06 September 2013

Camp Myth

Camp Myth, by Eloy Lasanta and Chris Lewis Carter through Third Eye Games, is a game of summer camp adventures in a mythic setting.

Based on the eponymous series by Chris Lewis Carter, this game features campers from a multitude of mythic races (from dryad to kitsune) all attending a fantastic summer camp where hijinks inspired by mythology and classic summer camp tropes will ensue. The premise of Camp Myth is that long ago the mythic community separated from humanity. In doing so, the mythic community fragmented and became isolationist. Camp Myth was founded in a bid to foster a sense of community between the mythic races.

The setting presented is given a broad overview. Some specifics are presented, such as locations of interest and some camp counselors, but the setting details leave a lot of room for a group to create their own vibrant world within the framework provided. With only one novel out thus far (though a second has just been funded), the series is still in its infancy. For those who struggle against the canon of an established setting, this is a boon. Though anyone looking for all of the setting heavy lifting to be taken care of may be disappointed.

It is worth noting that this game is kid-friendly, and written with a younger audience in mind, though it does feature violence. Camp Myth is a dangerous place and it is indicated that fatalities are not unheard. With that in mind, the system is reminiscent of the Heresy Game Engine used in Victoriana and Airship Pirates. You gather d6s based on the skill (referred to as "white dice"), adding dice for bonuses and removing them for penalties. Then you add d6s based on the difficulty of the task, or the skill of the opposing character ("black dice"). Everything 4+ is a success and "black" successes subtract from "white" successes.

It is very easy to determine success and failure, and visually obvious without any real need for further interpretation of the roll. More difficult tasks, of which there are many, are greatly aided by teamwork. It's simple and functional, which is good if you find yourself explaining more complicated mechanics multiple times throughout a session, but not so good if you like interesting mechanics that will draw you in on their own.

Each of the races (including centaur, cyclops, dryad, fae, harpy, kappa, kitsune, leprechaun, minotaur and redcap) gets an advantage and limitation that provide the majority of differentiation. The list of skills is directly oriented towards a mythical summer camp, rather than generic terms, which puts the setting front and center. For example, instead of athletics there is sports and instead of deception there is drama.

The final piece of a character is their comforts from home, which are (mostly) things the campers have taken with them. Though this also includes quirks, which are essentially advantages and disadvantages, and companion pets. Because who doesn't want a cerberus puppy? Seriously, you can have a cerberus puppy and take it to camp. There is no way that could go wrong.

On the whole, the mechanics are very utilitarian. With one notable exception: merit badges. These are by far the most interesting and exciting aspect of the game. They are a clear, special reward (beyond experience points) that helps bond the group together and provides an instant reminder of previous trouble they have gotten into. Also, each is an instant call to adventure for the characters to proactively go after. It can put them in charge of their own fun, instead of just reacting to situations.

Each merit badge has required skills for the campers to attempt getting it, as well as the challenge they will have to undertake. Upon receiving it, each merit badge will give a reward to the campers that earned it. Rewards can be permanent skill increases and/or some other minor benefit such as a puff of Phoenix plume that can be used to start fires. Not all of the rewards are created equal, some are likely to be significantly easier (and less dangerous) to earn than others, but this gives the players some nice direction on how to grow their characters so that they can earn more merit badges. This mechanic is worth the price of admission all on its own.

The GM resources in Camp Myth are fairly significant. There is a wide variety of NPCs and creatures detailed to be used as challenges, which is always helpful in any game. It also helps to set some clear guidelines and expectations for what challenges look like so that they can be easily and lovingly hand-crafted by a GM to inflict on their players. A task which couldn't be easier - the "stat blocks" are incredibly simple and require little real effort to put together.

There is also three example adventures provided, including Phoenix Watching, the first Camp Myth novel. Each is relatively short and could easily be played in an afternoon, or at a con - which is particularly good for any players that may have attention span issues.

In the end, this is a cute game suitable for a variety of age groups (the level of implied violence makes me reluctant to recommend for all ages). It plays quickly and simply, with a setting that is a twist on a classic. The big winners are the merit badge system (which cannot be overstated) and the level of GM support in such a slender book.