Monday, January 16, 2017

Olympus, Inc








I cannot, with any honesty, review Olympus, Inc. I’ve written an adventure for the setting and expect it to be published in the next few weeks. What I can do, instead, is offer an overview of the new urban fantasy setting from Fabled Environments.
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Written by: Gilbert Gallo and Charles White
Published by: Fabled Environments
System: Savage Worlds
Genre: cyberpunk/espionage/urban fantasy
Overview

Thrown down for their hubris by the primordial mother goddess Gaia, the Greek gods have built mighty megacorporations to replace lost Olympus. The Titans oppose them with megacorporations of their own, turning the battle for godhood into a shadow war of corporate espionage. Waging this war are the demigods, man-times-removed descendants of the gods and monsters of Greek legend who have awakened to their buried divinity, recruited by both the Olympians and Titans to act as their agents.
Contents
Olympus, Inc opens with a chapter detailing the ancient cosmological origins of the conflict between the Olympians and Titans before moving into a history of Olympian activity in the 20th century and the formation of the Delphi Corporation, the private intelligence and security company assumed to be the primary employer of the heroes.
This leads into discussion of six of the twelve Olympians – Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Dionysus, Hermes, and Zeus – and the corporations they control, as well as three Titan-controlled organizations that oppose them. While every Olympian corporation has several legitimate fronts, each also possesses at least one (sometimes borderline) criminal element; this successfully emphasizes not only the nihilism of Olympus, Inc’s cyberpunk side but also the moral ambiguity the gods displayed in their myths. Frustratingly, this ambiguity causes tonal whiplash with the Titans, as their front organizations engage in such unambiguously good services as microcredit and disaster relief in order to provide cover for outright terrorism.
Character creation follows, introducing new Skills, Hindrances, and Edges. The three “races” of demigods are presented: Paragons, who derive their divinity from only one god; Proteans, who have a mix of divine ancestry in their veins; and Demihumans, the half-human monsters of Greek mythology. Only six Olympian bloodlines are discussed (the same six as the megacorporations) and only two Demihuman races are presented (minotaurs and satyrs). Paragons receive the most Power Points to purchase their powers but are limited in the choices they can make, Proteans can choose from any powers they want but are weaker, and Demihumans gain inherent physical abilities but share the weaknesses of their ancestors.
Olympus, Inc requires the use of the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion, as the next section on powers reiterates, but the available powers have been tweaked extensively to fit the mood of the setting. By judiciously avoiding a few powers that refer the reader to the SPC for details, it might be possible to run the setting without needing the Super Powers Companion. Even though the powers presented represent only half of the Olympians, they competently capture the flavor of the those presented.
The chapter on gear follows after, offering Olympus, Inc’s cyberpunk bona fides in the form of a heavily-illustrated four-page spread of ultramodern firearms. New melee weapons, body armor, and tactical gear not found in the core Savage Worlds rules round out the chapter, along with a section on alchemy and magical items. Like 21st century dungeon delvers or Rippers, the heroes of Olympus, Inc are encouraged to harvest the organs of their monstrous foes to render the ingredients into alchemical potions.
The bestiary is spread out over three sections: a collection of generic nonplayer character templates like beat cops and gang members, a cast of characters of developed and unique allies and antagonists (including one that I am sure only coincidentally shares a name with a former cast member of MADtv), and a section on mythological enemies. The latter section is divided into Intelligent Mythological Beings (IMBs) – beings only a step removed from the Demihumans players can play – and savage mythological creatures – creatures of animal intelligence or unalleviated evil. The IMBs contain the usual suspects – harpies, sphinxes, tritons – but also some unusual examples like cynocephali and empusae.
The final section of the book is the Adventure Oracle, a random adventure generator that emphasizes story structure, pulling inspiration from the noir underpinnings of cyberpunk. The oracle (like many Savage Worlds generators) is based on drawing playing cards, with suit and value representing different aspects of the adventure. The suits determine the Concept (Scenario, Antagonist, Motivation, and Reward) while the values determine the Unfolding (Main Theme, the Start, the Twist, and the Main Scene). Advice on how to work the elements of the oracle together and an example adventure round out the book.
Mood & Tone
The most obvious point of comparison for Olympus, Inc is Scion, the mini-franchise from White Wolf and Onyx Path about demigods who are also fighting Titans in the modern day, but the settings are less similar than they appear. Scion – from what I can glean from a cursory flip-through of a copy I got through one of DriveThruRPG’s Halloween giveaways – is much like an action movie version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, tracking a budding demigod’s transformation through archetypal trips to the Underworld and the like. Olympus, Inc is really more like Shadowrun, only the existence of the supernatural is still a secret for most of the world; the setting emphasizes corporate espionage and intrigue instead of mythic transcendence.
(Humorously, this puts Olympus, Inc in stark contrast to Mythos, the previous Gilbert Gallo-penned setting of demigods in ancient Greece, even though Mythos is implicitly part of the Olympus, Inc timeline.)
The moral ambiguity mentioned before firmly aligns Olympus,Inc with Shadowrun, so even though the setting is an alternate now instead of a near-future, it fits the cyberpunk aesthetic. Reading through the section on the corporations can be a bit jarring: the Titans allied with the Nazis, which makes them unambiguously the villains, but in the modern day they preserve endangered cultures and develop low-cost energy sources; meanwhile Aphrodite runs an ersatz Ashley Madison and Dionysus trades in illegal drugs, but Zeus backs what appears to be an homage to Amnesty International. It’s a deliberately uncomfortable, dystopian worldview that presents the Game Master and players with blurred shades of gray instead of the black-and-white moral divisions assumed in many Savage Worlds settings.
Production Quality
Befitting the decade-plus since Fabled Environments began releasing products, it’s no surprise that the graphic design is clean and effective. Art is comparable to most Savage Worlds third-party licensees, with appropriate echoes of early White Wolf books. Following the example of Pinnacle’s multiple releases of the Savage Rifts® books, the text benefitted from customer review after the initial release.

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