Mythender is a game I’ve been hearing tidbits about for years. For a while all I really knew about it was that it required a lot of dice. Eventually I learned that it had to do with fighting and killing gods (Myths). I definitely knew it was something I wanted to play.
Well the time finally came and Ryan Macklin released Mythender (for free!) earlier this year. I immediately downloaded the pdf and started devouring it. The text gets my heart pumping and my blood flowing. No matter what I’m doing, as I’m reading the text I hear metal music playing in my head. Seriously, few games have affected me while reading them like the text for Mythender does. It just makes me want to crank up some metal music and go murder some gods. In the face.
This week I got a chance to run it. I did some prep by re-reading most of the pdf and buying some things I needed for the game. Namely some more dice (not enough it turns out) and some glass beads to use as tokens. You might be tempted (I know I was) to cheat and just keep a running count of things or not have as many dice and just re-roll as necessary. DON’T DO THIS. There’s something immensely satisfying about having a pile of tokens and turning them in to do something undeniably awesome. The same goes for picking up a big pile of dice and tossing them onto the table, watching them scatter and bounce over one another. Ryan points out in the text that there’s a very tactile experience that goes along with the game. Don’t ignore that, you’ll do the game and yourself a disservice. It’s absolutely worth it to have all the physical components.
In short: this game is fucking awesome and you should play it.
This game has a lot of moving parts. It’s a little intimidating at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to wrap your head around the way they work. Basically you have two die pools: Storm & Thunder. And two token types: Might & Lightning. In brief, Storm dice generate more Thunder. Thunder dice generate Lightning. Lightning is how you accomplish concrete things in the world — generally wounding your foe.
Might tokens are spent to cheat in little ways. Every Myth/Mythender has Gifts, which you can think of a little like traits or feats or something. Most of them cost some amount of Might to use. Basically they allow you to do extra things (like re-rolling or some dice or otherwise change the dice in some way) or boost some pool or another.
So, that’s one economy: the economy of dice & tokens that you use to accomplish things. The other economy is how corrupt your Mythender is becoming and how far along their Fate they are (or how close to becoming a Myth you are). Certain actions cause you to become more corrupt, literally corrupting what’s left of your mortal soul. This changes you. As you become more corrupt your form starts to change until eventually you resemble the god you are fated to become. Fate is sort of similar, it will increase through certain actions. When Fate increases, it opens up another slot for a Gift (you only have 1 when you start). Eventually when it progresses far enough, you run the risk of being taken by the Mythic world and becoming a Myth.
So, to put another way to become more powerful and better able to end a Myth you have to become more like what you’re trying to destroy at the risk of becoming one yourself. Powerful stuff. And you’ll almost certainly have to push your Fate & Corruption, because Myths are damn hard to kill.
The primary way you take action in the game is through your weapons (you’ll have 3 as a Mythender). These can be Relics (weapons, armor, artifacts, whatever), Companions (followers, maybe a trusted squire, or a powerful animal companion), and Intrinsic (maybe your unwavering bravery, or your unquenchable vengeance). Weapons can be charged, which build up bonus dice, and then drained (allowing you to roll them). Each weapon has a special rule when it comes to charging/draining, but otherwise they all function the same way in play.
There are also Blights, which you create, charge, & drain. Think of blights like semi-lasting local phenomena (can be made permanent later). Like maybe a never-ending avalanche, or a mass of cursed souls. Much like weapons you can charge/drain them to build up bonus dice and spend them. Blights can also be destroyed by your opponent.
When taking actions, Mythenders have scales of actions (Myths don’t have this option): Legendary, Mythic, Titanic. Legendary are the default “merely” demigodlike. Mythic actions break the laws of the world allowing you to go beyond the impossible. Titanic actions even more so. Think of it like a limit break. It should literally and figuratively shake the earth. Mythic and Titanic actions both have the chance to progress your Fate & Corruption. Titanic actions can actually kill you. Great power comes at a cost.
As far as wounds/injuries, it’s pretty straightforward. First, to even wound your opponent (either as the Mythender or the Mythmaster), you have to spend a number of Lightning (Mythenders and Myths have a Wound number, which has to be paid in Lightning). Then the wounded party rolls all their Thunder dice, discarding any that are less than their wound number. If you run out of Thunder dice, you die (or possibly not if you’re a Mythender).
