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    Question Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Many listings of typical fantasy styles list mythic fantasy as one of them. The idea behind it being fantasy worlds and stories that are draw inspirations from and are using elements from various ancient myths. But I think in practice, 99% of what we see is a pulp fantasy version of ancient Greece. Which does has its place of course and can be extremely fun. But it really can't be all there is. The one other example I can think of would be The Lord of the Rings, though it is rather subtle about it with only only three obviously divine or semi-divine beings appearing, and one of them never being seen and another only seen as a glimps in the distance.

    I've often been thinking what else you could be doing with the mythic fantasy concept but never got any good ideas, until only today it finally clicked and I realized that Dark Souls really is a poster boy example for it. It's a game series where you have a lot of divine beings and monsters from past ages appearing, many of which the players get to fight and kill. It also does things with nonlinear time, the nature of souls, and transformations of the world. Plenty of really cool stuff. The was a war of the gods at the beginning of time, and the first king of the gods looks a lot like Zeus, but the end result really doesn't look like Greek mythology at all. Instead it uses elements and motifs from various myths, but creates something new out of them by mixing in plenty of new ideas.

    The question is, what does this mean for GMs when preparing and running campaigns with the intention to give them a mythic feel? Using Greek monsters often gets recommended, but then you're just playing in fantasy Greece again. Not a bad thing in itself, but I think it misses the point of mythic fantasy as a wider concept. Do you think there are things that are specific to mythic fantasy and that make it stand out from most other fantasy that is out there?
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    I think a lot depends on what the word "mythic" actually means to you and your players.

    Greece is a fine example of a set of myths that most people in the Western world know and will relate to, but I do understand your problem with it but have to raise the quesiton "would it feel 'mythic' if people didn't recognise the mytholgy it is based on?

    That said, if you are tired of Greek myths, there are plenty of others to go round:

    Again, most people in Western society have a reasonable familiarity with Norse myth - and again the content is pretty much staple fair for RPGs.
    Arthurian myth will work for a lot of people (and the legends of the court of Charlemagne will be known to a lot more).
    Celtic and Egyptian are less well knwon, but if you and your players will recognise them then go for it!

    Case in point about the recognition factor - I was running D&D with a group of friends, all British and in our 40s or older (so a good breath of knowledge - the group actually includes a Classics fellow from an Oxbridge college). At one point the group accidentally made its way into the realm of Faerie (OK they didn't know I was using some non-standard planes) and I described the dogs they encountered as "silvery coloured with a red head and red feet", which, if you know your standard british folklore, is standard colouration for faerie creatures. None of my players recognised what this meant (they worked out their location from other clues - like there being enough stars in the sky to give colour vision).

    It doesn't matter what you base your adventures on, it will only feel "mythic" if the players recognise it as such - you could take the base story from anywhere and slap on the appropriate trimmings and it will feel "mythic".

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    norse is fairly well known but their iconic creatures tend to be fairly high cr giants and such.

    one of the advantages of the whole Greek thing is that it has a lot of extremely iconic monsters that are low enough CR that you can actually use them in a typical game.

    You can research other mythologies but like others have said it wont feel mythic if they dont know the myths in question. Greek myths, people know those, others? Not so much.
    Last edited by awa; 2019-06-12 at 07:07 AM.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    I think, if I were to boil down a sense of the mythic , it's that we mortals are all subject to the tragic flaws and mercurial whims of a silly and often cruel family of despotic deities of which we can either worship or ignore, neither of which guarantees anything really as you'll feel the impact of them regardless.

    The difference from D&D heroic fantasy for instance is that the named monsters are not, ya'know, a species or anything. There's a Minotaur, the Minotaur, and it has a genesis from a divine punishment by Poseidon for a king's greed and ingratitude. Similar folly or tragedy account for many other famous monsters as well, though quite a few are direct offspring of more distasteful divinities like Typhon or Loki. It's that they're all connected to the broader story of this epic history which mythologies are that accounts for their sense of mythic grandeur. and not in a "they're distantly related to Baphomet"-kind of way but as the result of actual divine machinations within the world.

    Likewise, the gods don't follow alignments. Yes, some are labelled as evil and generally act that way while some are broadly characterized as not-quite-as-evil in comparison and thus could be called "good", I guess. Still, the actions of gods and goddesses aren't judged by the morality of humans, that a deity pulled some **** move and now we mortals have to suffer for it doesn't mean anything with regards to how we perceive and deal with them as they're still gods. So what if Bacchus drives people into becoming murderously insane cannibals who mix blood with their orgies and brings whole cities into ruin? He's still Bacchus and you're still you, and those cities deserve it if he says so. That's just how things go.

