The King is Dead

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mythos: The Interview with Gilbert Gallo

Mythos is an epic Greek mythology setting for Savage Worlds published by Mystical Throne Entertainment, who were kind enough to offer me the opportunity for an international interview with the setting's creator, Gilbert Gallo.  While a full review of Mythos is forthcoming, some clarification of new setting mechanics have been interpolated into the interview.  The text of the interview has been edited for clarity and grammar.

Sean Bircher:     How would you like to introduce yourself to my readers?

Gilbert Gallo:     I am just a guy with a great passion for RPG games, a crush for Savage Worlds and very fond of Mythology.

Sean Bircher:     What inspired you to create Mythos?

Gilbert Gallo:     You know, when I was in high school, I hated [mythology] at first but gradually that hate turned into love when I started playing RPGs [because of the] Gods and settings.  So I began reading the mythological texts with different eyes and in the end. .. Mythos was born.

Sean Bircher:     Unlike many games, there’s no list of recommended reading or inspirational films in Mythos.  Obviously, there are a lot of films and books – both classic and recent – that draw on Greek mythology (both versions of Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, Robert Graves’ Greek Myths, Mary Renault’s The King Must Die) so there’s no shortage of inspiration.  Are there any you would particularly recommend?  Are there any that particularly changed your mind about mythology?

Gilbert Gallo:     Well, since Mythos is a game and it has a great epic feeling in it, the first inspiration source would be 300 (both the graphic novel and the movie).  I have read a lot of Robert Graves and I think it is a great source to understand the dynasty wars occurring between the royal houses.
A central conceit of Mythos is the Heavenly Contest -- a competition amongst the Olympian Gods to win the right to be Zeus' heir.  Part of that competition is allowing their adherents to work increasingly powerful miracles as they rise in the ranks of the Gods' Mystery Cults.  These Mystery Cults represent the only Arcane Background in the setting and -- while the number of powers they grant are limited -- they can grant abilities as literally earthshaking as causing earthquakes.  In the core Mythos book, only half of the Olympians are described as entering the Heavenly Contest and only that half has Mystery Cults. 
Sean Bircher:     Who is your favorite God?

Gilbert Gallo:     I think my soul experiences the eternal struggle between Apollo's unreachable perfection and Dionysius' rebel charm.  I still cannot make my mind

Sean Bircher:     My blog is named "Wine and Savages" so I'm pretty obviously in the camp of Dionysus.  In the Savage Worlds version of the Mythos core book, he doesn't have a Mystery Cult.  He had one in real life, so why isn't Dionysus participating in the Heavenly Contest?
Gilbert Gallo:     Well, Gods’ behaviors are impervious to our feeble mortal minds. ;)  Knowing his philosophy, he is probably waiting for the right moment to strike, catching everyone else off guard. Mythos' setting future developments could hold more than one surprise.

Sean Bircher:     Glad to hear it!  Vickey Beaver, one of the editors on the translated Mythos, wanted me to ask how you felt about the translation itself.  Do you think it conveyed your game well?

Gilbert Gallo:     Well, the truth is that THIS Mythos is a brand new game compared to the previous Italian version. Vickey helped a lot to reach a flawless English and I definitely have to say that I could not hope for a better translation. English is way Faster, more Furious and more Fun than Italian. :D

Sean Bircher:     The original, Italian-language version of Mythos was its own system, right?  Were there any notable challenges in translating the game to a new system?

Gilbert Gallo:     Yes it had its own system. But Lady Luck (or you can call it Fate) wanted it that the original game system was very similar to SW so I had really little problem in the adaptation.

Sean Bircher:     Cool!  Can I assume you run games of Mythos?

Gilbert Gallo:     Of course I do! But now I use only the SW version that is improved in many ways.

Sean Bircher:     Interesting!  What are your games like?  What do you strive for in a Mythos campaign?

Gilbert Gallo:     The main features of my Mythos campaigns are: “epic,” “intrigue” and “Gods.”  “Epic” because Heroes tend to be involved by Fate, by Gods or by personal interest in great undertakings.  “Intrigue” is always present.  Can Gods be trusted?  Can your own brother be trusted or will he back stab you for power?  In the end, “Gods.” They are always there, ready to help or hinder Heroes.  And the stories get always more epic when Gods are around.

