Prequels to tabletop games aren’t something you see every day, but that didn’t stop Into the Odd creator Chris McDowall from exploring an era of courtly knights, honourable quests and tragic legends with upcoming RPG Mythic Bastionland.
Explicitly set before the vaguely magic industrialism of Into the Odd and the surreal technofuture of Electric Bastionland (McDowall’s previous titles), Mythic Bastionland is an imagined world of knight errants travelling across the Realm in search of glory, court favour or simply a death worth remembering. It is directly inspired by British folklore as it exists today, regardless of its veracity. McDowall says on the campaign page that he is “especially interested in the lies we tell about history, whether by misconception or design.”
Players portray one of 72 renowned knights, mechanically distinguished by their equipment and a unique ability each, as they traverse a hex-map Arthurian world hunting Myths made real or leading a band of soldiers against their liege-lord’s foes. Mythic Bastionland adds some extra mechanics on top of the same rules-light system that powers McDowall’s other games but largely retains the same streamlined design that promotes narrative-forward play.
Mythic Bastionland’s default mode leans toward longer campaigns where the knights errant discover omens throughout the land that gradually point them towards one of 72 Myths that stand between them and eternal glory. The world is teeming with these beasts, monsters, fables and here-there-be-dragon type obstacles - one must simply embark with intent to find themselves on the path of glory.
Players might eventually accept the City Quest, what McDowall calls “an impossible challenge” to find The City (yeah, both words capitalised) that most people know only through hushed whispers and foolish dreams. Seeking The City may be so much tilting at windmills, or it could be the travail that etches that knight’s name into eternal legend. Imagine Elden Ring’s Tarnished seeking the Leyndell Royal Capital at the foot of the Erdtree, and how few actually survive that arduous journey.
Sessions aren’t all rescuing maidens and slaying fiends. Sometimes players will need to take the field in mass combat to protect their domain from would-be conquerors. A new Gambit system portrays knights as epic fighters with the skills to match their vaunted exploits as they roll through the battlefield like a force of nature wrapped in metal. Feats allow them to execute tactical manoeuvres such as parries, focused defence or smiting blows.
Mythic Bastionland’s system eschews the concept of rolling to hit. As in previous RPGs, deciding to draw steel and wage war is a consequential choice. Characters only roll to deal - and accept - damage, so every turn spent amidst the blood and boil of combat means flirting with sudden, ignoble death.
Designed for 1 to 5 players (plus Referee), Mythic Bastionland claims to support sprawling campaigns and electrifying one-shots with equal finesse, and the moment-to-moment gameplay rewards “creative problem solving and decisive combat.”
A Kickstarter campaign for Mythic Bastionland runs through December 7th to fund the creation of a hardcover book and digital edition. The book will contain over 150 illustrations from Electric Bastionland artist Alec Sorensen and will ship to backers beginning May 2024. The PDF will be available in March, following a pre-print version scheduled to be released in January.