RPG with extra olives: Odyssey of the Dragonlords

Maybe it’s that I spent several years in high school and university studying Ancient Greece, including the myth and literature of the time, but when I’m chatting with one of the good people at Modiphius and they say “Hey, wanna take a look at what we’re doing with this new setting inspired by Classical Greek mythology and stuff like the Iliad?”, my interest is  piqued. Add to that a stable of writers and creators helmed by BioWare alums James Ohlen and Jesse Sky, and it gets even more interesting.

As a geek with a long and venerable (or is that sordid?) history of nerdery, I’ve enjoyed RPGs in many settings, from traditional high to low fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, contemporary, from horror to comedy and most things in between, so it’s always neat to find a setting that offers a different experience. Enter Odyssey of the Dragonlords, currently on Kickstarter and presenting a setting that can be introduced into any existing D&D 5e campaign, or enjoyed on its own.

We’re going on an adventure!

Odyssey of the Dragonlords introduces players to Thylea, a world set apart from the usual by a nigh-impenetrable ring of storms. Outsiders are rare, as few survive the passage to Thylea, allowing for a very real “Strangers in a Strange Land” feeling for outsiders. The locals have a history dating back to an era where Titans roamed their world, with storied conflicts between the gods themselves and the eponymous Dragonlords, conflict between the so-called civilized races and the fey, and more.

Now, after 500 years of peace between being eons old and the peoples of the Forgotten Sea, old treaties are fading, old truces all but dust, and Thylea stands on the brink of cataclysmic conflict.

This is exacerbated by the fact that while in other settings the gods dwell in the heavens and interact with mortals through their priesthoods, in Thylea the powers that be are quite literally manifest. Thylea herself, the great mother who gives her name to the realm, is physically present as an enormous world-tree. Her titan husband, Kentimane, is the direct source of the barrier that shields their world. Pythor, the god of battle, actually sits on the throne as king of Estoria.

The gods can be literally bumped into walking the streets, and an insult to the gods or breaking of an oath can quite literally result in your being torn apart by harpies. This is a world where mortals live knowing that the divine are among them and that they have a direct impact on their daily existence, for better or for worse. Does it sound like Ancient Greece yet?

Enter the heroes.

Whenever you think of Classical Greek literature (if, indeed, you ever do), no-one remembers Sthenelaidas, few remember Patroclus, but Heracles (Hercules), Achilles, Odysseus (Ulysses)…  these are names carved into the cultural heritage. When we sit down to play any roleplaying game – be it Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Gangbusters or who knows what –  the most common collective goal is to create a story that will be told for years to come, to feel like we’re not only part of some grand, epic adventure, but that we have an active hand in making it so. No-one remembers the tale of Bellerophon Goes To The Shoe Store, but Theseus and the Minotaur? Jason and the Argonauts? Heck, Toronto named their CFL team after that last one.

Odyssey of the Dragonlords directly addresses this with the introduction of Epic Paths. Every player chooses an Epic Path for their character, something that sets them apart from the hoi polloi beyond simply “I’m an adventurer!”. Each character chooses one of six Epic Paths that add depth and definition to their backstories. Sure, you’re a Dragonborn Ranger, but are you a Demi-god? Is your Epic Path defined by dread portents at your birth? Were you held outside of the passage of time and have now returned to a world completely unknown to you?

Each Epic Path comes with a personal quest, three goals that you strive to achieve, and should you achieve them you will receive an appropriately heroic reward. The Demi-God example, as shown in the free-to-download Players Guide, sets our aforementioned Dragonborn Ranger on a quest to find their missing mortal parent, to forge a heroic weapon, and to defeat a great foe of their divine parent, who has fallen to great depths, proving that even the gods are not infallible.

I like it.

What we end up with is a self-contained setting with enough scope for a full campaign that can also be implanted into any existing setting that has an ocean that can hold the Forgotten Sea somewhere within it (sorry, Dark Sun fans). A setting that presents a very atypical divine presence inspired directly by the core of Greek myth, with a selection of new creature encounters to match, and yes, you can play a Centaur or a Satyr (first person to name their faun “Mr Tumnus” gets a stern look). A setting that has a very different feel to the typical fantastic settings you find in fantastic RPGs, while at the same time being incredibly familiar with major elements being rooted in the core of Western storytelling tradition.

It all lends itself to a project that has the hallmarks of being a damn good time. Odyssey of the Dragonlords is currently up on Kickstarter, and has already funded, with PDF rewards being set to deliver in July, and physical rewards later in the year in September. If you’re looking for something new for 5e, or if you’ve just been enjoying Assassin’ Creed: Odyssey and wish you had a way to get that feeling on the tabletop with your friends, this may be the project for you…