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.)

#MyriadSong  

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/118669/MYRIAD-SONG–RolePlay-Adventure-of-Ten-Thousand-Worlds

62 thoughts on “I finally finished reading Myriad Song!

  1. I love the did pool system in Iron Claw. Character creation integrates with the character sheet in a really slick way where you have effectively a column for each template that gets applied and each row is a thing (typically skills). So when you read across a row you get all the dice that need rolled and know where they come from (which IIRC sometimes matters).

  2. < ![CDATA[I love the did pool system in Iron Claw. Character creation integrates with the character sheet in a really slick way where you have effectively a column for each template that gets applied and each row is a thing (typically skills). So when you read across a row you get all the dice that need rolled and know where they come from (which IIRC sometimes matters).]]>

  3. Pretty easy I think.

    Though man it would be extremely simple to ditch the skill mechanics and make the pool gathering more group-intuitive.

    Trait die.
    Legacy/species die.
    Occupation die.

    And just say, “Does it apply to this conflict?” and grab the die if so without making it about specific skills. And then make gifts a d12 to specialty situations.

    Though you’d lose out on the interesting and complex mechanics.

  4. < ![CDATA[Pretty easy I think. Though man it would be extremely simple to ditch the skill mechanics and make the pool gathering more group-intuitive. Trait die. Legacy/species die. Occupation die. And just say, "Does it apply to this conflict?" and grab the die if so without making it about specific skills. And then make gifts a d12 to specialty situations. Though you'd lose out on the interesting and complex mechanics.]]>

  5. I feel like there’s got to be a middle ground between the fairly extreme fiddly-ness of this game and the simplified version Bret Gillan suggests above that would hit my personal sweet spot. That’s part of why I hope to do the AnyDice analysis; I want to see which means of setting difficulty (target numbers vs. success-counting) makes the most sense, and then build a game off of that which handles everything in the same way.

  6. < ![CDATA[I feel like there's got to be a middle ground between the fairly extreme fiddly-ness of this game and the simplified version Bret Gillan suggests above that would hit my personal sweet spot. That's part of why I hope to do the AnyDice analysis; I want to see which means of setting difficulty (target numbers vs. success-counting) makes the most sense, and then build a game off of that which handles everything in the same way.]]>

  7. Speaking as the editor – argh, my heart! x.x

    We care a lot about avoiding the sort of typographic editing issues you described, and it causes me real pain and regret that I apparently failed to catch some of them. If you could provide page numbers/locations, I’ll make sure these errors get corrected in our next PDF re-issue.

    The layout issues are probably not something we can trivially re-do, but I can try to repair any grammatical or typographic fuck-ups I left in.

  8. < ![CDATA[Speaking as the editor - argh, my heart! x.x We care a lot about avoiding the sort of typographic editing issues you described, and it causes me real pain and regret that I apparently failed to catch some of them. If you could provide page numbers/locations, I'll make sure these errors get corrected in our next PDF re-issue. The layout issues are probably not something we can trivially re-do, but I can try to repair any grammatical or typographic fuck-ups I left in.]]>

  9. Holy crap! I just watched their Kickstarter video. This is exactly the game I’m running for my 20-something daughter and her friends (using Icons). I’m buying the pdf just for the artwork, but I’m betting some of the setting info will be handy too.

  10. < ![CDATA[Holy crap! I just watched their Kickstarter video. This is exactly the game I’m running for my 20-something daughter and her friends (using Icons). I’m buying the pdf just for the artwork, but I’m betting some of the setting info will be handy too.]]>

  11. Richard Hughes Sure. I’ll probably do a re-read in preparation for running it (possibly a one-shot for the next Chicago Gameday). I can compile suggestions as I come across them.

    Should I post them to the errata thread on the Sanguine forums?

    Oh, and as for your heart, know that if I wasn’t impressed by the game overall, I wouldn’t have even bothered to post. You have a new Sanguine fan.

  12. < ![CDATA[Richard Hughes Sure. I'll probably do a re-read in preparation for running it (possibly a one-shot for the next Chicago Gameday). I can compile suggestions as I come across them. Should I post them to the errata thread on the Sanguine forums? Oh, and as for your heart, know that if I wasn't impressed by the game overall, I wouldn't have even bothered to post. You have a new Sanguine fan.]]>

  13. And I’m deeply flattered. 🙂 When you post to the errata thread, can you elaborate on your concerns regarding how we presented the Reeling status? We’re working on our next game right now, and I want to make sure our presentation is the best it can be.

  14. < ![CDATA[And I'm deeply flattered. :) When you post to the errata thread, can you elaborate on your concerns regarding how we presented the Reeling status? We're working on our next game right now, and I want to make sure our presentation is the best it can be.]]>

  15. As for the target-numbers-vs-success-counting thing…

    There is an important qualitative difference between having lots of dice and having big dice. Someone with lots of dice is capable of routinely doing amazing things… if they can rote. Meaning, when they’re not under stress, every die helps, whether it’s a d4 or a d12. However, when they’re under stress – an opposed roll, or facing unpredictable circumstances – small dice rarely help. A large die is more reliable under pressure than a small die. So the qualitative difference is…
    …A high target number means that only someone who can work under pressure can do a task.
    …Multiple required successes means that only someone who’s specialized in the task enough to get multiple dice can succeed.