Mythenders that die in combat in this way have the choice to die as a mortal or come back and advance their Fate/Corruption. There’s actually only two ways for Mythenders to absolutely die: if a battle goes on too long with a Greater Myth they’ll eventually have enough power to just outright slaughter all the Mythenders, no coming back, or 2) Mythenders can murder one another — generally if one does something someone really doesn’t agree with or if they’re trying to stop them from turning into a Myth.
Still sound like quite a bit to digest? Don’t worry! There’s a tutorial battle laid out in the book that walks you through, step-by-step all the different pieces. The tutorial is really well-done and does a good job at introducing things one at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. You’ll definitely want to do the tutorial battle your first time playing. In fact, it’s suggested that you do the tutorial if there’s anyone in the group that hasn’t played before.
A regular session of Mythender has a somewhat set structure. You can play with it some, but until you’ve got some experience with the game, I’d say it’s best to go with it, which is: first the Mythenders will face off against a lesser Myth. Something that stands in the way of the Myth the Mythenders are going after. Lesser Myths might be an army of Valkyries or a dozen frost giants (in general, the more powerful a being the less of them you’ll face at once).
After destroying the lesser Myth (which the Mythenders most certainly will do), they get a little down time. Time to rest. This is referred to as Mythender moments and it lets them take the reins for a bit. There a number of different things Mythenders can do, but mostly it comes down to: trying to become more mortal and stave off apotheosis (this is difficult to do), which can reduce your Fate & Corruption, or embracing your nature and doing epic feats or terrorizing mortals and gaining power from it (advancing Corruption & Fate).
Next comes facing down the Myth they’ve come to fight. The default setting in the book is “Mythic Norden” so it’s Norse gods, so there’s stats for Myths like Thor, Odin, Loki, and even Jörmungandr the World Snake. The Mythenders will probably prevail, but the Myth dies with the certainty that they will be replaced. They know that all Mythenders are fated to become Myths, so they (mostly) willingly meet the Mythenders head-on, knowing it likely means certain doom.
There’s a lot of really neat rules scattered throughout the text that I think are worth pointing out. Little things that just really give the game it’s feel:
There’s no stealth in Mythender. Your presence is such that all can feel you, mortal and Myth alike.
There’s no failure. You’re godlike. Whatever you do is going to happen. The only uncertainty (arbitrated by dice) is how effective that action is. Even getting no successes doesn’t mean you fail to do what you were attempting, it just wasn’t very effective.
Myths (including lesser Myths) get a lot of cheaty rules. Myths always go first, no exception. Myths also have rules for being able to wound more than one Mythender at a time (mostly to even the playing field since the Mythenders can gang up, and even a horde of lesser myths is considered one entity for the purpose of mechanics). And their Gathering Rage which lets them get more power round-by-round and is what eventually enables them to outright murder the Mythenders. Also some Myths’ weapons count as multiple weapon types. For example Thor’s Mjolnir is both a relic and a companion.
Trying to help out a mortal can count as terrorizing, especially if you’re pulling on Mythic powers to accomplish something.
During Mythender Moments there’s some actions you can do that are affected by whether or not a mortal witnesses it. Hint: a mortal will pretty much always witness it unless the Mythenders are super-isolated for some reason. Mortals are kind of drawn to Mythenders, like moths to the flame, to witness the amazing and terrible things they can do.
When you take a Mythic or Titanic action there’s a chance of progressing your Fate or Corruption. However, if it doesn’t happen due to the die roll, you can always choose to embrace your corruption and advance your Fate anyhow.
When you destroy a blight, you’re encouraged to rip up the Blight card that it’s written down on. The same with Myths, when the Mythenders end a Myth, allow them to rip up the Myth’s playsheet. You don’t have to, of course, if you really just want to save the paper, but there’s a lot of satisfaction that comes out of ripping up a piece of paper. I think it’s worth it.
So, yeah, Mythender is a pretty fantastic game and I highly, highly recommend giving it a try. At the very least skim through the pdf sometime. It’s free! Also, I know that Ryan is working on getting some art to put in the book and then offering it through some sort of print-on-demand service. No idea when that might be, but I’m really looking forward to having a physical copy without having to go to Kinko’s or something.
Coming soon I’ll put up a post with some of my favorite moments from the game I ran.