Mehliu – Blood ‘n Bone (2019)
Marcelo Paschoalin (Letra Impressa)
Disclaimer: Sponsored content
A publisher by the name of Marcelo Paschoalin reached out for a review of his very own retroclone DnD thing. I warned him. I warned him of Dark Fantasy Basic. He sent me not one but TWO games. Admirable persistence, wedded to abysmal hubris. Cursed am I.
Mehliu Blood ‘n Bone (not Blood & Bone) is a standard reworking of the B/X edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game, adding some elements from 5e and DUNGEON WORLD *HSSSSSSS* for a mixture that should be instantly familiar to any rpg enthusiasts. And therein lies the problem.
I tend to look at Core Rules as similar to programming languages in that they require considerable investment from player and GM to master and as such they must provide a tangible benefit above those already in circulation, be it an overall increase in quality and resolution speed, an expansion of specific areas allowing for greater depth or some sort of unique feature that was previously impossible. OSRIC & Labyrinth Lord are tolerable because they are cleaned up versions of the original documents introduced at a time when obtaining these documents was difficult. Dungeon Crawl Classics, Adventurer Conqueror King or Lamentations of the Flame Princess strive, with varying degrees of success, to alter the focus of the original game, to emphasize different elements or to innovate with a particular goal in mind, they have some sort of value over the original. Adventures Dark & Deep, Dark Fantasy Basic or Delving Deeper are wastes of space and time, since what they are trying to do already exists and better. When you make a game for commercial publication, you should always ask yourself why people would go with your game and not an industry standard that is immediately familiar, has a shitload of support, compatibility with a vast number of other publications, and vastly more likely to be part of a potential player’s skillset.
The problem with Mehliu is not so much that it is bad (though there are absolutely some questionable rules, possibly carried over from Dungeon World ) but more that I can’t find a reason why I would ever select it above those systems already available, in short, I am not convinced it needed to exist as anything but a collection of house rules bolted atop an existing model, which it is if you boil it down.
Regardless, if honor dictates that I face this labor of love and well-intentioned wholesomeness dedicated to the author’s daughter in the ring and dispatch it for the amusement of the crowd then so it shall be. Morituri te salutant. I will make this quick.
Before we begin, a rare moment of appreciation that serves as a microcosm for the whole work. The cover is effective and interesting to the casual inspection, the characters stride forward, about to cross a rope-bridge, weapons held in preparation for violence, looking up at some unknown menace looming from the mist-shrouded rock massif beyond the cover’s margin. If not for the leading thief, who appears to be the target of a very specific invisibility spell that only targets her right leg and causes her human disguise to malfunction, revealing her monstrously distorted right arm as it grips a rope, possibly to keep herself from toppling over. In fact the more you look at the rogue, the less sense she makes. An innocuous mistake, or perhaps a suitable metaphor for the content to follow? You be the judge!
I will adopt the same format as I did for Dark Fantasy Basic. If anything was left uncovered, be sure to let me know.
Conventions: Mehliu seeks to be, for all intents and purposes, to be your standard all purpose vanilla dungeon, hex- adventure crawler, set in the titular sample high fantasy valley of Mehliu. Kill monsters, gold spent is XP, levels, classes, murderhobo’s yadda yadda.
Curiously enough, Mehliu spends the first 17 of its considerable 232 page bulk on the explanation of what a roleplaying game is and how to play it, seeking to accommodate itself for novel audiences, an unnecessary conceit. The chance that an aspiring GM gets interested in roleplaying and will select this game before the industry standard is virtually nonexistent. Since it goes so far as to allude to Chainmail and the World’s most popular roleplaying game on its back cover, my suggestion is to omit this section entirely, or provide a reference to the abundent resources available online. One needs not re-invent the wheel.
Basic Modifications: The first potentially useful alteration. Mehliu is playable using only D6s and uses the 2d6 + Ability modifier for task resolution. For large numbers you use d66 where you roll to dice and treat the first one as the decimal number. While this is not exactly innovation, it does mean that you don’t need to buy funky dice. Saving throws have been eliminated entirely and are derived from attack bonus + Ability modifiers against a static number, granting fighters a distinct advantage at all levels.
As a further irritant, the central task resolution mechanic which is used for everything is not explained immediately but must be derived from the explanation of skills and combat later on.
Setting: Because Mehliu insists on describing the titular valley in the front of the book, shortly after the introduction to roleplaying, I will do so always. I will also point out that anyone not already overfamiliar with DnD tropes will make little sense of the setting as described, which clearly assumes familiarity with all the classic tropes, but this is a blessing in disguise because this way we do not need to sit through a tiresome explanation of what elves are in the most pedantic way imaginable.
Mehliu is a coastal valley to the west of Minassi, an important dwarven region. It’s a wild and secluded place, dotted by dark forests and rolling hills. It’s a place of blood and bone, but also of adventure and magic.
