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Modern Mythras: Gamesmastering the Modern Setting

Alex Greene


Drama is the key to Games Mastering in any Mythras setting. In most fantasies, the goals are pretty simple: there's some healing herb to cure the King who's fallen to some poison, or it's a McGuffin with the magical power to stop some weird storm, or the characters have to drop by some bloody wizard's Black and Evil Tower In The East and kill a guy.

And that's it. It's a Thing, or a Task. Do that, and you get your Experience Rolls.

Modern Mythras is a bit different. There are any number of different stories, which may or may not draw from elements of fantasy, science fiction, or horror. What they do have in common if that they are set in the modern world you and I recognise; and that setting presents its own challenges.

Here are four sources of conflict:-

Person Versus Person

This is fairly straightforward. There's a good guy; there's a bad guy; good guy stumbles across bad guy, bad guy tries to stop good guy interfering with bad guy's plan; good guy and bad guy have some sort of fight.

  • Two lovers arguing over disagreements
  • Boxing rivals trash talking before the match
  • A Fed is tasked with tracking down a hacker which deleted some vital financial records for fun, resulting in a hospital being deprived of funding
  • A corporate employee attempting to steal a plum client from their co-worker
  • A hero finally facing off with the villain in a battle to the death, on the rooftop of the bad guy's burning hideout
  • Two parents battling over custody of their child
  • A person getting mugged on their walk home from work
  • Two people struggle to express their true feelings for one another, in an environment which does not approve of their romance
  • A detective trying to find the clues to finally jail the gang boss she has been chasing her entire life
  • Two competitors trying to ruin the other person’s ability to compete
  • Some poor bugger desperately trying to navigate a harsh, unfeeling bureaucracy
  • Two politicians arguing across the floor

Person Versus Self

This is internal conflict. The protagonist's enemy is some inner conflict with their own morality, vices, sense of self, and goals. Generally, it involves a difficult decision that the character must make, and signals the direction of growth for that character as the story progresses. If the hero of the story struggles to do the right thing out of fear, greed, or some other personal obstacle, that will likely make them a more interesting and relatable character for readers to root for.

Here are some more examples to give you an idea of the scope of internal conflict:

  • The “chosen one” struggling to overcome their fears to save the world
  • A hero being tempted by the villain’s bribes or reasoning
  • An addict trying to overcome addiction to turn their life around
  • A high schooler struggling to decide who to ask out to prom
  • A religious person encountering information that disproves their beliefs
  • A sports person struggling to overcome her self-doubts about competing
  • A young character struggling with their identity and self-image
  • A warrior grappling with hurting others for the greater good of the nation
  • An intolerant character making unlikely friends with someone they are prejudiced against and questioning their own biases
  • A character going through old belongings and struggling to get rid of clutter

Person Versus Nature

This kind of drama pits the characters against the forces of nature, and to some extent, the unknown. Characters must contend with the elements, wildlife, and natural disasters.

  • The ocean overturns the characters' boat, leaving them at the mercy of its violent waves
  • A harsh storm forces isolated campers to forage in the aftermath
  • Survivors on a deserted island struggle to survive in the hot, tropical climate
  • A bear attacks a hiker who goes off the path
  • An earthquake traps characters in the rubble of a large building
  • An endless torrent of rain wreaks havoc on a small town
  • Characters must pack up and flee an oncoming flood, or wall of fire

Person Versus Society

This kind of drama comes from a conflict between an individual, or small group of individuals, against some form of group of people - from as small as a young person having to defy their oppressive family and come out as gay, all the way through to something like detectives of a small town's police force having to fight a corrupt priest who brings the weight of the whole Catholic Church down on the cops, using the cross to hide behind to protect his perverse crimes being exposed.

  • An unsuspecting town hides a dark secret, and only one character knows the truth
  • Only one person is brave enough to stand up against an oppressive and unjust ruler
  • Unfair cultural practices are challenged by the youth in society 
  • Students stand up against a government bill that would cut funding to arts programs in schools
  • Robbers plan to steal a couple of million dollars from a Mob casino
  • A group of characters fight to hold a greedy corporate leader accountable for pollution
  • A young child disobeys their parents and resists unfair rules
  • Prisoners unite to stop prison wardens from treating prisoners savagely
  • An underdog sports person fights against the scorn of the town where he comes from to compete for a prestigious medal
  • A group of protesters rallies support for a political candidate
  • An investigative journalist seeks to expose corrupt business dealings by a local corporation

Other Sources of Conflict

There are other sources of conflict, such as "Person versus Technology," "Person Versus Fate" and even "Person Versus Weirdness" (formerly "Person Versus Gods" or "Person Versus the Supernatural"). All of these have the same, or similar, structure- an oppressive force impedes or threatens the characters; the characters must develop some sort of coping strategy; the characters' new strategy prevails, or they fail - a tragedy.

Conflicts in a modern Mythras game are messy. The characters may need to find solutions which don't involve cutting some guy down in a hail of bullets, or running them through with a sword. They may need to roll for their Passions when their skills fail them, relying on love, or sheer grit, or even spite, to pull through. In the end, these kinds of dramas will test the players as much as the characters; and if the players learn from these conflicts, you can help them to achieve a player victory, which might be more meaningful and more satisfying than their characters' numeric victories over the dice and negative situational modifiers.

After all, the core of modern Mythras gaming is about growing as a person - both the characters and, to some extent, the players.

Edited by Alex Greene


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