D&D or Nothing- Episode 2 and Book Review: The Mythic Odysseys of Theros

By Jeremiah Gagnon

“Greetings and Welcome, take this inspiration. You will need it for the road ahead.”

Our story started out with our heroes, Aayushi, LoveTrip, and Whisper dreaming about living on an island right as something terrible happens…

After hiring some workers to oversee their business (at the end of the last adventure they were gifted a home they renovated into a restaurant of sorts), they head off looking for people to perform for people across the land. However, they didn’t have to travel far because they came to a fishing village on the coast. It was at the local tavern where they started to make money. “The Winking Skeever” held a talent show as a way to drum up money. Aayushi had her monkey perform, LoveTrip performed some hypnosis, and Whisper performed a sleight of hand act. There was a black-bearded gentleman who was very impressed with their performance and approached them when they left for an inn. LoveTrip, being ever-watchful, saw him and confronted him. They learned that he was looking to hire adventurers to join his crew and help him bring as much loot as they can carry from the island out of legend. After giving them a fairly large incentive to accept his offer, they agreed.

They left that same day, and after some time, they noticed a storm starting to rage, rage against the dying of the light. They managed to avoid some coral reefs. However, they ended up hitting one anyways and becoming marooned.

After some horse rescue and quick thinking by the party, they managed to escape with their horses to a longboat, almost missing Cap’n Rex, the black-bearded pirate, yelling for them to head to the island.

As they got closer to the island, the weather started to change to be more tropical, the storm behind them, and the island ahead. They could see an old weathered worn longboat and a camp on the beach; it looked abandoned, so they made for it. They came to the conclusion that the other adventuring party that Cap’n Rex attempted to hire probably left this behind.

LoveTrip looked around the beach and noticed very faint footprints leading them into the beach from the campsite they stood at. They marched on.

Trudging through the jungle, they came to a waterfall. Looking behind it, they found a shallow cave, and at the end, clutching a wooden chest in its arms, a skeleton lay on the floor. Looking through, they found an old leather journal detailing about these strangers in black and these other strange-looking fellows who acted more like a beast than a person and the havoc they wrought. They also found a small bag of red coins with the symbol of a lightning bolt etched into each one…

This adventure that I started my main group on, it is an original adventure that I spent the entire month of July 2020 working on as part of the RPG Writers Workshop. We are play-testing it to see if this adventure is good or if I need to re-write it. “Spoiler alert, I will.”

This first play-test session proved just that.

Right before we started playing, I thought it would be fun to play a small prologue to set to mood, tone, and theme of the adventure to come. I pretty much forced this on my players, although one of them immediately spoke out when I started mentioning that they weren’t starting this session as their characters. A person over talked each other, and communication wasn’t the best. I had a plan I wanted to try out, and since this was a play-test, it was the perfect time.

This is why we play-test adventures.

The prologue only accomplished to slow the start of the game and start to raise tension in the wrong way.

That might be why when I needed to figure out a way to start them on the adventure; they met their quest giver in a talent show. Talent shows are fun and not so tense. I also needed time to figure out how the party would meet the quest giver too; a talent show gave me this opportunity.

Written in the adventure are multiple hooks, so I rolled a dice, and it happened on the one where Cap’n Rex needed help looting the island, and so Cap’n Rex requested their performance abilities to help keep morale up with what little crew he had left and to help him loot the island. They would get to keep all loot they found. They also were having a hard time deciding whether or not to go on the adventure, so to tempt them, I had Cap’n Rex give them 500gp in total upfront as a way to persuade them. They accepted this to my relief. Had they declined his offer, I would have used another hook.

They took a long rest inside an inn, and the next day they left to meet Cap’n Rex and off they went.

The shipwrecked, and they got to experience that instead of me using my godlike as a DM to jump straight to “You wake up on a beach…” I let them live through the ship wreaking, and I also added the longboat with the campsite, rather than relying on random encounters like I had originally written. The longboat scene has since been added as a part of the adventure.

This is also the case with the waterfall; I hadn’t actually placed the jungle’s waterfall. I did, however, roll on a table in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and used the results of that roll and my love of the “something behind the waterfall trope” to create this random encounter.

D&D news since the last episode, there are two new episodes of the Live Play podcast known as “Nights of Eveningstar.” If you want more live play D&D in your life, then this is what you need

In the newest episode of Dragon Talk, Greg and Shelly celebrate the latest releases, including Mythic Odysseys of Theros and speak on the forthcoming release of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, on sale September, 15th.      

