Is The Mythic Game Master Emulator The Holy Grail of Solo Roleplaying?

Mythic Game Master Emulator

Meet your new dungeon master…
© Word Mill Games

The Mythic Game Master Emulator is a general role playing game supplement that allows you to play any tabletop roleplaying game – including Dungeons and Dragons – without a dungeon master.

Whether you are a solo player, a group of players currently lacking a dungeon master or a dungeon master who hasn’t had the time to properly prepare the next session, Mythic allows you to build an improvised adventure on the fly.

All you have to do is think of a simple concept for an adventure and go from there.

This would be a boon for several reasons, not least because it takes away the need for many hours of preparation and, more importantly, makes solo play viable in Dungeons and Dragons.

The only question remaining is whether or not Mythic is capable of generating a campaign that is every bit as memorable as one written by a dedicated dungeon master.

I will attempt to answer this question later in the following review.

But first, how does Mythic work?

Just Ask Questions

The basic idea with Mythic is that you interact and learn more about your campaign world through the asking of yes/no questions, not dissimilar to how you might learn information from a real dungeon master.

From confirming your suspicions regarding the location of a powerful relic to making sure you are not being followed in a busy street, anything can be revealed by asking the right questions.

Here is a summary of the process:

  1. Ask any question you like about your campaign world. The question must result in a yes or a no answer.
  2. Decide what the odds are that the answer to your question will be a yes (or a no).
  3. Refer to the Fate Chart to obtain the probability as a percentage for the odds you’ve picked.
  4. Roll 1d100 (or 2d10).
  5. If you have rolled the percentage value or lower, it’s a yes. If it’s higher, it’s a no.

Once you’ve asked your question, you need to decide what you think the odds are that the answer will be a yes (or a no). Logic is key here.

The odds can range from being flat out impossible to a nailed on certainty, or something in between.

As an example, let’s say you foiled the nefarious plot of an evil wizard and now he wants you dead. If you are the paranoid sort, you might be worried that his retribution will come in the form of a poisoned meal or dagger to the throat while you sleep.

Logically, there is a good chance that it will happen, because you have upset a powerful enemy who happens to be pretty ruthless as well. If the wizard is rich, then the odds may be even greater, since he would have the financial muscle to make it happen.

On the other hand, the same wizard would be extremely unlikely to send assassins after you if you did not step on his toes (though having a fair number of interesting or powerful magic items could just as easily draw his attention).

Once you’ve picked your odds, you need to refer to something called the Fate Chart, which is a table of probabilities given as percentage values, and obtain the value that corresponds with the odds you’ve picked.

You can then find out what the answer to your question will be by rolling a d100 (or 2d10) and comparing your result to your value.

If your roll is higher than the probability, it’s a no. If it’s equal or lower, it’s a yes.

Occasionally, you may get an Exceptional Result. If your result is extremely low or extremely high and falls within a certain range, the answer will be an exceptional yes or no, respectively.

As the name suggests an exceptional result increases the scale or scope of the yes or no answer, so rather than hiring a small group of assassins, the evil wizard could instead make a deal with the guild master of an elite assassin’s guild or even strike a deal with powerful otherworldly creatures, resulting in assassination attempts that are more numerous or lethal.

Order Versus Chaos

Dungeon Master

Yup, you can retire now.
Artwork © By Alexandre SalleS

The probability of getting a yes or no will not remain consistent throughout your adventure.

This is due to the Chaos Rank which changes according to how smoothly things go in your campaign and affects the overall probability of getting a yes or no.

If things have spiraled out of control, the Chaos Rank will increase and the likelihood of a ‘yes’ will be greater.

Conversely, if things have been going well, the Chaos Rank will decrease and there will a greater than normal chance of getting a ‘no’.

The Chaos Rank will change when one scene ends and another begins.

This has a bearing on how the game flows for you.

For instance, you could be in a dungeon, hoping that you can add to your slowly dwindling supplies or find a safe place to rest.

You may initially find it difficult to find useful items or a suitable campsite while your Chaos Rank is low, but once you have been beaten up a little and the Chaos Rank rises as a result, there will be a greater chance you will find the respite you need.

A high Chaos Rank will also increase the likelihood that something random will happen or make a scene turn out a little differently than expected.

This is where it really gets interesting…

Random Events

When you roll your dice to resolve your question, a Random Event will occur if the result of your roll is double digits, both digits are the same (11, 22, 33, etc.) and the singular digit is lower than the current Chaos Rank.

Random events can be anything, but Mythic provides you with a framework for determining what actually happens.

Basically, you roll 1d100 and depending on the result of your roll, you could have something good (or bad) happen to your PC, meet a new character, move a little closer to your short or long term goal and so on.

