Overview: Mythic Britain – The Campaign

This is the last installment of our overview series on the Mythic Britain Campaign setting for RuneQuest 6. This series has explored the look, feel, utility, and depth of the material provided in the 360 page book.  The first installment explored how this supplement interacts with and augments the core rules by looking at character creation in detail. The second installment provided an overview of the setting, and how it was presented for the GM and players to use in play. The third touched on the supernatural elements which form such an important aspect of Arthurian tales and the cultures of the period in which the work is set. This fourth and mostly final installment will look at the campaign material and how it is presented. A supplemental post has been made on YouTube to show off the level of quality and care you can expect from print products from the Design Mechanism. MBheader

War!

Few games have the reputation for having a believable, stimulating, and interesting combat system as RuneQuest 6th Edition. That said, if you were to suggest running a massive battle with it, you may expect some resistance. Although to do so can be greatly facilitated with the Rabble and Underlings rules as found in the core book on page 164, such undertakings are not really the focus or within the scope of the game as presented there. However, such battles are a staple of much of what inspires us to play games like RuneQuest and as characters grow in ambition and influence the desire to engage in them grows. To handle this understandable urge, and retain the feel and flow of RuneQuest, The Design Mechanism has produced a set of Battle Rules and made them available both in Mythic Britain, where they will be a necessity in the later stages of the printed campaign; and in the supplement Ships & Shield Walls, released earlier in the year.

From page 179 to page 196, Mythic Britain offers a system for mass combat which speeds and quantifies the chaos and control of this sort of martial endeavor without sacrificing the flavor and consequence of RuneQuest. Characters engaged in these battles have a chance to matter, but also have a chance to be numbered among the fatalities. If you aren’t commanding, and even if you are, you are ‘little people.’ Little people can get hurt.

Right after that, the big people get hurt.

As an overview of the system (a later post will dig into these rules more specifically, with examples from my current campaign), the basic idea is the use of the Differential Roll which compares not only the success or failure of each side’s actions, but their success in relation to each other. Orders are issued, tactics put in motion, casualties are determined, morale is monitored, and results are determined. As this is bloody, face-to-face war, survival may count as winning, and dealing with the dead and dying may become the immediate prize.

As an upside for players risking character involvement in a battle, the system also tracks the recognition earned for their exploits on the field. Positive recognition can enhance their status in the army and their society and yield great benefits as a result. Negative recognition can likewise have a significant effect on their comfort and welcome at home.

The section ends with a reminder of the level of abstraction represented by these rules and their focus on supporting the emulation of pre-firearms combats. Groups are expected to apply their common sense, their experience, or both to running these battles to produce the level of detail and action they desire.

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The play’s the thing~

At the rear of the book lies the GM’s Eyes Only section. This overview will not provide spoilers in regard to the printed scenarios, but some of the information given might accidentally provide a small detail which a clever player might use to spoil their own fun. If you intend to play in the campaign not run it, I suggest skipping to the conclusion rather than reading this section.

Mythic Britain devotes 144 pages to the seven adventures which form the backbone of a lengthy and momentous campaign. From page 214 to 216, the author provides clear advice on how to pace and present these adventures to ensure their impact, import, and opportunities for immersion in their events as active, not solely reactive participants. As an ideal tribute to the depth and strength of the RuneQuest 6 rules, most of this advice is based in bringing the elements of character design, such as training, passions, and the use of this supplement’s addition of superstition to the game.

The seven adventures, which present pivotal points of conflict and change, are entitled as follows:

  • The Winter Council
  • Bran Galed’s Horn
  • Of Promises Broken
  • Logres Burning
  • Caves of the Circind
  • Gullveg’s Children
  • Suppose Your Time Were Come to Die

As was mentioned in the third installment, the book sets the tone for bringing tales of warring communities, warring ideologies, and the fading knowledge of a dark age into sharp focus. Through the interactions shaped in its seven scenarios, the war to control the destiny of Britain can be joined, aided, and ultimately determined by the characters.

The scenarios as written can stand alone, but each takes place as part of a larger chain of events showing the drives and plans of the famous figures growing tall in the tales and dreams of Mythic Britain. Great forces are at work, and Britain’s future is the prize. The Saxons are growing in power. Arthur seeks to resist their invasion, and to unite Britain. Merlin has complex plans of his own, but there is no doubt his love of a Britain free of invaders is foremost among them.

