Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, Alex is going to be giving his (jaded) opinion on the Mythic system.
WARNING: THIS WHOL ARTICLE IS AN OPINION. YOU’RE WELCOME TO DISAGREE AND I ENCOURAGE DISCUSSION, BUT IF YOU’RE RUDE I WILL DELETE YOUR COMMENTS WITH PREJUDICE.
Has anyone noticed that my articles have been missing something, lately? An old entry that I used to do a LOT in my earlier articles, but haven’t really done in a long time? My old “making this build mythic,” section, perhaps?
Nice one, Alex. You just spoiled the set-up!
If you’ve been reading my Iconic Design articles for the past few months, then you’ve probably noticed that I don’t offer suggestions for making my builds mythic anymore. There are a couple of reasons for that, and today’s article is going to discuss them, shining a big ‘ole spotlight on Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s Mythic Adventures.
I have a feeling that if any of you have used the mythic rules in-depth, I’m going to be preaching to the choir with this section.
Reason #1 — Time
Time, it always comes down to time, doesn’t it? When you’re designing something to be mythic, time isn’t a HUGE factor, but it’s a factor nevertheless. Mythic is mostly contained to a single book (two if we include Mythic Origins), so researching mythic rules and options doesn’t take long. But time spent making a character or a monster mythic is time spent nevertheless. Time spent poorly as a matter of fact. Why?
Mythic has this problem that everyone has heard of. Its called “rocket tag.” I want you to imagine two people. Let’s call them Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Alexander and Aaron HATE each other. Loathe each other, as a matter of fact, so they agree to duel to the death at high noon. Both men go out, grab their firearms, shake hands, take ten paces, and duel.
In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, both men have pistols. They’re excellent, accurate, deadly weapons. They exchange several shots until eventually, Alexander Hamilton takes too many bullets to the chest and collapses, failing a few stabilization checks and dying in a pool of his own blood. The entire exchange took maybe three or four rounds (18 to 20 seconds), but all in all it was decent experience for everyone who wasn’t a Federalist.
In Mythic Adventures, both men have rocket launchers. They’re weapons that require both men to aim, flick, and kill each other. Aaron Burr readies his rocket launcher first, pulls the trigger, and explodes Alexander Hamilton into bloody, unrecognizable chunks. The entire exchange took one round (6 seconds), and no one, not even Aaron Burr, really, enjoyed what transpired on that sunny little hill.
Do you see how too little time is as much of a problem as too much time? When you’re a GM, its incredibly dissatisfying to watch Alexander Hamilton, your star NPC, die within a single round before he could have used that wicked-awesome combo that you built him for. True, this sort of exchange happens in standard play, but in standard play, its good luck or better tactics. After a certain power, however, this level of speed is simply “the norm,” in mythic play. Putting the shoe on the other foot, if a player’s PC, Alexander Hamilton, is brutally exploded by the GM’s Aaron Burr NPC before the player could react or really make any gameplay decisions regarding the combat, then the PC is the one feeling like he wasted his time. Why bother rolling up another character when really, the only roll that matters in a Mythic game is the initiative roll?
This brings us to my second disenchantment with mythic: the mechanics.
Reason #2 — All Boom and No Block
In my previous analogy, I noted that our favorite duelists, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, had rocket launchers instead of pistols. Well, what does that mean?
Mythic Adventures is designed to break the standard rules of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. And since damage ends fights, most of Pathfinder Rules restrict the circumstances upon which a character can deal damage. Difficult terrain makes moving (including making 5-foot steps) harder to try and stop characters from being able to make full attacks. The iterative attack mechanic is designed to make extra attacks unlikely to hit, plus make it so the number of attacks that a player can make is carefully limited. On top of that, you have mechanics like damage reduction, energy resistance, and more that flat-out reduce damage or prevent it out right.
And Mythic’s primary draw is breaking ALL of those rules.
