Thursday, February 24, 2011

A 4th Edition Campaign based on Greek Mythology

I talked about this once before here. This is pretty much a straight dump of my outline for the campaign that I wrote up last fall.  I planned and ran (briefly) a game like this using Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved back during one of our 3E D&D breaks and my players did not go for it. I think I could have changed the rules or the setting but I probably should not have done both at the same time with a game system so close to 3E D&D.  Lesson learned, I'm going to try it with 4th edition as its own thing. Some form of this campaign would work using anything from GURPS to Savage Worlds but using 4E lets me cover two bases at once and keep some current system synergies up and going. I also do know about Mazes and Minotaurs but it's not really what I'm aiming at for this game, though I may steal some things from it. 

One of the interesting things about this kind of game as I was making my notes is that it's really more defined by what you cut out. Much of the flavoring comes from the removal of some standards and the pushing to the fore of some not-previously-spotlighted elements of the game - like minotaurs.

The Achaean League Campaign

4E D&D with a Greek Mythological Flavor
  • Races
    • Humans are most common race in the league
    • Minotaurs rule the Fortress Island of Crete and do trade and are sort of friendly with the Achaens (think Klingons in later generation Trek) 
    • Eladrin are strange and exotic beings of the woodlands (really nature spirits) and the feywild that do not spend time in the cities but are not hostile and have their own society apart from humanity
    • Gnomes are semi-magical beings who live in the woodlands away from most large settlements
    • Wilden are creatures of the wild places & the Feywild and tend to be solitary
    • Some races do not exist in this world: Half Elves, Half Orcs, Goliaths, Devas, Tieflings Halflings, Elves, Genasi, Drow

  • Affects power sources
o Martial is most common
§         Fighters, Warlords are common
§         Rangers, Rogues uncommon

o Divine is next most common
§         Clerics are common
§         Paladins dedicated to one god also common
§         Avengers, Invokers are uncommon and feared as everyone knows what they are - agents of divine wrath

o Arcane is least common
§         Wizards are the “normal” arcane type in Achaea, often thought of as learned scholars more than combat types – not a standard part of an army
§         Warlocks uncommon, regarded with some suspicion
§         Sorcerers uncommon, not widely known as a “type”
§         Swordmages more common among Minotaurs than anything else

o Primal (barbarians, druids, wardens, shaman) is not found in Civilized Achaea - Primal will be "unlocked" if the players end up traveling north into Europe and encountering the barbarian tribes, dwaves, elves, dark elves, and giants that dominate those lands. The Norse gods will probably come into play there as well. This might make a good path for Paragon Tier.

o Psionic (Ardent, Battlemind, Monk, Psion) is not found in Civilized Achaea - Psionic is down with the Egyptian culture to the south and will be discovered with the exploration of that area. Devas and Shifters (favored of Bast?) seem like appropriate races to feature here along with Shardminds and maybe half-orcs. Stuff from Dark Sun might work in here as well if it ever comes up. 

(Go far enough East and maybe Tieflings run Babylon? Dragonborn run Atlantis to the West? Genasi dwell in Hyperborea far to the north?)

  • Affects monsters – no orcs or frost giants, lots of giant/dire animals, human opponents, spawn of classic greek beasties like Hydras and Harpies and of course Undead. Centaurs, Satyrs, Dryads and the like wander the countryside and forests and are not always friendly.  

  • Affects Deities
    • Zeus - Storm Warpriests
    • Apollo - Sun Warpriests
    • Artemis - Maybe a few longtooth shifters are "Favored of Artemis"? 
    • Athena
    • Ares
    • Hephaestus
    • Hera
    • Aphrodite - Pacifist Clerics
    • Posiedon - Storm Warpriests
    • Hades
    • Hestia
    • Demeter
    • Dionysus
    • Hecate
    • Hermes - popular with travellers and thieves
    • Nike - popular with warlords
    • Pan - demigod but popular in certain circles.
    • Tyche - popular with travellers
Each god has an oracle and a main temple somewhere in the area to be discovered/consulted/restored. May associate one per major city - not really historical but could give more flavor.

    • Various fluff/flavor changes
      • Weapons and armor are bronze – no game effect but masterwork types should be bronze or iron, not steel. No change to available types
      • Armor and weapons may look different
      • No crossbows
      • Spear/Javelin & sword are the main weapons of the typical warrior. A notable few use hammers or axes but are far less common.
      • Magic arms and armor often created by temples so while not common are not always rare and exotic 
    • Feywild is known, domain of Pan and Artemis
    • Shadowfell is home to Hades

    The concept of the campaign is to set it in the time after the first rush of heroes - Heracles, Jason, Perseus etc. - have passed on, when the cities of the Acheans have declined and turned inward while roads and trade and travel have declined as dark forces, no longer checked by the heroes of the previous age, encroach upon the lands. I think the power level of 4E and the general feel of it makes it especially suitable to following in the footsteps of these legends and creating a second golden age 

    I don't have a particular big bad guy in mind right now, maybe use Ogremoch or Imix as a titan once imprisoned by Zeus that is breaking loose. The main goal if there is one I see would be to unite the cities of the Achaen League, perhaps in response to an outside threat, perhaps because it's just a good idea - I would probably let my players drive this one. The campaign would begin somewhere near Corinth as I have a ton of information on it from that older campaign. A lot of the early challenges would focus on travel to other cites and shrines and freeing sacred places from darkness and recovering artifacts from the earlier age to help reunite the league - or form it, I'm not sure there needs to have been an earlier one, maybe my pc's get to start it. 

