The Mythic Player Emulator – Reversing the Role of Mythic

Playing any published Dungeons & Dragons adventure presents a number of problems, namely having access to information you shouldn’t: knowing exactly which way you should go, what the enemy weaknesses are, where the loot is, and so on.

I’ve already presented a couple of solutions: read the adventure slowly and keep the spoilers hidden for as long as you can or rewrite the whole adventure.

The first method allows you to dive in right away without any preparation, while the latter method allows you to keep many elements of the adventure fresh and unpredictable.

But maybe this isn’t enough for you.

Perhaps you want the ‘perfect’ solution: the one that allows you to start an adventure quickly with minimum amount of prep, yet there is a healthy amount of unpredictability, suspense and surprise – even if you have access to every spoiler in the adventure?

Normally, that solution would be an actual real dungeon master who can keep everything secret until the time is right.

He is the one who knows what will happen in the adventure, whereas the player character won’t.

He knows the weaknesses of his major NPCs, something that the players will have to find out for themselves through research or more adventuring.

He knows where all the cool loot is, while the player can only hope that the rewards at the end will be worth the imaginary sweat and tears of his character.

And this is exactly the information that you, the solo roleplayer, will have access to as well.

But there is one thing that the DM does not know that is significant enough to affect the direction of the adventure: the actions of the player.

The solution is simple, then: be the DM and take control of the world, while Mythic takes the reigns of your character.

Note: like the revisionist method I wrote about, this solution requires The Mythic Game Master Emulator (this article won’t make sense if you don’t have it). If you do not have this book, you can read my review of it here. If you already have the book, read on.

What Will You Do Next?

An-maze-ing life journey awaits.

Were you expecting multiple choice?

A summary of the process is as follows:

  1. Resolve all Mythic dice rolls to set up a scene, as normal (roll against the Chaos Rank to see if the scene changes, fate chart rolls, etc.)
  2. Ask Mythic what the character will do by generating a phrase from the Event Meaning table and interpreting it.
  3. If there are specific actions mentioned in a paragraph that a character could take (e.g. does he search for traps? Fight or flight? Loot body / open tomb? Etc.), use a yes / no question to determine whether the character takes that action or not.
  4. Rinse and Repeat.

That’s just the simple version.

The Event Meaning phrase is particularly noteworthy and can potentially present an infinite number of possibilities as to how a character will act in the adventure.

To illustrate, here’s an extended example from my Halloween one-shot adventure where I am exploring the Death House, a mini-adventure in Curse of Strahd which is available as a free download here:

Example - Warning: Possible Spoilers!

Chaos: 8

Scene Modification Roll: 3-Altered Event

Lotus (created using One Man Army) enters Area 34: Cult Leaders’ Quarters

Altered Event – Revised Scene Setup

… and sees several corpses by the footlocker, giving her pause…

Questions Asked

  • Q. How does this scene differ from the original? (Event Meaning)
  • A. Delay Intrigues – something stops Lotus from sating her curiosity as to what is inside the footlocker – the corpses and skeletons surrounding the footlocker appear to suggest that whoever opens it will be in for a nasty surprise… or perhaps the skeletons are the surprise.
  • Q. Is there any particular approach that Lotus takes here? (Event Meaning)
  • A. Propose Power – mindful of the possibility that the skeletons might animate if disturbed, as well as the possibility that the chest is trapped (which explains the pile of skeletons around the chest), Lotus decides to torch the whole lot with a burning hands spell without considering the possibility that the items within will burn with it as well (hey, with an intelligence of 8, she’s capable of anything 😛 ).
  • Q. How does Lotus approach the battle against the ghasts? (Event Meaning)
  • A. Attach Balance – makes good use of all available resources: uses a mix of martial and magical, ranged and melee abilities, as the situation requires.

Scene Summary

Lotus enters the Cult Leaders’ Quarters and finds a footlocker surrounded by skeletons.

Suspecting that the chest is trapped in some fashion, Lotus decides not to approach it… instead, she blasts it with a burning hands spell in the hopes that the trap will be destroyed along with the skeletons (which may very well animate and attack).

Once the dust settles, she takes what is left from the treasure pile (including a cloak which did not burn, indicating that it is magical).

However, she soon discovers the real reason why there are so many corpses surrounding the footlocker: the former cult leaders (who are now ghasts) burst forth from the walls and attack…

After a battle that has drained most of her resources, Lotus is triumphant against the two former cult leaders.

