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Mythic Britain» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Arthur done right rss

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Eleazar Lawson
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I'm not exactly sure how much interest exists among modern role players for King Arthur, in any of his many forms. There is a certain recognition among modern audiences for the romantic King Arthur, I suppose, which doesn't always translate into a desire to role play. But when it comes to the historical King Arthur, interest seems to plummet entirely. I, personally, am fascinated by this time in history, but I have become used to watching people's eyes roll back on their head and faint with boredom if I even attempt to discuss the topic.

But it seems, at last, that I have found my people.

The Mythic Britain campaign, for Runquest 6/Mythras, is possibly my favorite role playing book of all time (and I've been doing this since the Keep on the Border Lands). It is obviously a labor of love written by someone with a passion for the topic (a passion which I share). Ever since reading the Warlord Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell, I have been looking for a way to role play a gritty, Dark Age King Arthur. When I first saw this product on the Design Mechanism website, I hesitated, have been let down so many times in the past when it comes to Arthur. I felt that Runequest, with its focus on gritty realism, would be a great system for this kind of campaign, but maybe I'd be better off just making my own campaign.

Finally, curiosity and a love for Runequest stuff won out, and I ordered Mythic Britain. Halfway expecting to be disappointed, I opened it and began reading...and pretty much read it cover to cover, unable to put it down. In my view, this tome nails it, providing an ideal background for a historical Arthur campaign. The tone was exactly what I was looking for...in fact The Warlord Chronicles are listed as a source of inspiration.

The 360 page volume lives up to that identifier: volume. Sections are provided for historical background (a section which combines history with just enough myth/conjecture to get us there), daily life in sub Roman Britain, religion (the tension between Pagan and Christian can be exploited as a huge plot point), British and Saxon culture, character creation (for both British and Saxon characters), Druidic magic, dramatis personae, mass combat (the same system as the Ships and Shield Walls supplement), and a multi-chapter campaign.

The quality of the printed book is outstanding. It is hard bound, with appropriate art on the cover. The art inside is sparse, and in black and white, but attractive and appropriate to the tone of the campaign. In addition, it comes with a full size color map of the tribal areas and kingdoms of Sub-Roman Britain, which is attractive and useful. The book is jam packed with small font text, which I think is a good thing. It's clear that the author did his homework in compiling this opus, and the chosen font ensures that the book is chock full of information. The book retails for $44.95, which is honestly not that expensive in this day and age, although there is a PDF version for $17.95 for the technologically inclined, or for those who just want to check it out. Personally, a PDF will never substitute for holding the book in my hands, but to each his own. And it does provide a less expensive option for those who are on the fence. I certainly feel that I got my money's worth.

As the book explains, life in Dark Age Britain was brutal, brutish, and often short. The setting has a lot of room for high heroics, but the nature of combat in Runequest is dangerous and unforgiving, and suits this environment admirably. In addition, some of the elements of the setting are somewhat grim, with pagan rituals, human sacrifice, and implied sexual violence. These elements are absolutely appropriate to the campaign, and Mr. Whitaker has pulled no punches in his quest for authenticity.

The style of magic is more subtle than that of the base game, but still very palpable. There are no Archmagi throwing lightning at people. The magic is essentially spirit magic, and used by Merlin and other high level NPCs to drive events. The possibility to have a Druid character is provided, but the referee should be careful to limit their abilities to avoid ruining the campaign. Unless, of course, you WANT your Druid to rival Merlin.

The campaign is excellent, and acts as a superb vehicle to launch characters into this world. Of course, it's written for British characters trying to help Arthur unite the British kingdoms. It has seven chapters, and a great deal of variety, from infiltrating Saxon lands to gain information on troop strength, hostage rescues, battles, and adventures to recover the lost treasures of Britain, to less battle oriented episodes involving intrigue with Arthur's enemies scheming to undermine the alliance.

Of course, role players are notorious for tearing things down and rebuilding them, and there's a lot of room for customization here. You may want to run Saxon characters, or Saxon characters who have been raised as Britons...you may want more magic, or less magic. You may want to make combat less deadly (or you may have to spend your playing time placating players with dead characters). The book provides a sturdy framework, and you can modify the specifics to your taste. As I have said, I think Mr. Whitaker has nailed it; personally I wouldn't change much. But I know what gamers are like.

As I said, I have been role playing for nearly 40 years, and it is high time for a book like this to come along. If there is one negative, it's that I think it targets a very narrow audience. But if you are part of that audience, Mythic Britain is money well spent. Even if you don't think you have an interest in the historical Arthur, but are looking for a gritty role playing experience in a unique environment, this could be the best $17.95 you ever spent.
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Michael Taylor
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Are there any illustrations? How are they?
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Chad Bowser
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cauldronofevil wrote:
Are there any illustrations? How are they?


As noted in the review, there are black and white illustrations.

There are ~70 illustrations (counting the cover, but not maps) in the book. All interior illustrations are black and white and, like most RPGs that use multiple artists, are of differing styles. However, I wouldn't classify any of them as "bad." Many are action-oriented with dynamism to the characters, but there are the obligatory static portraits of important NPCs.

To add to the review -- this is a supplement for Mythras, so you will need a copy of that for all the rules. Mythras Imperative is not sufficient because it lacks the full animism and theism rules needed to play magic users. However, as the reviewer notes Mythic Britain does contain the mass battle rules originally found in Ships & Shield Walls.
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James B
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I've been eyeing this book for while. I have played (and thorougly enjoyed) Pendragon, but I'm also interested in trying a grittier take on the setting, like the Bernard Cornwell novels, which, as you say, this book seems to have been inspired by.

You've edged me closer towards ordering this. Nice review - thank you!
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J
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Just to add to the review, unlike most other Mythras/RQ6 campaign supplements (except Book of Quests) the adventures in the campaign are setup to be a series of episodes that can be played in a linear sequential chain, although it's recommended to mix it up with some side adventures. The campaign adventures are a significant chunk of the book, taking up over a third of the page count. There is a Saxon supplement coming in 2017(?) which presents the other side of the story since in Mythic Britain the Saxons are the positioned as the enemy.
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