Campaign Concept: Ancient Greece
Time Period: The Heroic Age of Mycenae (approximately 1629-1628 BC, the year Thera erupts)
Home City: Mycenae (called Mukanai)
Major Plot: The awakening of Typhon
The Divine Plot: The story begins when the mother of all monsters Echidna conspires with her children to plot the freedom of her husband Typhon from his grave beneath Mount Aetna, through which a portal of Tartarus can be found. Echidna seeks revenge against the gods (and Zeus in particular) for their imprisonment and subjugation, and plans to achieve this by freeing the ancient Titan, her husband, although she does this secretly (or so she thinks), for she has been sleeping with Typhon’s cousin, Set. Set, the dark god of the southern empire of Egypt, has manipulated Echidna in to this action, for he seeks to gain dominance over all the world, but to do so he must topple Zeus from his throne.
Cults have begun to spring up among the city states of Mycenae and the humans who are worshipping Typhon have angered the Olympians. Zeus, regretting the imprisonment of Typhon who once aided him has nonetheless grown angry with the mortals who fuel his spirit with their reverent worship and seeks to punish them.
Typhon’s portal to Tartarus is located beneath Mount Aetna, on a remote Isle to the mysterious western lands of the Etrustcans (Sicily). Echidna believes that with enough strength, Typhon will be able to break free. To accomplish this, she sends forth her horrible children in to the world to wreak havoc on the temples and worshippers of Zeus, and encourages the cultists of her and her husband to worship freely. This will strength the Titans while weakening Zeus. In the interim, she sends her favored daughter, the Lamia Tytherias, to find the passage Tartarus beneath Mount Aetna, to locate the ancient burial chamber of Typhon to awaken the restlessly slumbering beast.
The Mortal Realm Events: Several events transpire which clearly indicate that something is amiss:
1. The Oracle of Delphi makes a terrifying prediction that the Kingdom of Atlantis on the Isle of Thera will be destroyed, for they have awakened the Mother of All Monsters.
2. Across the lands of Mycenae monstrous beings erupt from their lairs and begin to rampage, striking down loyal servants of the Olympians, destroying temples and menacing the population.
3. Cults are rumored to be springing up across the land, worshipping the Serpent God Typhon, a Titan whose worship in this time has been unheard of since his ancient imprisonment by Zeus. There are other rumors that a terrible cult to his wife Echidna has been embraced by the Atlantean king Tyraeos.
Actual Mycenaean Religious Concepts Reconstructed:
Dyeus – chief sky deity
Optional Plot Idea: the period is very much historical, but with a chthonic magical element that is amorphous and clearly both ambivalent and inimical (a mythos-style approach to the subject).
In this world, the timeline is during the period when the Titans walk the earth, and the castration of Ouranos was a recent phenomenon, during which the skies rained with the god’s blood during his castration, leading to the creation of terrible monsters.
Use Ancient Heroic-Age Greece for the mythology writ large (essentially set the setting in the Homeric vision of Greece), but reinterpreted through the lens of historical and archaeological information on the period. This would be a relatively dark and gritty campaign, where I extrapolate from the actual historical data on the period to reconstruct what it might have looked like in 1600 BCE Mycenae (Mukanai) during the period of conflict when the Pelasgians were (possibly) being displaced by or merging with the invading population of the Achaeans....or possibly even a case in which the local Mycenaens (as well as the Minoans, who were on the verge of going into decline) were basically stuck between the Pelasgian populations and other Achaean tribes to whom they were related. Of course this is all happening right around the time when Thera was most likely to have erupted, which I think would make for a great story backdrop, and if I wanted to I could integrate some of the prototypes of that Atlantis tale from Plato in to the matter by suggesting that the real Atlantis was, in fact, an outlier colony of Minoans who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the volcano erupted.
