Odyssey of the Dragonlords by Libertad!
every day is one step towards uncertain doomOriginal SA post
Greetings everyone, and welcome to my next Let’s Read! I know that I said I’d review SIGMATA, but I found myself feeling a lot more passionate about another book. As such undertakings take quite a bit of time and effort on my part, I felt it best to do the ones that fill me with the most excitement and energy.
Back in the 90s and early Aughties, Bioware was the most prominent studio that brought the Dungeons & Dragons rules to the realm of video games. Even their much-acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic used rules derived from the Star Wars D20 System. Although Bioware moved on to its own Intellectual Properties over time, the company brought countless gamers to the Forgotten Realms seeking to learn more about the vaunted cities of Neverwinter and Baldur’s Gate.
In a way, it wasn’t too unsurprising when the lead designers of said games (as well as Dragon Age: Origins) wrote up a 5th Edition-compatible adventure for their account of Baldur’s Gate. But that was not their only delve into tabletop; last year they advertised a very successful KickStarter for an original setting.
Odyssey of the Dragonlords is part setting, part level 1 to 20* adventure path that takes heavy inspiration from Greek mythology. The continent of Thylea is dominated by two divine pantheons, the Five Gods and the Titans, who settled into an uneasy Oath of Peace for 500 years. But the Oath’s magically-binding duration is coming to an end, and the PCs are spoken of in a prophecy to be Thylea’s only hope. As the wicked Titans muster their forces to bring ruin and devastation, every day is one step towards uncertain doom.
*the book advertises 1 to 15 but it got extended as a stretch goal.
Our book opens up with a discussion of distinguishing tropes to make Odyssey stand out from the typical D&D faire. For one, the plot has high stakes: even at level 1 the PCs are assumed to be well-known and accomplished heroes with a few mighty deeds already under their belts. At low levels the rulers of city-states are calling upon an audience with them, and at higher levels they can even challenge the gods themselves who have convenient stat blocks for such a purpose. Oaths are powerful and cosmically-binding, and accruing fame from deeds nets you followers and power represented by a Fame score. Fate and prophecies are a gift and a curse which even the gods cannot defy, and the lives of mythic heroes have elements of comedy and tragedy.
The fate part is subverted in the adventure path proper, as some visions that can be averted and there are multiple ‘timelines’ the major Oracle character can witness. The comedy/tragedy thing isn’t really something one can do save based on the subjective tastes of the group. The adventure likely has potentially tragic moments (cities being destroyed, NPCs suffering cruel fates, adventure plots and backstories revolving around past injustices, etc), but more comedic and absurdist elements aren’t really present from my initial reading.
The World of Thylea: Thylea is an island-continent located in a remote section of the known world, guarded from the rest by the actions of the local gods. Ample islands and peninsulas reach off its southern shores, lush forests and valleys occupy much of the central area, while wild steppes in the far north are ill-explored save by nomadic bands of centaurs, cyclopes, and various monsters. Thylea’s recorded history stretches back 2,500 years, when much of the continent was home to fey races such as nymphs and satyrs, and the ur-cyclops race known as gygans* ruled a mighty empire. Two deities, the Titans Sydon and Lutheria, reigned supreme over the land and received worship and sacrifice by mortals. Over time, various refugees, sailors lost at sea, and other people from unknown lands found themselves on Thylea’s shores, where they had complicated relationships with the native races. Sometimes such conflicts were violent, and they beseeched Sydon and Lutheria for protection. Which they received, but not enough that they were capable of building civilizations beyond some meager far-flung villages.
*a smaller yet more intelligent subrace of six-armed cyclops.
This all changed when a group of warriors astride mighty bronze serpents known as the Dragonlords set wing and foot upon Thylea’s coasts. They helped the settler races build great cities and repel the worst of the centaur and gygan raids, and soon the Titans grew jealous at their status. The First War was waged, causing great devastation on both sides. As the last of the Dragonlords fell, a new pantheon of Five Gods came down from heaven to prevent the Titans from destroying all. Eventually an Oath of Peace was brokered between the old and new pantheons; the details were vague, but for 500 years Sydon and Lutheria swore not to take revenge upon Thylea’s mortals and in exchange they would continue to receive honor and tribute in the form of temple maintenance and daily sacrifices.
But as of the campaign’s beginning, it is mere months before the Oath of Peace ends, and the famed Oracle prophecies the Doom of Thylea. Where even the gods die and the mortal races are wiped off the face of the earth. The PCs, notable heroes in their own right, are summoned by her to find ways of averting this dire prediction.
Powers, Factions, & Mortal Kingdoms of Thylea: These next three sections discuss religion and politics of the setting. Beginning with the deities, it is known that the gods and goddesses of Thylea are not the only ones out there, although foreign gods from the wider world leave Thylea largely untouched and their worshipers are few in number beyond some storm-tossed foreigners. The two major pantheons are the Ancient Titans and the Five Gods, although there are Forgotten Gods whose names and power grew few to the point that they are rarely honored outside of specific groups. With a few exceptions the gods do not dwell in separate planes of existence, but live in the Material Plane so as to keep a closer watch on their mortal charges. For example, Sydon spends much of his time in the lighthouse-fortress Praxys, while Pythor and Vallus are the ruler and wife of a ruler, respectively, in two of the larger city-states. Narsus, the God of Beauty, is not technically ‘forgotten’ but is the patron god/prisoner of the city-state of Aresia.
As you can see by the above, the Titans are the more ‘natural,’ cruel, and tempestuous of the pantheons. Thylea is the oldest titan, for it is said that the very continent is her body, her limbs extending as deep roots throughout the earth. Kentimane is Thylea’s husband, a gigantic being who stands taller than the highest mountain and regularly patrols the seas around the continent so as to guard his wife’s tomb from outside threats. The twins Sydon and Lutheria are the two surviving children of Thylea and Kentimane, their siblings long since murdered or imprisoned at the hands of their wicked kin. Sydon is a tyrannical deity in control of the seas and storms, and he longs for a world where all bow to his feet. He brooks no worship of any other entity besides his sister Lutheria, and even then only grudgingly. Lutheria is a cross between Hades and Dionysus, a harvester of souls and granter of insanity who encourages her followers to care about nothing but themselves and take what they will without consequence. Unsurprisingly the squickier elements of Odyssey shine through involving her or her worshipers; most NPCs who are sexual predators are loyal to her, and the goddess herself is a rapist in the “use enchantment magic to make people have sex with each other” kind of way.
The worship of Sydon and Lutheria is a controversial one among mortal society; people make sacrifices to Sydon more out of fear than loyalty and for safe voyage, and many find Lutheria’s doctrines disgusting. But Lutheria has devotees among some noble houses, her followers control the wine trade, and they host some of the larger public holidays which makes her a tolerated evil.
