Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Time of Ancient Gods

So I've solidified my idea regarding the playtest setting for my Tankards and Broadswords RPG. I want to use a "Mythic/Heroic Greek Era" setting based strongly on the more fantastical aspects of Greek Mythology.

Now, have no fears that this setting will be, in any way, historically accurate in the sense that you could pin it down on a real-world timeline. In my mind, a "mythic" setting like this, while set technically in the real world, is apart from our normal historical timeframe and therefore, in many ways, "floats" along the timeline.

In many ways, this is something I actually liked a lot about the Hercules and Xena TV series'. Over the course of all seasons, you see everyone from Jason (of Argonauts fame) and Odysseus right up through Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Now, excluding "mythic" people like Jason (or Hercules himself), you're still talking a 1,200 year plus timeline between the fall of Troy and the fall of the Roman Republic.

But the folks at Renaissance Pictures didn't really care, and I don't really either. It's kind of silly to ask "where do you historically place Hercules?" when he's an entirely fictitious character in the first place. The idea was to have the main characters interact with all sorts of people and places throughout the ancient world, so that's what happened. If you want to argue historical accuracy...did you not watch the trailers for these shows? Gods, monsters, magic, giants...some how this is all okay, but having Xena meet both Cleopatra and Odysseus is a deal breaker?

Moving on, a few thoughts I have for the playtest campaign materials...

- Warriors, Rogues, and Scholars work as normal. Warriors are going to be pretty self-explanatory, and Rogues will also be pretty doable (although with probably a lot less lock-picking). Scholars will typically be magicians and priests, although a Scholar who doesn't use magic is perfectly doable as an herbalist healer or academically-inclined explorer.

- Armor will probably be confined to Light and Medium weights. Light armor will probably be some kind of linothorax or cured leather body armor, while Medium armor will be your classic Hoplite-style bronze back-and-breast, greaves, helmet, and armored leather loin-guard. I considered a Dendra Panoply style heavy armor, but in my mind that goes against the "Heroic" feel of the setting. Shields will of course be ubiquitous - almost every warrior who can use one, will have one.

- Weapons will be kept simple. Bow, Club (a big heavy bronze-bound "Hercules club" type weapon, not a simple cudgel), Dagger, Javelin, Sling, Spear, Staff, Sword. If players really want to incorporate another weapon we can work it out (perhaps a trident or an axe), but by and large these should take care of things.

- For half a character's starting Character Tokens, a character can be the child of one of the major Olympian gods. The bonuses will be, in total, greater than the cost of the bonuses if purchased on their own, packaged together based on the god or goddess in question. I probably won't do up a package for each deity, but could create them on request.

- I will keep magic fairly simple. A spell list for each of the four elements, one for divination, one for necromancy, one each for healing, weather, plants, and animals. I might come up with one or two more, but for the most part it will be a much more limited selection than what would be a stock fantasy roster of spell lists.

- A collection of Mythic Greek monsters. I already have a few similar creatures in my Monsters & Minions catalog, so porting them over will be easy. However, a number of classic monsters still need to be statted up.

So much to do, so little time to work on it all...


Dagda said...

Ever read Iron Dawn? A great bronze age swords & sorcery novel, following a party of three mercenaries in the mediterranean. Very relevant, I imagine.

Cimmerian said...

I really dig this era myself and have often thought of taking a similar route. It surprises me that with so much popular culture devoted to this time period that there is not a prominent RPG for it. The pantheon's alone make it a rich setting idea. Good luck with this!