Sunday, August 24, 2014

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

Art by Angus McBride

The only Priest class available in the 'original' Man, Myth & Magic setting is Hebrew.  Once per segment, a Hebrew Priest has a 41% chance to “commune with his Deity” thereby obtaining a truthful yes-or-no answer to a question.  Once per adventure, a Hebrew Priest has a chance (based on the character's SKILL) to “work” a miracle.  For purposes of MM&M, a miracle must be expressed as a written statement of no more than twenty-five words and is subject to literal interpretation by the Lore Master.  With a POWER expenditure of only 150 points, a miracle costs less than a Leprechaun's wish.  The class description for the Hebrew Priest explicitly states, “Magical Abilities:  None.”  Regardless, several Hebrew Priest 'spells' are described in the back of MM&M Book II.  The spells are appropriately thematic:  Part Waters, Water from Rock, Manna from Heaven, Fiery Hail, Angel of Death, Pillar of Fire, and Lazarus Lives.  (For the sake of comparison, here are the spells specific to Hebrew Sorcerers:  The Ear of Baalam, Joshua's Tongue, The Eyes of Elija, Walk on Water, The Jug of Gideon, Conjure Cherub, Seeker, Conjure Demon, Sanctuary, and Bridge over Gehenna.)

'Lazarus Lives' is an interesting spell for a game where reincarnation is a primary feature.  At a cost of 30 POWER, the Priest has a 20% chance of restoring life to a character who died that same segment.  If successful, “the Priest loses an amount of POWER Points equal to the restored character's total Life Points.”

In The Egyptian Trilogy 'setting' for MM&M, several other Priest classes are introduced.  (Original MM&M takes place circa AD 41 while The Egyptian Trilogy transpires 1,400 years earlier.)  Specifically, the additional Priest classes are:  Babylonian, Egyptian, Minoan, Philistine, and Sumerian.  With regard to 'magical abilities', the description for Babylonian Priest states, “May not use Spells listed in Grimoire, only Special Character spells for this class.”  Seemingly, this is true of every 'nationality' of Priest, including Hebrew.  The Grimoire consists of thirteen spells “common to all Character Classes having magic as one of their abilities.”  Priests are evidently excluded, as are Apothecaries; some 'magic' classes – like Druid or Harper – don't cast spells per se and others – such as Soothsayer or Astrologer – are 'psychic' rather than magical.  Thus, the classes that have access to the Grimoire are:  Witch-Doctor (African), Leprechaun (Hibernian), Sorcerer (Hebrew and Egyptian), as well as Shaman and Zen Lama (both Oriental).  (It seems that the Zen Lama class has access to the psychic talents as well as the Grimoire spells.)

Only Hebrew Priests are entitled to miracles.  Maybe if the other gods were less stingy with their miracles, their respective religions would have persisted.  Each variety of Priest has its own selection of spells, but instead of invoking miracles, non-Hebrew Priests can craft magic-like items; specifically...
Babylonian:  Can create charms that offset Basic Failure Rate (10 uses)
Egyptian:  Can create a 'Focus' that magic-class characters can use to reduce Basic Failure Rate (10 uses)
Minoan:  With a two week preparation, can enchant a weapon (+1 damage per 25 POWER spent)
Philistine:  Can create an ointment that allows the user to fly
Sumerian:  Can create a personal focus that reduces Basic Failure Rate  (permanent, but costs 50 POWER and takes two weeks)

Instead of being able to commune with their various deities, non-Hebrew Priests have an aptitude with divination – an aptitude shared by Hittite Seers and Sumerian Astrologers.  There are many, many forms of divination; however, MM&M limits itself to nine methods.  In listing the divination types, sometimes the rules use the high falutin' term (e.g., 'hepatoscopy') and sometimes a common descriptor (e.g., 'smoke').  The methods are:  Rhabdomancy (use of divination rods), Incubation (sleeping overnight in a temple), Tarot (a.k.a. Taromancy), Augury (“The study of birds in flight”), Smoke (a.k.a. Capnomancy; +10% chance of success if smoke is narcotic), Dog Howlings (a.k.a. Ololygmancy), Casting Lots (a.k.a. Sortilege), Hepatoscopy (“The study of the liver of an unblemished sacrifice”), and Horoscope.

Aside from Rhabdomancy, which is used “to locate water, oil or a particular type of ore,” and Smoke, which gives “a clue to a future event,” the various divination methods provide a yes/no answer to a question.  For most methods, the question must pertain to the future; however, Incubation allows for “any one question” while with Dog Howlings, the question must regard “another individual.”  Hepatoscopy actually answers six questions and Horoscope, three questions.

The 'Divination Table' shows which classes are capable of performing a given type of divination as well as the POWER cost and Basic Failure Rate modifier.  POWER cost is usually 10 or 15 points, but there are two instances of a 5 point cost and one instance of a 20 point cost.  Modifiers are more often detrimental than beneficial; however, the modifier for Hepatoscopy is beneficial for all classes that can perform it.  An unblemished sacrifice really is the most economical means of gaining knowledge about future events.  The only class that can engage in all forms of divination is the Sumerian Priest.

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