28 March 2014

Exploring Atlantis 6: The Greek Pantheon Part 2

Here are a few more Greek gods for Atlantis: The Second Age.
(Part 1, Part 3)

Persona: Poseidon is the god of the sea, fresh water, earthquakes, and horses. He is the father of many heroes. Poseidon is
impulsive, wrathful, lusty, and competitive. He is one of the three supreme gods of the Greek pantheon. Poseidon is usually armed with a trident, and often rides in a chariot drawn across the surface of the sea by brazen hoofed horses.
Symbol: The dolphin and the trident
Aegae and Olympus
Dominion: Water, Earth
Precepts: Compete for what you want, even if it currently belongs to another.
                  Protect that which is yours.
                  Do not let a slight go unanswered.
                  Do not harm a dolphin.
                  Water is sacred. Do not pollute it. 

Persona: Dionysus is the god of grapes, wine, ecstasy, and madness. He is the patron of theater. Dionysus is
hedonistic, riotous, uninhibited, and inspirational. He usually travels with a procession of
maenads (wild women). Dionysus is usually armed with a thyrsus, and often rides in a chariot drawn by exotic beasts, such as leopards, lions, bulls, and griffons.
Symbol: The thyrsus (a fennel staff tipped with a pine cone) the cup, and the grape vine.
Dominion: Fertility, Moon
Precepts: Reward hospitality when you travel.
                  Celebrate freely.
                  Do not let the uninitiated view the Mysteries of worship.
                  Do not cut down a grape vine.
                  Wine is sacred. Do not refuse it. 

Persona: Hera is the goddess of women, marriage, childbirth, and the night sky. She is alternately a patron or foe of many heroes. Hera is jealous
, vengeful, solemn, and majestic. She is the wife of Zeus, whom she often advises, and queen of the Greek gods. Hera usually wears a crown and veil, and often rides in a chariot drawn by cattle.
Symbol: The
pomegranate, the cow, and the cuckoo
Dominion: Fertility, Law
Precepts: Offer counsel to those in need of it.
                  Render aid to any woman during childbirth.
                  Do not harm a woman in a temple of Hera.
                  Do not let a slight go unanswered.
                  Marriage is sacred. Do not dishonor it.

21 March 2014

Exploring Atlantis 5: The Greek Pantheon Part 1

There are only a few pantheons detailed in the Atlantis: The Second Age rulebook. The Greek pantheon isn't one of them. (In this version of the game, the Atlanteans don't worship Poseidon. Instead they worship a group of African gods that, for the most part, are represented in present day Voudon.) This means I'll have to create some gods for Phoibe the priestess to interact with. Fortunately, there are rules that cover this.

 Each pantheon has an overall set of tenets called Dogma. These are rules that worshipers are expected to follow. The example pantheons in the book all have 5 or 6 tenets each. For the Greek pantheon I have chosen the following tenets:

Sacrifice to the gods. It is their due.
Strive for excellence in all that you attempt.
Do not discard the gifts of the gods. Pursue any talents you may have.
Participate in religious festivals. It is a duty as well as a privilege.
Hubris is not pleasing to the gods. Do not think to place yourself above them.

Each god also has a persona, or description, a symbol or symbols that are associated with the god, a realm, where they usually reside (in Atlantis, the gods are physically present in the world. Your character can visit them, though surviving such a trip is questionable.), and one to three Dominions, purviews they hold power over. For every dominion a god has, there is an accompanying Precept, which defines two duties expected of followers and three actions which are proscribed for followers. (The pantheons in the book promptly break this rule. There seems to be little correspondence with the number of duties or proscriptions and the number of Dominions they possess. So I decided to create two duties and three proscriptions for each of my gods and call it a day.)      

The Greek gods reside atop Mount Olympus, though a few have residences elsewhere. Zeus reigns over the other gods as head of the pantheon. They appear and act much as mortals do, though they are immortal and unaging. Unless otherwise stated, this is the realm for all of the Greek pantheon.

