Mythic Odysseys of Theros Review
Published on November 9, 2020, Last modified on November 11th, 2020
Mythic Odysseys of Theros is a D&D 5e campaign setting sourcebook for the swords and sandals, Greek Mythology-inspired Magic: The Gathering Plane of Theros.
Jason Rainville - Wizards of the Coast - Mythic Odysseys of Theros Cover
What is Mythic Odysseys of Theros?
“Clash with the gods of Theros in this campaign sourcebook for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.”
Mythic Odysseys of Theros (MOoT) is a campaign setting sourcebook for the Magic: The Gathering Plane of Theros. Campaign settings are different from adventures because they do not offer the DM a campaign to run. Instead, they provide information about the locations, NPCs, monsters, gods, and magical items of the setting so that DMs can craft their own adventures.
While the book isn’t technically a playable adventure, it is worth noting that MOoT contains an adventure for 1st level players in order to provide a jumping-off point for the campaign.
MOoT is the second D&D 5e campaign setting to feature a Magic: The Gathering plane. Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica was released in November 2018 and featured the plane-wide city of Ravnica and the different factions that made up the bustling society.
Mythic Odysseys of Theros was released on July 21, 2020 and weighs in at 250 pages. The price varies on Amazon, but at the time of writing you can pick it up for $30. The sourcebook takes you through the lands and denizens of Theros, as well as the pantheon of gods that influence the world around your adventurers. In terms of playable options, Mythic Odysseys of Theros includes:
- 2 new races: the lion-like Leonin and the forest-dwelling Satyrs
- 2 new subclasses to play: the Bard’s College of Eloquence and Paladin’s Oath of Glory
- 13 new items including god-forged weapons and numerous supernatural gifts provided by gods to their followers
- Over 50 new monsters including new Mythic level creatures
What is Theros?
“The roots of Theros lie in the myths of ancient Greece, tales dominated by gods, heroes, and monsters. This world was created as a setting for the Magic: The Gathering trading card game, explored in card sets beginning in 2013. The lands of Theros serve as an example of how to take inspiration from real-world mythology and adapt it into a world built from the ground up for fantasy adventures.”
Theros is a setting that draws heavily upon Greek Mythology. For those of you that loved Disney’s Hercules growing up, or couldn’t get enough of Homer’s Odyssey, this is the setting for you.
Theros is a land under the control of 15 divine entities that are constantly vying for power. Their main source of that power comes from their influence over the mortals that inhabit Theros. One of the most effective routes these gods have of increasing their power and influence is by choosing champions that will enact their will on the material plane.
The Mortal World
The lands of Theros are dangerous, as only certain small portions are home to civilization. The rest of the wilderness is roamed by dangerous, mythological monsters like Hydras and Giants.
However, the mainland of Theros is not where the setting begins and ends. Off the south coast of Theros lies the Siren Sea and Dakra Isles. These areas, under the control of the sea goddess Thassa, are shrouded in mystery and legend.
Most sailors that venture into the realm of the sea goddess find only madness and death, while some manage to make it back with treasure and tales of glorious adventures.
Death is not the end for the mortals of Theros. The Underworld, controlled by the god Erebos, houses the souls of the dead. Those that lived righteous, heroic lives spend eternity in rest and comfort. Others, who lived less worthy lives, will find themselves in eternal torment.
The last realm of Theros is Nyx, the realm of the gods. Nyx is an endless plane of existence where the powers of potentiality and belief hold sway. From here, the pantheon of Theros watches the mortal world and guides the living. Though the gods live in a veritable paradise, they can’t sever themselves from the mortal world. To do so would be to lose the faith of their followers, the source of their magic and power that they will not relinquish.
What does MOoT include?
The contents of MOoT are explored in more depth in the following sections:
Chapter 1: Character Creation
This chapter contains a ton of great information on how to modify the original D&D character creation process outlined in the Player’s Handbook to match the setting of Theros.
This section contains:
- Ways to amplify your bonds, flaws, and ideals to match the tragic and overexaggerated nature of Greek Mythology.
- Supernatural gifts that each player starts with. These gifts are meant to display that, from birth, your heroes are a cut above the rest of the mortals of Theros.
