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7/30/2019 8:05 am  #1

Returning to Heroes of Hellas

After a series of one GM - one player games using Everywhen (1620s France - 'Musketeer style' swashbuckling spy games, for my wife, Alison), the return of my other player from overseas means it's time to play something else.I'm planning to go back to my Heroes of Hellas game, upgraded to Mythic BoL.

When last we saw our two heroes - an Amazon mounted archer and a Thracian javelin-throwing mountaineer - they had just fled Athens with their business partner (a Trojan sea captain) and fetched up in Crete, where their second partner (a Minoan sea dog) was building two galleys with their joint loot.The plan is to sail to wherever it is beyond the Pillars of Hercules that the Phoenicians get their tin from - and so break their monopoly of this precious commodity. Mind you, there was enough loot left over for the two barbarians to buy a vineyard, and the last game closed with them enjoying the fruits of their first harvest - not wisely but too well! I wonder what trouble they'll get into this time?

Last edited by Gruntfuttock (7/30/2019 8:05 am)

My real name is Steve Hall

7/30/2019 8:18 am  #2

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

Γιούπι! I hope you’ll update here on how that goes. Hellas is one helluva setting.  (grin)


8/06/2019 9:20 am  #3

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

Ran a fun Heroes of Hellas game yesterday for my two players. The PCs are an Amazon archer and a Thracian Bard (so, under HoH rules, able to cast magic by singing songs). They are in business with a Minoan sea captain and a Trojan sea captain to sail to Alba (Britain) and buy tin, to break the Phoenician monopoly of this vital commodity. They also have in tow a Greek scholar, who acts as their interpreter – who is unfortunately in love with a beautiful Greek assassin, who they have collectively got involved with.

They started the game at their vineyard on Crete.After a bit of business at the beginning of the game (setting up some ‘fun’ for a later session) where the assassin manages to get accommodation in the palace at the capital of Knossos – a Prince is clearly smitten with her – the PCs went on a voyage to Tyre. They were after covertly gathering information on what they could expect once they sailed past the Pillars of Hercules. The lovelorn scholar got on everyone’s nerves as the team trawled the bars of Tyre, talking to drunk but experienced sailors. This is when they heard about the merchant who possessed a detailed rutter (a detailed sailing manual for voyaging beyond the Pillars).

So ensued a truly ‘seat of the pants’ burglary at the merchant’s mansion – protected by guards, free-roaming panthers, and state of the art locks. It ended up as a triumph of improvisation and luck. The guards and the panthers were lulled to sleep by a magic song – aside from one guard who got an arrow through his skull for resisting sorcery. Opening the strong room was noisy, and woke the merchant. This was useful as the rutter wasn't in the strong room (they filled their sacks with gold and jewels to cover their disappointment). The merchant was persuaded to disclose the rutter’s whereabouts, after which the PCs tried to knock him out – they proved useless at this, so the scholar killed him with a dagger thrust. (He’s love sick, and someone has to pay.)

I’ll not mention the encounter that night with an Egyptian marine patrol (Tyre part of the Egyptian empire) which led to a tense moment as they prepared to sail back to Crete the next day. “Yeah, remind them that you were one street away from the scene of the crime last night.”

They also stole all the merchant’s horses.

Last edited by Gruntfuttock (8/06/2019 9:21 am)

My real name is Steve Hall
     Thread Starter

8/07/2019 9:51 pm  #4

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

What a blast! I’m self-conscious of the limits of my historical savviness (I know the advice is that Xena is a more appropriate source than hard historical record, but hey!), otherwise I’d dive into a game. Keep us updated!


8/08/2019 4:04 am  #5

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

Actually, there is some credit in the Xena advice, as in a slavish adherence to genuine history tends to box the players in too much. However, often if you are looking for plots and NPCs to steal, and general inspiration, then real history beats most fantasy fiction hands down.

This game is very pulpy - a Ray Harryhausen view of Ancient Greece, but with more politics going on. I think I described my successful Egyptian game as 30% real history, 30% Hollywood Ancient Egypt, 30% espionage, and 10% Lovecraftian horror. That works for me when it comes to a Sword & Sorcery game nominally set in a historical period. 

For my swashbuckling game set in the Musketeers genre, it was about 40% espionage/investigation, 30% cinematic Musketeers genre, and 30% real history (although I feel free to move some of the timeline around slightly, for a better game).

My real name is Steve Hall
     Thread Starter

8/08/2019 4:48 am  #6

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

An example of how I like to do things....about something I've not actually done yet!

I like the Kull stories of Robert E Howard. Which is to say that I like The Shadow Kingdom, and By This Axe I Rule, and that I really like the setting. The other stories aren't really that good, although they are useful for the little details they give about the world. But The Shadow Kingdom is one of my favourite REH tales, and I find the world of Kull intriguing. 

