What Do I Know About Reviews? Odyssey of the Dragonlords (5e OGL)
The best explanation I have for how quickly I backed this Kickstarter when it was announced is to mention how much I loved Clash of the Titans, and I was hoping that this project would heal the emotional wounds I had over the remake of that movie. I am, of course, referencing Odyssey of the Dragonlords, a 5th edition OGL (D&D) adventure produced by Arcanum Worlds and published by Modiphius.
Arcanum Worlds is a game company founded by former Bioware employees, who had direct links to the Baldur’s Gateseries of video games. In addition to this adventure, they also produced the DM’s Guild product Heroes of Baldur’s Gate.
It’s interesting taking a look at this product now, since WOTC (as of the time of this writing) has just announced the similarly inspired Mythic Odysseys of Theros book for Dungeons and Dragons. Greek springs eternal, apparently.
Release the Hardback!
This review is based both on the PDF of the product and the hardcover release. I’m going to try to keep my references on the main hardcover, even though I also received the Player’s Guide and GM pack for this adventure as well. The book is a titanic 482 pages. There is a three-page character sheet, an OGL page, 10 pages of Kickstarter backers (in really tiny font . . . there were a lot of backers), and four pages of handouts, in addition to setting information, player options, and the adventure itself.
If you have an idea of what some of the best products produced for the RPG industry look like, this may be pretty close to the Platonic Ideal. There is a slight parchment background, decorative page borders, and really gorgeous artwork throughout. The formatting of sidebars, headers, and read-aloud text appears similar to what appears in official D&D products, with a slight shift of the color pallet and a few classical flourishes. There are often commentaries in stylized handwriting, which presents quotes from various NPCs on a relevant topic to what is being discussed in the text.
This adventure touches on several topics that may not be comfortable for some gamers. Even if you assume a “D&D baseline” of “we’ll be killing monsters, and they’ll be trying to kill us,” there are some things to keep in mind.
Some of the content involves violence on a different vector than usually encountered in a D&D adventure. It’s not so much the level of the violence, but where it appears in the game. For example, there is a subclass that expressly gains power from sacrificing living things, including marking enemies as sacrifices, which feels like a different tone than the usual baseline D&D assumptions.
Colonialism and racism are consistent themes in the adventure. The native fey races of Thylea are sometimes at odds with the colonizing races that came from other worlds, and there is a persistent thread of racism against minotaurs. There is specifically an NPC minotaur that nervously ridicules himself by calling out the shortcomings of his species, and I’m uncomfortable enough with that that comes across that I would not use that personality trait when running this.
I think the adventure can show the nuance of player characters realizing that the native species of Thylea being aligned with the villains doesn’t make them the villains of the story, but without explicitly calling out the problems of colonialism in the text of the adventure, I also think a lot of GMs running this adventure could steamroll right into the paradigm of “colonizers equal civilized and good, natives equal savage and bad.,” This isn’t expressly what the adventure is portraying, but it isn’t called out as something to avoid, either.
Before I reached the section on recurring NPCs, I was concerned about the LGBTQ+ representation in the adventure, as the main plot thread in the adventure itself involves someone whose partner has died, which is a bad look if it’s your only representation on this front. The NPC profiles provide a lot more representation, but it requires a GM to know those profiles and not just the adventure.
The artwork does depict several people of color, but as a percentage of the whole, there are still a lot of white presenting characters in the book. While this shouldn’t be the only explanation or reason for including people of color, the fact that the non-fey population of Thylea is a conglomeration of people from many different worlds, greater diversity in the character art would have been great.
D&Digression–Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Design
D&D, being the oldest modern game to start the roleplaying hobby, sets a lot of expectations. It’s hard to fight inertia, and even though I’m aware of some of these issues, I still tend to “grade on a curve” for D&D Adventures. In this case, I’m talking about some persistent issues in D&D adventure design.
While D&D, and it’s offshoots, have gotten better at providing context for adventures, and better hooks to get player characters into adventures, the presentation of adventures themselves haven’t changed much over the years, with a few exceptions, like the flip-book format of the Dark Sun adventures, or the late 3.5/4th edition encounter-based presentation.
