Centurion Overdrive – the Palmyra Connection

In the listen through for the Great Courses lecture series Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, I mentioned an idea for an adventure in Roman times with the magical crown of Egypt as the MacGuffin. While Centurion: Legionaries of Rome is all about adventures in Roman times, depending on how you wanted to approach this game, it could be run in Centurion, in Nefertiti Overdrive – using the system if not the setting – or any number of games. I’d be partial to running it in Nefertiti Overdrive because I’m thinking of it as more of an action-adventure than a historical game.

The conceit is that Emperor Aurelian, after conquering the breakaway Palmyrene Empire (we’re talking around 273 CE), gains intelligence that Zenobia – the “queen” of Palmyra and the real force behind it’s success – had sought for the crown of Egypt, an artifact dating back to 3150 BCE and Pharaoh Narmer. The crown reputedly has magical powers to help bring peace and prosperity by uniting divided lands, and Aurelian – the first real emperor during the Crisis of the Third Century – is desperate to gain any advantage in his fight against chaos. (Hey, maybe it’s a literal fight against Chaos, because Rome’s dedication to order makes it a good proponent for Law)

The PCs are a collection of specialists – probably some bad-ass legionaries for muscle, maybe a local Egyptian loyal to Rome or paid well, a frumentarius (spy), and Aurelian’s hand-picked troubleshooter – sent into Egypt and specifically to Thebes. At this time, along with a few soldiers and some Roman bureaucrafts, the town was small, and mostly a tourist destination. There was likely an auxiliary unit of unspecified size who had a headquarters near Luxor (according to “The Theban Region Under the Roman Empire” by Adam Lajtar in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt, Oxford University Press, 2012, edited by Christina Riggs pp 173-4, a really good resource if you decide to try something like this) Although the size of the unit isn’t known, let’s say it was small, just a few hundred, giving Thebes a kind of rough-and-ready frontier town vibe at the end of the Crisis.

Zenobia’s people are still there, led by Iaribol, a Palmyrene loyalist who seeks the crown to help revive the Palmyrene cause – possibly linked to the rebellion in Palmyra led by Septimius Apsaios. The crown is maybe somewhere in the Valley of the Kings, part of a grave unknown even today. It could be hidden in a secret tomb of one of the High Priests of Amun who were the de facto rulers of Upper Egypt in the 21st Dynasty. An interesting conceit might be to have a flashback to the escape from Thebes as represented in Nefertiti Overdrive. Heck you could even change the Icon of Amun-Ra in that game to a piece of the crown – perhaps the crown of Lower Egypt. The Princess and her companions need to hide the crown because they are heading north to confront the Saite Dynast or are otherwise not following the last Nubian pharaoh south. That could be a kind of cool link between the Nefertiti Overdrive scenario and this one.

The PCs  in 273 CE are involved in political intrigue, archaeological investigations, perhaps some digging through historical documents or interacting with sages, and plenty of fisticuffs as the Palmyrene loyalists and locals opposed to Roman rule throw obstacles in the PCs’ path. And there is always aggression from the Nubian nomadic peoples of Blemmyes and Nobatia – the reason for the auxiliary unit – to keep up the pressure.

You can find “Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Narmer, Part Two” here.

You can find the Great Courses lecture series Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt here.

You can find out more about Nefertiti Overdrive: High Octane Action in Ancient Egypt here.

You can find Centurions: Legionaries of Rome at Amazon and Drive Thru RPG.

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