Game Leader's Advice
Age of Legends is a game of heroes in Greek mythology, so the best piece of advice for Game Leaders is to make it large. Focus on epic adventures, giant monsters and incredible feats with a constant stream of interfering gods. The minutiae of game play, such as equipment lists or strict adherence to the rules, is best kept at a minimum. The heroes' epic story matters more than how the game plays and Game Leaders should keep things flowing and avoid becoming trapped by game mechanics and details.
Epic does not mean lighthearted and the game's tone is serious, since death is the heroes' constant companion. Remember that not all the Argonauts returned home and Odysseus was one of the few survivors from the Odyssey. The fate of thousands of ordinary lives will depend on the heroes' actions. This is a world where cities are destroyed by vengeful gods and war is just a misplaced word away.
Greeks were great lovers of tragedy and Game Leaders are advised to learn from their plays. Terrible things should befall the family, friends, helpers and servants of the heroes. Failure and the despair and destruction it brings is part of being a hero. A Game Leader's aim is to present the heroes with genuinely difficult challenges. A player should feel a real sense of accomplishment when completing a quest.
The characters are the primary source of narrative development. It is they who must push the adventure forward by solving their own problems and not relying on NPCs to provide easy answers. Gods do not appear before the heroes at the start of each legend with a plot hook. They send messages through oracles, omens and portents. Heroes who ignore or misinterpret such signs do not deserve the title of champion. Gods, other immortals and mortal villains will interfere with the characters' plans but this is done indirectly. The ability to realise the old farmer giving directions is a god in disguise is an important survival skill for a character.
Population of Champions
The players' champions are not the first heroes since the return of the gods. Champions of the Olympians have walked through Greece for several years and they are welcomed with a mixture of adulation, respect and caution. Adulation because heroes are paradigms for the best of Greek civilisation, respect as these are powerful people endorsed by immortal beings and caution as danger and strife follow wherever a hero goes.
The number of living champions is small, no more than fifty at one time. A champion’s authenticity can be checked through a temple ritual or the word of a respected oracle. Beings with divine or magical heritage such as nymphs or cyclopes will be able to sense the divine in a true hero. As champions are involved in the conflicts of the gods they frequently encounter and become known to each other. Through their epic feats they quickly become famous (or infamous) to the general population.
Adventures & Plots
The overarching theme for Age Of Legends is the relationship between mankind and gods, and which need the other more. A god gains their power from followers and competition between the gods is the source of much of the conflict in the world. For their part, mortals are just beginning to understand their own world and the power that knowledge brings. In time their power will threaten entire pantheons of gods.
The champions are emblems of the conflict between the mortal and divine. The gods grant champions great power yet they may die serving a petty minded god on a mission they don't understand. However, by choosing heroes the gods reveal how much they need mortals for problems which raw power alone cannot solve. The balance between gods and mortals is changing and the champions are the pivot point. Which way the balance tips is for Game Leaders and players to decide.
The Titans In Tartarus
Adventures involving Cronus and his loyalists focus on their attempts to break free of Tartarus. If they succeed, the subsequent war amongst immortals will devastate the mortal world. Cronus and his faction lack the strength to take on the Olympic pantheon directly. Instead, they act through agents to undermine the power of Zeus by highlighting Olympian weaknesses. Cronus wants mortals to reject Zeus and his brood for someone strong enough to protect them (i.e. Cronus). Combating these agents is why the Olympians have heroes and defeating Cronus' plots is the mainstay of heroic adventures.
An agent is the equal of an Olympic champion though driven by different motivations. They work as provocateurs, priests and soldiers, depending on their Titanic patron, but all aim to build support for the Titans and sow dissent amongst believers of the Olympians. They conduct assassinations, build cults among the fringes of society and corrupt the high-born and powerful. Agents never miss a chance to create infighting amongst the Olympic gods because no Titan can win against a united force of Olympians.
As well as creating agents, Cronus' Titans have enough power to summon monsters into the mortal world. These attack Olympic supporters and cause mortals to question the power of the Olympic gods. The monster also serve as distractions, covering up the work of Titanic agents.
The Titans in Exile
The exiles' motivations have little to do with Cronus' aims though they will cause trouble for the Olympians if opportunity presents itself. The Titan Iapetus is unique because he rejects the concept of gods being superior to mortals and works to support humanity. Adventures around Iapetus are a way for Game Leaders to explore the substance of the relationship between mortals and the gods. Through drama, role playing and combat the players can explore the philosophical battle at the heart of Greek culture.
Gods of Olympus
The Olympian gods use omens and portents to give the heroes tasks which further their own and the Olympic cause. These tasks can be tests of worthiness, acts that strengthen a god's cult or enforcing a god's will on the mortal world. Individual tasks are good for episodic adventures, having clear beginnings and endings. Their simplicity is a useful change of pace in more complex ongoing campaigns, and several tasks might combine to form a longer story (e.g. the labours of Herakles).
Central to any champion's story is their relationship to their patron. The vain, petty, hot-blooded Olympic gods will think nothing of punishing or killing their champions. This adds a level of complexity to any adventure. The champions must appear to act within the limits imposed by their patron but the gods are not omnipresent. The tension between what a character tells their patron and what they actually do is a core part of the game.
It is essential to remember that the heroes are the protagonists of the game. The Olympic gods are antagonists who occasionally help the heroes and their infighting creates the framework for adventures. The Game Leader should never railroad the champions down a path because "the gods say so". Both players and their characters must navigate their own path through the hellenic world.
It is best for each character in a group to have a different patron deity. With simple adventures the relevant champion will see the omens from their patron and the other characters will assist in the mission. Though not their own deity, the others champions are wise to earn favour from as many deities as possible by helping other champions.
More complex adventures and campaigns are achieved by delving into the politics of Olympus. The Olympic gods squabble and display the full range of human vices and virtues (the gods are just people writ large). Their rivalry is normally limited to sniping at each other, subtly stealing worshippers or currying favour with Zeus. The gods find their heroes excellent tools for these tasks. This leads to adventures where the characters face hard moral choices as their missions take them against fellow Greeks whose only crime is to worship a different god.
In longer campaigns the characters' actions will affect the relationships between gods, resulting in new alliances or new grudges. They could even provoke outright war between two gods, an event with serious repercussions for the conflict with the Titans.
Adventures where the players' champions are set on each other should be avoided unless agreed in advance by players and Game Leader. The tension between the different gods, and therefore their champions, is a way to provide role playing opportunities and not player-versus-player combat. A good Game Leader chooses their plots carefully so the characters' patron gods are not in direct competition.
The Greek Olympians and Titans are not unique and the gods worshipped in other lands seek power in Greece. No foreign pantheon will try a direct challenge to the Olympians but rely on opportunities created when the Olympians are distracted by the Titans or each other. Preoccupied, the Olympians have failed to notice how the number of foreign cults in their lands is growing.