Heroes Unlimited: Ancient Rome
Alternate Setting for Heroes Unlimited©
By T.W. Hageman
Ancient Rome: the conquests, the gladiators, the gods and… the super heroes? Sure, when you think of Ancient Roman society the farthest image from your mind is a mutant hero blasting energy beams from his eyes. But a quick look at Roman history and mythology reveals that super heroes could have existed.
People like Julius Caesar, who could sway the opinion of an entire assembly, could have possessed some mutant or psionic powers. Hercules' great strength could’ve easily been superhuman (or even supernatural). Let’s not forget Medusa or the Minotaur. Couldn’t they be mutants from any modern campaign? Definitely!
From these presumptions the Ancient Roman campaign was conceived. While the concept of playing a campaign in ancient times is outside the mainstream, it is entirely plausible. The Heroes Unlimited 2nd Edition rule book even mentions super beings in history. And the idea of playing a mythological hero is rather enticing.
So, presented below is the Ancient Roman Heroes Unlimited alternate campaign setting. Enjoy!
First off, the Rome of ancient times has a long, tattered history. Wars, betrayal, political upheaval, you name, they had it. Over its 1000-year history, Rome claimed much of modern-day Europe, almost the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and parts of northern Africa. Government was a monarchy, a democracy and a dictatorship. Slavery, wars and the gladiatorial games all coalesce into one possible adventure after another.
The when of Ancient Rome is very important to the setting. Are the players members of the army aiding in the destruction of Carthage? Are they gladiators fighting lions in the Colossium? Or are they members of the Germanic Tribes fighting against the encroaching Roman Legions? To assist in making this important decision, listed is a brief timeline of important dates in Roman history. The timeline is separated by the prevailing government of the era, as this is also very important to the setting.
753 BC Romulus becomes the first king of the city of Rome. Seen as the traditional founding date
of Rome. War with the Sabines occurs during the reign of Romulus.
717 BC Romulus dies and the senate rules Rome for a period of one year
715 BC Numa Pompillius becomes the second king of Rome ushering in a period of peace and justice
673 BC Numa dies and Tullius Hostilius becomes the third king of Rome. His reign was full of warfare.
642 BC Tullius Hostilius dies and Ancus Martius becomes the 4th king of Rome. During his reign, religion was emphasized over warfare.
616 BC Ancus Martius dies and Lucius Tarquinius Priscus becomes the 5th king of Rome. He was the first king of Etruscan origin
578 BC Tarquin dies and Servius Tullius becomes the 6th king of Rome. He was a passive and lawful king who was later betrayed and murdered by his successor, Tarquin the Proud.
535 BC Servius Tullius and assassinated and Tarquinius Superbus becomes the last king of Rome. His reign was cruel and unjust, and he was later exiled from Rome.
510 BC Tarquins exiled from Rome ending the Monarchy and beginning the republic.
510 BC War with the Tarquins
486 - 405 BC War with the Volscians and the Aequians
450 BC The Twelve Tables were written establishing new laws for Rome
405 - 396 BC War with the Etruscans
390 BC The Gauls invade Rome and sack the city.
367 BC Laws are passed that state that one of the two consuls must be of Plebian origin
340 - 338 BC The Latin Wars
343 - 290 BC War with the Samnites
281 - 272 BC War with the Greeks
264 BC The sons of Junius Brutus Pera held the first gladiatorial games in memorial to their father. The games last until 404 AD.
264 - 241 BC The First Punic War
219 BC Hannibal attacks and captures Saguntum in Spain despite warnings from Rome
218 - 201 BC The Second Punic War
146 BC The Third Punic War and destruction of Carthage
133 BC Tiberius Graccus elected Tribune
123 BC Gaius Graccus elected Tribune
100 BC Birth of Julius Caesar
88 BC Conflict between Marius and Sulla
78 BC Death of Sulla
73 - 70 BC Great Spartacus slave revolt
63 BC Birth of Gaius Octavius, future emperor of Rome
59 BC First Triumverant instituted and Caesar is elected Consul
58 - 49 BC Caesar conquers Gaul
44 BC Assassination of Caesar
42 BC Birth of Tiberius Claudius Nero, the future second emperor of Rome
39 BC Marriage of Livia Drusilla to Gaius Octavius
31 BC The Battle of Actium. Octavius becomes the ruler of the Roman Empire and Republic ends.
20 BC Tiberius defeats the Parthians and retrieves Rome's lost legionary Eagles
17 BC Augustus holds the Secular Games
12 BC Augustus made Pontifex Maximus
10 BC Birth of Tiberius Claudius, the future 4th emperor of Rome
4 BC Birth of Servius Galba, future emperor of Rome.
2 BC Augustus named "Father of his country" by the senate
9 AD Birth of Titus Vespasinus Flavius, future founder of the Flavian dynasty
12 AD Birth of Gaius (Caligula)
14 AD Death
of Augustus Caesar and ascension of Tiberius.