The Five Gods are the new pantheon, and unlike Sydon and Lutheria their acts of folly extend more to irresponsibility and lapses in judgment than outright sadism or malice. Mytros is the Goddess of Dawn and for whom the largest city-state is named. She is now back in the celestial realms after a battle with Sydon and Lutheria, and is by far the most common deity for clerics among the settler races to worship. Volkan is the God of Craftsmanship and invention, and is also the Santa Claus equivalent of the setting where he travels during the winter solstice as children await his gifts and sweets. Pythor is the God of War and has ruled over the city-state of Estoria for centuries after overthrowing its tyrannical king, and while popular his impulsiveness and alcoholism has dulled his ability to make wise decisions. Vallus, the Goddess of Wisdom, was once a traveler of the world and a collector of lore. Now she serves as the wife to King Acastus of the City of Mytros, and is prayed to for those seeking wisdom in overcoming some dilemma. Finally, Kyrah the Goddess of Music is a cross between Hermes and Apollo, known for being a quick-stepping trickster who provides inspiration to musicians and artists of all stripes.
Thylea has Mortal Kingdoms but no true nation-states or empires in modern times. Generally speaking, society is divided into two groups: the three major city-states and smaller settlements under their protection, and various independent tribes and villages who are scattered yet self-sufficient. The native races largely fall into the latter category barring a few exceptions such as the satyrs who are fond of visiting larger settlements.
The city-state of
*Apologies for not knowing what Greek City-State it’s based on.
We get a look at the ten major factions of Thylea, organizations who are either tied to a political or religious group or a power in their own right. Many of them check off typical fantasy trope boxes: the Cult of the Snake is a notable Mytrosian thieves’ guild, the Academy of Mytros is the foremost center of learning where philosopher-wizards hang out to share spells, the Order of Sydon is a paramilitary organization taking increasingly violent action against temples of the Five, the Centurions* of Mytros are said city’s standing army, and the Druids of Oldwood worship Thylea and make sacrifices to her to atone for the ‘original sins’ of the settler races’ presence on her land. The Temple of the Five and the Temple of the Oracle are institutions dedicated to the Five Gods and Versi the Oracle respectively, and only the former gets involved in secular politics with the Oracle being more removed from mundane affairs. The last three factions are monstrous in nature: the remnants of gygan tribes band together in small families and seek vengeance against the settler races, the centaurs of the Steppes war upon each other and the city-state of Estoria when they’re not partying and stargazing, and the Raving Ones are maenad worshipers of Lutheria who dwell in caves and shadowed glens, ambushing unlucky travelers to rob, torture, and sacrifice to their patron.
*hey, that’s a Roman term!
The inhabitants of Thylea are collectively referred to as Mortals, even those among the native and fey races to distinguish them from the more monstrous and divine entities. The ‘native races’ include the more classic Greek mythology creatures: centaurs, the various cyclops subraces (who are sadly non-playable), medusae, minotaurs, satyrs, and sirens. The ‘settler races’ include the standard PHB stock, and are pretty much assimilated wholesale into greater Thylean society beyond a few rare exceptions: orcs do not exist on Thylea so the half-orcs are a small community in Mytros, while tieflings are referred to as “Stygeans'' and live in Mytros’ ghettos due to a believed association with Lutheria. Dragonborn are virtually non-existent, and if one were to show up the average Thylean may think them to be either a monster or a scion of the Dragonlords.
The inclusion of the non-human PHB races is perhaps the most obvious case of ‘square peg round hole’ for importing D&D tropes into Odyssey. Most NPCs who aren’t of the native races or monsters are humans, and there’s no real place in the world for elves or dwarves that makes thematic sense. I find that the native races more or less fill most of the PHB races’ roles: centaurs and minotaurs are strong warrior guys, nymphs are nature-loving magical people, medusae are the cursed and shunned outcasts, and satyrs and sirens have Dexterity bonuses and racial features which are good for subtle distractions and/or mobility. The only real thing missing is a half-elf ‘jack of all trades’ or Small-sized races like gnomes and halflings.
We briefly get into the Laws and Oaths of Thylea. They are magically-binding aspects of the world which virtually all native Thyleans know, and even the gods can be limited by them. Generally speaking if a person swears to do or not do something, then they suffer some persistent misfortune should they intentionally break the oath. The Furies, who are not gods but very powerful beings, are three women tasked with interpreting and enforcing said Oaths. They dispatch erinyes to take the more egregious Oathbreakers to their own special hell in the afterlife known as the Island of Oathbreakers.
The most common types of Oaths are Guest Friendship (hospitality to those who invite you into their home) which is used for neutral meeting grounds and periods of peace even between sworn enemies; an Oath of Peace, where the swearer promises to commit no violence against them or their servants; an Oath of Protection, a one-time promise to come to a person or group’s aid in times of crisis; and an Oath of Service, where someone swears to perform one task on behalf of an individual. This last one is the most rare for said task is open-ended and the beneficiary of the Oath can ask them to perform dangerous, suicidal, or even wicked deeds.
We also get a list of sample curses for those who break Oaths, but can also be for those who otherwise anger the gods or commit some other great crime. They are persistent conditions which worsen over time and are typically only cured via powerful magic or rectifying the original misdeed. Curse of the Harpy and Curse of the Medusa transform the victim into the aforementioned monster types, while Curse of the Graverobber makes all food non-nourishing and slowly starves the tomb-robber to death.* Finally, Curse of the Treacherous causes the Furies to dispatch a trio of erinyes devils with special spells and equipment (entangling ropes, plane shift, etc) to kidnap the unfortunate soul and take them to the Island of Oathbreakers.
*this is only inflicted on those who steal from holy sites; otherwise the average adventurer would be in deep shit.
Epic Paths are one of the larger aspects of Odyssey of the Dragonlords. Added on in addition to standard backgrounds, they are aspects of a PC which tie them into the larger plot. There are certain points in the Adventure Path where a relevant Epic Path will provide an alternative means of solving a task, bonus quests and rewards, fosters a relationship with an existing important NPC, and in some cases explains what the PC was up to before the start of the campaign.
Barring one exception they are all mutually exclusive, so every PC must have a different Epic Path than the rest of the party. Additionally, each Path has a Divine Boon of some sort where the PC can be rescued them from death for free only once in the campaign. It may take the form of a notable NPC coming to resurrect them, fate turning things in their favor at the last moment, the spirit of a loved one possessing their body to bring them back from the brink of death, and so on and so forth. Furthermore, there’s a Divine Blessing which is gained via completion of the Epic Path’s overall story, and some can end earlier than others on the Adventure Path.
The Paths’ entries outline the various milestones encountered during the adventure, but said adventure sections in the appropriate chapters also make callbacks in handy little sidebars for user-friendliness. For said reasons I won’t cover them here but instead during the review of relevant chapters.
Demi-God: The PC is one of Pythor’s many bastard children, and the god feels in his heart that their progeny will succeed where he failed and maybe take his place as the God of War.
Vanished One: The PC is the last surviving Dragonlord, but the Oracle Versi became obsessed with them and jealously took them as a favored pet/implied concubine a la Odysseus and Circe. Her magic helped the Vanished One be virtually ageless, but ephemeral time spent in a secluded cave has dulled their abilities.
Doomed One: Lutheria has a thing for murdering children, and sacrificing babies is one of her cult’s most infamous rites. The PC parents were part of her cult but refused to offer up their only child for slaughter. This earned their death at the hands of the goddess’ many servants. Lutheria’s minions have tormented the PC ever since and making their life hell, the goddess viewing the whole affair as incredibly funny.
