Arete (2009)

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RPG Item: Arete
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Year: 2009
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48 pages
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From the Publisher:

Experience the Greek epic

Arete is the ultimate Greek mythology roleplaying game. The game system is simple and concise, its only goals are to provide the Greek mythology experience and allow everyone at the table to have fun.

Busy schedule? You can still have a regular game night

Everyone can take control of the game - more fun for all players and less prep work for the game master! Arete features a simple and unique narrative control system that allows players to take control of the storytelling.

Arete includes:

* A 48 pages e-book, landscaped for easy online reading
* A printer-friendly version of the e-book
* Lifetime updates. If we update the book, you get a free updated ebook
* 90 days money-back guarantee, no questions asked
* A complete, concise, fun ruleset you can learn in about 60 minutes
* Customer support (helpdesk, email, or toll-free phone number!)

Arete is for you if you want to:

* Experience adventure of mythological proportions
* Learn about Greek mythology
* Prepare games in less than 30 minutes.
* Get great customer support and lifetime updates – we offer forums, helpdesk, toll-free number.

The story behind Arete

"I never set out to study anything so lofty as “Classical Civilizations”. I just knew that Greek and Roman myth fascinates me. I read the stories as a child and that passion for myth just never died. When I got to college I started taking courses about it, just for my own enjoyment. A half dozen classes later my professor informed me that I was more than half way to a minor in the field and persuaded me to finish. This book is the combined effort of that education, passion and a close collaboration with Daniel Carpenter, Ph.D. in the Classics. We worked together to bring you a game that captures both the letter and spirit of Greek myth. Beyond that, it's fun to play!" -- Nick DiPetrillo

Overview of Arete from game designer Nick DiPetrillo

This is not a Greek setting slapped on top of an existing system. Arete (pronounced are-E-tay. Arrr like you're a pirate. E like you are just saying the name of the letter. Tay like the word ray, only with a T.) is built from the ground up to provide the Greek epic experience.

1. Greek heroes are defined by the size of their actions, not the morality.

2. Combat in Greek epics is fast, visceral and bloody.

3. Gods play a constant role in the lives of heroic figures, for better or worse.

4. Greeks have a unique culture, including elements like blood guilt, guest friendship and proper ritual.

It would be dishonest to suggest that no RPG system thus far has been designed from the ground up to be entirely Greek. For instance, the game Mazes and Minotaurs itself as what would happen if the creators of Dungeons & Dragons their inspiration from Greek mythology instead of Tolkien-like fantasy. The game maintains a Greek setting but attempts to recreate the feel of early Dungeons & Dragons rules. However, the game lacks some of the more unique elements of Greek society in its attempt to emulate D&D. Additionally, the D&D-like rule set does not mechanically enforce a Greek feel. The game Agon another fine example. That game incorporates almost everything from the principles I describe above and manages to feel very Greek in the process. However, those rules are used to support a game that is highly competitive and action based. Both of these games are firmly Greek but they are not the game that I want. In addition to the principles above, there is another set of edicts that mandate how this particular game should be played:

1. The story should be driven by the players and goals of their characters.

2. The players and game master establish the premise of the game together. From that point on it is the role of the game master to be reactionary to the players and introduce complication to their goals.

3. Players should compete for glory but not seek to undermine or defeat each other. The characters are all working towards the game goal, they just want to be the most impressive in attaining it.

4. Even failure should be fun, sending the story in an unexpected direction.

Together, these eight principles are the foundation that all of the game's mechanics are built on. Taken as a whole they explain the fundamental question of why this game should exist and is unlike all others. Those eight ideas are at the core of the system and reveal exactly what Arete is.

The Making Of A Greek Hero

You are going to see the word hero thrown around a lot in this game. We'd better define it then, shall we? You likely already have an idea of what it means to be a hero. Our modern conception of what it takes to be a hero is based on two factors, morality and self-sacrifice.

