Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One of my New Favorite Tabletop RPGs (that no one else seems to be talking about)

Yeah, I know.  Three posts into this blog and I'm finally talking about gaming.  Crazy, right?

I have been playing tabletop RPGs for about half my life.  I started with Dungeons and Dragons, which is still the most prominent and most well known tabletop RPG in existence.  However, as I grew older I found myself caring less for Dungeons and Dragons and more for other RPGs.  Sometimes it was because the rules were easier to follow, other times I wasn't in the mood for a Tolkien-esque fantasy, but my main reason for seeking out other RPGs can be summed up simply:  I like it when game creators do something new.  This could be a twist on an established setting (such as Savage World's fantastic take on the superhero genre Necessary Evil), a setting where you're playing as something beyond common sellswords (seen White Wolf's epic fantasy Exalted) or just a completely unique world (as seen in the alternate history game Deadlands).

And it just so happens that I found an RPG that uses all of those elements:  Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone.

The Premise: The best way I can describe this RPG to you is to imagine Star Wars blended with 300, Clash of the Titans and Greek mythology in general.  Hopefully you're like me and heard that description and yelled "Shut up and take my money!!".  However, if you are still unconvinced, let me continue.

Hellas takes place in a universe that's essentially a space opera version of ancient Greece with the planets representing the city-states of the country (both real and fictitious).  The galaxy is mainly ruled by the Hellenes, essentially humans (specifically Greeks) who were raised to the status of spacefaring race by the gods known as 'The Twelve' (pretty blatant allegories for the gods of ancient Greece/ancient alien versions of the gods) and are still worshiped in the Hellas universe.

Rather than using traditional hyperspace, the spaceships of Hellas travel at faster-than-light speed using an alternate dimension of violet skies, dark clouds and floating islands called Slipspace.  Slipspace has it's own flora, fauna and oxygen, essentially allowing for epic sea battles involving boarding other ships and adventures involving deserted islands.

Who you play as:  Rather than playing as simple adventurers/mercenaries like in D&D, Hellas has you take on the roles of Heroes.  The sourcebook specifically states that the PCs are the movers and shakers in the universe, if it isn't happening to the PCs than it's not important to the story.
Along with the Hellenes, there are seven other playable races in Hellas, among which include the female warrior race of the Amazorans, the savage reptillian Goregons, the mysterious three-eyed Kyklopes, the angelic Nephelai, and the druidic seductive Nymphas.  My favorites are the Myrmidons: a race that consists of a colony of insects which form into a walking, talking 'person', and the Zintar: a race of squidlike beings that operate on land by piloting four legged robotic suits (Zintar, Centaur.  Get it?).

Character Creation: This is arguably the most fun aspect of Hellas.  With your choice of race, you get your base attributes and skills.  You also pick a profession (pilot, warrior, oracle, etc.), of which each race has at least two that are exclusive to them.  Everything else is decided by the roll of the dice, including the planet your character was born on, his family, how his childhood was, the status of his parents and any adventures he may have been a part of before the actual start of the campaign. It is also where the GM finds out each character's Fate (which I will discuss later) While this may seem that it would make for unbalanced characters (which the sourcebook acknowledges), I haven't found any problems with it, and it's balanced out by the 40 'freebie' points you get to spend at the end.  Making characters with your friends who you play with is super fun, especially if you do it together and put together how the PCs know each other via their random backgrounds.

The system used:  Hellas uses a very simple gaming mechanic known as the Omni System.  Basically, you roll a d20, apply any bonuses/penalties and the result will determine if the action succeeded, failed, failed miserably or worked way better than expected.  There really isn't that much to it besides that.

Other Fun Stuff:  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Hellas campaign is how it is meant to be played.  The book explains that a campaign should last decades (perhaps centuries), and as the game goes on your character accumulates Fate Points in various ways.  As you gain Fate Points, your character gets closer to his Fate: the way he is destined to die.  It is possible to dodge Fate for a long while, but if you accumulate ten Fate Points, your character must meet his glorious end.  However, your player need not go home, for he/she can roll up a descendant/friend/relative of the character who just died.  By the end of the campaign, it is possible to be playing your original character's great great grandson.  Some people may find this system unfair to the PCs, but I feel it makes for fantastic storytelling tied to the Greek myths that inspired Hellas.

Final Thoughts:  I love this game.  I love the system. I love the races. I love the huge option for characters, the setting, the scale of storytelling.  I love Hellas so much....and yet it doesn't seem to be getting much love on the internet.  It has thus far had four successful Kickstarters for the core rulebook and various supplements, but I can't find any stories of people playing it, online PbP games or anything.  The lack of talk about this game is one of the reasons I wanted to write this post.  Hopefully one day this game will get all the love it deserves from tabletop gamers everywhere.

-Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone and all of it's supplements can be found at hellasrpg.com

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