Unlike the other Paths, the PC can be resurrected immediately twice upon death, but the third time they remain dead forever unless or until Lutheria is destroyed.
The Haunted One: The PC had a happy idyllic life with a loving family. But a prophecy foretold that the PC will find a way to overcome death itself, thus posing a threat to Lutheria’s dominion. So she used her powers to gather the souls of the PCs’ loved ones in her scythe. But she made one mistake: the PC somehow escaped her clutches thanks to Mytros shielding them and erasing all memories of their legacy from reality. But the PC remembers what they lost, if not necessarily the deities involved.
The Gifted One: Like the Demi-God the PC has a divine bloodline, but as one of Sydon’s grandchildren. The cruel god murdered his mortal wife, but was unaware that she gave birth to a daughter, who is in turn the PC’s mother. Said PC is destined to restore the glory of the Dragonlords and defeat their grandfather.
The Lost One: The PC is the survivor of a shipwreck from a foreign realm outside of Thylea, and more than one PC can choose this Epic Path. This one has the last least ties to the adventure path, and its main goal is to find a way back home.
The Dragonslayer: The PC’s village was wiped out by a dragon raining flaming breath down upon hapless innocents. Said ‘dragon’ is actually Helios the Sun God (something not known immediately), and the Epic Path revolves around hunting down and slaying the one who took everything from them.
The Cursed One: The PC hails from a family or tribe who carry an ancestral curse from the Titans’ wrath. The PC has faced a life of difficulty, and their brethren are fated to die off within a generation if a means of lifting the curse isn’t found.
Guidelines are provided for the DM to make their own Epic Path; the advice focuses mostly on how to ideally space the magic item rewards based on level, making granted special powers equivalent to Epic Boons from the DMG, NPC mounts and companions should be of CR 3 or lower, Divine Blessings follow the guidelines for Supernatural Gifts (Blessings unsurprisingly) under the DMG’s Other Rewards section, and the Divine Boons should involve a key NPC from the plot riding in as the cavalry to save the PC’s now-dead bacon.
The remaining sections are short entries which can be better summed up in future chapters: an Adventure Overview outlining the plot in bite-sized chunks as well as recommended Fame and Experience Levels for the major Chapters, advice on Session 0 prep and how the PCs came together, and sample advice for role-playing the more notable and recurring characters of the Adventure Path (most notably the gods). The last part of our chapter is a picture of the Thylean alphabet which is similar to the one of Ancient Greece’s.
Thoughts So Far: I feel that this is overall a rather good introduction to the world of Thylea. We didn’t get into any deep detail or new mechanics and rules, and some of the entries feel like they’d be more appropriate in later sections on account that they show up much later in the book. I do find it rather funny how the city-state with the God of War as ruler is not the one ripping off of Sparta, though.
The mechanics-facing aspects of the Epic Paths show up in the appendix, and speaking of which they’re a mixed bag. Some of them have more pertinent ties into the world and larger plot, such as the Demi-God and Haunted One. Others feel more like side-plots at most such as the Cursed One, Lost One, and Dragonslayer. The Vanished One being captive by an incredibly possessive character has quite a few warning bells,* and given that the Oracle is meant to be a major patron and the person who summons the call to adventure for the party in the first place, it is the kind of thing that may require a social contract or Trigger Warning for the gaming group to clear beforehand. Additionally, the Doomed One and Haunted One are too close in concept (Lutheria took away your family) and their relevant plot points are also the same. I understand that trying to make enough potential paths which have differing consequences echoing throughout an entire campaign can be difficult, so my criticism on the sameness front is a bit muted.
*like making the PC swear an oath to return to her cave when all is said and done, trying to murder characters they fall in love with, and also restoring said PC to life via a kiss as the Divine Boon.
All in all, I feel that this is a good introduction, but some things can be ordered better.
Join us next time as we cover new options for PCs: races, class archetypes, spells, equipment, and the rewards and Divine Blessings for the Epic Paths!
Creating HeroesOriginal SA post
Technically speaking these sections are part of the book’s appendices, but they are featured in a free PDF Player’s Guide meant to help players create characters. It also covers important details for a few of the races which are expanded upon in the adventure path proper, so here I am doing it first!
This part of the book goes over things repeated in the Introduction, but adds that dragonborn are descended from one of the bronze dragons who flew the Dragonlords to Thylea. Thylean names have a predictably Greek flavor, although ones from other cultures may be present such as family lineages from a settler races’ homeland. Recent arrivals to Thylea have trouble fitting in, partially on account that certain cultural expectations are presumed to be common knowledge on par with “don’t throw salt on your farm soil” and thus never really explained to foreigners.
Technology is at a Bronze Age level. Iron, mithral, and adamantine are incredibly rare and typically reserved for making magic weapons and armor, and things like platemail and crossbows are cutting-edge technology made only by the most learned artisans and Volkan the God of Forge. Most of the city-states’ standing armies outfit their soldiers in spears, shields, and shortswords with leather armor and gather them in phalanx formations. The spear is the only common polearm, and other heavy two-handed weapons are looked down upon as something only barbarians use. There’s some new weapons available, such as the kopis and xiphos (shortsword variants), the chakram (can be used in melee and as a thrown weapon), the dorata (thrown spears that come in pairs), and the makhaira (curved longsword with greater stopping power on horseback).
We have rules for Fame which are rated on a scale from 1 to 20 and come with increasing benefits. At lower levels of 1 to 10 they include things such as free service at local establishments, advantage on social skill checks during festivals, and higher chances of being recognized in population centers. 11 to 15 you become a household name in Thylea: people build statues of you, politically powerful figures give you minor magic items, and small shrines bearing your likeness are tended over by priests who can forward wealth to your holdings gathered as tithings. 16 to 20 you have huge temples, rival gods fear your power, and at 20 you become immortal and qualify for the Theogenesis ritual which can turn you into a god!
The Epic Paths’ magical items and Divine Blessings are outlined here. The amount of magic items differs a bit, ranging from 2 to 6, although in the case of the Gifted One and Vanished One they can get a dragon companion and eventual mount as part of reviving the legacy of the Dragonlords. Most of the Divine Blessings are constant defensive boons, such as the Cursed One gaining immunity to all curses, diseases, and poison, the Demi-God gaining +2 Constitution (max 22), or the Lost One gaining a 1/long rest ability to reroll any d20 roll but must keep the new result. Many of the magic items are broadly useful: the player can pick from a small list of items to be the reward for the quest/treasure vault/etc. so they don’t end up ‘locked in’ with an option that is class-restrictive. I rather like this choice, for it encourages player agency and better allows said PC to get useful and thematic rewards.
Greek myths contain some of the most iconic monsters in fantasy gaming, and it’s only appropriate that some are upgraded to PC-worthy material. A few are expected, such as the Centaur, but we get some odder choices such as the Medusa. Unlike their original myths none of them are gender-locked: satyr ladies and siren men exist, and while it’s in the later “monster appendix” the book says that nymphs can also be both or neither gender.*
*no mention of nonbinary identities is made for other races or elsewhere in the book, though.