Heroes are moral people to us. A hero does things like defending the helpless, stopping wrong-doers and making the world a better place. Obviously, there is a lot of room for interpretation as to just what morality is. Regardless, I think all agree that heroes should subscribe to some moral code. Doing the right thing is not heroic on its own, it makes you a good person, but not a hero.

To be a proper heroic act, it must cost you something or potentially cost you something. Heroes to us are self-sacrificing creatures. Firefighters are heroic. They rescue helpless people from burning buildings (moral) and put themselves in lethal danger to do so (self-sacrificing).

Both of these factors operate on a sliding scale. Holding the door open for a little old lady is moral, but it does not compare to saving a life. The self-sacrifice scale is often dependent upon how much you have to sacrifice. A billionaire giving $1,000 to a needy family is certainly nice, but it does not represent the same level of sacrifice as a homeless man giving up his one meal for the day to a starving child who needs it more. The higher up a person falls on these scales of morality and sacrifice, the more heroic we consider them.

Now throw all of that out.

It will be a disservice to you in playing this game. The Greek conception of a hero can be expressed by this equation, called the heroic code:

Excellence (Ideally) = Honor = Deeds + Glory + Prizes

Every person is born with a predetermined amount of excellence, from the poorest farmer to the greatest hero. Only the gods know how large a portion of excellence a person has received, and they aren't telling. In order to demonstrate how excellent they are, heroes attempt to increase their honor to match it. The more honor they have, the more excellence they are assumed to have, because a person's honor should not be able to exceed the amount of excellence he was given at birth. A hero displays his honor by acquiring three things: deeds, glory and prizes. Gathering deeds involves acts such as killing many men in a battle, defeating powerful monsters, tricking an enemy with a clever plot or delivering a stirring speech that rallies an army to victory. Glory is getting stories told about you, having your name and reputation spread far and wide. Glory often comes as a result of doing great deeds, but it is possible to be an unsung hero. Prizes are the spoils acquired in heroic deeds. Prizes could be large amounts of mundane wealth, like coin, slave women and horses gained through sacking a city or it could be objects of special power and significance, like the Golden Fleece or the hide of the Nemean Lion. Those three aspects compose the signs of a hero's honor, which demonstrates how much excellence the hero must have.

Nowhere in that code is morality or altruism represented. Deeds are measured by how grand the actions are, not how good. In ancient Greek myth, single handedly killing a thousand soldiers and taking their wealth was very heroic, even if you actually have no right to it. In all three elements of honor, more is better and it doesn't matter how you do it. For instance, Paris the prince of Troy abducts Helen, the most beautiful woman in Greece. This action begins the ten year long Trojan war, costing thousands of lives and causing the eventually destruction of Troy. All of that was over him taking a woman who was already married to another man. We would consider this a vile act, but to the Greeks it is heroic. Paris increased his honor by getting the impressive prize of the most beautiful woman in the world. The consequences of that action are irrelevant to Paris' heroism.

Does that mean that all Greek heroes are nothing more than selfish jerks with no sense of moral decency at all? No, it doesn't. In fact, Paris' brother Hector is portrayed as a very noble figure in a moral sense. He fights and eventually dies in a fight he knows is hopeless in an attempt to protect the people of his city. Regardless, his good intentions don't make him any more of a hero than his selfish brother. Hector is a greater hero than Paris, but only because he has more according to the code. There are figures far more vile than Hector, but equally heroic. Because the heroic code is separate from ideas of morality, we have a richer range of heroes in Greek myth. Achilles is a crybaby who turns his back on his allies because Agamemnon takes his spoils. Agamemnon himself is an inept leader without any social sense. Heracles, the greatest of the Greek heroes, is drunkard, a philanderer and a savage unfit for civilization even by Greek standards. Yet, they are all still heroes.

Cast off your modern vision of a hero and you will find this game a liberating exercise. Heroes in the game can be everything from paragons of virtue, deeply flawed and even unlikeable individuals who are trying to do their best in life to downright villains who grab all they can for themselves and to Hades with the consequences! No matter what sort they are, they are still heroes. What kind of hero are you going to be?

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