Soldiers on the Rhine and Danube frontiers revolt
26 AD Tiberius retires to Capri and Sejanus is in total control of Rome
30 AD Birth of Nerva
32 AD Birth of future emperor Vitellius
37 AD Death
of Tiberius and ascension of Gaius
Birth of Gnaeus Domitius Anenorbarbus, the future emperor, Nero.
41 AD Caligula is assassinated and Claudius is made emperor by the Praetorian Guard
51 AD Birth of Domitan
54 AD Death of Claudius and ascension of Nero as the last emperor of the Julio Claudian line
64 AD Great fire in Rome, which is believed to have been caused by Nero
67 AD Vespasian sent to quell uprising in Judea
68 AD Death of Nero and beginning of the Year of the 4 emperors
69 AD Reign
Reign of Vitellius
Flavian line begins
70 AD Titus sent to quell uprising in Jude
79 AD Death of Vespasian and ascension of Titus
80 AD Inaugural games held at the Colosseum
81 AD Eruption
of Mount Vesuvius results in the destruction of Pompeii and Hercullanium
Titus dies and Domitan becomes emperor
96 AD Assassination of Domitan and ascension of Nerva
98 AD Death of Nerva and ascension of Trajan
100 AD Trajan begins Dacian Campaigns
113 AD Trajan begins his campaigns against Parthia and Armenia
117 AD Death of Trajan and ascension of Hadrian
121 AD Birth of future emperor Marcus Aurelius
122 AD Hadrian begins construction of the wall in Britain.
135 AD Jewish revolt in Judea
138 AD Death
of Hadrian and ascension of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus
Birth of the future emperor Commodus
169 AD Death of Lucius Verus
180 AD Death of Marcus Aurelius and ascension of Commodus
192 AD Death
End of Antoine Dynasty
The fall of the Western Roman Empire
While reading through the timeline, some may notice in certain periods the leaders were a dime a dozen. Many were assassinated, but others died under mysterious circumstances. Political rivalry in Ancient Rome was, literally, cutthroat with opponents removing competition permanently. Those that survived assassination attempts may have been wise enough to hire some protection. Also, the births of future emperors are listed as well, since such an important person could easily fall prey to an opponent trying to usurp the child’s father.
Known mainly for its army, the Roman military machine was known as elite throughout the ancient world. Roman soldiers were highly disciplined, well trained and stayed in good physical condition. Combined with their tenacity and courage, the Roman Legions were feared and respected as a formidable fighting force throughout the ancient world.
Not as well respected, but just as successful in combat was the Roman Navy. Though most considered them inferior, the Navy won many victories at sea. Unfortunately, many Roman war ships capsized due to a capture and boarding weapon called the corvus. Designed on the thinking that a ship was a platform to get soldiers close to the enemy, the corvus was a large spiked boarding plank that lowered on the deck on an enemy vessel. The weight of the corvus caused Roman vessels to overturn in rough seas. These losses outweighed the few victories won by the Roman Navy.
For most of their history, the Roman Army was based on the Legion. A legion consisted of 4000 to 6000 men and was divided into ten Cohorts. The Legion was led by the Legatus and his staff officers called Tribuni. Next were the senior non-commissioned officers, who varied in rank, called the Centurions. The leadership of the Legions were chosen from only Roman citizens and they received higher wages than the auxiliary soldiers, which were foreigners serving in the Roman Army. The cavalry was supplied by the second line auxiliary force and was organized into mainly units of 500 men
Legions consisted of heavily armored infantry. Each typically had two javelins, called pilum, and a short thrusting sword known as the gladius. While the enemies of Rome used bronze weapons, Roman technology was advanced enough to forge iron weapons. Each soldier had a very similar outfitting of weapons and armor, detailed below.
Roman tactics were just as much a part of their superiority on the field as the characteristics of the soldiers. A popular Roman tactic was to come together and create a protective shell of shields with the front row maintaining the shields on the ground while the rest would raise their shields above their heads. Another tactic was to draw the troops tightly together in a circular pattern. This was used as a defensive maneuver for soldiers in a desperate situation. Roman generals also choose the battlefield whenever possible knowing the full advantage of terrain on the different types of troops and the effect a strong wind at your back could have on your missile weapons.
Roman helmets were made of mainly of iron or copper alloy. They are characterized by the bowl, a neck guard protecting from blows to the neck, cheek pieces to protect the sides of the face, and a brow guard defending against downward blows to the face. Most helmets provided fittings for the attachment of a crest. Soldiers often scribed their names and those of their centurions onto their helmets as a mark of ownership.
The Romans used different types of body armor. The majority of which was chain mail and scale. All body armors was worn over padded underclothes. Mail was normally made of interwoven iron rings. Scale armor was made of small plates of iron or copper tied together horizontally and sewn to a fabric or leather backing. In the 2nd century AD, a new semi-rigid chest plate was introduced where each scale was wired to its vertical, as well as horizontal, counterparts.
Greaves, a small armor piece designed to cover a single limb were worn by Centurions and Republican Legionaries, though legionaries occasionally used them in the Imperial era. Cavalry also wore greaves when practicing elaborate maneuvers. They offered little real protection except to prevent cuts along the leg or arm.