Centaurs are proud nomadic people who live in the northern steppes and shrouded woodlands of Thylea. They claim descent from a now-unknown god of war and expect others to give them the proper respect due to this. Centaur tribes are loyal to the titans, preferring Sydon or Lutheria, and bear a grudge against the Dragonlords and Five Gods for the violence inflicted upon them during the First War.
In terms of game stats they emphasize strength and mobility: +2 Strength and +1 Wisdom, speed of 40 feet, a special charge action that grants bonus damage, and the ability to allow a willing bipedal ally to ride upon them for 1 round as a bonus action on the centaurs’ part. They are Medium, and their equine frame means that they treat unfavorable terrain as difficult; they can still climb and walk up stairs, it’s just harder to do so. Overall a fine race, if a bit one-note.
Medusae are mortals who made a bargain with a dark power or broke an oath, afflicting them with the Curse of the Medusa. Legends speak that the first among their number was a greedy woman who desired wealth and spurned the native races of Thylea during her travels. The Fates granted her wish, to turn all she witnessed to stone so that thieves would not steal from her, her hair became as snakes “to always have company as cold as your own.” Although the circumstances are different for each individual medusa, Thylean society at large distrusts and fears them for their powers and unspoken misdeeds.
Medusa have +2 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence, darkvision 60 feet, and have a natural weapon with snake-hair that can grant the poison condition if the target fails a Constitution save. They have advantage against poison effects of all kinds and at 5th level they gain a paralyzing petrification gaze which can permanently petrify a target if they fail their Constitution save 3 times. Unlike other features the petrification DC is not modified by ability scores or proficiency bonus, starting at a mere DC 8 and growing to a maximum of DC 14. Still, the poison condition is a very useful status effect to inflict upon enemies, and further attempts at petrification on the same target in battle are bonus actions and the save is made at disadvantage, and 3 failed saves even from different medusae cause instant petrification. A party of medusa have a good chance of ‘stun-locking’ an opponent, so they’re a pretty good choice as a race.
Minotaurs had ancestors that were human once, but it is said that their people became like bulls due to being cursed by Sydon because they chose instead to worship a magical bull on account of said bull tilling the soil with never-ending strength to help them survive a winter. The God of Sea and Storms made them like said draft beast, forced to pull plows which carved labyrinthine canyons until they broke free and could walk upright...yet remained forever changed.
In modern times Thylean society (both native and settler races) view the minotaurs with disdain, as unthinking brutes useful only for manual labor. In Mytros they are victims of a legal slave trade and sometimes used as sacrifices, especially by Sydon’s worshipers. In Aresia things are more tolerant, and they’re given the same rights as citizens of other races.
Minotaurs as a race are geared for pure martial pursuits. They have +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, 40 foot base speed, advantage on Perception checks via smell, traversing maze-like environments, and dealing with maze-like puzzles. They have 60 foot darkvision but are colorblind and can only see in shades of red and grey. At 5th level they can transform into a bull as a bonus action 1/long rest, and a dire bull at 9th level (with handy-dandy stats in a sidebar!). As damage absorbed in Polymorph mode does not carry over unless you drop to 0 HP in said form, minotaurs are another strong option for martial types.
Nymphs are fey spirits forged from the natural foundations of the world. Although they prefer the wild reaches of Thylea, they are fascinated by the affairs of other races and it’s not uncommon for them to visit villages and cities for short visits. They are a bit hard to get along with, as they’re more prone to seeing non-nymphs as favored pets to be watched over rather than as a friendship of equals.
Legend speaks that the natural features of the land gained questions, wondering what separated them from each other: the snow on the mountains wondered if they were like the rivers and streams, who in turn wondered if their winding paths were like the roots of trees. Thylea granted their questions meaning, allowing them to become the first nymphs and find the answers for themselves.
Statwise nymphs have a base race and five subraces themed after specific natural features. The subraces gain advantage on Survival checks when in such favored terrain and cast certain bonus spells at 3rd and/or 7th level every short or long rest. All nymphs gain +2 Charisma, +1 Wisdom, are proficient in Persuasion, and can cast Charm Person 1/rest. Aurae are spirits of the sky and air, gaining Darkvision 60 feet and the faerie fire and levitate spells. Dryads are people of the forest, can speak with animals and plants at will, and can cast Goodberry and Barkskin. Naiad are river fey bearing a deep bond with rivers and are thus the subrace that is closest to mortal settlements: they can hold their breaths for 1 hour, have a 40 foot swim speed, and can cast Create or Destroy Water and Control Water. Nereid are of the seas and like Naiads adapt easily to civilization but are rarer; they can breathe underwater indefinitely, have a 40 foot swim speed, and can cast fog cloud and water walk. Finally oread were birthed from the mighty mountains and are peerless hunters; they have darkvision 60 feet and can cast the hunter’s mark and misty step spells.
Nymphs gravitate more towards a spellcasting roll, and their spells are useful for a variety of situations. Given that a rather large portion of the campaign takes place at sea and in one case beneath the waves, the naiad and nereid subraces are very good options on account of their swim speed.
Satyr are fey that come from the woods, but are just as comfortable living in settlements and all the pleasures they bring. They have better relations with the settler races than other native kindred, and can be found in quaint villages and even the great city-states. They are fond of wine, song, and sex, continuously seeking various kinds of emotional heights to avoid boredom.
Satyrs are built to be bards and little else. They have +2 Dexterity, +1 Charisma, advantage on effects which impose charmed and frightened conditions, and cannot be put to sleep. They are proficient in a single musical instrument of choice, gain advantage on all Performance checks with said instrument, and can perfectly memorize and perform any song after hearing it once. They know the minor illusion cantrip, and at 3rd and 5th levels they can cast sleep and suggestion once each per long rest, provided they use an instrument with which they’re proficient in the casting of the spell.
While in line with their mythology tropes, I would have preferred if they gained abilities useful to a broader variety of classes
Sirens concept-wise are a cross between harpies (who are cursed transformed monsters in Thylea) and the sirens of Greek mythology. Appearing as winged humanoids with bird-like claws and talons, they live among the islands, ports, and coastlands and are famed for their mournful songs which have magical properties. The sirens once lived in a brilliant city whose name is forgotten to time where they sung praises to Sydon. The cruel god was unmoved, viewing every attempt at supplication as a failure: “were they truly grateful, they would not build their towers to rival mine. Were they truly repentant, they would not sing so brazenly but meekly offer the proper sacrifices in place of songs.” The sirens were saddened that their efforts were for naught, and so they became mute, their city crumbling and fading beneath the waters in a great storm conjured by the cruel god. Lutheria found their suffering to be funny, and kidnapped, tortured, and transformed some of them into wicked beings, bringing the first harpies into the world.
The Titans’ injustice and loss of their city dominates siren culture. As a race they suffer from mood swings between sorrow and joy. Sirens find ample work among the races of Thylea as winged scouts and messengers, although the circumstances of their being means that they can only take flight when joyful.
As a race sirens have +2 Charisma, +1 Dexterity, have advantage on Performance and Persuasion checks with their voice, and can hold their breaths for up to 1 hour. Every short or long rest the player (or DM in case of NPCs) chooses whether the siren is filled with joy or sorrow as a dominant emotion. Happy sirens gain a flight speed of 30 feet provided they’re not wearing medium or heavy armor, but when sad they can sing mournful ballads which can cast charm person at 1st level, enthrall at 3rd level, or hold person at 5th level once each per short rest.