    I'd recommend looking at Lord Dunsany. His stories of the pantheon of his high fantasy world of Pegana are an interesting - if often horrifying - reinterpretation of mythic story-telling.
    Last edited by Kitten Champion; 2019-06-12 at 04:19 PM.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Many listings of typical fantasy styles list mythic fantasy as one of them. The idea behind it being fantasy worlds and stories that are draw inspirations from and are using elements from various ancient myths. But I think in practice, 99% of what we see is a pulp fantasy version of ancient Greece. Which does has its place of course and can be extremely fun. But it really can't be all there is. The one other example I can think of would be The Lord of the Rings, though it is rather subtle about it with only only three obviously divine or semi-divine beings appearing, and one of them never being seen and another only seen as a glimps in the distance.

    I've often been thinking what else you could be doing with the mythic fantasy concept but never got any good ideas, until only today it finally clicked and I realized that Dark Souls really is a poster boy example for it. It's a game series where you have a lot of divine beings and monsters from past ages appearing, many of which the players get to fight and kill. It also does things with nonlinear time, the nature of souls, and transformations of the world. Plenty of really cool stuff. The was a war of the gods at the beginning of time, and the first king of the gods looks a lot like Zeus, but the end result really doesn't look like Greek mythology at all. Instead it uses elements and motifs from various myths, but creates something new out of them by mixing in plenty of new ideas.

    The question is, what does this mean for GMs when preparing and running campaigns with the intention to give them a mythic feel? Using Greek monsters often gets recommended, but then you're just playing in fantasy Greece again. Not a bad thing in itself, but I think it misses the point of mythic fantasy as a wider concept. Do you think there are things that are specific to mythic fantasy and that make it stand out from most other fantasy that is out there?
    For my "4th BCE" setting, the basis is "Hellenic Greece", but also I'm mixing in elements from all over the world as long as they're from an appropriate timeframe and fit the general vibe, plus giving a different history. So for anything that's already ancient at the time, including the names of the gods and the old names of cities that have been around for ages already, the naming is all Sumerian and Akkadian. I've got things from SE Asia and India and Mesoamerica and so on mixed in where they fit.

    But even just taking from that core basis, there are a LOT of cultures other than "Greek" that are part of the Hellenic milieu -- just bringing in the Celtic peoples adds a lot.

    (Note that this setting is not really "mythic", there's magic and monsters but it's what might be called "grounded".)
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    We once played a game where we were effectively Native American tribes member, living in a tribe coalition with fantasy elements.

    We just reskined métal weapons and races to be variant of the technology and humans we had. It was very thematic and strong mythical feels.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by Khedrac View Post
    Greece is a fine example of a set of myths that most people in the Western world know and will relate to, but I do understand your problem with it but have to raise the quesiton "would it feel 'mythic' if people didn't recognise the mytholgy it is based on?
    For the purpose of this discussion, I am interested in original fantasy that does not recognizably copy any existing mythology or history, Greek or any other. Fantasy that uses themes and motifs that are familiar from mythology, and applies them to new worlds and stories.

    Fantasy with a mythic style. Not mythology a a pre-existing setting.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    For me, the themes I would identify as mythic in a generic sense are:

    The presence of gods or equivalent forces as power that humans must suffer or placate but cannot resist.

    Related, the idea of fate or doom, a destiny that cannot be avoided and against which struggle only leads to more harm

    The feeling of a young world, or one still in flux, where the deeds of gods and heroes can change the landscape and the nature of things in ways that will become the myth and story of a later age.

    Narrative causality: things proceed according to the logic of stories and morals more than physics or biology.

    The world is not fully understood. Anything can be a mystery, and any mystery might be the work of a god or equivalent.

    In general, a sense of contrasting scales: heroes are far beyond ordinary people, but at the same time even they are powerless in the hands of the gods or fate. The world is vast and humanity is small.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    To be mythic is to be established as real and perhaps foundational to a culture, yet somehow unverifiable. Your game world can steal anything it wants to from real world myths, but it won't feel mythic to the characters if you just say "here's a satyr." There should be rumors, embellished reports from witnesses, contradictory analysis of signs by experts and clergy, and tests of faith before your players ever get close to mythic. "How many heads did Azi Dahaka have?" "I heard he causes earthquakes." "They say he owns 10,000 horses." "He was the sorcerer king!" "Pure evil!"

