Most of the heroes of the Greek myths were mortals descended from the gods. Some had exceptional gifts because of this divine ancestry (such as Heracles’ incredible strength), others had a talent for a particular thing (such as Asclepius’ skill with medicine), others were just lucky. In an Greek mythology campaign, these gifts are called bloodlines, and those people with bloodlines are called scions (these are game terms rather than words the people in the campaign use to describe these kinds of heroes).
Bloodlines come in three different power levels: minor, lesser, and greater (scions with these bloodlines are minor, lesser, and greater scions, respectively). A typical Greek mythology campaign normally has lesser scion PCs, but a GM wanting to bend the campaign’s low-magic framework can use greater scions, while one wanting more realistic campaign can opt to use minor scions (or no scions at all).
Bloodlines derive from godly or titanic power, and a scion’s choice of bloodline abilities depends on which god or titan he is descended from. A character can only have one bloodline, regardless of how many gods are in his ancestry; a descendant of Zeus’s mortal son and Apollo’s mortal daughter must choose which bloodline is stronger and pick his bloodline abilities based on that choice (he can still claim the other ancestor, but it has no effect on his bloodline abilities). Scions are not just limited to humans; a minotaur might be a scion of Poseidon, and an exceptional horse might be a scion of one of the Anemoi (wind gods).
Bloodlines and Effective Character Level
Bloodlines are intended for use in a low-magic campaign, at least in terms of what magic the PCs have at their disposal. Unlike a regular campaign, the heroes don’t travel with flaming swords and fire-reflecting armor, though they still may face creatures resistant to normal weapons or using fiery attacks. Bloodlines help players compensate for the lack of magic in the hands of the PCs. Because of this intentional compensation, a group of scions should all begin play with the same level of bloodline (none, minor, lesser, or greater) so parity between the PCs is maintained. If for any reason some PCs are weaker scions than others, the GM could try giving an extra feat or trait to the characters without a bloodline to help with party balance.It is generally not a good idea to mix lesser or greater scions with non-scion characters, or minor scions with greater scions, as the difference in character power can seem unfair; if such a mix is necessary, consider a way to compensate the weaker characters, such as giving them a bonus feat, trait, or a +3 bonus to a skill of the player’s choice.
Minor bloodlines are the weakest kind available in an Argonauts campaign, enough to help distinguish the PCs from the common folk but nothing flashy. All minor bloodlines are presented as a list of skills; a minor scion picks two skills from his ancestor’s list and gets a +3 bonus to both of those skills. The scion cannot choose the same skill twice except in the case of skills with subskills (such as Craft, Knowledge, and Perform), in which case the character can select two different subskills (such as Knowledge (nature) and Knowledge (religion)).
Lesser bloodlines let PCs build characters with physical or mental abilities beyond that of common people without going outside the bounds of the low-magic constraints of the setting. All lesser bloodlines are presented as a list of ability scores; a lesser scion picks one ability from his ancestor’s list and gains a +2 bonus to that ability score. Note that many gods have Constitution or Charisma as an option; this is because the gods are immortal and may pass on a limited form of that immortality to their offspring, and most of the gods are quite beautiful, vain, and confident, all traits which a scion might inherit.
Greater bloodlines are the most powerful type available in a Greek mythology campaign, representing actual magical manifestations of godly power. As such, they slightly bend the rules of the low-magic nature of the campaign—and don’t have any precedent in the myths—but make the player characters truly amazing in the sight of normal people.
All greater bloodlines are presented as a choice between a pair of options; the player chooses one option at character creation and cannot change it thereafter. Most are equivalent to a 2nd-level spell effect, and those not actually derived from spells are treated as 2nd-level spells for determinations requiring an effective spell level. Saving throws against bloodline effects are Charisma-based. Caster level (if appropriate) for a greater bloodline is equal to the scion’s character level.
In addition to this choice of a greater bloodline ability, the character gains the effect of a lesser bloodline of their ancestral deity (+2 bonus to one ability score, selected from the list of appropriate ability scores in the lesser bloodlines section).
For example, Carlos’ character Thyrsos is a scion of Aphrodite. Wanting to play a character with supernatural influence over other people, Carlos chooses the charm person power instead of the heroism ability, and can also choose a +2 bonus to Constitution or Charisma as determined by the lesser bloodline of Aphrodite.
You enter a rage similar to barbarian rage, gaining a +2 morale bonus to Strength and Constitution, a +1 morale bonus to Will saves, and a -2 to penalty to AC. Activating this ability is a free action and it lasts 1 round per character level. Unlike barbarian rage, you are not fatigued when you end your rage.
After hitting a creature with a weapon, you can choose to target it with a daze monster effect. If you trigger this ability in conjunction with a bow attack, the DC increases by +1.
You or another willing creature enter a rage similar to barbarian rage, gaining a +2 morale bonus to Strength and Constitution, a +1 morale bonus to Will saves, and a -2 to penalty to AC. Activating this ability is a free action, requires a melee touch attack if used on another creature, and it lasts 1 round per character level. Like barbarian rage, the target is fatigued when the rage ends.
Poseidon: Lesser earthquake once per day or blur (self only) once per day (though rather than being blurred, the character is surrounded by a concealing mist of watery droplets with the same effect as the spell).
After hitting a creature (either before or after you roll damage), you can choose to invoke the power of Zeus’ thunderbolt upon your enemy. A blast of electricity and thunder is channeled through your weapon to your enemy, dealing +2d6 points of damage, half of which is electricity and half sonic. Every third level (at levels 3, 6, 9, and so on) this damage increases by +1d6.