The highly effective gladius was the Legionaries standard sword. Though short, the stabbing weapon was unbeatable for armor penetration. The short blade, just 18 inches long, was so effective because the trained Roman soldiers learned to use them effectively as a unit. Standing shoulder to shoulder behind their shields, the soldiers quickly thrust out with their gladius cutting down any opposition. The short, quick thrusts used less energy than the full swings performed by opponents, allowing the Roman soldier greater endurance in combat. The sword was always worn on the right side, regardless of the dominant hand of the individual. The soldiers were trained to draw the weapon and fight with their right hand only to compliment their fellow combatants.
Roman soldiers always carried their shield in their left hand. Legionaries had a curved shield while auxiliary troops had flat ones that varied in shape from oval to hexagonal to rectangular. Shields were usually made of thick plywood. They were edged with copper bindings and had a central iron or copper alloy covering the horizontal handgrip. Later in the Imperial period, oval shields came into use, sometimes edged with hide.
Roman Legions used a variety of spears, depending on the situation. Light javelins, thrusting spears and long pole-arm spears were all common. Spear shafts were constructed of wood with iron tips. If the spear shaft was broken, the head could be used a secondary weapon. Occasionally, javelins were thrown with the aid of a throwing strap to improve range.
The pilum was a heavy javelin employed by legionaries in battle as a short-range weapon. It had a pyramid-shaped iron head on a long iron shank and was fastened to a wooden shaft. The head was presumably intended to penetrate both a wooden shield and body armor with the long iron shank passing through the hole made by the tip. Once the weapon had struck home, the shank might bend, rendering it impossible to pull from a shield and return. For close standing opponents, a pilum was used to pin their shields together. As the metal tip bent, the enemies’ shields would be connected. After numerous attempts to pull free, the opponents would more often than not drop their shields preferring to battle without.
The belt was mainly used to suspend a sword and dagger, although it could help to transfer part of the weight of armor from the shoulders to the hips. Sometimes two belts were worn, one for the sword and one for the dagger. Infantry belts were decorated with copper plates, themselves often adorned with embossed designs and finished with a tin wash or silver plating.
The military tunic was worn above the knee, a distinction only shared by slaves since ordinary citizens did not expose their knees. The tunic was worn beneath the armor and seems resembled a large baggy T-shirt in form, seamed along the sides. Both red and white were common military tunic colors and materials used included wool and linen.
The Roman army also used siege weapons, similar to the catapult, scorpion and ballista, to hurl huge stones and large javelins at enemy and its defenses. A group of engineers and artisans accompanied the army on campaigns to maintain these weapons as well as built the large, mobile siege towers and battering rams.
Home of the famous chariot races, the hippodromes were massive structures housing thousands of people who turned out to cheer on their favorite teams and drivers, as well as place huge bets on the outcome. The races were occasions for the populace to wear their best clothes and jewelry. Even horses were accessorized with strings of pearls in their manes and tails.
The most famous, the Circus Maximus, was built into the side of a hill next to the Emperor’s palace in Rome. Measuring just over 1968 feet long and 658 feet wide, the Circus Maximus was capable of seating up to 250,000 people. The Emperor had a special box seat off the palace allowing him to enjoy the races without leaving the palace grounds. The massive U-shaped structure had seats arranged around the perimeter and a long fence that ran down the middle of the arena, called the Spine.
At the open end 12 boxes staged the chariots before the race. Upon a signal from the judges, usually the dropping of a white handkerchief, the rope dropped and the race was on. The chariots had to complete seven laps around the Spine at high speeds to finish the race. Drivers possessed great skill, but many fatal accidents still occurred with drivers being trampled to death. Skilled drivers could become quite wealthy from chariot racing as well as famous.
For the youth of Ancient Rome, the school day began before sunrise. By the light of candles, the young boys would do their schoolwork until the sun rose. Later in the day, the students would take lunch and an afternoon nap (siesta) before returning for the rest of the day’s lessons.
In early times Roman boys were taught how to read and write by their fathers, if the father was actually literate. The fathers would also teach their sons Roman law, history, customs and physical conditioning getting them prepared for war. Reverence for the gods and respect for the law were some of the most important lessons for the young men. Mothers would instruct the young ladies on sewing, spinning and weaving.
Education moved outside the home when the Romans borrowed parts of the Greek’s education system. At six or seven years of age, the boys and some girls would be sent to a tutor for formal education. Though the system changed, the subjects remained virtually unchanged, with only a few new subjects added.
Upper class children attended a grammar school around age twelve to learn Latin, Greek, grammar and literature. At age sixteen, some boys attended a school on oration to prepare for life as a public speaker. These schools were not free so many lower class children could not attend.
The Roman economy depended greatly on their abundance of slaves, with slaves accounting for almost 40% of the population. Skilled and talented slaves would draw a higher price than typical slaves. Slaves were typically taken from conquered lands and brought back to Rome to work on the plantations and at the homes of the upper class.
In earlier times, slaves were treated fairly, for a lower class citizen. They had no rights and were viewed as property, but could save money and by their freedom. Also, they could be freed at anytime by their owners and petition to become Roman citizens. Later on the treatment of slaves deteriorated to cruelty and abuse resulting in numerous revolts, including the famous Spartacus Slave revolt. Slavery eventually faded as the Romans found better forms of cheap labor in form a serf peasants.