What I love about the world is that there is just enough detail for you to run a game in it, but there is plenty of blank space into which you can add your own stuff. And it reminds me very much of the Later Roman Empire before the fall of the West in the later 5th century. I'm sure this is a deliberate choice by Howard, as he knew his history and often added details from real history into his stories. Actually, he really wanted to write historical tales, but couldn't make it pay. This is why the Hyborian Age of Conan is such a mash up of cultures inspired by different periods of world history - that way he could scratch his historical itch by writing about a different part of Conan's world in each story.

As I know a bit about the Later Roman Empire and can see the appeal of games set in such a world, a setting where PCs are roaming Kull's world, possibly working for him in dealing with the Serpent man menace is easy to run. Just add bits of real Roman history, add Serpentmen or other monsters/supernatural threats and let the dice roll. The Valusian military seems almost a mirror image of the Late Roman armed forces (cavalry as the strike arm with support from an infantry composed of mostly barbarian warriors) so one can assume that Kull also has an intelligence service as ruthless and efficient as that of the Roman emperors. A great opportunity for PC employment.

I really must do this some day.


Last edited by Gruntfuttock (8/08/2019 4:53 am)

My real name is Steve Hall
     Thread Starter

8/17/2019 2:37 am  #7

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

Just finishing off my prep for tomorrows Heroes of Hellas game (updated to BoL Mythic). The players will be pitched into the courtly politics of Knossos with the arrival of Theseus and the Athenian sacrifices.

This is the true story of course, not the lies you find in Bullfinch: Theseus is as clever as a sack of dung; King Minos is mad as a box of frogs - kept alive by sorcery of his Snake God priestesses, who are serpent women right out of King Kull; the King's alchemists have cloned extra Minotaurs; his grandsons plot the succession; and King Agamemnon has an agent in place to make sure the succession goes the way he wants.

Someone needs to sort this out - hopefully without getting caught. Guess who? Yes, our two humble barbarians who have set up in the Cretan wine business and just want a quiet life (until next year when they plan to sail off to Britain to buy some tin). If they don't bite for this palace intrigue (as is totally their right) then they can go off to a distant isle to lift a curse on one of their investors.

Hilarity will hopefully ensue.

Last edited by Gruntfuttock (8/17/2019 2:38 am)

My real name is Steve Hall
     Thread Starter

8/19/2019 6:49 am  #8

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

Wow! That’s a fantastic setup. Personally, the imposed “responsibility” I feel going into a historical setting imposes artificial restrictions on my imaginative fancy. The young me says, “history is boring”, and thus any plot line I might dream up would unconsciously lean toward flat and mundane.

You have proved to me that I can break this line of thinking.


8/21/2019 6:56 am  #9

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

I ran another Heroes of Hellas game last weekend, for my two players.

Their associate (friend would not be accurate, as they have discussed killing her) is a beautiful assassin from a distant and obscure Greek kingdom, who is passing herself off as a refugee Princess at the palace of King Minos – she is the new lover of one of his grandsons. The PCs (an Amazon warrior and a Thracian tribesman were delivering trade goods to the palace and looking to get their bill settled, when the assassin introduced them to the King. It was a day for foreign visitors as Prince Theseus of Athens had arrived with the tribute of 7 boys and 7 maids (he seemed OK with this)

For 3 hours real time (2 days game time), the PCs got involved in the affairs of the Minoan court, talking to various movers and shakers and being politely interrogated in turn. (My wife Alison said this was like being pitched into the middle of Game of Thrones without knowing who the different factions were and having no idea what was a stake.) After being invited on the spur of the moment to attend a grand feast (and taking part on an archery contest (the Amazon) and a javelin throwing contest (the Thracian tribesman), Mad King Minos took a shine to them and they were asked to stay at the palace for a picnic and boar hunt on the morrow.

As well as sussing out the two Princes (joint heirs to the kingdom) and trying to discover what the assassin was up too (they failed in that endeavour), the two barbarians shared dinner with the Athenian prince Theseus. The fact that Theseus was clearly thick as a brick didn’t stop the Minoan Princess Ariadne falling head over heels in love with him. But she was clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer either.

The next day Mad King Minos led a deer hunt into the central forests – which were the part of the island of Crete which were the domain of the centaurs. The Amazon spurred ahead of the hunt to meet with the centaurs and get their agreement not to attack the hunters. She now owes the centaurs a debt - which they will call in.

