Exclusive Preview and Interview - Age of Myth for 5e with Brett Peterson and Karen Swan

Want to roleplay in the ancient world of the Eastern Mediterranean using Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition? Karen Swan and Brett Peterson have a game up on Kickstarter, Age of Myth: Ancient World Supplement for 5th Edition, which lets you “Roleplay with the Gods of Olympus!” I was intrigued and pleased when Karen and Brett took some time to talk to me about the book they’re producing and share an exclusive preview from it.


EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thanks for sharing this project with us. What is Age of Myth: Ancient World Supplement for 5th Edition?

BRETT PETERSON (BP): It’s an ancient world/mythological setting for 5th edition! More usefully, it’s a series of class options, races and subraces, magic items, rules/GM suggestions, and mini-adventures to let players add ancient mythological elements to their tabletop rpgs.

KAREN SWAN (KS): Essentially, if you’ve ever wanted to be Atalanta, Odysseus, Cyrus the Great, or Cleopatra, you can find a way to make it happen.

EGG: Why ancient Greece?

BP: Actually, we have elements from Ancient Egypt, Classical Rome, Ancient Mesopotamia, and the Ancient Levant as well; though I admit the Greek content stands out. The Ancient World - i.e. the Mediterranean from ~4000 BC to ~400 AD - has such a rich history and mythology, it gives an entirely different feel than the standard Western European medieval fantasy. And that particular feel is heroic - reckless, brash, powerful, mighty, and flawed - in a way that medieval settings just don’t allow.

KS: Ancient Greece is really where the beginnings of Western civilization lie in many ways, so it was nice to go back to the beginning, so to speak. There’s room to build in a “world” with a different culture, different beliefs, different societies, and even different monsters! Doing research was so much fun because I learned so much about the cultures and yet, there was so much that was similar to grab hold of and feel at home in.

EGG: What made 5e the right system for this setting?

BP: If you dig into 5e basic options, you’ll find all of their roots are in the Ancient World. Bards go back to Homer; barbarians were originally all non-Romans; druids were originally Celtic opponents of Rome. Paladins started as palace guards, and some of the earliest-known rangers were the Egyptian Medjay nomads. The only class we really had to tweak was the Eastern-Asian monk, which didn’t fit in the Ancient Mediterranean - but there’s a fantastic tradition of unarmed combatants from the Olympic Games and the legends of Hercules that we were able to build on. And, I play 5e! I have fun with it. :) It was natural to go with my current system of play.

KS: As a late-comer to the roleplaying world, 5e was easy for me to get into and I’ve enjoyed it.

EGG: The book is 90 pages. However, you have stretch goals to augment the count to as high as 300-and-change, correct? What additional content are you looking to add?

BP: Whooo, there’s a lot. We’ve planned out (and started to build) three subclass options for each of the twelve standard classes in 5th Edition, and about eight more races with two or three subraces each. There’s also another 250 magic items we’ve got planned and started, along with at least 120 monsters that fit the setting.

KS: We’re also writing in 50 new backgrounds that fit into ancient cultures. If we hit the stretch goals, then we’ll be able to put together a full adventure and detailed descriptions of about 10 regions, which is what I’m most excited about.


EGG: The cover art is a beautiful piece, and the campaign mentions “all illustrated in beautiful masterworks by some of history’s greatest artists.” Will all the art be taken from museum pieces?

KS: Yes: the beauty of this subject matter has already been illustrated at a standard that is beautiful, inspirational, and appropriate. I’ve loved working with these illustrations because they are lovely. It’s been more than sufficient to stand on the shoulders of painting giants.

BP: We might add a couple of commissioned pieces - Botticelli didn’t paint hoplites riding giant ants - but we’ve set the bar REALLY high for ourselves with the masterwork art pieces. Whatever art we commission has to be of sufficient quality that it fits in with the rest of the book.

EGG: You’re adding a number of new races, what are you most excited to see at the gaming table?

BP: I’m pumped about the myrmidons - ants turned into men by the gods to fight in an endless war. They are often born as twins or triplets, and those siblings share a very limited telepathy that extends beyond death; and everyone has had an absolute blast playing them at the table. From the stretch rewards, I’m most excited about the Hyperboreans - beings that live in a semi-paradise at the junction of the Astral, Ethereal, and Material planes, who turn into trees and swans when they die.