What this means is that often, important framing information appears in read-aloud text, and important details are mentioned in the narrative. There isn’t a lot used to delineate information within the text, aside from bolded items indicating stat blocks found in the Monster Manual, meaning that if there is an important item in the third sentence of a six sentence paragraph, sometimes it’s really easy to miss this bit of information.
What this means is that D&D can have both good adventures (meaning it’s really good if you can find all of the connective bits and tie them together at the table), and bad adventures (even if you do exactly what the text says, it doesn’t hold up), but the adventure is rarely judged on how easy it is to reference the important plot points and connective elements, just on if they exist and if they contribute to a satisfying game session. Odyssey of the Dragonlords isn’t an exception to this, and I still tend to judge D&D adventures, fair or not, on these criteria, while still hoping that the game gets better at calling out connections and important plot elements.
There is a short preface that calls out some of the reasons that the creators wanted to use Greek mythology as a basis for their adventure, and defines some of the hallmarks of Greek myths, including topics like rulers and their relationship to gods, oaths and curses, fame, fate, comedy, and tragedy.
The introduction gives a quick overhead view of the setting and the player character’s assumed place in the setting. Thylea is a landmass surrounded by island chains, and sometimes ships can arrive there from other worlds. Thylea itself was ruled over by the titans, specifically the two most aggressive titans, the titan of the sea and his wife, the titan of the underworld.
The PCs will be characters predicted by prophecy to save the world from the wrath of the titans when the Oath of Peace, an oath sworn between the titans, the gods, and the dragonlords at the end of a great war, comes to an end. Between the adventure and the appendix, you learn a lot more about the nuances of history and the nature of these events.
The introduction then explains a bit more about the assumptions of the campaign. There are discussions about the laws, people, kingdoms, and factions of the land. There is an adventure overview, and some discussion about the gods of Thylea and what domains align with what god or titan.
This section then introduces the Epic Paths. Epic Paths are an add on to a character’s background that ties them to the adventure. At various points in the adventure, if the character does something related to their epic path, they may find a magic item, obtain a mount or companion, or unlock a special power. The exact actions the characters must take will vary by epic path, which includes the following:
- The Demi-God
- The Vanished One
- The Haunted one
- The Gifted One
- The Lost One
- The Dragonslayer
- The Cursed One
There are several milestones listed under each of the epic paths, and a character that completes the epic path gains a Divine Blessing, and from the beginning they gain a Divine Boon (usually some variation of getting a free return to life under certain circumstances a limited number of times).
The purpose of these paths is not to give the characters side quests that take them away from the main story, but to add a little bit of an extra challenge in some of the areas they are already assumed to visit.
For groups that are accustomed to using milestone advancement, this adventure may be a little tricky. There is a “Milestones and Ideal Levels” chart, but it’s painting much broader strokes. Unlike some adventures, where each level is mapped to a specific section of the adventure, the milestone chart only shows where the PCs are likely to be for every other level, with story XP awards listed for various tasks in the individual chapters. Given this chart, and the numerous side missions in the adventure, it feels as if this is definitely an adventure structured to let the group decide if they want to play on “hard mode” and tackle tasks as soon as they know about them, or if they are going to access all the content to level up as much as possible.
There are several suggestions on how to start the campaign, based on the characters coming from other campaign settings, being native to Thylea, or starting at 5th level instead of 1st level. There are events tied to some of the main villains to allow the characters a form of interaction with them long before their confrontation to make the stakes more personal.
One exercise tied to the “destined for greatness” campaign starting point calls for the players to create rumors about their character, one of which must be true, and the GM distributes these rumors to the other players to represent what they have heard about the rest of the group. I enjoy this little trick, and might insert it into other games with a similar starting point in the future.
I also really like how tightly the epic paths tie the characters to the ongoing narrative, and the mechanics for introducing campaign villains early for some hero on villain trash-talking long before they have a chance to throw down with one another.
