Everyone knows the names, the people of legends whose lives were aided and vexed by the gods in equal measure. Mortals who fought the cyclops and Minotaur; men and women who struggled against the machinations of Zeus and his family and far too often succumbed to the very human failings of love, hubris, pride and vanity. These are the heroes from the first age of legends whose actions and stories defined Hellenic culture for a thousand years.
It is has been four centuries since Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey in 800 BCE when those legends were already centuries old. Though the Greeks are divided amongst fiercely independent city states they share the tales and myths from the first age of heroes. These form the foundation of a common culture. Even when the gods withdrew to their Olympic home the legends served as object lessons, teaching the people ideas of honour and bravery - ideas which have helped propel Hellenic society to become the premier civilisation of the Mediterranean.
Now in the 4th century BCE Greece is a melting pot of new ideas and philosophies. Despite the march of logic and the progress of reason Greece finds itself once again plagued by conflict and strife. War between the city states ravages the country, foreign gods are making inroads and mighty Greece is being challenged by new rivals on the Mediterranean.
Into this dynamic world the gods have returned and they are choosing a new generation of heroes. A handful of men and women are being selected as champions and destined for fame and glory. These mortals are both blessed and damned by the gods as a new age of legends begins.
Age Of Legends is a setting for the fast and flexible 6d6 RPG. To play this game you require the 6d6 Core rule book. The game is of an epic nature and players and Game Leaders are encouraged to think big. Heroes should be heroic but the legends are also full of tragedy and death. A hero of Greece is much more likely to die young, betrayed by someone (or some god) they trust than they are to die of old age. The individual fate of a champion is irrelevant compared to the legend they leave behind.
In Age Of Legends it is encouraged that the players and Game Leader immerse themselves in Ancient Greek culture and mythos. Part of this involves an understanding of the Greeks' morality and their motives. Unfortunately, this involves bigotry, misogyny, racism and rape. It is neither required nor expected for these aspects of Ancient Greek culture to be any part of this game.
The version of Ancient Greece imagined in Age Of Legends is one where men and women are equal. Barring a few specific exceptions people of either gender can be found in any line of work or position in society. Historically, Greece was a multi-cultural society with trade routes stretching from northern Europe to Sub-Saharan Africa and east at least as far as India. Though slavery existed and is included in the game it is not racially based. In Hellenic culture slavery is the result of poverty and the ebb and flow of the inter-polis warfare, and as many native Greeks as non-Greeks were slaves. Champions can be of any gender, class or ethnic background and any mortal chosen by the Olympic gods is accepted as a true Greek by all Greeks.
Similarly the mythology presented in this book is a retelling of ancient stories with a more modern take on social issues. Groups wishing to use legends and myths from other sources should discuss the tone and content of their planned game. The entire group must be in agreement about the game's subject matter before a single dice is rolled. What was acceptable to an Ancient Greek may not be acceptable now, even as an imaginary act around a gaming table.
As much as possible the authors have kept in historical events to underpin the game with a strong sense of the Hellenic culture. Due to the nature the real Ancient Greek society and how history is recorded a lot of the historical figures mentioned are male. It is the authors' expressed desire that players populate their game world with a much greater variety of personages and not to be held back by historical fact or verisimilitude.
On Mount Olympus dwell the court of Zeus. They are fifteen of the most powerful beings in existence who control everything from the crops to the wind, from the sea to the sun. They are the most capricious, scheming and vain individuals a hero might meet. Some love the world and mankind, some love only themselves and all of them are dangerous.
Just one branch of a large and gnarled family tree, the Olympian court consists of Zeus, his siblings and their children. Zeus became King of the Gods when he led the Olympians to victory over his father Cronus in a rebellion against the Titans' absolute rule and tyranny. Fearing their power even in defeat, Zeus imprisoned the Titans in deepest Tartarus, sealed away far from the light of day. But the prison is imperfect, allowing the Titans a possibility for escape. They are empowering mortals to become agents who work to undermine the Olympians. The Titans spread chaos in the world and all should fear their return, for a full scale war between Olympus and Titans would devastate the world.
Titanic wrath and encroaching foreign gods are forcing the Olympians to reassert themselves in the mortal world. To do this, they pick mortals to be their champions and fight in their name.
Players take on the role of a new generation of heroes. They begin their adventures in 370 BCE, long after legendary events like the Trojan War or the journey of the Argo. That heroic age ended when Zeus forbade mating between mortals and gods and the Olympians stepped back out of the world.
A few champions may have divine blood diluted by hundreds of generations of mortals but most are chosen for their personal virtues or just on a whim. Hermes favours the sticky-fingered, Zeus prefers the strong and courageous whilst Ares chooses the bloodthirsty. The gods choose who they wish to be champions and the mortals have no right to refuse. The reactions of the chosen are as diverse as the heroes themselves. Some greet it as a challenge and throw themselves at their tasks while others view it as a solemn duty to be undertaken in worship of their patron. A few see it as a burden and carry out their tasks fearing reprisal should they refuse.