Though they were comprised mainly of slaves and convicted criminals, it was not uncommon for freed slaves and even an emperor to compete in the Gladiatorial Games. These games were almost always to death and included men as well as animals. Lions, elephants and giraffes were all slain the games.
Gladiators could fight for money and a wooden sword that symbolized their freedom. Upon obtaining their freedom they could continue to fight in the arena or become a bodyguard for the wealthy, though many trained other gladiators at the ludi, or gladiator school. Ludi were usually located near the arena with largest, the Ludas Magnus, situated next to the Colosseum.
Gladiators were grouped into different categories, identifiable by their garb, weapons and style of fighting. Gladiators usually stayed within one category and matches usually involved different categories of gladiators. Below are some examples of types of gladiators, though the possibility is always present that more existed.
· Thracian: Wore a wide-brimmed crested helmet with visor, high greaves on both legs, arm protector, very small shield, and short, curved sword.
· Secutor: Egg-shaped helmet with round eyeholes, greave on one leg, arm protector, legionary-style shield and sword. The secutor was called a “chaser,” probably because he was frequently paired with the retiarius, who used running as one of his tactics.
· Retiarius (“net-and-trident” fighter): The only type of gladiator whose face was not covered. He wore an arm protector, often topped with a high metal shoulder protector, large net, trident, small dagger, and no helmet. Since he wore practically no defensive armor, the retiarius was more mobile than most gladiators but was also more vulnerable to lethal wounds.
· Bestiarius: This was a special type of gladiator trained to handle and fight all sorts of animals. The bestiari were the lowest ranking gladiators and they did not become as popular or individually well known as other types of gladiators.
A typical day at the arena consisted of mock fights in the morning, followed by animal acts. The animals were sometimes trained to perform tricks, but most often were hunted, set to fight each other or slain by the bestiari. Lunchtime entertainment consisted of public executions of condemned criminals. This was done either by forcing the inexperienced individual to battle until he was dead, being placed in the arena with violent animals or used as the star of mythological tales where the hero died. The public execution was humiliating and painful and was supposed to be a deterrent for other would-be criminals.
The afternoon brought the one-on-one combat. The combatants usually were of different categories of gladiator. When a wounded warrior wished to concede defeat, he would hold up an index finger. The crowd would then decide his fate by either pointing the thumb down for his demise or holding the thumb up to allow spare his life. In the end, the host, usually the emperor, decided the fate of the wounded gladiator. Emperor Nero was notorious for never turning a thumb down. If the gladiator was to die, he was to accept his fate without flinching or crying.
The Forum was the market place and center of business in Rome. Part of the daily routine for Romans was to visit the Forum to purchase needed items and listen to public orators plying their opinions in the marketplace. Street entertainment was also an everyday occurrence in the Forum. After passing through the markets the typical citizen could leave a donation to their chosen deity since many temples were located either in or nearby the Forum. This central hub of city activity was heavily populated on a daily basis.
Ancient Roman religion was copied from the Greeks. They took the Greek gods and gave them different names. Being polytheistic, the Romans had a god for every aspect of life. From birth to crops to marriage to war to death, a god was always to be revered, worshipped and paid homage. The Romans lived in constant fear of offending a god and always dutifully venerated their gods. Many homes had a specific deity to whom a small alter or temple was built. Part of the normal daily routine was worship.
The Romans used the gods to explain natural occurrences their level of science couldn’t. Such mundane events like the sun passing through the sky, the change of seasons and lightning strikes were all attributed to one or more of their numerous deities.
Below are listed some of the major Roman deities and their common role within the Pantheon. Keep in mind that this list is not complete. For a more complete list, a trip to the local library is recommended.
Jupiter: The king of the gods.
Juno: The wife of Jupiter and
queen of the gods. In many Roman stories, Juno was often bad tempered and
jealous of the other goddesses.
Mercury: The messenger of the gods. He wore winged sandals and could fly extremely fast.
Venus: The goddess of beauty.
Apollo: The god of the sun. His main duty was to pull the sun across the sky with his golden chariot drawn by majestic white horses.
Diana: The goddess of the hunt and the protector of wild animals. She always carried a bow and a quiver of arrows. She was also the goddess of the moon and the Apollo’s twin sister.
Minerva: The goddess of wisdom, the arts and the protector of towns.
Neptune: The god of the seas. He was often pictured with a trident.
Vulcan: The god of fire and the blacksmith of the gods.
Pluto: The ruler of the underworld.
Vesta: The goddess of the hearth and of the home. The Vestal Virgins kept the undying fire burning in the temple of Vesta in worship. The Vestal Virgins originally numbered only two, then eventually six. The served the goddess for thirty years and were then released from their duties to live their lives.
Saturn: The god of agriculture and the harvest.
Some of the lesser Roman Gods:
Aurora: goddess of the dawn.
Bacchus: god of wine and festivals.
Bellona: goddess of war.
Ceres: goddess of vegetation.