The fly speed alone makes sirens a very powerful racial option. Furthermore, they among the native races have the best-role-playing incentives to take part in the adventure path. Unlike the centaurs, medusa, and minotaurs they have roles in settler society and don’t face must systemic discrimination. I can guarantee you that sirens are going to be one of the more common options among Odyssey players for both role-playing and CharOps reasons.
Class Archetypes & New SpellsOriginal SA post
Class Archetypes & New Spells
Every core class has one new thematic archetype, and several of them tie the PC into the world at large in a direct manner. The Demigod Origin for Sorcerer makes the PC the child of one of the gods, while a Ranger who’s an Amazon hails from the island of Themis and belongs/belonged to said society of warrior-women.* The Fates are not just a Warlock Patron, they are characters you can meet in the Adventure Path, work for, and yes even kill! Fortunately none of the class features mandate that the game be set in Thylea, so they can be ported into other settings with suitably Greek themes.
*or is the daughter of a warrior who left said island.
Herculean Path (Barbarian) is for those warriors blessed with seemingly impossible strength. Maybe you have distant divine ancestry, are a member of a naturally powerful race, or the source of your power is unknown but you know for sure that you have HUGE MUSCLES. You are proficient with the Athletics skill, can initiate a grapple as a bonus action, grapple creatures up to 2 size categories larger than yourself, and can attack with a two-handed weapon in one hand while grappling. Later class features include the ability to use weapons regardless of size category, substitute Strength for Dexterity for all ranged attack and damage rolls, cast thunderwave (AoE sonic) on projectiles you throw/shoot, gain increase rage damage bonus the longer you rage, and can smash the ground and generate an earthquake AoE that can break concentration spells and knock targets prone.
I like this archetype, more for the Rule of Cool factor than anything. I kind of wish that it allowed one to grapple opponents regardless of size, but Enlarge/Reduce spell on a Medium target will allow the Barbarian to wrestle even the mighty kraken and Kentimane the Hundred-Handed (Gargantuan, largest size). Generating sonic booms, earthquakes, and using Strength for ranged attacks are all pretty nice features too.
College of Epic Poetry (Bard) are those storytellers obsessed with making a Magnum Opus to live on down the generations. They can add Verses to their Epic Poem over the course of a campaign, reciting prior events to grant boons and banes to allies and enemies. Verses are added in one of four ways and reflect a theme (Comedy is when someone rolls a Natural 1, Tragedy is when someone’s reduced to 0 HP, etc). As the bard gains levels the amount of verses improves their Bardic Inspiration, such as granting a minimum result value on the dice, advantage on certain saving throws, +5 to passive Perception, and the like. Other class features include gaining proficiency with medium armor, regaining a Bardic Inspiration die when you compose a verse about an adjacent ally’s action, and can expend a Bardic Inspiration die to be that number of hit points when an ally is reduced to 0 hit points.
The concept is cool, but it has a lot of book-keeping and the GM needs to approve if a verse is appropriate, which turns the archetype into “Mother May I.”
Prophecy Domain (Cleric) allows a priest or priestess to see into the future via divine insight. Holy water, which is boiled and breathed as fumes,* allow the cleric to enter a trance. The domain grants mostly divination spells as bonus spells, proficiency in Perception, and can restore hit points to allied creatures whenever you cast divination spells. Their Channel Divinity is a trance state lasting 10 minutes, allowing them to replace a d20 result made during this time with one of two stored d20 rolls which are rolled immediately when the trance is entered. Higher-level abilities include the ability to take a reaction to move up and cast a beneficial spell on an ally hit by a harmful effect, restore bonus hit points on healing spells you cast equal to your Wisdom modifier, and a capstone perfect foresight where Channel Divinity can choose a result between 1 to 19 as well as seeing invisible objects and environments in darkness.
*this is flavor text, you don’t need holy water to use your class features.
This is a pretty good domain, especially the reaction-casting which is tailor-made to save the party’s bacon.
Circle of Sacrifice (Druid) represents an order known as the Keepers of the Old Ways, druids who channel magic from the Astral Plane into mistletoes and understand that offerings must be made to keep the universe in balance. Initial class features include learning the Produce Flame cantrip and adding one’s Wisdom modifier to the damage. They can also light a target on fire as a bonus action when reducing them to 0 hit points,* gaining the benefits of a Bless spell as the slain target is offered as a sacrifice to the gods. Later class features include the ability to imbue magic into mistletoes, being able to cast a limited amount of minor spells** (cure wounds, detect magic, etc) without using a spell slot by offering the mistletoes in place, sacrificing mistletoes to do your burning sacrifice when allies slay an opponent, and the capstone ability to create a Teleportation Circle within a ring of standing stones.
*for any attack, not just Produce Flame.
**ones of higher magnitude can be cast as you gain levels.
The Druid is a strong class, although the power of the Moon Druid means that other archetypes have trouble standing out as worthy choices. The Circle of Sacrifice grants you more effective spell slots, but the spells it allows are relatively limited in comparison to the utility of transforming into all kinds of dangerous animals and elementals.
Hoplite Soldier (Fighter) are the backbone of Thylea’s armies. Using heavy shields and one-handed weapons they gather into shieldwalls of phalanx formations, holding strong against encroaching enemies. We have a bonus fighting style (Hoplite) that 1st level fighters can choose, allowing them to make an opportunity attack as a reaction against creatures who attack an adjacent ally. The archetype itself grants a 1/long rest Shield Wall ability, giving a net +3 AC to allies standing adjacent to each other while wielding shields. Further class features include upping the damage die and range increments of spears, tridents, and javelins; adding their proficiency bonus to an adjacent ally’s AC as a reaction; can either disarm an enemy shield or do a bonus d6 damage on a critical hit; and the capstone ability where they can spend one of their Attacks to make a single attack roll against all enemy targets within 5 feet. As a Fighter has bonus attacks, you can do this multiple times a round.
This archetype is situational on most party members and allied minions being proficient with shields. While the AC bonuses are nicethe close grouping the style encourages makes characters vulnerable to AoE effects. The pseudo-Whirlwind Attack* as the capstone ability comes too little, too late to make up for the rest of the archetype’s features.
*A 3.5 feat for you young’uns.
Thylean monks are hotter and sexier than ones found in other campaign settings.
Way of the Shield (Monk) is one of the fighting styles taught by Aresia’s warrior academies.* Your style encourages the use of shields and polearms over armor to serve as your offense and defense, and billowing red cloaks are your unofficial uniform. You initially gain proficiency with shields, they do not interfere with your Monk class features, can ‘catch’ projectiles with a shield instead of a free hand, and opportunity attacks are made with disadvantage against you as long as you have a shield in hand. Further class features include spending a ki point to vault large distances and make an attack with advantage, using a reaction to attack an opponent who misses you with an opportunity attack, spending a ki point to gain +3 AC, and a capstone ability where you have advantage on attack rolls and immunity to frighten and paralysis effects of Huge and Gargantuan creatures.**
*Fun Fact: the various official Monk archetypes (both OGL and Product Identity) are presumed in Thylea to be an Aresian warrior society and have their own academies in said city-state.