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It’s worth mentioning that whatever phrase you generate using Mythic’s Event Meaning table to determine your character’s actions: be flexible.

Instead of saying “this is what he does and he’s not gonna change – even if he’s getting nowhere”, you should instead regard it as your character’s initial approach to the situation.

If the approach is good and moves the scene along – keep doing it.

If not, then like any intelligent creature, he should change his approach based on the situation at hand.

In this case, you can either make another Event Meaning roll if you want to keep up the randomness.

Otherwise, simply assume control of the character yourself for the remainder of the scene.

As always, do as Mythic suggests when it comes to interpreting events – i.e., the interpretation doesn’t have to be literal and, if nothing fits, move on.

Default Behaviours

Sometimes, you might get a paragraph in an adventure that says something along the lines of: “If a character looks up, allow the character to make a Wisdom (Perception) check to avoid surprise when the darkmantles drop on his head”, or, “If the characters look under the rug, they will find a trapdoor leading to the basement.”.

The yes / no questions are a good way to quickly determine whether a character will do these things, with the odds based on how likely a character will do this as a result of his personality traits, alignment, profession, and even his ability scores.

A character with an intelligence of 8 might do very little reading, if any, so he might not think to check out the books in the library to see if he can learn more about a rare disease affecting the land.

In this case, the odds that the character picks up a book to do some research on this disease could be set to ‘Very Unlikely’ – or even ‘No Way’.

To really build on this, though, you can compile a list of default behaviours that gives you a reference point for how likely a character is to do something.

I have discussed the concept of using Default Behaviours before in a previous article, which you can read here.

To sum up, you draw up a list of predetermined behaviours and responses based on the occupation, alignment, and personality of your character, and establish, for instance, whether or not the character will search for traps, with the answer being yes if the character is a rogue, has a criminal background, or if he has been trained in the use of thieve’s tools.

The trouble with this approach is that it is a little rigid with its binary responses and makes the character feel more like a construct, rather than a living breathing creature who can ‘forget’ to search for traps or have other out of character moments.

The solution is, instead of the binary will he / won’t he approach, you could instead establish the odds for each behaviour in your list of default behaviours.

For example, you might establish that a character is not the type who would think to search for secret doors, because he has never set foot in a dungeon where these things exist.

So whenever you ask whether or not he will search for a secret door in the area he is currently exploring, the odds of him actually doing so might be ‘Impossible’.

However, if you get a yes to this question and he finds the secret door – or if he discovers the secret door by accident using his passive Perception score – the odds that he will search for the next secret door may be moved up by one step (from ‘Impossible’ to ‘No Way’).

The next time he discovers a secret door, the odds will increase even more, and so on.

If you feel it is appropriate, you can increase the odds if you get an ‘Exceptional Yes’.

Conversely, if the character goes a couple of adventures without ever discovering a secret door, he may gradually slip back to his old ways and the odds that he will look for secret doors reduced.

Getting an ‘Exceptional No’ may also reduce the odds, at your option.

You don’t have to establish the odds as extremes (‘Has to Be’ or ‘Impossible’) – you can instead pick odds that are somewhere in between.

A character might not be a rogue, but a character with natural aptitude (high Wisdom score) or is otherwise a little more savvy or alert may still have the presence of mind to check all the walls and floors occasionally.

A character like this may be ‘Somewhat Likely’ to ‘Likely’ to search for secret doors.

Random and Interrupt Events

The way you use Mythic is generally the same: you generate your scene, determine whether it is an Altered Event, Interrupt Event or unchanged, then go from there, updating the Chaos score when you complete a scene.

However, we will make a slight alteration to the Event Focus Table, by replacing ‘Introduce a New NPC’ with a new Event Focus called ‘PC Action’ to represent the possibility that your character will do something unexpected or random.

Whatever the result, the action you interpret from the phrase you create should be based on the context of the scene or what has happened before.

For example, if you get a Random Event and the Event Focus is ‘PC Action’, generating the phrase ‘Delay Death’ afterwards could mean that the character gives a wounded NPC a potion of healing, casts cure wounds, or otherwise does something to restore his health or prevent him from dying.

This approach may be suitable for adventures that contain some sandbox elements.

For adventures that are a lot more structured, you could simply ditch the Event Focus Table altogether and make the character’s action the sole focus of the Random Events.

When you get an Altered Event, the character does something to influence the outcome of a scene (or does something different to what was originally intended), while getting an Interrupt Event means the character does something before moving onto the next scene.