Cupid: god of love.
Flora: goddess of flowers.
Fortuna: goddess of destiny.
Janus: god of beginnings.
Juventas: goddess of youth.
Liber: god of wine.
Somnus: god of sleep.
Remember this is not a complete list. Many more gods existed that required worship and to anger one would bring a terrible wrath upon the unfortunate soul. In addition to the gods, each house also had spirit protectors. The spirits, the lares and penates, were worshipped by the entire household on special occasions with wine and meat being offered in sacrifice. Miniature figurines were kept in a shrine in the home to symbolize the spirits.
In later years, the Romans imported a few other gods into their pantheon. Some included the Egyptian goddess Isis, the Greek god Pan and Mithras, the Persian god of light. Emperor Constantine the Great converted the Roman Empire to Christianity in 312 AD.
The following table is a brief breakdown of the Ancient Roman currency.
Name Metal Value
dupondius bronze or copper 2 as
sestertius metal alloy 4 as or 2 dupondius
denarius silver 16 as, 8 dupondius or 4 sesterius
aureus gold 400 as, 200 dupondius, 100 sestertius or 25 denarius
While the preceding paragraphs provide a good amount of information, so much more exists that can enrich a campaign. The intention is to establish a baseline to get players and GM’s heading in the right direction, not to become a college level history lesson. I highly recommend GM’s do a little more research into the time frame and events they select for their campaign. A little research can go along way.
Obviously, the rulebook wasn’t written for ancient times. In the following section are detailed changes to power categories, skills and other rules to fit the Roman Era. Keep in mind these modifications are optional and the GM is the final authority of all rules.
The skill selections in the main rulebook are good for modern times, but only a handful are appropriate for Ancient Rome. While using the Domestic, Ancient Weapon Proficiencies, Rogue, Military and Technical can work with some modifications, the best source for skill lists would be the Palladium Fantasy Role Playing Game rulebook. If you don’t have it, then use common sense when selecting skills.
Education level must be limited as well. Though they were intelligent and advanced for their time, the Romans didn’t devote 15 years to an education. This is reflected though in the amount of skills available for selection. Those that seek knowledge and education will find it. Not everyone will be a great politician and orator or a great engineer. Once again, common sense should prevail when selecting skills, though even a doctorate level education is possible.
Pilot: Chariot – The basic skills to hitch a team of two or four horses and drive a chariot. This includes the skills in basic chariot maintenance and care for the horses. For major repairs, the individual would have to either acquire a mechanical skill or seek someone with the required skills.
This skill does not cover high-speed turns or maneuvers used in chariot racing. Any attempt by a person with this skill at such maneuvers does so at –35%. A failed roll results in a crash and injury to driver and horses. Base: 35% + 5% per level
Pilot: Chariot (Advanced) – The advanced skills of chariot driving, which includes high speed turning. This skill is used for chariot racing or unusual maneuvering. Pilot: Chariot (Basic) is required for this skill. Base: 25% + 5% per level
If used in a combat scenario or for a collision (intentional or not), the driver or drivers for multiple chariots, must roll to maintain control. Failure means a crash has occurred and damage is sustained to the chariot, horses and the driver.
History makes no mention of a cyborg strolling down the streets of the Forum or a robotic gladiator battling in the games. Technologic levels of Ancient Rome were nowhere near what is seen in the modern campaign setting. Super soldiers, eugenics, experiments and the other numerous high tech characters will not fit. Aliens, though believed by some to have visited Earth in ancient Egypt, don’t fit in either. The level of technology they possess provides them a massive advantage.
Below is a table of the available power categories. Players can roll on the table or pick the character type with GM’s approval.
01 – 15 Mystic
20 – 35 Special Training
01 – 50 Hunter
51 – 00 Stage Magician
36 – 49 Psionics (Latent Only)
50 – 65 Weapons Master (See Powers Unlimited Two sourcebook for details)
66 – 80 Physical Training
81 – 90 Mutant
91 – 00 Natural Genius (See Powers Unlimited Two sourcebook for details)
Many power categories were left out due to the lower power level of the ancient Roman setting. Even in mythology the heroes didn’t shoot beams of light or transform into a living being of fire. The heroes usually were at the peak of human perfection, had augmented physical attributes or powerful resistances. The flashy and highly destructive powers were the privilege of the gods
Also, as mentioned before, the technology level of ancient Rome is a limiting factor. With no electrical power, motorized vehicles and modern firearms, the Hardware category has no niche. The available categories still provide all players with many choices of character types ensuring everyone can find one they will enjoy.
The mystic power category sees few changes from Ancient Roman to its modern version. Mages were rumored to have existed in this time period, making various appearances in numerous tales and myths. The possibility of finding a weapon or item imbued with magic is also entirely plausible. One change would be rewriting some history of the weapon or item or where the wizard studied. This is done at character generation and should be devised and written to fit with the Ancient Roman culture. For example, a character with a magical trident could claim it was a gift from the god Neptune to defend the seas and all sea-going vessels from the evil. Mystic study characters could have begun their spell casting research by reading texts from Egypt or Greece.
