I have a setting inspired by Greek Myths, wavecrawling, and flying islands. It’s called Eikonokosmos, and I never talk about it.
Aclas and Planescape keep me busy enough. But i’m talking about it now.
Two thoughts led to this post:
One, I’m making a flying island dungeon in response to a conversation on the GLOG Discord. But no more spoilers than that. It’s set in Eikonokosmos.
Two, WHAT IF MASK CLERIC BUT FIGHTER?? Which was inspired by discourse around what exactly made that class compelling. I realised I was giving advice without actually trying to follow it, which I hate.
And so here we are.
THERE ARE NO MORE HEROES LEFT IN THE WORLD.
Well, this is an exaggeration. There are plenty. But they don’t do anything.
Incidentally, a Hero, with a Capital H, is not just a good person - in fact, they’re often not good people. Morality and Heroes are incompatible. Good and Evil are things mortals have to worry about. And Heroes aren’t mortal.
They’re descendants of the Gods and the Titans, with weird powers, weird forms, and an immunity to normal weapons. They just turn into a statue if you stab them to death, then get up right as rain a couple of hours later.
There were (are?) 99 Heroes in total. They were meant to rise up and replace the Gods. They didn’t, for various tragic or farcical reasons.
You’re a Champion, an armed maniac who lives in emulation of one of nine famous Heroes.
+1 to Hit or AC, and +1 Violence Dice per Template
Starting Items: Relevant Mask, Relevant Weapon, Robes in your choice of colour. A small boat.
Starting Skill: 1) Wrestler 2) Orator 3) Archer 4) Poet 5) Tactician 6) Actor
You also have a Flaw - a weak-spot, an Anti-Skill.
Flaws: 1) Hubristic 2) Unlucky 3) Reckless 4) Arrogant 5) Heartless 6) Lost
A - Heroic Deeds, FATE
B - As Your Own Arm
C - Murder
D - Unparalleled
You have as many Violence Dice as you do Templates. They’re D6s.
You regain all of your Violence Dice on a rest, or gain 1 when you deal Maximum Damage with a weapon.
Dice gained from dealing damage can go over your maximum amount. Extra dice that you gain remain until used.
You can roll a Violence Dice whenever you deal damage, and add it to the damage.
You can do the same when you take damage (from anything except poison) and subtract the value the dice rolls.
Dice are expended on a 4-6 and return to your pool on a 1-3.
You can use your Violence Dice to do Heroic Deeds, for the nature of Heroism is simply selectively applied violence, hm?
You know two Deeds, based on the Deeds of the Hero you emulate. Pick a Hero, then roll 2d6.
You may roll the d6 again whenever you level up. If you roll duplicates, go up or down the list until you hit on a Deed you don’t have already.
Name how you will die. Nothing but this can kill you. Except poison.
Poison always bypasses FATE, for some reason.
When you name your FATE, it will come to pass. Even if your FATE is to be murdered by your brother, and then you kill him - he will kill you, somehow. FATE only approaches quicker the farther you run from it.
You can still be mangled, dismembered, scarred, half-drowned, crushed and tormented. If reduced to 0HP, you are unable to fight for 1d6 Days. But you cannot die. Be careful this does not become a curse.
Obviously, keep your FATE a secret. Your enemies might try to engineer circumstance to bring it about. Or, they’ll just poison you. Keep an eye out for that.
As Your Own Arm
You cannot be disarmed of whatever weapon you’re currently wielding - make sure you mark which weapon is Your Weapon. Your main one, that is, not a spare, or a sentimental old dagger.
You may now also make two attacks per turn.
You deal [sum]+[dice] damage, split among anyone within three paces of you. There is no attack roll, or save.
You have five points. Distribute them across your character sheet as you see fit - they can increase the value of any number on your sheet.
You may now make three attacks per turn.
THE DESPOT OF THE HEPTAPOLIS
They’re called the Faceless, or perhaps the Red Robes, in the ports of the south.
The Despot erased his name from history. He did this by killing everyone who ever knew it. It was a horribly easy task - for him. He is a son of Iron, or perhaps of Law. He sits in the Red Palace in the exact middle of the Heptapolis.