That evening the assassin turned up at the PCs room in the palace in disguise, saying that Prince Theseus was eloping with Princess Ariadne, that the other Minoan Princess was going them, and that Theseus had decided to free the Athenian sacrifices and kill the minotaur. (The sacrifices were being sent into the labyrinth that night.) She begged their help in saving Theseus - interestingly the PCs went along with this without asking why she considered saving Theseus important. The assassin said that the King’s alchemists had somehow grown more Minotaurs (Bronze Age cloning) and that the labyrinth was honeycombed with sound channels leading to the King’s throne room, so he could hear the screams of the sacrifices – so they had to keep quiet to keep their identity secret.

So ensued an hours playing time of blood and thunder in the ill lit labyrinth. Theseus had killed the guards at the entrance, which had just been discovered by more guards as the PCs arrived – so they had a big fight to take out the guards before they entered the labyrinth. The labyrinth had floor and ceiling traps as well as young minotaurs, all of which had to be dealt with. Eventually they saved 6 of the girls (all 7 boys and 1 girl were dead and in the process of being eaten) and finally confronted the original minotaur. He was in the process of killing Theseus when they arrived. He left the Athenian idiot alive to attack the PCs. The Amazon finally killed the minotaur with two magic arrows, but not before the monster nearly accounted for the Thracian – he had him at his mercy and then fluffed the dice roll (not easy rolling dice with hooves).

They bound Theseus’s wounds and got him and the girls out the palace with the princesses, where his retinue were waiting. No one saw or heard them and there were no living witnesses, and Theseus will claim sole credit when he gets back to Athens. The next day King Minos went bonkers and declared war on Athens! The PCs got paid and snuck off to their Cretan vineyard. They have no intention of getting involved in the war.

Things are getting interesting (in the Chinese sense of interesting!)

Last edited by Gruntfuttock (8/21/2019 6:58 am)

My real name is Steve Hall
     Thread Starter

9/17/2019 5:25 am  #10

Re: Returning to Heroes of Hellas

I ran the next 'episode' of our Heroes of Hellas game yesterday. This was due to be run a couple of weeks back, but real life (ugh!) intervened. At that time I was totally dry of ideas or inspiration, so I downloaded a free Runequest (Design Mechanism) scenario called Sariniya's Curse, which had a Ancient Greek flavour and also elements Ray Harryhausen's Golden Voyage of Sinbad (thumbs up from me!)

I added an element from an old scenario on Venemous Pao's blog about pirates hiding out while the captain's brother dies from a serious wound, and intregrated the various threads from the HOH setting and the games we played so far - and then we were good to go.
Then we didn't play.

In the meantime I had come up with a scenario of my own, but I decided to run the stop gap idea first anyway. It was a lot of fun.

A snooty merchant who might invest in the heroes cash-strapped enterprise has a curse on his family, and wanted them to take him to an island where a priestess can lift the curse. After they set sail from Crete he informs them that it is an infamous island infested with cannibal cultists - but they are not to worry as he has a trading post there. He trades with the cannibals for a magical herb - something that is extending King Minos's life.

On the island the trading post has been occupied by a pirate crew who have wrecked their ship on the island's reef. They need a new ship.

When the heroes arrive the pirates pretend to be simple shipwrecked sailors. The PCs pretend to buy this, but tell their ship to sail off and return in 2 days time. So the PCs (an Amazon and a Thracian bard), the captain of their vessel, the cursed merchant and his two bodyguards walk up the mountain at the top of the island to deal with the priestess. Unfortunately she and her people are barking mad and just see their visitors as lunch. Hilarity ensures.

Highlights included the Amazon falling into a pit trap on the trail, the Ray Harryhausen inspired multi-armed statue being sent against the party, the Bard taking control of the statue and sending it against the cannibals, and the priestess failing repeatedly to regain control of the death dealing statue. Every time she tried the Amazon hit her with another arrow - but somehow she still didn't drop!! A very tense moment.

But not as tense as when, in fleeing the outraged hordes of cannibals, the Amazon triggered a trap and literally brought down the top of the mountain! Heroes and cannibals ran together down the mountain path to avoid tons of crashing granite. The cannibals fled into the forest on the lower slopes and the party now had only to deal with the pirates.

They took out the leaders of the pirates and were offering to take the remaining crew off the island, when the cannibals regained their courage and attacked the trading post (yeah, OK, I stole that from REH's Dark Stranger). Forced to fight side by side, the pirates and the party held off the cannibals until their ship returned, and it was a fair wind back to Crete.

The pirates all enlisted in the Minoan navy as King Minos is waging war on Athens, after the Theseus and the Minotaur outrage in the last game.With the death of the priestess the curse was lifted, and the merchant has agreed to invest in their scheme to sail to Alba in the spring to buy tin from the Keltoi, and break the Phoenician monopoly.

All in all, a great game!

Last edited by Gruntfuttock (9/17/2019 5:28 am)

My real name is Steve Hall
     Thread Starter

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