Mythic Odysseys of Theros CAMPAIGN SOURCEBOOK REVIEW

Cover art for Mythic Odysseys of Theros by Jason Rainville.

Set within a world rooted in Ancient Greece, Mythic Odysseys of Theros continues in the path of Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica in bringing another Magic: The Gathering setting to Dungeons and Dragons. Theros is a setting dominated by myths, monsters, and heroes with clear influences from Greek mythology and Ancient Greek society. It is a prime example of adapting real-world mythology for a fantasy setting for adventures. In Theros, there is a central conflict between its gods, extending from the mortal realm to Nyx, the realm of the gods, and to the Underworld, where all who die eventually go. As in Greek mythology, there are unique threads and themes of fate and destiny intertwined with the stories of heroes set apart in Theros, where the paths of mortals are predetermined by the Fates, a trio of semi divine women, though adventurers may try to create their own destinies. It is a setting where belief is powerful, and mortals might step into legend and even strive for godhood.

Character Creation

Heroes in Theros are set apart from typical adventurers you might find in Dungeons and Dragons. These are characters that often have the makings of legends with heroic drives even early on. These characters can be preceded by omens and signs, and most have legendary bonds, great ideals, and tragic flaws. New supernatural gifts are intended for starting characters to further amplify their great potentials, but Dungeon Masters can withhold them to be bequeathed by gods throughout the adventure if that is better suited to the story. These supernatural gifts provide multiple options with various benefits. These gifts range from being the blessed of the gods, an oracle of greater powers, or even the iconoclast, one who rejects the notion that the gods are worthy of reverence. 

Mythic Odysseys of Theros brings several new player character options drawn from the Magic: The Gathering setting, or are heavily inspired by the types of adventures that might occur within Theros. The playable races now include centaurs, leonin, minotaurs, satyrs, and tritons (tritons have the same traits and features as previously seen in Volo’s Guide to Monsters). Aside from humans, other races from the Player’s Handbook are not present in Theros unless they are visiting from another world.  In addition to new races, there are two new subclass options in the College of Eloquence for the bard, and the Oath of Glory for the paladin. The new Athlete background provides a better alternative to the Gladiator variant to the Entertainer background found in the Player’s Handbook

Gods of Theros

The gods of Theros might be the most significant aspect of the setting, and as such the content in this sourcebook focuses heavily on the gods, their influence, roles they can take in an adventure, and a new Piety mechanic. The divine relationships between the gods are reflective of those in Greek mythology, consisting of a large family within the Theros pantheon. This is a world of myths and legends, heroes and champions of old who achieved godhood, significant temples, and the gathered faithful of the gods. Each of the aspects tie back to the gods and are explored in detail in this section. 

Alternate cover art by Kevin Tong.

A new mechanic is introduced in Mythic Odysseys of Theros, that of Piety. Working similar to Renown, Piety is reflective of a character’s strength of devotion to a particular god. A character’s Piety increases when they do something to advance a god’s interest, or act in accordance to their ideals. Characters can gain benefits and boons when reaching certain thresholds of Piety. And for characters with a less than favorable view of the gods, the Iconoclast supernatural gift has alternate benefits to replace the mechanics of Piety.

Each god of Theros is given their own section in which their relationships with other gods, influence, divine goals, and worship are detailed, as well as examples, suggestions, and details about their champions. This could be a particular class, alignment, subclass, or background that fits within a particular god’s faith, domain, or influence. These sections also have further mechanics for Piety regarding each individual god, exploring what actions might gain or lose it, and the special traits for when a character reaches different thresholds of Piety. 

Realms of Gods and Mortals

The Mortal Realm of Theros is strikingly contained compared to other worlds of the Material Plane. The known world is about 200 miles of coastline, with three major cities, or poleis, that encompass a majority of the human population. Despite its comparatively small size, Theros has a varied coastline, mountains, plains, grasslands, and a multitude of islands that lie within the Siren Sea to the west. It is far from a bland or uniform setting. Different regions are home to different races, such as the leonin tribes of the grasslands, and the minotaurs in the badlands of the north. There are useful tips as to how and where the world is constrained, whether by the edge of the world far out to sea, or by impenetrable mountains to the north, as heard through rumors from minotaurs of the north. 

Theros offers rich landscapes and diverse cultures.

The realms of mortals contain details about different regions and features of each respective polis ranging from societal values, ruling structure, attitudes towards nonhumans, and details about the surrounding region or boundary holdings. First among the three poleis, the mountaintop kingdom of Akros is home to legendary warriors, with a caste of elite fighters and their powerful flamespeaker priests. There is Meletis, where sages and philosophers thrive, ruled by a council of scholars. It is a place where free thought, societal betterment, and reinvention are esteemed above domination and tyranny. In a city where nature and civilization collide, Setessa is unusual in that society and positions of power are held almost exclusively by women. Most men leave when they are young to discover their place in the world, and in Setessa, children are treated with the highest respect and property is held in common.

Beyond the poleis of humans, there is Oreskos, the vast grasslands that are home to the leonin tribes, and the region of Phoberos and the city of Skophos, home to minotaurs. Theros has its own share of the unnatural, and the Realms of the Returned offer a glimpse of what springs from darker places. The Returned are those that have escaped from the Underworld, but they are still removed from the memories of who they were, and are contained to living cursed lives that often lead to frustration, loneliness, and bitterness. The Returned are mostly contained to the peninsula south of the Nessian Wood, the Returned can be seen where the necropolis of Asphodel stands. To the west of Theros, the Siren Sea with the Dakra Isles is home to the tritons.

