Actual Play V: The Trial of Athena (Part Two)

On the Island of Polyphemus 
Head of Polyphemos c. 150 BC, marble from the
Greekisland of Thasos

After beseeching the gods for forgiveness, the heroes rented themselves a small ship to sail to Thrinacia, the island of the cyclops. They found a fisherman willing to ferry them across Poseidon's domain, just as long as he did not have to stick around. The island was empty with a small dock at the entrance. Beached on the shore the prize the heroes sought was moored, a large warship made of gold. It glimmered bright in the sunlight with beautiful golden sails and silver oars. It was called The Golden Galleon.

The heroes tried to come up with a plan on how to steal the ship. Lycaneous suggested they get behind it and push it into sea. Echo suggested to wait until high tide and sail it out of the harbor. But Wise Saphildur and Kind Elena did not like the idea of stealing. The cruel deeds of murder and theft from the previous session (see The Trial of Athena: Part One) still did not sit well with them. Thus a much more bold plan was made, to speak with the giant cyclops Polyphemus instead of stealing from him. They would try diplomacy before violence.

As DM, this was a surprising move. I was caught off guard by my players, I wholly expected them to roll up on the lair of the cyclops and kill him. You may recall, this is Polyphemus, the cyclops from the Odyssey. The players knew that he was a man-eater, and yet they also knew they were supposed to be heroes. They felt that killing him may anger another god (Polyphemus is a son of Poseidon). In Greek Mythology there are two types of cyclopes. There are a group of wise craftsmen who work with Hephaestus at the forge and crafted the Thunderbolt of Zeus. The others are angry man-eating monsters. I thought about the way these one eyed giants are portrayed and asked myself "what if there is only one kind of cyclops?" Polyphemus attacks and eats members of Odysseus's crew when they appear in his cave. Maybe there is a deeper reason behind this than him simply being an angry monster.

When the players arrive to the cave of Polyphemus they announce themselves to the master of the island loudly and ask him for his help. When the massive cyclops arrives they offer him some of their wine and some of their food. Then they ask him if he would be willing to trade them for the golden ship. Polyphemus mulls the thought over, but they have nothing to offer him that interests him (or that they would be willing to part with).

"What about a Golden Apple?" asked Echo, daughter of Aphrodite.

This idea enticed the giant. The heroes offered to allow Polyphemus to sail with them to the Garden of Hesperides where they would obtain a few apples and share them with the cyclops. Thus the cyclops decided to join the players on their quest for a while, bringing with him his golden ship.

These are the Greek and Roman artifacts in my classroom. (From left to right) A bust of Ajax, three vases hand painted in
Greece, a recreation of the Capitoline Wolf depicting baby Romulus and Remus, an Aristotle Book End, and only a few of my books on Ancient Greece. 

The Golden Galleon
A Minoan ship based on the Thera fresco.
Rare Magic Item

This golden ship was designed by Athena, Tutor of Heroes, and built by Soot-Black Hephaestus. It shines beautifully in the sun and is exceptionally fast. During this time, the average Greek ship make speeds of 6 knots (roughly 7 miles per hour). The Golden Galleon can travel 14 knots (roughly 16 miles per hour). The Golden Galleon can cross 200 miles in a day of sailing. The ship has enough oars and seats for up to twenty rowers and at least 10 other people. It also has a large sail made of shimmering golden fabric. 

It is important to note that during this time Greek ships were smaller. There are very few archaeological examples to work from, but the Achaeans were a sea faring people. Never forget that they launched a thousand ships to take Helen back. You may be familiar with Greek triremes or biremes which had multiple banks of rowers, but those would not be built until the 8th century BC (500 years after the Trojan War). Most of our evidence about these ships come from the sides of pottery fragments.


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