    By the time they get to the encounter, they won't know whether to trust half of what they've heard. Or instead, they find all the legends true but inadequate. Indeed, Quetzlcoatl is the green-feathered serpent-god of wind, but nobody mentioned that he eats filth and spits it as a weapon.

    To remain mythic, the entity won't truly be challenged by even a high-level party, but their valor may prove them worthy of divine favor, salvation, or epic change in a mortal world that only beings of such magnitude can induce. This makes the PCs legendary.

    Beyond the meta, such legends can grow. Was it a successful strength check that granted Arthur the mighty Excalibur, or a generous water spirit? Either way, he's the king, and one of history's largest empires traces roots to the round table. To become mythic, players must be immortalized outside of their own campaign, unverifiably real, yet significant. Makes me wonder how Critical Role will be remembered in 500 years.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    A big part of the “mythic atmosphere”, as it were, is having the divine in relatively close proximity to the everyday. Miracles happen on a regular basis, and the gods interfere to bless and curse heroes. Monsters aren’t just monsters, but are beings touched by the divine, for good or ill (or are simply divine in nature). Fate is real and people spend their lives trying to thwart or fulfill it.

    This is hard to do at the tabletop. It’s hard to enact divine interference without reeking of DM fiat, in particular. One could design an entire subsystem around it, I suppose, in which players rolled for various types of divine favor to spend at appropriate moments for appropriate miracles both subtle and unsubtle, maybe with rules for overtaxing and incurring divine wrath for hubris or whatever. (13th Age In Glorantha does something like this with runes, minus the punishment mechanics.)

    Monsters are probably the easiest thing to address. Individualize then, and/or play up their majesty and story implications. Avoid legions of lesser monsters, except when dealing with tribes and nations of beings that exist parallel to humanity (and which are likely divine in nature).
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by Kitten Champion View Post
    I'd recommend looking at Lord Dunsany. His stories of the pantheon of his high fantasy world of Pegana are an interesting - if often horrifying - reinterpretation of mythic story-telling.
    I'd similarly plug Tanith Lee's Flat Earth stories - they were one of the big inspirations for Exalted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    For the purpose of this discussion, I am interested in original fantasy that does not recognizably copy any existing mythology or history, Greek or any other. Fantasy that uses themes and motifs that are familiar from mythology, and applies them to new worlds and stories.

    Fantasy with a mythic style. Not mythology a a pre-existing setting.
    Check out RuneQuest's setting, Glorantha. Myths and legends are literally true, and the creator made them up whole-cloth.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    I'd similarly plug Tanith Lee's Flat Earth stories - they were one of the big inspirations for Exalted.
    Which actually came up in this thread -- http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...What-s-it-like


    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Check out RuneQuest's setting, Glorantha. Myths and legends are literally true, and the creator made them up whole-cloth.
    Not only are they true, but there are ways to go back and change them such that the world changes to match.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    I think Mythic is an overly-broad term. When most people use it, they are seemingly referring to a Graeco-Roman setting with capricious deities who regularly interfere with the affairs of mortals, (typically) heroes of divine heritage, individual monsters with astonishing powers that must be defeated, decentralized authority or city-states, and a meta-physical universe that separates the divine from the mundane (Olympus, Aeaea, Styx, Hades, etc.). You might have other trappings like an external force that is forcing the city-states to get along or wars between two or more leagues of city-states. Morality may or may not matter. But, that's just a Mythic setting based on Greece.

    If you want other sorts of Mythic settings, you have to look into the ancient religions of other parts of the world. From other parts of the world, you might have struggle against demons as a focus. You might have temptation from magical beings. You might have spirits that grant wishes if imprisoned or captured. You might have a war between humanity and the divine that ended with the divine retreating to under the earth. You might have an ancient disaster that ruined the land to purge the wicked. You might require sacrifices of blood, animals, or crops to appease the gods. In other settings, the gods might be marginally more powerful than an individual human. My point is, there's no silver-bullet for what specific setting details need to be included for a mythic setting.