He hasn’t left it in 400 years, because he doesn’t have to. Everything progresses according to his design, according to his Will. His FATE is unknown, and his tools are the Faceless. He doesn’t replace the Gods because he already rules the world.
They wear red robes. They’re the secret police of the Despot. They step out of the bushes in the dark, stab you in the neck, and congratulate each other on their Righteousness as you bleed out. Then, they burn your books, blind your son, and walk off, clapping each other on the back.
After all, a Hero Does Right. But it’s hard for a person to see what is Right - they’re very small, after all. That’s why we emulate the Heroes. And who is the greatest Hero? Who FATE has allowed to become the Despot? It all makes sense, really.
What is a Hero? Someone who is Righteous.
Mask: Blank. No eye-holes. The Despot guides their sight.
The Despot shows you up to [sum] Evil people near you, and tells you why they are Evil.
You state a command [dice] words long in the voice of the Despot. All listeners must save or obey.
When you strike someone who has a Warrant of Execution from the Despot against their head, you may choose to deal [sum] * 2 extra Damage.
Name a person you have met. You hear the next [sum] words they say.
Expend a Violence Dice and disappear. You may later Appear from anything that could reasonably contain or hide you. This is not invisibility.
[Dice] chains or ropes leap to life and attempt to restrain those you choose. They may save.
Cinders, or Coal Eaters.
Anthrakias, before he died, was a very unlucky Hero. He was a son of Volcano, one of the daughters of Earth. The Despot of the Heptapolis found him disagreeable, so he assigned him twelve impossible tasks to keep him away forever.
Anthrakias suffered through slaying Hydras, catching the Winds, wrestling the Giant of the Pillar, and all the others. Each task broke his body, turned him to stone a hundred times. But he succeeded at all of them.
As his reward, the Despot killed him twelve times in succession, by feeding him hot coals in front of a cheering crowd, then decapitated him with his divine-built sword. It is not a happy tale.
The Cinders understand that suffering builds character. So they seek it out. Most have short and painful lives. Some even go as far as inflicting it on others - all for their improvement, of course.
Beware an old Cinder.
What is a Hero? Someone who endures terrible pain and keeps onwards.
Mask: Red-skinned man, weeping.
For the next hour, when attempting to wrestle, lift or throw something, your Strength is the highest possible value it can be. If it is already that value, it is that, +[Dice].
When you use your Violence Dice to reduce Damage, they return to your pool on 1-4, instead of 1-3.
You may consume up to [sum] damage worth of flames, and store them within yourself. Unlike Anthrakias, you may spit them back up to sear your enemies.
You may take 1d12 unreducible damage to gain a Violence Dice.
Over a period of [dice] hours, you may do the work that [sum] people could do in the same length of time.
You may break [dice] objects in such a way that they may never be used again. This is a breaking at the spiritual level.
BLOODY HANDED NIKEPHOROS
The Hunters, or the Red Hands.
Nikephoros was a huntress. Not the elegant kind you might imagine, with the bow and the friendly deer. She was twice the height of the tallest warrior of the Heptapolis, and she was always covered in gore. She wore entrails as a belt. She was a daughter of War itself, some say.
She was called Bloody Handed, because she was. She was a direct and simple being. She liked to fight dangerous things, and kill them. She was uninterested in apotheosis. Where’s the challenge in that?
She is still out there. She is slowly killing her way across Eikonokosmos. She is looking for Blood, that first and greatest Titan Beast. She will leap into it’s maw, and be torn apart. It is her FATE.
The Hunters kill monsters. They spend their time searching them out, researching them, studying them, and then - killing them! And wearing their entrails as a belt! Do Violence to Evil, to Save the World. An appealing concept!
Do not forget - not all Monsters are beasts. Some wear the skins of men.
Weapon: Spear or Kopis.
What is a Hero? Someone who Kills Monsters.
Mask: Skinned animal. Doesn’t matter what kind, as long as you killed it yourself.
Gain [highest] AC for [dice] minutes.
