Posted on April 24, 2007 by Flames
Written by Ashok Desai
Myriad is described a universal role-playing system and is released under a Creative Commons License which permits readers to make such use of its material as they may wish in their own games and books, so long as various fair use provisions are followed. It would be wrong to describe it as a complete game, as the author declares in the foreword, “Myriad is not a complete RPG in its own right; some assembly is required. We’ve made this very easy for you with plenty of notes and examples but if you are new to the hobby Myriad may not be for you (p.4).” Who is the game aimed at, therefore? Presumably, there are people who are not satisfied with any of the major RPG systems currently available (e.g. D20, GURPS, BRP etc) but are not able or willing to develop their own or, at least, welcome some assistance in doing so. This seems a little contradictory to me but no doubt the author has been in contact with potential players who find themselves in this situation – more accurately, potential GMs who want to create something of their own and look for material to assist them.
The book, available as a free download in PDF form, amounts to 74 pages of essentially art-free text (with some spaceship deck plans at the end), albeit with sufficient tables, bullet points and changes of formatting style to keep the attention so far as I am concerned – however, readers who expect numerous pictures and illustrations and cannot bear to see extended pieces of prose without weeping may prefer to look elsewhere. The style is perfectly accessible and should not cause any problems with understanding. What problems there might be seem likely to derive from the scope of issues considered. For example, a lot of text is devoted to a militaristic, sci-fi style game. Consider this description of the ‘laser painter’ (p.66): ‘This clever piece of military technology projects a laser beam onto a target, pinpointing its exact location for aerial bombardment. The laser itself does no damage, but makes it a lot easier for long-range missiles to hit the target. For every six burnt on the laser painter’s attack roll, radioguided missiles aimed at the target get a +1 bonus to their own attack roll. Bonuses gained from following rounds are not cumulative, but you can continue to fire in the hope that the next round’s bonus will be an improvement without fear of losing the bonus accrued in the previous round.”
In practical terms, how would this work? If I am flying a space fighter attacking some kind of Death Star of Evil, then I fly in, point the laser painter thingy, launch my missiles and then get the hell out as quickly as possible. Surely the Death Star of Evil will be able to detect a laser painter thing, since it is not that advanced a technology? Surely there are many other problems which arise from the same basic issue – a universal system is by definition universal and can scarcely take into account every single way in which GMs and players wish to play and visualize their particular universe. Consequently, switching scale in this way leads to confusion as much as enlightenment.
Well, the main points are included. There are suggestions for character creation, a basic contested-conflict resolution system (D6 are used) and some ‘modules’ for possible subsequent expansion, ‘racial templates,’ suggestions for the vehicular combat which seems to be a particular love of the author and other ideas. In terms of the dice system, it is perfectly adequate for most situations, so long as players and GMs can agree on the basic conventions and the relative valency of different arguments. Some people will like it and some people will not, just like every other system that aims to resolve conflict. The other material is component enough but does not really inflame the imagination.
What would be an advantage in using Myriad is the opportunity for creative types to write their own settings incorporating Creative commons material and acquiring some kudos and support from that. In any case, it is free and so anyone thinking of dabbling in a new genre and wanting an economical and basic system on which to build could do worse than giving it a look.
Reviewer: John Walsh