 Persona: Athena is the goddess of  craft, wisdom, law, knowledge and war. She is the patron of the city of Athens, and is often involved with heroes and their undertakings. Athena is brave, thoughtful, deliberate, and just. She is one of the virgin goddesses of the Greek pantheon. Athena is usually armed and armored with a spear, goatskin cloak, helmet, and shield.
Symbol: The owl
Realm: Olympus
Dominion: Craft, War, Law
Precepts: Teach those who are willing to learn. Learn from those who are willing to teach.
                  Uphold the law wherever you travel. But remember, the purpose of law is to 
                  serve justice, or the law serves no purpose.
                  Do not take part in an unjust war.
                  Do not take credit for the works of others.
                  Knowledge is sacred. Do not cause it to be lost. 

 I will post other Greek gods as time permits. At the very least I need two more for Phoibe, since a character with the Talent: Dominion Access gets one primary god for free and one additional god for every 5 points in Lore: Theology that the character possesses.

20 March 2014

Exploring Atlantis 4: Meet the PCs Part 3

The next player character belongs to JC. She is playing a priestess of Athena, so this is a good opportunity to talk a little about how gods and religion work in Atlantis: The Second Age.

  In Atlantis, anyone can call on the gods. However, priests are better at it than most other people, thanks to the Talent: God's Ear. In order to win a god's favor, a character must make a successful sacrifice to the god. This will earn the character Hero Points, which must be used within a number of days equal to the characters Charisma score.

 Characters can also purchase the Talent: Dominion Access. This allows a character to manifest a power associated with a god's dominion. For example, JC's character, Phoibe, wishes to determine which one of a tavern's patrons was involved in a nearby robbery. Determine Guilt is a major ability in the dominion of Law of Phoibe's primary god, so it would cost 6 Hero Points to invoke. Phoibe prays to Athena and looks the patrons in the eyes. The thief's guilt is evident to her. In addition, Phoibe also has access to the minor abilities of one of Athena's dominions for free. This is a permanent choice, and cannot be changed later.

Name: Phoibe        Profession: Priest
Race: Human   Culture: Hellene     Age: 26    Renown: 0

Attributes:   Str +1  Dex +1   Con +1  Spd 0   Int +1  Per +0  Wil +1  Cha +3 
Combat Rating +2  Magic Rating +1  Wealth Rating +2 
Hit Points 21   Hero Points  8  (1 in Fire, 1 in Earth, 2 in Air, 2 in Water, 1 in The Void, 1 in Empyrean)

Skill Levels:
 Animal Handling 2  Influence 4  Investigate/Search 5  Languages: Atlantean 5, Hellene 10, Lemurian 3  Literacy: Hellene 3, Atlantean 4  Lore: Theology 10,  Folklore 1, Herb lore 2, Agriculture 1  Medicine 8  Parry 1  Profession: Priest 10  Resolve 5  Ride 1  
Unarmed Fighting 1  Weapon: Gun 0, Heavy 0, Melee 2, Ranged 1, Thrown 0

 Talents: God's Ear, Dominion Access, Righteous Words

Disadvantages:  Relationship: Followed by a mysterious group with unknown motives
                              Internal:  Sacred vows to Athena
                              External: Susceptibility to alcohol

Destiny: To be Athena's greatest priestess, and found a temple school in her name

Walking the Life Paths.  Phoibe had a rural Upbringing whose parents were laborers (farmers).  She had a Childhood Encounter where she "Met and was mentored by a wizened slave who claimed to be a king from a faraway land. He gave her his only possession, a trinket, and told her it would make her Queen." Family Status brought the result "Family is blessed by the gods for some past deed done by your ancestors." Phoibe went through the Previous Adventures section 3 times. By the end, Phoibe  had traveled the world in search of knowledge and the truth, solved a math equation that unlocked the untapped recesses of her mind, and was allowed to study the sacred tomes of Aesculapius, becoming more skilled in medicine.

