Timeless Epic or Greek Tragedy?
Theros is the next plane in Magic: The Gathering that is taking the plunge into Dungeons and Dragons. Theros takes inspiration from greek myth, it is a world filled with arrogant and fickle gods, realm shattering monsters, and heroes that defy destiny itself. With a setting built on heroes and adventure, alongside a recent MTG set returning to Theros, it seems like the perfect opportunity for a crossover book. Will this epoch stand the test of time? Or is this setting an Achilles heel? Make sure to leave an offering to the gods before we cast off and go through everything you need to know.
What is Theros?
Theros is an MTG world that takes its themes and stories from Greek and Roman myths and culture. We were first introduced to this world back in 2013 with the original Theros expansions, and earlier this year we returned with the expansion Theros Beyond Death. Theros is a world where belief is power, and even recent history becomes drenched in myth as the stories reshape what actually happened. The pantheon of gods takes an active role in the world of mortals, playing out their tangled web of grudges and alliances using champions like playing pieces to win the worship of mortals. Theros is a place where you can slay a hydra, steal a golden fleece, or rescue your beloved from the underworld. In short, Theros is a place practically built upon the kind of adventures that D&D is known for.
Where are We in the Story?
If you’re a long time MTG player who keeps up with the lore, you may be wondering where Mythic Odysseys lands within the story of Theros. In general, the book tries to be a setting book and keeps itself far removed from the overall MTG plotlines and planeswalkers in general beyond a few off-hand comments. However, as Heliod remains in the land of the living and the titans have yet to be released, we can place the Theros of Mythic Odysseys after the original events of Theros through Journey Into Nyx and sometime before the events of Theros Beyond Death.
What’s in the Book?
Mythic Odysseys of Theros clocks in at a little over 250 pages, which is a little under par compared to other recent official settings. It’s listed at $49.99, which with the shorter length is a tad high by comparison but I’ve also been seeing it quite often discounted down to $29.99 which would be a more than generous deal. I’m tempted to say this should have been called “the gods of Theros” as a substantial amount of the book is devoted to the pantheon and their piety rules, but we’ll get into that in a minute. It also includes lore, numerous character options, a short adventure, magic items, and a decent bestiary. Tallied up all together it includes:
- A surprisingly short chapter detailing the lands of Theros.
- A substantial chapter outlining the deities of Theros.
- New optional bonuses for characters called supernatural gifts and piety.
- Rules, tips, and ideas for “Theros Adventures”.
- A short adventure path taking players from 1st to 2nd level.
- 13 new magic items.
- 49 new monsters/NPCs with lore and stat blocks.
- 2 new playable races.
- 2 new subclass options.
- 1 new background.
The Lands of Theros
I wanted to get the negative out of the way first here, as it’s in this section they seem to have slid backwards in quality. In the last official setting release (Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount) we got absolutely excellent plot hooks and details for every location on a rather sizable map. Here we’re left with some great lore, but more of a general theme for each area and descriptions of a few key locations, but nothing really in the way of plot hooks and a lot of detail is just glossed over. It’s not terrible, and I suspect they sacrificed space here for the deities’ section, but I was very disappointed to see that the impeccable qualities found in Wildemount didn’t become the new norm.
Deities of Theros
Just estimating, I’d say that more than half of this book is spent talking about gods in one way or another. That’s not a bad thing, but I can’t emphasize enough just how important they’ll be to any Theros adventures. There are 15 deities in Theros, and this book explains in great detail their origins, their goals, their followers, and the complex web of relations and conflicts between them. Theros is a world with very active and present gods, and players should expect to deal with at least 1 or 2 during the course of their adventures. I actually love the amount of detail present here, as chances are, you’ll end up needing it.
Supernatural Gifts & Piety
Champions in Theros are usually blessed by the gods in one way or another and to represent those blessings we get two new mechanics: Supernatural Gifts & Piety.
Each player gains a supernatural gift at 1st level (though they can also be given to players at later levels). Mechanically, they sort of function like a second but more powerful background for your character. Most of them grant additional resistances, the equivalent of a class feature, or the equivalent of a couple strong race features. Overall, they certainly make starting characters stronger and allow for some more customization, but I found they weren’t quite strong enough to cause issues with CR or encounter balances.
