Jason And The Argonauts
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Basic Information

Jason was the rightful heir to the throne of Iolcus. His father was slain by Jason's uncle Pelias while his mother was pregnant. She claimed Jason was stillborn, and sent the newborn child into hiding with Chiron the Centaur. When he had grown to adulthood, Jason eventually returned to Iolcus. Along the way he lost his sandal in the river, which clued Pelias in to his true identity, as Pelias had been warned by an Oracle that a man with one sandal would overthrow him.

Before he could take over Iolcus, Jason got sent on a quest to find the Golden Fleece. He gathered up some brave adventurers and heroes to go on the quest with him. This group was named the Argonauts after their ship, the Argo, which in turn was named after it's creator, the famed shipwright Argus.

The Argonauts include:

Acastus Admetus Aethalides Amphion Ancaeus
Argus Ascalaphus Atalanta Autolycus Bellerophon
Butes Calais Canthus Castor Cytissorus
Echion Erginus Euphemus Euryalus Heracles
Hylas Idas Idmon Iolaus Iphitos
Laertes Lynceus Melas Meleager Mopsus
Nestor Oileus Orpheus Palaemon Palaimonius
Peleus Philoctetes Phrontis Poeas Polydeuces
Polyphemos Poriclymenus Talaus Telamon Theseus
Tiphys Zetes Jason (and later, Medea)

Notes on selected Argonauts:

On the voyage, Jason and the Argonauts get involved in a lot of adventures and a couple battles. They defeat:

  • King Cyzicus of the Doliones, who had the night before thrown a party in their honor. The Argo got turned around by a storm, and in the dark Jason kinda murdered Cyzicus and his countrymen a little. Oops!
  • Harpies, who were stealing food from Phineas. That the Boreads could fly proved real helpful here.
  • Nymphs, who drowned Heracles' son-servant Hylas. Herc got mopey and left the band over this.
  • Spartoi, crazed soldiers who grew out of Dragon's Teeth.
  • A Dragon or giant snake, but not necessarily the one whose teeth turn into men.
  • Aeetes, the king of Colchis who rightfully owned the Golden Fleece. They also killed his son Absyrtus.
  • Talos a giant bronze golem that likes to throw rocks at ships. His heal was his weakspot, and all his magical blood poured out of it.

In terms of non-combat challenges, Jason and the argonauts faced:

  • Lots of social scenes and charisma checks.
  • Sex with the stinky women of Lemnos. No kidding. These women had been lax in their worship of Aphrodite and the goddess of beauty made them smell horrible as a punishment. Their husbands hired concubines that didn't smell, so the local women killed all their men. Then Jason and his crew show up, and have some kids with them. Weird.
  • Symplegades , two huge boulders that clashed together randomly. They were a huge threat to shipping in the area. But with some (probably magical) advice and a (probably magical) dove from Phineas, the argonauts were able to sail between them safely, and then it was never a danger to anyone ever again.
  • Khalkotauroi, fire-breathing bronze bulls. Sounds like it should be a fight, but instead he just yoked them and plowed a field. For that matter, they sneak past the dragon and trick the teeth-men into killing each other, so you could just about argue the whole quest is non-combat.
  • Big storms sent by Zeus.
  • Ritual purification with Circe.
  • The Sirens, whose magical music wasn't nearly as loud or powerful as that of Orpheus.

They also passed the land of the Amazons, and the spot where Prometheus was chained to a rock, but didn't really do much in either place.

It's worth noting that throughout this quest, Jason does next to nothing himself. He picks the right crew, and they do much of the hard work. He's a great manager, a people-person that brings out the best in his team. In fact, he even brings out the best in his ship. At one point, when really stumped on what to do, the Argo itself starts talking and offering advice.

