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Bastards of Zeus (1) [In Development]

This is the first in our In Development series where I dust off some of the game ideas, systems and playthroughs 
Since it's Titans week the most fitting candidate was Bastards of Zeus (BoZ if in earshot of the kids!)
Until I've done a few, I'm not sure exactly how the format will be. Some parts will be the setting and characters, key scenes and notes from the play (if it's one of the games we've played). Other parts will be the rules and design notes why I wanted things to run in certain ways.


Bastards of Zeus was a short campaign set in mythological Greece. I ran the game with my regular gaming group September to December 2013.

The classic Clash of the Titans (1981) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963) had a profound impact on me as a child. The Harry Harryhausen creatures and the Greek myths grabbed me the same way as when I first the original Star Wars films. I actually prefer the Greek mythology to most of the faux-medieval, Tolkienesque fantasy materials.

Somewhat inspired by the release of the Clash of the Titans (2010) remake a few years earlier, I was reminded of my love of the setting and wanted to run a rules light that captured some of the key parts.

Call to arms

The background is that Zeus and his brother Hades have made a wager. Hades claims he has created a mighty creature, the Magisturm, of such perfection it shames anything Zeus has created.

Falling for Hades' ruse, Zeus drunken declares that "even a handful of my bastards could destroy it." With the challenge set, they decide on the stakes... the Magisturm must be killed in 28 days or Zeus gives up the throne of Olympus.

The characters are each a demi-god, fathered by Zeus and abandoned on earth. Zeus visits each in turn and informs them, that they have been chosen to save the world from Hades.

I took many liberties in the background, timeline and settings of the mythology. Hades is more a bad guy akin to Disney's Hercules, resentful of his abandonment.

One of the more amusing aspects of this background was one player, a massive fan of all things Greek took offense that the Spartans of Greek mythology were not the warriors as portrayed in 300 at that time. Gods, Djinn armies, mechanical statues, a monsterous crow were all fine and part of the genre but having the Spartan as the warrior archetype was inaccurate.

Player Characters

Each player character had an archetype, home city, worshipped deity and unique ability.

Anatolis (The Prince)

Raised unknowingly by the King Arakis of Iolchus, Prince Anatolis was fathered by Zeus. A skilled leader and warrior he was instructed by Zeus to spearhead the destruction of the creature.

Whilst both Zeus and Hades were supposed to not interfere once their quest was set in motion, Hades made the first strike. Disguised as a travelling sage, he informed the King of the Queen's indiscretion and Anatolis true parentage.

Following the sage's advice the King sent Anatolis to defeat a monstrous boar that was rampaging through vineyards in the kingdom. The prince was unaware his company of soldiers had been instructed to stand back and let the boar kill him. Or failing that, kill him themselves.

Anatolis' special ability was leadership. Before a battle he could make a stirring speech and grant a bonus to everyone if successful.

Panopticon (The Oracle)

Orphaned at birth at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Panopticon was held prisoner by the greedy clergy of the temple. Exploiting her power and beauty she was a prisoner to bring in wealth to keep the fat priest well fed.

Panopticon was forbidden to leave so the party had to free her by force. That meant dealing with dagger wielding priestesses with the ability to foresee their attacks and defences.

When freed, Panoptican was able to tell of visions, half formed vistas and faces. These visions were cryptic clues as the the challenges they would face and directed the players down the optimum path.
Panopticon's special ability was also foresight. As well as powerful visions acting as narrative hooks, the player could grant anyone a re-roll once per day.

Autolycus (The Slave)

A slave to an Athenian family, Autolycus acted as a spy for his master and a protector for the son. The party arrived and attempted to negotiate Autolycus freedom. During the meeting another slave, wounded and scared returned home and reported the son had been kidnapped.

The cost of freeing Autolycus was finding the criminals responsible and rescuing the boy.

They succeeded by Autolycus using his stealth to free the boy whilst the rest fought the guards. This action earned him his freedom.

Autolycus' special ability was social chameleon. Always able to just avoid being noticed when he wanted to.

Ariadne (The Sailor)

An experienced sailor, Ariadne was the captain of her own ship. The problem was she had docked at Sounion whilst awaiting passengers. Meanwhile some merchants from Arabia had arrived, bringing with them a cursed gourd full of sand.

The gourd was opened and magic sand spilled out. An army of sand Djinn stalked the dock, killing all they found. Ariadne's crew were butchered and the docks locked down.

It was when the rest of the party arrived for their half-sister, hoping to use her ship they discovered the docks were infested by evil. Speaking to the surviving merchants, they learnt of the cause of the curse.

In a race against time they raided the dock. Dozens of small sand Djinn, blocked them. When destroyed they broke into sand, moments later reforming again. They had to replace the stopper in the gourd to prevent more Djinn appearing.

