I finally finished reading Myriad Song!

FYI, this is not a review, as I have yet to play the game; it’s just my thoughts post-read.

The setting of this game is really inspiring to me. It’s an animated, technicolor bong hit of late-’70s, nascent-’80s influences. It’s Heavy Metal and Moebius mixed with prog rock and early Gary-Numan-style synth pop, mashed up with Star-Wars-adjacent SF ideas. Honestly, it reminds me a lot of Nelvana features like Rock & Rule, Rome-0 and Julie-8, and “The Faithful Wookiee”. It’s like they scanned my brain at about age 10 and made an RPG out of it. It’s really like nothing else I’ve seen in an SFRPG, and it has set my gray matter on fire.

Granted, it’s not made explicit what I’m supposed to do with all this cool setting info. There’s some great adventure seeds in the “Myriad Worlds” chapter that strongly suggest it’s your basic “adventurers get hired or choose to go on adventures” kind of setup. With that in mind, there seem many directions in which I can go; lots of factions are struggling for control of the galaxy, and I can see PCs either joining one or getting caught in the midst of their machinations.

The downside to all this is that I have a lot of issues with the overall editing and presentation of the book. 

The writing style feels inconsistent to me, and there are myriad (ha!) grammatical and typographic errors. The text changes tense, changes person, confuses en-dashes with em-dashes with ellipses, uses inconsistent terminology, repeats information within a section, presents topics and terminology before they’ve been defined, splices commas, leaves sentence fragments, omits words, etc. Overall, it’s an awkward read.

The layout is also functional and colorful, but there are visible errors, e.g., where a layer obscures a page number or chapter title. In the “Menagerie” chapter, every single monster entry save two is split across either a column or a page, even though, space-wise, there’s no reason for it. There’s a lot of great art in the book — art that defines the setting and tone as much as the textdoes — and the layout doesn’t do it justice, IMO.

The core mechanic itself is a really nifty die pool setup, but due to some of the inconsistencies, I’m muddled about its implementation. The base mechanic assembles a die pool of various types (d4s through d12s) and then tries to beat (not just meet) a target number and count successes, or else beat the highest die in an opposing pool. Where it gets weird for me is that sometimes increased difficulty is represented by increasing the target number, sometimes by requiring a certain amount of successes, sometimes by giving a bonus die to the opposing side (in some cases, even when it’s not clear that it’s an opposed roll, which confuses me), and sometimes by limiting the size of dice that can be used in the pool. All are interesting ideas, but I’m uncertain when to use which method, outside of specific situations defined in the text.

The opening chapter also presents the mechanic in three implementations: tasks (unopposed roll), challenges (two sides roll to see who gets more successes vs. target), and contests (two sides roll and compare dice). However, the GM chapter only talks about challenges and contests, and makes it seem like varying the number of successes required is the only way the rules represent difficulty.

There’s also some weirdness in the presentation of rules. E.g., the combat chapter addresses “Don’t know what to do? Try the Focus action!” maybe three times before we get anywhere close to defining what Focus is, or even the concept of actions. And the Reeling status — the most important and most-used in the combat rules — is not formally defined beyond an entry in a table of status types, which does not comprehensively define all of its aspects. To get the full picture about Reeling, I feel like I’ll need to search my PDF for all references. And then there’s a section on scale for using miniatures that, despite the presence of three distinct tables, in no way directly tells me what the heck scale to use. Only by inference am I able to figure out that 1/2″ = 1m (which is unfortunate in a world where most battlemats use 1″ squares and hexes).

So, yeah, the stickler in me is put off by this. Not so much so that I am not still a fan of the game, but I can see myself doing a lot of scut work to compile a rule sheet prior to play.

Let me be clear, though, that this game is still very compelling to me, and it’s turning me into a Sanguine Games fan. It makes me want to grab a copy of Ironclaw and finally read the copy of their Usagi Yojimbo RPG that’s been sitting on my shelf for forever. The core of this game is really cool, and the setting is unlike anything else out there of which I am aware.

(Honestly, I’m compelled to re-write the book from scratch just for the sake of it, or else design another game based upon it. I’m still hoping to get a good enough understanding of AnyDice at some point so that I can analyze the die pools.)