Heroes of the Prophecy, The Great Labors, and Summoned by the King
The opening chapters of the adventure establish the heroes as the chosen heroes of Thylea, upon whose shoulders the fate of the world rests. They perform various tasks, get the attention of some important people (and gods), and get hints on how to move into the next phase of the adventure.
This starts with a bang, with a poet, who is actually the goddess of music, pointing the heroes in the direction of a rampaging monster. This gets the locals to point them towards the Oracle, who is going to tell them how to fulfill their destinies. Of course, there are complications, but once freed, the Oracle will get them to swear an oath to one another, and direct them to several tasks to prepare themselves to face the task of confronting the titans.
The tasks involve claiming the weapons of the Dragonlords, lighting the fires of the Mithral Forge, and drinking from the Horn of Balmytria. Before they get the chance to finish their third trial, King Acastus will send for them to visit him in Mytros, where they are introduced to a quest leading to the next part of the adventure.
Those tasks lead them to Estoria, and the characters can complete the tasks in any order they wish. In addition to the tasks set out by the Oracle, Estoria contains several missions that the heroes can undertake as well. They have the opportunity to run into another god, Volkan, who is tied into one of their labors.
The Mithral Forge can unlock future items that can be created, and the tomb of the Dragonlords allows the PCs to gain more insight into the time of the previous heroes of the realm. Drinking from the Horn of Balytria gives the heroes dreams of the next stage of the adventure.
Once the PCs are summoned to Mytros by King Acastus, there are numerous side quests in that city as well. Some of these hint at the King’s less than forthright nature, and a particularly memorable one sends them into the city’s colossus looking for the head of the city’s thieves’ guild. There are also some athletic games the PCs can participate in, which lead them to encountering some memorable NPCs that may join the party on their quest.
All of this may seem pretty linear or straightforward, but beyond just choosing the order of the tasks and whether or not to accept the missions offered in Estoria, there are also some nuances that may lead characters to offend or ingratiate various gods. After their initial meeting with the oracle, the PCs often have their choices of how to proceed and in what order, even if they are fated to run smack into the titans eventually.
There is a pattern in this adventure, which is repeated in most of the cities that appear. There are many side quests. A lot of them seem like fun, and many of them yield some extra treasure. But some of them don’t obviously jump out at the PCs, and require them to either actively go poking around looking for hidden trouble, or to talk to NPCs that they may not have a clear reason to interact with. This feels very much like the same design for Baldur’s Gate, ported to a tabletop game, and I would love for a more intuitive reason to point PCs towards some of the NPC quest givers in this adventure.
The Voyage of the Ultros, The Cerulean Gulf, The Forgotten Sea, and the Nether Sea
In both their dream from the horn, and from talking to King Acastus, the PCs will find out about the Ultros, a ghost ship that they need to sail into the Forgotten Sea to hunt down their destiny. The Ultros is haunted by the spirit of a former dragonlord, who is looking to possess a living host.
Because King Acastus is a jerk that is trying to form his own order of Dragonlords and doesn’t want the PCs stealing his glory, he leaves out a lot of warnings about the Ultros and its crew. If they don’t get tricked by the ghost captain, the ship is all theirs (it’s still theirs if they do get tricked, but one of them is hijacked by an evil ghost).
Once the group has the ship, they are given the Antikythera, a navigational tool that allows them to voyage into the Cerulean Gulf and the Forgotten Sea by inputting coordinates based on constellations to lead them to various islands. The Antikythera is missing a piece that will allow them to input the coordinates to the lost lairs of the titans, so they have to explore until they find that piece.
The Oracle, the God of Battle, and the Goddess of Music all join the crew, but don’t worry, they all have actions in their stat blocks that can boost PCs, but most of them won’t actually get involved beyond simple actions to show favor.
There are way too many islands to detail, as this is a huge portion of the book. The PCs have the opportunity to meet Amazons, accidentally free an insectoid race that will doom the world, run into mythical creatures, free centaur tribes from curses, and get sucked into the Nether Sea, the sea that leads to the Titan of the Underworld, Lutheria.
Inputting constellations into the Antikythera leads to an island, but the PCs only get the story of the constellation, which hints at what awaits at a location, not a description of what island is associated with what constellation. One of the locations leads to the whirlpool of Charybdis, that gives the PCs a shortcut to a potential encounter with Lutheria.
