”Through the centuries, in olden times, there lived…the sons of Hercules! Heroes supreme, they roamed the Earth, righting wrongs, helping the weak and oppressed, and seeking… ADVENTURE!”
—introductory narrative, THE SONS OF HERCULES TV series
A campaign setting for Risus: The Anything RPG © 2010, S. John Ross)
©2010, Guy Hoyle
The myths of ancient Greece speak to us across the ages of heroes, gods, and monsters, of mighty quests and tragic fates, of badly-dubbed dialogue and shoddy special effects. Though elements of these fables are familiar to us (who doesn’t know of Zeus and his lightning bolts, Cupid and his arrows of love, the deadly gaze of Medusa, the mighty labors of Hercules?), it is relatively untouched as a setting for fantasy role-playing games.
The Mighty Sons of RISUS! (or MSoR!) is a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Greek history and mythology. It draws inspiration from several sources, including Italian “sword-and-sandals” movies (also known as “peplums”), the “Hercules” and “Xena” TV shows, and the inspired retro-RPG worldview of Olivier LeGrand’s “Mazes and Minotaurs”. Within the following pages anachronisms and inaccuracies thrive and stalk the unwary.
To use these rules you’ll need a copy of Risus: the Anything RPG , (copyright 1993-2001) by S. John Ross. All references to Risus refer to the PDF Version (1.5) . I also assume that you have a copy of The Risus Companion if you don’t, you’re missing out on some crunchy bits of Risus goodness.
“So”, you might ask, “is The Mighty Sons of RISUS! a game fit only for playing well-oiled musclemen and sword-swinging gladiators?” By Zeus, no! Not all of the Sons of RISUS! were men of steel; they were men (and women), philosophers and priests, magicians and poets and rogues “who burned with dreams and turned their dreams into history”, “helping the weak and oppressed, and seeking… ADVENTURE!” So don’t “feel the curse of a coward’s fear”; feel free to take the world and shake the world!
What is a “peplum”?
Peplums, or Sword-and-sandal films, are a genre of low-budget adventure or historical films set in ancient Greece, Rome, the Middle East, and other places associated with classical antiquity. They often featured loose adaptations of historical or mythological themes, characters and events. The term “peplum” refers to the type of garment worn by actors (usually professional bodybuilders) to show off their heroic physiques and negligible acting skills. Primarily filmed in Italy between 1958 and 1964, the peplum has enjoyed periodic revivals and homages, such as the hugely popular Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess TV shows.
Are there any pop-quizzes in this history lesson?
Hardly! One of the great joys of a peplum is that whatever historical sources they use were mangles, and mixed with a lot of other non-scholarly stuff as well. Hercules and his fellow strongmen Samson, Goliath, Ursus, and Maciste met with Puritans, Mongols, Atlantean super-soldier clones, “Zorro”, the Czar, Pirates, Mole men, and numerous other non-period opponents. Their voyages took place before the Trojan War and during it, during Rome’s rise to power, in far-off lands unknown to the Greeks, and in times long after Greek and Roman civilization had been buried by time.
So, strap on your sandals, grab your sword and sandals and bottle of olive oil, vecause it’s time to turn your dreams into HISTORY!