The specifics of what actually happens – the Event Meaning – is determined by rolling 1d100 twice again and generating a two word phrase, consisting of an ‘Action’ and a ‘Subject’.

Putting everything together, you could generate the phrase ‘Postpone Riches’ as the event meaning for a random event that benefits your character.

This could mean that your PC will be rewarded belatedly by a wealthy prisoner that you helped rescue in the past, but only upon completing your current adventure and returning to town.

As you can see, some interpretation is required on your part, so go with what seems logical. The important thing to remember is that it should be tied to your campaign in some way.

Some word combinations are not quite so easy to figure out, so further yes/no questions may need to be asked before you get something that makes sense.

Other times, you will get results that are totally nonsensical, but you are advised to simply ignore these and move on, just to save time.

I would also add that if you absolutely want a random event, if only to keep things interesting, then I would recommend you roll again until you get a result that makes sense.

Altered Scenes and Interrupt Scenes

Now that's what you call re-writing on the fly... Artwork © By Alai Cinereo

With Mythic, you can write your adventure on the fly.
Artwork © By Alai Cinereo

Things don’t always turn out as you would expect with Mythic.

You could be on a way to a vampire hunt, only to be held back by a resource draining battle against a group of wights or even find that the scenario has changed and the vampire has left his lair for good, his current whereabouts unknown.

Mythic assumes that your adventures will be divided into individual scenes, including combat encounters, exploration of a room, negotiation of a truce, and so on.

Sometimes, these scenes will play out as intended.

Other times, a scene may play out a little differently than expected, or something else will happen first before you can play out your original scene.

To see if anything changes, you roll 1d10 before your scene begins. If the result is lower than the Chaos Rank, something unexpected crops up.

If the result is an odd number, the scene is altered. What actually happens is up to you, but it must be related to the main scene itself.

For example, instead of facing the vampire himself (who has left his lair), you come up against his spawn instead.

If the result is even, then an Interrupt Scene takes place before your original scene. An interrupt scene is simply a random event, so it is generated in the same way.

This is a great way to keep things interesting in a pre-written adventure in particular, since it means that even if you know what is going to happen next, there’s a chance that things will change ever so slightly or a random event will take your campaign in a totally different direction.

List Building

In order to keep track of what has happened in an adventure, you need to keep three lists:

  1. Characters – a list of NPC characters (or groups of individuals such as bandits, guards, orc raiders, etc.).
  2. Threads – a list of quests, goals, and plot hooks that are yet to be resolved.
  3. Chaos Factor – technically not a list, but still needs to be recorded.

Each of these lists are updated when one scene ends and another one begins.

With the NPC list, for example, you may come across two new NPCs during a scene. Once that scene is resolved, both NPCs must be recorded in your NPC list.

If an NPC dies or becomes irrelevant to the adventure during a scene, the NPC in question is removed from the list once the scene is over.

It is important to maintain these lists, because a random event may concern one of the items on any of the lists.

For example, if you generate the random event, ‘NPC Negative’, you will need to randomly determine which NPC in your list will be affected by this random event.

The Good and bad

Good or bad, use the Fate Chart if you're not sure... Artwork © By Daniel Warren

To be fair, Mythic is closer to true neutral.
Artwork © By Alector Fencer

Now that you have an idea of how things work in Mythic, here is a summary of what is good, and not so good, about Mythic.

The Good

  1. The mechanics are relatively easy to learn and are well explained using numerous examples.
  2. The random events and altered/interrupt scenes keep any adventure fresh and unpredictable.
  3. Great for creating new adventures from nothing or adding to an existing pre-written adventure.
  4. Along with your ability to improvise, it is possible to craft a compelling story using Mythic.
  5. Truly enhances the roleplaying aspect of your solo campaign.
  6. Can be played on its own as a standalone rules-light game.

You will need to sit down and take some time to learn how to use Mythic effectively, but the mechanics themselves are not hard to master. The best way to learn how to use this system is to practise using it as you learn.

There are many examples, contained in shaded boxes, that help to get the message across and there is even a whole chapter devoted to a sample adventure generated using Mythic, showcasing what is possible.

To make things even easier for you, there is a summary of the rules at the end of the book, along with all the tables and forms that you can print out for your own convenience.

The beauty of Mythic is that you never know what you are going to get.

Forget impossible: even if you decide that whatever you are asking for will never happen, there is always a chance, no matter how small, that it will. This adds a level of unpredictability that can be lacking in a solo campaign.

You are no longer restricted to using pre-written adventures. If you have a solid concept for a campaign, Mythic will give you all the tools you need to bring your idea to life.