It is important to note that spell casters were seen with suspicion and not overly trusted. This was due to the amount of evil spell casters created in myths and through rumors of cannibalism or other truly vile deeds. Though it is not too difficult for a spell caster, or other mystic-type character, to blend into society. All the character has to do is not cast a spell or keep his or her powers hidden.
Mystic study characters should reduce their starting PPE by 1/3, but retain the number of starting spells. Exercise caution when selecting spells. Many are beyond the power level of the setting. Like the mutant category, the destructive powers are the province of the gods. Illusions, physical augmentation and other similar spells fit in perfectly.
It is entirely possible that spell casters could be priests to one of the various gods. In cases such as this, it is highly recommended that spells be chosen only that would reflect the sphere of influence of the specified deity. Once again, keep in mind the lower power level of the setting when picking or allowing spells. All spell selections, as well as bestowed abilities, are subject to GM approval.
Magic weapons should be modified to allow only the powers granted by the weapon. No additional spells or super abilities as they would unbalance this low power setting. Even a minor magic weapon is still enough to battle on even ground with some of the greatest menaces of the time.
Bestowed super abilities are limited as the Mutant category. Bestowed spell casters lower their PPE by half, but retain the number of spells. Once again, use discretion when picking and allowing spells. Bestowed characters should be under greater influence of the bestowing entity and as such should be limited to the types of spells chosen. As always, the GM is the final authority. Other than what is mentioned, the character is rolled up as normal.
Mutants in Ancient Rome face a variety of different challenges that modern mutants don’t. The prejudice exists on a much higher level. Physical mutations are seen as curses from the gods and the unlucky individual is cast out of normal society. Forced to live in recluse, the mutant is oftentimes hunted by would-be heroes looking to earn a reputation. Feared, hunted and hated the mutant either avoids society or fights back.
In cases of obvious physical mutation, 75% eventually become insane. Most of them become obsessed with an evil nature they may never have actually had, but the gods curse is upon them. Society can now see the supposed offense clearly on the person’s body and they assume the creature to be evil. Medusa is a prime example of an extreme type of mutation with an accompanying insanity. The cultural influence on the mind of an individual can be devastating.
As the culture views these poor souls as cursed for an evil or insult to the gods, the individual is forced to flee. Over time, the seclusion from family, friends and human contact will wither away the person’s sanity, driving them into a deep darkness. To survive, the mutant is forced to steal food and clothing. Then the hunters come. The mutant in self-defense kills the assailants and is suddenly the evil monster. It’s a cruel twist of fate, but the Roman mind cannot understand physical mutation as anything other than a curse from the gods.
Those that do not fall to insanity will still find no place in normal society. They are the ones forced to live out their existence in the wilds. These beings usually enjoy a free-spirited lifestyle. Many people believe the gods create these mutants or they are minor gods themselves. Protectors, guardians or harmless troublemakers, whichever path they chose, they at least can enjoy the company of the occasional traveler. The fauns are a good example of this type of mutant.
Players are cautioned about playing the obvious mutation type of mutant. While it may seem cool to play the Minotaur or a gorgon, the role-playing possibilities will me minimal, as society will never accept the monstrous being. No matter how many good deeds one performs, mutants are monsters; monsters are feared, hunted and destroyed. It’s human nature, no matter the era.
The mutant hero on the other hand is perfect for players. Though the power level is low even one minor super ability places the character well above the normal citizen. Hercules had nothing more than Super Human Strength (or even Supernatural Strength) and he was revered as a demigod. With no outward signs of mutation, the individual appears to be blessed by the gods or the offspring of one of the gods! Even these mutants are not above committing evil acts providing a challenging opponent for the true heroes.
Step Two: Unusual Physical Characteristics (optional; not recommended for player characters): If a player wishes to roll or pick unusual characteristics, he or she may do so from the table in Heroes Unlimited©, page 159.
Step Three: Super Abilities: Even in mythology the heroes and villains usually didn’t shoot beams of light or turn into fire. The heroes had augmented physical attributes, heightened senses or powerful resistances. The flashy and highly destructive powers were the privilege of the gods. Mere mortals, even those gifted by the gods, were not given the power to control the elements or hurl lightning bolts.
In keeping with the mythological theme use the following table to determine the character’s super abilities. The use of this table is completely optional, though it’s designed to reflect the lower power levels of the era.
Number of Super Abilities: Roll percentile to determine the number of super abilities.
01-25% Two minor super abilities (no major)
26-50% Three minor super abilities (no major)
51-75% One major super ability (no minors)
76-00% One major and minor super ability
While the amount of super abilities may seem low even a few minor super abilities can make a character exceptional in Ancient Rome. Also, the true heroes relied on their wits and resourcefulness to accomplish the impossible. Super abilities will give a character an edge over an opponent in most cases, but he or she must still think to assure victory.
The inclusion of the psychic mutant, continuous mutation and unstable powers options are at the discretion of the Game Master. Be cautious not to disrupt game balance. The Ancient Roman setting is not designed for highly powerful characters.