In Icewind Dale, adventure is a dish best served cold.

Beneath the unyielding night sky, you stand before a towering glacier and recite an ancient rhyme, causing a crack to form in the great wall of ice. Beyond this yawning fissure, the Caves of Hunger await. And past this icy dungeon is a secret so old and terrifying that few dare speak of it. The mad wizards of the Arcane Brotherhood long to possess that which the god of winter’s wrath has so coldly preserved—as do you! What fantastic secrets and treasures are entombed in the sunless heart of the glacier, and what will their discovery mean for the denizens of Icewind Dale? Can you save Ten-Towns from the Frostmaiden’s everlasting night?

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a tale of dark terror that revisits the forlorn, flickering candlelights of civilization known as Ten-Towns and sheds light on the many bone-chilling locations that surround these frontier settlements.

This is an adventure for levels 1-12

The newest Unearthed Arcana has arrived; it features two new subclasses ready for play-testing. All you warlocks get ready for a new patron, and Bards go back to school. These new subclasses add lots of new stuff for you to do and choose from.

During the last month, I, along with several other writers, all participated in what’s called the RPG Writers Workshop. It was a month-long endeavor, and I am excited to have participated in it. If you feel like supporting indy writers and the RPG community as a whole, I encourage you to check it out along with the adventures we all created. You can even buy the adventure I worked on if you feel so inclined. I have more adventures in the works…

Instead of a lesson, this time, we have a book review for the newest release by WOTC called Mythic Odysseys of Theros.

Please keep in mind that I bought this book out of my own pocket and this is in no way sponsored by WOTC, all opinions are genuine and my own. I have read only enough to wet my whistle as I wanted to save as much as I could for a surprise as I read the book for the first time.”

Overview, This is a Magic The Gathering Campaign Setting for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

If you are a fan of MTG or Greek myths, then you are sure to find something in this that will be right up your alley.

The feel of the book is very smooth. It shows both the D&D logo and Magic the Gathering logos on every surface of both the front/back cover and the spine. The front cover depicts a Greek warrior clad in armor with a red cape in mid-leap with a spear aimed at a massive hydra. I hope he has more than the one spear.

The back cover shows a statue of a warrior about to shoot an arrow getting cut in half. One of the hydra heads glaring at us.

This looks very exciting, and I am very eager to read what is to come.

Opening the book, the first page is black construction paper; the next one is the name of the book with the image of a mechanical owl carrying a message.

The next two pages consist of credits recognizing all who were involved in the creation of this product and a table of contents. One thing of note regarding the credits is that they show the alternate cover, it looks beautiful, and I wish I had purchased that one now that I see it.

Table of Contents.

This is broken up into six chapters and an index. At first glance, there are only three chapters that a player would need to use. These are Chapters one through three. The other six chapters contain everything for the Dungeon Master to create adventures in the land of Theros, or if you are like me, you will “steal” the content to use in your own game.

Other things of note at a glance include a couple of new player race options, subclasses, and a new background.

It appears that there are also more rules for aquatic and hellish adventures. By my rough calculations, the book is 33% stat blocks for various NPCs and monsters. I am always accepting new and more monsters and things to throw at my players.

The Index.

This is very similar to the TOC only it is organized by what looks like specific words or tags. If you wanted to look up where the section of “gods” starts, then you would turn to PG.33 or if you wanted to learn what a “heroic drive” is, then turn to PG.11.

One thing that really stands out to me about this is that the far right column is related specifically to myths. 

Reaction.

This book looks really cool. I am excited to read it and maybe even play an adventure in a homebrew world. If nothing else, I will use some of the content in my own games.

Review.

This book is designed in three parts. The first being for the players while the second and third are for the Dungeon Master.

Part one.

 This section encompasses the basic lore of the setting and history of Theros; there is also a chapter entirely regarding how to create characters to be played in the mythical land of Theros. There is lots of information in this section, here are my personal highlights.

I really like the two pages on the different ages. They don’t spend a lot of time on the history of this world; they give you the important details of each age up to the current age.

1. The character creation sets you up to create heroes of mythic proportions. All I’m going to say on this section is Feats! (smile as big as you can)

There are several new playable races to choose from; each has their own pros and cons. I am really looking forward to playing as a “Leonin,” which is a new cat race designed as Humanoid lions. Other than the fact that they look fierce and imposing, who doesn’t like more cat folk species? 

