Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Mazes and Minotaurs

I have been delighted by this game ever since I acquired it and hope to either play a game or run a game someday.

The premise of the game is as follows: This is the modern-day reprint of the 1970s-era version of the World's First RPG(tm), except that this RPG comes from an alternate timeline where, instead of being about swords and sorcery and high fantasy, it's about Greek myths and legends.

And it's great!

There are some parts that don't really work all that well, of course: All of the graphics are clearly more modern Ancient Greek clipart instead of crudely drawn images by someone who is not an artist, and it preserves the rather dubious sexist traditions of real early RPGs, but overall it's an elegantly designed, clever, and well-written game.

The author also adds in a bit of flavor text as annotated commentary of the history of the game, its numerous versions, other (fake) contemporary games, and behind-the-scenes snippets. One particularly amusing one involves the fact that the original version of the game, despite being set in the Mediterranean, had one page of rules for ship combat. There's a lot of back and forth about how angry the fans were, about homebrew kludges to the system, and about a much-promised expansion (I think it was Tritons & Triremes) that was, of course, never published.

The character generation mechanic is one that most role-players have seen before: Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest. Do this six times. Place the results where you would like them to go.  There are six stats: Might, Skill, Luck, Wits, Faith, and Charm. Each of these stats is important to one of the six character classes:  Barbarian, Spearman (and only men!), Noble, Sorcerer (or Sorceress, who are more common and get to start out younger and hotter), Priest (or Priestess), and Nymph (only women, and there are six sub-types).

The game explicitly states that you should pick the class you want to play and then assign stats so that that class has their favored stat as the highest. I was going to do Sorcerer (again), but decided to mix things up a bit and try for a Spearman.

Your character also gets a special ability, some starting equipment, and some starting coins (Nobles get the most, Nymphs get nothing). My Spearman started fully outfitted for battle, which helped out dramatically, and a decent amount of coin to help me buy other supplies, if I wanted to.

Some rules notes:  My Basic Defense is improved by +2 for every piece of armor I wear (and, according to the rules, I start with all of the armor pieces that exist, so that's pretty good). Danger Evasion is a save versus various forms of peril, like avoiding the gaze of a Medusa or realizing that your new, centaur-made sweater is poisoned. First Reaction is that Charisma roll that no one makes to see if strangers like you. Mystic Fortitude is my save versus spells.

In closing, I would really love to play this game at some point. I'd probably ditch the age requirements for Sorcerers, allow Spearwomen, and use the much maligned alternate rules that allow Satyrs. I'm sure it'll be just as fun!

Xelor of Kyros
Class:  Spearman
Level: 1
Glory: 0 (Local Hero)
Race:  Greek
Gender: Male
Age: 19

Might: 11 (+0)
Skill: 16 (+2)
Luck: 13 (+1)
Wits: 15 (+1)
Faith: 9 (+0)
Grace: 13 (+1)

Melee Attack: +2
Missile Attack: +3
Initiative: +3

Basic Defense: 13
Total Defense: 19
Hits Total: 12

Danger Evasion: +2
First Reaction: +2
Mystic Fortitude: +2

Special: Fight Defensively--When fighting with spear and shield, they add their Skill modifier to their Defense Class (DC) against all melee attacks. This bonus does not apply against surprise or missile attacks.  

Equipment: Spear, sword, dagger, shield, helmet, breastplate.

Wealth: 140 silver pieces. 

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