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D&D 5E [Let's Read] Odyssey of the Dragonlords

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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.

Introduction
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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.

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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 AthensMytros is a grand metropolis that is the religious, economic, and cultural center of Thylean society. It is home to the great Temple of the Five and ruled over by King Acastus, a descendant of one of the Dragonlords and notable for trying to rebuild said ancient order by somehow reviving the formerly-extinct race of dragons. The city-state of Estoria* is a border stronghold which holds off raids from the northern steppes; the god Pythor sits in a castle on the highest hill where he can survey the land. Finally, the city-state of SpartaAresia is home to some of the most famous warrior societies. While it doesn’t have a reigning god, its founder kidnapped and imprisoned Narsus, the God of Beauty. This act has led to centuries’ of on and off wars with Mytros. Aresian culture takes great pains to appear, well, spartan among the upper classes to separate themselves from the ‘decadent, barbaric Mytrosians.’ In practice its upper class is more elaborate at hiding their wealth and parties while using bread and circuses to keep the loyalty of the common folk. The southern islands are controlled by no large overarching power, with various barbarian tribes reigning supreme. The Amazons are the most well-known by outsiders and live in the largest island of said archipelagos: Themis.

*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 naughty word.

Epic Paths
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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.

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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! Read future posts on this book in the comment section below!
 
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What if the PCs face a coven of medusaes witches, wouldn't they be power-broken as enemy bosses?
For the sake of the boss fight, you'd have to introduce columns in the Battle arena. Or before the fight happens, a mandatory quest would have to be done to equip the party with mirror Shields/swords. They would impose disadvantage on the gaze attack. Three fails would reverse the Stone gaze back on a Medusa Witch and petrify it like in the movies.

Of course if you want bonus XP or unlock the achievement, you have to fight them without the mirror equipment.
 

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Libertad

Adventurer
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The foundations of Mytros would be beautiful, were it not for the howling winds and storm clouds hovering over it. Peering out from the hurricane is the face of Sydon, who will dramatically lock eyes with the PCs and throw down a lightning bolt spell at the slowest-moving hero before disappearing back into the clouds. Most citizens are shuttered in their homes, so establishments, side quests, etc are locked off from the party until they find a means to assuage Sydon’s wrath.

After the PCs are railroaded to the palace, they meet King Acastus and his royal court. Already things are amiss; although he’s married to Vallus the Goddess of Wisdom, he’s not eager to listen to her, and Commander Gaius is one of his advisors along with Chondrus, a tiefling priest of Lutheria. His court cannot agree on anything, each with their own ideas on how to dispel the storm. So Vallus declares that the PCs should be the tiebreaker.

The PCs have four (technically six) choices. King Acastus suggests that the PCs, mighty as they are, should be able to dispel the storm with magic and will express his disappointment if they cannot. Unfortunately nothing less than an 8th-level weather-based spell can work. But it is possible to do this; the Mithral Forge is capable of forging a Boreal Harp which can cast Control Weather as one of its spells, but as time is of the essence Acastus won’t wait around for the 4 days necessary to craft it (Mytros will be demolished by then). A Boreal Harp can be found as a reward in a random encounter, and also gained as the reward for a sidequest in the city. But given that said sidequests are locked off until the storm’s dealt with and the harp is not one-use, this feels like the writers retconned things at some point.

Gaius will declare that demolishing the Temple of the Five will appease Sydon. Destroying the temple will cause the Five Gods (save Mytros) to suffer a permanent level of exhaustion, not to mention cause a huge loss in faith and public support for said gods due to this weakness. Bella, the king’s concubine, suggests that a hecatomb, or sacrificing 100 oxen, will work. It will, but the city’s economy cannot support this unless the PCs forward 10,000 gp to pay for the farmers’ losses.

So I did the math of previous treasure in this AP, and discounting random die rolls on the DMG treasure table for monsters which would have to be very lucky to get that high, there’s nowhere near enough loot for this. As 5th Edition does not list prices for magic items save for crafting them, the best we have is a suggestion in the Xanathar’s Guide that adamantine versions of weapons and armor are worth 500 gp more than their base counterparts. There’s quite a bit of pre-forged mithral and adamantine weapons in the mines, but even if we assumed each were worth 500 GP each that’d only spot 65% of the required price.

Queen Vallus, if asked for her idea, will suggest gathering the other gods to the court where the PCs must convince them to surrender a portion of their collective divine powers in order to perform a miracle. This is the same result as destroying the Temple in terms in causing permanent exhaustion, but will bolster public support rather than erode it and requires succeeding on a single reasonable DC 16 Persuasion check.

The last choice is not really a choice at all. Chondrus suggests that Lutheria can intervene to talk some sense into Sydon, but only if the king demands seventy children of the city take up the black robes and be inducted into the Cult of Lutheria. Although Chondrus claims they’ll be treated well, everyone else knows that the goddess shouldn’t be let within 300 feet of a school and those present will vehemently argue against this, Gaius included. Vallus will threaten to kill Chondrus before she’ll allow this to happen, Oath of Peace or no.

If you’re wondering if sacrificing the boar to Sydon would work, it would...if an in-game week has not passed since said event. The boon of said sacrifice only keeps the skies clear and beautiful for that long; any more and the Lord of Storms is no longer beholden to making things easy for the PCs.

Regardless of how the PCs resolve the crisis, Sydon upholds his Lawful end of the Lawful Evil bargain and the skies clear up immediately. King Acastus will give the party a scroll containing the map to the Ultros as a reward, and encourage them to leave the city with haste. In reality the king is an incredibly arrogant man, fearful that the PCs’ exploits will overshadow his own. He also made a bargain with Lutheria to give him some metallic dragon eggs and some aging potions to rapidly grow said dragons in an attempt to restore the order of Dragonlords. This too is a secret he fears the PCs may also find out in time. The party can also meet Queen Vallus in the palace, who will vaguely warn them that her husband’s intentions are less than altruistic. Should the PCs try to meet with Icarus, Acastus’ silver dragon mount, they’ll find him to be huge and mighty but with the mind and maturity of someone just approaching adolescence.

The City of Mytros
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The oldest, largest, and most iconic city of Thylea, the history of Mytros is the history of the Five Gods and the Dragonlords. It is a city with clean streets, hillside burgs commanding great views of the surrounding land, and free healthcare where temple acolytes hand out healing magic to needy citizens as part of their duties. Even though one of its Colossi was destroyed in battle with the Kraken, the remaining Colossus of Pythor stands eternally vigilant over the harbor. Its major blight is Stygian Row, a crime-ridden slum where tieflings are ghettoized, and a thriving slave trade in minotaurs which is encouraged by the Order of Sydon. Queen Vallus hates this, but finds her attempts at abolition thwarted by her husband and various economic interests among the upper class.

Bioware Trope Alert: Main City of Sidequest Attractions: A huge portion of this chapter details the various major locations and optional subplots of the city. We have quite a few minor sidequests, but two are large enough to merit their own entries.

While in Mytros, the PCs can…

...culturally oppress some Sydon worshipers who maintain the right to sacrifice a minotaur slave. Said minotaur slave is Bullbug, a pseudo-DMPC party member the PCs can recruit for their eventual voyage during the seafaring portion of the campaign. He’s a jovial sort with a self-deprecating sense of humor.
...offer some centurion investigators or a merchant trafficking in minotaur slaves help in bringing the Lady of Coins to justice. Said Lady of Coins runs the Cult of the Snake, a thieves’ guild whose side hobby is disrupting Mytros’ peculiar institution.
...naughty word up said slaver by robbing his estate with sample stats and DCs for guards and locked doors and treasure chests.
...get into a bar brawl in the roughest tavern while investigating the Lady of Coins.
...get petitioned by either Queen Vallus or a sex worker to look into the local Cult of Lutheria by gathering evidence against their misdeeds. Freeing the kidnapped children from their temple basement will do much to delegitimize them in the eyes of the public.
...meet the brother-sister/husband-wife high priests of said cult, who will seek to buy the Horn of Balmytria off of the PCs. Otherwise they will try to ambush and kill them if they refuse. But before that, they may hire the party to take care of some satyrs and bandits who stole their wine shipment. Said satyr will make a counter-offer to the PCs to kill the cultists, and give them the Harp but smash it before giving it to them. He is kind of a dick even if he hates the Cult.
...meet a homeless philosopher in the public gardens, who can give oddly-useful advice in the form of a divination spell should the PCs win him over with free food and alcohol.
...debate some philosophers at the Academy, who challenge them with Ancient Greek paradoxes (Ship of Theseus, Achilles and the Tortoise, etc) but with setting-specific character replacements. PCs who manage to give a convincing explanation (these questions don’t have a binary yes/no solution) can get signed copies of the philosophers’ greatest works, which grant proficiency in Arcana to those who read them.
...help a young nobleman smitten with Queen Vallus to get senpai to notice him. The tables are turned when Vallus asks him to bring a mortal of unsurpassed beauty and wisdom to her audience. The nobleman chooses an appropriate PC, and after extolling their virtues he gets over Vallus and falls for them instead.
...buy actual magical items at shops. And not just consumables like potions, but actual permanent items too!