    Instead, I think what makes a mythic setting satisfying is a sort of consistency in understanding the divine and a realization that the divine is a pretty big deal. In many fantasy settings, you can pretty much ignore the gods if you want to. In a mythic setting, some aspect of the divine is unavoidable - if the gods are relatively weak, their actions can still have a big impact. Or, if there isn't a god, but instead an overarching spirit, its influence can be felt.

    Another aspect is the scope of the setting. No one plays a Mythic Greek setting to be a common soldier in the Trojan War. People play to rub shoulders with Achilles, Ajax, and Odysseus, to change the trajectory of the War. That is to say, mythic settings should feel epic for the players. If the focus is only a single war, the players should have a big impact on its outcome - their actions or inaction should matter. If the focus is on surviving a cataclysmic disaster, the actions of the players should be what drives the survival of humanity.

    One feature that shouldn't go overlooked is that the players should feel powerful with respect to the scope. If the players are in a war with other humans, one of them should be the best warrior at the battle. Another, the strongest. While another is the best shot. And yet another is infused with divine intuition. This reinforces that they're not just soldiers, but THE SOLDIERS. And don't hesitate to give them extraordinary abilities. It wouldn't be out of place for a master swordsman to cleave a mountain in two or for a master baker to make cakes that can cure any disease. It doesn't have to be magical - just an expression of their superb skill.

    Lastly, I think that a mythic game needs to involve the metaphysical in some way. Whether that is direct consultation with the gods or its a journey into the Otherworld, the players need to interact with the divine.

    One setting that gets "Mythic" right without tying it to any specific real-world mythology is Exalted. You can certainly see inspiration of Greek myths there, but you can also see inspiration from plenty of other places and plenty of content created entirely for the setting. The mechanics leave much to be desired, but it is a White Wolf game so what do you expect?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eisenheim View Post
    For me, the themes I would identify as mythic in a generic sense are:

    The presence of gods or equivalent forces as power that humans must suffer or placate but cannot resist.

    [...]

    In general, a sense of contrasting scales: heroes are far beyond ordinary people, but at the same time even they are powerless in the hands of the gods or fate. The world is vast and humanity is small.
    I agree with all of this and I would add events and characters that follow story fairy book logic, not real logic. The BBEG loses his strength if he ever eats chicken/refuses hospitality/says a word that begins with the letter R. Magic isn’t a set of formulae, the incantation changes each time. There is no “Weave” and no people who study it, magic just is. Mithril armor is great, but cannot defend you against a sprig of newly cut rowan.

    There are a ton of prophecies, and they are always vaguely worded but accurate. As a DM, say “you don’t know” very often, and give several plausible, vaguely contradictory reasons why stuff happens.

    At its base, the characters should feel that a scientific or empirical basis does not underlie the world. Mythology isn’t a way to describe what we don’t understand, They are the universal rules that underpin it.

    And if one of your characters makes a vow, he or she gets a buff as long as he or she keeps it. The more difficult the vow, the stronger the buff. At DM discretion, breaking the vow can cause a penalty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    At its base, the characters should feel that a scientific or empirical basis does not underlie the world. Mythology isn’t a way to describe what we don’t understand, They are the universal rules that underpin it.
    I don't think that this is true. Rituals and ceremonies arise because they are believed to be effective. "Last three times we sacrificed a child, the flooding stopped. So, let's sacrifice a child again!" If it doesn't work, it's not because the ceremony is wrong, it's because the participants performed it wrong or the situation is slightly different than the last time or because they need to do more to appease the deity. Maybe try sacrificing two children this time...

    And the people who study "magic" are the priests. They're trying to find better ways to communicate with the divine and interpret the divine's intentions. They're the ones who come up with the rituals and decide when a ritual needs adjusting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    I don't think that this is true. Rituals and ceremonies arise because they are believed to be effective. "Last three times we sacrificed a child, the flooding stopped. So, let's sacrifice a child again!" If it doesn't work, it's not because the ceremony is wrong, it's because the participants performed it wrong or the situation is slightly different than the last time or because they need to do more to appease the deity. Maybe try sacrificing two children this time...
    That is true in reality. I am arguing that it shouldn’t be true if you are trying to reproduce a mythic feeling in your campaign. To feel mythological, magic should feel mysterious, not scientific.

