Making New Mythender Hearts/Pasts/Fates
As I looked over the proof for Mythender this past weekend, I decided to throw some additional content in at the eleventh hour. Three pages in particular screamed for specific content. Consider this as much a request for comments as showing off stuff for Mythender.
(Effectively, what I’m making is the deluxe edition. Except that all the content will also be free once the final book has been proofed.)
But First, Me Yapping
Over the weekend, I spoke with James Dawsey on the Vigilance Press podcast about Mythender. We talk a bit about language, design choices, production costs, etc.
Making New Hearts
The point of the Heart is to give a focus on exactly how badass a Mythender with that Heart is. Because Mythender is so open-ended, this early decision is part of what keeps one Mythender feeling like another. So when you’re looking to make a new Heart, the first question to ask yourself is: what does this Heart do that others don’t? Just as important, what power is it that this Heart values?
Hearts ultimately answer the question of how a Mythender is going to stab gods in their fucking faces.
The difference can be small—such as creating a variant of the Commander called the Teacher, who values the power of wisdom and eagerness. It could be something that introduces new information into the setting—such as the Lycanthrope, who values the power of nature and duality. However, avoid those that sound more like backgrounds than about the person in the here-and-now—such as the Time Traveler. Those are Pasts.
The Heart’s three questions focus it further, lending color and information to the story before you even answer them. The first one or two are usually obvious, but still need to be answered. The third spins the story in a different direction, though, either has hard or leading questions. The Tempest’s “What is the toll that must be paid?” tells you that there is a cost to the magic he wields. The Crusader’s “What is the inevitable result of your righteous deeds?” tells you that you do see an end, whether noble or ignoble, and aren’t thus filled with purpose. When the third question does this, it results in a deeper character.
Coming up with Weapon ideas will tell you if your Heart seems interesting from this game’s perspective. If you can come up with at least two right away, it has promise. If not, it probably isn’t the Heart for you. That said, don’t stress too much about this; in playing with the Heart, you’ll fill in the rest.
When choosing the first Gift for a Heart, pick whichever one seems thematically appropriate. It can be the same one that an existing Heart has; it’s no mandate that they all be different. Stick to ones that cost 2 Might tokens or fewer to use, otherwise that Gift won’t come up often in the early portion of the session. You may even be tempted to create a new Gift for that Heart, though if you do, ask yourself this: why can’t other Mythenders have that Gift as well?
Finally, you could scrap all of the existing Hearts, and build new ones from scratch to fit a given theme. One fun theme could be to make Hearts based on the classic fantasy adventuring roles: the Fighter, the Cleric, the Rogue (or the Thief, if you’re old-school), the Wizard (or the Magic-Used, if you’re way-old-school), the Paladin, the Bard, etc.
Making New Pasts
First off, much of the advice on Making New Hearts (page 46) applies in various ways to Pasts. However, Pasts ultimately answer the question of why a Mythender is going to stab gods in their fucking faces.
As with Hearts, the differences can be small or large. You might create a variant of the Abomination called the Once-Myth, who was once the Mythic World’s creation but became mortal. Or you might create something vast in scope that adds to your canon, such as the aforementioned Time Traveler, who fled from a future where the Mythenders failed.
When coming up with a Past, you can’t just say “So you’re a Time Traveler, now what?” Each Past has more focus than that. The Noble isn’t just a ruler, but a ruler who feels she owes something to her people. The Child isn’t just a kid, but one who had their childhood destroyed and can’t keep his anger in check. The role of these questions is to focus the Past in and of themselves, before they’re even answered. The first question might be obvious, in order to set a platform for the character concept, but from there you need to dive into hard and interesting questions—which might stem right from that first one, or might be a separate part of the character concept that makes a Past not just one-dimensional.
As with Weapon ideas, you should have a couple strong ideas on the Past’s Bonds. If you’re altering an existing Past, look at those Bonds and consider how that alteration changes them, subtly or dramatically. If you don’t see any that change, then your Past isn’t different enough.
Finally, look at how your Pasts pair with the various Hearts. Combining the two is how you begin to have a richer character concept. Looking at the main six Hearts and Pasts, here are some concepts found in history and media:
- Warrior + Noble: Beowulf
- Crusader + Noble: King Richard or Saint George
- Commander + Noble: Leonidas
- Bearer + Noble: King Arthur
- Crusader + Child: Jeanna d’Arc (if you take “child” to mean “teenager”)
- Tempest + Exile: Prospero from The Tempest
- Tempest + Abomination: Gandalf
- Loremaster + Mourner: Batman
These don’t all quite match up with the questions, and some people will argue that some of these ideas can fit with other combinations, but you can see how they begin to work. More importantly, you can probably see cool character concepts that don’t fit with the current Hearts and Pasts.
Making New Fates
Fates are vastly different from Hearts and Pasts, because they’re more esoteric. Because of that, they aren’t filled with questions to answer, but options to choose from and alter to taste. The easy way to make a new Fate is to change the Personal Blights and Forms on one of the Fate’s options. In fact, most people do this—and that’s encouraged!
If, on the other hand, you’re making a new Fate from scratch, you’ll need to know if you’re making a broad Fate or a narrow one. The six in this book are broad; you can tell this because there are two different takes for each one, which are only unified by the overall theme (reflected in the Heart’s Dream and its nebulous questions) and the Fate’s Power Over Mortals. A Fate with only one strong interpretation that you can see is a narrow Fate, though over time it may become broader.
Key to making a Fate is making sure it’s inhuman and at best only slightly sympathetic. The God of Blacksmiths, for instance, isn’t just some dude who likes to work all day over hot metal, but a deity that abhors freeloaders and those who do not contribute to civilization—those people erode his power. The God of Hedonism isn’t just someone who likes to party, but one who needs mortals to engage in gluttony and debauchery, as that is his true food and drink.
When making a Fate, understand that the Fate’s Power Over Mortals exists for three reasons: to tell you what your Mythender can do that others can’t, to show you how your Mythender is pretty much already that god right now and should just give into Fate, and to give you and the Mythmaster ways to and ideas for Terrorizing Mortals for Power. Similarly, the Personal Blight exists as a tool for the Mythmaster to remind the Mythender at every turn that she’s not entirely mortal—especially when she’s trying to Seek Sympathy and Healing.
The only advice I can give on making specific Personal Blights, Forms, and Power have already been said in Damning Your Mythender, pages 34–35. Look at the ones in this book as examples for tone. Keep the Forms about appearance, not about how mortals feel—that’s key to making a Personal Blight function in the story, as well as making Terrorizing Mortals the Mythender’s choice rather than an accident based on the current Form.