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Of Gods and Mortals: Theseus

October 2, 2014 4 comments

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I wrote in an earlier post about the Osprey wargame Of Gods and Mortals, which has had me intrigued for a while. The core rulebook already has an extensive list of Greek deities and heroes, but with my Osprey Myths and Legends book Theseus and the Minotaur due for release in a few weeks, I decided to adapt some of the characters from the tales of Theseus for Andrea Sfiligoi’s mythological skirmish game. Needless to say, the following is to be considered a fan work and no challenge is intended to any existing copyrights. Check my Freebies page for a free PDF of this post, and more!

If you already play Of Gods and Mortals, let me know what you think of these. If you don’t, and you like mythology, do yourself a favor and check it out. The core rulebook covers the Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Celtic pantheons, and there are free downloads covering the Incas, the Japanese, and pre-Islamic Arab mythology.

Foes

Theseus already appears in the Greek force list, along with his most famous foe, the Minotaur. Earlier in his career, Theseus defeated six other foes on the road to Athens.

Periphetes the Clubber: 40 points
Q4 C2 Hammering Blow, Unique
May not appear in the same force as Theseus.
Periphetes was a son of the smith-god Hephaestus. He terrorized travelers on the roads outside Epidaurus, driving them into the ground with his great bronze club.

Sinis the Pine Bender: 40 points
Q4 C2 Pine Bending, Unique
May not appear in the same force as Theseus.
Pine Bending: Whenever Sinis is next to a tree while fighting an enemy, he can use 3 actions to make a pine-bending attack which automatically causes one casualty regardless of the dice roll. 10 points.
Sinis tricked travelers into helping him bend a pine tree, and then released it so his victims were catapulted to their deaths.

The Crommyonian Sow: 41 points
Q4 C3 Animal, Greedy, Unique
May not appear in the same force as Theseus.
The Crommyonian Sow was a terrible wild pig that ravaged the area between Corinth and Megara.

Sciron: 38 points
Q4 C2 Ambusher, Traitorous Strike, Unique
May not appear in the same force as Theseus.
The elderly Sciron haunted a steep cliff and begged passing travelers to wash his feet. While they were doing so, he kicked them off the cliff to their deaths.

Cercyon: 40 points
Q4 C2 Combat Master, Unique
May not appear in the same force as Theseus.
Cercyon was the King of Eleusis, and challenged passers-by to a wrestling match.

Procrustes the Stretcher: 35 points
Q4 C2 Smithy, Unique
May not appear in the same force as Theseus.
Procrustes was a mad smith who kept two beds in his house: one long and the other short. If a guest did not fit the bed Procrustes offered him, they were either stretched on a rack or their feet were lopped off, until they were exactly the right length.

Options for Theseus
Pirithous: Theseus was accompanied in many of his later adventures by the Lapith prince Pirithous. Pirithous is represented as a Q3 C2 Legend costing 48 points. When he is within 1 x Long of Theseus, they both gain the Group Fighter trait.
Antiope: Theseus married the Amazon warrior Antiope after the death of Phaedra, his second wife. Antiope is represented as a Q3 C2 Legend with the Shooter (Medium) trait, costing 47 points. When she is within 1 x Long of Theseus, they both gain the Steadfast trait.

Theseus and the Werewolves

September 7, 2014 6 comments

Wait, what?

It’s all right. I haven’t created a new contemporary urban fantasy franchise with sparkly Greek heroes battling emo lycanthropes in high school. But hold on while I just make a note of that….

No, this post is going to be about my next two books for Osprey Adventures. If you haven’t heard of Osprey Adventures before, the legendary military history publisher has been branching out with two new lines aimed – at least partly – at gamers and fantasy fans.

Osprey Myths and Legends does exactly what it says on the tin. This series presents the world’s greatest heroes (and monsters) in the classic Osprey format, combining well-researched text with lavish illustration and high production values. My first book in this series, Thor: Viking God of Thunder, was well received (click here for some links to reviews), so I was asked to write another – on Theseus and the Minotaur this time. It’s scheduled for release on November 18th and features some stunning color plates by Jose Pena.

index

I guess I was seven or eight years old when I first discovered this tale. I had become obsessed with Greek mythology after discovering a children’s retelling of Homer’s Odyssey in my school library and seeing a Saturday-morning rescreening of Ray Harryhausen’s 1963 classic Jason and the Argonauts on TV. Over a decade later, my first game of Dungeons & Dragons featured a fatal encounter with a minotaur. Along the way, I also read about Theseus’ early adventures on the road to Athens. But when I got stuck into the research for this book, I discovered something intriguing. Well, two things, actually.

