Odyssey of the Dragonlords is a new setting and campaign for 5E, published by Arcanum World. It is a setting deeply influenced by ancient Greek literature. The campaign takes the player characters from level 1 to level 15.
Every now and then I come across 5E products on Kickstarter that interest me. Truth be told, I find most of the games and supplements for 5E on Kickstarter not that interesting, since they tend to build on what WoTC already has mastered and add therefore little to the world’s greatest roleplaying game. But, hey, that’s just a one man’s opinion.
However, Odyssey of the Dragonlords was one of the more interesting 5E products. In fact, reading about the campaign, the setting, the campaign and the game designers, James Ohlen and Jesse Sky (who were lead designers for the famous Baldur’s Gate computer games), made it all sound really interesting.
So, I decided to back the campaign and waited eagerly for my books to arrive.
— SPOILER ALERT —
Odyssey of the Dragonlords is an epic campaign. The player characters start at 1. level and reach beyond 15. level. The narrative is detailed and the book contains enough content for a campaign that can be played for months, even more than a year.
The campaign is set on a lost continent, Thylea, which can easily be added to any known D&D setting, where the Titans and the Five Gods once fought for dominance. 500 years ago the two factions made a treaty, that included that neither party would fight the other for five centuries. This time is up as the player characters enter the stage.
The campaign is divided into four main parts, or acts. In the first act the player characters establish themselves as the main protagonists, by completing quests given to them by the Oracle. The quests, called the Great Labors, help the player characters understand and deal with the growing threat of the Titans.
In second act the player characters take part in restoring an ancient order of heroes, the so-called Dragonlords. They make friends with some of the most influential people of Thylea and need to figure out who are honestly trying to help them and who are furthering their own goals.
Next the player characters face the two most dangerous titans and their lackeys, which is the main narrative of the third act. This entails much dungeon crawling and exploring different locations.
In the final act the player characters fight the titans. They have the chance to save Thylea and the rewards could be more than they ever dreamed of.
Thylea is quite interesting, especially if you are interested in Greek mythology and literature. It is a continent ripe with history, legends and the stuff that heroes are made from. This is a place where the gods walk among men and are more interested in their own problems than being divine, omnipotent creatures.
The continent is well fleshed out and really comes alive when reading the campaign. Despite using many well known tropes and cliches, the setting is still fresh and creative enough to make even the most well-versed in Greek literature smile and enjoy every minute of it.
There are some new rules introduced, that apply for Thylea, most notable are the Oaths. Oaths have an in-game effect, so swearing an oath actually matters. Breaking an oath has some severe effects and one should really think twice before doing so. Fame is also something that matters and the players need to be reminded of this, of course, before the game starts.
The campaign comes with new archetypes for each class and some new player races. These are nice and add much flavor to the setting.
The two books, both the campaign book and the player’s guide, are well laid-out and easy to read. The campaign book contains a detailed chapter on how to run the campaign and some nice ideas on how to make the narrative come alive, how to use the Oaths and roleplaying tips for most of the main NPCs.
The artwork is really good and adds much flavor. The only thing that I miss is a good overview in each chapter on how you can play through each act, since the path of the player characters isn’t always given.
The few flaws
There are a couple of things that didn’t cut it for me. For the first part, the character sheet provided with the book is not that good. I find it overloaded and had a huge problem finding some of the needed parts.
Also, fate is bitch to work with in roleplaying games. If you don’t do it exactly right, the players will feel pushed towards a set path, which is never a good thing. Both the optional Epic Paths and some parts of the narrative need the game master to be able to create perfect gilded cages so that the players won’t understand where fate is at play and their choices are quite limited.
Finally, in a way I feel that the last act is shoehorned into the narrative. Reading through the book, I felt that there are parts in the last act that were added afterwards, as if just to add more content and combats, to make things even more epic. Mind you, I haven’t played through the campaign, so perhaps it will come across differently at the table.
A superb campaign setting and a really interesting campaign. The added material for players is great and Thylea serves as the perfect backdrop for a great ancient Greek campaign. The campaign is rewarding and the narrative interesting, though parts of it will need an experienced game master.