KS: The ichthyocentaurs will be an interesting one to play just because there are already limited options for water-beings. I think the cynocephali will provide lots of options for roleplaying. Having said that, the stretch goals will unlock new class options that I think are super exciting. For example, there are two new druids: the Circle of Salt, which is a Dead-Sea druid; and the Circle of Gaia druid, which is all about earthquakes, volcanoes, and, essentially, the disasters of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Another one, that I helped develop, is the Royal-bloodline sorcerer, based around the divinity of the Pharoahs of Egypt.

EGG: One of the new races you’re offering is the centaur. While it’s not canon, Wizards of the Coast released a centaur player option in Unearthed Arcana (here). How different will your version be?

BP: We wrote our version back in November of 2017, so when that Unearthed Arcana came out, we had a little freak-out session, until we saw that they had gone in a different direction. First, we focus on the subraces in the mythology - Chiron, the original centaur and others of his ilk are very different from the wild centaurs (which are the closest to WotC’s version), and the icthyocentaurs. Even our wild centaurs differ from WotC. Ancient world cavalry weren’t shock troops, because the stirrup hadn’t been invented yet; so the tactics were either hit-and-run, or scouting and pursuit. Based on the work of the Shadiversity team, we’re switching the standard lance-charge of wild centaurs to abilities to engage and disengage quickly. I do like WotC’s discussion about extra movement costs for climbing, though - I wish I’d thought of that. :) (I was thinking of mountain goats scampering up cliff walls when I wrote mine; four legs doesn’t necessarily make you bad at climbing.)

KS: Academic centaurs are closer to the prototype, which is Chiron, who was Achilles’ tutor. They’re beings of wisdom and understanding, rather than just a warrior race. Ichthyocentaurs, which sounds really difficult, are essentially mermaids, but how we think of them in a playful and kind sense, rather than dragging sad sailors to their deaths.

EGG: This was presented at Gen Con 2018, correct? What was the reception like? And what did you think of the convention?

BP: The reception was awesome - the team at Double Exposure pulled 63 playtesters together for us over 16 hours of playtesting time, and everyone loved it. (59 of 63, to be exact, gave us either a highly-favorable or favorable review). We did sample test of each race and class from levels 3 through 15, and, while there were some suggested tweaks we incorporated, nothing felt broken in play. We’d done some playtesting with friends and family locally as well, but after that response, we felt like we should take it further. The convention itself was awesome - it’s a fantastic community, we found everyone we talked to be supportive and encouraging - it was a phenomenal experience overall.

KS: Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend this year - but I was grateful that it went as well as it did!

EGG: To clarify, are you offering a POD version of this book?

BP: We are looking at printing these and shipping them out, but we're leaving the POD option open so we can serve backers without getting them stung by import/customs duties. I used to work in digital printing, so through some professional contacts I have access to a global network of POD providers who can provide extremely high quality work. Where we hit enough interest in one of our 4 main regions, we'll use an offset printer; otherwise, we are looking at print on demand.

EGG: Thanks for talking about your game. Where can fans find more information about your work and this Kickstarter?

BP: Well, the Kickstarter link is probably the best place to start, it can be reached at rebrand.ly/ageofmyth. Otherwise, we are also on Facebook under our company name, KnuckleBones .

KS
: I have an Etsy shop that will opening in a few months with my design work, but for the moment, the Kickstarter campaign is probably the best place.

BP:
As a special thank you, for the being the first outlet to cover us, we’d like to share an exclusive preview of the book that isn’t on the Kickstarter page or anywhere else yet. Our Oath of the Argonaut Paladin has gotten rave reviews, so we’d like to share it with the community here as a sneak peek!

This article was contributed by Egg Embry as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. Please note that Egg is a participant in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to DriveThruRPG. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
 
Egg Embry

Comments

Climbing quadrupeds

About centaurs we should remember the quadruped PC races can't climb so good in most of times.
That's true, especially where climbing a rope or anything hand-over hand is concerned. I think WotC's rules around that did a really good job - where it costs extra movement for any hand-over-hand climbing.

I have seen four-footed creatures climb exceptionally well though - I used to mountaineer a fair bit in the Rockies, and I'd occasionally run into mountain goats that could scamper up cliff faces that I couldn't touch without a rope and equipment. In my mind, that four-footed surety evened out the hand-over-hand portion. But your point stands, especially where ropes are concerned, and there's room for me to put something in about that without treading on WotC's answer to the problem. Thank you for the comment and prompting the suggestion!
 

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