    There is also the threat of the older, pre-classical gods that no one speaks of anymore, and all Aberrant creatures are tied to this older pre-human age. Mind-flayers, Beholders, Grell, Aboleths - these are ancient terrors that can still be found in deep or hidden places of ancient power. The whole Far Realm story is out but the nasties are still useable.

    For Paragon levels once the League is united then there could be an invasion from Atlantis or Persia (A Halfling empire? That would be different) and they might need the help of the Norse to fend it off. Could end with a nice big mass combat scene. This might involve a world-spanning quest of some kind to recover some truly exotic artifact or material or dead hero.

    For Epic 4 titans (one of each element) could break loose and need to be destroyed, maybe with the PC's taking their place in the order of the universe as lords of that element. Maybe a final face-off against a 5th and more powerful Shadow Titan

    I need to go back and look at some of the backgrounds and feats and flavor them with some more appropriate names and imagery as at least some of the apprentices will be looking for some kind of divine heritage ala Percy Jackson. I think it's doable. I'm also thinking about working up a custom character sheet and outlawing the character generator for this one but I haven't decided yet.

    I'm curious if anyone else has tried this and if so how it went.


    Anonymous said...

    Marvelous! Thanks for the time & attention you gave this.

    Throw a mad wizard or savant-sage named Ha'ri Hausen in for the win! ;)

    Blacksteel said...

    OOoh, that's a good idea. I can see a lot of automatons guarding a tower...

    Anonymous said...

    A few years ago, someone came out with 8 inch? tall statues of Harryheusan's figures. They would be great to use.

    DM: "You see this (places Talos on table - see the second picture from the bottom of post)."
    Players: "Run away, run away. . ."

    Blacksteel said...

    I did that with my 2' Godzilla once, but that's tomorrow's post.

    Barking Alien said...

    OK, awesome idea but I do have a few questions/nitpicks that stem from my overall lack of D&D fan-ish-ness and my particular non-love of 4E.

    Why are there Gnomes, Eldarin and Feywild creatures in a Greek Myth setting? Actually why is there Feywild at all? I get that you are making it the domain of Pan and Artemis but its just strikes me as odd. I think my genre OCD is bugged out by it is all.

    The reason I ask, aside from the obvious, is that you say Elves and Half Elves don't exist here but Eldarin do. Aren't they just Elves? (I mean...come on they're just Elves.)

    If Goliaths are giant blooded types I would think they would be included. Greek Mythology is filled with giants. Also, perhaps a Centaur or Cyclops species could fit in. Makes more sense to me than Gnomes (and I love Gnomes).

    Why no crossbows?

    Other than those minor elements I think it all sounds very exciting. I would love someone to run something like that here in NY. I'd love them to use Ars Magica for it. I'd like to win the lottery. All these things have the same odds of happening.

    Blacksteel said...

    The Feywild is the wild/nature/life/positive energy plane that's the opposite of the Shadowfwll's death/entropy/negative energy plane. I like the symmetry and having a sort of an otherworldly uber-natural place but I may end up dropping it - this is a work in progress - as I'm not sure it's going to get used anyway.

    Crossbows? I read the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid and there are no crossbows. Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, Troy, the Hercules movies - no crossbows. It's always the bow. Plus the dates in that article are a few centuries after the Trojan War//Heroic Age is generally thought to occur. So... no crossbows.

    One of the things with the races is that I want to emphasize the races that are not constantly used in our D&D campaigns. Minotaurs fit perfectly anyway and are unused in our other games. Goliaths step on the "big bruiser" niche of the minotaur and are already pretty popular in our other games. Gnomes might be reskinned as satyrs or some other woodland type creature as this comes together. Eladrin are sort of High Elves in 4E while "Elves" are like Wood Elves. I'm not totally decided on how to handle the various human-like nature spirits that pop up in the myths like Dryads and Nymphs and with the racial teleport power I think Eladrin fit that mold fairly well.

    There is that whole "Amoral Nature" segment of Greek Mythology that I kind of want to include (Pan, Satyrs, the various Nymphs ) but I'm not totally settled on how to do it. For this first run I'm tempted to ignore the whole Feywild/Shadowfell angle before I get talked into including Primal stuff too like druids and barbarians. The whole race thing may be worth another post explaining the whys and why nots anyway as I think through it.

    Barking Alien said...

    I get why you would want it. My question is why call it something so non-Greek sounding?

    Also, RE: Crossbows but also anything Greek Myth related, do yourself a, Bless yourself and try to see ARION.

    I own the art of the movie book if you need any images for your game.