a "Yes" but an "Exceptional Yes". Hoo boy.

As the horses charge forward the soldier at the head of the formation draws his sword and sweeps it down at the hapless peasant, cutting him down on the spot. The horse charge up the path, picking up speed and Willow can see that several are carrying burning torches. The other students scramble to find weapons or to alert the master to this sudden attack.

Another question, "is there a weighted rope or something similar around?" I can't think of a reason for one to be just lying about so I consider it Very Unlikely and indeed it turns out the answer is no.

Rather than running away Willow Dragon leaps from the wall, landing on a springy tree branch then leaps again, landing lightly several yards in front of the lead horse. He holds up a hand and boldly orders the horsemen to stop. 

Since this is a Fantastic Power Level a simple feat like leaping 1-2 stories to a rocky road is no real challenge and there's no need for Willow to roll for it. This might have been handled as a Combat Challenge or even a social conflict but Willow's got no real Strengths in this area so I'll just stick with the emulator and ask "do they stop and talk?" since we already know we've got a serious attack I'd say the odds fall under "No Way" and roll...indeed. No chance of talking this out. I make a few more rolls on the emulator to work out a few things about the enemy's strength. I eventually decide that the enemy forces, other than the Daimyo himself consist of 6 Expert [+4] Samurai Minions. I also ask if the Daimyo himself takes part in the attack, I get a "Exceptional No" and concludes that this means if his minions are defeated the Daimyo will retreat.

Willow leaps into the air as the samurai charge towards him bringing his leg down in a flying axe kick on the first soldier's head and dropping him like a sack of potatoes. He then vaults off of the horses back in a flying kick that catches a second man in the ribs and sends him flying off the mountain path and tumbling down the slope. He lands just as the other samurai draw their blades and close in. However just as their blades slash viciously downwards he leaps skyward in a cloud of dust. He smugly perches on a branch above the soldier's heads grinning mockingly. 

Minions go down fast and they go down hard. Just sticking with basic attacks and defenses for now but Willow easily takes down 2 of the six soldiers.

Before they have a chance to reassess Willow leaps again, however this time they're not caught by surprise and a veritable wall of flashing swords forces him to cut his bound short. He rolls under one of the horses and dashes back up the path, attempting to get some distance from his opponents. They leap from the backs of their horses and charge after him but Willow's speed is too great and their attacks find nothing but air. One samurai gets close but a spinning kick from willow knocks him senseless. 

A couple of rounds of stalemate. Willow doesn't manage to pierce the minion's combined defense but they can't hope to match him in terms of skill either. I decide it's time to mix things up a bit and try a Move, using 2 Spirit Dice for a Blitz. I also ask the GM emulator if the minions are going to try more agressive tactics. I get an "Exceptional Yes". They'll try not only devoting all their dice to attack but also Flipping Out!

The soldiers let out a mighty shout and attack as one, eyes blazing and swords held high. Willow ducks low under their blades and a snap of his foot sends one spinning away while his bare heel stomps down on the back of the warrior's swords, forcing them into the ground. Before they can break free he downs both of them with a pair of lightning fast jabs. It's at about this time that the sound of other students arriving can be heard. Willow and the masked lord face one another across the path strewn with beaten men. Finally he speaks, "Your master has trained you well...but tell him that this is not the last he will hear of me!" With that he spins his horse about and runs down the path.

Samurai all beaten, took about 4 rounds total and not a scratch on Willow Dragon, although he's down two Spirit Dice. I'm conflicted about whether or not Willow feels like chasing down the Daimyo (catching up to a running horse is certainly a possibility for a character at the Fantastic scale) so I consult the emulator and simply ask "can I chase him" I figure it's 50/50. It tells me yes, so Willow ignores the danger and gives chase, leading to a new scene. I'd say this counts as increased Chaos so that goes up by 1 and we start a new scene. A chase!

Scene 2: (Chaos 6)

That increased Chaos factor throws things for a loop immediately and the scene is interrupted with a random event. I roll and I get "NPC Action" and "imitate" and "goals". Seems pretty obvious that this means someone else is trying to catch the Daimyo as well and since it's not a New NPC it's probably going to be my rival, Wandering Moon. So her interference costs Willow his quarry. So I ask the most important question first, "Do we get in a fight?" I figure it's Very Unlikely (she's a goody-two-shoes after all) and it turns out we aren't fighting just yet.

Willow gathers himself, centering his ki and sets off running after the horse. He wouldn't be able to keep stride with the animal in a straight race but here on the twisting mountain paths he could easily use his superior agility to cut off the fleeing man. He gathers himself and soars through the air, catching a branch and swinging across to another tree. However, just before he lands a voice calls out "Willow! Wait for me!" He instinctively looks up in time to see Wandering Moon, with her huge broadsword strapped to her back, dashing down the path and waving desperately to him. The distraction happened at just the right instance to cause his foot to slip on a dew-slick stone and he tumbles to the ground, twisting an ankle. 

So, I know Willow is going to let Wandering Moon have it here, but the real question is "does anyone else get involved" and I get an Exceptional Yes. Sooo....

A few moments later Wandering Moon has her head bowed in shame with tears sparkling in her eyes as Willow Dragon furiously limps back and forth in front of her, ranting about her incompetence and interference, even claiming that she intentionally sabotaged him. This is the situation when Master Sagacious Diamond himself arrives...Willow sputters to a halt as Moon bows her head to greet their master. 
Definitely a case where Willow's Flaw comes into play, so that's an extra Spirit Die to him, bringing him up to 5.

Sagacious Diamond listens gravely to the events that Willow describes while he uses pressure point techniques to mend Willow's injured ankle. All of Willow's demands that they pursue the owl-faced man are ignored and he is bundled back to the school and forced to drink too-hot tea while his ankle is tended to. 
I ask the emulator "does my master tell me about this guy" but it seems like he's being close-mouthed.

Forced to endure rest and without any explanation for today's violence Willow drifts off to sleep...

So, the emulator is definitely working well so far. Its biggest advantage seems to be the ability to introduce plot twists, something that may work very well with PDQ's Plot Hook rules. Although my imagination is certainly doing the heavy lifting the "session" still went in a completely different direction than I originally expected and I never was bogged down trying to figure out what would happen next. Anyway, it's late and I'll continue this another time.

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