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    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    That is true in reality. I am arguing that it shouldn’t be true if you are trying to reproduce a mythic feeling in your campaign. To feel mythological, magic should feel mysterious, not scientific.
    Mystery is a tricky thing in gameplay, because it's a game and not a novel. In a game context players expect that repeated inputs should have consistent outputs, and if they don't that's equivalent to changing the rules on them during play and people positively hate that. Games demand a level of empiricism that is vastly greater than narrative fiction as a result. It simply isn't possible to escape a certain level of game-related elements even in the most mythic of productions (ex. in the video game Abzu, which consists of a nameless character swimming through wondrous oceanic environments solving various puzzles, your character cannot die, and this dramatically reduces any sense of danger once it becomes apparent).

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker
    Instead, I think what makes a mythic setting satisfying is a sort of consistency in understanding the divine and a realization that the divine is a pretty big deal. In many fantasy settings, you can pretty much ignore the gods if you want to. In a mythic setting, some aspect of the divine is unavoidable - if the gods are relatively weak, their actions can still have a big impact. Or, if there isn't a god, but instead an overarching spirit, its influence can be felt.
    It doesn't have to be the divine, really, it just has to be entities beyond humanity. One of the central elements of many mythic settings is that humans are very much not the top dog. Often that's because of jerkish deities, but having jerkish gods leads down a path towards grimdark so I actually personally think it's better if much of the mythic presence is sourced to lost ancients or even aliens. For example, in the old Might & Magic RPGs a lot of the truly weird stuff is actually high technology left behind by massively more advanced aliens. It's bizarre and weird and hostile and beyond the understanding of the present civilization, but it's not the gods actually out to get people.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora
    For the purpose of this discussion, I am interested in original fantasy that does not recognizably copy any existing mythology or history, Greek or any other. Fantasy that uses themes and motifs that are familiar from mythology, and applies them to new worlds and stories.

    Fantasy with a mythic style. Not mythology a a pre-existing setting.
    Building your own mythology from nothing and having that mythos have enough internal consistency to actually be useful is really hard. The various real world mythologies have a certain level of consistency built into them because the cultures that produced them were using said mythology to actually explain phenomena in the world. If you try to create your own mythology you're liable to end up with something incoherent and horrifying at the same time, like Malazan. Or, alternatively, you'll get something cheesy and generic like the kind of worlds that show up in isekai anime (amazons Myth & Legends category is currently full of them for some reason).

    If you want to make original mythic fantasy that works you have to start from first principles, deciding what you gods, ancients, aliens or other world-altering power are, what they want, and how their influence has shaped the society of both the garden-variety mortals and the mythical empowered persons among them. That's a big ask, especially given that so many aspects of Abrahamic religious thought and Greco-Roman mythology are threaded so deeply into Western consciousness as to be almost inescapable. For example, the seemingly very original and arguably mythic Book of the Ancestor setting, which features bloodline empowered individuals on an alien planet that is slowly going snowball earth utilizes deeply Christian monastic structures and medieval European social structures. Being both original and believable at the same time is hard.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Mystery is a tricky thing in gameplay, because it's a game and not a novel. In a game context players expect that repeated inputs should have consistent outputs, and if they don't that's equivalent to changing the rules on them during play and people positively hate that. Games demand a level of empiricism that is vastly greater than narrative fiction as a result. It simply isn't possible to escape a certain level of game-related elements even in the most mythic of productions (ex. in the video game Abzu, which consists of a nameless character swimming through wondrous oceanic environments solving various puzzles, your character cannot die, and this dramatically reduces any sense of danger once it becomes apparent).
    Exactly -- if the players are going to have access to the magic of the setting for their PCs, they're going to expect it to work reliably and consistently, or be a known calculatable risk -- at least every player I've ever gamed with would.

    And on the flip side, part of what gives some things their "mysterious vibe" in real life... is that they don't actually work at all. See, any attempt at actual magic. Of course it's all mysterious and non-empirical and "deeply personal", there nothing actually there.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    The question is, what does this mean for GMs when preparing and running campaigns with the intention to give them a mythic feel? Using Greek monsters often gets recommended, but then you're just playing in fantasy Greece again. Not a bad thing in itself, but I think it misses the point of mythic fantasy as a wider concept. Do you think there are things that are specific to mythic fantasy and that make it stand out from most other fantasy that is out there?
    If I was just going to try and make my own mythic game I would focus on the following thing.