Champions go into the world to make legends of themselves in the name of their gods and will gain great power and fame, the ambition of any red-blooded Greek. However a price must be paid, as those who fight for the gods burn brilliantly but briefly. Being a champion is a curse and a blessing. Great adventures contain great danger and not all heroes will survive to the end. Wise mortals will remember Odysseus lost his ship’s crew as he returned home and many of the Argonauts never saw Jason find the fleece.
For those who do meet their fate, death is not the end. They travel to the Underworld, the domain of Hades, to be judged on their worth. Great people who fought hard and achieved all they could are granted a pleasant afterlife of indulgences and easy living. The ones who lead blameless, simple or boring lives can expect nothing but toil and drudgery. Those who offend the gods or are judged as evil are plunged into Tartarus for an eternity of torment. Tartarus is nigh-inescapable but not the rest of the Underworld. Legends talk of people escaping or being freed to rejoin the living, and some speak of reincarnation.
The new heroes not only live at the whim of the gods but also of prophecy. It is a mysterious force which even the gods are subject to. Prophecies tell of things that are true or will be true. It was a prophecy that convinced Cronus to eat his children to protect his power, which drove the Olympians to usurp him. Destiny cannot be dodged but may be manipulated if its subject can decipher the prophecy before it is too late.
The gods on Olympus have a great many uses for their champions. These range from defending the whole of Greece, to satisfying divine vanity or being mere playthings. Heroes set out on quests to seek out artefacts to gain their power and keep them from enemies. Foreigners are pressing in on Greece from all sides creating many wars to join. Meanwhile agents of the Titans are at work and the heroes must foil their schemes. These tasks will take them all over Greece and beyond, into the mystery-riddled deserts of Egypt and the dark forests of the barbarians lands to the north. They will meet fantastic creatures like proud centaurs, clever little nymphs or devious djinn.
The gods take on champions to be their servants, so their favour must be maintained. Heroes who flatter their patron and display the qualities they like will be blessed and keep the god's attention. Heroes who fail them, or worse, bore them, will face divine wrath. They will suffer curses, impossible missions or even simple attempts to kill them.
Greek champions lead unique lives as they go about Greece undoing the machinations of the Titans. The less power-hungry gods also set their champions to work as protectors of other mortals against the monsters that roam the land. Sometimes a champion is picked for a single task though it is rare for a god to withdraw their patronage on completion of the labour. They may have reason to call on an experienced and successful champion in the future.
The gods are not serene beings. They are fickle, subject to the failings and faults of mortals but with far greater power. Some use their champions to settle old scores with enemies both mortal and divine. Others gods send champions out with the goal of increasing how much mortals worship them. Champions may be called upon to commit unpleasant acts in the name of their patron and a champion may be used simply for entertainment.
Champions come from all parts of Greek society, rich and poor, powerful and weak, urban and rural. The only prerequisite for selection is that the person embodies some trait associated with the god in question. A typical hero will receive the knowledge that they have been chosen in a wild and vivid vision. No two champions tell of experiencing the same vision as everyone interprets the power of the gods in their own way.
Between them, the Olympians have perhaps a few dozen champions at a time. The first in this new age was picked five years ago and news of real divine champions is widespread as tales of their deeds have reached throughout the islands. The life of each champion is unique. Some are constantly called upon and wander Greece in pursuit of one labour after another. Others are lucky enough to be only used occasionally and have time to settle down, becoming famous warriors, athletes or rulers.
The gods do not send their champions against the world unaided, instead they grant them some influence over their realms and the power of their symbols. For instance, Zeus is the god of Law and Order, so his champions have uncanny wisdom when judging a crime. His symbols are the Oak and the Eagle, so his champion could draw on the strength of an oak or the keen eyes of the eagle. A champion who serves their god well could be rewarded with wondrous gifts from the god themselves.
Mortal heroes who want to maintain divine favour should pay attention to the politics on Olympus. The gods are not unified, and pleasing one god will annoy another. For example, Athena hates Ares and takes every opportunity to undermine his interests, sending her champions to kill his children and mortal allies. The Olympian web of alliances and hatreds is so complex that it is almost impossible to avoid annoying somebody. But heroes should have heart while they have the support of a god. After all, Athena guided Odysseus through many of the traps set by Poseidon and Ares and personally defended his supporters against Herakles, her own hero.
The heroes' communication with the gods is subtle. The gods talk as they please through omens, sometimes as quietly as an encounter with an owl or as loudly as an earthquake. Mortals may ask the gods questions, divining answers by examining the organs of a sacrifice or by visiting an oracle, though rarely will the gods give a clear answer. It amuses them to see mortals attempt to understand the divine.
Thus many heroes rely on oracles for guidance. There are oracles across Greece, with their accuracy and usefulness increased greatly with the return of the gods' attention to the mortal world. Oracles are blessed with a better understanding of the ways of the gods and sometimes will even deliver direct messages from god to champion.
The gods are not omniscient. They only have their attention in one place at a time and they must rely on mortal eyes and ears to tell them everything else. They do have a greater presence in their realm than elsewhere - for example Poseidon is god of the sea and gains some knowledge of all that happens in this realm, though not the details.