**Who in the adventure path become very, very common at this level and higher.
The Way of the Shield is much more offensive than the default monk archetypes in the PHB, and the shield can add some much-needed AC to this unarmored class (even moreso with a Hoplite Fighter). Several of its abilities are prescient upon triggering opportunity attacks, and the capstone ability is highly situational but very useful if you’re playing the adventure path as is.
Oath of the Dragonlord (Paladin) represents a warrior who seeks to find and bond with a dragon. As such creatures were long-extinct since the First War, and the only person trying to reclaim the Dragonlords’ legacy (King Acastus of Mytros) is a Lawful Evil guy, you more or less have to find a dragon egg of your own. The book also says that PCs with either the Gifted One or Vanished One Epic Paths should not take this archetype as the “gain a dragon companion” major features overlap.
Your bonus paladin spells are themed around air and mobility (fly, haste, freedom of movement, etc), and you can gain a pseudodragon familiar tasked with helping you find an appropriate dragon egg (any metallic save gold). Your Channel Divinity options include mimicking a dragon’s frightful presence or knocking prone and disrupting concentration while intoning the Dragonlord’s Oath.* Later class features include your discovered dragon egg hatching, being able to cast the Dragonlord-related spells upon said dragon (detailed in the next section) without material components, said dragon growing from wyrmling to young age category regardless of their true age, and as a capstone ability said dragon gaining multiattack and having their breath weapon recharge normally** as well as being able to reroll a failed saving throw 1/long rest.
*Dragonlord’s Oath to a bonded dragon posted:
I CANNOT POSSESS YOU,
for you belong to yourself.
I CANNOT COMMAND YOU,
for you are a free creature.
WE SHALL SERVE EACH OTHER
in the ways we both require.
WE WILL INCREASE OUR WEALTH
by righteous means.
WE WILL ACHIEVE HAPPINESS
and harmony through knowledge.
WE WILL AID THOSE OF OUR BLOOD
to achieve their great destinies.
WE WILL AVENGE THOSE OF OUR BLOOD
who have been done harm.
I AM BLOOD OF YOUR BLOOD,
and bone of your bone—forever.
Try saying that in six seconds or less (a 5e round)!
**A Dragonlord-bonded dragon loses Multiattack and their breath weapons recharge based on short/long rests.
Amazonian Conclave (Ranger) is not just a class; it’s a culture from which your PC hails. The Amazons are a matriarchal society who retreated from Thylea’s mainland during the First War after seeing the violence and poor decisions wrought by men on both sides of the conflict.* Most of their number lives on the island of Themis, although smaller bands made ventures to other islands. Men are allowed to live in their society, but in small, easily controlled, and segregated numbers and generally viewed as unsuitable for warfare, rulership, and ‘important occupations.’
*What I find odd is that the setting as a whole doesn’t mention whether or not Thylea was a patriarchal society or not in the past. While Amazons are an iconic Greek trope, they were spawned out of a misogynistic hellworld which initially was “lol wouldn’t it be funny if women ran things?” to a deconstructed “maybe the Amazons retreated from society due to how badly women were treated” in future tales. The Amazons can still make sense as an isolated cultural holdover, but otherwise Odyssey of the Dragonlords is pretty mum in discussing setting gender roles.
The Amazon archetype grants a mixture of bonus spells ranging from mobility (find steed, haste) to wearing at the opponent’s willpower (command, confusion, mislead). They gain a stimfay as an animal companion, clockwork birds which are built by a resident cyclops artisan who is being held prisoner by the Amazons. Stimfay can scout areas in a 1 mile radius, communicate with its companion via a secret code-tongue only its owner understands, adds your proficiency bonus to attacks/saves/damage/ability save DCs, and can be repaired if destroyed. Unlike the terrible Beastmaster Ranger they act on their own turns!
Amazons also start play being able to do a Battle Cry a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier, which grants advantage vs favored enemies and against becoming frightened or paralyzed, as well as resistance against bludgeoning/piercing/slashing damage for 1 minute. Further class features include using a pair of bracers Wonder Woman-style to gain +5 Ac as a reaction to an attack, the ability to ricochet a thrown chakram to targets not in your line of sight and/or within 10 feet of the original target, and a capstone ability where a number of times per short/long rest equal to your Wisdom modifier you can make a special melee attack to hit a target’s pressure point and paralyze them for 1 minute on a failed Constitution save.
We get a sidebar stat block for stimfays: they are tiny constructs capable of fast flight (80 feet), gain advantage on Perception checks based on sight, and can carry a single potion to administer to allies and stabilize dying creatures it touches. Creatures attacked by it cannot make opportunity attacks for 1 round, and they can shoot out pins and scream an ear-splitting cry as 2 kinds of ranged attacks. Not exactly a great offensive fighter, but handy for healing allies and battlefield control.
The Amazon archetype is pretty good, containing a nice mixture of offensive, defensive, and utility features. The bracer-block’s AC bonus is very useful given 5th Edition’s bounded accuracy allowing even weak opponents the chance to hit a plate-covered warrior, while the right selection of favored enemies can make the Battle Cry’s advantage attack feature very useful. The resistance against physical attacks effectively doubles your HP in certain circumstances for a battle’s duration, given most fights rarely last longer than 10 rounds. The pressure points are a multi-use save or die, which is pretty powerful given said condition’s rarity in comparison to 3.5, but at 15th level there’s already a lot of spells and abilities (coughholdpersoncough) that can replicate its effects.
The Odyssean (Rogue) is a cunning mortal who appears at first glance to be an ordinary warrior, but whose cleverness pulls them out of many hairy scenarios. Odysseans, by choice or by circumstance of fate, find their way into legends worthy of quill and song as they survive against all odds. The archetype initially grants shield proficiency and proficiency with spears and tridents as finesse weapons, reflecting training as a seeming common soldier. They can also use a bonus action to formulate a clever plan against one target but only 1/encounter: if the Odyssean succeeds on a Deception vs the creature’s Insight, they and their allies gain advantage on all attacks for 1 round. Further class features include shutting down opportunity attacks from enemies who are aware of the Odyssean but cannot see them, imposing disadvantage on concentration rolls to maintain a spell when damaged, adding Charisma to initiative on top of Dexterity, and can spend a bonus action to regain hit points equal to one’s Rogue level via tenacious survival (limited use per short/long rest equal to Charisma modifier). The capstone ability grants the Odyssean a free ranged attack with advantage against a creature if one of their allies makes an opportunity attack against said target. This ranged attack costs no action, so in ideal circumstances they can sling a flurry of projectiles.
This is a pretty good archetype, although it’s highly reliant upon the actions of your allies to be fully effective. This isn’t really a bad thing given the team-focused nature of D&D, and it’s a superior archetype to the pissant Assassin from the core book. The defaults Thief archetype gives it a run for its money with features at later levels, such as Supreme Sneak and Use Magic Device.