This is my favorite section of the adventure. It invokes memories of The Odyssey, and provides many, many adventure locations. There are various problems to be solved on the individual islands, and I appreciate the “constellations hinting at what the island is all about” aspect of the adventure.
Lutheria’s section, although not required, has some great roleplaying moments in it, both from running into titans she has imprisoned or enslaved, to the actual audience with Lutheria herself. Given that she’s a CR 23 encounter, and the best way to deal with her is to make sure you have some of the items in her lair under your command, this roleplaying may end up being a little on the deadly side.
Praxys, Tower of Sydon, and The Battle of Mytros
The heroes’ destiny is to confront Sydon before the Oath of Peace expires, when the Titan will again make war on the world. The gods are diminished in power, and the Dragonlords are gone, so it’s up to the heroes to end Sydon’s threat.
Doing so means scaling a titan sized tower to find the sea god, and in addition to running into various servants, this means fighting off some lesser titan children of Sydon, and even encountering the demiplane that he uses as a reward for the souls of the fey creatures that the titans watch over.
The encounter with the fey souls is interesting, in that it introduces some nuance into this adventure. Sydon and Lutheria are terrible, but the titans, as a whole, created Thylea as a refuge for the fey creatures. They are loyal not because they are evil, but because collectively the titans have provided for them.
In addition to “heaven,” there are portals to a few other planes of existence, including a portal that leads to a dying star in the astral plane. There is also a fallen star imprisoned in the tower by Sydon. Interacting with these stars gives the PCs boons that they can use to fight or weaken Sydon, although freeing one of the stars also sets a timer on the destruction of Sydon’s tower.
Sydon offers the PCs a chance to swear fealty, but if they don’t submit absolutely to his will, it’s time to throw down. Sydon isn’t too proud to retreat, but if he is killed, the next section proceeds in a slightly different manner.
Once Sydon is confronted, the Oath of Peace is over and done with, and the titans march on Mytros. If Sydon and Lutheria are already dead, the titan Kentimane, the Hundred Handed One, shows up to enforce the end of the Oath of Peace. If not, the PCs have to fight it out with Sydon and/or Lutheria in the city.
There are several twists at this point in time. The old gods, once the oath is ended, revert to their true forms. The gods were dragons, the mounts of the dragonlords, that won a portion of the titans powers, turning them into gods. That time is over, but they can now act as mounts for the PCs in this battle.
In addition to fighting off Sydon and his forces, however, King Acastus turns on the PCs, and swears his new dragonlords to Sydon. On top of all of this, King Acastus’ pet dragon that has been mutated to being huge beyond his years, goes on a rampage through the city.
If Sydon and Lutheria are still in play, the PCs may have cut a deal with Lutheria, and she’ll turn on her husband at a crucial point. Don’t worry, she’s still a villain. Either way, if the PCs survive the siege, they have lots of fame and glory. In fact, as written, if you don’t want to keep going all the way to 20th level, this section is a good stopping point for the campaign.
The New Pantheon, The Sunken Kingdom, Apocalypsis
Buckle up, because this section gets wild. The PCs are assumed to be important people in Thylea at this point, possibly rulers. The adventure assumes some amount of time has passed, perhaps a year or more. While most of the gods that the PCs have interacted with are okay with being dragons again, the God of Beauty isn’t, and he wants to talk to the PCs about collecting various artifacts that will allow mortals to permanently ascend to godhood. The PCs can choose to partake of this path themselves while helping to restore their new friend.
The location for the God of Beauty is a partial twist on the Trojan War, with the God of Beauty having been kept in the city of Aresia by the queens of that city, the most recent of which is Helen. The PCs are recruited to “save” Narsus by his rightful wife. As it turns out, if they meet with Narsus, he’s not that worried about leaving, just getting his godhood back.
The PCs approach to breaking Narsus out can range from stealth, to open assault, to, well, just attempting to speak with the queen. This means the encounters can play out in very different ways depending on the approach. Aresia is a city known for its warrior monks, and in another subtle twist, those warrior monks are more or less warriors that are better at skirmish fighting as a tradition, instead of formation fighting.
