A while back I wrote a short description of how you could adapt Arrows of Indra to be an even more “indian” game in flavour; today, we deal with the other part of the “Epic India” equation, the “epic” part.
Some people have claimed that being an OSR-game, it would be very hard for an AoI game to really reflect the “epicness” of what you see in the Mahabharata and other indian Epics. Keep in mind the following facts, however:
1. There are different power-levels in the different Indian epics. The really old stories (about how Shiva takes down three floating cities, for example) deal with a power level that’s way out there; the power level of what would be the ancient history of the Bharata Kingdoms (the stories of the Ramayana) are also quite huge, the sort of thing that might be more suited to an Amber-based game than to D&D. However, by the time the Mahabharata rolls around, things have calmed down a little. You don’t see dudes blowing up cities with a single arrow, or catching the sun from mistaking it for a mango or the likes; instead, most of the characters in the Mahabharata are pretty well humans, albeit some that have some very superhuman abilities.
What you’re mostly talking about, in other words, are high-level characters.
2. There are of course things that happen in the Mahabharata that would be well beyond anything a regular high-level D&D PC would typically be capable of; but 99% of these are due to direct or indirect divine intervention.
So here’s the simple formula for making your AoI game more Epic:
First, start off the PCs at higher level. I personally love the D&D zero-to-hero formula, and think its the best way to go; but there’s nothing to stop you from skipping ahead to the high-power high-level play. And AoI has tons of stuff in it (including the entire appendix) to support higher-level play.
Second, take note of the nature of things like the Celestial Weapons, and also of Divine Intervention. IF you want to make the game especially epic, remove the “once per level” stipulation for Divine Intervention (I’d suggest leaving the other parts of the formula, however, including the idea of having to do divine tasks after obtaining divine intervention). I specifically included the Divine Intervention rules to allow people to add that crazy-ass stuff you sometimes see happening. Most of the Celestial weapons are taken right out of the Indian myths.
So there you go; I would argue that high-level AoI play will be a very good mimic of the kind of action you see in the high-powered but still-human action of the Mahabharata. Of course, people could argue that some other system might do it better (some of those people might even not be D&D-haters), but I think the kind of things you gain from the AoI system is worth the translation, personally.
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia
(originally posted April 13, 2013)