Colossus of Pythor
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The Cult of the Snake is one of the bigger subplots in this chapter, and the Lady of Coins’ secret headquarters is in the Colossus of Pythor. This is a vertical six-room mini-dungeon guarded by human thugs, minotaurs, and a pair of marble golems. Two of the rooms’ foundations for powering the Colossus serve as traps in a pinch: a series of tubes which can pump gas and vapors of various poisons into the room, and the statue’s “heart” contains a great furnace which can shoot out a jet of flame.

The Colossus’ head is home to Moxena, the Lady of Coins. The sister to the current Queen of the Amazons, she was exiled after attempting a coup when the leaders of the Island of Themis turned to worshipping Lutheria. Moxena is also a medusa, and is using her talents to gain power and resources in hopes of starting a second revolution in her island home. Her abolitionism of minotaur slaves is not entirely altruistic, for she seeks to use their gratitude as soldiers for her cause. She herself dabbles in the slave trade by selling petrified bards of no small talent to the dragon Hexia on the Island of the Dragon.

The PCs can kill or capture Moxena, but they can also make an ally of her: she knows of a legendary sword, Titansbane, upon the Amazons’ Island of Themis which can prove useful against Sydon and Lutheria’s forces.

The OlympicsGreat Games
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This is the other big sidequest in Mytros, one with some fancy rewards and bragging rights. The Great Games are a supposedly apolitical annual event where the greatest athletes from across Thylea come to win fame and glory for themselves and their respective cultures. The PCs are encouraged to participate should they show interest. In addition to fancy medals, the grand prize is a Crown of Laurels, a magic item which grants +2 to Wisdom saving throws to the attuned wearer.

The Great Games are a week-long event with one competition per day. Contestants can choose one (and only one) spellcaster to magically enhance them (and only them), and the judges are spellcasters who employ divination to ensure a fair game. The PCs will compete against eight other gladiators, who all have their own names, relevant stats, and brief descriptions of their personalities and homelands. Some interesting examples include an arrogant Aresian who has a ‘heel’ reputation in Mytros, a stylish bard with a crowd of lovestruck fans, and an aloof Amazon who is the first of her tribe to compete in the Games. The Great Games traditionally open up with an animal sacrifice, but ever since the Order of Sydon sponsored events they began sacrificing minotaur slaves in ritual combat. The PCs can totally throw a wrench in their bloodthirsty rites by offering to fight the minotaur to a non-lethal standoff, or even alongside the minotaur. If Bullbug has not been rescued or purchased, he may be the sacrificial victim and will call out to the PCs to fight him instead. Queen Vallus will honor such unorthodox suggestions, if only to piss off the Order.

You can tell that Bullbug is a bit of a fan-favorite for the writers.

The individual games include long jumping, a short-distance sprint, javelin throwing, discus throwing, wrestling, and boxing, all with their own rules and die rolls for completion. Each has a ‘trial event’ to weed out the wheat from the chaff, and the wrestling and boxing trial events involve going up against black bears named Crusher and Smasher (the latter one wears bronze-plated boxing gloves). The final competition, the Great Relay, is a five-part marathon and the highlight of the Games. Each segment has its own trials and skill checks: outrunning lions on the beach, swimming beneath a magically-frozen lake and resurfacing in holes cut in the ice, climbing up cliffs, dashing across a bed of hot coals filled with fire snakes, and running across a beach full of caged harpies whose songs can veer athletes off-course.

A lucky PC who wins first place in even one event will be approached by tavern owners to sponsor their establishments in exchange for money in the form of a bidding war.

The Ghost Ship Ultros
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But enough of the side attractions! What of the main plot? Well, King Acastus’ information is genuine, and the map will lead the PCs to the ghost ship’s current location. The bad news is that Acastus intentionally forgot to tell them of the dangers of the area. The Dead Falls are dangerous rapids whose waters are said to lead to the underworld, and the imposing cliff’s rock formations are in the shape of screaming mouths. Rock formations who can come to life and either crush people to death or push them off into the deadly surf below.

The Ultros itself is a spooky two-level ghost ship haunted by spectres. The PCs can find a journal of a crewman which elucidates on some non-public historical knowledge of the setting: Estor Arkelander was a ruthless Dragonlord who sought to reduce the native Thylean races into servitude, and he was a total Blood Knight who got off on sowing pain and fear. He also spearheaded the near-genocide of the gygan people to the protests of his bronze dragon mount, who in turn abandoned him. It was Arkelander’s actions which caused Lutheria to petition Sydon for aid and abandon his vow not to harm the settlers.* He joined her in raising an army, thus beginning the First War.

*a bit of a plot hole, as the consequences for oathbreaking by a god are far greater than if a mortal does it, as we’ll find out much later in the adventure path.

PCs exploring the ship will undertake a trippy dream sequence where the Ultros seemingly dives beneath the waves, passing by many wonders and horrors of the deep but keeping the water out. During this time they come face to face with the ghostly visage of Estor Arkelander, who promises to pass the mantle of captain to the party if they track down and kill the traitors among his crew. Only after doing so will they be released from the dreamlike state. The three crew members can be encountered elsewhere in the ship as ghosts and fought as such.

Once the PCs have done so, he will transfer ownership of the Ultros to them, but also offers them the honor of being his ‘successor.’ He words the phrasing so as to make it seem like it’s part of them becoming captain, so PCs can still refuse but get ownership of the Ultros. A PC who accepts will be possessed by him for an hour, but the consequences are longer-term. Their alignment will permanently shift to Neutral Evil, they become crueler in disposition, and have an obsessive need to become immortal. Estor Arkelander can hijack the PC’s body once per day with no saving throw, and will try to bargain for longer periods by offering various knowledge and advice to the party. If nobody accepts Estor’s offer, he’ll remain as an angry (yet harmless) ghost on the ship for the duration of its days.

Eventually, Estor's control over the hero may become permanent (which forces the character to retire as an NPC), but this should only happen if the player's behavior has become too disruptive to the rest of the party.

I’m not exactly a fan of this. Permanent changes to a character’s personality, along with the implication that this can lead to disruptive gameplay, and how the GM has free reign to foster PC on PC violence, leaves a rather bad taste in my mouth.

The Ultros will sail into the harbor of Mytros on its own, to the shock of everyone present. King Acastus will view this as a personal affront and fly in on his dragon Icarus, talking about how “we need ships and not dragons to fight the Titans” and backhandedly compliment the intent of their efforts if not the result. But the people of Mytros have grown used to seeing the king’s dragon by now and are still much more impressed by the ghost ship.

Thoughts So Far: There’s an awful lot of stuff to do in Mytros, and many of the side treks have notable rewards and alternative outcomes. The pseudo-Olympics Great Games is a killer concept, and I like how they didn’t make all the events predictable “gladiator combat” affairs. Even so, a few of the quests and encounters feel that they have a ‘strong push’ a certain way: the Boreal Harp solution to Sydon’s storm would be the kind of thing you’d find on multiple playthroughs were this a video game, and there’s little indication for how to gain an audience with the Lady of Coins without cutting your way through the Colossus beyond what the DM improvises. Given that there’s been a lot of foreshadowing that Estor Arkelander is one bad dude, I’m a bit disappointed that the adventure presumes the PCs would go along with hunting down supposedly traitorous crew members rather than alternatives like starting an undead mutiny.