Maps and other helpful items

The Mythic Britain Campaign chapter contains five location maps for the Bran Galed’s Horn scenario, and neatly organizes its NPC cast at the end of the section.

Of Promises Broken includes one location map, and provides a link in the PDF to the principle NPCs in the Mythic Britons chapter.

Logres Burning is a scenario which may feature the mass combat rules presented in this supplement and also released independently in the Ships & Shield Walls supplement (available in PDF and print). It features three maps and easily accessible information to run encounters and larger battles with the forces described in the scenario.

Caves of the Circind feature four location maps, and again arranges the NPC cast in an easy-to-access section at the end of the scenario.

Gullveg’s Children has three location maps, and its cast is arranged at the end of the scenario.

Suppose Your Time Were Come to Die has one location map, and highly-detailed but cleanly presented agendas and advice for its NPC cast. Nicely done~

Rumor from a highly-placed source within the Design Mechanism states that a supplement for Mythic Britain containing large, color versions of the maps, among other items of interest, will appear in short order.

Campaigns

According to playtest reports, the scenarios each require a minimum of six hours of play and can be expanded to more either by the nature of play from your group, or by specific focus added in by the GM. The average play time listed in the supplement itself is six to twelve hours per scenario. My group gets an average of three hours of play in one session of our RuneQuest campaign, so just running the printed scenarios could occupy us for four months of regular weekly play at the very least. Running the campaign properly and with care to make it special could easily entertain and awe us for more than a year.

If the group intends to play through a campaign based in Mythic Britain making use of the included scenarios, taking care to have the characters begin play in a region under a lord sympathetic to Arthur will ease this tremendously. While the events of play may change the attitudes and goals of the characters dramatically, particularly when Passions are involved, being drawn into events smoothly can be of great benefit.

Update:
A PDF supplement has been released with 16 pages of additional information. The Mythic Britain Companion includes 4 full-colour poster versions of the Britain maps, details on the kingdom of Bryneich, and perhaps most helpfully, two cults – Mythras and Sabrinna.

It is recommended by the author that play not be restricted to the scenarios alone. In fact, the writer makes it clear that in order to properly support the tone, and importance of the events in the scenarios, that more time be spent developing the lives and relationships of the characters in struggles and goals of their own in between the calls to action represented in the printed campaign. More than enough material is presented in the book in the form of locations, regional relationships, and people of interest,  that GM and player action could craft a campaign solely independent of the one suggested by the historical course of fiction presented by the talented Lawrence Whitaker.

A group does not have to create characters with similar ties of region, language, and allegiance in order to get caught up in the grand adventure described within the pages of Mythic Britain, although the broader the range of character backgrounds the more work the group will need to do to bring everyone together. The events of the campaign scenarios will take characters across vast amounts of the British landscape, pitting them against foes known and unknown, physical and spiritual, against the terrain, against the distances needed, and against the cruelty of the weather. This is Britain in the 5th Century. It is a place with little pity for the weak or the careless.

As play develops, and as characters are lost or sidelined for reasons of war or reasons of the heart, more characters from different regions may be drawn in. As time passes, and the war to sunder or unite Britain rages on, players may well find the diversity within their group of characters expanding.

Candles and Wind

The atmosphere of the campaign is both vivid and subtle in ways it is difficult to describe. On the one hand there is a visceral struggle to reclaim lost territory, to claim control, and to unite what has broken apart. On the other, there is the ephemera of spirit and belief, clothed in the trappings of religion and tradition, demanding the attention of the characters and the sensitivity of the players. The violence and clear drives of the first are easy to imagine and portray. The elusive but potent nature of the second, no less important aspect, not so much. This is where the support of the character creation process, the guiding touches of RuneQuest’s core rules, and the care taken in showing us the world and world view of 5th Century Celts all come together to serve the group in their quest to join Arthur in the mists, mud, blood, and rain of Mythic Britain.