Demigod Origin (Sorcerer) means that you have a deity as a distant ancestor or even close parent! Your heritage makes you naturally strong and beautiful, and you can cast 2 spells associated with your ancestor’s Domain* once per short/long rest without using spell slots. You add double your proficiency bonus on Charisma checks when interacting with gods or celestials, are proficient in Strength saving throws, and you add your Charisma modifier to melee and attack damage rolls. Further class features include spending a sorcery point to increase a spell’s level by 1 (non-stackable), choose to succeed on a failed saving throw 1/long rest, and as a capstone ability can spend as many sorcery points as you have when increasing your spell’s level.
*only 2 such spells are available this way per domain: things such as Entangle and Healing Word for Nature, Charm Person and Hideous Laughter for Trickery, etc.
I like the ideal of a naturally strong sorcerer, but the class’ lack of armor and shield proficiency combined with their low Hit Die means that other options are superior for gish types. Auto-succeeding at a saving throw is nice but comes into play rather late. Unfortunately the lack of spell slots used for domain spells means that ones dependent on the level of said slot such as Cure Wounds (Life domain) are in a grey area of the rules for how effective they are when cast this way. I’d rule they’re as powerful as the highest-level slot the Demi-God has access to, given their limited use.
Patron: the Fates (Warlock) are a coven of wicked hags who can see the destiny of all, provided that they weave a person’s future via a magical loom to bear witness. The warlock PC with them as a patron swore service to them in exchange for power. This archetype grants bonus spells of a diverse assortment* and can cast one divination spell at the end of a short or long rest without expending a spell slot, and gain temporary hit points when doing so. Further features include rolling a d20 and being able to replace a future result for themselves or a creature you can see between the next short or long rest, regain an expended spell slot up to two times per long rest whenever you kill or knock out a creature, and a capstone ability where you can compel a creature to move towards another (bound by fate) on a failed Wisdom save while also dealing them psychic damage.
Interestingly it is possible to kill the three Fates** during the adventure path, but the book does not say one way or another how this affects a Warlock with them as their patron
*mostly divination such as detect evil and good and see invisibility, but also ones like levitate, call lightning, and planar binding.
**and possibly some of the gods, which is similarly quiet as to how this would affect cleric spells.
Academy Philosopher (Wizard) hail from the greatest center of learning in Mytros, adhering to a chosen philosophy as a means of understanding their spells and the nature of reality. A wizard with this archetype chooses from one of 8 philosophical schools which grants an appropriate boon: Cynics halve gold and time requirements for copying new spells and can substitute up to 50 gold pieces worth of material components by foraging through junk, Epicureans can impose disadvantage on creatures that attack them a number of times per rest equal to their Intelligence modifier, Hedonists add double their wizard level to hit points restored when they are healed from a spell or ability once per rest, etc. Further class features allow them to change the dimensions of their spells via mathematical equations, such as making ‘safe pockets’ for targets within an AoE, can change an enemy spellcaster’s target to someone else within range once per rest provided they’re a rules-legitimate target, and the capstone ability allows the wizard to automatically avoid losing concentration on a spell a number of times equal to their Intelligence modifier every long rest.
The philosophical schools are versatile and thematic, although the choices in question vary in usefulness. Cynics’ ability to substitute expensive material components has abusive potential, while the Sophist does something a Bard or Rogue can do better with Expertise: double proficiency and becomes proficient in Persuasion, along with learning the friends cantrip. The Eclectic school grants an underwhelming single bonus language, but at 5th level grants the effects of a second school of your choice as a supposed trade-off. But every new wizard PC starting at that level and later will be taking said school, as the waiting period is no weakness at all!
But beyond the imbalanced schools, the Academy Philosopher is optimal for blasters and battlefield controllers, and the ability to change an enemy’s target without a chance for them to resist is amazingly useful.
New Spells: The section on spells is downright quaint in comparison to the wealth of race and class options preceding it. Animal Polymorph turns a creature into a small, harmless being for concentration duration; Bond of the Dragonlords permanently bonds a newly-hatched metallic dragon to the caster, allowing them to act and move on your initiative in battle and are controlled as if they were a PC. In exchange the dragon gives up multiattack and can only use its breath weapon once per long rest. Dirge of the Dragonlords can resurrect a dead bonded dragon (not just your own) to life at the low low price of a 3rd level spell slot. Fatebinding is cast simultaneously on 2 targets and lasts for an hour if both fail their saves, making them take and restore the same damage if one is affected by an ability. Seeds of Death summons three minotaur skeletons who follow the caster’s orders for concentration duration or 10 minutes, whichever comes first; Sleeping Draught is a higher-magnitude Sleep spell equivalent which merely rolls more dice worth of hit points for creatures to be affected; Sword of
Said benefits are part of an Appendix all its own, but will show down here for ease of use:
As you can see, it’s a great spell for story purposes, but not the kind of thing you’re actually going to cast during a real campaign. It’s more the kind of thing that happens at the end of an epic tale, and in Odyssey of the Dragonlords this is one of the potential “Ending Sequences” to use video game terminology.
Thoughts So Far: There are many strong and thematic options for players to choose from here. The races, while highly appropriate for the setting, feel a bit samey in places. The satyr and siren both have magical musical abilities, with the siren gaining a better sense of other features and a history for interesting role-play. Centaurs and minotaurs are geared heavily towards martial classes, and the usefulness of the medusa’s abilities increase the more of them there are in the same party. The class archetypes were overall rather good save for a few underwhelming options (Circle of Sacrifice, Hoplite) and I can see players choosing them rather than just sticking with the PHB and Xanathar’s Guide options. The spells, both in brevity and in some of their plot-centric natures, were the weak point of these sections.
Join us next time as we start this adventure path off with a bang in Chapter 1, Heroes of the Prophecy!
Trope AlertsOriginal SA post
The first chapter of the adventure path is a sort of “tutorial session” in the sense that you have helpful exposition outlining the basic facts of the setting. Additionally, the PCs have some wiggle room in fights should they mess up. It is here and in further chapters we will see some clear influences of Sky and Ohlen’s prior work in the form of Trope Alerts.
We also get sample quest-based experience awards and milestone points for each Chapter based on what method the DM prefers best:
We start our tale with some boxed text telling the players how their heroes have been summoned to the Heartlands as the Oath of Peace nears its end, and how the Oracle fears for the Doom of Thylea. The DM is encouraged to ask the players to write down their PC’s name at the top of three note cards along with rumors about their past deeds. One of them is mostly true, the other two are fabrications or exaggerations but not marked as such. The cards are all given to the DM, who then hands them out to the other players and that’s what their own PCs heard about their traveling companions.
Our first scene literally opens up in a tavern where they meet a bard by the name of Kyrah, who is actually the Goddess of Music in a rather poor disguise. She tells them about how a Titan-corrupted boar is destroying crops and killing villagers and how previous heroes died against it. Should the PCs find and kill it, they can gain fame and power if they offer it to the gods as a sacrifice.