    1) The gods are real, present but often distant, if you're powerful/special enough they may even come when you call or stumble upon you randomly, and they are capricious. They have petty squabbles and get angry with each other, and influence their favorites among the mortals to do great things, and as an added bonus maybe beat up the favorite of a different god they don't like. Of course, that will usually lead to the god whose favorite was just killed to get angry and plot a strange revenge. Gods usually work on some kind of moon logic. Get a god angry and they may just kill you, if they're boring. Much better if they have your entire city enveloped in a war. Or they may turn you into a cow and send a giant wasp to sting you for eternity. Or curse you into a long march every night for all eternity where you must attack passersby that look you in the eye and force them to join in your march. They do not have to be consistent. And even the friendly gods can have a jerk moment or two thrown in their mythos for good measure.

    2) What is the society that you're building the setting around, because this is very important to make the pantheon feel right. When Greece was more of a naval trading power, Poseidon was actually the head of the pantheon. Over the centuries passed and agriculture and rain became more important Zeus took up the mantle. This is also shown in the aforementioned Dark Souls game. Fire is the single most important thing in the setting, as such the head deity is a fire/sun god.

    3) In an age of myths monsters should roam in some way. If you don't want to directly have a tie to Greece maybe don't use the classic Greek ones like Manticores, Chimeras, and Hydras. But mythic monsters tend to be either something mundane with a unique property (horses that eat flesh, snakes that are so big they circle the world, dogs with multiple heads), a mash up of mundane things (goat/lion/serpents, a multi-snake headed man that belches lava), or weird spirits that serve a purpose and have weird rules attached to them (tree women that protect a grove by singing, little men that repair broken items around the house but only if given milk, a psychopomp that tears away the cloths or flesh of the dead)

    4) War. Pretty self explanatory. War is usually pretty important in myths whether it be the gods defending their throne from monsters and demons. Or a bunch of heroes that fought each other over something that wouldn't seem particularly important today, such as a pretty women, or the right to cut a magic tree in half, who to name king because the current king is missing a hand and is therefore ineligible for some reason.

    5) Honor is important. But it's personal honor, as in you don't want people to dishonor you by insulting you or stealing your stuff. And you gain honor by being smarter, better, stronger than others. Which you prove by insulting them and stealing their stuff. This is not the chivalric honor where you're supposed to try and do good things.

    6) The important NPCs are all heroes. Kings are some of the most powerful warriors. Or the most wise people in their lands, even more than their monks and advisors. If they have flaws then they have giant flaws. The important NPCs don't do anything in half measures. They build giant walls the likes of which the world has never seen. Or they fight with such skill like the world has never seen. Or they plan battles with such skill the likes of which the world has never seen. And if they lust for gold, their avarice is so large their life can (and will be in later generations) used as a parable about why greed is bad.
    Last edited by Dienekes; 2019-06-12 at 11:10 PM.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing."
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    I would also point out that in myths magical items and weapons are extremely rare and are usually crafted by the deities themselves, they're also beyond awesome most of the time.

    In turn though, they might come with conditions which seem trivially simple to follow but inevitably someone is going to be there that's too curious, greedy, or is just tricked by someone or something that's cleverer than them into violating these conditions and thus turning the boon into a curse. I'm pretty sure that happens in every single myth in which such a condition is raised, as far as I'm aware they're batting 1000 across human history.

    Anyways, mythic items should be worth the herculean effort to acquire them is what I'm saying. Also that from a narrative standpoint a mythic item is fertile ground for calamity and new hooks.
    Last edited by Kitten Champion; 2019-06-13 at 12:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitten Champion View Post
    I would also point out that in myths magical items and weapons are extremely rare and are usually crafted by the deities themselves, they're also beyond awesome most of the time.
    Mythic settings tend to revolve against a truly small number of individuals. The Trojan War, for example, involves hundreds of thousands of combatants and several times that at minimum in civilians who are heavily affected, but out of probably well over a million people there are only a few dozen who matter, and only a handful of them are actually mythic heroes. Exalted actually hit the mythic nail on the head when it produced a setting where only 700 people mattered in the whole world. Unfortunately this tends to lead to reductive problems in terms of setting design. It turns everything into Journey to the West - your mythic party of 4 protagonists is instantly the most and important and powerful thing to have ever happened to everywhere they show up and so the party doesn't really interact with the setting so much as travel along until they periodically encounter something powerful enough to threaten them, smash it, fix whatever problems it was causing, and move on to the next thing.