11 March 2014

Exploring Atlantis 3: Meet the PCs Part 2

Next up in Meet the PCs is EC's character:

Name: Asrok        Profession: Assassin
Race: Human   Culture: Hesperian     Age: 24    Renown: 0

Attributes:   Str +1  Dex +4   Con 0  Spd 0   Int +2  Per +2  Wil 0  Cha +1  
Combat Rating +2  Magic Rating 0  Wealth Rating +5 
Hit Points 20   Hero Points  6  (1 in Earth, 2 in Air, 2 in Water, 1 in The Void)

 Athletics: 10   Deception 6  Disable Mechanism 8  Evade: 6  Influence: 5,  
Instinct: Initiative 4  Languages: Atlantean 10, Hellene 5  Literacy: Atlantean 7  
Lore: Theology 3,  Navigate 3  Parry: 6  Profession: Assassin 10  Ride: 8  Stealth: 10  Unarmed Fighting: 10  Weapon: Gun 0, Heavy 0, Melee 10, Ranged 9, Thrown 5

 Talents: Shadow Walking, Wealthy

Disadvantages:  Relationship: Scorned Amazonian lover
                              Internal:  Code of conduct- Unwilling to kill bystanders
                              External: Debt of service to Atlantean crime lord

Destiny: To become the most skilled assassin in the world

Walking the Life Paths.  Asrok had a civilized Upbringing and is the "Child of a Retired Hero".  He had a Childhood Encounter where he "Saw a star fall from the sky and found its remains." Family Status brought the result "Family is poised for greatness or unbelievable failure." Asrok went through the Previous Adventures section 3 times. At the end, Asrok had battled  alongside  the  great  Nubian  warrior  Shabataka and learned the art of misdirection and evasion from him, made a lifelong friend in the city of Tartessos, and made an enemy of an ex-lover.

Asrok is a good example how the Life Path system can be useful to the GM as well as the player. EC chose Hesperia as his male character's culture. (He did so because he liked the accompanying skills and bonuses, without bothering to read about Hesperia.) But Hesperia is the land of the Amazons. A native male assassin should be an unlikely prospect in Hesperia. But what if there was an organization of male assassins in Hesperia? It would be greatly feared and hated.

Thus were born the 'Little Brothers of the Night', an order of assassins that is the terror of Hesperia. Run by women, (this is still the land of the Amazons after all), the 'Little Brothers' are trained by women known as the 'Elder Sisters'. All answer to the 'Revered Mother', whose identity is known by few, if any, of the other members. It is this organization that Asrok has fled Hesperia to escape after a romance with one of the Elder Sisters went bad (which accounts for his Disadvantage: Ex-lover for an enemy).

The Life Paths also can be used to tie some of the characters together. If we look back at Tafkap's Life Paths, we see that he spent some time fighting with the Amazons. This can explain how he and Asrok are acquainted. They met during Tafkap's time in Hesperia. In Asrok, Tafkap saw a skilled travelling companion from whom he could possibly learn some new fighting techniques. In Tafkap, Asrok saw a ticket away from his current problems in Hesperia.

06 March 2014

Exploring Atlantis 2: Meet the PCs Part 1

In a previous post, I promised to introduce you to the player characters for my Atlantis: The Second Age game I am preparing to run. This will also give me a chance to talk a little about character creation in the game. I'll start with RM's character.

Step 1:  Choose a race.  Of the 13 races available, RM chose to play a Lemurian, an advanced race of intelligent apes. Physically strong and technologically advanced, Lemurians could at one time have laid claim to the title of world rulers, but now most reside in isolation on the continent of Lemuria. Lemurians are also the only characters that normally  have access to firearms, but RM chose not to equip his character with any. (This decision by the normally rabid gun enthusiast caused another player to ask "Who are you and what have you done with our friend?") This also set the character's baseline attributes and granted a few special abilities available only to Lemurians.

Step 2: Choose a culture. There are many, many cultures in the game to choose from, and all cultures are available to all races. RM chose the most obvious one for his character, Lemuria. This gave his character a variety of skill bonuses and a +1 to his intelligence.