Depending on their approach, the PCs may be directed to calm a minotaur warlord that is rallying centaurs to attack Aresia, enter the crypt of Thylea’s first vampire to claim the Cauduceus, an artifact with life giving powers that provide the opposite effects when wielded by the undead, and a trip to a merfolk kingdom to fight the legendary monster Scylla.
It turns out there is another pantheon trapped in the merfolk city, ready to reassert themselves, and trying to trick the PCs into freeing them. In Syclla’s belly is an angel that knows the path of divinity, and that the trapped pantheon of empyreans need to free them. Once all of the requirements for the path of divinity have been met, things kick into high gear.
The following legendary creatures are set lose to destroy various Thylean cities:
- The Tarrasque
- The Kraken
- The Nether Dragon
- The Behemoth
At the lofty levels the PCs have likely attained, no one of these beasts will be a major challenge to them, but if they are attacked one at a time by the whole party, each city the PCs don’t defend suffers greater damage. That means to save the greatest number of people, the PCs may need to split their forces and go to different cities to save them.
Between fights with the legendary monsters, the PCs will get ambushed by daemons, Lutheria and her servants, and finally the empyreans from the sunken city.
Lutheria is going for a total scorched earth scenario. She has made deals with daemons to allow her to return from the land of the dead (assuming she was killed previously), and has cut a deal with the Empyreans to permanently ascend them to full godhood. In the end, she double crosses the Empyreans as well, and the PCs will need to make a choice to stop her from getting her nihilistic wishes.
At this point, if the characters qualify, they can ascend to godhood. Not a bad retirement plan. One thing that this chapter stresses is that it isn’t too worried about how PCs get from place to place. Travel isn’t an obstacle. They can get to the city they want to defend, and they can track down Lutheria and the Empyreans. There isn’t much use designing for travel and attrition at this level of play.
Another interesting aspect of this chapter is that the PCs have the option of trying to pick up some items to make the fights against the apocalypse beasts easier. This may be prudent for any PCs, but it also is included as a means of letting PCs that may have powered through to the end of the campaign without doing every side quest a bit more of a chance to level the playing field.
Appendix A through C (Player Options)
This section provides Thylean (Greek) names for characters native to the setting, some background on how newcomers are treated, and single paragraph backstories to help explain the context of various character types in the setting.
There is a chart that explains what fame ranking gives a player character at different levels. Many of these rewards are essentially narrative in nature, with some side benefits (not needing to pay for food or lodging, etc.). At the highest levels, PCs start to attract a priesthood, and generate revenue from temples in their names. They must max out this score to ascend to full godhood, if they choose to go that route.
There is a summary of the tasks and rewards for the epic paths, as well as notes on which epic paths work well for characters that are playing natives, outsiders, or species like minotaurs or centaurs.
Player stats for options like centaurs, medusa, minotaurs, nymphs, satyrs, and sirens are included. Centaurs go the same route as the “official” WOTC versions, being medium-sized creatures. Medusa gain a gaze attack that paralyzes, but if a paralyzed victim fails three total saves, they are petrified. The DC is a set low number, that scales with the medusas level. Thylean minotaurs can transform into actual bulls, but I failed my save versus eye-roll at the “red may make you transform against your will” addition to the ability (honestly, I’m not a fan, and it feels over the top and outside the mythological inspiration). Nymph subraces include aurae, dryad, naiad, nereid, and oread, and they are noted as being able to be male, female, or neither. Sirens have a charm effect and wings, but depending on their emotional state, they can either fly (happy), or charm (sad). I like that twist to available abilities.
