Sunday, September 14, 2014

Adventures and Random Encounters in Man, Myth & Magic (Spoilers)

Book III of the Man, Myth & Magic set is The Adventures Book, containing a 'basic' adventure, an 'advanced' adventure, advice on being a Lore Master, and some random encounter tables.

The basic adventure is a simple 'infiltrate and destroy' mission.  The advanced adventure does not have a title per se, but consists of four 'linked' episodes.  Each episode is divided into game-time periods called segments.  Surviving a segment allows a character a POWER roll and at least some damage recovery. 

To be blunt, the advanced adventure is a railroad; in fact, the Lore Master's advice (four pages under the modest heading 'How to Become the All-Time Greatest Lore Master of the Known Universe') includes a section titled 'Getting Players Back on the Rails'.  In fairness, Brennan states that players – not the Lore Master – should “control the action” and that Lore Masters should not “break their necks to try and make sure players follow a particular pre-determined sequence.”  In other words, players should be allowed to leave the “rails” but the Lore Master should “get his players back on the real track of the adventure without their suspecting anything is amiss; and without their getting restless or bored.”  To assist the Lore Master with accommodating the players' impromptu peregrinations, the book provides a few “standard” maps.  (At the end of this post I provide scans of the “standard cave complex” map and the “standard underground complex” map.)

The first episode (less than two-and-a-half pages of text) is called The Dragon Loose in Rome.  Essentially, players must develop a strategy to defeat a “dragon” that is practically invulnerable to weapons.  In the second episode, Apollo's Temple, Emperor Caligula summons the player characters to his presence.  Because of their success defeating the “dragon,” he assigns the characters a “special task.”  Caligula wants the characters to learn the secret of Apollo's Temple (i.e., Stonehenge).  The reward is great; however, if they fail, the Legions of Rome will seek them out and bring them back to Rome for an “extremely painful” fate.

The party goes to Britain and, en route to Stonehenge, there are three 'Road Encounters'.  Two of these encounters can provide clues regarding the episode's climax.  At Stonehenge, the party confronts a group of evil druids about to engage in human sacrifice.  Once the druids are defeated and the clues deciphered, the party can perform a ceremony that 'activates' some of the stones.  Different stones – distinguishable by color – generate distinct effects when touched.  Some effects are beneficial, such as healing or “granting the single item each [party] member desires most at that present moment.”  Some effects are bad, such as being disintegrated or sent to hell.  One stone summons a “Ban Sheed.”  What is a Ban Sheed?
This fearsome creature appears in the form of a very tall, white robed and dark haired woman, but is, in fact, the sexless representative of an alien race of beings who once inhabited the Celtic Islands during an era of almost unimaginable antiquity.
It is revealed that the Ban Sheed is the basis of the banshee legend.  Anyway, the party can only progress to the next episode by being sent to hell.  The adventure was designed for six characters; since there are five stones, it is reasonable to expect that someone will touch the 'hell' stone.  However, there are psychic abilities that can provide characters with information about possible future events.  Also, the Ban Sheed can tell the party the effects of a given stone.  Alternately, the Ban Sheed can also destroy Caligula, thereby dispensing with the party's motivation.

Assuming the party goes to hell, they are given a scroll by some old guy in robes and informed that “the fate of your planet now rests squarely in your hands!”  The party returns to Stonehenge after being subject to a poem of fifty-six lines.  The old guy's scroll indicates that the party should go to Hibernia and the next episode, The Witches of Lolag Shlige, assumes that they do so.  It just so happens that, in Hibernia, there is a “prediction” that “a party of strangers” will find and rescue the infant nephew of the king.  The party is supposed to discover that the infant was kidnapped by the titular witches and then go to the House of Lolag Shlige to effect a rescue.  The 'house' is presented in the style of a dungeon; there are two levels and a description of the various rooms.  One of the denizens is a “Pollyrotten” which is “a peculiar breed of paranoid parrot...indigenous to Hibernia in prehistoric times.”  The episode ends in a confrontation with the aforementioned witches.  If the party loses, I guess they die.  If the party wins, the witches cast a spell that transports the party to “an eerie, moonlit shore.”  The only way to leave the location is via a boat piloted by a “robed and hooded boatman.”

In the boat, the characters lose consciousness; when they wake, they find themselves in Egypt and thus begins the fourth episode, The Great Pyramid Revealed.  The party finds a scroll that leads them to a fishmonger who informs them that Caligula “has issued a Death Warrant for members of the party.”  (Given that the characters can reincarnate, this doesn't seem like much of a threat.)  The fishmonger also lets the party know that they must go to the Great Pyramid of Giza because of a dream he had.  The interior of the pyramid (for purposes of the adventure) is displayed in the graphic at the beginning of the post.  Compared to the real thing, it is only slightly embellished.  In Location 10, there is “a rare subterranean plant...that feeds directly on energy.”  The plant will cause a character to become “a shattered, unconscious husk of 6 Life Points.”  The plant can be avoided by edging along the sides of the chamber; however, contact with the side walls “leads to a total sex change by the current segment.”  At the end of the episode, the characters find themselves in Hibernia, but ten years have passed since the second episode.  There are actually five more episodes to this adventure, but they were sold separately.

Random encounter tables are provided only for the regions where the adventures take place:  Roman Britain, Roman Italy, Egypt, and Hibernia.  It would have been nice to have tables for other regions, like Greece or Gaul, but I suppose one can't have everything.  For each region, there is a table for the following terrains:  Open Road, Wilderness, Forest, Village, Town/City, and Underground.  (There is no Forest table for Egypt.)  Using a table requires a percentile roll. The Lore Master has a choice of using the indicated encounter or any of the preceding encounters on the table.  For the sake of example, here is the 'Open Road' table for Italy:

With a roll of '44', a party may encounter a foreign traveller, a merchant, a peasant farmer, or a formation of Legion soldiers.  Note that the first encounter requires a minimum roll of '20'; anything less than that means “the Fates have decided your party encounters nothing at that time.”  The table above is rather tame compared to many of the other tables.  Most tables have a '100' listing with a suitably rare encounter.  For instance, the 'Wilderness' table for Italy allows for a 1% chance of encountering “the god Jupiter.”  Brennan uses this result in an example of how to 'present' encounters to players.
You might present him sitting on a rock throne hurling thunderbolts to wipe out the party, but this, surely, lacks a certain subtlety.  He might equally well be presented as a naked youth with amazing powers, who may even aid the party if they are nice to him...
Other '100' results include a talking bulldog, a giant weasel, Caligula in fancy dress, and “Pharaoh's cousin (so he claims).”  Other, more common, encounters include a funeral procession, up to one-hundred village idiots, a bear, a brass golem, bugs, and a sandstorm.  However, Brennan saves the most colorful encounters for his native Hibernia.  Eight Hibernian encounters are explicitly described as “drunk” and only one encounter is listed as “sober.”  Some examples of Hibernian encounters include:  beautiful colleen (with mother hidden in trees), intelligent shamrock, fake Leprechaun, vampire pig farmer*, two-headed calf, and “Drunk Hibernian Lore Master who fell into his own scenario and couldn't find his way out.”

We are left to ponder which is vampiric – the farmer or the pigs?  Or both?

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