Adventures in Mystos Edit
Mystos is really just a basic framework for an ancient Greek inspired setting. Just like any game of D&D, there is no one right way to play it. And that's what I'm really trying to provide here. Mystos is a basic sandbox where you can adapt your favorite Greek/Roman myths into a sea-based setting. And that is really the key point here: Mystos is a flexible, sea-based setting. Although you might design adventures that take place on land, the mode of travel will always be the sea. And this naval reliance should have a significant impact in some way or another on how your game is run.
Here are some ideas for adventure paths that you might want to use.
The Illiad - Historical Edit
The Illiad accounts for the greatest war in Greek history. And although the text focuses a strong amount of detail on the gods (or texts, rather, because there are many moderately varying copies of Homer's epic that have been recovered), taking a historical approach to understanding the Trojan war has been a topic of interest for people since B.C.E times. For a more modern example, take the movie Troy, which is perhaps not the most accurate recreation of the Illiad, but gives a more realistic feel to the Trojan war. If this is the sort of thing that interests you and your players, Mystos is a great sandbox to create your own Illiad.
Some things to consider if you do decide to make a story about an epic war:
- The gods might not actually be real. Just as humans have created pantheons of gods historically, the people of Mystos would have the pantheon provided as their gods (but those gods never make any real influence on the world).
- People during Mycennean times (the time of the Trojan war) were both spiritual and superstitious as a result. And although Athena may not have fought for real beside the Greeks, they certainly made it clear that they should take precautiouns to praise the gods.
- If you want something that feels more realistic, you may want to remove the concept of magic entirely from Mystos.
- The other rules provided should still be a great framework to handle combat. Heroes in the Illiad truely are powerful (but perhaps not heroic in our modern sense). By using the provided character creation rules, a 8th level barbarian will really feel like a great hero akin to Achillies.
- An epic war is all about winning against insurmountable odds.
- In the Illiad, the Greeks were defeated by the Trojans during multiple battles. Their initial seige on the city failed and Troy was able to make a counter-offensive. The Greeks had to win through cunning and deception.
- Consider making out a rough flow chart of how the battle will play out. Based on the player's performance, let the battle progress in favor of their side or against it.
- Although an epic war can be great fun, make sure to mix things up. If every session is just a seige against the city walls, things will get boring quickly.
- Consider sending a small fleet of ships to attack the grounded ships of the invading army. They can try to scuttle the invader's boats, leaving them no way to get home.
- Sometimes, the bad guys should be good guys.
- In the Illiad, Hector is a likeable character. And despite the fact that the story is a Greek epic and you want to cheer for the Greeks, you can't help but feel sympathy for Hector when he meets his fate against Achillies.
- War is pointless.
- My favorite part of the Illiad is how the story itself shows war to be both worthless, but nessessary. The entire Trojan war is really started over a matter of honor: Paris helps himself to his (Greek) host's wife, Helen and takes her back to Troy. The entire war is started because of this act.
- Players should be put in the position where they think about why they are even fighting. A war like the Trojan war wouldn't really be epic if it weren't for the heroes questioning the whole point of the war.
The Illiad - Mythological Edit
As it stands, Homer's epic is really as much a story about the gods as it is about the people. The gods play no small role in the Trojan war and interfere frequently. If you and your players are interested in playing a high fantasy war, the Illiad, as written, is an excellent source of inspiration.
Make the gods interfere directly. Apollo and Artemis shot down many Greeks when fighting on the side of the Trojans. Athena tricked Hector into turning to face Achillies, even though he knew he was no match. Hera snaps Artemis' bow and gets her to flee into the wilderness. Athena makes Ares flee the battle crying like a baby (after he had killed many mortals).
Monsters can be involved in the battles and story as well as magic. It all really makes sense when there is a god fighting beside you.
One cautionary note is that you should avoid making the gods drive the story. They come in and make subtle nudges to the plot. The heroes and kings drive the real story.
In general, I would suggest taking the points from the previous section, but including the instance of gods making a direct influence.
The Odyssey Edit
There is no "historical" way (or realistic way) that I can think of to use Homer's second epic, the Odyssey. The story literally starts off with a cyclops eating a bunch of Odysseus' men. After Odysseus blinds the cyclops, it cries to its father, Poseidon, to punish Odysseus. Poseidon makes it so that Odysseus will have a very hard time getting home -- a journey that will take 8 years and have him land on many strange, magical islands.
I'm sure you can imagine what a campaign based on the Odyssey would be like. Each session you come up with a new strange island to explore. You can basically throw anything you feel like in the mix.
One result of this kind of game is that it is very episodic. Each session is a new episode with the same premise, but there isn't really a main set of plot threads going on. This is a great thing for groups that have players jump in and out.
Beginnings of the Iron Age Edit
Mystos, politcally, is basically impossible to control. With the massive number of islands, each city can send refugees in any direction to escape an invading force if it comes to the worst. And although naval strength can certainly help cripple an enemy's development, it requires a large amount of invested resources to even protect conquored territories and patrol borders. This is compounded by the fact that even the most well crafted metal will dull quickly and constantly require repair. Bronze just isn't that strong a metal and lacks many of the strengths of steel. It also weighs a LOT more than steel.
One could imagine that the discovery of steel would rapidly alter the dynamics of this world. All of the sudden, reinforced ship hulls can be made much stronger and much more light. Tools can be made more durable, which allows quicker harvesting of resources and faster building of ships. Anyone with access to steel will now have a terrible advantage over those using bronze.
Here are some ways you might want to introduce steel to your game:
- One nation has discovered the secret of steel or was gifted by the gods with a large deposit of some special metal that functions as steel (possibly meteoric iron) and they are rapidly conquering neighboring cities.
- Ruins of an extinct civilization contain a cache of steel weapons and armor. Several nations have gotten wind of this fact and are sending expeditions to raid the ruins.
Since the base armor/weapons assume a bronze based game (instead of steel based), you should give steel some bonuses:
- Lightweight: It weighs 1/2 as much as bronze.
- Strong: It has +2 hardness and +5 HP.
- Powerful: It deals an extra 2 damage.
- Resistant: It grants an extra +1 AC.
Pax Romana! Edit
Maybe you and your group are fans of Roman history more than ancient Greek history. And if you like the Romans, you probably like history more than myth (seeing as most Roman myths are really just synonymous with Greek myths). Now, I know you will probably say that the Romans were primarily a land-based power that used superior numbers, tactics, and technology to crush opposing armies and subjugate territories under their order. And you would be right, of course. So instead, we can talk about a race of beings similar to the Romans as a people who have mastered steel and have industrialized ship production already.
Basically, this type of adventure path would take place after the "Beginnings of the Iron Age" -- the discoverers of steel have already won.
Religion at this point is really just a game. People do it out of the sense of tradition or because it helps make them feel fulfilled, but they aren't really as strongly superstitious or spiritual as their ancestors. As a result, the realm of heroes and myth have slowly started to fade.
So what kind of conflict would this game have? Well here are some ideas:
- A more historical take could have divisions within the empire slowly cause it to crumble. The PCs might have to deal with rising numbers of raiders and freedom fighters.
- Perhaps a group of heroes that were lost in time by the gods has returned to their land only to find it under the rule of an empire. They must use their heroic powers of magic to fight this new age of technology and reclaim their home.
- The world has been mostly explored and conquored, but on a far off colony, a new religion that worships a single deity is emerging. The people are zealous and although they lack the technology, they weild divine powers thought to be myth.
I like to think that the Romans took the fantasy out of Greek mythology and that a campaign setting based on Roman times in Mystos would be interesting if it tries to re-infuse the world with myth. Your milage may vary, of course.