    That's a perfectly fine way to run a game, and there are a lot of video games that have this sort of vibe (Final Fantasy XV is a nice recent example), and maybe that feels mythic to some people, but I suspect it feels very 'monster of the week' to others.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    I think in a lot of myths, the protagonists actually do encounter the heroes of other groups many times. But there are two distinctive classes of people. Heroes and anyone else. A hero is not something that you can become through training and education, it's something you have been gifted with from birth. Often inherited from divine ancestors or literally granted to you by gods, but it could also just be inborn talent. But either way, there is never any doubt about who is a hero and who is not. People recognize that immediately.

    In game terms, I would apply this by making a clear distinction between bosses and rabble. If NPC is not a named individuals in a position of leadership or influence, they all get only the stats for a the most basic human. No nameless masses of elite soldiers and the like.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Exactly -- if the players are going to have access to the magic of the setting for their PCs, they're going to expect it to work reliably and consistently, or be a known calculatable risk -- at least every player I've ever gamed with would.
    I want to be clear that I never advocated messing around with the mechanical level of spells, for the exact reasons you identified.

    I was talking about spells on the narrative level, where the practice of magic should not resemble the high-fantasy science by another name but should instead be focussed on controlling an ill-known and mysterious force.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    I want to be clear that I never advocated messing around with the mechanical level of spells, for the exact reasons you identified.

    I was talking about spells on the narrative level, where the practice of magic should not resemble the high-fantasy science by another name but should instead be focussed on controlling an ill-known and mysterious force.
    And this works a lot better in systems where utility magic is less-than-abundant or explicitly left vague within the rules, allowing it to fit more neatly into the realm of plot stuff.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    I want to be clear that I never advocated messing around with the mechanical level of spells, for the exact reasons you identified.

    I was talking about spells on the narrative level, where the practice of magic should not resemble the high-fantasy science by another name but should instead be focussed on controlling an ill-known and mysterious force.
    Maybe we should use the OTHER kind of Vancian Magic - where guys like Rhialto the Marvelous have to cajole their balky and none-too-bright genies into granting wishes.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    One weird trick for making any D&D game more 'mythic'? Make more things vulnerable to poison. Gods and monsters got poisoned all the time in myth, so it makes no sense that many gods and monsters are immune to poison.

    Another way to make a game seem more mythic is to play up the impact of the player's actions on the world. Myths were used to explain why some things work the way they do. If the players kill the god of the ice age, then the glaciers will recede. If they staple the desert god's favorite jewel to a bug that gets scared and tries to run, then they've invented the day-night cycle. If they punch the god of alertness and thought in the skull epically, epically hard, then every person in creation will get knocked out every night for 8 hours.

    To reinforce the point above, make the world seem primordially off-kilter to start. Seasons don't exist yet. One part of the world is day all the time. Nobody has to sleep. There is no moon. Bread hasn't been invented. Weird stuff to let the players know they're sculpting a young Earth with their own hands.
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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    My current "superheroes in ancient Greece" game has ended up mythic-ish, as much because of the "superheroes" as the Greek aspect:

    Being superheroes, the PCs are unique in the world: both in powers, and power level. Their spells are innate superpowers, not learned in school. The rest of society is low-level NPC classes (in a game that started at 8th level), so only other named heroes can compete with the PCs (or meaningfully help or heal them — no friendly local temples retailing potions!). Technically we still have magic items (yay assumed Wealth by Level!) but they're fluffed as innate strength, endurance, etc., and go up for free per WBL rather than being found as loot.

    The mechanics haven't changed, but the magic feels a lot less industrialised.


    I've also run some of the more magical things (gods, outer planes) based on symbolism instead of physics.
    But be careful with this. When you realise the mad god's sword can be healed by Excalibur, it feels awesome. When a key clue is a reference no-one but the GM gets, there's a problem. For this to work, you'd need myths your players know fairly well.

    My one suggestion there is to look at your game's published setting. Pathfinder's gods, for instance, have backstories you could weave in as current events. This also gives the PCs a chance to change the pantheon for future campaigns.

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    Default Re: Mythic Fantasy beyond knockoff Greece

    Tangentially related:
    Dael Kingsmill just did an interview with the creator of the third party 5e campaign book Odyssey of the Dragonlords, which is very based on the Greek Epic story style... the creator describes it as "Jason & The Argonauts is the original D&D campaign"
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