Let the week of reviews start! Kicking off Paizo’s releases for the second half of the year is their new Mythic Adventures book. This supplement is designed to take your PCs out of the realm of farm boy heroes and into the realm of demi-gods. This has been a release that I have been anxiously awaiting since its announcement and open playtest. See more at the end of this post for the reason why!
Disclaimer: I purchased this from Petrie’s (my FLGS) and am not being paid to review this product. Note: as these reviews go up on the Petries’ website, I tend to write them towards someone unfamiliar with RPG products in general.
Mythic Adventures, to be called Mythic for the course of this review, is the newest in Paizo’s hardcover core rules supplements. At 253 pages, with full color pages and chalked full of great art, it is a gorgeous book. Wayne Reynolds’ cover art is amazing as usual.
Paizo’s core rules supplements bring a new set of rules, optional rules, and rules overlays to your Pathfinder game. In the case of Mythic, these rules are designed to shift the feel of your game from the realm of the mortal to the realm of the epic. Why was this necessary? Didn’t this already happen at higher levels in Pathfinder? To an extent yes, as players level up they do get more powerful and are capable of greater deeds.
Mythic is more than just a jump in power level, which it does contain. It is about changing the feel and scope of the game. No longer are you just some kid who picks up his father’s old sword and goes into the world. You are the children of gods, the children of destiny, whom even the gods recognize have potential. Basically it shifts you from Forgotten Realms to the Iliad.
It should be said that these are not Epic levels rules, ie: rules that take the game above level 20. They instead offer a parallel path to power for players, while allowing GMs to present encounters that range into higher than 20 challenge ratings.
Chapter 1: Mythic Heroes
Paizo did a great job of making the new rules an overlay to the current system. When you decided to add mythic power to your game, your players just have to select a mythic path. The mythic paths are templates or overlays onto existing characters. The paths tier up, providing a gradual gain in power that is similar to the class progression already present in Pathfinder.
Each path is an archetype of mythical power. The Archmage possesses a powerful ties to the arcane side of magic. The Champion is a mythical warrior capable of felling any foe. The Guardians can survive punishments that would destroy lesser men. The Hierophant taps the power of the divine directly. The Marshal is a leader that inspires men to follow them into the Abyss and back. And the Trickster is the one who can steal fire from the gods.
Simply by becoming mythic, characters are harder to kill and gain ‘hero point’ mechanic called surge, which allows them to take more control over the randomness of the 20. Characters also gain a mythic power pool which is spent to fuel surge, mythic abilities, feats, and spells. Each path gives access to a variety of path abilities that alter current abilities to make them more versatile or powerful or skew the rules in the player’s favor.
Paizo decided to not tie mythic progression to the XP track, and I feel this was a great move. It is instead governed by a narrative progression known as Trials. Basically, each player must complete a number of trials to advance in mythic tier. These are epic encounters or adventures that show the characters have truly risen above the realm of mortals. Trials are on par with the Labors of Hercules as opposed to stopping goblins from raiding a village… unless they are a ravenous pack of mythic goblins.
Interestingly, included with each path is a side bar on mythic builds for that path. For example: the Champion Path has six mythic builds: Armored Warrior, Death Dealer, Furious Fighter, Maneuver Champion, Nimble Warrior, and Smasher. Like an MMO build, each one consists of a group of abilities that allow the player to maximize their mythic potential. It was an interesting addition to this section and while helpful seems out of place.
Paizo provides a simple 2 page character sheet add-on to help players track the evolution of their mythic potential.
Chapter 2: Mythic Feats
Paizo does a good job of keeping Mythic in line with their current rules. Adding Mythic into a game is more about access to a new tier of power than learning a new rules set. This is most clearly seen in this chapter. Mythic characters gain mythic feats as they tier up. The majority of these feats are upgraded versions of the standard feats, and require the regular version of the feat as a prerequisite. Some mythic feats also include a way to boost the feat by expending mythic power.
For example the Weapon Focus (Mythic) feat requires Weapon Focus. It doubles the bonus a player receives from Weapon Focus and Greater Weapon Focus, and if you spend a mythic power, you gain an addition bonus to hit equal to half your mythic tier.
Chapter 3: Mythic Spells
Similar to Mythic Feats, Mythic Spells are just more powerful and augmentable versions of the standard spells. Spell casters much have access to the regular version of the spell to learn the mythic version, and may cast either version, with the Mythic version requiring an expenditure of mythic power.