Even so, the open-ended nature of Mytros, combined with the prior chapters, shows that Odyssey of the Dragonlords’ default adventure path can be played many different ways even within the context of its prewritten material.

Join us next time as we head on to the next big portion of the campaign, an open-ended seafaring island crawl in Chapters 4 & 5: Voyage of the Ultros and the Cerulean Gulf!
 
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Mikeythorn

Explorer
The false “choices” in the main quest in Mytros really annoy me. It basically reads like a railroad which pretends there are actually a bunch of alternate paths. If I were to run this for my group, I would have to change that significantly. Any suggestions that don’t also involve writing a whole bunch of new material?
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter 4 is hardly a chapter at all. It covers the initial scenes for the heroes readying themselves for the voyage, and a list of Thylea’s constellations and to which islands they’re attuned.

The PCs are presumed to have some time making preparations for their journey, but Kyrah encourages them to set sail quickly. They will not have to sail alone or on a tight budget: various citizens from prior areas in the adventure path approach to give the party farm animals and minor consumable magic items as thanks for their earlier deeds. Queen Vallus presents them with the Antikythera, a magical artifact-compass which can manipulate time and space to ensure a speedy passage between maritime destinations. The compass is attuned to the constellations in the night sky, which in turn represent the various islands off the coast of Thylea. Unfortunately a missing gear was stolen, preventing it from charting course to the more remote areas including the domains of Sydon and Lutheria. Vallus believes that Commander Gaius is responsible, and tells the party that he recently departed for the Order’s headquarters at the Island of Yonder.

So how does the Antikythera work? Well it allows a ship to sail to any attuned constellation destination in 3 days, 2 if proper wind-based magic is used (Boreal Harp, summoned air elementals, etc) or 100 gp of livestock sacrifices to Sydon are made. This time-based shortening is not for flavor: the Oath of Peace will come to its 500-year end in 60 days time when the PCs first set sail. Presuming the Uparty visits each of the 17 islands and stays less than a day on each, they’ll have a window of 9 days before the Doom of Thylea begins. This is not counting any 3-day voyages made back to the mainland.

Finding recruits is trivial for the PCs. A crew of 50 oarsmen minimum is needed to row the Ultros, but 100 sailors will sign up due to the party’s reputation alone. For named NPCs, the deities Kyrah and Pythor will come along as guidance (albeit Pythor is often too drunk to be useful) along with Versi the Oracle. But some optional followers include the satyr fanboy from the Mossy Temple, Bullbug the Minotaur, and Moxena the Lady of Coins if the PCs resolved their respective role-play interactions in a manner earning their trust.

Bioware Trope Alert: Token Evil Party Member: The Ghost of Estor Arkelander will manifest on the ship at night. Should the PCs ask him for advice regarding a dilemma, he’ll invariably suggest options that result in the most fear and bloodshed.

Epic Paths: Versi will experience a vision of a lost dragon egg and tell the Vanished One that it can be found on Fire Island. Queen Vallus will approach the Gifted One before they depart, telling them that the ancient fortress of the Dragonlords can be recovered in the Garden of Helios, but it is now under the dominion of a dragon. She will also tell the Lost One that the few remaining skilled gygan artisans can modify the Antikythera to allow a ship to sail to destinations beyond Thylea’s waters.
Estor Arkelander will tell the Lost One that he buried the treasure of the Dragonlords in the Nether Sea,* sealed in a prison housing the greatest threats and weapons of the gods. He offers to show them the way, but only if the Lost One swears a vow to allow him first pick of the treasure.

*Thylea’s Hades equivalent.

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So an interesting thing I noticed about this map. The various numbered locations are split between two chapters, but said chapter titles are misleading. Quite a few locations in Chapter 5, the Cerulean Gulf, are south of the Forgotten Sea such as the Island of Themis. Furthermore, the islands which an Antikythera with its missing gear restored are the geographical outliers (11-17) in Chapter 6, the Forgotten Sea. This confused me a bit, but mapwise it makes sense as the farther options need the missing gear.

Generic Video Game Trope Alert: Aquatic Border Patrol: If you’re wondering what’s preventing the PCs from setting sail early...well, the Ultros is a magically-reinforced ship that even Sydon cannot sink. Any other ship the PCs set sail on would be destroyed by his relentless torrential weather.

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There are 10 islands open initially to the PCs to visit as they will. Sometime after visiting a few, Sydon and Lutheria will menace the party yet again. The Lord of Storms will summon a hellish hurricane that will sink the ship unless the PCs use any clever combination of magic and skill checks at their perusal to get out.* All the while the Titan will issue his booming voice down to the Ultros, speaking of how he’ll kill all who resist him in the end. As for Lutheria, she will send the party a nightmare of their ship’s crew cannibalizing each other. PCs who fail a Wisdom saving throw will enter a violent rage and attack anyone they see for 10 rounds. Although the text mentions that it’s a great opportunity for PCs to fight each other “without guilt or hard feelings,” the relative power level of PCs in comparison to the average crewmen, and the amount of mayhem that can be inflicted in 10 combat rounds, likely means that several people are gonna die.

*or make a hefty sacrifice to him of 500 gp worth of livestock.

Island of the Golden Heart: This bountiful island is blessed with magically-fertile life. A massive tree in the center is the only place where mortals can speak with Thylea: PCs she deems worthy she can answer questions with the strength of a divination spell, and anyone stupid enough to attack the tree will get squashed by a summoned Kentimane who is a CR 29 legendary foe. PCs can hunt golden-manned animals such as a lion and ram whose fleece and fur can be valuable crafting components at the Mithral Forge. The Ram is intelligent and will let the PCs shear it if they ask nicely. Apples and olives harvested can mimic minor potions, and a pegasus can join the party’s cause as an allied mount should a good-aligned rider who has never committed an evil deed in their life respectfully approach. Which depending on how broad we’re defining ‘evil,’ may make said pegasus incredibly easy or incredibly difficult to recruit.

Island of the Chimera: This island is home to a very strong chimera (max HP per Hit Dice) who’s been preying on Thylea’s shipping trade for decades. There’s a thousand gold bounty on whoever can show proof of its death, and its lair is full of stolen treasures.

Island of the Fates: A trio of hags known as the Fates live here, weaving tapestries that foretell the destinies of all. Various monsters guard their lair, and they’re responsible for finding and giving metallic dragon eggs over to Sydon to brainwash and corrupt (and have a copper dragon egg in their possession). The hags can offer their magical services to the PCs, but in exchange they demand some utterly evil actions: kill the Oracle Versi, kidnap a baby to bring to them to turn into a hag, and/or kidnap a nymph for them to torture and eat. There’s also a tunnel leading into a huge pit overlooking the Nether Sea. Said Sea is the dominion of Lutheria, and if you’re wondering if PCs with flight (siren, pegasus, etc) can use this to circumvent a good portion of the AP...well they can, but will likely be very underleveled for dealing with the horrors in the depths.

Epic Paths: The Fates can tell the destinies of the Doomed One, the Haunted One, and the Dragonslayer. For the Doomed and Haunted Ones they explain the divine origin of their respective misfortunes. Their loom can also be used to craft one of the wish list magic items for the Doomed One, but the party must bargain with or kill the Fates in order to use it. For the Haunted One they will explain how breaking Lutheria’s crystal scythe shall free their family’s souls. For the Dragonslayer, they will tell them to seek the Sun God’s wisdom in the Garden of Helios but leave out the fact that said sun god is the dragon that brought misfortune upon them.

They may be near-omniscient, but they’re still evil.

Island of the Exiles: This is a prison colony the Mytrosian government sends its most dangerous and irredeemable criminals. The island is barren save for a few shrubs, preventing any ships from being built, and ships from Mytros occasionally sail here to deliver food rations. The islands’ 25 inhabitants are overwhelmingly evil and guilty of some rather major crimes, but one of the women is actually Acastus’ mother who was exiled here by her son for political purposes. Recently one of the inhabitants was murdered, and the exiles will call upon the PCs as a neutral party to find the culprit. Should they do so, they will be given a rare white ox that makes for 5 voyages’ worth of sacrifices for sailing, and can take on the exiles as crew members to replace any fallen sailors.