Sean Bircher:     The emphasis on intrigue clarifies some points for me.  Some of the Mystery Cults -- Algos, Erebus, and Hecate -- are a little out of sync with what I would consider the assumptions of a Bronze Age Greek campaign because they give powers over poisoning, controlling shadows, and summoning ghosts.  How do you see those integrating into a campaign?

(And by the way, naming 300 as one of your influences makes more sense of the emphasis on intrigue as well.)

Gilbert Gallo:     Mythos is not an 'ordinary' Bronze Age. The Heavenly Contest broke out and the Gods are ready to do anything to achieve victory. That's why Heroes have access to powers that the literature doesn't take into account. But this only makes everything more epic.  And that's Mythos's main goal: to provide an epic gaming experience.

Sean Bircher:     That makes sense.  The Heavenly Contest is really the fulcrum upon which the entire setting pivots.

Gilbert Gallo:     Let's say that Mythos is even more epic than The Iliad.

Sean Bircher: LOL

Gilbert Gallo:     The role of Fate and the extreme powers heroes wield and hindrances they suffer are made to provide an extremely epic experience.

Sean Bircher:     Before I forget (again), I'm sure Mystical Throne Entertainment would like it if we actually mentioned them in the interview.  How did you come to partner up on the Savage Worlds release of Mythos?

Gilbert Gallo:     That's a nice story! I was looking for a good publisher for my SW adventures, so I sent an e-mail with a pirate adventure inspired by the Monkey Island series directly to Shane Hensley.  He actually liked it very much and suggested I contact a superb publishing house who would surely help me out with my author's career: Mystical Throne Entertainment.  That's how it all started.  The adventure was published in Savage Insider Premium issue #4 and then I asked Aaron, the chief Editor, "You know, I have a whole setting waiting to be published.  It's really Epic!"  The guys at MTE helped me a lot adapting my original concept to SW.  After a lot of discussions, ideas and improvements, the first epic setting for SW was finally born!

Sean Bircher: Cool!

Gilbert Gallo:     Life has always a big surprise hidden somewhere for you, you only need to look for it.

Sean Bircher:     And here I am writing stuff for my blog like an idiot.  :D

Gilbert Gallo:     Why “idiot?” I think Wine and Savages rocks!

Sean Bircher:     Thanks.  I try my best.  Speaking about how epic Mythos is, what is the most epic thing that has happened in your Mythos games?

Gilbert Gallo:     Well, I always like to say that "the most epic thing is yet to come", since I have the great opportunity to play with incredible players who strive to get the best out of every session.  Nevertheless, here's the most epic scene that’s happened so far:

One of the PCs died in battle and could not fulfill his destiny -- returning home with a sword that would allow his little son to become king one day.  So, all the other PCs put all their issues away and turned Hellas upside down until they managed somehow to reach Hades' domain to ask the Lord of the Dead to bring back to life their comrade.  Hades stated that he would let the PC go only if his comrades would pay his "time debt" with their own lifespan.  They accepted, so they aged in the dead PC's stead until he finally reached his house and entrusted his heirloom sword to his son.

Now, the PC could have escaped, could have fled away and live some years more, but he went back to Taenarum and bade his loyal comrades farewell for one last time.  That's how this PC fulfilled his epic destiny, with his comrades' help.  Some players actually cried when the PC bade them farewell for the last time.

In Mythos, Bennies aren't simply Bennies; they're Fate Points.  Earning them requires propitiating the Gods while using them catches the attentions of the Fates.  One mechanic that plays off of this is Doomchaining; when a character uses a Fate Point, NPCs affected by that usage may become cast into archetypal roles (enemy, friend, lover, mentor, etc.).  When a Hero acts in accordance with that role around the NPC, she receives a mechanical bonus; when she acts against it, she receives a penalty.
Sean Bircher:     Very cool.  Destiny is very important in Mythos and one of the ways that work is the Doomchaining mechanic.  Does Doomchaining come into use a lot in your games?

Gilbert Gallo:     Of course, it's the players' decision.  If they abuse Fate Points to bind Destiny to their will, Fate binds them with heavier, invisible chains.  The more Heroes use Edges and Powers to overcome difficulties, the more Fate binds them to people, to places and, above all, to everyone's expectations. As always, great powers mean great responsibilities.  Being a Hero is not an easy task, but in Hellas everyone prefers to live "as a lion" for only one day than living "as a sheep" for a thousand years.