In the past, Mehliu was a no-man’s land, relegated to the beasts. When the elves forced their tyranny over the trolls, many sought refuge in the valley, and they were
soon followed by humans and dwarves alike. It was an uneasy peace at first, but Mehliu was isolated enough not to instill even more anger against the elven tyrants. Yet, as all things, good and bad, eventually end, the elven god Baliriel was banished by the Goddess with Three Names. This Great Tragedy, as the elves call it, shattered the elven immortality and changed the tides on the battle for survival. It didn’t take long for the elves to be pushed back to the forests, leaving them to battle the trolls alone, while dwarves established an outpost on the hills and humans started to tame the landscape.
The Valley of Mehliu, then, saw a second period of peace.
That, however, wouldn’t last. Some human sorcerers (calling themselves The Circle) wanted the upper hand if the conflict ever re-sparkled. They began searching for ways to effectively deny the elves any chance to regain their immortality and, at the same time, create rituals
that could grant themselves eternal life.
They got what they wanted. At least, part of it. The Circle discovered forbidden vampiric rituals, and gave their mortal life away in exchange for immortal unlife. That, however, also cursed the whole valley, as some kind of shadow muted the vibrant colors of the
land. What was a beacon of hope for generations past, from night to day, turned into a bleak fate. That happened years ago. The Circle vanished, the beasts became more ferocious, the elves held the trolls at bay, and the dwarves locked their outpost to strangers.
Humanity, as usual, survived all this. And still survives to this day.
The use of clichéd epic fantasy patois interspersed with conversational modernisms is clumsy and obtrusive. Yet, as all things, good and bad, eventually end, the elven god Baliriel was banished by the Goddess with Three Names (why?). This Great Tragedy, as the elves call it, shattered the elven immortality and changed the tides on the battle for survival. Simple language can be used if the setting is used for illustration while epic language is used to evoke mood.
“Yet fair or foul, all things must end. For his hubris Baliriel Elvenking was banished from the realm by the Goddess with Three Names, forbidden to return. With him was lost the gift of Immortality, and so the tides of the Long War against Elvenkind shifted anew. In elven dirges this was known as The Severing/The Day of Unnumbered Tears/The Hour of Lament/The Return of the Old Foe/The Elf-Doom/The Great Badness etc. etc. etc.”
Factions are introduced whilly nilly and with several redunancies. Note that the Circle was not tied into the defeat of the Elves in the first place and seek only to prevent the return of an immortality which does not seem a pressing need. The text putters out instead of building up to a volatile status quo, full of potential. I am at this point, utterly tired of the Evil Elves trope, which is rapidly becoming the shorthand version of MY SETTING BE DIFFERENT. That being said, the idea to curse elves with short lifespans in this setting and alter their relationship with the rest of the inhabitants of Fantasy Forest is at least TRYING to do something new, but that something is restricted to a single element.
A very short Gazzeteer with some sample places with a short description on the ruler and possibly their reason for existence along with an odd convention. Mara is listed as having as having ‘about 1536 people’ which is weird since the about indicates a rough estimate followed by an oddly specific number. The Political Situation clarifies some relations between the major factions but this really needed a bunch of stuff going on to give it life, possibly a central unifying thing that all factions want. The discovery of an artifact, the arrival of a new faction, a bad harvest driving food down etc.
A point in its favor. A Jeff Gameblog list of common questions like who is the biggest fighter in the land, what is the most dangerous creature, who is the most famous spellcaster, where may I find a scholar etc. etc. is presented and answered for Mehliu, rendering it, while not overly inspired, at least usefull for campaigning. Concessions to useability are a good thing and should be lauded.
Notice conversational low-brow english.
Are there mercenaries I may hire?
Even a small village like Blatu will have some sword-forhire types. Just don’t walk surrounded by a mini-army and you’ll be fine
Some of the hints, like those of a buried artifact or an illegal dwarven gladiatorial ring, need to be more specific.
Ruins abound in the valley. You should delve deeper and find your legendary artifact… or die trying.
That’s too general and it does not inspire. Try connecting a place and a hint of the artifact’s nature, just a spark to get the GM’s creativity going. Something like this:
The Great Elven Hero Sidaril the Strong fell in battle against the Troll King in the Ironstone Hills. His body and legendary arms were never recovered.
Character Creation: I always find character creation a good way to illustrate the nature of the new game you are playing so behold. The core classes of Mehilu are the same as B/X, sans the poor, suffering halfling. Since elves seem to play a major role in the valley of Mehilu, so let’s go with an elf. We are going to follow the name generator table in the back of the book and call him…Loriel.
Character generation is the six traditional abilities, roll 2d6, if the sum is less then 36, raise the lowest to 12, exchange one if so desired. The 2d6 is a mistake here. 3d6 has enough variability that really low or high scores are a rare occurence and allow for plentiful variation in the characters thus created. With 2d6 it will be a virtual certainty that each character is at the top of the bell curve in one ability and the bottom in one other. It diminishes the significance of high and low abilities.
Loriel the Elf
Dex 5 (-1)
Wis 10 (+1)
Let’s talk classes. The overall model appears to be B/X with 5e style special powers every level. Maximum level is 12. Characters are suitable for dungeon and wilderness adventure only, no indication of domain rules or whathaveyou . Basic movement is mentioned for each class, but is identical in all but one case. Consider optimalization unless frequent reference is likely.
