Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review: Classic Fantasy for Mythras and RuneQuest 6 by The Design Mechanism

Years ago, I remember purchasing a Chaosium Monograph with a similar name to The Design Mechanism's Classic Fantasy. I think it cost about what TDM is charging. However, that's where the comparison ends. If you are looking to run or play RuneQuest 6 or Mythras (TDM's renamed version of RQ6) in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons or other OSR games, this is the book for you.

Classic Fantasy is beautifully laid out and well written. It easily takes the tropes of Dungeon Crawling heroic fantasy and seamlessly integrates them into Mythras/RQ6.

Chapter 1 is an overview of character creation that covers your concept, to methods of generating Characteristics, calculating Attributes, figuring out the number of points for Standard Skills, choosing your Race and the Culture you come from, filling in your Background, picking a Class, assigning Bonus Skill Points (a base of 100 for new characters or more for experienced characters), determining money and equipment, and choosing a name (what I’ve found can be the hardest part for  some players).

Chapter 2 focus on Race and Culture. It lists the requisite skills for each class and fills out specifics of each Race (Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half- Elf, Half-Orc, and Human).  Different types of Human Cultures and their passions are defined in a way reminiscent of Mythras/RQ6. Each demi-human race and it’s culture are defined, as well.  Either way, specific racial/cultural Skills are provided for your character and a sense of community and history is baked into your decision.
   For those not familiar with Passions, they round out the beliefs and motivations of a character and provide a deeper role playing experience. Additionally, in Classic Fantasy, each player chooses a Moral Philosophy which represents DnD’s Alignments, though limited to Good, Neutral, or Evil.

Chapter 3 introduces you to and breaks down the Classes in the game (Arcane and Druidic Bard, Berserker, Cavalier, Cleric,  Druid, Figher, Magic-User, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, Thief-Acrobat and rules for Multi-Classing. However, the approach to each honors the roots of Basic Role Playing and RuneQuest by being an archetype with specific requirements and not a cookie cutter approach. The reader is introduced to a character’s Rank, which is how Classic Fantasy handles Level and the system reminds me of how one advances in Cults. Essentially the Ranks are from 0 to 5 and a character achieves a new rank when five to two Skills grow to a specific Percentage.
   Each Class explains what type of Spells, if any, you have access to (and your Rank control what Spells you may cast) and have certain Skill bonuses, Fighting Styles, and Talents that you may learn. Some Talents only become available at certain Ranks.
   The whole system is inspired by “Class and Level” games, but retains the spirt of RuneQuest and BRP.  Additionally, I found the Classes often cleave closer to a more “Old School” mentality and their original inspirations, which was a feature for me.

Chapter 4 goes over the Skills used in Classic Fantasy.

Chapter 5 lists out all of the mundane tools necessary for a life of adventure and their costs.

Chapter 6 goes over the rules of Classic Fantasy, and calls out which rules have been reprinted (Acid and Passions), which have been adjusted (Aging, Character Improvement, Falling, Fires, and Luck Points) and introduces new rules.
   The new rules covered are Disease and Poison, Locked or Stuck Doors, Recovering Spent Ammunition, Repairing Weapons and Armor, Searching Rooms and Secret and Concealed Doors, Securing a Door, Tight Places, Traps, Visibility Underground, and Where to Rest and Recover. These updates and additions round out the typical activities of the adventurous life of Dungeon Crawling.

Chapter 7 covers Combat, with the following rules changes (Movement, Initiative, Combat Styles, Weapon Choices, Combat Style Benefits, Examples of Combat Style Traits) and Tactical Combat using Miniatures.
   The Miniatures Tactical Combat walks you through all of the phases of combat, your options for actions, tactical movement, basic engagement rules, advanced engagement rules, 
moving on a battlemat (with options for 5 or 10 foot squares), engagement zone (essentially how to handle larger creatures), ranged combat considerations, and an example combat.
   Basically, this chapter adjusts playing Mythras/RQ6 with a a grid and can be as detailed as DnD 4E, if that is your goal.

Chapter 8 details Magic, both Arcane and Divine, Magic Point Usage and Recovery and Memorizing Spells.
   After Magic Points are used, they recovery while your character rests or twice as fast while they sleep.
   We learn that Arcane Casters need two Skills: Arcane Casting and Arcane Knowledge and Divine Caster also need two: Channel and Piety for a specific deity.
   Next each Classes’ Starting Spells are detailed for us, and then the rules for Memorizing Spells are presented. A character may know a spell, but unless you Memorize it, you can’t cast it that day. Spells of lower Ranks are easier to Memorize and take up “less space” (except for Paladins and Rangers who learn to at higher Ranks).
   Spell Duels get a special section and then we learn the different ways that Arcane and Divine Casters Memorize spells,  how they cast their Magic, and what happens if interrupted.
   Other rules presented include Casting in Armor, Casting Time, Casting Cost, Magic Cost and Caster Rank, Dismissing One’s own Magic, 
Casting a Non-Memorized Spells (essentally as a longer ritual for Arcane Casters or a “God Call” for a Divine Caster) and Stacking Magic.
   Next is an explanation of how Spells work, their Traits, Resisting them, Dispelling them, and Enduring the cost of spending Magic Points for Spells.
   Special rules are presented for Illusions, Phantasms, and Scrolls (how to cast from them and how to defend against them) to finish the chapter,

Chapter 9 lists all of the Arcane Spells by Rank and introduces Cantrips.  Cantrips are Rank 0 spells, several are be available to be cast without being Memorized.  Csntripst are basic spells that cost 1 Magic Point and can be cast in 1 Action.  All of the classic DnD Spells are presented and represent the genre very well.

Chapter 10 lists all of the Divine Spells by Rank, but Cantrip are not available to Divine Casters. However, reference is made to a future supplement, Classic Fantasy Unearthed Companion, introducing mores spells beyond Rank 5. Again, you can easily match the Dungeon Crawling genre with the Spells presented.

Chapter 11 gives us all of the classic monsters we love to populate dungeons with in the Mythras/RQ6 format we’ve grown to love.

Chapter 12 gives Treasure Tables and Magic Items for characters to find and use. As a note, I really like how easy these tables are to use and will probably consult them even when I’m not running Classic Fantasy. I also appreciate that we get rules for buying and selling Magic Items and even Magic Shops (with tables based on the size of the city/town your character is in). Additionally, we get tables for the availability of Magic Items based on Guilds and what they charge for other services. 
   I’m a big fan of the random Magic Items’ presentation, because they are well thought out, presented by Rank, and a breeze to use. 
   Finally, all the Magic Items we’ve come to expect are presented for Mythras/RQ6.

Chapter 13 introduces to the Cosmology by going over the various Planes (inspired by ADnD 1st Edition) that your character can either travel to or interact with, as well as the Deities of Greymoor.

An Appendix is presented with Wandering Monster Tables refined by frequency of encounters and what Level in a Dungeon you would find them.

Essentially, you have everything you need to run a dungeon crawl in the tradition of DnD with RQ6/Mythras.

Go buy this book right now, I cannot recommend it enough.

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