Homebrew Mythological Figures: Odysseus/Ulysses (5E) - Page 9
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  1. #81

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCosmicKid View Post
    The way 5e handles bows is far too outlandish already for me to really protest, but in actual archery there's no magic trick (short of mechanical aid) that will allow you to string a bow, recurve or otherwise, without the exertion of strength. If you want to translate the concept to D&D, the relevant proficiency would be Athletics letting you add a bonus to your Strength check by using proper technique. Still a Strength check.

    And then, remember, Odysseus pulls the bow. Again, no magic trick that will let you pull a hundred-pound bow without exerting a hundred pounds of force.
    You're willing to accept lightning bolt spells, but not a bow that has a "trick" to stringing it?

    Ok.

  2. #82

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCosmicKid View Post
    If Homer described a magic bow that has a trick to stringing it, I'd accept that. But he doesn't. He repeatedly describes the bow-stringing challenge as a contest of strength, and Odysseus himself boasts of his strength immediately after stringing the bow. The Odyssey has fantastic elements, but this is a mundane scene. The setting is Odysseus' own home, the antagonists are ordinary men. The action would have been personally familiar to many of the original listeners -- hell, it's familiar to me, with my mere amateur dabbling in archery: a novice straining to string a heavy bow, then an expert saying, "Hey, give it here", and smoothly stringing it without apparent effort. It's not that there's no trick to it. Of course there's a trick. But the trick is useless without strength.

    Remember also what's going on here narratively: this is a demonstration of Odysseus' right to wed Penelope and rule Ithaca as king. In one of the most testosterone-soaked cultures in human history. There are indeed parts of the Odysseus where Odysseus is a sneaky weasel. This part is reassuring us that he is also a mighty badass warrior.
    Wait, are we (by which I mean 'you') talking about the Odyssey, or D&D? You seem to be jumping back and forth.

    But if we're talking strictly about the Odyssey, I think you should go re-read the text. Based on my memory of the story I was skeptical, too, then I re-read it. I now think there's a strong case to be made that he did it with finesse. But I'm not arguing that is the definitive interpretation. Just that it's interesting, and plausible.

    YMMV, of course. That's cool, too.

  3. #83

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    A trick bow wouldn't prove that Odysseus was a better person than any of the suitors present. Otherwise, they could watch him string it, and then repeat the trick. Superior strength would prove that he's innately superior.

    The story always made perfect sense, in any edition of D&D that included Strength bows. Odysseus had Strength 18/00, and a bow built to support that. Only one in 21600 individuals could possibly match him.
    Sorry I missed this response earlier.

    Yes, that's always been the party line in D&D, but I see some good arguments for the "trick" version:

    1) If it were really all about physical strength it would literally be the only example in the entire story of Odysseus, across both the Iliad and the Odyssey, where his physical strength is what sets him apart. And it would happen when he's an old man. Hmm.

    2) I was not assuming that the "trick" is something you notice when you're watching, such as using a bow stringer. (A good analogy might be the "trick" of holding your body horizontally on a flag pole.) And if nobody knows there's a trick to it, then it wouldn't necessarily be apparent that he used a trick rather than strength.

    3) On the other hand, even if it were obviously a trick when viewed it wouldn't matter because moments later anybody who might have complained was dead. He wasn't actually winning the right to marry Penelope; he was tricking all the suitors into thinking it was a contest to win that right, so that he could kill them.

  4. #84

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Stew View Post
    This is a well-established idea in the scholarly literature. See, e.g. Caroline Sutherland, "Archery in the Homeric Epics", Classics Ireland 8 (2001) 111-20. I've attached the first page, where the presumption is at the start of the second paragraph.

    It's not certain, because Homer doesn't give enough information, but it is the explanation that accounts for what is in the poems, and I (at least) know of no other explanation that does.
    The problem with this interpretation is that if recurve bows where sufficiently well known to Greek audiences that they would all get the reference without it being spelled out, then presumably the suitors would also be familiar with recurve bows. So if that's the only explanation for why only Odysseus could string it, something doesn't add up.

    I mean, that's fine if his bow was a recurve. But is that sufficient to explain why nobody else could string it?

    Maybe there was some cultural thing we wouldn't understand where it would be assumed that people from Ithaca wouldn't know a recurve bow if they tripped on it. Imagine a scene where a bunch of guys from a small town in (insert your least favorite state) try to figure out a sous vide machine. Erudite audiences would get the joke.

    In the year 4018? Maybe not.

  5. #85

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Stew View Post

    Remember also that the contest is Penelope's idea.
    Sort of. Athena made her think of it.

    Anyway, I'm going to bow out. I think it's a really interesting topic/idea, but it seems like too many people are trying to instruct others, rather than just have a good discussion. It's just not that important.
    XP dave2008 gave XP for this post

  6. #86

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    The story always made perfect sense, in any edition of D&D that included Strength bows. Odysseus had Strength 18/00, and a bow built to support that. Only one in 21600 individuals could possibly match him.
    Just keep in mind that Ithaca is a small island (population probably under 4,000). Even with visitors, lesser lords and what not, it would seem highly unlikely to swell over 5,000 souls, half of which would be women. Remove the women, children and elderly that 5,000 figure would be drastically reduced.
    I'm suggesting his strength need not be at maximum (20 or 18/00). If one sets it at maximum then one might risk running into comparative issues with regards to STR for other heroes and heroines, mythological or otherwise.

    His ability to draw that bowstring was a result of a combination of STR and technique/skill.
    Last edited by Sadras; Monday, 21st January, 2019 at 04:16 PM.

  7. #87

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sadras View Post
    I'm suggesting his strength need not be at maximum (20 or 18/00). If one sets it at maximum then one might risk running into comparative issues with regards to STR for other heroes and heroines, mythological or otherwise.
    Either way, there's some sort of Strength requirement. I would suggest that it's not a simple 18, because otherwise 5 in 1000 would be able to succeed.

    I also have no problem with 18/50 being the typical Strength for most heroes everywhere. When you're talking about mythology or superheroes, peak-human is run-of-the-mill, and actual Strong heroes usually have divine Strength that would push them far above that.

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