2. All in all, good starting points for those who wish for more greekesque adventures of mythic proportions. 

The next couple of chapters all revolve around the “gods of Theros” and the “Realms of gods and mortals.” The gods in Theros are similar and yet different than the gods of D&D. These gods are more reminiscent of Greek gods, being super powerful and, for the most part, unkillable.

Granted, there is a way detailed in the book as to how one might weaken a god, but that alone would take someone an entire campaign…ideas… Something that I really like about this that I have not seen with other gods in D&D is that there is a tracking system called Piety, which acts as your renown with that god. 

Similar to having renown with clans, or groups in regular D&D. If a PC does good and increasingly great deeds in the name of their chosen god, then they will be given piety. At certain point levels of piety, the PC is given better bonuses. 

The World of Theros itself is not super big. It spans the length of 200 miles with some unexplored areas beyond and a sea that flows off into the void and the known lands, that’s just the mortal realm. There are two other planes of existence. 

Nyx, is the home of the gods. This plane is infinite and can be seen in the night sky by way of the ever-changing constellations. 

  1. The Underworld is the other plane where all dead sapient creatures go. If they have enough money to pay for a ride to their new home, then Athreos, the river guide will take them.

Nyx has several different regions, while the locations in the Underworld are known as Wards. Knowing the lore and locations of a setting is all well and good; there is no use for that beyond learning it just to learn it if we do not apply the knowledge in some meaningful way. This is where the second part starts, the one for the DM.

How do you create mythic adventures in the land of Theros?

It turns out, very similar to how you create adventures using the good ole Dungeon Masters Guide. This is, after all, a supplement to the three main books any DM needs to have in their toolkit.

That being said, if you want to have more mythic adventures more focused on individual gods and their champions, then you will love this. 

They take each god in this world and give you the means to create your own adventures revolving around them. I’m already getting ideas on how I could string together multiple story arcs revolving around this idea.

The highest point of this whole chapter on creating adventures is that they spend several pages exploring nautical adventures. Since Tritons are a playable race, they wanted to make sure you understood how to use the oceans to create lots of sea fairing adventures. 

In the land of Theros, each magical item has meaning and a purpose. Someone doesn’t make a magical sword and then sells it for 1,000gp. Every magic item in this book has something special about it. There is no mundane magical item; none of these even have a price tag on them, so a player would not be able to purchase them in a corner store.

Then there are the NPCs who inhabit the world, creating those magical items, causing problems that the players solve. There is a short section on the different beasts and information on them and then, the Bestiary itself. 

That is a thing of beauty.

Every creature is drawn cleanly and clearly. You get a great view of what they look like. They range from CR ½ all the way up to CR 26. There is something for everyone to defeat here; there are plenty of options and variety.

Since this is inspired by the pre-existing lore of Greek Mythology, that means we also get lots of unusual names and words that can be difficult to pronounce. They also seem to bring out more and more fancy words as you read. I got confused early on as to what a certain word meant since it seemed to be used for two different meanings. I had to backtrack to re-read the definition of a specific word. I get that they were trying to keep the Greek theme going with their use of language, it would have been preferred if they had kept this to a minimum instead of giving me a new word every other paragraph. 

The map they also have of the world of Theros leaves more to be desired. I prefer detailed maps, and the map of the world of Theros is not very detailed beyond what is needed to be a basic map. It also looks like it’s a smaller part of a bigger world as if Theros is more like a continent than an actual plane of its own as it seemed to point at while reading. I know that they have released smaller campaign settings using MTG, so I can only wonder if they are all more or less on a connected landmass. Theros itself is only 200 miles, so it is very possible that this is the case.

My overall impression of this is very high (two thumbs up). I generally like to take things from other settings and place them in my own homebrew world, and while I am going to do that with this book, I also want to run a game in the Theros setting. The world is packed with lots of things to do, many places to explore, and NPCs to encounter. If you are like me and you want to run epic level campaigns of mythical world-changing events and battles with foes who are more than legend, then this is the campaign setting for you! Even if you only want to play smaller, less epic games, there are plenty of things to keep any adventuring party going on quest after quest.

If you have any questions when it comes to D&D, being a Dungeon Master or Player, how to be an actor, or how to write adventures, comment your questions, and I would love to answer them!

Today we learned that prologues are not very useful in an RPG, we learned not to force players to do something even if it will make sense later. Prologues can spoil certain story elements that are needed later in the story to create that surprise and suspense. Sometimes if you want to get your players to do something, you have to go with your gut and just offer them a large sum of money. Just make sure they have something to use that money on at some point; otherwise, what is the point of getting money?

Take this inspiration. You will need it for the road ahead…

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