Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Tech priest support

Better fantasy setting: Medieval or Greek?

Recommended Posts

A lot of fantasy settings in RPGs have a distinct medieval slant to them, thanks to things like the Arthurian fixation in western culture and Tolkien's influence, but how about ancient Greece as a fantasy setting?

 

Ancient Greece created plenty of epic fantasy long before Europe rose. The odyssey, Jason and the argonauts, the legends of Hercules, etc.

 

Greek characters tend to be less black and white than many medieval stories which are often simply straight good vs evil tales. Almost all Greek heroes had flaws and many villains had justifications for their actions.

 

Intelligent non human creatures, tragic monsters, flawed heroes, gods who were far more accessible to humans and were far some perfect....Greek fantasy has a lot to offer in RPG terms.

 

So do any people into fantasy settings do ancient Greece themed settings? A friend of mine is running a fantasy campaign involving ancient Greece and ancient Aegypt at war along with their pantheons of gods.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure why this isn't in Fantasy Hero, but I'm game.

 

Greek mythology informed my gaming for many years. I think it is not only a viable setting, but a desirable one to play in. While most of the epics concentrated on a singular hero, there was Jason and the Argonauts, the Odyssey, the Trojan War and probably a few others that had more ensemble casts. As a setting, what more could you ask for? You got gods, heroes, magic items, oracles, magical gifts like Achilles virtual invulnerability, and monsters beyond monsters. I mean, Lernean Hydra, Nemean Lion, the Minotaur, the Cyclops, and Cerberus to name a very few. Heck, most of the monsters were unique, named beings (Medusa, Polyphemus, etc.). Every hero gets a quest or 12 and can rise to challenge the gods themselves.

 

I would personally love to game in a Greek mythology based setting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ach. Well, it's here because I'm not totally familiar with this site yet.

 

I'm pretty sure you could find an approximation of the stereotypical D&D classes and character types in Greek terms. Fighter? How about a spartan? Wizard? The Greek myths had powerful mages like Medea, Circe, etc. Non humans like elves? Satyrs, hinds, etc. Clerics? Oh, please.

 

Also, you know, technologically speaking the differences between ancient Greece and a medieval setting are fairly minor. Maybe the biggest thins might be iron. But both used horses and sails for transport, wagons, wood burning stoves and ovens...pretty similar in most ways.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It depends a lot on what you want the tech level to be.  Greeks used bronze mostly but had higher tech in some instances than medieval peoples.  Archimedes made some pretty amazing things, as did other inventors.  In the place of the wizard you might just have the engineer, who can move mountains.... with a big enough lever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say that standard D&D is a good mix of a Medieval and Greek setting.  On the one hand, you've got the familiar Arthurian landscape.  Castles, wizards, dragons, etc.  However, a lot of the monsters come from Greek myth, as well as the fantasy polytheistic religions.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, real medieval Europe had a very heavy blanket of obligate monotheism on top of it (and a very intolerant monotheism in particular), something all but absent from Greece a thousand years earlier. All legitimate temporal governments had to have the appropriate ecclesiastical authority figure give his official blessing. The early Church reinforced this by recasting older legends into versions with acceptable Christian trappings, or suppressing them if there wasn't any way of making that happen.

 

RPGs have mostly overlooked this and grabbed bits from Classical Greek (and Roman) mythologies, and Norse and Celtic and whatever else sounded novel at the time, dropped them into a big bowl, shaken vigorously, and served that tossed salad without worrying about the social structures from which each source came from.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I have long thought that city states as in ancient Greece would be a more useful model for adventure gaming than either feudal kingdoms or a sprawling empire.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Welcome to Palindromedariopolis

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would be easy to merge "Medieval" and "Greek". Just "modernize" the Greek stuff - knights/heroes on horses rather than in chariots etc.

 

Fantasy Neolithic could be awesome. With enough magic, technology wouldn't need to advance as much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like Egypt better, myself, or even earlier like Sumeria. Bronze and low tech with lots of mysterious spiritual stuff and charms against evil spirits, etc.

