Sunday, August 10, 2014

Character Classes in Man, Myth & Magic (part II)

Art by Angus McBride

Doubtless, the cats pictured above are leopards.  The Man, Myth & Magic livestock table does not list leopards – an unfortunate oversight – but it does list trained cheetahs, the minimum price of which is 300 gold libra.  Although MM&M provides no bestiary, we gain some insight into the capabilities of leopards via the Witch-Doctor spell 'Leopard Man'.  A leopard (or a Witch-Doctor who has turned into a leopard) gets five attacks per turn and causes damage equivalent to a dagger wielded by a human being.  Some other Witch-Doctor spells include:  Pointing Bone (“kill any single mortal enemy” at a cost of 100 POWER), M'Gumbo Sickener (causes 1-100 opponents “to become too ill to fight”), Voodoo Doll, and Zombie.  The special ability of Witch-Doctors is healing; at no POWER cost, a Witch-Doctor has a 31% of restoring 25 Life Points and a 4% chance of re-attaching severed limbs.  According to the class description, “the Witch-doctor is something of an Apothecary” and “Any poison or death magic exceptionally potent.”  However, there are no other details in the rules about this.  Similarly, the description states that the Witch-Doctor “is something of a Warrior,” but there is nothing that elaborates upon this.

Aside from the Witch-doctor, the other class exclusive to the African 'nationality' is the Wisewoman.  Like the Sibyl, only a female character can be a Wisewoman.  The prime ability for Wisewomen is 'healing'.  They can form a healing compound with only “the flower of any plant” and “the root of any other plant.”  The compound takes five minutes to prepare and it must be applied immediately afterwards.  One Life Point is restored for each point of POWER the Wisewoman invests.  Due to “the very ancient Feminine Tradition of Prophetic Lore,” a Wisewoman has an 11% chance of issuing an accurate prophecy “only in [a] segment following consumption of the yarrow herb.”  Also, Wisewomen can craft charms like the Apothecary classes, including a charm exclusive to Wisewomen – a Love Token.

In MM&M, the primary ability of the Druid is something called “The Four Strange Arts.”  According to Herbie Brennan, “No-one is quite sure whether the Four Strange Arts are strictly speaking magical, or purely scientific.”  The Four Strange Arts are:
Stone Lore – “This enables the Druid to set fire to stone which will then burn fiercely until all immediately available stone is consumed” or until the Druid wants it to stop.
Tree Lore – For ten POWER points the Druid can receive a truthful 'yes or no' answer to a question put forth to a tree (which must be at least six feet tall).  This assumes, of course, that the answer is “within the tree's knowledge.”  If the tree is an oak (and the Druid spends a total of 25 POWER points), a response not in excess of twelve words is possible.
Stellar Lore – “A form of astrology” which allows the Druid to obtain a 'yes or no' answer about the future.  This costs fifteen points of POWER per question.
Mekhenesis – Apparently, this “is the old term for hypnosis.”
Regardless of their magical or scientific nature, Druids lose “all abilities in the Four Arts for three segments following a solar eclipse.”

The prime ability of the Philosopher class is 'information retrieval'.  At a cost of fifteen points of POWER, a Philosopher “can attempt to gain information on the essential nature of an artifact, strategy, environment, situation, etc.”  I guess the information comes from the Philosopher's own mind, specifically a combination of memory and deduction.  Yet what does “essential nature” mean?  Of course – since this is philosophy – we may as well ask what does anything mean?  But what does it mean in terms of in-game knowledge?  What – beyond the obvious – does a Lore Master tell a Philosopher's player once the player makes a successful roll to gain information?  I fear this class may not be well-suited for adventuring.

Slightly less useless than the Philosopher are the Scribe classes.  While scribes were an important part of the ancient world, their potential for thrilling RPG action is rather limited.  The Egyptian Scribe has “a 40% chance of getting the basic gist of any written language.”  The rules specify “one try only.”  Is this one try per language or per writing sample?  The Babylonian Scribe has a chance of memorizing conversations verbatim.  Otherwise, over a period of months, either type of Scribe can attempt to learn to read and write or speak any foreign language.  If you are easily excited or have a heart condition, this may be the perfect class for you.

