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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Mythic Horror for Halloween

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures takes adventurers in Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game not into ‘Epic’ tiers above Twentieth Level, but down dual tracks, one standard, the other Mythic. The latter becomes accessible once the characters have undergone ascension, perhaps after encountering a god or acquiring a mythic artifact and once on that track, the characters undergo various mythic trials to advance through the tiers. With Mythic status, characters can go on even more fantastic, grander adventures, and face even more incredible foes, many of which are adaptations of classic monsters to the Mythic. Now as good as Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures is, it does not and cannot detail all of the beasts and monsters that have been presented for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game over the past decade or so. This is because, well, there are six volumes of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary, and not one of them is anything other than a weighty tome.

This is where Legendary Games comes to the fore. A third party publisher that provides support for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in the form of adventures, supplements, and in particular, plug-ins. These provide direct support for supplements published by Paizo Publishing, for example, the Mythic Monsters line, which slots the very many monsters from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary line into the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures line. It does this by adapting monsters  from the Bestiary series so that they can be faced by player characters who are on Mythic Tiers. What you get are the straight monster stats. There is no background. There are, well almost no illustrations. As the publisher likes to explain, those elements can be found elsewhere. So “Just the stats, ma’am.” 

In the three years since the publication of Mythic Adventures, Legendary Games has supported the line with over forty titles, of Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween is the latest. Just in time for the autumnal season it presents fifteen monsters taken from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 2, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 3, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 4, and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 5. Like all entries in the line it assigns its monsters two important ratings. One is the Mythic Rating, indicating which Mythic Tier it fits and provides a challenge for. The other is the Challenge Rating, the standard indicator in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and similar games as to what level it provides a challenge to. Thus the Mythic Soulbound Doll is CR 3 and MR 1, The Mythic Hangman Tree CR 8 and MR 3, and so on. What this means is that the GM can use these monsters in the game without using Mythic Monsters. The monsters are just more of a threat.

Mythic Monsters: Halloween details some fifteen monsters, ranging from CR 1 to CR 17, from MR 1 to MR 7, from the Mythic Beheaded to the Mythic Nightshade. They include monsters that are simple, that are dismembered body parts, that are body parts stitched together, the creepy, the murderous, and the generous. The simple are the Bat Swarms, while the dismembered body parts are the Beheaded with it screams and skull splitting, the Crawling Hand with its terror-inducing grasp, and the Giant Crawling Hand that grasps and crushes as well as inducing terror and tomb rot. Carrion Golems are rotten, roughly stitched-together body parts reeking of foulness and virulent plague. The Hangman Tree sends its noose-tipped vines forth to drag its victims up to swing murderously from its branches, while the Jack-O’-Lantern is an evil  pumpkin that feeds on fear and nightmare. The creepy includes the Attic Whisperer, seemingly abandoned at the top of the house, but ready to steal both breath and voice; the Shadow Collector steals shadows and uses them as its own or as accomplices, as well as being able to draw and steal its enemies and their possessions into the Plane of Shadows; and the Soulbound Doll might be good or it might be evil, but that does not stop it being creepy. The generous Leshy Gourd can pluck out its seeds and transform them into magical treats that it will hand out. Lastly, two versions of the Torch-Wielding Mob are provided, one made up of villagers, the other fanatics. The other is typically made up of peasants, the other of cultists.

In each case, Mythic Monsters: Halloween gives mythic power to its monsters. For example, the the Mythic Shadow Collector can expend mythic power to cast the mythic versions of its spells, the Jack-O’-Lantern can expend mythic power on its death to implant a nightmare that if not resisted will result it coming back to life; and if a Carrion Golem strikes the same target twice in a round, it can expend mythic power to rip limbs of its target! All powerful abilities, though the GM will need to give a careful to pick up on all of their details and those of the other entries in the supplement.

This is not to say that Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween is all old made anew. It does contain some new content. This comes in the form of new magic items such as Ghostly Gossamer, which disguises the wearer as a ghost and even surrounds them with other ghosts or makes him incorporeal or a Goblin Mask that make the wearer appear to be a harmlessly innocent goblin or a horrific and intimidating goblin. A Sack of Gluttony produces sweets and illusions that force others to gorge themselves on the faux treats or with a resolute shaking, sweets that replicate the effects of potions and elixirs placed inside the bag, while the Witch’s Broom is everything that would expect and a Witch would want. These are powerful magical items in their own right, almost artifact-like in their multiple uses. They perhaps be a little silly for a standard Pathfinder campaign, but for one that involves horror they more than suit.

To get the fullest out of Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween, the GM will not only need access to the first five in the Bestiary series, but also the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Player’s Guide, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Race Guide, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Occult Adventures, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Combat, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Equipment, and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Magic as well as of course, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures. And quite possibly the Mythic Hero’s Handbook and Path of the Stranger also, as well as Legendary Games’ own Mythic Monster Manual. Which is a lot of supplements. It highlights a problem with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game line in that there are a lot—and by that, I do mean a lot—of supplements. Now to be fair, any GM buying Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween will probably have most of those rulebooks and supplements anyway and it is them that this mini-supplement is really aimed at.

Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween comes as a thirty-two page, .2 Mb PDF. It is cleanly laid out and clearly written. It is done in full colour and comes with some excellent fully painted illustrations. There is roughly one entry per page, so only about two thirds of the supplement is given over to the introduction, advertising, and so on.

Obviously Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween is a niche supplement, hence it being released—and reviewed—just before Halloween. It is in turns whimsical and horrific, mostly horrific. Both draw very much from the American tradition of Halloween—the whimsical in particular—but there is more than enough horror here if you are not necessarily American or whimsical. Outside of Halloween, there are plenty of good monsters in Mythic Monsters 42: Halloween to add challenge to any horror game, Mythic or not.