The Fighter is an overpowered bullshit class, gaining multiple attacks and abilities that improve their damage dice rolls almost every level, having the best hit dice, superior attack bonus (and thus saving throws), the ability to attack multiple targets in combat, damage resistance etc.
The Cleric has been saddled with all manner of additional healing powers with silly names like Lay By Hands and Healing Roar as well as smiting and protection powers until it is essentially a crossbreed with the Paladin, not a bad change as the paladin is what the cleric was originally supposed to be. The plethora of magical powers remind me of 5e and cause me to dry-heave and nervously scroll down searching for the inevitable tiefling class. Has access to the same 12 spells as the wizard. More on the underwhelming spellcasting later.
Sorcerer is like the Wizard at except you never get access to a Fireball spell. This poor unfortunate dolt is saddled with inferior hit die, no armor, inferior saving throws, the Wretched Invocation system which causes your spells to fail about 50% of the time at level one and an aenemic 12 spells in the entire game to choose from. Though clearly inferior to the cleric, the wizard comes frontloaded with additional powers in the manner of 4e that give you unlimited elemental shitfuck weaponry, is capable of counterspelling, gains some sort of vampiric healing ability at 6th level and so on and so forth. Probably the shittiest class, even though d6 per level in spellcasting damage is pretty sweet if you start with that spell.
Thief. Like a thief only with bonuses to dodging, climbing and other thief stuff.
Dwarf. A ridiculous class even more overpowered then the fighter.
Elf: “Elves,” so the core rulebook informs us,”are faerie creatures similar to humans, yet a bit smaller and with pointed ears. They usually live in secluded forests, without bowing to the rules of the dominant society– so they give emphasis to individual freedom and life among nature. Elves generally live in big family groups or nomad clans.”
It recommends us to “learn both the rules of combat and the spellcasting rules beforehand,” an odd choice of phrase, considering all players should at least be familiar with the rudiments of combat. Anyway, since both Dex and Int are important to the Elf, though since Int plays only a roll at character creation when determining the number of spells known this is something of an understatement. Regardless, we switch Dex and Wis for Loriel.
The Elf class is probably the most interesting rework. Mutiple fay-like powers like the ability to strike terror into foes, talk with animals or summon weaponry of thorns are fun in a breezy sort of 5e, WoW way.
Loriel the Elf (lvl 1)
Dex 10 (+1)
Wis 5 (-1)
We roll and our Elf is 33 years old. Height is (3d6+130+Con) 147 cm, midget-like, and our base movement rate is 4 metres per round. Weight is a husky Con * d6 (5) + Height/5(29,4) = 64,4 kg, Loreal is tiny and rotund, with a fondness for lemmas bread and mushrooms and honey tarts and roasted pork and NOM NOM NOM. Our other abilities are, stop me if you have heard this before: Darkvision, Polyglot, Perceptive (+2 on rolls relating to senses), general and undefined resistance to paralysis caused by “some undead”, Once a day I may cause Fear in one creature, and we begin the game with spellcasting powers.
Special; Darkvision, Polyglot (4 additional languages), Perceptive, Defiant, Invocation +1 (Ceremonial Armor only), Terror
We begin play with d6 hit points, and I roll a one.
Languages have to be selected and are equal to their own language + 1 per point over 7 int and Mehliu does not have any sample languages. I will select those languages I can derive from the opening crawl and improvise from there. Normally you can trade languages for advantage on skill rolls (everyone can do anything in Mehliu) but our Polyglot does not allow us to do so.
We pick…Common and…Elf and, uh, Troll! definitely Troll, uh…Dwarf, and…Mexican?
Languages: Common, Elf, Troll, Dwarf, Mexican
I will not consent to taking a premade starter kit, taking my coin straight up so I can buy my own equipment. Loriel is worth it goddamnit. 80 starting gp. There’s a few improvements to equipment prices that otherwise never made sense to me in B/X but that I am positive were addressed in latter additions, but overal inflation seems to be rampant in Mehliu. Grappling hooks are no longer monstrously expensive and Burning Oil is half price, but 7 gp for a small iron mirror, 3 gp for flint and steel and 1 gp for a good whetstone? A quiver is no longer included with the purchase of a set of arrows? An outrage! Thievery! Loriel is unable to afford the Ceremonial Armor he needs to prevent a penalty on his casting rolls and needs a hand free for spells, thus he will have to live on his wits, which are superior anyway. In this game, you either get a flat AC from armor OR your Dexterity. We obviously select Dex. There’s little additions that I can appreciate, hammer & chisel, whetstone, bells, a whistle etc. etc. Are boots included in clothes now since they have been excised from the equipment list? Many questions awaiting urgent answers.
Equipment: Rapier, Dagger, Shield, Backpack, Sleeping Bag, Common Clothes, Cloak, Bow, Short + 20 arrows, Whetstone, Oil x 6, 15 m rope (hemp), Hammer & Chisel, Whistle, Flint & Steel, 2 gp.
Loriel can carry about 14 items (clothes don’t count) so he is just about packed.
