A Dialogue with Gilbert Gallo, the Italian Savage Worlds Author who wrote Mythos and Olympus Inc.
As I told in my welcome post, I would like to better introduce to the English-speaking audience some Italian friend, mostly writers, artists and game designers I know or I’m used to work with.
This “introductions” will look like “Dialogues”, an ancient form of communication and essay mostly used by ancient classic philosophers. We are not philosophers, but we will pretend to be…
victim volunteer of this insane idea of mine is Gilbert Gallo, Savage Worlds Italian author, who created 3 different Savage Setting.
I always like to talk with him about Game and Myth and so here we are…
Mauro: We in Italy have always had a great interest in Classical Myths: they are part of our history, literature and art… even geography. We study Epic Literature and Greek/Roman Myth at school. We also study ancient Greek and Latin at school! It’s a part of our culture and something that make us what we are. I’m very proud of this part of the Italian School Program, even if younger student find it boring. I’m a really great fan of Epic, Myth and Classic Literature and I studied this subjects also at my High School and College. But sometimes I feel like a grumpy grognard.
New generations can accept and understand it?
Gilbert: As a matter of fact, I always liked the “stories” described in the Greek and Roman Myths too. Moreover, I’ve always found a lot of “similarities” between Heroes of the Myths and “modern” super-heroes.
For example, I always envisioned Heracles as the “Superman” of ancient Greece: he was strong, fast and invincible. If he only could fly and fire laser beams from his eyes, he would have been a “lustful” version of Kal-El, about 3000 years earlier. And the other thing I really love about greek mythology is the “involvement” of Gods in mortal affairs.
I like the idea of a judging Zeus who could kill sinners with a thunderbolt, fall in love with mortal women or wage a war against the giants. I have to admit that Olympians are NOT a shining example of virtue and perfection, but which would you choose: an imperfect God who’s always by your side or a perfect, almighty god who’s unreachable? I’d chose the first one anytime!
As long as I was in primary school, I had just a hint about ancient Greek literature, and that was great. As I got to humanistic gymnasium, I suddenly realized that the italian school system (at least during the 90s) was not meant to let you fall in love with classical text. Teachers are supposed to let you translate greek and latin texts rather than explaining them or transmitting their important, timeless messages. I had GREAT teachers, who nevertheless succeeded in transmitting their love and passion for Greek literature to me, but most of my classmates (who probably were less motivated than I was) ended up hating those “pointless translations” of a “long dead civilization”.
That’s why I think that italian school system needs to change its attitude towards teaching ancient literature. Teachers should focus less on translation and more on storytelling. Just pretend for a moment that you don’t know anything about Camelot. Could you imagine what would happen if you had to translate the “Historia Regum Britanniae” to get some info about King Arthur and the Round Table?
Your grades would play a big part on whether you love or hate those topics. And that’s why, imho, new generations are not positive towards Greek myths. They just know the basics, but if you ask them their
opinion they would probably answer that it’s “old stuff nobody really cares about”. I think Italy should invest more on new medias like comics, movies, tv series and games (of course!) based on ancient myths: that’s the only way average people could fall in love and appreciate ancient greek literature, which plays a big role in our culture. For example, Game of Thrones is a “simplified” version of what actually happened during the Greek mythological era. I would really like to see such a tv series set in Mycenean greece where the Atreides battle against the Heraclides, Lacedaemones etc. Mythos was born with a great ambition: let people fall in love with Greek mythology. So far, so good!
Mauro: Compared to your opinion I’m a conservative. I do not like that the teachers have to run after students and convince them that what they are studying is interesting and fun.
Programs are already interesting and students should strive to focus and engage. Or their attention will be less from year to year, and the teachers will end up having to disguise as Greek and reconstruct the classic battles as a LARP to attract their attention. It’s a bearish run of the content that is not good for anybody, I think.
Then, for me you are the “myth guy” in Savage Worlds community, thanks to Mythos and the next Savage Setting you are working on. “Myth” is a genre in RPG as well than in fiction, along with Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy and Superheroistic. I think there are a lot of potentialities in “playing mythology”, even if there are also weakness or difficulties.