Check out Testement RPG. Men of Steel in the age of Bronze.

 

To the OP, I also like the old Sinbad movies. They would work well with Ancient Greece.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't read it yet so I'm not sure if it's any good but there's a game called Mazes & Minotaurs. Its page on DriveThruRPG describes it this way: "Mazes & Minotaurs is what the first fantasy roleplaying game could have been if its authors had taken their inspiration from Jason & the Argonauts (yes, the 1963 movie with all the cool Ray Harryhausen monsters) and Homer’s Odyssey rather than from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts & Three Lions."

 

Here's the link: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/204635/Mazes--Minotaurs-Players-Manual

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a slight tangent here but only slight, "Jason and the argonauts' was mentioned here. Man I can not believe that no one has remade that yet! Honestly, it might even be a good remake if they tried.

 

The Sinbad movies were mentioned, and yeah some of them were good. Especially the one with Caroline Munroe (Drool....)

 

But I don't see those being remade in today's america. Sorry guys, but a movie with a hero who says things like "By Allah!" and "Blessed be Allah's mercy!" probably isn't going to get greenlit by any big studios today...

 

That's not meant to be anything but an observation on modern reality.

 

Back to gaming, there have been some Arabian nights themed gaming products. Here's a cover pic of one, even if it does look like the cover to an adult DVD....

post-60632-0-87244900-1501807155_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But I don't see those being remade in today's america. Sorry guys, but a movie with a hero who says things like "By Allah!" and "Blessed be Allah's mercy!" probably isn't going to get greenlit by any big studios today...

 

That's not meant to be anything but an observation on modern reality.

 

I think a historic fantasy would be a lot more acceptable than something more modern. Besides, the American public is shortsighted and has the attention span of a small puppy. Make the effects lavish enough and it will only be two days after they see it that it dawns on them that "Allah" was used in a non-pejorative. Besides, there is name recognition among the not-quite-middle-aged to middle-aged fans. Would love to see a good remake of Sinbad and I am arguably one of those intolerant Sharia-phobes (not really scared of Muslims but Sharia scares the HELL out of me).

 

Now see, gaming-wise, some sort of fictional (for me - it's a hangup) version of the Mediterranean where Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Persia would be awesome. I would even be okay with adding elements of Christianity and Islam, as long as neither of them were dominating the scene. Small, fractured cults, as it were, with no real similarity to their modern counter-parts. I'm seeing an almost Assassin's Creed aesthetic but dialed back a few centuries. Now I am going to have to get Assassin's Creed Origins so I can see an ancient Egypt AC. One of the best parts of those games is the detail that they put into their worlds.

 

Anyway, a game like that would provide plenty of fodder for adventures. You have at least three major mytho-historical cultures to draw from and a fairly self-contained environment. Heck, even if the characters stray but a little, there are probably other historical cultures that you can draw from. Now the trick is not getting so wrapped up into research (I love history and mythology) that I get lost and forget why I am researching. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now see, gaming-wise, some sort of fictional (for me - it's a hangup) version of the Mediterranean where Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Persia would be awesome. I would even be okay with adding elements of Christianity and Islam, as long as neither of them were dominating the scene. Small, fractured cults, as it were, with no real similarity to their modern counter-parts. I'm seeing an almost Assassin's Creed aesthetic but dialed back a few centuries. Now I am going to have to get Assassin's Creed Origins so I can see an ancient Egypt AC. One of the best parts of those games is the detail that they put into their worlds.

 

Anyway, a game like that would provide plenty of fodder for adventures. You have at least three major mytho-historical cultures to draw from and a fairly self-contained environment. Heck, even if the characters stray but a little, there are probably other historical cultures that you can draw from. Now the trick is not getting so wrapped up into research (I love history and mythology) that I get lost and forget why I am researching. :)

 

It sounds like the sources you need are: Mythic Greece, Mythic Egypt and Testament.

