Mythbinder – A Gritty, Rules Lite, D20 RPG

A little over two years ago I moved to New Zealand from the U.S.  One of the many discoveries I made about my new home was that, outside of the city of Wellington, there are not that many Kiwis that play role playing games.  Nor are there that many game shops that cater to the table-top gamer.  There are some of course, and Pathfinder enjoys a modest following here in my home city of Auckland.  But it is fair to say that role playing games never took root here like they have in the States, the UK and parts of the EU.

This posed both a challenge and an opportunity for me.  On the one hand, I had fallen in with a group of friends who enjoyed board games and were curious about RPGs.  On the other, they weren’t curious enough to purchase say, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook which retails here for around $75 (that’s about $60 USD), and pour through the voluminous tome.  Up till moving to NZ my only real exposure to RPGs had come by way of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder, though at that point I had begun exploring the OSR.

I had a pdf copy of Swords & Wizardry’s free ruleset and considered using it.  But I was still quite new to the rules and found the different experience tables, the race as class mechanic, the different level ceilings and several other features a bit odd (sorry for stepping on any toes here, but you have to remember this is coming from the perspective of someone who cut his teeth on third edition).  I wanted to play a game that emulated the Old-School gaming experience of a game such as S&W, but which had the streamlined mechanics of a game like Pathfinder.  Moreover it had to be something reasonably short and easy to digest.  Oh, and did I mention that I wanted the game to be gritty?

This all spurred me to develop my own home-brewed D20 rule-set, which I have tentatively taken to calling “Mythweaver”.  The best way to describe it is a gritty, rules lite version of D&D appropriate for a more Swords & Sorcery style of play.  The rules are still undergoing beta testing and much is subject to change.  However if you are at all curious, I’ve uploaded a beta version of the Players Handbook below, in both a color and B&W version.

What’s Different About this Game?

  • Characters start out with slightly more HP but HP progression is MUCH slower;
  • Armor absorbs damage, it does not add to one’s defense (AC) value;
  • Rules for gear wear and tear have been introduced;
  • More emphasis has been placed upon hiring retainers;
  • Skills are gone.  The system relies upon attribute checks;
  • Saving throws all rely upon attribute checks;
  • Encumbrance is done by a simple “stone” system;
  • The economic system is based on a silver, rather than a gold, standard;
  • Vancian magic is gone.  Spell casting relies upon spell points;
  • Divine magic users are (mostly) gone, though demon-pact magic exists (DM Guide);
  • Using magic is a dangerous affair, spell-failure has some nasty side-affects;
  • In addition to Incantations magic users may inscribe runes and enact rituals;
  • Magic users do not automatically gain new spells, they must acquire them;
  • Magic items are exceedingly rare and very precious;
  • Magic creatures make for great spell components;
  • Rules have been abridged and streamlined wherever possible.

I wasn’t aiming at originality here, I just wanted a system that I would enjoy playing and that would be easy to learn for new players.  So far I’ve been pleased with the results. However as mentioned this is still a work in progress.  If you have any comments, advice or constructive criticism you’d like to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If there is enough interest in this project I’ll release the Bestiary and Dungeon Master’s Guide when they are completed (which is still a while off).

Below you’ll find both a print and a color pdf version of the Mythweaver Player’s Guide:

Mythbinder Player’s Handbook – Color

Mythbinder Player’s Handbook – Print Out

EDIT: I’ve just been informed by Mike Desning that he’s actually authored another RPG by the same name (Mythweaver) and hence I’ve renamed the game “Mythbinder”. 

9 thoughts on “Mythbinder – A Gritty, Rules Lite, D20 RPG

  1. Just an FYI that I have been using Mythweaver as the name for a fantasy rpg system for about 7 years… It is released under creative commons, so it is no problem to use the name, but you may get a few confused people stopping by (like I did)! The system sounds cool, by the way.

    1. Yikes, sorry Mike, I didn’t realize that. Hmm, I may have to give this some thought. I certainly don’t want to step on any toes or cause confusion. Things are a bit crazy ATM but hopefully within the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to come up with a suitable replacement title and change things. Thanks for letting me know.


  2. Hello,

    I am interested in this from above…”Divine magic users are (mostly) gone, though demon-pact magic exists (DM Guide);..Is there a DM guide available or maybe just the rules of pact magic? I think it has a great feel for classic swords and sorcery and would like to see your rules for working that out.

    1. Hello Darren,
      I have not yet posted the DM Guide as I’ve been working on revamping the existing rules. However I did write up the basic rules for pact magic and I’d be happy to share them with you.

      As implied by the name, pact magic is granted to a subject by a demon lord in response to the service of the subject. The initiation of such a pact requires that a sacrifice be made on the part of the subject as a show of devotion. The nature of the sacrifice might vary from subject to subject but could include taking the life of a friend or loved one, some form of self-mutilation or even the forfeiture of one’s immortal soul.

      Furthermore the subject must render her full and undivided service to her Demon-Lord, obeying it’s every command. In return for this service the Demon-Lord will bestow upon the subject both an ability to cast spells as well as a degree of control over lesser demons also under the service of the Demon-Lord.

      Some individuals choose a solitary life of service to their Lord while others erect demonic hierarchical institutions in which to congregate and better exert their power and influence over others.

      In terms of the Mechanics, a devotee of a Demon-Lord (which in my game I’m simply referring to as a Warlock) receives the following:

      Spell Casting Ability – Same as Mage;

      Spell Points – Same as Mage;

      Demonology – Warlocks gain +5 to all Wisdom checks involving demons, whether they be Knowledge checks or checks to Summon or Command demons.

      Rituals – A Warlock begins play knowing the following three rituals:

      Bloodletting – as a move action a Warlock may cut herself. She receives 2 temporary SP for each HP of damage received for intentional bloodletting.

      Sacrifice – by slaying another creature a Warlock may temporally gain SP equal to the HP of the slain creature. This ritual takes 4 hours to complete and requires 1 oz of runic dust).

      Summon – A Warlock may attempt to summon any demon with a CR equal to or less than her character level by making an opposed Charisma check. Summoning a demon takes a number of hours, and expends a number of spell points equal to the CR of the demon.

      Upon summoning the creature is bound to the will of the Warlock for a period of up to 1 month (unless dismissed), at which point the demon returns to its own realm. However every 7 days an additional opposed Charisma check must be made in order to keep the demon submissive to the Warlock’s will. Should the Warlock fail this role, the Demon will no longer obey her commands and could potentially become hostile to her as well.

      That’s where I’ve left it for now. I’m open to new ideas and critiques if you have any. Cheers.

      1. Wow! Thank you for such a detailed response. I really like what you have done. I think it fits the classic sword and sorcery feel. For the full work, if you have not already planned it, maybe examples of some of the demon lords and what a bargain might look like for them. Perhaps, the word “Demon” could be expanded to more than hellish beings to include alien intelligences, half remembered gods, Elementals, etc…

        Maybe alternate names for spells to evoke a feeling for the settings. For example, instead of cast “Light” one could cast ” Last Embers of a Dying Sun”. If you didn’t want to rename all the spells perhaps mention that the spell have the standard names for easy use, but in game GM’s and PC’s should use genre named spells of their own making.

        Do you have a rough ETA for the revamp and DM’s guide?


        Darren Peech

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