To a certain extent, it makes sense. There are more rules placed on offensive aspects of the game than defensive ones and if you want your big, mythic adventure to feel big and epic the easiest way to do it is to let your players go “off the wall” so to speak. But, of course, that comes with a price. Many of the best options in Mythic Adventures aren’t limited in uses per day and as a result they get exponentially better as you level up. But that wouldn’t be as big of a problem if Mythic had a number of potent defenses instituted for mythic opponents so you could continue to challenge mythic PCs with mythic foes. But interestingly enough, there are surprisingly few defenses in the mythic system; even under the monster rules. What ends up happening is that all creatures, monsters and PCs alike, adapt a gameplay of “kill it before it kills you,” and often that has to happen within the first few rounds of combat. Traditional-sized combats become obsolete to mythic PCs; if you’re going to challenge them, then you bloody better be prepared to send two, maybe even three encounters at the PCs simultaneously, especially if they’re a well-optimized group. And chances are that your players are decently optimized, because even the most novice player can spot some of the more ludicrous powers and abilities in Mythic Adventures. (Believe me, I’ve done tests on the topic with my own players at home.) But of course, like anything in Pathfinder, the ability of power can cut both ways, which brings me to my third and final reason.
Reason #3 — Mythic and Death
Death is more tricky than normal when it comes to mythic, mostly because letting your mythic hero lay low and rolling up a new character comes with its own set of obstacles. As you might know, Mythic is a deeds-based system; rather than earning XP, you have to physically complete an appropriately challenging scenario, a “mythic event,” if you will. From a glance, one might say, “Hey Alex, how is that any different from any other high-level character just randomly showing up at the table one day?” Well, my friends, the different is scope. Mythic trials come with the baggage of needing a lot of scope, to the point where there’s an entire CHAPTER dedicated to describing what that scope ought to look like. So when a mythic character enters a party of existing mythic characters, the first question ought to be, “What on EARTH did you do to get those powers?”
For instance, in Wrath of the Righteous, your mythic “spark” ignites after you destroy a holy relic and are infused with its powers. In Destiny of the Sands, you gain a temporary rush of mythic power after becoming exposed to the shattered fragments of the Ruby Scarab, which is an ancient, powerful, Osiriani artifact. As the party’s deeds rack up higher and fighter, the death of one of their own and the subsequent introduction of a new character (if that’s the route the PC chooses to go) becomes a bit disconnected. More so than a typical party, these heroes have DEEDS behind them, a breadth of experience. If a new character is going to stand tall with such mythic heroes, she needs an equally impressive laundry list backstory, but how on earth could she have gotten it without the PCs having ever heard of her before? When you start retroactively putting information in the PC’s head that they might have acted upon if they had actually heard it before. (For instance, in Wrath of the Righteous, if another character had become blessed by said holy relic and was off doing heroic things, don’t you think that the Heroes of Kennebras would have gone off and tried to make allies or something?)
Making Mythic Manageable
So, how do we fix these problems with mythic? Honestly, I have no idea. This isn’t a small rule that can be easily fixed with a single sentence; this is a massive subsystem, and even the slightest change has hundreds of ramifications on mythic abilities, stat blocks, mythic templates, and more. I can’t see the Paizo Design Team going back and taking a serious pen to the mythic rules ever, so what will become of mythic? Honestly, I have no idea, because personally, I think it feels very dissatisfying to give players one, maybe two mythic tiers and never advance that power source any further. Of course, I’ve never tried doing that myself so I don’t have much experience with doing something like that. If you have (maybe you’re James Jacobs or one of his players), make sure to leave your opinion on the idea on the comments section below.
Speaking of the comments section, I think its just about time that I tell you to go post ALL of your questions and comments below, because honestly, I don’t have anything else to add to this topic. If a build rolls around that I think 100% needs mythic in order to make it an appropriate homage, I’ll do it, but for now I can’t see myself playing around with the system much. It booms too hard.
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.