 

The first two are already (old) Hero System sources. The latter is by Scott Bennie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course, you have the best of both worlds: Byzantium. I've always considered it an ideal analogue for traditional fantasy role-playing.  Yes, it rapidly became monotheistic in the 4th century, but... a major cosmopolitan metropolis and seaport at the junction of two continents and multiple trade routes that connect it to a menagerie of ancient and medieval world cultures. It also vibes more "modern" and "developed" than Western medieval Europe while still being quite foreign. It would be reasonably simple to alter the religious base (if you are so inclined) in favor of a more polytheistic or syncretic "faith of the enlightened gods." The official state cult could be the traditional local gods, but "acceptable" and "non-evil" gods could be grafted onto it, or be tolerated as "unofficial cults." You could even have a massive basilica modeled on the Hagia Sophia that honors all of them. I've used a similar idea for a more monist culture whose official religion revolved around a cult of kings, saints, prophets, and heroes and whose texts were litanies, histories, and testimonies that reference angles, mythic beasts, etc.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a slight tangent here but only slight, "Jason and the argonauts' was mentioned here. Man I can not believe that no one has remade that yet! Honestly, it might even be a good remake if they tried.

 

The Sinbad movies were mentioned, and yeah some of them were good. Especially the one with Caroline Munroe (Drool....)

 

But I don't see those being remade in today's america. Sorry guys, but a movie with a hero who says things like "By Allah!" and "Blessed be Allah's mercy!" probably isn't going to get greenlit by any big studios today...

.

 

Dude have you ever seen those films?  He didn't say "By Allah!" in the first place.  

 

Actually the thing all too many FRPGs seem to overlook is that city states actually existed in the Middle Ages.  Me, I think walled city states make perfect sense in a fantasy setting where much of the world is monster-infested wilderness.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Actually the thing all too many FRPGs seem to overlook is that city states actually existed in the Middle Ages.  Me, I think walled city states make perfect sense in a fantasy setting where much the world is monster-infested wilderness.

 

 

Yeah, while the central king-controlled country has its advantages, a world with monsters and horrors about makes more sense with small, fortified areas.  That's where the big human kingdom most of my games have been run in is headed.  

 

Backstory:

 

For several elf lifetimes, the land now called Morien was under elven control.  They had established powerful spells to moderate the weather, protect the roads, and control summoning and elemental effects, so it was a stable, safer place.  Regular patrols and oversight of the wildlife kept the wilderness areas more under control.  Humans, who were little more than slaves, fought and eventually overthrew the elven rule, and took over.  

 

Now, a few centuries later, the results of not having that elven oversight are starting to be felt.  The monsters are encroaching, breeding, endangering the human lands.  Humans aren't as organized as the elves were, and basically control a few pockets of the land very well, but much of it is sparsely populated and turning wild.

 

Despite there being a central king with considerable power, a network of temples, paladins, and knights plus a mage guild to connect and communicate, the kingdom is breaking down.  I had planned in the last campaign I was running for the king to die and the resulting infighting between heirs to tear the kingdom apart and turn it into city states cowering in fortified areas while the rest turns to monstery wilderness.  Ideal adventuring territory, in other words.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dude have you ever seen those films? He didn't say "By Allah!" in the first place.

 

Actually the thing all too many FRPGs seem to overlook is that city states actually existed in the Middle Ages. Me, I think walled city states make perfect sense in a fantasy setting where much the world is monster-infested wilderness.

I've watched the movies by what I recall, yes he said by Allah. I think it's Sinbads Seventh Voyage they had a quote " have faith in Allah but double check your knots"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got Mythic Greece. Bloody good sourcebook.

 

The old Champions campaign I played in once visited there. We ended up being some of the Argonauts after The Shatterer (Medium STR Brick) had a run in with Heracles and broke his leg and Polydeuces was somehow also taken out of action and Crackajack (Martial Artist) stepped in to replace him. In both cases the stat lines were eerily similar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

×