Sean Bircher:     I can definitely see how that would influence the mood of the game.  This is kind of off-topic, but since the blog's name is "Wine and Savages," what would you suggest drinking while playing Mythos?

Gilbert Gallo: Well, wine of course! There's nothing more appropriate to set the right mood. It's used in libations and in sacrifices, as well for orgies and parties.  My favorites are Italian wines.  I would recommend Negroamaro and Montepulciano.  And of course, for players devoted to Dionysus who drink (and offer!) wine during gameplay, lots of Bennies should be awarded!

Sean Bircher:     We're actually finding that Mediterranean grape varieties grow really well here in Texas.  We have some good Montepulciano and Nero d'Avola wines!

Gilbert Gallo:     Nero d'Avola's great too! It comes from Sicily, where Hephaestus's secret forge lies hidden under mount Aetna. ;)

Sean Bircher:     I need to get a campaign organized.  I'm sure all the players will wind up buying me off with booze.

Gilbert Gallo:     It's great being the Game Master!

Sean Bircher:     When I run games, I like to use background music.  Do you do that with your games?

Gilbert Gallo:     Of course. Soundtracks are a great asset for Mythos' campaigns.  I would recommend 300's OST , Alexander's OST, Troy's OST, Gregorian Hymns, and one of my favorites is “Liberi Fatali,” from Final Fantasy VIII OST (Nobuo Uematsu).

Sean Bircher:     I completely agree about 300 and Troy.  I actually ran a house-rule Savage Worlds Greek mythology campaign a few months back before Mythos came out.  My favorite soundtrack to use was the 2010 Clash of the Titans by Ramin Djawadi (he also does the music for Game of Thrones).  The Spartacus TV series soundtracks are also great.

Gilbert Gallo:     Yes, Spartacus definitely rocks! I am not a great TV-series fan, but for Spartacus I've made an exception.

Mythos player characters may be standard Savage Worlds humans or instead powerful demigods.  While demigods get bonuses like beginning in their God's favor and starting with an Attribute at a base d10, they also suffer the wrath of their Gods' rival and more easily invoke Doomchaining.  
Sean Bircher:     Do most of your players prefer playing humans or demigods?

Gilbert Gallo:     Well, seasoned players tend to prefer humans.  That way, they can avoid a heavy divine presence and focus on their goals. It's a more difficult path, but seasoned players tend to find this more rewarding.

Novice players go for the demigods.  They are easier to play, more powerful, and extremely enjoyable.  The problem is, they are more watched by their divine parents and they have "less freedom" than humans.  They use lots of Fate Points, attracting more enemies and complications, so they usually never rest.  Demigods are REALLY Fast, Furious and Fun, so I recommend them for a first glance of Mythos' features.

If you wish to play a more intriguing, treacherous and politically involved game, then humans are the best choice.

Sean Bircher:     Demigods certainly are bigger than life.  I can see that leading to much more of an action-adventure game.  Come to think of it, when you compare the lives of Hercules and Theseus, one of them definitely had more adventures and the other had more intrigue.  You've captured the milieu very well.

Gilbert Gallo:     Thank you Sean. Greek Mythology is really a never-ending source of inspiration.

Sean Bircher:     Are there any immediate plans for supplements to the Mythos core book?

Gilbert Gallo:     Well, I should discuss them with Aaron first, but my idea is to provide sourcebooks that describe more deeply Hellas's areas, non-Hellenic cultures, different royal houses and, perhaps, new Gods that join the Heavenly Contest and more Mystery Cults.

Sean Bircher: I look forward to Mystery Cults for Dionysus and Hermes.

Gilbert Gallo:     Nice choice. What would you like to find in those Cults?  We could also put up a poll.

Sean Bircher:     Hermes is often associated with Hermetic Magic, so I would expect one of his cults to venerate him as the God of magicians.  Both Hermes and Dionysus are credited as the father of Pan, so I would expect one or the other of them to have a cult about wildness and fear (probably Dionysus).  And Dionysus is credited with both the ability to change his own shape and those of others into beasts, so I would expect some kind of animal control or shapeshifting cult from him.  In my own campaign, the daughter of Dionysus had the ability to command vines and tree limbs to ensnare her enemies.

Gilbert Gallo:     Nice ideas!

Sean Bircher:     Thanks!

Gilbert Gallo:     Let's see what the Gods will decide for Mythos's destiny.


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