One last addition, a good one copied over from 5e. You can roll optionally for background and receive additional benefits and be saved the trouble of fleshing out your character, PERFECT.
The Backgrounds are actually worthwhile, devoid of description beyond the title and all crunch, but low key and flavorfull, far more oldschool then the supercharged 5B/X charicatures Mehliu saddles us with.
Background…16 out of d66—> ARCHER. Perfect. That means we can fire an extra arrow on our movement phase and we begin play with a longbow, 15 normal arrows, 15 silver arrows and a quiver. We keep the Shortbow anyway.
Loriel the Elf (lvl 1)
Dex 10 (+1)
Wis 5 (-1)
Special; Darkvision, Polyglot, Perceptive, Defiant, Invocation +1 (Ceremonial Armor only), Terror
Languages: Common, Elf, Troll, Dwarf, Mexican
Equipment: Rapier, Dagger, Shield, Backpack, Sleeping Bag, Common Clothes, Cloak, Bow, Short + 20 arrows, Whetstone, Oil x 6, 15 m rope (hemp), Hammer & Chisel, Whistle, Flint & Steel, 2 gp.
Wait! We still need to select a spell. A major departure from B/X and it’s a negative one, Mehliu replaces the tried and true Vancian system with a DCC-esque invocation based system, with a cumulative penalty for repeat castings that resets each day. Sadly the generalized spellcasting table does not have the unique mishaps and success of each spell that DCC employed, the caster can suffer damage on a failed roll, and more crucially, there are only 12 constellations SO ONLY 12 SPELLS USABLE BY BOTH CLASSES.
With all due respect…WHAT? Spellcasting in Mehliu SUXXX, especially on early levels, and why the fuck would you strip out all the complexity and depth of the Vancian magic system, reduce the options and render all too similar the cleric and the wizard class. According to the game I begin spells with as many spells as my INT, which would be zero. If I take that literally I would begin play with zero spells, but I think I will give myself a break and select a single spell.
Spells have fancy names like The Eye or The Lovers and are all broadly analogous to DnD selected DnD spells; ESP, Detect Magic, Bull’s Strength, Elemental Weapon, Chain Lightning + Shield (take this one first), Clairvoyance, Cure Light Wounds, Infravision, Detect Life, Telekinesis, Detect Invisible.
Point of fuck you: No new spell ideas. Why this senseless crippling of what is already available? This needed 24 spells at the MINIMUM. What is the justification for stripping out the boundless depth of DnD’s magic system and dumbing it down to 12 spells over 2 classes? Theoretically you it is possible create your own spells but fuck that, unless that is a core feature that is pointed out, this is lazy.
The first major innovation. Traditional initiative is all but eliminated. Combat upholds the basic order of events first introduced in B/X (ranged attacks, spells etc.) but introduces one major innovation. With the exception of melee combat, all attacks take place simultaneously. Combatants targeting eachother have an automatic opposed test, with the winner’s attack going through. In melee combat combatants compare attack rolls and only the highest is successfull. This takes place even if the opponent does not have any attacks (or has already done something else etc.). Only when the roll is higher does the attacker get to attack. Equal rolls mean one shield or weapon is broken, unless magical. Attack rolls still need to beat someone’s AC, which, get this, is pretty heavily dependent on armor. You get to use your flat Dexterity.
The rule feels like it needs some sort of limit. As written there is nothing preventing a powerful combatant from utterly dominating limitless numbers of lesser foes. There’s a few nice touches, like a rule where a hit on AC but not over AC will stagger the foe, giving you a bonus to hit on the next round. Little flourishes from 2e like optional weapons vs AC rules or enlightened two weapon fighting (+1 to hit, choose damage from either weapon, which doesn’t really come into play all that much since all weapons do the same damage). Advantage and Disadvantage is a blanket +1 or -1. If you hit 0 hp unconsciousness, followed by death. There is in this vast rulebook little in the way of innovation or refinement from the classic game, and that wearies one and makes one feel old. Burning Oil does d6 damage for d6 rounds.
At this point I feel like I am in a daze. Bestiary is about identical to B/X with the admonition to use a sort of CR system to determine encounter Balance, another D20ism that crept into DnD that I frankly, could well do without. The monster list is bog standard and 10 entries?!?, skeleton, bandit, wolf, dire wolf, orc, regenerating Troll. All book standard. Why is this even here? The statts are just bog standard Dnd monsters, converted over to Mehliu. There is ONE, ONE TINY SPARK OF HOPE. The Vampire. Yes, a bog standard vampire with bog standard 2d6 dire wolf summoning level draining ability. THERE IS ONE INNOVATION. THEY EACH HAVE A UNIQUE METHOD OF DESTRUCTION. IMMERSION IN WATER, STAKING ETC. ETC. ETC. ONLY ONE. AN INDICATION THAT SOMEWHERE, IN THIS DESERT, THERE IS SOME TINY SPARK OF LIFE THAT STILL REMEMBERS DND IS FUN. I should point out even other clone games could muster the energy to at least rip off the ENTIRE standard bestiary.
