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.”