The first is that Greek myths used the comic-book technique of “retconning.” After he became the Official Hero of Athens, Theseus began to pop up in the adventures of Hercules and various other heroes, usually in a minor role. He was one of the super-team that took part in the Hunt for the Calydonian Boar, along with his faithful sidekick Pirithous. He appears as a wise and compassionate King of Athens in the tragic tale of Oedipus. A few writers even tried to add him to Jason’s companions aboard the Argo, but some serious timeline problems prevented their attempts from sticking. He was too old for the Trojan War, but a couple of his sons were among the Greek troops in the legendary wooden horse.

The other intriguing thing is that the core of the Theseus myth looks like it could be an allegory. Theseus lived – if he lived – at a time when Athens was growing in power and throwing off Minoan and Mycenaean cultural and economic domination of the Greek mainland. It was developing its own distinctly Greek identity, which would become the template for Classical Greek culture. There is evidence for a war – or at least a raid – led by Athens in which the famous Minoan palace of Knossos was burned. And some ancient sources refer to a Cretan general with the name, or nickname, of Taurus, the Bull. Likewise, the six enemies Theseus defeated on his journey to Athens could be seen as symbols of the various independent city-states that Athens assimilated as its influence spread across Attica. There’s little if any definitive proof that the myth of Theseus is based on actual historical events, but the coincidences do seem to be telling a consistent story, and it made my dormant archaeological reflex twitch.

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The second book, Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide, is for the Dark Osprey line which focuses on horror and conspiracy, and follows on from earlier volumes about Zombies and Vampires. I collected werewolf legends and trial reports from across Europe and researched shapechanger myths worldwide to paint a picture of lycanthropy that expands upon what you will find in most movies, games, and novels. It touches on the standard fare – silver, the moon, Viking berserkers, SS werewolves, and so on – but I also uncovered a few surprises. Like, for instance, the fact that there are at least four distinct types of werewolf, each with its own unique characteristics. And the Greek tradition that a dead werewolf rises from the grave as a vampire. And the ancient werewolf cult that centers on Mount Lykaion in Greece.

Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide
is scheduled for release in March 2015, and there are some interesting titles scheduled for both of Osprey’s non-historical ranges.

Osprey has also expanded into wargames with an interesting and growing range of rule sets presented in slim, affordable books. There are historical rules, of course, but they also cover mythology, steampunk, and Hong Kong action movies. My personal favorite is Of Gods and Mortals, a compact and tidy little skirmish game in which the gods of various mythologies can take to the battlefield as super-units, accompanied by mortal and monstrous followers. It has a very neat mechanic which makes gods and mortals heavily interdependent.

Osprey Publishing has a long-standing reputation for quality that is very well deserved. I’m very happy to see them expanding into these new areas, and even happier to play a modest part myself. Check out the links below. I’ll be very surprised if you don’t find at least one title that surprises and intrigues you.

Osprey Myths and Legends
Dark Osprey
Osprey Wargames

Crowdfunding

April 19, 2012 1 comment

I’ve been hearing a lot about crowdfunding over the last couple of years, especially in the cash-poor but idea-rich tabletop roleplaying industry. What I haven’t heard is how successful crowdfunding has been at raising money. As of a couple of days ago, though, it looks like I’m going to be finding out.

Last week I got an email out of the blue from James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I hadn’t heard of him or his company before, because I really don’t do much in the world of tabletop roleplaying these days. I’d like to, but I can’t generally afford to work for the kind of rates that the industry pays: I wrote an entry On the Economics of Tabletop RPGs earlier.

I do make exceptions, but they are very rare. One is for Colonial Gothic, because I’ve known Richard Iorio of Rogue Games for years and I think the setting has a lot of potential. Another is for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, because it has been such a huge part of my gaming career going back to 1986. And I still write occasionally for GURPS, because it allows me to indulge my passion for historical and historical-fantasy roleplaying. Recently I had to turn down a project from a once-big publisher, because they were offering the same rate of pay as they did 20 years ago and I just couldn’t afford to do it.

Anyway, back to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Casting about for reviews and then looking over the PDFs that I received, I found it was quite an interesting game. It’s an AD&D retro-clone, another phenomenon I had heard about but not investigated – but the main thing that interested me was the game’s focus on atmosphere and horror over old-school hackfests. So I’ve agreed to do something – maybe.

Here’s where the crowdfunding comes in. My adventure will be one of the bonus items if another project – a hardcover edition of the core rules – exceeds its funding target. Jim has also signed up Ken Hite, Frank Menzer, and some newer names to provide additional bonus items. You can find the details at Indiegogo – and make a pledge if you like what you see.

This is my first brush with crowdfunding, and I really don’t know what to expect. But I guess that in 44 days, I won’t be able to say that any more.

It’s going to be interesting.