I’m going to try and show as much restraint as possible in detailing the subclasses in the book. They include:
- Barbarian (Herculean Path)
- Bard (College of Epic Poetry)
- Cleric (Prophesy Domain)
- Druid (Circle of Sacrifice)
- Fighter (Hoplite Soldier)
- Monk (Way of the Shield)
- Paladin (Oath of the Dragonlord)
- Ranger (Amazonian Conclave)
- Rogue (The Odyssean)
- Sorcerer (Demigod Origin)
- Warlock (Patron: The Fates)
- Wizard (Academy Philosopher)
There are some really nice flavorful mechanics in these subclasses. Herculean Path barbarians can utilize their abilities with archery (a la Hercules). The College of Epic Poetry gets an ability to add bonuses to their bardic inspiration based on versus of an epic poem they are composing, which they can expressly add to under circumstances determined by mechanics, but flavored by being listed under headings like comedy or irony (which triggers when someone fails at a task aided with bardic inspiration).
The Circle of Sacrifice is one of the areas where this book gets very deep into emulating the Greek mythological mindset, giving the druid certain benefits if they designate an enemy as a sacrifice and then, well, following through. Amazonian Conclave rangers get a mechanical bird (which can be an owl!), and the Academy Philosopher gets different kickers to their spellcasting ability or special bonuses based on what philosophical tradition they follow.
There are also several new spells, many of which are tied into the story of the adventure. For example, the 9th level spell needed to finalize apotheosis to godhood.
There are some inventive ways that the rules and “norms” of designing ancestries and subclasses have been stretched to allow of the play of more exotic or flavorful archetypical characters. I especially appreciate the on/off abilities of the sirens, and I love the mechanically defined pieces of the epic poems for the bard subclass, and the philosophical traditions as a means of viewing a wizard subclass. I just really am not a fan of tying the folklore of the color red to minotaurs.
Appendix D, E, and F (NPCs, Monsters, and Encounters)
This section gives the stat blocks for the various NPCs, presents stats for new monsters, and details the random encounters that characters might have in different parts of the setting.
Most of the NPCs in this section are those that will accompany the PCs, could be used as supplemental party members, are the main adversaries of the adventure, or are the main servants of the villains of the adventure.
The monster section includes a list of Thylea appropriate monsters from the core rules, and adds constructs, expanded stat blocks for existing creatures like centaurs or cyclops, the traditional medusa with a serpentine lower torso (called Euryale Medusa here, after one of the gorgon sisters), as well as mythic beasts, goatlings, and maenads.
The maenads and goatlings are worth calling out at this time. Maenads are women cursed to turn into fey creatures, and goatlings are the offspring of maenads and satyrs. The maenad origin is to be ritually transformed by a lover or trusted person into an evil cursed being, and the goatlings are “born evil” because of their mothers. While there is a basis for these creatures in Greek mythology, wow is this a problematic backstory. Your loved one betrayed you, so now you are a monster. And your child is automatically evil. I’m not even sure the best way to approach reworking this.
Minotaurs in the setting are the result of a curse, but they aren’t automatically evil. They were just farmers that got on the wrong side of a titan, and now they are a different species. The medusa backstory for Thylea shifts that origin from being the problematic one from Greek mythology, to being a curse on people that have broken oaths. Neither curse is portrayed in quite the problematic manner as the maenads.
The encounters introduce not just X number of creatures in Y terrain, but frame a narrative around the encounters, which I greatly appreciate. The land encounters give a good jumping off point for some roleplaying, but the sea encounters have some great storytelling attached to them. I especially love the Island Turtle encounter, which introduces a moving island on the back of a massive dragon turtle, that may actually be the mother of all dragon turtles, and a settlement on the back of the turtle with marid and sea elf traders, selling wares from other worlds that the world turtle has visited.
Appendix G (Treasures)
This section includes a chart showing what items can be brought to the Mithral Forge, and what can be crafted from that item, which is a nice reward for PCs that want to do the research on what can be made, and where they have acquired various items through the adventure.
In addition, there are magic items native to the setting. There are stats for a few of the items mentioned in the adventure itself, such as the Antikythera or the Caduceus, but also some unique items like the Balm of Invulnerability (for temporary Achilles action), the Chariot of Dawn, or the Game of Twenty Squares, a magical game board that allows for enforcement of wagers.