The primary ability of the Roman Senator class is 'bribery'.  At a cost of five points of POWER, “a Senator is entitled to offer a bribe to any Character.”  The amount of the bribe is determined randomly:  one thousand gold libra times 1d100.  If you don't have the money do you still spend the POWER?  Even with the money, the Senator must succeed with a roll; if failed, the unsuccessfully bribed “Character will immediately attack the Senator.”  Senators also have a 71% chance of obtaining “any reasonable item required by the party.”  The item appears in the segment following the segment in which the roll was made.  Finally, for 25 POWER points, “a Senator may take charge of a friendly party and lead them in a given direction whether they wish to go there or not.”

The Hibernian Harper class has 'music' as its prime ability.  A Harper has four special abilities, all of which require the Harper to have a working harp in his or her possession.  First, once per segment, a Harper has a 36% chance of sending a message of no more than twelve words to any other Harper.  Second, once per segment and at a cost of twenty points of POWER, a Harper may attempt to send a message of no more than six words to any character regardless of distance.  Third, at a cost of twenty-five points of POWER, a Harper may attempt to transport any character “physically to another dimension of reality” until the end of the segment.  Although not stated, I suppose the target character must initially be in the Harper's presence.  Fourth, a Harper can play a “LOVE SONG.”  Each character within fifty feet has a 45% of being well-disposed towards the Harper “and will not attack him [or her] under any circumstances.”  However, there is a 45% chance that “any affected Characters...will fall in love” with the Harper.  Such are the perils of being a musician.

Perhaps the oddest class in MM&M is the Leprechaun.  According to the rules, “There is still considerable controversy about whether or not this Character Class is actually human.”  Their prime ability is 'magic', so they have access to spells common to all spell-casters but they also have access to their own exclusive set of spells:
Fairy Path – The Leprechaun instantly travels in a straight line up to a distance of one mile, “passing through any obstacles, without harm enroute.”
Grant Wish – At a cost of 201 POWER and subject to the approval of the Lore Master, the Leprechaun can grant the wish of another character.
Magic Milk – The Leprechaun can create a “fluid” that can provide combat bonuses to three characters for an undisclosed period of time.
Rainbow Gold – The Leprechaun creates 100 x 1d100 gold pieces that turn into “dried leaves at the end of the segment.”
See in Dark – Self explanatory.
Tinker's Dam – The Leprechaun can block any portal of no greater than ten feet in radius with a metal disk (including a coin).
Luck of the Irish – “Allows the Leprechaun to win any nonphysical wager.”
Shamrock Sleep – The Leprechaun can “turn willing subjects into Shamrocks until the end of the segment.”
O'Brian's Key – The Leprechaun can open any non-magical lock.
The Wee People – The Leprechaun can shrink “any willing person to one-tenth their normal size.”
Abilities that technically are not categorized as 'magical' include the power to sense gold or danger and the Gift of Gab, which gives the Leprechaun a 21% chance to convince a character “to believe any single proposition, however fantastic, for the space of one segment.”  Unfortunately for their players, Leprechauns can disappear from the game for one segment at a time.  At the beginning of a segment, there is an 11% chance that the Leprechaun will disappear.  The Leprechaun will return at the beginning of the next segment and will not have a chance of disappearing again until the following segment.


  1. Thanks again for the close look at this game. Love the dry wit you bring to your posts. MM&M is yet another rpg I've always wanted a copy of, after seeing the ads for it many years ago. The concept is a good one, the execution is would seem, not so good. (What's with so many 11% chances? 10% was too ordinary?). I did once own a copy of Brennan's other rpg, Timeship, which was also a joke when it came to, you know, rules. There weren't much of any. And as a kid I found the "adult" content of some of the included adventures a bit off-putting (in an 'ew, gross' kind of way). Can't really remember the details now, though.

    1. Timeship is next.

      The 11% solution is that the rules state "roll 90 or above." So, the rules present a round number but it makes for an odd percentage.

    2. Aha. Ok, I am looking forward to your Timeship walk-through - with some trepidation. As I recall, it was one of those rpgs (Villains & Vigilantes being the other I know of) where you were supposed to play YOURSELF, right?