At this point why would I pick Mehliu over B/X? Why do I change my game, which has a plethora of bestiaries with almost a hundred monsters and dozens and dozens of spells, and replace it with 10 monsters and 12 spells. I want you to imagine that you made Mehliu, and you are an employee at wizards charged to come up with a new DnD, and you bring them this. “So what have you added?” “Added? I REMOVED monsters and spells! I REMOVED THE HALFLING.” *pours gasonline over self and lights match* ‘THERE IS NOTHING. I HAVE SEEN INTO THE FATHOMLESS GULFS’ Wizards: *shocked silence*
THERE IS A MINIMUM OF INNOVATION IN THE TREASURE SECTION. Potion of Cat’s Grace, Potion of Fleeting Fissure, Swords which have some sort of bonus against some sort of foe. I grow weary and I must sleep. The End is coming. Run. Run from the
End. I grow weary and I must sleep for the End draws nigh. Books standard items renamed. Half of the magic rings replicate effects of the potions but do so permanently. There is a darkness coming that we will not see the end of in our lifetimes. Bag of Infinite Storage. Book of Chaos Magic. Thinly veiled ripoffs of items of yesteryear. Give. Me. Something.
You can drink your own piss this way.
Dwarven Mug. Once per day, when someone drinks a whole mug full of any liquid, it’ll taste like beer – the drink will satisfy thirst fully for that day
Wondrous items hurt less then usual. Only about 30% is just book-standard utterly reskinned, the rest is mostly obvious items with bonuses, with the odd little light bulb.
Portable Fence. This small roll of rope and wood is as small as a fist of an adult human. When one unwinds it, it turns into a 1-meter high fence able to protect a circular area with 10-meter radius. Any living creature larger than a mouse entering the protected area will trigger a loud sound, enough to awake everyone up to 20 meters from there.
Tiny, wholesome innovations in an ocean of desolate nothing. Senseless pantomime, unnecessary replacement. You wrote the equivalent of a new language and a manual on how to do so as a container for a few houserules and some decent magic items. Just give me 10 pages. Magic items. 1 page: Optional spellcasting rules. 1 page: Combat-like-a-boss. 1 page: Classes-like-a-boss. 1-page Dungeon-like-a-Boss.
I am going to flunk this and flunk this hard. This is a Fantasy Heartbreaker in its purest form. It has all the tropes, it has all the hallmarks, it has the little nugget quality of otherwise worthwhile content now buried in a landslide of bland imitation.
Skull of the Small Cyclops. The wielder may remove the skull’s winged eye and control
its movement with her mind, up to 10 meters per turn, up to 2d6 turns. While concentrating on the winged eye, she may command its movement and see through it – when the time is due or when it’s destroyed, the winged eye turns into dust and will regrow on the skull by the next sunrise. – If targeted, the winged eye has Armor Class 8 and 1 hit point.
I will give Mehliu credit on one thing and one thing alone. The wondrous item section is not bad. Some of the items are creative and reminiscent of old DnD, without lengthy embelishment, probably indicative of good, wholesome campaigning.
Do I go into the random dungeon generator that enables you to make your first dungeon using bandits, direwolves, skeletons and orcs? There’s procedures on hexcrawling…but it never goes beyond the surface. There’s dozens of articles and how to’s out there. This one doesn’t even surpass the one in 0e, or B/X. If it can’t even do that, then why is it in here at all? This one really needed to showcase Mr. Paschoalin’s unique insight into DnD and convince us that his system is the hero we needed, the fucking Enigma Cypher that allows us to finally crack the age old secret of the TRUE DnD, that we have only been grasping at blindly for all these years. Instead the advice is so rudimentary as to be useless, 3 minutes of googling can get you the same, of higher quality and infinitely more depth.
Some groups use something physical, as a particular die or a poker card (or even a blank business card with an X written over it) as a silent password: if someone touches that object, the Game Master will take over the narrative and cut the problem out. Later, if the player wants, she may talk about what happened, but this should never be forced on her
OH COME ON
Intro Adventure. TEMPLE OF THE FORGOTTEN GOD.
At this point I am barely holding on. My heartbeat is slowing down, the world is a grey mist. I hear the voices of my ancestors, calling to me. The intro adventure might still be good…
The adventure very barebones but good on you for making a dungeon using mostly bandits, direwolves, skeletons and orcs. Seamlessly woven into the Narrative. There is a temple of the Forgotten God somewhere and you must go in. Rumor table is of strangely high quality, standing out like a sore thumb, like R.Scott Bakker suddenly deciding to write Eragon fanfiction to the bafflement of all. 3 hours from the village is yon temple.
Random encounters. Skeleton. Wolf. Bandits. Goblins. Injured Wolf (like regular wolf, might give less XP).
Encounters proper are not terrible for a beginner dungeon, and most importantly aren’t long.
2.1 There’s a hidden pit there. Anyone trying to climb over the debris will activate the trapdoor under them and meet a 3-meter fall (1d6-1 damage; a successful Dexterity Saving Throw halves it).
2.2 Piles of debris and trash are all over the indicated spots. There is no immediate danger, but going through it is bothersome.