Appendix H (Dragonlords, The Divine Path)
This section details two of the special paths that PCs might travel in this adventure. Dragonlords gain the companionship of a dragon, with special abilities that work when mounted, and a special bond with that mount. This requires finding a dragon egg and swearing an oath to the dragon, and waiting for it to reach the proper age for the benefits of the oath to work.
Renewing the order of the Dragonlords also means that the PCs can invest in settlements, which grow and attract soldiers to them over time.
The divine path summarizes the requirements to become a god, including the artifacts needed, the tasks that need to be accomplished (which help to define what a character might be the god of, depending on the path taken). Once godhood is reached, the PC can remain earthbound as a demigod, with a divine attribute that shoots up to 30, and legendary resistances, or they can just decide to fully ascend and become a lesser god, retired from play.
Appendix J (Secrets and Myths)
If you didn’t pick it up from any other section of the adventure, this part makes it very clear that Thylea was created by the titans for the fey creatures that live there. There was a war among the titans, and Sydon and Lutheria dominated and abused the other titans.
When the dragonlords arrived, some of them were not the best people, and while some of them were champions of the new settlers of Thylea, others were tyrants that clashed with the titans, and caused a full blown war to erupt.
One of the dragon mounts of the dragonlords tricked Sydon into giving up some of his power for a time, which transformed the dragons into gods, and the Oath of Peace was sworn, with most of the mortal races assuming that the dragons left, and that the gods ascended from on high, rather than knowing that the dragons themselves broke off some of Sydon’s power to become gods.
This whole bit is kind of important, because the context is that while Sydon and Lutheria are not good people, exploiting their own kin to dominate the other titans, some of the dragonlords were instigating colonizers that intentionally started a fight with the titans. While there are parts of the adventure that seem to want the PCs to find out about this less than heroic seeming history as a sort of gut-punch, the adventure doesn’t really follow through with the implications that the dragonlords were seen as far more benevolent than they should have been seen.
This is compounded by the fact that the mounts for all of the dragonlords are metallic dragons, which in standard D&D usually means “hey, these are the people in the right.” Unfortunately, core D&D doesn’t have a lot in the way of solid neutral dragon options.
The book is gorgeous, and has a host of Greek mythology-based character options to add into a game. Setting up Thylea as a land that touches other realities increases the functionality of this adventure, and then works that functionality into the actual narrative of the setting. Various sections of the adventure call to mind different myths to my mind without laying it on too think. I love some of the subversions of the original stories, such as gender swapping elements of the Trojan war. I think the adventure also makes the wise decision to frame the highest level adventures as set pieces that the PCs can get to without much space spent moving from place to place. The epic destinies are one of my favorite things from this book, and I would love to see this kind of “tied to the adventure” additional background elements in D&D’s official material.
Epic in scale and scope, even in almost 500 pages, the book doesn’t have the room to spare for more expansive adventure presentation that will more clearly draw connections between plot elements and places where different scenes might connect at different times. There is some conflict between motivating the players with normal D&D “adventurer morality,” and the setting specific motivations to seek glory and a place in history over helping repair systemic issues in society.
The content in the adventure, especially as it pertains to racism and colonialism, needs more direct discussion with the GM running the game. There are adventures that do much worse regarding these topics, but the topics are also much more present as an assumed part of society in various places.
Qualified Recommendation–A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.
This book is beautiful, and it attempts multiple ambitious things all at one time. It introduces a new setting, presents a 1st through 20th campaign, and resolves the introductory campaign with the ability for the PCs to become gods. It does a great job of hybridizing D&D with Greek mythology by carefully adding in and emphasizing the elements of each that are complementary.
That said, by pulling in elements of Greek mythology, the text touches on some of the most problematic elements present in the source material, and doesn’t spent quite enough time making explicit where introducing these elements into the narrative could be a problem. Epic content also doesn’t leave a lot of room for revolutionary adventure formatting or structure.
Despite how much work went into this beautiful book, there are still going to be people that are D&D aficionados to whom this is going to miss the mark, either because of content or because of presentation.
It always makes me think that your reviews are more thorough than the writers own outlines. Backed this on KS and will be reading it eventually.
Thanks for this through review. I've bought and skimmed the book, preparing to run it, and I appreciate your analysis.
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