My old post was prompted by wrestling with my new lover, the board game Enter The World of Myth by Megacon Games. It's a massive box, weighed down with quality plastic miniatures. It's a novel idea for a dungeon crawl game but it has provoked a vitriolic backlash. Why? Well, the game won a lot of fans as a Kickstarter but when the product came out it looked lovely but the rules… well.
Now look, it's easy to complain. Very few games hit the shelves entirely free of bugs and glitches. True, but Myth seems more bug-prone and glitch-ridden than most. There's a real sense that, focusing on the physical product, the designers neglected the text. It might be argued that they neglected to beta-test the game - get someone who wasn't a friend or a family pet to try to run it from their rules and acting on the feedback from that. In effect, the Kickstarter Pledges turned into the beta-testers and mooks like me who bought the game retail end up with a product that feels like it's still "in development".
Heigh-ho. I've decided I very much like Myth, warts and all, and I'll stick with it a bit longer, but the experience of deciphering its baffling (but beautiful) rulebook and weighing up the claims of the lovers and the haters on forums puts me in mind of my little RPG, still very much a work in progress.
Of course, there are differences. Cthulhu Abides is just a little hobbyist thing, a not-for-profit B&W rulebook sold print-on-demand for about the price of a beer. Anyone buying it and disliking it won't have invested too much time or treasure in it, I hope. Nevertheless, the experience of putting it together has been illuminating. For one thing, writing clear rules is not easy. For another, the author is the worst judge of what's clear. I find I post up the text through Create Space thinking, "There! Done!" Then the next time I glance at the MS out leap typos and ugly, verbose constructions I'd been blind to before. The moment I set the game out to play it again, rules that used to seem fine to me are now revealed in their idiocy: too complex, too challenging, too vague, sheerly contradictory. So I edit in the changes and re-post the book and feel sorry for anyone who paid for the previous edition.
Did anyone pay for the previous edition? Why, yes, they did. Last time I checked Create Space it told me that a dozen copies had been sold (net profit: $0.00) and I can only account for two of those among my gaming group. So, as a gesture of goodwill to anyone who buys the rules, I'm putting the latest version into my Dropbox as a PDF and anyone is free to download that and check for corrections.
What sort of corrections have been made? Well, one of the biggest niggles with Myth is how lazy the designers are with nomenclature. You take a game like Magic: The Gathering and every sentence, every verb, every comma is carefully selected for rules implications. If it says "may" that's not the same as "must". Myth is inconsistent on this and the result is confusion. I started trawling through Cthulhu Abides to try to impose some sort of similar discipline on my own writing. I immediately discovered myself using "Resist" in at least three different contexts:
- As a Minor Bonus, something PCs ad to their Challenge rolls against being hurt or going crazy
- As a Challenge roll made up of dice from various strategies employed by PCs to avoid an attack or a spell
- As a Score that NPCs have that PCs need to beat if they want to hurt them or affect them with magic
Another of Myth's glitchy traits is its tendency to preserve terminology from what were clearly earlier and discarded drafts of the rules, even though the sense behind them has gone. For example, Myth has cards called Actions and cards called Reactions. Originally, it seems you played an Action first and then you added a bunch of Reactions to go after it. In the rules as they stand you play cards in any order, but only one Action per turn. So calling the other cards "Reactions" has become unhelpful and misleading, since you may play them before an Action or instead of an Action.
Looking at my rules, I see the same thing. Originally, I had intended the Attributes of Goal and Philosophy to indicate how a character acted. That idea got dropped but the names stuck, which becomes confusing because Goal and Philosophy now exis in a different rules context. Renaming them Philosophy (Nerve) and Goal (Focus) got clumsy and wasn't done consistently. So I've replaced them with Certainty and Hope, which are shorter, descriptive and don't confuse.