|from left to right: Super-Strong Demigod, Lookout, Secondary Protagonist|
"The peplum film (pepla plural), also known as sword-and-sandal, is a genre of largely Italian-made historical or Biblical epics that dominated the Italian film industry from 1958 to 1965." -- Wikipedia
I spent some time this weekend re-watching some MST3K Hercules movie riffs, and decided to throw together something for my own amusement. Those seeking something a little more awesome from their sword-and-sandal gaming should look to Mythos from Mystical Throne Entertainment. These V.E.N.U.S. (Venturers, Experimenters, Navigators, and the Unusually Skilled) packages are all thoroughly in the vein of cheesy fun.
The central protagonists of any peplum tale are inevitably supremely-muscled beings of astonishing strength. Hated by corrupt local rulers for their goodness or cursed by malignant gods opposed to the heroes’ divine parents, these Super-Strong Demigods find their lives constantly threatened by murderous plots and monsters.
The classic pepla of the 1950s and 1960s featured such Classical mythological figures as Hercules, Perseus, and Ulysses, such Biblical mythological figures as Goliath and Samson, and such quasi-literary characters as Ursus (based on a character from Quo Vadis?) and Maciste (a character who bloomed from a silent movie strongman into a full-fledged folk hero). Modern pepla roleplayers may wish adopt such roles as: Atalanta, the fierce huntress raised by bears; Dido, warrior-queen and founder of Carthage; Galatea, the beauty born from stone; and such Amazons as Antiope, Hippolyta, Myrina, Penthesilea, and others.
Note that while Super-Strong Demigods’ strength is superhuman, they have no special immunities to harm. Players of demigods are advised to invest in Vigor and increasing their Parry.
- Bonus Attribute: +4 dice Strength. Super-Strong Demigods may purchase their Strength up to d12+4; the professional and Expert Edges can increase this to d12+6.
- Bonus Skills: +1 die Fighting
- Bonus Hindrances: Enemy [Major; jealous gods and mortal rulers constantly conspire to beset the Super-Strong Demigod with challenges], Heroic [Major]
- Bonus Edges: Brawny, Improvisational Fighter
- Bonus Gear: a riding horse or chariot with team with which the hero travels the Mediterranean world battling evil; Super-Strong Demigods seem to always be able to find at hand a convenient boulder, broken column, or fallen tree to utilize as a large improvised weapon.
The Lookout’s role is to shout “look out!” when the Super-Strong Demigod is about to be attacked from ambush or about to fall into a trap. Due to their innocuousness and watchfulness, such characters often prove instrumental in discovering the conspiracies by which evil rulers and mad cultists seek to ensnare the Demigod as well.
Lookouts may be love interests (damsels in distress and distressed dudes) or comedy relief (doddering dotards, little people, wannabe heroes) but rarely have the martial competence to serve as Secondary Protagonists. Lookouts frequently specialize in Healing and other supporting skills.
- Bonus Attribute: +1 die Vigor
- Bonus Skills: +2 dice Stealth, +3 dice Notice
- Bonus Hindrances: Weakness [Minor; Lookouts are at -4 to Notice danger to themselves]
- Bonus Edges: Alertness, Danger Sense [Lookouts’ Danger Sense also applies to when allied Super-Strong Demigods and Secondary Protagonists are endangered]
Secondary Protagonists lack the gods-given power of Demigods but make up for it with wits and dexterity. They often serve a literally junior role to the primary protagonists of pepla, being sons of Hercules or wards like the young version of Ulysses. They may be love interests of the Super-Strong Demigod (Gabrielle, Hylas) or have the romantic sub-plot foisted on them (especially if they are the Demigod’s own child). Rarely, the Secondary Protagonist may assume the role of a mythological figure better known for brains than brawn (Autolycus, Theseus).
- Bonus Attribute: +1 die Agility and Smarts
- Bonus Skills: +1 die Fighting
- Bonus Edges: Acrobat, Extraction
- Bonus Gear: short sword (gladius or xiphos)