Scorpion Island: A group of centaurs living on this island suffer a peculiar curse: those who cannot find a rider to bond with when they come of age turn into giant scorpions. As a result, the tribes here are mostly made up of children and adolescents who spend most of their days partying and avoiding their unfortunate transformed companions. Aresian warrior-monks use the island as a training ground, and both they and the centaurs can tell the PCs about the Lotus Witch: a sphinx who cursed the centaurs to be such and now lives in a magical tower.

Said tower is filled with babies and toddlers, originally adults cursed to be eternally youthful by the sphinx to use as slaves in harvesting fields of lotus flowers. PCs must either kill the Lotus Witch or beat her in a game of riddles in order to undo her curses. PCs who lose against her in a fight will become children, and Pythor or one of the Five Gods will negotiate their release unless the GM wants to end the campaign then and there.

Whether by bonding with them or ending their curse, each PC can potentially gain a loyal centaur mount to ride into battle.

Epic Paths: the Lotus Witch will tell the Cursed One that the magic of their misfortune is on Typhon Island. They must dive into the volcano there in order to end it, but need an appropriate wish list magic item in order to survive the fall. The Witch possesses said item, but will only relinquish it if they answer her riddles (or kill her).

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Indigo Island: This forested isle is home to various tribes of barbarians who are the best seabound navigators in all of Thylea, but regard their talents as sacred and not to be taught to outsiders. PCs who visit can prove their mettle in mock combat with some warriors and be invited to a feast. But an evil copper dragon raised by and loyal to Sydon will disrupt the festivities. PCs who hunt down and kill the dragon can earn the gratitude of the tribes, and loot said dragon’s treasure hoard if found.

Titan’s Folly: In times when the Titans numbered a respectable pantheon, the most industrious of their number created the myrmekes. This antlike race was capable of learning even complicated concepts and magic in an astoundingly short amount of time. They used their talents to nearly take over the world, and it took the efforts of Kentimane to seal them away in a tiny island. The islands’ true nature has long been forgotten even by the gods, but is known to hold something dangerous. Titan’s Folly is covered by a transparent dome of magical force, and the native races among the Ultros’ crew will warn the PCs to stay away and forget all memory of the place. However, the PCs will gain strong dreamlike visions of some sought-after magic item being beyond the barrier, the result of the myrmekes’ telepathy.

PCs who manage to magically bypass the dome will find an island of perfectly-sculpted hills home to the myrmekes, who are more curious and hospitable than suspicious. They will ask the PCs all manner of questions about the outside world.

So, what makes myrmekes so dangerous? Well, as part of their monster description they are fast learners: just about any spell, proficiency, or physically-oriented class feature can be learned by them by merely observing its use in action for 1 round. They can then telepathically share this learned knowledge with others of their kind.

The myrmekes will monitor how the PCs get back to the Ultros, and thus replicate the means to escape themselves. For some unfathomable reason they’ll decide that conquering the world by killing off all other races is the only reasonable course of action, and in a manner of weeks will begin construction of Bronze Age-level technology and fleets of trireme ships. Said advanced myrmekes can be encountered as a warship in a future encounter, but the book says that their existential threat is beyond the scope of the campaign…

...even though the adventure path easily covers over one in-game year, which is enough for the myrmekes to exponentially grow and conquer a lot of territory. Not having material on how Thylea will change should they be released is a missed opportunity. Particularly since another colony can be encountered as prisoners in Sydon’s tower-fortress of Praxys.

Fire Island: This is a medium-sized dungeon crawl, with a lizardfolk tribe of Sydon loyalists as the main antagonist. The PCs can gain the aid of lesser tribes, including one led by a rebel lizard queen whose people originally worshiped the god in the volcano. Said volcano god is actually the sole surviving sister of Sydon and Lutheria who was trapped beneath the earth by them. The Lord of Storms has a vested interest in ensuring that the lizardfolk do not end up finding a way to free her, thus sponsoring a regime change loyal to him.

The Sydon loyalists have come upon a pair of brass dragon eggs, one of which they hatched and raised and another still unhatched (and which is the one referenced in the Vanished One’s Epic Path). There’s also a cyclops blacksmith by the name of Steros who crafts magic items for them, but can come to the PCs’ aid (and build stuff for them too) if they promise to find his father who is very likely prisoner on the Island of Themis.

Steros is a Jancan, a subrace of cyclops gifted with enhanced intelligence and skill at the forge. Although he does want to free his father from the Amazons, he also secretly hopes to betray the party and offer them to Sydon to gain the gods’ respect. The book says to role-play him like an incompetent cartoon villain, twirling his mustache and announcing his evil plans within earshot of the PCs when he thinks nobody’s listening.

This guy...is not gonna last long in most gaming groups.

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Island of Yonder: The headquarters of the Order of Sydon took advantage of this islands’ natural features for defensive purposes. The soldiers converted the ruins of a gygan library into a fortress and living space, and an inland bay leading to a natural pass in a ring of mountains is the only land-based route to it that doesn’t involve a treacherous climb. Commander Gaius and his silver dragon mount are here by the time the PCs arrive, and he’s in charge of a small army of human soldiers, spellcasters, gygans, harpies, a few guardian golems, and gorgons* who serve as mounts. It goes without saying that they’re hostile to visiting PCs, meaning that either stealth or combat is necessary to retrieve the Antikythera’s missing gear and any other treasures within.

*the metal bull kind, not the medusa kind.

Unlike the inhabitants of previous dungeons, the Order are made up of hardened soldiers and act the part. The fey in the Mossy Temple were drunk and overconfident, the Mithral Mines’ troglodytes left portions of the dungeon untouched due to the presence of other monsters, and Moxena’s minions in the Colossus were guardians of a linear ascent. Every room has a list of differences depending on whether the complex is at rest or on alert, and if the PCs manage to retreat or escape then Gaius will attack their ship with his dragon mount and attempt to kill everyone onboard in order to deny the party a naval retreat.

Beyond the typical gold and magic items, other treasures here are of a more intangible nature. The ruins’ library contains much in the way of forgotten lore, and between that and Gaius’ personal notes can compile information on the dragons who disappeared during the First War. Several theories that they transformed into something else in order to hide. There’s also information regarding much of Thylea’s history beyond public knowledge, which is referenced in an Appendix of its own that I’ll cover later.

In order to retrieve the Antikythera’s missing gear,* the party must deal with its current keeper: Chondrus, the high priest of Lutheria. He’s a wizard of no small skill specializing in AoE damaging spells and some defensive ones like Wall of Force and Stoneskin. He’ll try to bargain for his life if it seems he won’t win, promising to help guide them to his goddess’ realm in the Nether Sea. He will turn on them at the next convenient opportunity. Chondrus has a magical bronze bowl which allows for two-way scrying communication with a yugoloth** in the Nether Sea, who is oddly talkative to any PCs with questions.

*and the book calls out that the DM should ensure the PCs don’t miss it.

**funnily enough these monsters are not OGL. As to why WotC hasn’t slapped a Cease & Desist on Arcanum Studios, well…they’re now actually developing video games for them!

Epic Paths: Chondrus has one of the Dragonslayer’s wish list magic items. He will give it up voluntarily if the PCs offer to spare him, but as usual they can make the smart choice and kill him for it instead.

As the Antikythera’s location is known island-wise to the party before they set sail, it’s quite possible that many gaming groups may heed Queen Vallus’ advice and head to Yonder ASAP. While they’ll likely visit other islands to fulfill their Epic Paths, the 60 day countdown and 3 day interim periods may encourage parties to skip over much of the seabound islands. But they’ll likely be underleveled if they do this too much, which the experience and treasure for island exploration is meant to discourage. But this works more from a metagame perspective, as unless the party heard about a particular island’s features elsewhere they very well may pass it up if they don’t know the risk/reward factor.

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Island of Themis: The Island of the Amazons is the largest landmass off Thylea’s mainland. Its position is subtropical and includes animals unseen elsewhere in the region such as giraffes, rhinos, and hyenas. Most of Themis’ land is open plains, and the Amazon tribes travel across it in semi-nomadic bands fighting each other in ritual combat to determine land rights and in settling disputes. Every Amazon is trained in the arts of war from an early age alongside another warrior who becomes their ‘lifemate.’ They’re made up of various races both settler and native, and their martial prowess is famous throughout the rest of Thylea.