2.3 More debris and trash.
3 A red water fountain, 2-meter diameter, in the center of the room. Whoever drinks from it recovers 1 hit point (once per day, per person). If a sorcerer drinks from it, she’ll also nullify any penalties from casting spells she’s under, but the fountain will immediately dry (to renew again at the next sunrise).
Some concessions to flavor to remind us the premise exists. 8 rooms total, containing within its fractal geometry infinite random encounters worth of goblins and wolves. You can talk with the NPC, there’s some traps,
This room is lit by a curtain of light that splits the room in half. On the back, a creature made of shadows (treat it as a troll, page 160, but vulnerable to magic instead of fire) waits in silence. If questioned (before crossing the curtain of light), she will explain she was imprisoned by the old priests and she yearns to leave; she may offer a silver scythe (hidden in a stone plate on the wall behind her) as a reward.
If anyone crosses the curtain of light before agreeing with the exchange, the shadow will attack the party, as she believes they want to cause her harm.
If the shadow agrees to give them the scythe in exchange to her freedom, she won’t attack any party member and will leave the temple. It’s up to the Game Master whether that will cause problems later
A **, on the verge of vaguely acceptable, for Mehliu, an accomplishment.
Part of being a reviewer and accepting donations is you get to read and write about really fun creative shit that people made that is a contribution to this wonderful hobby and really showcases amazing talent. And then there is the other side. I considered quitting this many times but I made a commitment to take a look at it and offer what advice I may, and I forewarned, so this one is for my honor as a reviewer, and for the author of Mehliu: Blood ‘n Bone to learn and rethink. It evidently worked for Eric Diaz. I hope it works for you.
Mehliu has no right to exist as a commercial product. Its innovation is threadbare, it removes a lot of provably great content of the original game and offers LITTLE in return. The elf is more Fae, there’s more 5e in this B/X, there’s some wholesome magic items and a magic system that has been done before and done to death. Minor tinkering in the equipment section. The monster and spell sections, the one area where creators of retro-clones get to shine are left almost insultingly aenemic.
That is not enough for a whole new core system. This needs VISION. A POINT. SOMETHING FRESH. Combat is different, okay, WHY, WHAT DOES IT DO? If I go by the content in this book, it is inferior by the standards of the Dungeon Cyclopedia, let alone anything that has come out since.
This is clearly a labor of love, the result of lengthy home campaigns with cherished friends, dedicated to a beloved child. Please. Please just let it stay that way. Make a blog. Post Actual Play sessions. Make a little booklet with house rules and some items. Don’t waste all this effort.
I thought Dark Fantasy Basic Player Handbook was pretty bad and left most of its content open to GM interpretation which is essentially cheating but I think Mehliu is much much worse. There’s just nothing here to justify its length. *
 The lobotomized genderfluid participation award version of DnD
 There’s an optional rule for determining max nr. of followers, which is doubled if you construct a stronghold
17 thoughts on “[Review] Mehliu; Blood ‘n Bone (OSR); Audi Pater Salve Nos”
The rogue’s seeming lack of a left hand was the first thing to catch my eye.
If this is using Tolkienesque elf naming, I’m fairly sure that “e” does not belong.
I like the X-card as a symbol of mutual respect (caveat: I’ve never seen it actually invoked nor been in an argument it would’ve resolved). That description/explanation was bad, though.
Congratulations on making it all the way to the end. Your reward is nothing!
It’s amazing. Most of the cover looks pretty good, but the more you look at that rogue, the shittier she gets.
I think she was named after the french Cosmetics company.
Gaaaah. I hate it because of the infantilization implied in using such a measure. It panders to toxic outrage subculture and psychological research has repeatedly shown that anxiety disorders are best treated with exposure therapy or mindfulness, not by avoiding the source of anxiety. By using an X-card one is essentially preventing people with anxiety disorders (if genuine), which is a serious disorder that requires treatment not a normal personality trait that needs to be taken into account in a friendly game of make belief, from seeking help by indulging them in the worst way. It is a normalization of abnormal behavior, a band aid. For the infinitesimal minority that genuinely suffers from the appropriated term ‘triggers’ they should learn to communicate, not have a fucking emergency stop button in the form of a card with a sad smiley face sticker on it. In all honesty, I suggest it is a solution to a problem that is largely fictional, propagated by the currently culturally dominant woke-crowd mostly as a form of control.
Wait one second before I sound like neurotype-hitler. So in one of the very rare cases where you game with one of your buddies or maybe you rope your girlfriend into the game and he/she has some sort of anxiety disorder, it’s probably a good idea to make sure your game takes that into account, but as a GM you should already be figuring out what your players want and what ticks them off etc. etc.
Well that was a nice read … kinda.
[Blood and Bone]
Outrageous as it may be to ask this on a comments section of this specific game … but what are your thoughts on Blood and Bone by Arcana Games?
I knew I had seen that picture before and behold … it is on the merciless merchants blog site in the changin banner. Maybe I should keep quit then lest our merciless Overlord MAlrex punishes you and me for our transgression againt his artistic choices 😛
Though I think much of whats amiss in the picture is a case of a poor vieqpoint. The second leg of the rougue seems to blend in with some wooden pole or something.