I'm also debating how much of Graves and other advocates for the mythic transitional period to use. If I aim for a sort of quasi-archeo-historical recreation I could toy with the idea that maybe the Pelasgians were characteristic of the matrilineal "White Goddess" concept he espoused, with a society on the cusp of invasion by the Acheaeans and their patrilineal "Dyeos" (Zeus). I've also long thought that the entire myth-cycle of Zeus's triumph over Ouranos and the Titans was characteristic of a sort of relgiious coup, in which the invading religion games triupmph over the beliefs of the subjugated by both absorbing and then subjugating the pantheon of local gods, which makes me think it would be interesting to emphasize the idea that many of the Titans might still be worshipped and represented in this period, but the faithful are losing ground to the Achaean invaders and their patrilineal system of belief and religion. This could make for great RPG plot fodder, as this being a fantasy setting means that there are real monsters, and the cultists of the Titans could be calling upon the monstrous children of those Titans (such as Echidna and Typhon's hideous brood of beasts like the hydra and the chimera among others) to cause as much strife among the invading Achaeans. Of course the Achaean tribes are where all the young heroes spring from, and while noted warriors like Herakles and Perseus are destined to appear, the PCs get to play all the heroes that Homer never knew about (or whose deeds were misattributed to other heroes of the day). Most likely if I set it this far back then I could definitely make Perseus the dominant hero of the day....maybe set it in his waning years, ruling over Mycenae proper. This would mean Medusa is dead, but her sisters Stheno and Euryaile are still lurking and plotting the slayer of their sister's downfall.....another plot hook for young heroes.
Idaean Dactyls (daktyloi Idaioi)
The Dactyls are numbered in tens of tens, and are a chthonic race of the earth born of Rhea, the earth mother. They are a race of the earth, stout men born of the goddess and imbued with a natural talent for metalworking. It is the Dactyls who have brought this knowledge of metallurgy to humans.
The enigmatic and lithe curetes are the first beings of Crete, and though few in number they are still known to dwell there. The first and most famous of the Curetes are the five brothers being Heracles, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas. It is from the families of these five that all Curetes are descended. The Curetes are regarded as the children of Zeus himself, sprung from his tears to protect the infant in his seclusion, and so have mystical knowledge and importance.
The ash-wood nymphs were created by the spilt blood of the castrated Ouranos, and gave birth to the first races of men in the Age of Bronze. The Meliai remain in the world, deep in secluded regions as the venerable nymphs, possessors of sacred lore and fate.
Semi-aquatic fishmen with vaguely dog-like heads, fantastical metallurgists and makers of strange and arcane devices.
These sons of Ares are sewn from the teeth of the dragon slain by Cadmus of Thebes. They are a for of autocthonic race, metallic men who live to fight.
This hearty folk have the constitution and traits of ants, transformed into men. They populate the lands of Aegina and are known for their amazing endurance and fighting prowess.
Shadows over Mycenae
Within the streets of this city-state fortress a darkness surfaces. Foreigners from the north, the Pelasgian tribes have been at war with the Mycenaeans for decades, but the attacks have grown bolder. Meanwhile, the elder king Perseus and his wife Andromeda, who is herself a native of Ethiopia across the sea, where Perseus’s eldest sone Perses rules. Perses has recently sent a delegation to warn his father: cults have risen, involving the Three Sisters, of whom Perseus slew Medusa so long ago. It is whispered that her sisters Stheno and Euryaile are at last intending their revenge against his murder of their sister. The stories that the three sisters are in fact hideous monsters that can petrify men only help fuel the fire of rumor.
Elsewhere, in the northlands of the pelasgians of the mainland a new cult has arisen, which claims that the mother of all monsters, Echidna, conspires with her children to plot the freedom of her husband Typhon from his grave beneath Mount Aetna, through which a portal to Tartarus can be found. The Oracle of Echidna claims she seeks revenge against the gods (and Zeus in particular) for their imprisonment and subjugation, and plans to achieve this by freeing Typhon, her husband. The apocalyptic claims of this mysterious oracle in the north are sparking rebellion and dissention among the pelasgian tribes, who now grow emboldened and strike out against Mycenaean outposts along the northern territory.