If Moxena is part of the crew she will highly encourage the PCs to take her during their foray. Same for Steros, who wishes to find his imprisoned father.

Thirteen years ago the Amazonian government underwent a violent coup as Queen Thesilea seized the throne in the name of Lutheria. She and her two sisters wear magical platinum helmets which disguise their true natures as medusae, and the next most legitimate heirs to the throne have been imprisoned in their secret dungeon, or exiled in the case of Moxena. PCs have the chance to sense things are amiss via some encounters on the island, including a roving band of maenads, goatlings, and pervy men. They’re drinking, gambling, and having sex in a wild party, loudly announcing that the island is part of Lutheria’s domain now. Bands of Amazon warriors encountered separately will be hostile unless the party is all-female, believing them spies. Otherwise they’re escorted to have an audience with their queen

Men are permitted on the island only under strict supervision and in small numbers for the purposes of procreation and then sent their way, although in some cases male prisoners of war from elsewhere are kept as sex slaves. Queen Thesilea/the writers decided that they could be EVEN EDGIER and began construction of an underwater temple where young boys are raised and brainwashed to view themselves as sacred sons of Lutheria to be used as eventual breeding stock. But on their eighteenth birthday they’re killed via petrification and serve as decorative statues.

Irregardless of the terrible nature of sexual slavery, having a strict cut-off point of 18 makes it seem less like they’re being productive in keeping up their numbers and more that Queen Thesilea has a thing for underage boys.

The Queen’s lair is in a sacred temple which also serves as Themis’ only prison. It is a multi-level dungeon crawl descent beneath the surface, guarded only by the Queen’s most trusted hand-picked Amazons so others encountered on the island cannot tell the party its specifics. The complex has a mixture of normal Amazon warriors, their war-trained basilisk and stimfay companions, and goatlings as major opposition. Places of interest here include a set of natural tunnels guarded by a Hydra, who ate the sword Titansbane after Queen Thesilea tossed it out; the cyclops prisoner Bront, who can tell the PCs the current location of said sword and will be eager to return to Fire Island because the lizardfolk there treated him better; and a magically soundless prison cell containing Darien, the legitimate heir to the Amazon throne. She was kept alive for 13 years as part of an oath by the Queen not to harm the children of the losing side, and is eager to help the PCs in taking revenge against the usurpers. There’s two squicky encounters where the PCs can walk in on Amazons and goatlings having sex with their brainwashed male slaves, including one where one of the medusa rulers seems too preoccupied to attend to a crying baby in a cradle in the same room...which is actually a goatling in disguise, thank God.

It is possible that the PCs can determine who next sits on the throne after killing the Queen. Darien, an Amazon PC, and Moxena are the likeliest candidates, although Moxena will do everything she can to undermine Darien if she’s chosen. If the PCs treated Moxena poorly overall, then she’ll order the Amazons to slay the party if she becomes queen.

Epic Paths: Queen Thesilea carries the Haunted One’s other wish list magic item containing their family’s memories. The item will whisper that the Fates know of how to free the rest of their kin...which may be superfluous if the party dealt with the Fates before coming to Themis.

Thoughts So Far: I love the concept of an island-hopping sandbox with enough adventure hooks to encourage some exploration between them. Only a few qualify as true adventures/dungeon crawls, with most of them being one to three encounters at most. But I feel that they’re overall the right length so as to prevent the island-crawl from feeling too long. I do feel that the shorter island encounters may produce unbalanced results in favor of long rest-focused classes, given that by the time you complete a shorter island like Golden Heart or Chimera you’ll have 2-3 days (and one sea-based encounter) before stepping foot on to the next island.

There are a few weak points, namely what happens if the PCs screw up big time and lose either the Ultros proper (Sydon sinks it) or their crew numbers get too low (Gaius and his dragon killing the crew). Given that it’s possible at least one PC may have a Divine Boon to rescue them from certain death, the adventure path has no suggestions on how to resume back on trail for lone survivor PCs. There’s also the fact that the PCs can get an awful lot of DMPC allies fighting on their side which may unbalance encounters. The pegasus mount is a cool concept, but the centaur mounts may potentially double the party number.

The Island of Themis is one that requires the most work: there’s a fair chance that the party will have anywhere from 3 to 7 DMPC allies fighting alongside them for the dungeon crawl. The creepy sex stuff, combined with the possibility of an all-women party bypassing much of the dungeon (the other Amazons revolt and converge on the temple-prison once the medusae are killed) are other things that will have to be rekindled for most gaming groups.

Join us next time as we move on to Thylea’s far reaches in Chapter 6: the Forgotten Sea!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
The false “choices” in the main quest in Mytros really annoy me. It basically reads like a railroad which pretends there are actually a bunch of alternate paths. If I were to run this for my group, I would have to change that significantly. Any suggestions that don’t also involve writing a whole bunch of new material?

One idea may to be reduce the hecatomb's cost to something more reasonable: 3,500-4,000 gold pieces is a better ballpark estimate, and also letting the PCs sell their magic items they don't need for several hundred to a thousand gold per one. That way the sacrifice is still a notable drain on the party's resources.

Another idea may be to have word get out about the satyr with the Boreal Harp, but Acastus' hoplites are having trouble finding them. Furthermore, the Cult of Lutheria may be hunting the satyr down regarding the wine shipment, so it becomes a race against time.
 
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Mikeythorn

Explorer
One idea may to be reduce the hecatomb's cost to something more reasonable: 3,500-4,000 gold pieces is a better ballpark estimate, and also letting the PCs sell their magic items they don't need for several hundred to a thousand gold per one. That way the sacrifice is still a notable drain on the party's resources.

Another idea may be to have word get out about the satyr with the Boreal Harp, but Acastus' hoplites are having trouble finding them. Furthermore, the Cult of Lutheria may be hunting the satyr down regarding the wine shipment, so it becomes a race against time.
I really like that second idea. Thanks!
 


gyor

Legend
What if the PCs face a coven of medusaes witches, wouldn't they be power-broken as enemy bosses?

In the past I tried to imagine Amazons as a new PC race, using Wonder Woman's homeland, Themyscira or Paradise island as source of inspiration, but also a new and wicked version, based in the classic mythology about the island of Lemnos, ruled by the queen Hypsipyle, and with some pieces of the lore of the Honored Matres from Frank Herbert's Dunge saga, whose origin is... let's say it is a good example of former slaves becoming slavers. These "wicked Amazons" have got plant-like traits because to breed they use the "lotophagues", the male version of dryads, tainted by a mind-controlling spore to be used as almost-zombi slaves (I am thinking about to use the name Quercusian).

Interesting to note, Lemnos is the Holiest place to Hephaestus, because it's where he landed after he was thrown out of mount Olypmpus. His blood mixed with the sand, so the holy sand of Lemnos had healing properties.

Lemnos not only worshipped Hepheastus, they had a Mystery Cult that worshipped his children with the local Goddess of the Island.
 

pukunui

Legend
I hope they do a sequel book to this based upon the Dionysiaca the way Odyssey of the Dragonlord is inspired by the Odyssey and Illiad.

It's about the invasion of India by Greek Gods and Mythological Creatures, where they go up against East Indian Gods. The Ancient Epic Poem is as big as the Odyssey and Illiad combined, but not as old.

Dionysiaca - Wikipedia
It seems unlikely we’ll get a sequel given that WotC hired them to work on a new video game.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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While there’s technically seven new locations the missing gear unlocks, two of them are detailed as chapters in their own right: Sydon’s tower of Praxys, and Charybdis whose abyssal maw serves as a portal to the Nether Sea. The wide open oceans extend over a thousand miles around Thylea in all directions, which is where Sydon’s power is strongest. Few sailors dare go farther and risk the sea god’s wrath. The Lord of Storms’ presence is felt during voyages to and from the islands in this chapter, with powerful waves and frequent rain storms that never seem to end.