And her left hand seems to make the army gesture for “stop” while her right hand seems strangely enlarged because of the way it blends into the rope of the bridge … It is a bit like one of those simulated stroke pictures you see wandering around the net sometimes…
I agree with booth of your comments about that card very mch 😉
I’ve seen the X-card used only two times. Both times the card succeeded in stoping the game and preventing whatever it was to happen so that the card activating player didn’t have to confront/interact with it. So power to that.
What followed both times was first a discussion about whatever it was that made the player choose to use the card, ironically confronting her/him with it probably more than if he/she hadn’t played the X card.
After that was done the topic of the talk then quickly changed to discuss if the use of the card was warranted … again putting the cardplayer in the spotlight.
In one case it quickly turned “hostile” as the rrest of the table didn’t think it was such a big deal and the card had effectively killed the game at that point (being a game on a convention and such).
In the other case all at the table agreed to simply resume gaming at which point the DM informed us, that the rest of the adventure would feature more of this stuff and he didn’t want to rewirte it on the fly … so there was that.
I’ve been wittier and faster, admittedly. It helps to have good subject material. A substandard imitation is no good to riff on. The urge to cut loose and rip and tear is overpowering, balanced with a gentlemanly sense of noblesse oblige and a desire to teach. I was torn about how much to cover when nearly all of it is just a retread of B/X with some 5e thrown in there and an outright refusal to break it up into multiple parts, which works better if a game is genuinely innovative. Something like Kreider’s the Watch or Kromore are obvious pieces of shit that have no right to exist but here it is difficult to pull the trigger, though pull it I must.
[Blood and Bone]
I’ve never checked it out. It looks pretty S&Sey.
HAHAHAHA. Oh fuck. The evils of public domain art. I think her legs fuse together into some sort of polypous five-toed foot, like that of Lovecraft’s Elder Things, and you have not explained the anomalous extra bone in her upper arm, which is cut off abruptly and changes into a spindle with a comically large hand clutching the railing in a death grip.
That’s pretty interesting. I would imagine the X-card is a tool more for conventions then private games, since most players and GMs should at least theoretically figure out what makes everyone tick, but those responses make sense. ‘Why are you stopping my game with your bullshit,’ is probably the first automatic thought that pops up.
I view it like this. As soon as you start a game, you have basically signed an implicit waiver that you and the others will attempt to have fun for an evening. Players control their characters, the GM controls the world. If something happens that makes you uncomfortable you talk about that after the session, or if it is so terrible you simply cannot continue you bring it up immediately, like an adult, but of course that is going to garner some resentment since it is very disruptive if other people are enjoying it and you are essentially forcing the GM to alter his style and campaigning because YOU have a problem dealing with that. I dunno, all these wacky tools, it feels childlike almost. Why not make it a muppet with bad topics printed on it that you can point to so people can figure out what exactly your problem is? Mr. Trigger the Tigger?
To my eyes, the rogue’s left arm looks more like it ends in a stump than in a closed hand. The greater offender after some attention is her boob seems stuck in an invisible tube, plus whatever’s going on her legs. It’s like Prince said, the rest looks good enough that her relative awfulness stands out even more.
In my imagined use of it, I think discussing if it was warranted is dumb (assuming it’s not a serial X’er in a dedicated group). The X’er felt moved enough to interrupt the game, so it’s self-evident someone felt it was needed. Hash out what the problem was (if it wasn’t obvious) and find a way to move on.
I’d agree it’s more valuable in conventions or with new players than with a dedicated group that’s been playing together, but unexpected problems can come up with people you’ve known for a while, too. One of my closest friends needed some time before overhearing me talk in my second language wouldn’t make her queasy, which I had no idea about because I’d only use it when I was conversing with someone else and so didn’t have my attention on that friend. Obviously, she didn’t feel so threatened by it for that to be a persistent problem, but it’s just an example that legitimate trauma can implant pretty innocuous trigger conditions.
Other safety tools like “lines and veils” or pause/fastforward/rewind feel too much like they’re formalizing what should be an open conversation, and I’d worry more about people using them in bad faith to avoid responsibility for being a dick. I think the X-card is enough to cover what those would do with minimal overhead.
As Prince said, its actual use doesn’t do anything that couldn’t be done without it, and it’s not a excuse for not being a considerate person. To rephrase my misplaced reply, the most useful part of it is being a reminder of the implicit agreements of playing together (that the players don’t want to upset each other personally and that it’s acceptable to interrupt and resolve if that happens by accident). I think there’s enough of a difference between “we all agree to this” and “this symbol shows we all agree to this” to warrant it, but I’m not put off about playing in games without an X-card.
I think the key difference is that you assume it is created in good faith at all and meant to be a tool to solve a legitimate problem whereas I assume it is made in bad faith for ideological reasons by people with a skewed grasp on reality. I think it is possible to have the former opinion honestly but I would point to a random section of DnD Twitter to underline the latter. Convince me the problem is not analogous to suggesting that all players wear diapers so incontinent DnD players do not feel uncomfortable when they lose control of their bowels so DnD can be made more inclusive. I can find more ridiculous examples if you somehow find that a reasonable request, they are all analogous and can be defended on the same grounds, using the same arguments.