For example, Mythic Magic Missile does 2d4+1 damage per missile and bypasses non-mythic versions of the Shield spell.
Spell casters may also expend additional mythic power to make spells potent (making them harder to resist) or resilient (making them harder to dispel). Or they may expend 3 points to cast a potent, resilient mythic version of a spell. It adds a lot of versatility to the standard Pathfinder magic system.
Chapter 4: Running a Mythic Game
Adding Mythic to a campaign fundamentally changes the scope of a Pathfinder game. Paizo does a great job of supporting GM’s in making this transition. They explain what the change in scale entails, walks GM’s through the mythic story structure, and even give references to the Monomyth. (If you don’t know about Joseph Campbell and his theory of the Monomyth, please stop reading this review Google the Monomyth. It contains a lot of good information that every GM should be exposed too.)
This chapter also describes how to design mythic encounters and trials. It also gives you some campaign and adventure seeds for mythic games.
One thing that has changed from the playtest was the moving of mythic flaws to the optional rules section of this chapter. If you want as the GM, you can have each character pick a mythic flaw. These are crippling flaws that hinder the character in a very specific way. As my players will attest, I love these kind of mechanics, and they are very true to the feel of Mythic as a way to recreate the heroes of myth and legend. These are Mythic flaws, no just mere disadvantages. When you look at the classical heroes, they all have a major character flaw that can and often does prove to be their down fall. I would definitely include these in most of my games.
Chapter 5: Mythic Magic Items
This chapter is full of new magic items, artifacts and a new type of magic item: legendary weapons. I am going to speak specifically to the legendary items as the rest of the chapter, while on a new power scale, is very similar to the magical items found in other Pathfinder supplements.
Legendary items allow the players to craft an item that is linked to their legend, awakening new abilities as they climb through the mythic ranks. They require the player to invest some of his mythic potential into the item by spending a path ability on it, but can eventually elevate their chosen item to artifact status. Legendary items aid in surges, bond with their wielder and grant amazing abilities in addition to the standard bonuses of the magic item. It allows you to craft items on par with Excalibur, Narsil, or Mjolnir.
Chapter 6: Mythic Monsters
Heroes are measured by the adversity they overcome. This chapter gives a GM plenty of adversaries to work with. It is full of great new templates to easily make any monster mythic, as well as mythic versions of the lich and vampire template. The sampling of mythical monster is a good mix of standard Pathfinder creatures; such as the skeleton, ettin, and dragon, and classical mythical monsters such as the cyclops, hydra and minotaur.
Also included in this section is a revision of the Monster Statistics by CR chart, now going up to CR 30. This chart gives GM’s the statistics they need to craft their own monsters at the far end of the Pathfinder power curve, appropriate for those level 20/tier 10 mythic parties.
Chapter 7: Fire Over Blackcrag
Mythic Adventures wraps up with sample adventure that introduces players and GM’s to the mythic tier. It does a great job of following the advice talked about in chapter 4. While I would not run it, it is more that I have more than enough ideas of how to include Mythic in my game, than a deficiency on the part of the adventure.
The writers did a great job of providing a sample adventure that ties in the previous 200 pages of this book, and it is a great road map for people who pick up this book.
My first thought on finishing this book was “Well done Paizo”. I am a huge fan of the Iliad, the Aeneid, and the classical myths and legends, and Paizo does a great job of bringing this type of game to their Pathfinder rules system. This is a great addition to any Pathfinder library and opens up a huge new venue of game play. If you like the feel of games like Exalted but haven’t wanted to branch out into a new ruleset, check this book out. It is a simple addition that will radically change the way you play.
So why was I anxiously awaiting the release of this book? A number of friends and I have been developing a campaign setting and series of adventure paths since 2008. Numerous playtests have been happening during this time. We initially developed our world to release using the Hero System, because we could recreate the mythic feel that we wanted easily.
But as the development has moved along, and as there have been a variety of shake ups in the gaming industry, we have shifted focus towards Pathfinder. But there was a major disconnect on how we wanted the game to play vs. the Pathfinder rules set. Mythic was our one hope of making this work. I am excited to say, Paizo fulfilled this hope beyond our wildest dreams. It feels tailor made to Ta’nar (our world) and our play style. With this book now in our arsenal, we are ready to start talking more about it. Stay tuned over the rest of the year for more updates and reveals on this new world.