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Conclusion:

From time to time come settings and published campaigns which achieve something on two levels that few game supplements do; they inspire the GM, and they support the dreams of the players. The list of such campaigns is short, and the entries upon it are little disputed. We may come to see in time that Mythic Britain is to be added to that list. Its clarity in bringing players into the world is striking. Its easily orchestrated set of tales portraying such pivotal events as those which weave the tapestry of Arthur and add color to that of Merlin is commendable. Most of all, the space left for the greatness of player character heroes drawn from any corner of Celtic society, even with the movement of heroes of legend in the background is beyond compare. This setting is the forging of a great tale on the anvil of epic history through the fires of possibility wrought by RuneQuest 6th Edition. From time to time we get a chance to be a part of something greater than ourselves.

This may very well be one of those times.

  • Product Information:
    • Mythic Britain by Lawrence Whitaker and Friends
    • published by The Design Mechanism, 2014
    • ISBN: 978-0-9877259-5-0
Enjoy~
Comments
6 Responses to “Overview: Mythic Britain – The Campaign”
  1. Luxor Man.D says:

    You definitely convinced me of buying this piece of art. Thanks for the great review!

    • Runeslinger says:

      Glad to hear it. Thanks for commenting. When you use it, let me know how it goes~

      • Luxor Man.D says:

        Alright e.e
        I received my Mythic Britain book some months ago, and the campaign started just last week. Although The first session went quite smoothly, I had some troubles with the second session which was dreadfully slow
        I think my problem lies in planning, so I’d like to ask you how do you plan your sessions, if you don’t mind u.u
        Anyway, keep up the good work! Looking forward to read the second part of the MB actual play 😀

        • Runeslinger says:

          My planning, such as it is, for Mythic Britain is different from how I would normally do things. I suppose it is halfway between what I did for ‘A Season for All Things’ (recaps on this site), and what I would normally do.

          Our intent for running Mythic Britain is twofold. The first is to experience RuneQuest in a setting like this: very low magic, challenging conditions, looming war, and rooted between history and myth. To prepare for this, I need to feel comfortable with the characters’ home culture, the way they feel about their borders, and the people they know live with. I need to have a template in my mind for how villages, towns, and even larger communities work, and I need to be comfortable drawing on the famous characters provided in the campaign. Exploring the setting will entail me knowing when to fabricate something (either in advance or extemporaneously as the situation warrants) and when to use something from the printed material.

          Our second intention is to play through the pre-written campaign. To make that fit with my sensibilities and to match it with the first intention, we need to have several sessions before and between the scenarios as written. I read through them a few times, first just to get a general sense of how they differ from the Arthurian legends I know and have studied. Later reads were to pick up on Mr. Whitaker’s great way of building interpersonal relationships and bonds between the featured characters, and to recognize the challenges and roles the PCs could take part in beyond those provided in the scenario missions and rivalries.

          What we are doing now is discovering character within our characters, getting a feel for the culture, and most importantly ‘Superstition.’ This will have the characters in their home community for a time, enough to make it feel real and worth protecting, then the first events of the pre-written campaign will take place. The key for me is that life is hard, but there is a vibrancy and a beauty in the life of the community. There is passion and drive. Before the players get caught up in Arthur’s drive to unite the celts, I would like them to get caught up in their own communities drives.

          To that end we have news of raiders taking live stock, but no proof of which neighboring group it may have been, we have signs and portents, we have fear of a long winter of near-starvation, and we have the petty jealousies of powerful people in the face of the up and coming.

          As long as I know these things, I can be ready to provide the people and motivations for whichever interactions the characters might seek.

          What do you do?

          • Luxor Man.D says:

            What I used to to was to plan a clear objective for players to accomplish, plus some minor hooks in the middle to mess around. It demanded a lot of time to plan, and it lacked the freedom and the “feeling” of Mythic Britain you have just described.

            What I used the last session (and still needs rehearsal) is the Lazy Gm technique (discused here –> http://designmechanism.freeforums.org/lazy-gamemastering-t1368.html). The session went wonderfully, and although it still needed some planning, it wasn’t as much as before.

            What I still need to get right is the setting. I will try as you said, giving the opportinity to the PCs to get involved in the local affairs, adding “the way of the celts”, and also trying to understand the setting myself. That was what I overlooked!

            Well, thanks for that chunk of info. Very much appreciated! I’d have answered before, but Gmail is not worth the trust e.e

            • Runeslinger says:

              Being open to improvisation as the GM is an important thing to learn, and learn to do well. Glad it worked better for you. It gets easier and frees you to think about more interesting things than how to get the group to do action X. Be careful of illusory choices, though~
              😉

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