Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Inspirations for Fall of the Gods

I have had the pleasure of both reading and playing in Fall of the Gods games based on the Cypher System.  One concern I have heard is that people are not sure what sort of material the game seeks to emulate or what sort of inspiration they can turn to.  I want to make some recommendations to get people thinking about material for their games.

The tone of the game is somewhat atypical of fantasy tropes popular today.  The game does not emulate the grounded low-fiction or even the most popular expressions of high fantasy.  What I see reflected most in the game is mythological fantasy.  Rather than a traditional fantasy party, the characters represent a group of emerging gods.  Rather than turning to Tolkien or Forgotten Realms, you should look at mythological sources.

Details of the Mosaic with the Labors of Hercules -- Carole Raddato (flikr)

The most obvious source would be the various versions of the labors of Hercules.  The character development of the game builds labor-like structures into the heart of the game.  You can look at traditional discussions of mythology (Bulfinch, Hamilton, etc.).  Alternatively, you can look at different takes on similar material.  I think the old TV show "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" with Kevin Sorbo would be a useful inspiration for both stories and tone (big action / a little cartoonish).

This is also a great opportunity to read into the mythology of cultures with which you are less familiar.  If you have not read the Epic of Gilgamesh, this would be a great excuse to do do.  Similarly, looking into the mythologies of India would fit the tone well as far as I know (this is homework I need to do).

What is different about a mythological tone (especially as compared to more typical Tolkien-esque fantasy)?  This is a little hard to pin down.  Certainly Tolkien was basing his work on mythology (especially Nordic and pre-British mythology).  But there is a difference.  The mythological tales present clearly super-human tasks.  Note the emphasis on tasks -- not just victories over creatures, armies, or active opposition.  The labors of Hercules involve vanquishing creatures (the Hydra, Nemean Lion, etc.).  But they also include tasks that are not combat-oriented.  Can you imagine a session focused on cleaning a stable?  It was a labor of Hercules.  What made it the stuff of myth was that it was a task that required superhuman efforts and dramatic action.  You can give your players similar tasks -- mundane tasks with a large scale that requires extraordinary actions to complete.

The tone is also a relatively positive one (usually).  Though there are way to seek other tones, the basic setting seems to set up a strongly optimistic campaign.  It is not really a question as to whether the characters will reach full godhood.  It is just a matter of whether they play through the whole story.  The adventures should not really depend on whether they may or may not get killed by a kobold (or its equivalent).  Instead, it is about accomplishing the impossible.  From Tier 2, players should be attempting -- and succeeding -- at impossible tasks.  That is the stuff of legend.

Encourage players to ask themselves whether their strategies are the stuff of legend - or just the stuff of traditional action fantasy.  Encourage them to re-route rivers or lift the impossibly large boulder.  That is much more heroic than punching a goblin -- even punching them really, really hard.

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