Step Four: Other Stuff: Level of education and skill selection should be done as normal since the character lived a normal life before his transformation, in most cases. If the player chooses to have his character born with obvious mutations, then reduce his skill options to the physical skill program and only five secondary skills. This is due to the fact that his parents either abandoned him or kept him hidden. The skills should be chosen only from skills related to survival.
Hand to Hand Combat: Will be basic only for those born with obvious mutant traits since no one has been able to properly train the character in any other type of combat. For other mutant types, hand to hand skills must be chosen as all other skills.
Attacks Per Melee (Hand to Hand): As with all heroes, the character automatically starts with two attacks per melee round. Additional attacks may be gained from experience, skills or super abilities.
Weapons and Armor: Only conventional weapons unless the character is from a wealthy background. If an obvious mutant, then only a homemade club (1D4 damage due to poor quality) and leather animal skin is allowed.
Alignment: Any, though most heroes are a good alignment or, at least, selfish.
Structural Damage Capacity (S.D.C.): All mutants start with a base S.D.C. of 30. The S.D.C. can be increased through physical skills, super abilities and unusual characteristics.
Available Financial Resources: 1D4x50 denarius for normal-appearing mutants, 1D6 denarius for obvious mutants.
Please note that mutant animals are practically non-existent in this time frame since science has not yet advanced enough to manipulate genetic codes. A naturally occurring mutant animal is extremely unlikely, though it is left to the GM’s discretion.
The psychic presents a unique character in ancient Rome. The individual would be entirely aware of his or her abilities, but would be unaware of their actual origins. Keeping with the ancient mindset, the being would believe he or she was the recipient of divine powers. This realization may draw the character to service in a temple. Those not choosing to devote their entire lives to temple service would probably be more devout than the ordinary citizen (which says a lot). In either case, Roman Psychics would understand the powers to be gifts from the gods, or one god in particular. They would devote more time and effort to pleasing the gods so as to retain their great gift. On the other hand, psychics from foreign lands would be seen as possibly possessed or having made deals with demonic creatures or evil spirits since no non-Roman citizen would be so blessed by their gods.
Evil psychics would still exist as the great power given to them corrupts. Citizens would fall victim to the abuses and whims of these powerful individuals who possibly see themselves as above the general populace. Faced with these powerful foes, the people would turn to the gods to aid them by sending a hero or group of heroes to vanquish their tormentor.
All psychics in the Roman era are latent. Master psychics possess too much power for the time. Additionally, while most psionic powers are available (those dealing with mechanics and computers should not be allowed since they are rather useless in ancient times), it is recommended that players avoid the flashy, destructive powers like pyrokinesis, electrokinesis and psi-sword. These powers would be the province of the gods and not a mere mortal.
As an optional rule, GMs may allow the use of these abilities, but with the following stipulations. The I.S.P. cost is doubled and each use counts as two melee actions. The reason being the character must petition, through prayer, the gods for the use of such power. Also, a 25% chance exists that the gods did not grant the request, though the I.S.P. is still spent. GMs can and should apply modifiers to this roll depending on how devoted the player has been to worship of the gods. Using the psionics would be a risk, but those loyal to the gods are granted such favors in time of need.
For example, the psychic Castius, a priest in the temple of Mars, finds himself confronted by bandits while on the road to Rome. Unarmed and surely about to die, he calls upon the favor of Mars to aid him. As Castius has been a faithful and loyal servant, the GM subtracts 5% from the chance of success and rolls 32%, a success. Mars smiles upon Castius this day and grants him a powerful sword to defend himself with, for which the priest is eternally grateful.
In game terms, the player attempts to use the Psi-sword super psionic power. The GM determined the modifiers for the percentile chance and rolled. Luckily, the roll was not within the adjusted limit of 20% and the power activated. If the player had not been loyal with his worship, then the modifier could have been +10% and the character would have been facing possibly losing his character. In either scenario, the character still uses 60 I.S.P. Keep in mind this only allows the character to attempt to use a power he or she already possesses, not call upon a new power. The character must have the psionic before it can be used.
Physical training characters easily slip into the Ancient Roman setting. They have trained their bodies to pinnacle of human ability, for what reason is left to the player. Whether it is for the Secular Games, which consisted of track and field type events, the gladiatorial games or another reason, this character is in prime physical condition. The physical training character is rolled up as usual.
The Hunter has perfected skills acquired through training with the Legions or a foreign army or surviving in the wilderness. A natural at tracking, trapping and killing prey, the hunter is always on the look out for a new challenge. Evil men and the monsters that terrorize the populace attract this type of character as they find new ways to use their impressive skills.
At home in the wilds, few hunters ever settle down in a city. Most often this character can be found acting as a scout for the army or tracking a beast or brigand group. They are masters of the hunt and their skills reflect that. Roll the character up as usual, but with the following modifications.
Education and Skills: Obviously modern weapon proficiencies don’t apply in this setting, so substitute those with ancient weapon proficiencies. Also, the hunter would be a skilled rider, so he gains horsemanship automatically.
Replace the special skill of Modify Weapon Cartridges with Modify Arrows. The base percentile stays the same, but the character can increase an arrow’s damage by +1D6 or range by 25%. Only one modification can be made per arrow.
