Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mythic Greece: Combat Styles

Thinking about RuneQuest 6 combat styles right now. Here are my disorganizedthoughts on which ones should be included in my RQ6 Mythic Greece campaign.

Achaean Combat: This is the cultural style for all Achaean warrior-aristocrats, involving swords, spears, and shields. It emphasizes one-on-one combat, not formation fighting. It emphasizes force over elegance.

Chariot Combat: An obvious one. Chariots were used to carry heroes into combat, who would jump off and join the battle, run up along the chariot-pole and fight from there, fling javelins into battle, or use a two-handed spear or lance to "joust". The two-handed spear, shield, one-handed spear, and javelins are the most typical weapons for this style.

Mounted Combat: For Amazons, Scythians, and other horse-riding barbarians. Horse-bows and lances, plus shields.

Siege Warfare: Many heroes are "sackers of cities", so they would be skilled in this type of combat. However, fer complicated siege engines would be involved here, mostly ladders, rams, etc. Since it's at such an early stage, though, maybe there should be a cap on this skill?

Skirmishing: This seems appropriate, especially for any hero described as "swift-footed" (e.g., Achilles, Atalanta, etc.) The Amazons and Scythians are mounted skirmishers.

Unarmed Prowess: Should probably be divided into "Boxing" and "Wrestling". Boxers could use the cestus, a type of boxing glove consisting of leather straps wrapped around the hands for protection. The spiked version included what is essentially a pair of spiked "brass knuckles".

Other Combat Styles
Achaean Hunting Style
Berserker (Ajax the Greater)
Excellent Footwork (no specific reference, but it seems appropriate)
Intimidating Scream (Diomedes was "Master of the War Cry")
Spear Combat (Diomedes was noted as a "great spearman", Menelaus was "Spear-Famed)
Archery (Odysseus, Paris, Teucer)
Shield Wall a nd Formation Fighting: mostly civilized nations, like the Trojans.

Note that there's no shipboard fighting style. This is because the Achaeans don't seem to fight while at sea; they land there ships, jump out, and fight on land.

I also recall a scene where Achilles uses his shield as a weapon. Not sure if this should be a separate style or not.

Thoughts and comments are welcome, as usual.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Mythic Greece: Heroic Abilities

It seems to me that heroic abilities in Greek myth (Heracles' phenomenal strength and perseverance, Achilles' invulnerability, the ability of various characters to understand the speech of snakes and birds and bees, fly with cute little ankle-wings, great running speed, etc) should not require magic points or devotional pools to work; they are divine in origin, but they don't have to be activated. Also, the Greek gods are typically depicted as being able to give a divine gift, but not being able to take that gift away; to me, this says that a hero doesn't need divine approval to use his gift. If the hero does something that displeases the god, the god can put a condition on that gift (Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo; however, when she spurned his advances, he gave her another "gift" that nobody would ever believe her prophecies.) Miracles, of course, are probably subject to divine approval, and the gods themselves manifest in some way when those are cast.

Here are some gifts that might be given to the children or favorites of the gods; it is not complete by any means. Some of them are actually from mythic heroes; others are some that seem right to me. How they translate into game terms remains to be seen.

“Godlike” strength, vigor, beauty, speed, etc.
"Impenetrable" skin, like Achilles
Acute hearing and sight
Ability to talk to/understand  horses, bears, bees, dolphins, etc.
Ability to move over water, snow, unstable surfaces without hindrance
Flight (usually winged, like Calais and Zetes)
Move and/or see underwater without hindrance
Breathe underwater
Ability to dodge or parry anything, even things that cannot normally be dodged or parried
Immunity to fire, poison, other harmful substances
Regaining your “strength” when you touch the ground (like Antaeus)
Having a terrifying or awe-inspiring presence
Never fail at a particular skill
Predict weather/tell when storms are coming
Berserker rage
Heroic Inspiration (inspiring confidence in others)
Immortality (self-resurrection)
Something like the old Multimissile
Like the above, but with melee attacks, unarmed blows, etc.
Stunning Glance (paralyze with a look(
The Evil Eye (put a curse on someone)
“Earthquake stomp”
Tactical insight
Defensive Insight
Berserker Rage

