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.