- A list of which races are available to play in Theros. Humans, Centaurs, Minotaurs, and Tritons from previous sourcebooks are provided, if tweaked a bit. Two new races are included in this campaign setting, the lion-like Leonin, and the forest-dwelling Satyrs.
- Two new subclasses, the Paladin: Oath of Glory and the Bard: College of Eloquence.
- One new Background, the Athlete.
I love the Heroic Drive and Supernatural Gifts sections of this chapter. I think with these small tweaks, you really start to feel like you are playing a classic mythological hero.
I also like that they limited the races of this setting. While this may not be for everyone, I love the Greek Mythology theme and would certainly want to keep the races in check to maximize immersion.
The Athlete background seems extremely fun for a Fighter or Barbarian. The background feature Echoes of Victory gives you a chance of being recognized by a fan while you are within 100 miles of your hometown which could lead to some very fun interactions.
The College of Eloquence Bard seems like a nightmare to DM. Bards are tough to balance in social situations in the best of times, and this addition breaks that wide open.
Speaking of overly powerful mechanics, the Satyr race looks incredibly strong. A speed boost, proficiency in two popular social skills, an unarmed attack, and extra height while jumping are all well within the realm of reason. In addition, Satyrs have dropped the humanoid creature type in place of the fey creature type and have advantage on saving throws against spells and all other magical effects.
These last two traits are extremely powerful and could really disrupt the balance of play at any level.
I’m also a bit disappointed that MOoT doesn’t provide any new spells for this setting. There was an opportunity for a lot of fun and flavored spells in this setting that was, sadly, missed.
Chapter 2: Gods of Theros
This chapter talks about the gods of Theros and their roles in both the day-to-day lives of civilians and the heroic actions of adventurers.
This chapter contains:
- A breakdown of how gods function in the world of Theros and what their limits and capabilities are.
- An introduction to the Piety mechanic, a system where players can gain access to abilities by accomplishing goals for their god.
- An introduction to each god, what that god influences in the mortal world, their goals, their relationships, and who their worshippers are.
This chapter is amazing. One of the coolest things about this setting is how much influence these 15 immortal beings have on the mortal world and this chapter gives you almost everything you need to work them into your campaign.
The Piety mechanic also looks extremely fun. Essentially, it gives you a Piety point every time you accomplish a goal for your god. Piety is similar to the Renowned system of Ravnica but seems to be more ingrained in the mechanics of the world in Theros.
Now, there are some potential problems I saw when reading through this chapter. To me, it seems like the gods are a very needy bunch. I think that players could easily get annoyed with their god because of the strict rules they are provided and the fact that they get sent to the dog house whenever one of these rules is ignored.
The system could also put party members at odds with one another. That being the case, having a session 0 and creating a party and a campaign that fits the players’ goals is even more important.
Keep in mind that the gods are not omnipotent, so small transgressions can go by unseen. But the fact of the matter is, if a player chooses to become the hero of a god, they are essentially swearing a Paladin’s Oath that comes with bonuses for obeying and ramifications if broken.
Chapter. 3: Realms of Gods and Mortals
This chapter explains the different realms of Theros: the mortal realm, the Underworld, and Nyx.
This section contains information on the locations that players will find in their travels around Theros:
- The great polises of Theros: Akros, Meletis, and Setessa. Law, order, and the arts are held above all.
- The godless Leonin grassland of Oreskos.
- The fierce lands Phoberos and Skophos. A harsh, cavernous realm full of minotaurs, undead, and terrible monsters.
- The unchartable Siren Sea and the mysterious Darka Isles.
- The beautiful nature and mischievous creatures of the Skola Vale.
- Nyx, the Realm of Gods.
- The Underworld, a land filled with souls of the dead.
I think this section contains a good introduction to the lands that adventurers might find themselves in while out on their quests.
It also provides some recent events that are happening in each of the locations that can be ignored or used to create plot hooks for an overarching story.
I don’t love the map that was provided. I understand that it is supposed to represent the real Mediterranean areas that so many Greek epics took place in, but I would have loved to see a more interesting spin on the geography.
I would have also appreciated regional maps of each area. I get that it’s a lot to ask for but it is also a ton of work for the DMs to prepare each area.
