Myth & NoMyth - what are the origins?

Does anyone remember where the terms ‘Myth’ or ‘Full Myth’ and ‘No Myth’ come from?
Where were they mentioned first?
Do you have links I can follow?

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Never mind. Got it.
The term was coined by Alan “Fang” Langford circa 2003, on The Forge.

I also found out that he recently passed away.
In September '21, at the age of 55 :cry:

Sad to hear.

Did it already mean the same thing as in the SG discourse around 2018?

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I’m not sure. I guess?
My touchstone is this source ( LINK ) which basicly says what I remember it meant for me.
Is the meaning the same as what you refer to?

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Yes, it feels the same. To be precise, it is very difficult to say, because I have always found this ‘myth’ terminology vague and muddy, so I just read and did not participate fully in those discussions. Maybe @Paul_T or Sandra remembers them better.

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The archives are full of dust now. Let me see…

“Half-myth” (why Burning Wheel is a no myth game)


June 3 in Story Games

So a “no myth” game was originally defined as a game where the game state wasn’t fixed until it entered the shared imagined space.

That means that “no myth” is a property of the ontology of the game. Something exists if it’s put into play and doesn’t exist if it hasn’t. (“Put into play” can also include things like “OK, before we start, I want to say that this game is about Darth Vader in a shopping mall speaking french so those three things definitely exist”.)

The GM in a no-myth game can think “I really want to put this blue chair into play, I’m gonna do it to the first normally furnished room the players enter, I feel such a strong attachment to this particular quantum blue chair. It’s gonna get in for sure. Oh blue chair my favorite” The fact that the GM is really into this blue chair does not make the blue chair half myth or the ontological state of the game “half myth”.

This means, logically, that the phrase “half myth” can’t meaningfully be defined as “some specific offscreen entities are canon, some are not”. Because that’s already what “no myth” means.

Instead, for a meaningful definition of “half myth”, how about: “some categories of offscreen entities are canon, some are not.”

“Hi guys, I’ll run everything in Duckburg fully prepped, but things over in Gooseburg is more ‘no myth’.”

“Hi guys, everything related to combat is improvised and ran ‘no myth’, I’ll just throw orcs atcha according to my own whim, but I have prepped all the entities and rules regarding the big fashion show in Veluna because I know that that’s the aspect of play that we’re the most invested in. Clothes, designers, audience reactions—all accounted for & implemented. Only with a steady whimsical stream of orc with murderous intent.”

What does this mean for Burning Wheel? It’s more of a no-myth game innit? There is no category of entities in the game that can be consistently expected to be solid.

There’s more after that but maybe it’s best to leave the spiders alone.

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This is a good question, and somewhat historical now.

During the development of the Big Model, people started taking apart ideas like “what we know about Setting”, and finding new ways to interact with information at the table.

This led to some people talking about “No Myth” play - where we have the ability to create everything from scratch. This can be handy, especially for “pick up” games and certain types of designs.

“Myth” wasn’t really a thing, in comparison; it wasn’t really like “two categories”.

The quotes from those Story Games discussions are people trying to create a dichotomy from this, which I don’t feel is really terribly productive.


Thanks for the archival magic :smiley:
I’m writing a paper about RPGs and mythology (according to various philosophers) and remembered this “Myth / NoMyth” thing, and needed a reference.

To me the two categories make sense, but I wouldn’t describe them as an actual dichotomy.
In my view, most RPG texts include a bit of both structures, with any “label” indicating a general tendency, a general positioning of the text within spectrum.
For example AW presents a few Myth elements, in the form of the fixed elements of its worldbuilding: about 50 years ago there was an apocalypse, by now almost no one alive actually lived through it, everything is scarce except bullets and fuel, etc.
But then the rest of the text has a NoMyth structure, leaving ample empty space that play activity will, through various techniques, fill when needed.
D&D could be described more or less in the opposite way, with a ton of pre-set content (Myth) and only some rougly undefined but certainly present possibility to expand it as needed during active (a very rudimentary, unwieldy and problematic NoMyth structure, but one nonetheless).

I don’t know. Like this, it makes sense to me, and feels actually useful for game design.
How much pre-cooked material does the game text offer?
How much do the game structures rely on pre-defined material? (maybe in the form of GM prep-work)
Are there tools and structures to support and/or manage the creation of “myth” through active play?

Would this be a correct usage of the terms?


That seems pretty good to me!

Note, though, that the extreme case is also possible. A total “No Myth” game would be something like Universalis, for instance. We could play one right now, if I write a sentence, and then you write the next sentence, and so on.

There is another way to take this terminology, though. I don’t know if it was used this way at the Forge or not.

It’s the question of whether the game and/or group conceive of a Myth existing or not. No matter what we know now, what assumption do we bring to the table?

Is this an activity where we are free to invent material, and change it? Or are we considering that there is some idealized ‘source material’ which we must be faithful to?

In practice, probably nothing that we would recognize as a total RPG would be really, truly “full Myth”, but I think the idea that the group might imagine that there is one, and try to maintain that idea as they play, has a place in RPG theory.

This might be the case in a Middle Earth game full of Tolkien buffs, or a game set in a historical Earth setting, for example. We might not know who the Duke is in 1476, but we know that we might be able to look it up, and, if so, that’s the “right” answer.

A group could have a commitment to some material like that.


I agree and consider that to be a form of Full Myth. You are using pre-existing source material you all know exists prior to the game. And are doing so in a quite explicit and agreed upon way.

One might try to split the hair on the definition looking into finer details, like, sure there is a specific Duke in 1476, but no source tells us what they are like, what they do, how and why they do it. So everything we produce in that regard could be a NoMyth improvisation surrounding the FullMyth core.

And on the other end, the fact that we know we are playing a horror game, and thus have personal expectations on what to describe and how (through the mediation of game rules) is already considered as FullMyth structure?

But I don’t find these distinctions particularly useful or interesting, except for it reinforcing the notion that the FullMyth-NoMyth is a spectrum of non-exclusive structures that can, singularly or as a group, be toyed with :slight_smile:

I have a different question though: we are pretty much talking about “background information”, so why call it “myth”?
Why is the terminology “Myth of Reality”?
Does it have, for some acception of the term, mythological characteristics?


I found the answer here. Man, is it difficult to search a forum without access to its internal search function! >_<

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Thanks for the link!
I agree the whole question benefits hugely from being extended. world? dramatic structure? genre? characters? etc. To me it’s basically what do we explore and what is fixed. We need the constraints as starting points and horizons, but we also need to know where are the creative, expressive spaces, where’s play at.
(My idea is that it can be nice to discover new holes, or new walls, but looking for them, always, is tiring, and simply not how people usually enjoy playing)