When you Crit a creature, remove [dice] limbs or heads. Any amount above two is instantly fatal for an average mortal.
You know [dice] simple, helpful facts about a creature you see. These facts are always about either its biology or its behaviour. Nothing about ideology, dreams or family.
If you have the blood of a creature, or one of their possessions, you may find them unerringly as long as they are not more than [dice] days’ travel away.
Aspect of the Hunted
Become whatever animal you’re wearing on your face for [sum] rounds.
Your attacks crit on 19 or 20.
THE MANY HEADED HOUND
Dogfaces, or maybe Sloths.
The Many Headed Hound wants for nothing, because it has a thousand fractal jaws, and it doesn’t think about Heroism or FATE, or ideology, or kingship, or dreams or bullshit like that.
It has simple needs. And it fulfils them. It eats, shits, and sleeps. It’s the terror of the Far North. It will never replace the Gods, because it doesn’t want to.
Dogfaces eat. Sleep. Lie around naked on rocks. They pretend to be above all of this stuff about Heroism and Destiny. But they know, deep down, they’re subject to FATE, like everyone else, because they aren’t giant dogs with an infinite amount of gnashing jaws.
It’s a restless existence.
Weapon: Clawed Fingers. All Dogfaces have clawed fingers, hard like iron nails.
What is a Hero? Someone who never wants for anything.
You cannot be seen for [sum] rounds.
Eat a Feast
When you eat a truly massive amount of food, gain [sum] temporary HP. When the food isn’t yours, gain [sum]+[dice] instead.
You may instantly break any mundane restraints holding you by expending a Violence Dice.
You may expend a Violence Dice to catch the scent of someone you met within the last day, and follow their trail unerringly.
[Sum] mere mortals are unbelievably scared of you. Scared enough to freeze like deer and throw all their food at your feet.
Sleep for a Decade
Sleep for as long as you want, requiring no food or drink. You’re immune to up to [sum] damage while asleep. You can’t be unwillingly awoken by anything. You’re dimly aware of your surroundings, enough to be impossible to sneak up on.
MYRRHINE, WHO WALKED IN DEATH
The Skulls, or, if you are in the Heptapolis, the Ragged.
Myrrhine was Harvest’s daughter. She lived a peaceful existence. She farmed. She sang.
The woman she loved, Korrina, was killed by arrows. The fault was Khrusia’s, or perhaps the Despot’s.
Myrrhine wasted no time. She took her axe. She marched to the Empty Gate. She killed the guards. She let loose the Many Headed Hound. She walked down the Seven-Thousand Steps, cutting her way through endless legions of shade-soldiers. She cut the head from the Ferryman and rowed his ship across to the Underworld.
She walked to the throne of her uncle, Death, and promised him that he would be next, should he not release Korinna.
She walked from the gates of the Underworld with her wife, and returned to her farm. The two of them are still there, in the Grey Valley. The Faceless do not dare cross her threshold.
She never hesitated, say the Skulls. She knew what to do, and she marched into Death itself to do it. And she succeeded. She alone among the Heroes is successful - despite the chaos she has inflicted on the world, by the Ferryman’s murder, she has won. We must emulate.
The Skulls are ragged wanderers. They are unpredictable. They have Goals, and they will accomplish them.
What is a Hero? Someone who acts without hesitation.
Mask: Face of a corpse, with stitched mouth. Sometimes, literally a corpse’s face, flayed off.
Charge into Death
While in combat, you’re immune to damage until you’ve made [dice] attacks.
Any damage in excess of the HP of a creature you kill can be directed to a creature within your reach. You may add Violence Dice to this damage.
Song of War
You begin to sing, for [sum] rounds. This immediately puts all ordinary folk on edge - the edge of terrified. Warriors, Champions, Heroes, and other fools who hear this song will understand it is time to make men into ghosts, and will find their weapons.
Speak with Dead
You may speak with a corpse for [sum] rounds.
For [Sum] rounds, your stride cannot be slowed or stopped.
Summon [dice] 1HD armed Shades. They assist you for [sum] rounds. This is a boon of Myrrhine’s secret pact with Death.