The lack of plot hooks is also a step back from the other campaign setting released in 2020, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, although this is somewhat made up for in Chapter 4.
Chapter 4: Creating Theros Adventures
This chapter walks through building campaigns around the gods, as they are the centerpiece of any adventure that happens in Theros.
The section contains:
- A section for each god, what quests they may send their champions on, the enemies of the god, what monsters are associated with the god, what they may be scheming to accomplish, and a map for a location related to the god.
- An overview of how to run nautical and underworld adventures.
- A 1st level starter adventure to get the players introduced to the world of Theros and get them primed for a bigger story.
This chapter, much like Chapter 2, is pure gold. I think that without this chapter the book wouldn’t feel complete, but after reading Chapters 2, 3, and 4, anybody should be primed and ready to run a campaign in Theros.
I particularly love the “Divine Schemes” sections of each god’s breakdown. I really enjoy the idea of multiple gods scheming against each other, using their pawns in the mortal world to accomplish goals.
Each god has a set of plot hooks that relate to their impact on the mortal plane. The plot hooks are accompanied by a list of which monsters the god would have in their service, as well as a location map related to each god. This section is the most concrete DM helper in the book and, if used properly, can become an extremely useful resource.
Again, not a lot of bad to say about this chapter. I think each breakdown provides tons of concrete information for using the pantheon introduced in Chapter 2, which is exactly what this book needed.
Chapter 5: Treasures
This chapter addresses different magical items and god-forged artifacts that can be found around Theros.
The section contains:
- 8 new magic items, all of which are either rare (6), very rare (1), or legendary (1).
- 5 god-forged artifacts, which are weapons or tools that are sometimes gifted to their champions.
I really like the items and artifacts listed in this section. The magic items are all very well flavored (i.e a flying chariot) and the artifacts all seem like awesome end-game MacGuffins.
I also really enjoyed reading about the specific, epic adventures that one would have to undertake to destroy each of the god-forged artifacts. These sections could be easily missed, but I think they are one of the coolest things in the book and provide a ton of good late-game plot hooks.
Some uncommon and common items mixed into the bunch would have fleshed out this section nicely. I would have also loved to see an artifact for each god so you aren’t limited to the 6 that are available if you want to add something like this to your campaign.
Chapter 6: Friends and Foes
This chapter introduces 50 new monsters, flavors some existing ones, and introduces a new mechanic: mythic monsters.
The section contains:
- A table for creating Nxyborn monsters, monsters formed out of the very realm that houses the gods.
- A guide for adapting classic monsters to a Theros campaign.
- Stat blocks for 50 new monsters, many of which Magic: The Gathering players will recognize (i.e, Woe Strider, Archon of Fallen Stars, and many more). These monsters have a great distribution from CR ⅛ Blood-Toll Harpies all the way up to the CR 26 Mythic Tromokratis.
This section contains some really fun and well-flavored monsters. The CR distribution is also very well balanced, and the sheer number provided, combined with the ability to flavor some classic monsters, means you will likely never run out of Theros-specific foes for your party to face.
The mythic monsters also look great. Hythonia and Arasta look very fun for a high-level challenge and Tromokratis looks like a great Tarrasque-level threat.
I’m a bit disappointed that there are only three mythic tier monsters to choose from. I am especially disappointed that Polukranos, who is the literal incarnation of the world ending, isn’t mythic. I mean, it’s card name in the Theros Magic: The Gathering set is Polukranos, World Eater. How isn’t that a mythic level threat?!
I am hoping to see more of these mythic monsters, or instructions and ideas on making your own, spring up in further MtG adaptations.
What’s the verdict?
I really enjoyed reading through Mythic Odysseys of Theros. I have been looking forward to a swords and sandals campaign setting for 5e for quite some time, and I think that Wizards of the Coast did a stellar job creating the setting and tweaking 5e mechanics to make it fit.
The big reason this sourcebook stands out to me is the amazing detail and effort that has been put into the pantheon. It’s unheard of for a 5e sourcebook to provide this much detail about the pantheon’s intentions and relationships, so even if you aren’t going to run a Theros campaign, this information could be ported across to a different setting.
All in all, I would give this book a 9/10. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a Greek-inspired D&D setting.