    They’re both ways to ‘lock out’ people who aren’t qualified. If something requires 3 successes, only specialists with three or more dice have a chance of succeeding at all. If something has a target number of 7, then only someone with tested, reliable skill can contribute – dabblers need not apply.

    We tried to remove target numbers as a difficulty concept, but the way opposed rolls work means that it’s still in there, sort of. So you’re right – it’s going to be in the game either way. I’ll try to include closer analysis of this in the future.

  16. < ![CDATA[As for the target-numbers-vs-success-counting thing... There is an important qualitative difference between having lots of dice and having big dice. Someone with lots of dice is capable of routinely doing amazing things... if they can rote. Meaning, when they're not under stress, every die helps, whether it's a d4 or a d12. However, when they're under stress - an opposed roll, or facing unpredictable circumstances - small dice rarely help. A large die is more reliable under pressure than a small die. So the qualitative difference is... ...A high target number means that only someone who can work under pressure can do a task. ...Multiple required successes means that only someone who's specialized in the task enough to get multiple dice can succeed. They're both ways to 'lock out' people who aren't qualified. If something requires 3 successes, only specialists with three or more dice have a chance of succeeding at all. If something has a target number of 7, then only someone with tested, reliable skill can contribute - dabblers need not apply. We tried to remove target numbers as a difficulty concept, but the way opposed rolls work means that it's still in there, sort of. So you're right - it's going to be in the game either way. I'll try to include closer analysis of this in the future.]]>

  17. Right, but they’re different kinds of lockout for the two different kinds of competence. Think of each die as an element of the person’s skill that can contribute to success – the larger the die, the more likely it is to contribute under adversity. Someone with 6d4 has a lot of skill, but all of it is fragile book-learning that holds up poorly in the field – any target number higher than 3 is going to represent a situation that’s stressful enough that it rewards practical experience over theoretical mastery.

  18. < ![CDATA[Right, but they're different kinds of lockout for the two different kinds of competence. Think of each die as an element of the person's skill that can contribute to success - the larger the die, the more likely it is to contribute under adversity. Someone with 6d4 has a lot of skill, but all of it is fragile book-learning that holds up poorly in the field - any target number higher than 3 is going to represent a situation that's stressful enough that it rewards practical experience over theoretical mastery.]]>

  19. I should clarify that this represents my own take on how to use the system rather than any sort of official Best Practices. Most of the time, it’s wise to measure difficulty purely by ‘you need this many successes’.

  20. < ![CDATA[I should clarify that this represents my own take on how to use the system rather than any sort of official Best Practices. Most of the time, it's wise to measure difficulty purely by 'you need this many successes'.]]>

  21. Richard Hughes it says as much in the rules:
    Skills are measured in dice. The more sides the die has, the greater the character’s ability to perform difficult tasks – for example, a character with only a d4 mostly just knows how to avoid the most egregious of blunders… but a character with a d12 can beat the greatest odds.

    The number of dice that you have in a skill determines how many successes you can score. A character with lots of dice has a wide variety of experience to apply to a problem and can come up with inventive, synergistic solutions. A character with only basic training in a skill has one die … but a professional will have two dice or more.

    Minor characters get their Skill dice from their Legacy Trait and their Career Trait. Major characters will have Marks that give them Skill training in almost anything. Many gifts will enhance skills, by providing more dice in specialty situations, by providing re-rolls and insurance against failure, or by allowing for new applications.

  22. < ![CDATA[Richard Hughes it says as much in the rules: Skills are measured in dice. The more sides the die has, the greater the character’s ability to perform difficult tasks – for example, a character with only a d4 mostly just knows how to avoid the most egregious of blunders… but a character with a d12 can beat the greatest odds.
    The number of dice that you have in a skill determines how many successes you can score. A character with lots of dice has a wide variety of experience to apply to a problem and can come up with inventive, synergistic solutions. A character with only basic training in a skill has one die … but a professional will have two dice or more.
    Minor characters get their Skill dice from their Legacy Trait and their Career Trait. Major characters will have Marks that give them Skill training in almost anything. Many gifts will enhance skills, by providing more dice in specialty situations, by providing re-rolls and insurance against failure, or by allowing for new applications.]]>

  23. Good explanation, Richard Hughes!

    I guess I’m coming at this from a Host’s POV, I.e., when am I choosing to increase the target of a task vs. asking for more successes? And why?

    Also, I’m curious about the math. In terms of probability, what’s the difference between increased target numbers and increased successes? Is there a point where the two are essentially the same, or do they never cross paths?

  24. < ![CDATA[Good explanation, Richard Hughes! I guess I'm coming at this from a Host's POV, I.e., when am I choosing to increase the target of a task vs. asking for more successes? And why? Also, I'm curious about the math. In terms of probability, what's the difference between increased target numbers and increased successes? Is there a point where the two are essentially the same, or do they never cross paths?]]>

  25. “Does the task demand deep understanding? Is it impossible for amateurs? Raise the successes required.”
    “Is the task stressful and high-pressure, demanding practical experience over theoretical understanding? Raise the target number.”

  26. < ![CDATA["Does the task demand deep understanding? Is it impossible for amateurs? Raise the successes required." "Is the task stressful and high-pressure, demanding practical experience over theoretical understanding? Raise the target number."]]>