Mythic Greece: Weapons and Armor

I'm using various published game sources, such as Aaron Allston's excellent Mythic Greece, as shortcuts to get this game up and running. It was originally published as a supplement for Hero Games' Fantasy Hero system, as well as ICE's Rolemaster. As such, it has hit locations (though not necessarily the same as RQ6), so it gives me a place to start with the armor. I trust Aaron's research here, at least for game purposes, but I'll probably have to do some thinking about how this all fits together for RQ purposes; for instances, IIRC, there are no rules in RQ6 for overlapping armor. All metal is bronze, BTW.

Wealthy or Powerful Achaeans:
A helmet, either leather with bronze knobs, leather with a layer of boar-tusks, or a bronze helm.
Coat of mail
Leather codpiece (like an athletic cup, I suppose)
Breastplate and greaves (greaves might be linen, to help protect the shins from bruising when carrying a tower shield)
Belt, leather, may be worn over the coat of mail
Buckler or Tower shield
Sword and long spear.

Good Achaean Troops:
Linen greaves
Tower shield

Lesser Achaean Troops:
Helm or leather skullcap
Buckler with either a boar spear or sword

"Peon" Achaean Troops:
No armor
Sling or bow, usually a short bow.

Charioteers sometimes wore a suit of articulated bronze plate, known to us as the Dendra Panoply.
Clubs were often used; Heracles had a massive, bronze-headed one.
Short spears were often used as javelins. Really strong heroes might use long spears as javelins.
It was not uncommon for great heroes to rip up a boulder and use it as a missile, or to pummel somebody with.
Boxing gloves were strips of rawhide wrapped around the boxer's fist. The cestus was a variation of this, with something like brass knuckles with spikes thrown in.

Helmet, usually reinforced leather.
Body armor, made of tanned beast hide (lion, boar, etc. for wealthy amazons, goat for poor ones).
Girdle: leather, which may be worn over the body armor
Amazon Shield, a small, crescent-shaped shield, equivalent to a target shield.

Designing A Mythic Greece Campaign in RQ6

RuneQuest 6th Edition has come out, and it's stunning. I've been playing RQ since it came out in the 70s, and have been in a RQ3 campaign for about 20 years now. This edition is very different from that;  not only does this make no direct references to Glorantha, but it is designed to be customizable to fit your fantasy world the way you want it. The best example of this is the magic system(s). I Glorantha, everybody has access to some magic; in RQ6, this is not the default assumption. Take a look at some of the reviews in the link above if you want to know what other people think about it; I'm going to be designing a RQ6 campaign based on Greek myth. Though I'm assuming you have a copy of the rules, comments and questions are welcome even if you don;t have it. I have a thread going over at the Design Mechanism forums.

I figure that the best way to learn the rules is to jump right in and start designing some characters. OK, that's pretty straightforward, and the designers do a great job of walking you through it. After the basic character generation steps that everybody has to go through,  get a grasp of the RuneQuest rules. Any input would be very helpful, as I'm having a hard time absorbing the details of the system. I have a few campaign books from other games to assist me, as well as several shelves of books on Greek mythology and culture, but translating that into a playable setting is a Herculean labor. 

Here are a few observations just off the top of my head: 
1) Culture: Though we're accustomed to thinking of the Greeks as civilized, Homer's Achaeans act a lot more like Barbarians. The standard Barbarian cultural skills* describe the Homeric heroes much more than the standard Civilized skills (which would be more appropriate to Classical-era Greece, specifically Athens). Egypt, the Hittites, the Minoans, Colchis, and the Trojans would be better candidates for Civilized cultures. (I'm skipping over the Combat Styles for the moment).

Standard Skills: Athletics, Brawn, Endurance, First Aid, Locale, Perception; and either Boating or Ride.
   Professional Skills: Craft (any), Healing, Lore (any), Musicianship, Navigate, Seamanship, Survival, Track.

2) Careers: Most of the Barbarian Careers except for Mystic and Shaman; Priest is fairly common, and Sorcerer is rare (and is usually open to women only). Add Farmers and Alchemists to the Career list. 