Gilbert: Imho, the great advantage of playing a “mythological” setting is that everyone is immediately ready to play it. You don’t need to invest time to explain “who is who” and “where are we now”. And thanks to our cultural heritage, many people know quite a lot details about Greek
Mythology so they can play at “full potential” from the first day.
Being “famous” could also be a drawback. As I said previously, in Italy many people think that Greek mythology is “old, boring stuff”: all the time you saved to persuade “enthusiasts” to play your game you gotta use it to persuade “haters” that Greek Mythology is NOT as bad as they think it is. But luckily, I’ve met a lot more “fans” than “haters” so far.
There’s another drawback with Greek Mythology, but it’s very easy to avoid: multiple versions of the same Myth. You can eventually meet “experts” who claim that “their info sources say that things went differently than what is stated in the manual”. As a matter of fact, Greek Mythology has so many different versions of the same Myth as there are stars in the sky. I simply reply to “experts” that for each single Myth I chose the “story” I liked most and added a lot of my own imagination. Mythos is NOT an academic text, and should be taken as such: a way to have fun together with friends. GMs are free to use whatever version of the Myths they wish.
Mauro: Hollywood Majors and a lot of fiction authors uses mythology and classic legends to create a “melting pot” of influences, or even a senseless mishmash. I am honest and admit that I like these antics. I am not fussy, and I love special effects, bombastic stories, overdone movies and new-pulp novels like those involving the Greek myths.
I also realize that none of these are real “tributes” to the ancient myth and that they never have a true mythical atmosphere.
In short, I welcome the antics, but I’d also like some nice masterpiece to recover a bit ‘of sanity. What do you think about the most famous movies/books of this genre?
Gilbert: Well, I always say that creating fiction is like cooking: “If ingredients are good and the cook is a skilled one, you can doubtlessly expect a great dish“. Imho, Greek Mythology is a VERY good ingredient, as all other mythologies are. Using it wisely can only provide a great work to the public. The main problem is: Mythology has been used a LOT and nowadays people get easily stuffed from it. So, although Mythology is a very good ingredient, nowadays it takes a really good writer/screenplayer to create something “original” that doesn’t look like “another poor remake”.
The BEST book I have read so far is American Gods of Neil Gaiman. He mixes a lot of Mythologies in a creative way, becoming a great inspiration source. The Italian Valerio Massimo Manfredi has written a lot of Mythologic fiction and is a great example of good work. Perhaps, so far the movies productions didn’t satisfy me. I liked 300 (but it’s rather historical fiction than mythology) and watched Troy too. Imho filmmakers focus more on special effects (like Clash of Titans) than going for the “Awe inspiring” aspect of Mythology. So far, I prefer books rather than movies or tv series.
Mauro: And then we have “Modern Mythology”: Percy Jackson and friends… I like them too, but what I noticed is that this great wealth is used mainly by USA producer and authors, rather than by the true “owners”: Italians and Greeks. It’s just a matter of technical resources or what happens is that we are not good at enhancing our fantastic traditions?
Gilbert: After Mythos, set in the “heroic bronze age” of Mythology, our next mythological project is called Olympus Inc. It’s a modern-mythological setting that takes inspiration from Shadowrun, American Gods and with a “Cyberpunk attitude”. Imagine what would happen if the Olympians were forced to live among mortals (a fate similar to that of Thor in Marvel Comics). Olympians adapted to the new, harsh reality and now own mega-corporations while they try to regain their (rightful?) place of “Masters of the Universe”. Heroes are Demigods of the 21st century: super-powered and high-fashion adventurers ready to take advantage of the corporation wars to ultimately attain their goals. They’ve got ichor in their veins, Divine Weapons in their hands and a smile on
their face. They grab immortality by the throat and hang on, ready to do anything to achieve the place in Heavens that they deserve.
Because they are… Olympunks!
This new setting will be launched on Kickstarter in January 2016, in the meantime you can follow our development on our FB page!
Mauro: Great! Arrivederci Gilbert and good luck for your games!