In terms of examples, an Altered Event might cause a character to sneak into an enemy camp for a rescue mission instead of negotiating for a prisoner’s release, while generating the phrase ‘Pursue Peace’ as an Interrupt Event could mean the character decides to rest before continuing his exploration of a dungeon.

Random Events simply represent actions that your character performs on the spur of the moment.

Alternatively, you could keep the Event Focus Table, but the events could instead occur as a result of character actions.

For example, rolling ‘NPC Negative’ and ‘Expose Lies’ could mean your character attempts to see through the deception of an NPC he is currently talking to by contesting the NPC’s Charisma (Deception) check with his Wisdom (Insight) check.

If you are unsure how to interpret a phrase and turn it into a character action that makes sense within the context of the scene, simply use the ‘I Dunno’ rule or treat it as an ordinary Random Event that has nothing to do with your character’s actions.

Character Development

No longer your choice now, unfortunately.

It’s your character’s decision now, unfortunately.

There is one other thing that can be controlled by Mythic, and that is how the character develops over time.

Rather than pre-determine the traits of your character right off the bat, you could start with a blank canvas that will be filled in as the story progresses.

This approach would appeal to players who enjoy developing a character organically, rather than having to lay everything down before a campaign begins.

In a sense, it would be like watching a movie where you initially know very little about the characters to begin with, but will slowly find out more about them as the story unfolds, during the trials they go through, character defining moments, and so on.

Alignment Shift

If you are not the sort who is keen on deciding what moral path your character should take in a campaign from day one, or if you see yourself playing a campaign that has the potential to contain a lot of grey areas in morality, simply let Mythic deal with it.

In practical terms, you begin play with your character’s alignment at True Neutral.

Whenever you determine your character’s moral response to certain situations using a yes / no question, the odds can be left at 50/50 to begin with.

After a while, you may begin to see a trend in the character’s behaviour and find that she leans towards altruism, regardless of whether or not money is involved.

In this case, the odds of this character doing something altruistic next time will increase, and the more she continues on this path, the more she will establish herself as a good character.

The same happens in reverse – if she goes a little while without performing a good deed when given the choice to (or if she becomes motivated by greed or selfishness), then the odds that she does good may be reduced and she may eventually lean more towards performing morally questionable acts.

To measure this in mechanical terms, you could have two Alignment Ranks, one for each alignment axis (law / chaos, and good / evil).

The concept is similar to the Chaos Rank in that it changes whenever you conclude a scene, except that the Alignment Rank shift only occurs whenever the character performs (or intends to perform) an action that could have a potential impact on his or her moral outlook.

Basically, if your character elects to do good, the Good / Evil Alignment Rank will increase by 1, with the opposite being true if she elects to do evil.

When it comes to Law or Chaos, if your character elects to uphold the law, the Law / Chaos Alignment Rank will increase by 1, with the opposite being true if she decides to sow chaos.

The Alignment Ranks will have a direct impact on the result of a yes / no question, when it comes to determining what actions the character will take in response to moral dilemmas, similar to how the Chaos Rank will affect the outcome of a generic yes / no question.

Here are a couple of charts to illustrates what I mean:

Good / Evil Alignment Chart

Do Good Impossible No Way Very Unlikely Unlikely 50/50 Somewhat Likely Likely Very Likely Has to Be
Rank 1 (Evil) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Good)
Do Evil Has to Be Very Likely Likely Somewhat Likely 50/50 Unlikely Very Unlikely No Way Impossible

Law / Chaos Alignment Chart

Uphold Law Impossible No Way Very Unlikely Unlikely 50/50 Somewhat Likely Likely Very Likely Has to Be
Rank 1 (Chaotic) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Lawful)
Sow Chaos Has to Be Very Likely Likely Somewhat Likely 50/50 Unlikely Very Unlikely No Way Impossible

As you can see, the higher your Good / Evil Alignment Rank, the more likely you will do good deeds, with the opposite being true for evil deeds (and vice versa, if rank is lower), and the higher your Lawful / Chaos Alignment Rank, the more likely you will lean towards lawfulness (and vice versa, if rank is lower).

So if your character’s Good / Evil Alignment Rank is 7, then the likelihood of him doing something evil is ‘Very Unlikely’, while the odds that he will do good would be ‘Likely’.