Bioware Trope Alert: Mobile Base of Operations: A big thank you to Weiley31 of EN World for pointing out one I somehow bypassed. In the Star Wars and Mass Effect series, you had a starship which was used to sail between planets. Your various allies and party members lived on it when not going on missions with you, and who you can talk with to pass the time. In some cases you had to defend said starship from attacks by aliens, space pirates, and other such threats. You also did not get said starships at the beginning, instead having to earn their use after completing a quest in the main plot.

Aerie of the Roc: By far the shortest entry in a relatively short chapter, this pillar-like island sports a roc’s nest on top. The mighty bird is rarely home, flying across the land to abduct food to feed to its hatchlings. The nest itself is home to six baby rocs who are dangerous in their own right, with treasure randomly-generated from the DMG table to PCs who search through the nest for the birds’ prior victims.

The Garden of Helios: This verdant island is a sheer plateau with no natural harbor, forcing the party to fly or climb in order to reach its surface. About 100 cyclops live simple lives herding elephants on the island, overseen by a self-proclaimed Sun God known as Helios. He’s made a deal with Sydon to turn the cyclops into soldiers for the eventual war, but Helios is regretting this decision as he’s come to view the cyclops as his own children.

Helios is in fact a gold dragon polymorphed into human form, and unlike others of his kind is of evil alignment. He’ll be courteous to visiting PCs, inviting them to dinner at his castle before growing bored of their conversation and deciding to have them for dinner. As this is a violation of Guest Hospitality, the Furies will dispatch three erinyes to fight alongside the party and take him to the Island of Oathbreakers unless the PCs kill him quickly enough.

Amusingly the text discusses how Helios is in fact a false god, using a magical flying chariot in his treasure hoard to add to the illusion. But in the Introduction chapter we see him listed as a god who can grant the Wealth domain to Clerics. The book never elaborates on how he’s able to do this.

Epic Path: Helios’ treasure hoard contains Daern’s Instant Fortress, which is what the Order of Dragonlords used as a mobile base of operations. Appropriately enough it has dragon-themed artwork and motifs in its construction.

This is also the “endgame” portion of the Dragonslayer’s quest. Helios will gleefully tell said PC of how a prophecy foretold that someone among the PC’s village would kill them. He focuses all of his attacks on the Dragonslayer during the battle.

Island of the Dragon: This tropical island is covered in thick jungle and lagoons. The green dragon Hexia is its uncontested ruler, and several tribes of elves live in fear of her. The dragon’s nature-themed spells turn the very wildlife into her spies, and unless the PCs take pains to mask their every move she will soon learn of the Ultros’ docking. She used to be one of Pythor’s lovers, but grew jealous that she could not have him to herself and so killed many of his trysts over the years. While the PCs are exploring the island, she’ll kidnap Pythor to take back to her cave.

The Kraken also makes its lair in a cave deep beneath the island and is home to many treasures. PCs can find an Orb of Dragonkind, 1 million gold pieces worth of minable silver, and randomly-determined DMG loot from one of the higher tables (CR 11 to 16), but there’s a greater chance the Kraken will return the longer the PCs linger. The pressure this deep is so great that only magic such as Freedom of Movement or dive suits built by the God of the Forge can protect against constant bludgeoning damage.

Epic Paths: This is the Demi-God’s ‘endgame’ quest for the purposes of gaining the Divine Blessing, although thematically their plot truly comes to an end when they save Thylea and/or become the new God of War. Their mother is a prisoner in the cave, who only managed to survive by entertaining Hexia with stores that appeal to her ego. The Demi-God’s mother knows some details of all the other islands in the Forgotten Sea, and implores the PC to “succeed where their father failed and save Thylea from the Titans.”

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Typhon, the Maw: This desolate volcanic island has jagged rock surrounding its shores, and sailors rightly avoid it for its reputation of being the original home of many of the world’s monsters. A volcano known as the Maw is the central feature, and in order to get there the PCs must pass through several monster-filled caves. Most of said monsters are fiends and nothing special, although one encounter is a very blatant case of the writers being Horny on Main:

TW: Sexual Assault

Moans and screams can be heard from within this cave mouth, growing louder as you move inside.

After a few minutes of walking, you come to a large, dimly-lit cavern. There, a man with the legs of a goat and great black curved horns reclines on a rocky throne. In his hands he holds an ornate gold scepter, which he fondles as he gazes at the spectacle at his feet: a wine-soaked bacchanal of revelers indulging their carnal passions.

The scepter-bearing satyr is actually an incubus using a Rod of Rulership to force captives to have sex with each other and to fight the PCs if they try to put a stop to things. Said people are quite aware that they’re being violated; if the mental hold is broken, or they’re freed from the cages they’re kept in when the incubus is away, they will help the PCs take revenge against the incubus.

The Maw itself is a platform overlooking a deep, deep fall into the volcano’s heart. There’s a portal to Hades beneath the lava, and those who survive its deadly heat will be sucked into this dread realm. Whispers from innumerable souls fill the Maw, and PCs who manage to persist for 4 rounds by making several Wisdom saves to avoid insanity gain a randomly-determined Charm or Blessing from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Epic Paths: This is the endgame for the Cursed One’s quest. Using the magic item from the Lotus Witch to guard against the volcano’s damage, they leap into the Maw and emerge in Hades. There they meet the ancestor responsible for their family curse, watched over by Cerberus who explains that killing them is the only way to end the curse. A PC who follows through with this ends the curse on themselves and the rest of their family/tribe/etc, awakening back on Typhon Island.

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Island of Time: Everything gets trippy as the PCs approach this island. The sky above rapidly cycles between night and day, although no time is passing in the wider world beyond. The stars in the night sky wink out of existence while others take their place just as rapidly, and those exploring the island experience several fugue states where they experience encounters as a series of montage events. The Island is the home of sphinxes, who have a special relationship with the concept of time in this setting. An androsphinx rules the island, and will roar once for every encounter area the PCs visit. By the third roar they are no longer welcome on the island and he will arrive to fight them; the warning roars are explained by a gynosphinx resident, so the PCs know they have a limit.

While here, the PCs can find a treasure vault containing Arrows of Empyrean* Slaying which are keyed to be effective against gods, Titans, and their children. A dinner party of long-haired old figures who’ve been here for eternity and can only be awakened by the androsphinx. There’s also a telescope which shows the future of the City of Mytros by a magnitude of ten each time it’s viewed, showing a world less familiar and more alien every time until it goes dark by a million years.

*Empyreans in Odyssey are different than their Monster Manual counterparts. Their alignment can differ more, they are explicitly the children of a god, and have use of said parent’s divine Domain.

Should the PCs risk the androsphinx’s wrath, he’ll teleport them to the Far Realm, an alien expanse of gigantic stretched faces making up the landscape while a black moon in the sky bleeds waterfalls of blood. The sphinx will spare the PCs should they answer one correct riddle per party member if they lose or surrender, and invite them to the dinner party where they gain the benefits of a Heroes’ Feast.

Thoughts So Far: This was a pretty short section, although it’s quite clear that the locations are meant to serve as endgames for several Epic Paths. I feel that Helios’ actions in violating guest hospitality are a bit too stupid for what should be a PC’s archenemy, and unlike other villains or notable NPCs they don’t really have prior interactions with the party to build a kind of proper relationship. I really liked the ambient creepiness of the Island of Time, but I felt that the Island of Typhon and its Cursed One resolution to be underwhelming. To say nothing of the incubus’ magically-coerced orgy.

Join us next time as we sail into Charybdis’ maw and enter the Nether Sea!
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Continuing our nautical chapter themes, the Nether Sea is one of the two realms of the titans who the PCs must visit in order to avert the Doom of Thylea. It is accessed via Charybdis, who much like in the mythological source material is a giant whirlpool. The one of this setting is in fact a portal kept open by two of Kentimane’s hands, and the mixing of the two oceans is what results in the whirlpool. A ship which ends up in it will sink, but instead of a watery grave will spin down to what very well looks like a subterranean ocean.

The Nether Sea is in perpetual night, and has its own pseudo-sky and constellations which are mithril veins in the cavernous ceiling. The waters are highly acidic and can quickly eat through the hull of most ships (but the Ultros’ is highly resistant), and those who become submerged or drink the water end up having their very forms changed. There’s a d100 table with a list of effects, and the durations get longer the more times one is exposed to the waters; you may get lucky and turn into an elemental, treant, or merely get an increased ability score, but at worst you may turn into a statue or lighter-than-air gas. Scattered through the plane are iron prison cubes impenetrable even to the efforts of the gods, holding unknown monsters from the world’s earliest days. Massive evil-aligned whale-like things swim about and ignore the party unless attacked. These monsters have no names, for their existence is unknown to the mortal world. I actually like this touch of unknown horrors.