Replace the Quick-draw Initiative: Handguns or Rifles with Quick-draw Initiative: Bow and Arrow. This special skill allows the character to gain a +1 bonus to initiative for every P.P. point above 16 (maximum +4 at P.P. 30) while using a bow.
Modify the W.P. Sharpshooter special skill to cover only the bow and arrow. While this character is very similar to the Ancient Weapon Master, each has unique skills and abilities that make them separate and unique to each other.
A stage magician could be seen performing in the streets of the marketplaces throughout the Roman Empire. Sleight of hand tricks have been around for ages, as well as juggling and contortionism. Why this character has decided to join the battle against evil is distinctive to the character, though he may have decided to travel the world with a well-known hero or group of heroes to make a name for himself. Roll this character up as normal.
The weapon master character would remain virtually unchanged as it is written in the Powers Unlimited Two sourcebook. Having mastered the weapons of his time, he now uses his skills for the betterment of Rome, his reputation, or himself. This character is rolled up as usual.
The natural genius is an exceptional character in Ancient Rome. His uncommonly high intellect makes him standout to his peers. His higher I.Q. and deductive reasoning is uncommon in this age. Perhaps his reasoning ability has led him away from the common theology of the times, branding him as a blasphemous criminal or maybe he leads the way in military strategy, philosophy or politics. Whichever path he chooses, it is almost guaranteed he will excel and gain the respect of those around him. This character is created as usual and all skills and abilities remain unchanged.
The hardware weapons expert is a specialist in all weapons of war. Armor, swords, bows and siege weapons are this character’s specialty. Not just using but building, designing and maintaining weapons and armor is the character’s niche in Roman society. Though he has the knowledge to use them all, he specializes in none. While this character can pick up and use virtually any weapon, he has never learned fancy maneuvers. That makes the hardware weapons master no less dangerous, though as his weapons and armor are more powerful and more durable than anyone else’s. This character leads the way in creative weapon and armor design.
Make, Repair and Modify Weapons and Armor
Base skill: 74% + 2% per experience level
With this skill, the character can repair damaged weapons and armor. Weapon refers to swords, bows, axes, spears, javelins as well as large siege machines like the catapult and ballista. Without the proper repair facilities, the character can still fix a broken weapon or reinforce damaged armor with no noticeable loss of effectiveness.
The weapons expert can also increase a missile weapon’s range or damage by making modifications to the weapon or the ammunition’s design. Only one modification can be made per weapon or ammunition and are permanent changes. For example, the character modifies a scorpion to hurl a spear with increased velocity, increasing the damage. If, at a later time, he wishes to increase the range, he would first have to undo his original modification before he could modify it again.
The character can also improve the durability of armor. With a successful skill roll, the character can increase the AR of one set of armor by +1. This requires the creative use of padding, metal piece placement, or other form of reinforcement and time.
The weapon expert can also create new and inventive weapons. Given enough time and resources, the character can create a gimmick weapon unique to him. Note the time frame does not allow the creation of handguns or cannons of any sort. For example, a crossbow can be modified to hold two separate bolts that can fire singly or simultaneously and have a device that allows quicker loading.
This optional list is to aid GM’s in determining what super powers should be allowed in their Ancient Rome campaign. GM’s should feel free to add or remove to better fit the game. Refer to the appropriate book for details of each super power.
Minor Super Abilities
Abnormal Energy Sense
Extraordinary Physical Endurance
Extraordinary Physical Prowess
Extraordinary Physical Strength
Extraordinary Physical Beauty
Extraordinary Mental Endurance
Extraordinary Mental Affinity
Heightened Sense of Awareness
Heightened Sense of Balance
Heightened Sense of Hearing
Heightened Sense of Recall
Heightened Sense of Smell
Heightened Sense of Taste
Heightened Sense of Time
Heightened Sense of Touch
Immune to Magic
Immune to Psionics
Impervious to Cold & Freezing
Impervious to Control & Possession
Impervious to Disease & Illness
Impervious to Fear & Terror
Impervious to Fire & Heat
Impervious to Poisons & Toxins
Sense Death and Destruction
Super Hibernation & Stasis Field
Super Human Strength
Super Vision: Acute Sight
Super Vision: Advanced Sight
Super Vision: Circular Vision
Super Vision: Paranormal Sight
Super Vision: Night Vision
Super Vision: Infrared and Ultraviolet
Super Vision: X-ray
Unnoteworthy – Forgettable
Major Super Abilities
Adapt to Environment
Alter Facial Features & Physical Stature
Control Kinetic Energy
Natural Combat Ability
Super Power Punch
The major abilities are far more limited than the minors, but once again one minor can make an exceptional being in Ancient Rome.
Finally to round out the campaign, a visit to the local library is highly recommended. Maps, more detailed cultural information, and any other pertinent facts can add to the level of realism. Additionally, for some instances, slight modifications of the current rules can help resolve certain situations. For example, you can use the modern vehicle rules for determining the outcome of an impact during the chariot races. This article is meant to provide the baseline for starting the campaign. The minute details and level of realism is left to the players and the Game Master.