He owes most of his success to Medea, daughter of Aeetes and brother of Absyrtus. She betrays her family and people to help Jason out. She's also a witch and an alchemist, brewing up potions and laying down enchantments to aid Jason in the second half of his journey. When they get back to Iolcus, Medea even convinces the daughters of King/Usurper Pelias to chop up their mean old father and boil him so he's no longer a threat to Jason. Medea is a really useful ally, a devoted wife to Jason and loving mother to his sons.

So, of course, he betrays her. Jason sees an opportunity for personal gain via a political marriage to princess Creusa of Corinth. Medea doesn't like this, so she sets Creusa (and her father) on fire, or poisoned them. To show that she's not a woman to be meddled with, Medea goes so far as to kill her own children too, and then rides off in a chariot sent by the sun-god Helios.

In the end, Jason dies lonely and unsatisfied, as the rotting remains of the Argo crush him in his sleep.

Sources

Bibliography
1. Non-Fiction: Mythology for Dummies by Blackwell and Blackwell
2. MythWeb dot com - Jason's exploits, illustrated with comics
3. My Hero dot com - includes a map of the Argonauts' possible route
6. Fiction: The Argonaut Affair by Simon Hawke — part of Hawke's Time Wars series. The Time Commandos are doing a recon mission in an alternate timeline and find themselves in the middle of Jason's quest. Is somebody with a Sufficiently Advanced Technology messing with the timeline, or have the Commandos become playthings of the gods?
7. Movie: Jason and the Argonauts (1963) — Classic Harryhausen

Game and Story Use

  • Look at that Argonaut crew list. It's a veritable "Who's Who" of Greek Heroes. If you're a greek hero, either you were: a) on the Argo, b) at the Trojan War, or c) a son of Zeus. There's really no other options. Being an argonaut is a pedigree of sorts, membership in an exclusive club.
    • Any of the lesser-known Argo crew could make good PCs (or NPCs that wouldn't overshadow the PCs). Or you could just make a new PC and claim they got their start as an unnamed extra / oarsman on the Argo.
  • The quest is made up of mostly non-combat encounters. A GM could well emulate that, to get a more "mythic" feel to their game, especially one set in ancient greece. Less combat, more problem-solving.
    • And one awesome trick available in settings where the Greek Gods are real and meddling in people's lives, is that the plot doesn't always have to make sense. Jason and the Argonauts faced a series of weird encounters that were only loosely tied together by the poorly-explained quest for the Golden Fleece. The big hand wave in all this is that the Gods decreed it. They put Jason on his quest, and arranged bizarre challenges for him to face. At several points, they directly intervene in the affairs of mortals to punish people for often unspecified transgressions.
  • A campaign could be based around a ship and it's crew, landing on different islands every session with completely new (and largely unrelated) challenges. It was good enough for the Argonauts.
  • Easy to do a Recycled In Space version, just swapping out aliens instead of monsters.
  • Given the prominence of Medea and her potions, and the strange meandering story that makes no dramatic sense, it's easy to envision the whole tale as being secretly a Coded Myth. The Golden Fleece is actually the Azoth or Philosopher's Stone, and the "journey" is actually encoded instructions of the process and ingredients to make it. Every character, monster and incident in the tale corresponds to a different ingredient or process. Thus several versions of the text are in the lab or library of an alchemist. They may have labels on their furnace that say "Khalkotauroi" or "Talos". Mostly this is just for flavor and characterization, but a clever GM might figure out how to build an adventure around it.

Building This Character

Jason solved most of his problems by delegation. He's the ideal party leader, chessmaster or magnificent bastard, but he's not always a hero, per se. He clearly put all his character points into Social Attributes and skills like leadership and persuasion. He has numerous allies and henchmen. He also has enemies, though, so his social stats shouldn't be so good that he can't fail at times. He's one of those jerks that talks you into doing something you know you shouldn't, and after the fact you wonder why you ever liked him.

Having been trained by Chiron, he'll have archery, athletics and philosophy. By the end of the quest, at least, he's probably a competent sailor.

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