If the character’s initial intention is to resist performing an evil deed, but is somehow compelled to do evil, either though magical influence or otherwise, his rank should not be lowered – in fact, it should be increased.

You can justify this by saying that, upon realising the severity of what he had done, the character is stricken with guilt and becomes even more determined to perform good deeds in future to atone for his sin.

Note that you do not have to complete a deed for the Alignment Rank to shift – simply declaring the intention to help others (or harm them) is enough to shift the rank.

For example, if your character decides to find a farmer’s missing son, then she has established the fact that she wants to help and is unlikely to change her course of action, unless she has to make the decision again in response to some other influence, such as the son’s captor bribing her to turn a blind eye – and the character accepts.

The Alignment Rank will only shift by one point each time, regardless of the magnitude of any particular deed.

General Character Development

The same concept could be used for personality quirks and traits as well.

Naturally, this will be harder to keep track of and a simple chart would not suffice to keep track of the myriad of personality traits that exist in the world.

One way to do this is to set the odds at 50/50 the first time you ask Mythic if the character acts in a certain way (if he searches for traps, fights at range, and so on).

On top of that, Event Meaning rolls may also influence how your character turns out by the end of his career.

As you adventure, your character may have the tendency to talk before he shoots, so the odds that he will speak to a hostile NPC in the future instead of fighting may increase.

This method can be a great way to develop your Default Behaviours on the fly and saves you from having to build the list from the start.

Closing Thoughts

Dice fall, everyone dies. Image © by Victor Maury.

Dice fall, everyone dies.
Image © by Victor Maury.

By making the character the unknown variable, I felt I have found a great way to quickly begin an adventure solo, yet maintain an element of surprise without having to rewrite the whole thing.

It’s also good for when you know the adventure inside out – perhaps because you’ve played it before – yet you still want a fresh experience that continues to surprise you.

There are a couple of problems with this approach, though.

For starters, some people may not like the DM style approach and would prefer to assume the role of a character.

Also, you are surrendering your character to the whims of fate, as it were, and there will be much more uncertainty as to whether or not the character might live to see another day.

Uncertainty in D&D is great, of course, but some players may prefer to play their characters as it gives them the illusion of ‘being in control’ if the proverbial brown matter hits the fan.

On the other hand, it can generate tension if you don’t know whether the character will zig or if he will zag, especially in critical situations where a lot is riding on the character’s decision.

Occasionally, he might come up with something ingenious that ends up saving his bacon, yet other times, he could play right into the hands of the enemy at exactly the wrong moment.

However, dungeon masters would probably take to this style of play like a duck to water, and it could also be suitable for players who are interested in ‘learning the ropes’ of DMing.

Your Turn

Give this a go and see what you think.

If you’ve already tried this method before, how well does it work for you?

And are there any suggestions of your own that you’d like to add to the above?

Have your say below!

 

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4 comments

  • Matthew Miller

    Some excellent ideas here.

    For character development/alignment, I’ve found the Traits & Passions system from Pendragon can be easily ported into other systems for solo play (viz. Chaste / Lustful, Energetic / Lazy, Forgiving / Vengeful, Generous / Selfish, Honest / Deceitful, Just / Arbitrary, Merciful / Cruel, Modest / Proud, Pious / Worldly, Prudent / Reckless, Temperate / Indulgent, Trusting / Suspicious, Valorous / Cowardly).

  • Scott M. Bruner

    I have been meaning to do this for a long time…I love playing on Roll20, but I also have the desire to play more often, AND it’s often hard to find folks into OSRIC/Labyrinth Lord (5E no problem at all), and I love playing the classic modules.

    Also, I have no interest in playing them. DMing is my jam and always has been. So, I’ve often planned on using Mythic to simulate the players, and not the world. I just haven’t done it yet, it still feels like layering on an extra level of rules, and I also am never sure of how to track decisions, plot changes, etc. The use of Mythic’s Event mechanics naturally means that there will be a lot of randomizing events. Without fellow players to help track them…it might get nutty. Just keeping track of the 4-7 character sheets as well (and staying on top of their abilities, etc etc) is also daunting.

    Anyway, I still might try it, but there’s a lot of work involved, especially as the initial rules systems can be complicated themselves.

    • Ken Wai Lau

      Write a journal as you go along.

      That way, if you need to refresh your memory on certain key events in your campaign, you have something to refer back to.

      As for keeping multiple character sheets, I’ve written an eBook that addresses this problem by balancing four-person-D&D for a single character.

      You can check it out here.

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