Lost Legends: hex crawling in mythic Greece

This is a report of my first attempt to run players around the map of Greece in "my mythic sandbox" (see forum thread of that name). The year is circa 1550 BC, in the first generation of Greece's Heroic AKA Mycenaean Age. Egypt and the plains of Mesopotamia have been civilized and cleared of monsters for as many as 15 centuries, Crete for perhaps 5, while Greece is a supernatural frontier setting ala many of the Conan stories. Mykenae and Thebes are about to be founded by NPC culture heroes coming from Egypt and Canaan, while the acropolis of Athens is a castle ruled by a royal family of serpent people,

I have 3 PCs in this group: a big dumb fighting man native to the area, a female explorer from Keftiu ("Minoan" Crete), and a bard (magic trader) from the land of Lotus Eaters on the North African coast.

When I started building the 16th century BC as a fantasy sandbox populated with the monsters and heroes traditionally believed to have existed, I had the idea of starting every PC party as mercenaries and traders present at the fall of Hyksos Avaris to Pharaoh Ahmoses, who have to run to either the Eastern Mediterranean or the Red Sea to escape enslavement.With this group, I think that was superfluous. Upon meeting, they immediately booked passage on a ship following the trade winds to Lavrio in Attica. OOC, they were so interested in the Greek mythic setting that they skipped the adventure hooks in Caanan, Ugarit, and the south Anatolian coast. I also figured that this setup would give PCs a possible long-term goal of getting revenge on Ahmoses, or mercenary PCs might have a grudge against the Hyksos king Khamudi for abandoning them. Nobody in this party has mentioned either of them since getting on the boat, so in hindsight I should have just introduced them as adventurers in Lavrio,

First Session

We started play at 3:30 and ran til 7:30. Once the PCs arrived in Lavrio, Meninx the bard and Irina the explorer started gathering information. The lord of this area is Duke Kranaos, whose power derives from his demesne of the freshest silver mines plus olive estates on their slopes. He uses slaves to work the mines inasmuch as he can get them, but the slave trade is limited. He owes fealty to Kekropia 6 6-mile hexes away and its goddess Athena. The town's harbor district is centuries old and along with the oldest mines was originally a penal colony of Keftiu. (Any thoughts on a backstory for using mine tunnels as a lair? Restless skeletons of Keftic convicts? Of slaves worked to death? Of both, having an undead ethnic conflict?)

Meninx's player rolled 170 gp for starting wealth and had 74 left in cash after equipping. Since there are no coins in this time, we decided that Meninx was carrying his cash in the form of 74 gp worth of the lotus leaves used as a spell component. Hoping to turn a profit by selling the leaves at a larger market inland where supply is lower than on the coast and demand is proportional to population, he decided to travel to Kekropia ASAP. Tethuk the fighting man worships Athena, so he wanted to go to her temple adjacent to the palace, and Irina tagged along. The dirt road from Lavrio to Kekropia detours around an unsettled hex of wooded hills, and they got a random encounter with 4 wolves by taking the shortcut. I gave them max HP for first level, and this was still one roll away from a partial party kill. They salvaged three of the pelts as treasure and marched into Kekropia heavily wounded but wearing dashing wolf pelt cloaks. Peasant boys from mud huts near the lower town's palisade stared and followed them, and Irina drew enough attention giving them wolf jerky that they got the encounter with a townswoman who had the Healing proficency.

Once they were sanitary and healed up, our heroes sweet talked the guards at a gate of the acropolis and got inside. After paying respects at the porch of Athena's sanctuary, they were able to meet Princess Hersa at the palace. Like her father and sisters, she's a serpent from the waist down, but this was hidden by her Minoan-style floor-length hoop skirt. Meninx managed to trade his entire lotus supply as a formal gift exchange for 10 donkeys with which to join the royal caravan bringing silver and trade goods from Lavrio to Kekropia, an instant 8.1% profit. So now the PCs have a patron who's also a monster.

While waiting for the next caravan, the PCs tried to impress Princess Hersa by clearing the wolf lairs from a borderlands hex of hill country where shepherds pasture their flocks. One lair was just a mated pair's den, leading to an anticlimactic encounter relative to the random encounter as the alpha male rolled natural 1s in both combat rounds before getting put out of his misery. :) Searching the hex for the next lair, they found a family of 5 adults, which given their near-death experience with 4, sent them back to town to wait for the caravan. Upon their return to Lavrio, they learned that they had just missed a bandit raid that captured the Duke's daughter and 3 female commoners. The players were still running on 3E assumptions and not using hirelings, so I gave them the 3 commoner fathers as hirelings and told the PCs that the bandits came from the northwest... they travelled a hex in that direction and a search turned up a cave with a gate of branches and vines and a fire burning inside. Irina successfully used Eavesdropping to sneak up and observe a ruffian inside the gate cooking a chicken over the fire, and the tunnel curving right behind him so she couldn't see anyone else. Hoping this would be the right bandit cave, she silently motioned for her companions to sneak up and start combat...

To Be Continued