Mythender as a Western

Last night, I was talking with Leonard Balsera about some elements of Mythender I discovered while writing up notes — going beyond mere mechanics & base ideas, into areas of the setting that I hadn’t yet fully explored.  I was telling him about how, in my home campaign, the players and I are pretty sure their characters are up against a “dark Mythender,” for lack of a better term.  Since it’s my damned game, so I need to be able to back this idea up with the right mechanics and in-setting justification.

I say “for lack of a better term” because it turns out that there are two things I could mean by that (either of which this foe could be at this point), and they’re vastly different in my mind.  The first is a “fallen Mythender” — a mythic being of some sort that was once a Mythender and now fully fallen to the Mythic World.  That’s the first idea.  But should “succumbing to corruption” br the only way you might run across a Mythender as a foe?  After all, based on what I’ve set up, at that point they aren’t even a Mythender anymore, just a myth.

That leads to the second idea — of a “renegade Mythender,” a hero who hasn’t changed or been corrupted, but has shifted his focus away from ending Myth to ending his own kind.  In explaining this idea to Lenny, who has listened to me at length talk about Mythender, I said (paraphrased):

It’s Clint Eastwood’s character from Unforgiven.  A Mythender puts down his Mantle to have a normal family and raise children.  One day, he goes off to trade when a new generation of Mythenders comes in and causes the chaos that Mythenders do, ending the status quo.  In the ensuing carnage, his boy is killed.  He comes back to his home — everything he put his Mantle down for destroyed.  So he takes it up again, this time to end those who would thoughtlessly leave heartbreak in their wake.

We talked about this idea at length (as this is just one form a renegade Mythender could take), and it occured to me how often I go back to Westerns rather than Fantasy to explain Mythender.  I have half-jokingly called this game the “Ryan Macklin takes Ken Hite’s axioms of the Western and applies them to epic, semi-historical fantasy” the RPG.

For those playing at home, Ken’s axioms of the Western are (and I’m going to misquote here, because my copy of Dubious Shards is at home):

Only the gun can keep civilization safe from the barbarians.
Those who take up the gun become barbarians.

And that explains why when I watch over-the-top semi-historical fantasy movies (300, Beowulf), I get a sense that that’s how a Mythender game should look like in the minds of the players, but also how I feel about how “look” isn’t the same as “theme.”  The themes of those movies and of what Mythender has become are pretty damned far off — which I consider this a feature, not a bug.

But to make sure I fully flesh out this feature when writing the text and to communicate it as best as I can, I need to add some more Westerns into my current media diet.  For that, I’m going back to Ken’s “Westerns 101” list (posted last October), which I recommend to everyone interested in Westerns.  I’ve seen some of these, not all, but I’m going to re-watch those I have seen anyway just to refresh my memory.

Once Mythender is done and out for a bit, I might write an alternate setting for it: The Mythic West.  One that more directly expresses the original paradox of The Gun.  But, that is for later — now is the time for working on the original game itself and not setting hacks.  (But yes, when I do, it might be The Magnificent Seven meets 300.  And yeah, I’m sure that Ken would read that as utterly heretical.  I seem to get that response out of him, from time to time.)

– Ryan