The Black Hoods, or perhaps the Hoarders, should you be in the North.
Khrusia was Justice’s daughter, but she was not a favoured child. She grew up an abandoned orphan, walking the streets. She had golden skin, of course - the people knew she was a god-child. They ignored her - her mother cast her down. It would be hubris to raise her up.
And so Khrusia was alone in the crowd. She began to steal. Quietly, at first - bread. Then blades and bows. Then gold. Then hearts. Then ships. Then crowns. Then kingdoms. Then, all the treasures of the lands that would become the Heptopolis. It was the upheaval of her grand theft that allowed the Despot to rise.
She built her City of Gold in the North, where none would starve. She founded orders to count her hoards, and to hand out her treasure. But, as she watched the coins roll from her grip - she felt it. The cold terror of sleeping hungry in the gutter - and she howled: no, no, no, this is all MINE.
There are still folk in the North. But none go near the City of Gold. It is a wasteland of trapped catacombs, and the furious shades of the once-charitable dead. Perhaps Avaricious Khrusia is still in there. Counting her bloodstained gold.
The Black Hoods understand that Khrusia was right. She earned all of that gold. It was Hers. She alone could choose to take it, to give it, to keep it. They are base materialists. They are thieves.
But they are thieves of a different class.
What is a Hero? One who may Take, Possess or Give, as to their whim.
Mask: Black Hood, Black Robes and Black Bandages.
Daimon-servants set an ingenious trap to guard an object. The trap requires a save if triggered, and either does [sum] damage or restrains the target.
You knock on a door or gate. [Sum] people on the other side are compelled to open it.
You Knock on a closed object. Creatures with less than [Dice] HD cannot even attempt to open it.
When you have a need for a mundane item, you may expend a Violence Dice and add it to your inventory - you stole it ages ago, but it fell somewhere into the strange folds of your black robes.
The Hidden Door
Expend a Violence Dice, and knock on a door. It becomes The Hidden Door, which leads to a small, lightless cave outside of reality. There may be shadows on it’s walls, but either way, it is a small, perfectly secure vault. Do NOT sleep in there. It is NOT a good idea.
Folded Into Robes
You may target any person and fold them into your voluminous and definitely magical robes for [dice] rounds. While folded, they can’t do anything, but they’re immune to attacks and just resemble a pile of cloth folded under your arm. Or, you can target yourself.
Called the Wall-Eyes, or Judges.
Hateful Khalepos, son of the Primordial Storm, lives on the Island of the Winds. He keeps his Half-siblings, the Winds, prisoner, and releases each in turn to carry in the seasons. He is bitter, irritable, and terribly scared of death - but he carries out his duty all the same.
The seasons change, the years pass regularly, it all turns, like the mechanisms of the Golden Island. And Khalepos is the pin in the machine.
The Wall-Eyes take up the mantle of duty. They do this to save us all. They do this by killing kings and wearing their crowns, by setting up impromptu courts, by dealing justice at the roadside with fist or blade.
Someone must, you understand? The Heptican Courts are theatrical farces, where only gold matters. The duty of justice, of rulership, of guidance, must be taken on.
Do not worry. The Judges are watching.
Mask: Old Man’s face, with huge green-glass eyes, and horsehair beard.
What is a Hero? Someone bound by Duty.
Call the Wind
You summon the wind, which blows with the force and the direction you wish for [dice] hours. This has variable extra effects based on the Season, and the Wind that is abroad, but they’re too noodly for this medium.
You may fly at speed for [dice] minutes.
You may call [dice] foul-mannered, horrendously rude 1HD harpies. They dislike you, but less than everyone else. They can fly, their vomit is horrible acid, and they can argue with birds.
Name a person you dislike. You know the next [dice] things they do which would offend or annoy you.
You may catch and shackle an intangible creature of [dice] HD or less, such as a Daimon or a Wind. You may then bargain with it at your leisure.
A metal object you can see is struck with lightning. Anyone touching it or holding it takes [sum]+[dice] damage.