The Nether Sea is vast, but the adventure details 7 places of note. There’s a Charybdis-clone which can shoot the Ultros back up into the air so the PCs can leave, and the River Lethe pours from a high-above tunnel in the form of a rainstorm. An island containing Lutheria’s petrified titan siblings can tell the PCs of their sister’s weaknesses, where and how to find her, and the properties of the Nether Sea as a plane of existence. The Island of the Oathbreakers is a prison managed by yugoloths and erinyes devils, and one of the prisoners can give both similar and new information as the titans.

Epic Paths: One of the prison cubes has already fallen and broke apart. It once housed the Kraken, but now it’s home to Hezzebal, a former brass mount of a Dragonlord driven insane from his time in this forlorn realm. He blames the Vanished One for being left behind, and will treat the PCs as an enemy unless they magically heal his shattered mind. The fabled treasure hoard of the Dragonlords is here, and the Lost One can find one of their wish list magic items among the loot. Estor will claim the Xiphos of Slaughter as part of the oath, a cursed item which drives the user murderously insane. Which is a good deal as such a mentality is superfluous when it comes to the wicked ghost.

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Prison of the Tarrasque: The only other cube the PCs can infiltrate is a mini-dungeon which houses perhaps one of the most infamous entries in the Monster Manual. An impossibly slow sand hourglass hangs above the cube, counting down to 300 years until the cubes open and the beast and rest of its kin are free to terrorize Thylea once more.

Bioware Trope Alert: Time-Sensitive Unsealed Evil: The cubes unlock early during the final chapter of the adventure path. Additionally, the overall concept of these monsters is not unlike the Old Gods of Dragon Age Origins. Said beings are dragons corrupted by Darkspawn blood who slumber deep beneath the earth and rise every few generations to make war upon the surface. Mass Effect’s Reapers are the same in that they lair in the dark reaches of space before coming to destroy galactic civilization every 50,000 years or so.

The dungeon is a one-level, 12 room jaunt, and all of its inhabitants are geared towards the care and feeding of the tarrasque. Golems forged out of primordial clay act as stewards and caretakers, feeding and breeding a pair of chained purple worms for their larvae. Said grubs are thrown off a bridge into a massive chamber full of thousands of the squirming things. An ultraloth is the cube’s ‘warden,’ tasked with guarding the tarrasque as part of an oath with Lutheria. He has no love for the god and will offer to show them how to find the goddess by awakening the tarrasque which sleeps at the bottom of a deep pit in the cube. A secret he will share if the party swears an oath to kill the goddess and bring back her crystal scythe to him. Fortunately by ‘awaken’ he means merely raising it from its slumber as opposed to freeing it: the beast will angrily ram against the cube’s sides, attracting Lutheria’s attention and summoning her barge into nearby waters.

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Hypnos, the Throne of Dreams: Lutheria’s residence of choice is a garden-barge towed by her enslaved sibling Talieus, who confusingly shares the same name as one of Sydon’s sons encountered in Praxys. His eyes and mouth are sewn shut by indestructible thread, but the sword Titansbane can cut through them. This frees him from service, and he gives the party a hearty thanks by leaving Lutheria’s base of operations high, dry, and immobile. The barge’s magic and floral scents create a dreamlike sensation of those who board: the PCs will lose their overall sense of time and distance.

Bioware Trope Alert: Impassive Enemies: The barge’s inhabitants act irrationally and do not notice or react to fights and other disturbances outside their rooms no matter how loud things get.

A fair portion of enemy monsters have deception, fey, and shapechanging themes. Jackalweres and lamia are the most common monsters and take various forms: beautiful people who attend who tempt the party with sleep-inducing drugs,* children who seem eager to show them a gallery of strange art and treasure, and drooling madmen who attack if the PCs try to steal any treasure as but a few examples. The barge’s armory is full of cursed weapons and armor forged by Sydon, their magic wrought from Lutheria’s own mind in a failed attempt to cure her insanity. The equipment causes the goddess to gain disadvantage on attack rolls and/or suffer the Confusion spell effect when she attacks those bearing such an item. Even better, the equipment will immediately be rid of their curses if this happens during combat.

*they won’t kill sleeping PCs. They will bind them in the kitchen quarters to later cook them alive.

Lutheria herself holds court in the very last, very large room. A group of goatlings along with a pair of lamia and satyr minstrels* are drinking and partying. The PCs are being judged by the goddess as soon as they set foot here, and if they piss her off too much she’ll abandon any attempts at mercy, negotiation, or chatter and attempt to kill the party. It is possible to bargain with Lutheria and renew the Oath of Peace, although the adventure path at large leans heavily in favor of going Kratos on her ass given that her demands are both unpalatable and create a minor plot hole: in the very next chapter, she ends up attacking Mytros despite this explicitly being forbidden, thereby making her an oathbreaker.

*like satyrs, but with some bardic abilities.

Editing Retcon: I made a bit of a mistake in regards to the Nether Sea chapter. Lutheria will not go on her rape and murder spree in Mytros if the PCs swore Oaths of Service to her as part of the Oath of Peace bargain. Which makes what I thought was a major plothole less of one, although there’s still the issue of what happens if she’s called out when cheating at Twenty Squares.

What are the 3 things that change Lutheria’s reaction one way or the other? First, choosing to join in or refuse the attendant drunken party (which will deal psychic damage until a Wisdom save is made); laughing or not laughing, however insincerely, at Lutheria’s terrible comedy routine where she only knows jokes about torturing children; and finally, challenging her to a game of Twenty Squares in which the Three Furies will act as neutral judges.

Twenty Squares is a very popular fictional board game of strategy and skill, and the boards are magically enchanted to make players honorbound to the conditions set should a player win or lose. The PCs must be the ones to request the game, and part of the game’s rules means that the challenged person sets the terms of winning/losing. Lutheria summons seven crew members along with seven of her goatlings, where the losers’ side will die at the hands of her crystal scythe.

Twenty Squares has no fancy mini-game rules. It is a series of seven opposed skill checks where the first person to roll higher in four of them wins the game. Each check is a specific skill in order, with a focus on strategy-minded and social ones such as Deception, History, Insight, etc. Lutheria, being whatever the womanly equivalent of an immature manchild is, cannot stand the thought of losing and will resort to cheating by spending one of her Legendary Resistances* to automatically win a check. This is a weakness the PCs can learn on the Island of Oathbreakers. It says that the PCs can catch Lutheria cheating with a high enough Perception check, but does not explain how/if the Furies punish her if caught red-handed. Which, given that Twenty Squares’ rules has magical foundations, begs the question of to what extent cheating counts as oathbreaking.

*A common 5th Edition “boss battle” ability where they can automatically succeed on a saving throw should they fail it.

Renewing the Oath of Peace: The only terms Lutheria agrees to are:

1. The party as a whole must swear an indefinite Oath of Service to her where she can ask them to do anything for the rest of their lives upon pain of death (Geas). This will not be enforced until the PCs render Sydon dead or defanged of being a threat.
2. She will promise not to harm the mortal cities of Thylea, with the implication that smaller settlements will receive no such protection.
3. Lutheria’s temples will remain standing and receive worship and sacrifices. The book says that this will be a continuation of the status quo in regards to her faith and its activities.
4. As Sydon is not present, renewing the Oath here will not ward off the Lord of Storms’ wrath. But she will not aid her brother nor hinder the party in opposing him and his Order.

No halfway-reasonable gaming group is going to find this satisfactory. Not only does it allow for Lutheria to make any number of demands on the PCs, it will not bring peace to Thylea. Her brother Sydon is still a threat, one which she is not obligated to commit any resources on her part in fighting. Furthermore, the promise not to attack Thylea’s cities rings hollow; even discounting the many smaller settlements, Lutheria’s cult is very much a “rot from within” type of cult and doesn't have standing armies. One could argue that individual acts of her worshipers (like the cult in Mytros) can violate this, but the mention of continuing the status quo makes it sound like the cult is going to keep being sex pests, murdering children, and transforming teenage girls into monsters (not discounting when she breaks this part of the deal in the chapter of Mytros’ invasion). Furthermore, she will not budge on any issues, no matter how much the PCs got on her good side.

