Tyche’s Favourites

Greetings listeners!

Our new game is now in motion, and before you start to hear our dulcet tones once more, I thought it would be a good opportunity to preface the game with some explanation as to what’s going on. I’ve already mentioned that we are playing a historical game, set in the Hellenistic era, using Adventurer, Conqueror, King. So to let you in on some more detail.

 

The setting

It’s 300BC and the Hellenistic world has been upended and the pieces and players in the struggle for Alexander the Great’s empire shaken once again. At the Battle of Ipsus all of the other powers united, briefly, in order to deal with the common threat to them all: the Antigonid kingdom of Antigonos and his son Demetrios Poliorcetes. Antigonos was slain on the field and Demetrios fled for his life, and the victors carved up their holdings in Asia Minor between themselves. Thus the Diadochi were reduced from five to four: Kassandros in Greece and Macedon; Lysimachos in Thrace and western Asia Minor; Seleukos in eastern Asia Minor, Syria and Persia; Ptolemaios in Egypt.

All the player characters (PCs) were involved in some fashion in the battle, and indeed some in the other major actions leading up to it. It is in the aftermath that they are made an offer to escape the unending political strife and travel west to one of the furthest flung parts of the Hellenistic world: Massalia.

The earliest Greek outpost on the coast of Gallia (France), founded by colonists from Phokaia, it became a local power in its own right. The gateway into Gallia for goods from Italia, Sikelia and beyond, it was a commercial rival of the Carthaginians and Etruscans, an ally of the burgeoning Roman Republic and often in conflict with the local Celto-Ligurian tribes. While able to hold its own, it never really became a regional Hellenistic power like Lysimachos’ Thracian Kingdom or the Bosporan Kingdom on the Euxine sea. That was history as it was; this game is explicitly alternate history in that respect, if the PCs take hold of the region and do something more with it, then obviously we will be changing what “really happened” and that’s fine.

It’s a significant place that is comfortably distant from the ambitions of the Diadochi and at a time long before the ascent of Rome, which at this time is only a power within Latium and central Italia, and locked in a long conflict with the Samnites. Indeed, the major power are the Carthaginians, who are focused primarily on trade and economic exploitation of the region, not conquest. As a maritime empire, anything the PCs do at sea is likely to draw their interest, along with anything interfering with their established interests. The very act of travelling to Massalia has subtly altered the power balance and will draw a response. A fading power still with enough influence to cause trouble are the Etruscans of northern Italia. Syrakousai on the island Sikelia to the south is the leading light of Magna Graecia, one of the largest cities in the west and could be ally or rival.

Of course the Keltoi are not to be disregarded either; Gallia is claimed by them and as a people they have spread across much of Europa, displacing or dominating the local peoples whenever they have come into contact with them. This is very much a game about that meeting of Greek  and Celtic cultures, with Massalia the nexus of that interchange.

Just a brief note on historical games, my approach is largely going to be one of using history in the gaps; we have few surviving sources on the period in general, and fewer still on our specific location, so at best they’re going to be suggestive of the broad swathes of what was going on. Where I’ve got any hint of things happening, I’ll try to use them insofar as they don’t interact with what the PCs are doing. On the other hand, if the PCs take a hand in those events, they change if it makes sense for things to come out differently. History is the grounding in which everything happens, and an inspiration providing some motive force, but it is not a straightjacket determining how things will out regardless of what happens in the game.

 

The player characters

So on to the PCs themselves. Ironically, for a game ostensibly about Greek culture, there’s only one Hellene, and even then he’s a Macedonian. That’s getting ahead of ourselves, though. The critical thing I wanted to avoid here was the sort of connotation that is often carried in historical games – that you can only have games about nobodies who die prematurely of impacted molars, disease, accident and war. This was an age of colourful characters and to play a game which ignored that would do the period a great disservice.

So from the beginning it was clear in my mind that we would have larger-than-life heroes, capable people who had already established themselves with a reputation, and critically their own retinue of followers. Without bodyguards, attendants, agents and other hangers-on, they would not be taken seriously by the people who matter in the world, invariably aristocrats with landed interests.

Four PCs wandering around unattended in the classic RPG mould would be taken to be vagabonds or some other sort of undesirable. Having their own people around them makes them leaders and people of significance. It gives a little bit of cushioning against the potential lethality of a world without any real magic whatsoever. Both because there can be bodies between the PCs and danger, but also because there are “backup characters” who are already established who might take up the PC mantle should anything untoward happen to the any of the main four. It also opens the possibility of some troupe-style play, where certain situations might call for a player to use one of their main character’s retinue for a scenario where they might be more appropriate.

Thus an additional overhead on the usual process of character generation was the creation of a horde of NPCs, from 5-7 individuals for each PC. Most of this was borne by me after taking outline ideas from the players as to what they wanted, then we had some iterations back and forth until we arrived at a set they were broadly happy with.

Without further ado, here are the heroes!

Rhyanidd – a princess of the Lugii, from the most northerly fringes of Keltoi influence bordering with Germania, she is an experienced warrior and warleader. Like many aristocrats amongst her people, she is an excellent horsewoman and has served in the role of mercenary cavalry since her mid-teens in the wars of the Greeks. She was on the winning side at Ipsus, seizing much plunder. Her bodyguard are devoted to her, they have earned wealth, status and renown following her (and in some cases, freedom).

Meshullum – an Alexandrian Jew originally from Tyre (evacuated as a child from the siege that resulted in its destruction at the hands of Alexander), perhaps it was that early dislocation that led him to his wandering lifestyle. He is a mercenary captain of archers, having been involved in all the major conflicts, since the Gaza campaign, and changed sides more than once. His retinue is comprised of his most loyal archers, and his nephew, a doctor from the Alexandrian school.

Septimus – a Latin from central Italia, he is an enterprising man who considers himself the foremost merchant of war in the Hellenistic world. He provided Demetrios with siege equipment during his famous siege of Rhodes. But he is no idealist allied to the Antigonid cause, he goes where the profit is. His retinue comprises agents, savants and a trio of Cilician pirates.

Philipos – a giant of a man from Macedon, he was a hypaspist like his father before him, wearing a fortune in heirloom armour purchased with Persian plunder. On the battlefield he is bronze god of war, almost impervious to harm. He was on the losing side at Ipsus, but came away with his honour intact. His retinue comprises his closest companions; Greek officers, a dubious Ionian, his valet and his nephew.

You can see much more detail (including both the PC’s stats and that of the individual members of the retinues) on our campaign wiki.

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One Response to “Tyche’s Favourites”

  1. SauerSmooth Says:

    So glad to hear from you guys again.

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