You can create your own setting from scratch or use a pre-existing setting – Murder in Baldur’s Gate has a great campaign guide that you can draw inspiration from, for example, and you can simply use Mythic to flesh out the rest.

On the other hand, Mythic can add to any pre-written adventure by changing things around or adding new scenes, keeping things interesting even if you know what happens next.

Mythic is capable of enhancing the storytelling and roleplaying aspects of your solo campaign, helping you create situations that you can react to with some real consequences attached to them.

With one scene leading seamlessly to the next, a coherent narrative is formed. This makes Mythic ideal for crafting a great story, not just for your D&D campaign, but for those who are aspiring writers, too.

If you are particularly creative, you could even create an adventure that you can share or publish.

And lastly, Mythic can be used as a standalone system – that is, without Dungeons & Dragons or any other roleplaying game system. This is handy for those who prefer to play a rules-light, story-driven campaign.

The Not So Good

  1. Potential for abuse.
  2. The art.
  3. Success with Mythic depends on your imagination, logic and your ability to improvise and interpret the results.
  4. Tricky to get used to at first with all the notes you need to keep.
  5. You can have too much fun with it – so much so that you forget that there is a world to save…

Mythic can be a munchkin’s paradise.

If the Chaos Rank is extremely high, it’s possible to get some bizarre results that go against all semblance of logic and common sense.

There’s nothing like asking if the cosmic horror in front of you will explode spontaneously just by your glaring at it – and getting your wish.

You can also phrase a question in order to get the results you want, such as asking a negative question that has a good chance of yielding a negative answer, essentially resulting in a positive answer instead.

That’s the trouble with Mythic: you can engineer the outcomes that you want, which is not something you can do with a real dungeon master.

Therefore, the responsibility ultimately lies with the player to ensure that everything is kept in the realm of good sense.

On the other hand, those who prefer the oddball over the conventional could have a whale of a time with this, building a game around absurd and hilarious outcomes – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I also want to comment on the art.

Now, to be fair, the quality isn’t bad.

What I don’t like is the use of images that are seemingly there to… well, attempt to appeal to the male demographic, let’s just say (read: fanservice).

Perhaps the author didn’t intend it that way, but I just find the use of such images unnecessary.

If your head hurts just by thinking and you shudder at the thought of having to take notes, Mythic may not be for you.

Unlike most campaigns where a dungeon master handles all the details for you, you will need to do most of the heavy lifting yourself if you play solo.

How well it comes together is dependent on how well you can improvise, use logic and imagination, and interpret the random events that come your way.

Mythic merely provides the framework, so if you lack any of the above, you will struggle to make good use of Mythic.

And finally, it can be really tempting to go off the rails completely and indulge your wanderlust, because with Mythic, the roleplaying and possibilities for exploration are endless.

This makes it a little difficult to stay focused on the main story, especially if you are playing a pre-written adventure, though it’s less of a problem if you are creating your own adventure from scratch – which is really the whole point of Mythic.

Yes or No?

5

Here’s a question that needs its own yes/no answer: is Mythic worth adding to your collection?

The answer is yes – and there is no need to roll 1d100 and consult the Fate Chart.

Coupled with your imagination, the Mythic Game Master Emulator allows you to enjoy on your own the kind of riveting campaigns that are normally reserved for group play, complete with great roleplaying opportunities and potential surprises around each corner.

It is an exercise in storytelling like no other and it will help you bring to life any campaign idea you can think of, from the epic to the weird and wonderful.

You can use also Mythic to complement any pre-written adventure, so if there’s a module you’ve been dying to play, but have not had the opportunity to play with others, you can play it solo with Mythic.

It’s a great resource for D&D fans who want more from their solo campaigns. If that describes you, I wholeheartedly recommend that you pick it up.

Even if you don’t play solo, Mythic can still help you while away those evenings whenever a session is cancelled due to that unavoidable thing known as real life.

Or if you are a lazy dungeon master, this could also be right up your street.

And at $6.95, you’ll get your money’s worth many times over.

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2 comments

  • Anthony

    Could you please do a small step by step write up of how to use Mythic with a d&d pre-written adventure?
    I appreciate you did one in a previous article but a bit more of when exactly you consult the pre-written adventure and when you turn to Mythic as I fear I’m reading to far ahead in the d&d supplements and spoiling most of the content!

    Thank you!

    • Ken Wai Lau

      To be honest, I haven’t really found a ‘foolproof’ way to do what you describe, so I went for the next best thing: spoil the adventure but rewrite everything, or make the PCs the unknown quantity while you effectively play as the DM.

      I think also another problem is ease of play and I think a lot of players would rather dive into an adventure rather than spend ages on the planning, so my latest method of “being the DM” and letting Mythic control your characters is the best solution I’ve found so far.

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