Piety is a tad more complicated. Players who worship the gods of Theros are rewarded with a point of “piety” whenever they do something that particularly pleases their deity. Functionally, this works almost like a paladin’s oath if you tied a points system into it, with each god demanding different acts to gain or lose piety. The DM is instructed to award piety at the end of adventures and is told to award them similarly to the often forgotten inspiration rules.
Players will gain different abilities depending on their god and their piety levels, gaining boons at 3 piety, 10 piety, 25 piety, and 50 piety. Most of the piety bonuses are free spell castings (of relative power), with the 50+ capstone usually granting a +2 bonus to an ability score.
This book is centered around the gods, and it’s here where we get the payoff. Rather than plot hooks built into locations, we get plot hooks built into the gods. Each of the 15 gods has numerous plot hooks both as a patron and quest giver, but also as a primary antagonist. Each one has at least one associated location including maps, and a spread of monsters one would expect to face when working against the deity. I was incredibly impressed with these sections and was genuinely inspired for some of my next adventures.
We also get a section suggesting an adventure on the high seas’ ala Jason and the Argonauts, and another section detailing adventures in the underworld. Both are both great options, but they take a back or perhaps a side seat to the deities.
“No Silent Secret” Adventure Path
This short adventure serves mostly as a starting point for adventures in Theros, and only goes from 1st to 2nd level. It’s got a couple of cute moments, you get a couple of fun roleplaying bits and several fight with the local undead, but overall, it’s quite brief and forgettable. Considering how strong the rest of the deity hooks are, I don’t think most players will really need this to get going in Theros. DMs using this setting as their very first campaign will certainly appreciate it though.
13 New Magic Items
This list consists of mostly legendary items that could drive an entire adventure, but it has a few that may make it into your other campaigns as well.
49 New Monsters/NPCs
Even with most of the traditional greek monsters (cyclopes, hydras, etc.) relegated to monster manual references, the bestiary here is rich and downright impressive. Given the theme, I particularly liked the inclusion of the “epic” creatures that could serve as primary antagonists for entire campaigns. They also included an extremely customizable chimera stat block that I am absolutely snapping up for one of my next adventures.
2 New Playable Races
Satyrs and Leonin are the only actually new races, as all the others have been printed in other books. Satyrs are quite frankly broken, and I anticipate them being put on “banned” lists similar to the yuan-ti. Leonin are strong but more fairly balanced and are a strength-based alternative to the tabaxi, acting as a lionfolk as opposed to catfolk.
2 New Subclasses
Bards gain access to the college of eloquence and paladins gain access to the oath of glory. Both of these went through the UA paces and I’m happy with their final versions, though I was shocked to see that the circle of the stars didn’t make the cut as it looked tailor made for the Theros setting. We’ll see in later books if it ever shows up or if it was left on the cutting room floor.
1 New Background
The athlete background fills in a previously missing niche that I really appreciate. It also makes perfect sense in the setting, as gladiators reign supreme in this world of combat and coliseums.
What’s Good About the Book?
Mythic Odysseys gives us almost everything we’ve come to expect from a D&D setting. We have new monsters and new magic items, but this time around the selling point is really the gods. With the plot hooks all intermingled with the deities, this book fully intends for DMs to play around with the gods of Theros and gives them all the tools they’ll need to do so. DM’s will be able to simply pick a deity as the primary antagonist and will already have a good working framework for an entire epic campaign.
What’s Bad About the Book?
I was sad to see they didn’t continue with the location-based story hooks from Wildemount. Theros is already a comparatively small setting and I was disappointed to see even these few areas mostly blank. Overall, the locations felt very vague and underdeveloped. Considering that the book was already undersized compared to earlier setting books, I feel like they had a more in-depth look at the cities and other prominent locations planned but had to cut them due to time or budget constraints.
I feel like Mythic Odysseys of Theros is a small step backwards from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, but a small step back. The way they’ve set up the deities will provide very easy and extremely entertaining frameworks for adventures, alongside flavorful boosts and roleplaying incentives built around the worship of the gods of Theros. It paints beautiful arcs in very broad strokes but leaves something to be desired in the fine details. Adventuring in any city or location in Theros will expect a lot of blanks to be filled in by the DM, and the session to session adventures will require a lot of improvisation. With that said, a good DM should absolutely shine with this material, while a new DM may result in a lot of “monster of the week” style sessions due to the broad strokes of the divine plot hooks. I’m happy to report though that Mythic Odysseys of Theros deserves a spot on your shelf and is the perfect setting should you want to drive your campaign forward on the whims and machinations of the gods.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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