2) Magic: Magic Points do not come from the Self; they must be replenished from sacrifice, magical locations, veneration of the gods, etc. Folk Magic exists, but it is not ubiquitous; it can be obtained from hedge wizards, wise women, and other types on the fringes of society. Priests of the Olympian gods may offer a few spells. No spells are associated with non-magical professions. 

3) Animism is not practiced by Greeks; it is practiced by Scythians, the proto-Celts, and other barbarian types. 

4) Mysticism is not practiced by the Greeks. Egyptians have some Mystic cults. "India" and "China" practice Mysticism, but they are on the far edges of the world. 

5) Sorcery is practiced mostly by solitary women of divine ancestry, such as Calypso, Circe, and Medea. 

6) Theism: The Olympians and their associated gods are worshiped, and provide miracles to their priests and priestesses. Many gods have subcults that provide different miracles to their priests and priestesses. Lower ranks may learn folk magic related to the gods at their basic Folk Magic percentile. The default Rune system is not used, but the gods all have one or more specialties that might perform the same function as a rune. Note: Demigods and heroes who have divine blood do not have to be priests (or even cult members!) to receive a Divine Gift. These gifts usually function automatically, and do not require magic points or other costs. (Note: I need to work out some kind of process by which a character can opt to be a demigod during character creation, how many Divine Gifts, etc.) 

That's what I've got so far. Please share your thoughts on running a Greek campaign, even if you don't know the RQ6 rules.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dungeon Dozen

The Dungeon Dozen:

'via Blog this'

This is a blog made up almost entirely of tables for various situations in role-playing games. If you need a table for why fighters chose to become fighters, or why there is an underworld, or interesting items in an ogre-king's hoard, this is the place to go.  You might be able to put together a great sandbox campaign just based on these tables! For those that [pun alert] roll that way,  this is a truly fantastic resource.

Friday, April 13, 2012

When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do: Invade Britain!

From time to time I flirt with the idea of running a game set in Roman times. There are a number of RPG supplements that cover this period of history, such as GURPS Imperial Rome, Mythic Vistas: Eternal Rome, The Glory of Rome for 2nd edition AD&D, Roma Imperious, and Chaosium's Rome and Cthulhu Invictus, just to name the ones I own. This is one of my favorite periods of history, but it can be pretty intimidating to run or play in because of the historical and geographical scope of the subject matter.

Zozer Games' 43 AD by Paul (Mithras) Elliott, may be a solution to that dilemma. The eponymous date is, of course, when Roman legions invaded Britain. It's ideal as a Roman campaign setting for many reasons, but the main advantage is that it provides a compact yet diverse background that can justify many types of adventures. Though player characters are most likely to play Roman legionnaires, they are not identical tin soldiers; they come from diverse backgrounds and have different personalities and capabilities. Besides fighting woad-stained tribesmen, characters engage in exploration, espionage, diplomacy, and investigations, among other exploits.

There is an abundance of reference material for the players and GM alike, so that Roman PCs and Celtic NPCs can be played with ease. A timeline of the Invasion covers the first battles in 43 AD to the rebellion of the Northern tribes the late second and early third centures AD. Though included as a resource, the GM does not need to feel constrained by it. Elliott suggests that "The whole point of roleplaying within a historical setting such as this, is to answer those 'what ifs' as well as give players the thrill of participating in historical events. A writer of historical fiction must conform to the historical record, but the GM and players have no such limitation." In other words, if the players make a major alteration to history (such as helping Boudicca win), it's   a chance to explore an alternate history. Carpe diem!

As in Elliott's other historically-based games (many of them freely available on the Zozer website), the supernatural is not neglected.  Both the Romans and the Celts used magic, so spells and rituals are included in the rules-light system. The gods and religions of both peoples are discussed in some detail.  Horror is not neglected either, with opponents such as Black Druids, Skinchangers, the Flayed Man, the Headless Killer, Fomorians, the undead Cauldron-Born, Face Feeders, and individuals such as Longinus (the Undead Centurion, the one who was present at Jesus' crucifixion), Scathach the Witch, and the Old Crone of Aberros. This distinguishes it from such works as Chaosium's Roman setting for Call of Cthulhu (Cthulhu Invictus), and replaces it with a very eerie, unique Celtic otherworld.