Trope Alert: Tutorial DMPC: Kyrah tags along as a helpful guide, explaining the basics of Thylean society if necessary while also helping them indirectly in combat via HEROIC SONGS. She’s not the only god who joins the party on the Adventure Path, although due to the Oath of Peace they cannot “assist the PCs in battle” against Sydon, Lutheria, and their allies. However, there are quite a few encounters where the party is fighting monsters and people not loyal to the Titans. This will bring the inevitable question of what happens if the party asks them for aid in such instances. While the book says to not have them overshadow the PCs, her stats are well…
...godly in comparison to the party. You see, every god in Odyssey of the Dragonlords has one or more ability scores at 30 in reflection of their portfolio, and Kyrah can deal damage with a dagger on par with a greatsword-wielding barbarian. Her 63 HP puts her leagues above the rest of the party, and her Songs are quite clearly meant to alleviate the highly-lethal nature of 1st-level gaming. Her lolrandom Mischief ability, even if generally nonlethal, has the chance of causing the party to drive her off in case something like Stinking Cloud or the blinding lights put a PC in greater danger. She will use a Raise Dead scroll on a PC to bring them back to life, which compounded with the fact that said PC will likely have used their Divine Boon can end up making players feel that they’re being bailed out too easily.
The prelude to the boar fight involves hunting and searching for clues, along with being able to set traps for the boar once it’s found. There are some good rules outlines for things like rope snares, camouflaged pits, and the like to help turn the tide in the party’s favor. When the boar is found, it already is quite injured from many weapons sticking out of it and suffers one exhaustion level a round. This means it will die in 6 turns even if the PCs get nary a scratch. Before it breathes its last, the boar speaks of how the end of Thylea is nigh.
At this point Kyrah suggests that the boar’s body be burned as a sacrifice to one of the gods. Deities are jealous beings and as such you can’t dedicate it to more than one or a pantheon as a whole. There’s a table for different gods and goddesses and their boons, and some are more useful than others. For example, Pythor will swear an Oath of Service to the party and Volkan will grant them one random magic item once the party meets them, and whose usefulness is mostly in the broadness of potential options. Kyrah will confess her identity and swear an Oath of Protection...which given she’s traveling with the PCs for a while, is a bit superfluous. Thylea grants immediate aid in the form of a Charm of Vitality* for every PC and animals in every forest will aid the party to the best of their ability from here on out. Kyrah advises against sacrificing to Sydon or Lutheria given that sacrifices increase a god’s divine power, but choosing to do so will involve staying their wrath in a single one of their predetermined future encounters. Choosing not to sacrifice to any of the gods causes hurricanes and earthquakes to sweep over the land, turning the PCs into goats for 24 hours.
*one-use ability to cure all exhaustion, poison, disease, and roll max value when spending Hit Dice to heal.
Temple of the Oracle
Now that the PCs got a taste of divinely-flavored roast boar, they must make their way to the Oracle’s temple. Although the party’s already received summons, Kyrah will encourage them onward if they seem to dilly-dally. Nobody’s heard from her otherwise in two weeks, so Kyrah fears the worst.
She is right to be worried, for several of Sydon’s minions invaded the temple, slaying and taking hostage most of its inhabitants. As the Oracle is the god’s daughter,* Sydon wants her taken back to the tower of Praxys alive. The PCs are not so lucky, and his forces will try to kill them before they get too famous and powerful.
*This is public knowledge, and she also acted as the arbiter between the gods for the Oath of Peace.
The Oracle’s temple is a relatively short 8-room, 2-level dungeon located above a series of hot spring caverns. Sydon’s forces are led by the sea hag Heleka and include a mix of monsters* and human soldiers. The rooms part of the natural caverns have boiling steam geysers which deal damage to those crossing or pushed into them, while the surviving acolytes can heal the party with their spells if rescued. Heleka herself is mocking Versi in the final room, who is held hostage in what looks like animated tendrils of water (a water weird which will overwise flee once the sea hag is slain).
*Steam mephits, animated flying swords and rugs disguised as furniture, and a mimic disguised as a door with an ‘animated’ face.
Versi will at first grieve for the dead once rescued, but understands the needs of the PCs and speaks to them of their fate: they must sail the seas in order to face the Titans and bring peace to Thylea, but before this they must accomplish three Great Labors to better ready themselves. The legendary Mithral Forge must be brought to working order again so as to build powerful instruments of magic and war. They must also visit the tombs of the Dragonlords in the Necropolis and claim their weapons, and are given a Burnished Dragonlord Coin to pay a toll of safe passage to the guardian of this dread realm. Finally the party must drink from the Horn of Balmytria, a holy silver dragon horn held in an Estoran shrine, to gain an as-yet unknown vision. These three Labors comprise the next chapter, and can more or less be done in any order. But there is a certain point in the plot where a dilemma can be optimally solved should the PCs bring the Mithral Forge to working order early for a specific magic item.
Kyrah will tell the PCs in a rather unsubtle way about the perks of the Fame system (it can potentially make you immortal), suggest that the party swear an Oath of Fellowship* among each other to encourage good teamwork, and challenges the party bard to a ‘poetry battle’ to see who can make the best Homeric epic once their quest is done.
*an Oath not really outlined in the Introduction. It basically allows the party to share all gains from their Fame equally and to not turn against each other.
Epic Paths: Versi can help point the heroes in the right direction for their individual destinies. The Demi-God is encouraged to meet their father Pythor in Estoria. The Vanished One is asked to meet privately with her and to swear an Oath to return to her cave once the prophecy has been fulfilled, and only then will she tell them to retrieve their famous armor and Crown of the Dragonlords from the Tomb of Xander in the Necropolis. Tthe Doomed and Haunted Ones are told about Versi’s evil sister, Demeteria, in the Mossy Temple who either has knowledge of their fate or a lost family artifact respectively. The Gifted One is given a locket containing the soul of their sorceress grandmother who will speak through it, promising that if they take revenge upon Sydon they can restore the order of Dragonlords. The Lost One is promised a way home should they find the Lost Treasure of the Dragonlords, which is truly Lost and not found in the Necropolis. The Dragonslayer is destined to be the scourge of evil dragons and is told to seek out the Forgekeeper of the Mithral Forge. The Cursed One must seek the Necropolis’ guardian to learn about the nature of their curse.
Once the PCs leave the temple, Lutheria shows up in a collective dream, mocking them as she chops up an unknown old man alive. This forces the party to make a DC 20 Wisdom save or gain a short-term mental illness. Unless they dedicated the boar sacrifice to Lutheria, in which case they don’t need to make the save at all.
Thoughts So Far: There are parts of this chapter I like and don’t like. 1st level is way too low-power and gritty for PCs to begin an Adventure Path when they’re supposedly famous Greek heroes. The adventure tries to rectify this with Kyrah’s aid and neutering the boar monster with exhaustion, which kind of takes the wind out of any high-stakes sails. I do like how the Oracle’s various prophecies all tie into the future quests in some way, and the conceptual power of sacrifices is nice inspiration fodder even if the rewards are not exactly balanced. Sadly there are no future encounters in this style where burning the body of a great foe gives further rewards, which is wasted opportunity.
The Oracle’s Temple is just the right length for a starting dungeon crawl, although given that time appears to be of the essence the PCs may be reluctant to take even a short rest after any battles. Although the sea hag is still in the process of searching for a potential route to the sea within the caverns and thus isn’t going to flee with Versi anytime soon, the party does not have a means of knowing this unless they interrogate one of the minions.
Join us next time as we cover the three Great Labors and their adjoining quests!