Myth & Magic Playtest Underway

Myth & Magic is a 2e retroclone under development and it’s looking good!

In retrospect, the much maligned 2e was probably, in my opinion, close to the best version of D&D. Shocking claim, I know.  But a lot of the stuff in 0e (race as class?) certainly deserved to die, and 1e was pretty Byzantine. 2e cleaned it up but was still light enough that people could house-rule and “ruling, not rules” reliably. I was really sold on 3e when it came out, and it definitely had some nice bits, but over the years it led to some mighty undesirable things (CharOp, Christmas Tree Syndrome, etc.).  A cleaned-up 2e might just do it for me!

You can download the Myth & Magic Player’s Starter Guide and GameMaster’s Starter Guide for free (forum registration required) now, they’re a playtest covering levels 1-10.

Player’s Starter Guide

It’s not just a slavish reprint of 2e, which is good. They’ve adopted the to-hit bonus and AC ascending from 10 from d20 instead of the less intuitive THAC0.  And they’ve added a seventh stat, Perception.  I think this is just wonderful; I ran with a Perception (and sometimes Luck) stat for most of 2e’s run. In general it’s 2e but cleaned up.

They also add “class talents” which are kinda like feats but scoped down a lot and limited to specific classes. You can spend proficiencies on them. I like some things about that approach, though I worry that powergamers will just take those and not actual NWPs.

There are still some wonky bits I’d like sanded off, like different XP tables per class – that’s just complexity that adds no value.  I don’t require classes be “balanced” but let’s avoid those different-for-the-sake-of-it bits that littered early D&D. If you want thieves to advance X% faster, give them the same XP table and just give them X% more thief skill points a level. Voila, same effect, less complexity.

On the other end, the only modernization I’d remove is the point buy character creation.  That is the gateway to optimized character builds, which in turn are the root of all evil. Yeah, it was an option back then, it was still bad.

GameMaster’s Starter Guide

The GMSG kicks off with the usual but keeps it short instead of meandering in for hundreds of pages, and even includes the first raft of monsters, which is good. It goes bad, however, when it incorporates the 3e approach to balanced encounters – ELs and XP budget.  “The XP budget tells you the maximum amount of XPs you can tally to an encounter.” That’s some 4e bullshit right there and needs to go.

On the monsters, they have a “CAM” (Combat Ability Modifier) which seems overly simplistic – it’s a single modifier for all skills and attacks and physical attribute checks in combat. It replaces all the stats but Int and Per. I’m about streamlining but that’s a little much, it makes monsters too homogeneous. Everything’s as strong as it is dextrous as it makes Will saves. And it’s always equal to the monster’s HD, which begs the question of why it needs to be an additional separate stat with an oblique acronym in every listing.

It does have random treasure determination tables; I get pissed off every time I run Pathfinder and want one, so props there.


The art is sparse but good,the graphic design is simple but good, and it’s copyedited better than many pro products I’ve bought.

The game is definitely a good innovation on and return to 2e; with some more work I could see it being competitive with e.g. Pathfinder which I really like. And I like it better than the 0e clones, I never got that, 1e is the first real edition, and even in a cleaned up version like Castles & Crusades there’s still a little bit too much “Oh I’m a first level cleric and have… no spells.  I suck.”

7 responses to “Myth & Magic Playtest Underway

  1. Ah, from the lips of the Master come the words I have longed to hear.

    “…the much maligned 2e was probably, in my opinion, close to the best version of D&D.”

    I have been saying that very quietly for the past twelve years. And for many of the reasons you list. It is still my favorite, and has the greatest supply of what I considered balanced support material.

    Thank you.

  2. I have to agree. I probably played more 2e than any other version of D&D, and I’ve enjoyed 3.5 and 4th ed. But 2e is still my fondest memories.

  3. As far as I can tell, the chief complaints about AD&D2 are:
    (1) Splatbooks, which were just as prevalent in D&D3, but in that case haven’t led to a collective shunning of an entire edition.
    (2) Dragonlance, which is fair enough, as it was awful, but it also started in first edition. Oops.
    (3) It’s not first edition. Now that’s quite fair, as it’s not, but I don’t understand why that’s a problem.

    My only issue with second edition, in the short time I played it, was that I could never get my head around THAC0.

    Regarding treasure tables in Pathfinder, are they not in the GM guide? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them somewhere.

    • Yeah, the only coherent critique I’ve heard of 2e is “oh the unbalanced kits!” Kits are about 1/10 the power-up of anything in 3e, and they really gave extremely slight and minor bonuses.

      I think you’re right to mention Dragonlance – even though a metric asston of things were published for 2e, a couple very railroady items like the Dragonlance mods and the FR Time of Troubles mods, which were indeed hateful, were used to tar an entire edition that also had Night Below and plenty of early type exploration mods.

      We preferred THAC0 to the tables but I had one player who never could get it either. (I’m pretty sure she could get it, but she kinda liked using hot-chick “figure this out for me” technique instead of bothering.)

      The Pathfinder DMG has tables within each magical item type, but no start from the beginning and get “600 gp, 5 gems and 1 moderate armor” stuff, They expanded them somewhat in the GMG but still sadly not to the right point.

  4. Jeff/ carborundum

    Ooooh, interesting! I can barely remember 2e rules though I remember some fantastic campaigns as we played it for about 10 years three to six times a week 🙂
    (with occasional Rolemaster, MSH, COC, Toon, Paranoia and later “relationships”)
    Why do they want my phone number to download a book? *Sigh.*

  5. Yeah, I really liked that in 3e you could multiclass easily, and actually create magic items instead of just be told they’re legendary, and the new core mechanic was way better, and feats were a neat idea. But as the years wore on, the effect tended towards point buy character creation and level dipping, leading to CharOp heaven, magic items being so easy to make and common and necessary that Christmas Tree Syndrome and item-as-asset instead of item-as-cool started, and as levels went up the ability to pick and choose and stack plusses made specialization and thus optimization much more prevalent too. And the heavy minis focus turned a lot of campaigns into tactical games. All this in retrospect set the stage for the 4e abomination, but one wonders if you had sprung late 3.5e play on us coming out of 2e if we would not have seen it as abomination as well, unlike now when we’ve had 10 years of desensitization. As a result I like “make 3.5e simpler” trends, and forward-porting 2e and picking the good stuff is a great way to approach it.

  6. rorschachhamster

    I still think 3.x is a superior system to all AD&D-Editions (Well, I like skills) and that it’s even easier to houserule in it (no subsystem of totally different mechanics? This makes it easier!), but the bloat really was leading to a concentration on rules instead of fun. And the philosophy of “everything’s in by default” led to many sucky campaigns. I tried to cope with this by totally complying and even add things like Arcana Evolved and Iron Kingdoms into a megacampaign – but it just was too much for my players and me alike.
    Today it’s Pathfinder Core only with 3d6 in order (Roll twice and put the second rolls into a pool, if you roll two times really sucky, you can choose from the discarded…) in a sandbox slacker setting and some more Old School sentiments implementet (We do roll randomly for traits, and this worked so far like a charm…). EL is out and random treasure generation is in. Oh, and the thought is to begin at first level, if you die, no matter what. As all are only first level as of yet, with slow progression, this hasn’t been an issue. But already three deaths. And this has been fun for all of us.
    Fuck balance. I want fun.

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