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I’d agree that its inception was likely for ideological/political/etc. reasons. I don’t see that history as any more of an issue than using medical advances based on Nazi doctors’/scientists’ research, and I think it has value as a symbol even when it doesn’t really do anything that normal conversation can’t accomplish.
You have effectively summed up the practical problem with the X-card – it signals loud and clear that This Game Is Unsafe and there is a Problem here, which means Play must be Stopped by a person who may be sitting there fighting a legitimate flashback and now has to explain why they’re bloody doing it.
A better route (one I have been using for years, which I hope will become more popular now it’s been in a couple of indie darlings) is simply “normalise the time out.” One hand signal stops play for any reason: clarify the marching order, go for a piss, have a panic attack under the map table, WHATEVER. There is no special Trauma Signal and so the pressure of having to defend your bad brain time from neurotypical Hitler and his “why you stop my game FOOL” is absent.
But Prince is also right in that play among strangers on a casualised basis is the new normal, what with all these Roll20 group ads and student-pub D&D nights. In a group who may never have met before they play an RPG with each other, there is more risk that someone’s weird and specific trigger is unknown to the group at large. I of course am old and play more casual, less immersive games with people and get to know them before breaking out a well-thumbed copy of Montreal By Night, but I gather this isn’t usual any more.
TL;DR – when you play with strangers some quick-stop button is probably essential but if you make it Just For Trauma it won’t work as intended.
[Blood and Bone]
You should check it out then. It’s not the most innovative system there is … but what it sets out to do I think it succeeds. It may check some of xour boxes regarding worldbuilding and new systems that help differentiate it from the rest.
There are a few mechanical mishaps in there too 🙂 The NPCs as witten are hell to fight as they are all quite overpowered … learned that the hard way with a group I played with once.
I agree with basically everything that’s been said about the X-Card here .. which makes it kinda hard to argue or add something. Many well thought out points here 🙂
I accept that the card can have its uses and I applaud everyone who uses it as intended to protect his players and such.
But all too often it is used as simple “virtue signaling” telling a certain kind of people how woke this game is.
It implies danger and then immediately offers a safe haven from said danger.
“This game is soo woke and hip you might get flashbacks, It is not for the faint of heart … but fear not little one, the X-Card is here to protect you.”
That’s also ok in my book .. each one can play what they want but it kinda hints at a deeper problem.
In my opinion the X-Card is too often a tool for people to shift the responsiblity for their actions (fictional and real) away from themselves.
“I can be an asshole here because if i overdo it the X-Card will save me…”, so to speak.
Or the “victims” use it to rob themselves of any agency in their own fate … Without an X-Card (or something like it) you either go down in such situations (which is terrible, no question, but that”s life for you) or you have to stand up (at least somewhat) to the situation or other people … and I’m with Prince on this, that this is one of the best ways for people with real mental problems to grow and “heal”. Confrontation, not hiding.
Also as a last point:
Most games that include the X-Card in their rules aren’t that bad in my opinion. Sure there might be a uncomfortable situation or two … but mostly these games strike me is kinda harmless … compared to other stuff in the scene.
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[Reward is nothing]
That’s most of life 😉
Right, I don’t see it as a substitute for actual necessary treatment. My stance is about it being an externalized way of acknowledging (a) we’re playing in a good faith effort to have fun and (b) a channel exists to speak out if someone crosses a boundary inadvertently. I find value in its existence, but again, I’ve never seen it be invoked, so no comment on how it works in actual use.
Can be useful if you’re masterig for people you’ve never seen before… ?
I prefer to open the session asking “does anybody feel uncomfortable about cannibalism, maiming, ritual sacrifice o stuff like that? No? Here we go!”
But, as a player, if I was at the table with a bunch of dudes never seen before and one of them (or the DM) brought out something really nasty (like, well… child abuse, that’s the only thing I really could not stand) hell yes, I would put my finger on the Xcard. Or give them the finger and step away (choice depending on quality of snacks on the table)
See, you’ve also solved the problem in an adult responsible way and you didn’t need the muppet to do it! As a player, I can theoretically imagine some sort of sicko scenario where the GM gets into something like you just described and there is no justifiable reason for it and he is just getting off but even then the implication with an X-card is that this happens so often that a specified tool is required to make this easier. Unless you play with guys like Adam Koebel or something.
[guys like Adam Koebel or something]
Dunno who you’re talking about but I can guarantee you there’s really baaad people out there. Fortunately they most play narrative stuff from White Dwarf (I mean no offence to anybody reading on this blog of course) so not my problem
I think you mean White Wolf.
Sure. White Dwarf must be something from I was in my prime, alas!
To hell with the lot of you…I dig the art. For this cover, it got flipped and the tower in the distance cut off…The mists from the chasm of course is going to hide the leg of the rogue and obviously her right hand (but left hand when not flipped) is the Gauntlet of the Titan’s Fist–a legendary magic item that increases the mass and size of your hand so that you can punch through walls and enemies. Thought everyone would know bout that…sheesh. Dean Spencer does great art in my opinion.
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