Guarding the gourd was an "ogre" of sand. When they thought it defeated, it split into two humanoid sand warriors. As each warrior was felled, they split into smaller creatures.

It took skill, endurance, luck and throwing sand creatures into the sea to stop the threat.

With the docks free, they were able to reclaim their ship and re-crew it with slaves from Athens.

Ariadne's special ability was siren song. This allowed her to sign a seductive song to distract or pacify opponents or get information without violence.

Parnenion (The Spartan)

Parnenion was a general of Sparta. Fighting for the glory of Ares he was sent, single handedly to recover a stolen key for his king.

Parnenion met the party on the road between Delphi and Athens, guided by the fates no doubt. When Zeus informed him of the quest he agreed to help and accompanied them.
The party learned that the key was required in order to reach the Magisturm and had been taken by the King of Argos. We did all struggle to avoid jokes related to the catalogue shop.

The King, driven mad by Hades, had locked himself in his keep in the city. When they arrived, the Spartan army was besieging Argos. Fuelled by Zeus, the King of Sparta had also been pushed to battle.

Some of the party infiltrated the keep whilst others led the Spartans into battle where they defeated the Argos king and took the key from his body. The problem however was that the Spartan king demanded the key, unaware of its true meaning and driven by corruption he would not negotiate.

Whilst they were able to take some loyal Spartan warriors with them, they were forced to flee as traitors from the Spartan army and set sail to find Daedalus' workshop.

Parnenion's special ability was great strength and fighting skill.


Daedalus was the father to Icarus. When escaping Crete, Icarus flee too close to the sun and crashed down to the sea and died.

Hades however was able to make Daedalus construct him a protected realm. In exchange for visiting his dead son he designed and oversaw construction of an island more cryptic than the Labyrinth.

The group had to track down Daedalus' in his workshop and learn the location and defences he had been commissioned to build.

A broken archway was all that was where his workshop should have been. Powerful magic meant the workshop was only accessible when the key was used.

The workshop was also guarded by a mechanical, animated statue. They barely survived the fight with Anatolius close to death. As the statue was destroyed the group was able to gain Daedalus help. Hades had locked him away after the construction was complete, using one of his own statues to imprison him.

Daedalus explained that there was an island, in the Mediterranean sea, surrounded by a chasm acting as a whirlpool. The only way to cross it was using a key to raise up an aqueduct and sail across.
But the only way to even see the island was sailing south from Naxos with the key making it visible.

The only way on to the island itself was a beach guarded by 100 mechanical statues. Heavily wounded after their encounter wth one, hearing that 100 more awaited them made the chasm sound good.

The players had followed the guidance of Zeus and Panoptican's visions. That meant they were already able to travel to Naxos.

The statues had a weakness: sand. It clogged the mechanisms and slowed them down. Fortunately the group had a magic army of Djinn to hand.

The group had to decide how many days to prepare.

Daedalus helped construct a mighty siege bow for their ship as well as a launcher and wings.

They were also able to negotiate peace with the Djinn army, in exchange for fighting the statue army they would be freed.

Each would have a monumental effect then the arrived on the island.

The Magisturm

Hades creature of monstrous perfection was only seen in our final session but its death being the goal of the game made "it" a very important character.

Hades was able to conceal the location from even Zeus which meant the quest was not as simple as just going and slaying the beast.

Daedalus had accompanied them and they avoided the whirlpool, crossed the bridge and settled into the small bay overlooking an army of 100 mechanical warriors. Each statue motionless. Waiting.

Amongst the statues, a young girl was watching them with curiosity. She skipped away leaving the group with the question of the army.

Unleashing a literal whirlwind of Djinn and blasting into the ranks with their siege bow they were able to smash a large number from the safety of the ship.

Ultimately it required a landing. Our heroes, the Spartans and their other allies stormed the beach and defeated the remaining mechanical warriors.

Then the Magisturm itself. The players did not learn the nature of the creature until they faced it.
Beyond the beach lay a beautiful meadow before a sinister temple built into a mountain. The girl from the beach and a dozen other maidens lived in the meadow. They were priestesses for the Magisturm temple.

The girl led them to the temple until an unholy roar sounded from within. She fled and they advanced into the tunnels and caves beneath the temple.

However the twist in the tale was that the large creature that emerged, a horrific fusion of crab, spider, worm and squid was merely the Guardian. The Guardian was the boss battle, forcing them to use all their skills and tactics to lure it out to fight on soft ground.

On the soft ground they were finally able to trip it enabling critical blows between it's heavy armour in the back of its neck.

As they stood, bloodied and weary they realised that the girl was the Magistrum. Hades work of perfection. Beautiful and innocent.

In an emotional final scene Hades mocked the heroes and Zeus as they were forced to decide if to kill this girl for a bet, to save the world, or let her live.

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