Saturday, June 1, 2013

Obscure RPG Appreciation: Man, Myth & Magic pt. I

Short-lived wargame publisher Yaquinto first published Man, Myth & Magic in 1982, just one year before the company went defunct. Better known for wargames like The Sword and the Flame, Ironclads and "Album Games" like Swashbuckler, Role-Playing Games were new to Yaquinto. Following the tradition of Dungeons & Dragons, they chose the "Ampersands & Alliteration" method of game naming (much like Tunnels & Trolls, Powers & Perils, Chivalry & Sorcery and Yaquinto's own swashbuckling RPG Pirates & Plunder).

Character Backgrounds

MM&M's game world is ostensibly set in a mythical, yet historical version of Earth. The default campaign is the 1st century A.D. (C.E.) Roman Empire. Characters hail from an extremely cosmopolitan variety of backgrounds ranging from deepest Africa to Briton and Hibernia (a.k.a. Ireland) to the far east Orient.

MM&M Advanced Rulebook Cover
This diverse range of backgrounds is the first point where this game shows problems. Players determine a character's Nationality by rolling on a chart with ten different options: African, Briton, Egyptian, Gaul, Greek, Hebrew, Hibernian, Visigoth, Roman or Oriental. However, no nationality is more or less common than any others; you have the same chance of running into an Irishman in ancient Rome as you do encountering a Roman!? How do such different characters join together to have adventures in the first place? The referee (Lore Master) has his/her work cut out for them to piece together a coherent party.

Character Classes

Another random roll determines a character's Class. Different nationalities use different class charts. Some classes are common (such as Merchant or Warrior) while others are exclusive to specific nations (Druids to Britons, Centurions to Romans). Many classes are typical fantasy RPG tropes, but a few oddities stand out: Sibyl (female oracle), Leprechaun (!!) and Weirding Fighter (Kung Fu master). There are different abilities for each class and many may cast magic spells.

Two classes deserve special attention: ORATOR and SAGE. These are more like player roles and are taken in addition to the randomly determined character class.

To become an Orator, a player must "apply for examination by the Lore Master at a mutually convenient time." To pass the exam, the player must "speak fluently, amusingly and without a break for three minutes (real time) on any subject the Lore Master choses (sic)." Yes, prior preparation is permitted. What does the player get for entering the RPG version of a Toastmaster's club? The player may stop the game to give a two minute (real time) speech that will "so fascinate any number of opponents that the Orator's colleagues may always attack first." This is a sure-fire way to slow down the game before every combat encounter.

The other unusual class is the Sage, otherwise known as the Rules Lawyer. The game acknowledges players who "soak up the rules of Fantasy Role Play like a sponge" and memorize entire rulebooks. "Now this sort of talent is pretty sick-making to any decent upright player who wasn't born with a memory like some stupid computer, but once this sort of thing gets a grip, it is very difficult to control." (emphasis mine) This game allows such players to "capitalize on their knowledge by becoming a Sage." Once a player tells the Lore Master they wish to become a Sage, that player is "obliged to sell information to fellow players." This is not a choice. When a Sage correctly answers another player's question about the game rules, the player must pay the Sage 25 gold libra. An incorrect Sage is fined 50 gold libra which is split among the other players. This may be the most bizarre class I've ever seen in any RPG.

[UPDATE: Click here for a classic cartoon about MM&M's Sage Class]

The game explains the Sage system thusly: "Good Sages are very valuable to a party. Know-all Sages are a pain. Either way, the MM&M Sage system keeps them under control."

Click here for part II with attributes, the action resolution system, and combat.

Click here for part III with reincarnations, optional attributes and more details on combat

Thanks for joining Obscure RPG Appreciation Day!


  1. Really great choice! This was one of those games I always wanted back in the day but never got.

    Looking forward to reading more about this game.

  2. One of the odd rules of MM&M was the fact that a Leprechaun had 10% probability of vanishing during dangerous scenes. That must have been quite unpopular with other PCs...

  3. The game seems to fit with a certain niche of player types. Rolling for nationality, or class, wouldn't sit well with me, or most that I game with.

    I had heard of the game, but had never tried it. Seems I did well to avoid it, I wouldn't have been happy with its limitations.

  4. Replies
    1. Woot! Thanks, Mr. Librarian, both for the prize and putting this appreciation day together.