Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Role of the Gods

I don't remember much from my HS Mythology class, but I do remember a little bit about the Greek gods.

They were micro-managers.  They were very involved in the lives of their heroes and woe unto those who offended them.

Well, where am I going with this?  I was on the eBay last week and I was able to win a copy of the Judges Guild Ready Ref sheets (made of actual paper!) and a copy of "Fantastic Personalities".

pic borrowed from BoardGameGeek

From the front cover:
"Included within are 85 characters, complete with background information, religious inclinations, personal quirks, magic items, favorite tactics, magic spells, and more... 85 characters to spice up any fantasy campaign, a must for all judges."

The connection I'm making between HS Mythology and Fantastic Personalities is this.  The authors must have envisioned the "Judge" running their campaign with a hyperactive/expansive pantheon.

Each NPC has some sort of note about their religious leanings.  Gods are drawn from multiple mythos (like Greek, Egyptian, Norse and others) and they are referred to as if they might actually turn up during the next bar fight or dungeon crawl.

This is interesting to me because it is very different than the way I've always portrayed the "higher powers" in my campaigns.  They exist.  They have real impact on the lives of characters, but they are distant.

The meddling entities are usually demons and devils.  Dark forces who tempt or corrupt man.  Man must find a way to defeat them (with a little help) but not direct intervention.


I'm enjoying this product because (to me) it reads like an addled fever dream.  The characters are a hodge-podge of motivations, alignments and backgrounds.  Often there's no relationship between the statblock and the background of these characters.  It's as if you had one guy writing the text and another guy coming in behind him rolling 3d6 and statting these NPCs up in order.

Here are a couple of examples:

On p. 34 we have an 18 year old warrior (lvl 7) who has successfully slain an ancient Green Dragon.  His highest attribute is 15 and he actually has a 6 CHA.
On p. 35 we have an "officer in the guard of the World Emperor's Commanding General".  He's 9th level, but he too has a 6 CHA.  Not really leadership material.

Some of the art is nice, but a lot of it is sketchy at best.  I don't mind though, because the whole thing just oozes an Old School vibe.

Should I succeed at starting an Old School campaign, I'm looking forward to squeezing a few of these gem NPCs in there "as is" just to see what happens.

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