The game system, derived from the one Elliott used in his previous game Zenobia, is light and flexible. Character Creation covers Attributes (Might, Hits, Fate, Craft, and Learning), Cultural Origin, Character Type (such as Coward, Old Veteran, Thinker, Callous Survivor, Killer, etc.), Social Class, Events that led you to become a Legionnaire, Allies & Enemies, Background Details, and Wealth & Equipment. As befits a game depicting the exploits of Roman legionnaires, the combat system packs a lot of punch.

I really like this game, but I must admit that I will probably use Risus to run it, since I rarely run any other game system these days; I even took a stab at my own Roman/Celtic Risus setting many years ago.  There's a lot that I can use without any alteration, and much of the rest is easily adaptible. Though I've seen comparable sourcebooks for ancient Rome, there is also enough information to run Celtic adventures as well, including Celtic horror (which is alien in its own way).  Fans of Rome, the Celts, military action, and horror would mst likely find a lt they can use, no matter what campaign they want to run.  At $19.99 for a PDF, I think I got my money's worth.

'via Blog this'

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Random Thoughts: Time Travel

If time travel to the future is possible, this brings up a couple of questions. (Actually, it brings up a potentially infinite number of questions, but you know what I mean...)

1) If only one future can exist at a time, it will be virtually impossible to travel to that exact same future more than once. This is because, when you return, decisions are made and events occur that will have an impact on that future.
ex: The year 3000, which you traveled to from early 1998, never had a Sarah Palin candidacy in its history because she hadn't been chosen as a Vice Presidential candidate at that point. Later on, in September 2008, the year 3000 not only had Sarah Palin as VP in its history, but she went on to become President when John McCain died in office.  Your next trip to 3000 AD didn't take place until March 2012, in which you learn that Barack Obama was defeated in the November Elections by... Donald Trump???

2) If alternate futures can coexist, it is possible that travellers from alternate realities can come back to the present to either make sure their reality comes to exist/ceases to exist. Perhaps the travelers are alternate versions of each other... or the player character's children... or the player character himself...
ex: Bob Smith is destined to have a son who will invent a way to destroy the world. He is visited by the following time travellers:

  • His grandson, John Smith, who wants to kill Bob Smith  to keep Bob's son from inventing the device that will destroy the world.
  • His grandson, John Smith, who wants to make sure that Bob's son invents the device that will destroy the world, to use as a threat against the aliens who take over the earth in his own time
  • His grandson, John Smith, who wants to make sure that Bob's Son invents the technology that can be used to destroy the world... or reverse the decades of environmental damage that have almost exterminated the human race.
  • His grandson, John Smith, who wants to make sure that Bob's son is really a daughter, who will solve all the social and economic problems of the world.
  • His granddaughter, who wants to make sure that Bob never has a daughter, because she will become a dictator who will enslave mankind.
Tempus fugit!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Risus: HERESY!

I have a confession to make. I have never played Paranoia.

Ok, that's not quite right. I played in one session of Paranoia, and it didn't go well. I had a blast, but some of the other players really did not, so the campaign never took off. Twenty years passed.

I own the Second Edition rules, and some of the adventures, but I never actually worked my way through the rules to the point where I wanted to actually run a game. But I had an idea a few years ago: a Paranoia-type campaign set in a fantasy world. Instead of the Computer, you have The Oracle; instead of Alpha Complex, The Temple (rather like a megadungeon). The players are Inquisitors instead of Troubleshooters; they may belong to Heresies instead of secret societies, or they might secretly be demons instead of unregistered mutants. A dead Inquisitor is replaced by a simulacrum instead of a clone.  Automatons take the place of robots. Instead of technological assistance, they have amulets, talismans, relics, holy symbols, prayerbooks, etc. -- though they might be cursed, or inappropriate for the current mission, or both.

That's all for now.