Welcome to the latest Designer’s Diary, a column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product. If you’d like to share your product in the Designer’s Diary column, send a message to email@example.com.
Mythos is the new mythological setting for SW where players become daring heroes ready to face epic challenges to attain immortal glory. The Olympian gods strive for Zeus’s succession in the Heavenly Contest. In order to prevail they need their demigod children’s help as well as that provided by brave humans who dare to join the secret Mystery Cults. Play a beloved child of Zeus, a virgin huntress of Artemis, or a slaughterer warrior devoted to Ares. From your protector god you will receive divine powers that place you far over mortals, but beware not to anger your patron, else you will face his wrath! Will you boldly challenge your Fate or will you silently follow your destiny? Will your bloodline prevail over the enemy Royal Houses or will you face total annihilation?
Get ready to capture the Golden Fleece, to sail between Scylla and Charybdis. Pit your strength against the Minotaur, command the wicked spells of Circe and Medea, ascend to the lofty halls of Olympus, and trek deep into the lightless caverns of Hades. Carry the gods’ favor and triumph in a world filled with larger than life monsters, powerful demigods and wicked treachery.
Stick to your honor, because in Mythos true heroes are remembered forever and a worthy man favored by the gods can rise from the humblest of beginnings to command the whole Cosmos.
Greek mythology has been the greatest source of inspiration for the vast majority of settings, legends, movies and novels. Yet, I believe that until now no other RPG setting fully provided me the true epic feeling I would like to experience during gameplay. That’s why I felt the urge to create a setting to provide demanding players the real majestic, epic feeling that only the true mythological setting can give. In Mythos, you can visit Mycenae, you can meet Argo’s kings, you can actually speak with Hermes and you can be involved in the Dynasty Wars as well as in the Heavenly Contest for Zeus’s succession. It’s a world where honor is highly prized and where a hero’s deeds are remembered forever, for better or for worse. Thanks to their patron gods, worthy heroes can actually shape their destiny and the world as gods usually do. It’s true, in Mythos heroes are very powerful, but, since their powers derive from the gods, they must always beware not to anger the Olympians, else they would feel their unavoidable wrath. Moreover, beside fighting monsters and escaping treachery, heroes must live up to their prophecies as well as they must solve the riddle of the Omens. That’s the main purpose for developing Mythos: providing players with a truly epic gaming experience in a “real” mythological world.
Of course, Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid are the first sources of inspiration to create an accurate Mythological geography, as well as all Hesiod’s works to create an accurate Pantheon. For the epic gameplay feeling, I was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods novel as well as by many Hollywood’s movies, namely: 300, Clash of Titans, and Alexander (both the Anime series and the movie).
I did a lot of research to build a coherent mythological setting. Greek mythology often provides many different versions of the same legend, so it has not been an easy task to put it all together in a coherent way! The main source of Mythos’ pantheon has been Hesiod’s “Theogony” while tracking down all major Royal Houses has been a titanic work, and I had to read a lot of different books and excerpts from different authors to build a coherent bloodline for every single royal house.
Mythos’ gaming experience can me summarized in one word: epic. Let’s see what this exactly means.
It means that heroes in Mythos are confronted with great challenges and must often solve grievous problems affecting large communities. Moreover, heroes tend to be always “in the spotlight”: they often have the people’s attention (in-game) at all times. They are the ones shaping Hellas and Cosmos’ destinies with their actions as everyone follows their exploits, constantly praising or wooing them. Bards, poets, actors and all kind of news bringers speak about these deeds, for good or for ill, increasing the heroes’ reputation.
In Mythos, the gods are always there. Whether they descend from the heavens to help or hinder the heroes or watch their deeds silently from Olympus, the gods have a deep influence on all of Cosmos’ important events. Since the Heavenly Contest began, their influence over Cosmos, especially the heroes, has become even greater. However, Olympian gods are not the only ones in Cosmos. In an epic and mythological campaign, the hills, rivers, streams and trees are alive. Most geographical features have incarnate spirits, usually nymphs, who guard and protect them. Thus, when a hero despoils a river, he is hurting a conscious being as well, who will then take appropriate action.
Fate is an essential tool that provides an epic experience. The more Fate Points heroes use or acquire the more epic (and dramatic) the story becomes. Fate draws people, creatures and places into the hero’s life where he is forced to confront them. Will the hero accept his fate or will he go against it?
In Mythos, lineage matters. Many royal houses rule in Hellas. Each house’s sovereign descends from one or more deities who bestowed upon their offspring the “heavenly right” to rule over other people. This is why Hellas’ aristocrats are held in high esteem, since many are demigods or tied by family bonds to one or more deities. Dozens of wars have been fought due to this lineage; whoever has powerful ancestors always shows it off.
In Mythos, honor comes first. Epic heroes and heroines are expected to maintain their honor and refuse to do anything inappropriate, like insulting a priest, ravaging a woman or desecrating a temple, always keeping their word and honoring their oaths. In an epic world like Hellas, people who maintain their honor are held in high esteem. Those who don’t are deemed treacherous and without honor and treated as no better than animals; people won’t speak with them, help or rescue them and, in the worst cases, kill them on sight.
In terms of Savage Worlds settings, Mythos stands out from the rest. PCs are not just heroes, they are epic heroes who call upon the gods to acquire incredible abilities to perform their epic deeds. From character creation, PCs align with a patron deity that gifts them incredible Attributes compared to regular heroes. But all this comes at a price and you must appease your patron deity according to their desires, balancing a life of heroism with sacrifices demanded by the gods. All of this is wrapped around Greek mythology with numerous mechanics to represent those themes.
To coincide with the Greek mythological theme, Fate plays an integral part of heroes’ lives as do the mystery cults of old. Heroes can gain incredible powers, but not like those you’d find in a fantasy setting. These powers are aligned with the gods and provide incredible abilities, not magic. Instead of flinging fire-powered burst spells, you can gain the ability to communicate with underwater creatures or even breathe underwater, like your patron deity Poseidon. Everything from Edges to powers are tied to mythology to bring about a truly epic gaming experience.
I developed Mythos following two main lines: the setting and the gameplay. The setting line has been the most difficult and time-consuming one. It took more than four months of library research to build up a coherent mythological world for the players to enjoy. The most difficult process was creating the “Chronologos,” Mythos’ timeline of events that starts from the creation of the Worlds and ends with the Heroic Age. But, in the end, I did it and it came out very good.
In the meantime, I developed the gameplay line too. I focused first on the gods. Heroes’ powers and feats derive from their patron deity, so the twelve Olympians are the core of Mythos’ gameplay. After that, I focused on the Demigods, the race born from the union between gods and humans, and developed the incredibly powerful Divine Edges. Soon after that, I focused on Fate (a more powerful version of Bennies) and on the consequences that Fate has on NPCs and Heroes as well (Doomchaining). Then, I developed Prophecies, Omens and all the details of Olympian Religion (how to do a proper sacrifice, how much gods demand for atonement and so on).
It was now the turn of weapons, equipment and Sacred Artifacts the gods bestow on worthy Heroes. In the end, I gave GMs hints for an epic gameplay and wrote a couple of epic adventures.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoy playing Mythos!