 Step 3: Choose a profession. This is as close to the concept of character class as this game gets. Of the 4 broad professions available, RM chose The Slayers, which gave him access to the Slayer Talents. (These talents can be chosen by other professions, but at a higher cost.) Within the profession, RM chose Warrior. This gave him a variety of skill bonuses, a +1 to his wealth rating, and the Slayer Talent, Cleave, which basically lets a PC hit multiple opponents per melee attack.

Step 4: Walk the Life Paths.  (This is one of the features that led me to pick  Atlantis: The Second Age for my next game. Last year I ran a very short campaign of Fortune's Fool. One of the things the players particularly enjoyed about it was the character creation Life Path system. I wanted to run a game where that was a part of character creation again.) A character's Life Paths are determined by a combination of choice and random die rolls. RM chose a civilized Upbringing and rolled "Child of Thieves".  For Childhood Encounter he rolled "Switch places with a prince and asked to rule in his stead.  After  1D20 (15)  months  the  prince  returned  and took his rightful place." Family Status brought the result "Entire family killed in a great war." The Previous Adventures section can be chosen up to 5 times. Each trip through this section ages the character a random number of years. RM decided to go through this section all 5 times. At the end, his character had dined with a cannibal king and lost an eye, formed a love/hate friendship with a noble, found a strange and valuable device, gained a devoted wife and fathered 3 children, and fought with the Amazons. He's had a very busy life and the game hasn't even started yet!

Step 5: Final Details. There are a slew of things tucked into this category. Character Age (determined by Race and Previous Adventures), which can modify Attributes , Hit Points (determined by Race and the CON Attribute), Renown (which is sort of a combination of experience points and reputation), Hero Points, which are similar to fate points or bennies in other games, and are distributed into different Atman elemental categories, 30 Customization Points to spend on Attributes, Skills, and Talents, Disadvantages to choose, which the player can bring into effect in order to earn more Hero Points, and a Destiny to choose for the character. RM did all this and the finished character looks like this:

Name: Tafkap (which is a really, really bad joke)       Profession: Warrior
Race: Lemurian   Culture: Lemurian     Age: 33    Renown: 6

Attributes:   Str +3  Dex +1   Con 0  Spd 0   Int +3  Per +2  Wil 0  Cha 0  
Combat Rating +2  Magic Rating -2  Wealth Rating +1  
Hit Points 20   Hero Points  5  (2 in Earth, 2 in Air, 1 in Empyrean)

 Athletics: 10   Evade: 8   Handicraft: Weaponsmith 2, Needlework 2  Instinct: Initiative 4 Languages: Lemurian 10, Atlantean 3, Hellene 3  Literacy: Lemurian 2  Medicine: 2  Parry: 7  Profession: Slayer 10  Ride: 2  Stealth: 6  Unarmed Fighting: 7  Weapon: Gun 2, Heavy 0, Melee 10, Ranged 8, Thrown 6

 Talents: Cleave

Disadvantages:  Relationship: Jealous royal cousin of prince he switched places with
                              Internal:  Claustrophobia 
                              External: One eye

Destiny: To found the world's greatest fighting school and train disciples of renown

I will post the other characters later (but probably just the Life Path results and the Stat summary).

03 March 2014

Day 28 D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop: What's the single most important lesson you've learned from playing D&D

 Edit: Looks like my last post didn't manifest and I just now noticed.

I didn't start playing D&D in order to learn anything. I play to relax, to socialize, to have fun. I play because it's interesting, it's exciting, it's diversionary. Not to learn a lesson.

But, of course, you learn something from any activity you participate in. Role playing games can teach a number of different lessons. The single most important lesson I've learned from playing D&D? Flexibility.

As a player, you have to flexible when facing the challenges presented to you during play. The obvious answer may not be the one that works. As a DM, you have to be flexible when your players perform some completely off the wall action instead of what you expected them to. In order to set up a session you have to be flexible in order to accommodate everyone's schedule as best you can. And a certain amount of flexibility is useful in bringing the disparate personalities around the table together into a functional gaming group.