Thursday, December 2, 2021

Plays Well With Others: Man, Myth & Magic and Lands of Adventure

Ok. "Plays Well With Others" might be stretching it a bit. Almost to the point of ridiculousness to be honest, but I have wanted to compare both Lands of Adventure and Man, Myth & Magic for a while now.

Man, Myth & Magic and Lands of Adventure

On the surface both games are attempts at presenting historical or at least semi-historical, roleplaying to a Post-AD&D world. Both games present various areas and eras of play to help facilitate that notion of historical roleplaying. LoA with its Culture Packs and MM&M with its adventures and Egyptian add-on.

Both games can best, and fairly, be described as overly complicated and in reality somewhat messy.

Both games have more complicated (than AD&D) character creation but attempt to create characters that are appropriate for their times.

Incidentally, both games also use real tiny d20 percentile dice that are difficult at best for me to read these days.

Thematically MM&M tries for historical accuracy despite having a rogue T-Rex running around as an ersatz dragon.  LoA probably does a little better here even though it does include several fantastic beasts and monsters.

LoA gives us two (more were planned) Culture Packs, Ancient Greece and Medival England.  They are separated by about 2000 years and characters are not expected to be able to travel to one from the other.

MM&M gives us a bunch of different cultures and the idea of "travel" between them is via Reincarnation.  The culture best (and I say that loosely) represented here is Rome circa 40 AD (or sometime around that).  Even then it has issues.

Neither system is one I want to cozy up with for long periods of time.  Not to mention there are plenty of other games that do historical roleplaying better, Pendragon and Chivalry & Sorcery are two that come to mind right away and there are others.  The idea of historical role-playing though is still an appealing one.

What is a Game Master to do?

The Fantastic Journey

Back in the late 70s there was a short-lived TV series, The Fantastic Journey, about a group of people that were traveling to different lands throughout time and space. It hit all the social and occult themes of the 1970s. A man from the future with psychic powers, the daughter of an Atlantean and an extraterrestrial, a scientist from the 60s (Roddy McDowall), a young African American doctor, and a super-smart teenager (Ike Eisenmann, fresh from Witch Mountain).  The show didn't last long, but it imprinted deeply on my psyche.  

It had similarities to the show Time Tunnel that came before it and Voyagers! and Quantum Leap that came after.  Though, unlike those shows that tried to pay a little lip service to time travel science, TFJ was pure fantasy.  There was magic and even a sorcerer and a werewolf.   I have often wondered how I could make a game that mimics this and fulfill the promises made by MM&M and LoA.

I could take a page from Herbie Brennan's other game Timeship for ideas. But honestly, that is just trading an easy solution for more problems.

I like the idea of a group of characters, unstuck in time, traveling to different periods.  Whether the characters themselves are doing it or they are reincarnations, I go back and forth on.   Part of me likes the idea of the idea reincarnation since that sets them in situ with the proper time and knowledge. OR maybe their consciousness is traveling and inhabiting new bodies ala Quantum Leap.  I would need a big bad of course.  Someone travelling through time, or maybe someone (or multiple someones) that are immortal and trying to do something to humanity.  Destroy it?  No, that is too easy. I am going to say advance them in the past so they are more powerful and deadly in the future for some nefarious means. I might take a page from the Doctor Who episode/serial City of Death.

Part of me wants to do this and each time the character travel in time use the system that best represents it.  So Pendragon, LoA, MM&M, even WitchHunt.   But that is, to put it mildly, insane.

I would use a simple system, likely NIGHT SHIFT to be honest. Survivors would work the best with the odd sage, psychic, and veteran.  Then adapting D&D-like games is easier. Each time the character travels they can pick up some odd skills or the like.

historical games? maybe.

Again, I hate to fall into another sunk cost fallacy here but I like to think I owe it to myself to have the game that I wish these games were.


Dick McGee said...

You're more ambitious than I am. If I was going to try to game something akin to The Fantastic Journey (which has tuck in my skull as well, particularly the future-psychic guy) I'd probably just use a "generic toolkit" system like Savage Worlds or abandon all pretense of historical accuracy and run AvHill's old Lords of Creation rules, which was nice enough to include rather a lot of historical folks in its insanely gonzo Book of Foes. Probably LoC, actually. It's less work, it's designed from the ground up to make even less sense than the show did, and no one's going to bat an eye at jumping around through history or alt-history with stops in fantasy land and a bit of soft scifi while playing it.

Charles said...

Whenever someone asks, "have you tried GURPS," my response is generally that for any genre or period you want, there's probably already a game that better targets exactly that. So GURPS is always AN answer, but it's never THE answer.

Except probably here. You want broad coverage from which you can pick and choose compatible elements. So with that in mind, have you tried GURPS?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@Dick McGee. I should Lords of Creation a try really. I am sure it also has ideas that are very nearly there.

@Charles. "So GURPS is always AN answer, but it's never THE answer." This is so true. I have played GURPS exactly once despite owning a good number of GURPS 3rd Ed books. They were always great supplements that I used with every other game out there. In particular, GURPS Voodoo works great thematically with C.J. Carella's WitchCraft. No surprise really, the same author.

My go-to "generic" system is Unisystem. I like it much better than GURPS or Savage Worlds.

Dick McGee said...

@Timothy S. Brannan You're more confident in Lords of Creation than I am, and I played it for years. It might be AvHill's best RPG (although Tales From the Floating Vagabond gives it a run for its money) but that's a pretty low bar if we're being honest. :)

It is, however, quite playable. And it's almost joyously absurd without ever trying to be (unlike Floating Vagabond, which often isn't funny but sure is trying). Reading it is one of those rare experiences where you spend a lot of time wondering who thought this was a good idea without feeling like you wasted your money. Plus it has some of the most unusual suggested settings I've seen in an RPG, including one based on William Blakes invented mythology and another that's a thinly-disguised version of the world of the Lord Darcy stories by Garrett and Kurland.