The Realm of the Gods is Nyx, an endless plane where potentiality and belief hold sway, this is where the gods are. As the strength, influence, and even belief in gods is so powerful within the world of Theros, divinity is something within the reach of heroes and legends. Throughout the mythology of Theros, mortals have accomplished great things and garnered enough belief to achieve godhood, earning their place in Nyx. The divine plane has locations like Mount Hiastos, where many of the gods make their home, and the Tovian Fields, where Nyxborn legends glorify in endless war.

Opposite Nyx is the Underworld, a place of final rewards and unending suffering. As souls pass to the Underworld, they are ferried along the River Tartyx by the boatman, assuming they are able to afford the fare. Within the Underworld, there are multiple wards that house souls determined by the manner of their lives and death. 

Creating Theros Adventures

The greatest offering Mythic Odysseys of Theros has in terms of adventures is the significance of God-Based Adventures. Theros is intricately tied to the gods of the setting, and an adventure that seeks to honor the rich setting will have the gods of Theros integrated into it, likely in multiple ways. With a multitude of ways to run a god-based adventure, this section has examples of how and when communication and inspiration from the gods might occur. There are suggestions for which god or gods might influence or create certain types of adventures, what to expect, and how to best use their aspects and influence to create such an adventure. Gods can be the catalyst for the start of an adventure, sending characters on a glorious quest. Other times, they might take notice of a character striving to be a great champion of said god, and grant them assistance as they pursue the ideals of their chosen deity. In some cases, the villain of a story could even be a god, some great and powerful entity that mortals must strive to defeat. No matter to what extent a god is involved in an adventure, their aspects will have an impact on characters and the world around them.

Other options for adventures in Theros that take somewhat more exploration could be sea-faring adventures. Traveling the Siren Sea presents its own range of dangers and has its own appeal. From the Dakra Isles to exploring beneath the waves, to sailing the waters in search of glory and fame, sea-faring adventurers have plenty of opportunities in Theros. Additionally, an adventure might venture into the Underworld. Whether chasing secrets and knowledge, or attempting to grasp at a greater prize, adventurers can travel to the Underworld, encounter various denizens of the realm, and try to achieve victory over or even beyond death.

Concluding this section in Mythic Odysseys of Theros is No Silent Escape, an introductory adventure written for a party of four to six 1st level characters who will advance to 2nd level by the end of it. The adventure serves as an introduction to the concept of the Returned, as well as sparking focus on Phenax, a once-mortal man who reached godhood after escaping the Underworld, who seeks to regain his lost memories. The adventure has multiple stages, employs various mechanics, and is a good introduction to both the game and to the world of Theros, particularly around the Returned who take an important role. For adventures that highlight the Returned, Phenax, or aspects of the Underworld, No Silent Escape is a good starting adventure for new characters. A more detailed summary and history of the setting might be helpful to players if No Silent Escape is meant to lead into a longer adventure set in Theros, especially for those unfamiliar with the setting and mythology. 

Treasures

The new magic items are reflective of a setting of gods and legends, whether they are crafted by mortals or blessed by the gods, they have a reflective spark of greatness. Though there are not many new magic items, they are inspired by the setting and include everything from a flying chariot to the Helm of the Gods, which carries a different effect depending on which gods the wearer prays to each morning. 

There are also Artifacts, each tied directly to a god and most often wielded by them. This also incorporates the Piety mechanic into artifacts, making already powerful items even more mighty and legendary when in the hands of a champion of their god. 

Friends and Foes

A bestiary of monsters and NPCs, this section starts with exploring several creatures and monsters from the Monster Manual that might sound familiar, but that look or act differently in Theros, immediately providing options for diverse encounters. There are nearly fifty new stat blocks in this section, as well as the introduction of mythic creatures. Some entries in the section are simply regional variations for NPCs, such as hoplites from the different poleis, or bring terrifying variations of familiar creatures, such as hydras and chimeras. 

The greatest mechanical introduction to monsters comes in the form of mythic traits, new optional mechanics that add to the gravity of an epic encounter, typically reserved for the end of an adventure or campaign, against foes of immense proportion and power. There are three creatures with mythic traits, and each has their own subsection that details running them as a mythic encounter, describing when the traits kick in, how it changes an encounter, increases in the difficulty, and even mid-combat text to showcase the gravity of mythic traits kicking in. 

Parting Thoughts

Mythic Odysseys of Theros is incredibly detailed and in-depth, with a wealth of lore to build out a short adventure or a prolonged campaign, all contained in a diverse and comprehensive, but still adaptable, setting. The introduction of mythic traits for legendary monsters of epic proportions is an excellent addition to fifth edition. It is also a wonderful example of a setting where the gods are not only intimately involved in the adventurers’ stories, but all the stories within a setting. That on its own is a remarkable dynamic that has a lot of potential for players and Dungeon Masters looking to fully utilize it. While limited in what it brings to fifth edition as a whole, there is more than enough to inspire and assist Dungeon Masters to create adventures of any length set in Theros, as well as adventures of multiple styles.

Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering are properties of Wizards of the Coast.

Want to pick up a copy of Mythic Odysseys of Theros for yourself or someone you know? Purchase a copy through this link, and you will help support the Writer in White with your purchase.

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