EUPRAXIA, WHO BROKE CROWNS
The Lions, or perhaps the King Eaters.
Recall, the Golden Era, before humans, when the benevolent Daimones ruled in the aftermath of the First War? You do not, because Eupraxia ended it.
The Daimones once had seventy seven callous kings, who wore crowns of fire and did as they wished with the land. The mortals suffered - the Heroes exiled to the wilderness, to the far islands. The Daimones went as far as to challenge the gods.
Eupraxia had been raised by lions. It is a long and boring story, but it contains a centaur tutor, a cyclops blacksmith, and a wise old white lion, burned alive by a Daimon-prince. Eupraxia’s sword met the intangible, and cut it.
And then, she had a taste for it. For killing tyrants. So she did. The poets say that two Daimon-kings survived her rampages. One repented, the other went North.
Eupraxia went home. She rested seven nights, sharpened her sword, slept under the tree by which she was raised. Then, she took her blade up, and set off for the Holy Mountain. She was going to kill the Gods.
They found her broken on the rocks at the foot of the great waterfall which cascades from the Holy Mountain. And, as the mortals who followed her to freedom wept on her body - they saw it: Her sword was bloodied. Divine ichor dripped from it. She had struck true, before the end.
THE WORK IS NOT YET DONE, cry the Kingeaters, the oldest of the Champion orders. They are the rarest, too, and the most feared. Every king looks thrice before they sleep, for a figure in gold-edged robes and a lion’s mask.
Weapon: Makhaira - in art, the head of a decapitated tyrant is wielded in the off-hand.
What is a Hero? Someone who kills kings.
For [sum] rounds, your weaponry and fists can harm creatures that are normally immune to such attacks. This still cannot overcome FATE, in the long run.
Tongues of Beasts
You may speak fluently with mammals - not birds, fish, insects or reptiles, treacherous titan-kin that they are.
Beasts of the Wild
[Sum] large, angry animals appear from incongruous locations and set about causing chaos. Fill the king’s court with giant, angry goats!
[Sum] people under the heel of a tyrant realise that the tyrant has a jugular vein that can be cut, like the rest of us. This usually results in riots, or more rarely, assassination plots.
When striking a tyrant, king, god, prince, or other authority figure, you may choose to deal [sum] * 2 Damage.
You set a fire which will resist [dice] attempts to extinguish it, by sparking a weapon on the ground.
Navigators, or the Seekers.
He was the youngest of the Titan Horizon’s children. He was so weak, the other Gods did not accept him. He called himself a Hero, but he was as old as time, and blood of Titans flowed in his veins. He did not do well with people. Too stupid, short-lived, fragile. The Heroes were less so. But still…
So he left. He went to explore the world - to map the edges, see everything, to be blissfully alone, and to scream at the Horizon for making him weak.
He was alone for so long, that he mapped the entire Eastern Reach - alone for so long, that he grew to hate isolation. He came back, with a hundred maps and a thousand treasures. He lived in the City of Night for 200 years, until once again he grew to hate people.
He realised that he hated the world, truthfully, and he took his boat, and he sailed - right off the Edge.
The Navigators also hate the world. For various reasons, and in various ways - some think it too cruel, some think it too small. They wish to find the way to the Northern Edge, which remains obscure. They wish to find secrets and treasures. They wish to find Nephos, should he remain alive.
But really, they want to find a new world. A better one.
What is a Hero? Someone who explores the Unknown
You know of [Dice] safe, quick routes to an island you can name.
Lie on the ground, and dream. You know of the [dice] most valuable Treasures on this island, and the vaguest sense of their location.
Take a piece of parchment. Spill ink or blood in it. You gain a crude map of a square area [dice] miles on a side.
Expend a Violence Dice. Your voice is carried by the wind for [dice] miles for [sum] words. Should you stand on a ship in a harbour, you might whisper, and have an entire city hear you.
A person you touch is completely unable to navigate or find their way for [dice] days.
Expend a Violence Dice. You turn into water, and flow out of whatever structure or prison you might be in. Doesn’t work if that structure is waterproof.