Typhon’s portal to Tartarus is said to be located beneath Mount Aetna, on a remote Isle to the mysterious western lands of the Etrustcans (Sicily). The Oracle of Echidna believes that with enough strength, Typhon will be able to break free. To accomplish this, the oracle and Echidnae’s cultists believe they have been called forth to awaken the brood children of the Mother of All Monsters, to awaken these chthonic beings to wreak havoc against the Mycenaeans and other followers of the young gods.
(from Wikipedia) during the Bronze Age: “During the Bronze Age the pattern of settlement at Mycenae was a fortified hill surrounded by hamlets and estates, in contrast to the dense urbanity on the coast (cf. Argos). Since Mycenae was the capital of a state that ruled, or dominated, much of the eastern Mediterranean world, the rulers must have placed their stronghold in this less populated and more remote region for its defensive value.”
The Mycenaeans are a hardy lot, engaging in athletic games, military training and civic responsibilities while managing their households. The region is a hub of farmland filled with houses and estates, surrounded and protected by the palatial fortress on the high hill.
The king of Mycenae is Perseus, who has in his middle years has settled down to manage his people and lives his glory years through the tales of orators who speak of his great deeds. Though he no longer carries the shield of Athena or the head of Medusa (which he gave to the goddess) he still carries the adamantine sword Zeus gave him in his youth. He rules with Andromeda, who remains the most beautiful woman of this era.
The Mycenaeans are worshippers of Zeus and the “greater pantheon” they have introduced to the mainland since their arrival.
Northward from Mycenae lies Korinthos, along the peninsular coast, where the people (all of Pelsasgian descent, worshippers of the old Titans) are ruled by the evil king Sisyphus. Korinthos and Mycenae are always at war, and have been for generations. Though no recent conflicts have been fought, the threat of the Pelasgians of Korinthos always looms, and insures the Mycenaeans remain vigilant in their military exercises.
The people of Korinthos have begun to adopt the worship of Zeus, and have looked away from the older Titans as their gods.
Kichyro and Nekromanteion
Southwest lies the city of Kichyro (late Ephyra), where the dark temple of Nekromanteion rests, acting as the eternal gateway to the land of the dead, Hades’ realm. Kichyro is the capitol of the kingdom of Thesprotia, which is another rival to the west of Mycenae. Here rules the Pelasgian king Thesprotos, a surviving son of Lycaon. Thesprotos fought and conquered all of the tribes in this region, bringing them under control and uniting them in to his kingdom. He built Kichyro as a fortress to both oversee his conquered lands and also to honor the nearby temple-shrine which protects the sacred entrance to Hades’ realm.
Worship of the cthonic gods is popular in this region. The mysteries of the portal to Hades, guarded by the priests of the Nekromanteion give the people and the land a sinister reputation. Necromancy is more common here (using necromancy as the literal process of divination from communion with the dead).
This land is an unspoiled wilderness in the region between Thesprotia and Mycenae, and haunted ruins found in Arkadia is where the legacy of Lycaon can be found. The oldest city lies in ruins, and it is said that lycanthropes born from the curse of Lycaon roam the region. Likewise, Pan, greatest of the satyrs, is said to roam throughout Arcadia, as do many other supernatural beings, some friendly, some dangerous to mortals.
From Wikipedia: “Geographically, ancient Arcadia occupied the highlands at the centre of the Peloponnese. To the north, it bordered Achaea along the ridge of high ground running from Mount Erymanthos to Mount Cyllene; most of Mount Aroania lay within Arcadia. To the east, it had borders with Argolis and Corinthia along the ridge of high ground running from Mount Cyllene round to Mount Oligyrtus and then south Mount Parthenius. To the south, the border Laconia and Messenia ran through the foothills of the Parnon and Taygetos mountain ranges, such that Arcadia contained all the headwaters of the Alpheios river, but none of the Eurotas river. To the south-west, the border with Messania ran along the tops of Mount Nomia, and Mount Elaeum, and from there the border with Elis ran along the valleys of the Erymanthos and Diagon rivers. Most of the region of Arcardia was mountainous, apart from the plains around Tegea and Megalopolis, and the valleys of the Alpheios and Ladon rivers.”