Compounding things, the Doomed and Haunted One’s backgrounds cannot be resolved unless the PCs kill Lutheria, and she has no desire to reverse their ill fortunes.

So what if the PCs end up in combat with Lutheria? Well, it’s going to be a very difficult battle. They should be around 10th to 12th level at this point in the campaign unless they skipped most of the islands, but the goddess herself is a Challenge Rating 23 powerhouse with some impressive stats. She has advantage on saves vs all forms of magical abilities (not just spells), and her lowest saving throw is +5 Dexterity (the rest are in the double-digits). She has 3 legendary actions, and can spend 2 of them to afflict Confusion or dealing 6d6 necrotic damage to a target on a failed Wisdom or Constitution save respectively. Her offensive spells include a mixture of some debilitating options such as at-will Blight and Hideous Laughter, and 1/day Finger of Death, Irresistible Dance, and Animal Shapes among less directly offensive options.

Fortunately the PCs have a few advantages. In addition to the above cursed equipment and draining her legendary saves, she will not immediately take action for 1 round and order her minions to attack the party first. Her servants all have the poisoned condition from their bacchanal and thus have disadvantage on attacks and ability/skill checks. Furthermore, a few of her spells are utility effects which won’t be of immediate use such as Pass Without Trace, Dreams (1 minute casting time), Mirage Arcana (10 minute casting time), and Project Image (which may grant her remote sensing but her Truesight makes this limited in effect). She can cast Animal Shapes which can buff the goatlings into something fiercer, although as it’s concentration that can limit her ability to drop Hideous Laughter and Irresistible Dance. Besides a natural flight speed and her 180 foot Legendary Action Confusion, she doesn’t have any good long-range means of attacking long-range or mobile attack opponents. A canny party might be able to reliably remain out of her range. Scorpion Island centaurs, the pegasus, and Hezzebal the dragon* can all make for reliable allies at this point in the campaign.

*who has 3 permanent levels of exhaustion once cured (disadvantage on pretty much every d20 roll and half speed), but is still a formidable dragon.

Epic Paths: Lutheria will waste an additional round of combat laughing at the Doomed One as she recalls how she made their life a living hell. In the event that the Haunted One is present, she will become fearful of what he represents and focus all of her attacks on them to the exclusion of any other threats.

Much Ado About Oathbreaking: I’ve been going on in the past of how breaking an oath is a much bigger deal for the gods than mortals. And since I’ve been talking about it quite a bit, I may as well spill the beans on what happens. A deity who breaks a sworn oath dissolves out of existence, their form turning into grain-like motes before disappearing entirely. The process is not instantaneous, but it takes effect quickly and manifests in a matter of rounds. This is in fact how Lutheria meets her end at the conclusion of the Adventure Path when she goes crazy enough to try and destroy all of existence. The specifics are that she promises to help some risen empyrean former gods in destroying the PCs, but instead lets them die at the party’s hands so as to fuel a Sphere of Annihilation. Her current actions in this chapter surely beg the question of what makes the time in the Nether Sea different than in the grand finale when she goes back on her word with another group.

Thoughts So Far: The Nether Sea is cool in concept and I adore its creepy Primordial Horrors of the Deep theme. The various means of finding out Lutheria’s weaknesses and follies are great as well, allowing for the party a chance at adequate preparation against what may very well be one of their most difficult fights so far in the adventure path.

The chapter’s weak points revolved around Lutheria herself, be it her plot hole-inducing actions or the sheer one sided nature of her terms for renewing the Oath of Peace. It is the most transparently-unfair Deal with the Devil scenario I’ve seen in a D&D adventure, and that’s saying a lot. Even discounting the fact that it doesn’t stop Sydon, I imagine that precious few players will want to willingly bind themselves for life to a Chaotic Evil Dionysus. Although she is a literal goddess, it seems unreasonable to make her encounter so wildly out of bounds for the average party level when combat against her is such a likely scenario and all but mandatory for 2 out of the 8 Epic Paths.

Join us next time as we climb Praxys, Sydon’s Tower of Power!
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Praxys is the tallest building in Thylea, although we don’t get an actual number. The adamantine doors at the front entrance are 40 feet tall, and judging by this outer tower map it looks to be over 400 feet tall by my ballpark estimate. Or about 60 feet less if we discount the giant shining orb on top.

One does not simply sail to Praxys: the seas are perpetually stormy, and the waters seem to have a mind of their own as the ships of his followers are seemingly unhindered. In fact, the PCs will see 30 warships departing from the Tower, heading in the direction of Mytros. They will not attack the party unless provoked, but there are literally hundreds of enemies between them and given 5th Edition’s bounded accuracy a straight-up fight will not work for most builds.

Sydon’s tower is a 37-room, 8 level dungeon; 9 if we count the lighthouse orb containing an intelligent star enslaved by Sydon. Much like the Island of Yonder, the inhabitants of Praxys have proper military training and there’s a 2-page chart of the make-up and composition of rooms based on different levels of ‘alert’ status. Virtually every room has an entry explaining what NPCs will do in the event that they become aware of infiltration or assault. The party has different means of gaining access to the tower, although Sydon has contingencies for most things possessed by mid-level adventuring parties and conventional armies. The front gate is guarded by cyclops artillerists operating ballista, and the door itself is made out of adamantine and can only be opened either by unbarring the other side or 200 combined Strength. A group of griffons and harpies fly around the towers’ upper levels on the lookout for aerial assaults, while the pipes and plumbing system draining out into the sea has merrow operators. Last but not least, every room of the tower has a permanent Forbiddance spell which blocks teleportation and ethereal travel into or out of Praxys. The monsters are varied, ranging from the martial and giantish races being the most common to less obvious choices such as a cerberus hound, an euryale medusa, and several of Sydon’s empyrean children.

This makes for a dramatically different contrast than Lutheria’s barge, and is even remarked upon by Kyrah and other knowledgeable NPCs in the adventure path who suggest visiting the Nether Sea first for this very reason. The Lady of Dreams is dangerous, but her immaturity and hedonism make for poor organization. The Lord of Storms, on the other hand, is very much the exemplary Lawful Evil Overlord and as such has a much more difficult dungeon.

I’m not going to go over every room, but instead will cover some of the more interesting chambers and subplots:

1. A tribe of myrmekes whose queen is taken hostage by Sydon. They are forced to use their amazing talents to build tools of war, and may help the PCs assault the citadel if their queen is freed.
2. A satyr cook who has had it up to here with Sydon’s dysfunctional family and offers to smuggle the PCs up several levels by hiding them in baked bread loaves sized for Huge creatures.
3. The Heavens, a level connected to the extraplanar realm of Elysium which feels like a veritable paradise. Here Sydon can reward his still-living followers who served him well, while also being able to call upon his spiritual servants from said plane as reinforcements.
4. Nephele, a silver dragon prisoner who is the magical clone of Balmytria, famed heroine of the First War. She is kept as breeding stock to produce dragon eggs for Sydon’s forces, and hates the Lord of Storms so much she’ll be happy to fight Sydon if freed. But only Sydon, she won’t intervene in other fights barring the proper Epic Path.
5. A sparring ground and arena with remote-activated traps and an audience chamber protected by a Wall of Force. One of Sydon’s sons will test the PCs by releasing 3 metallic dragon broodmares to fight the party.
6. A throne room with a sinisterly-appropriate round table whose surface is an accurate map of the Thylean continent and which Sydon is attuned to so he can teleport anywhere accurately on said continent and its seas. There’s a nearby treasure vault containing Sydon’s greatest trophies and possessions, including the original signed copy of the Oath of Peace...which for some reason none of the Five Gods have a copy of. And no, the book does not provide a handout or specifics of said Oath.
7. A telescope-scrying chamber that is the home of the 3 Furies. Oddly enough they’re normal erinyes, but neutral instead of evil. They also are not fond of Sydon and will offer the PCs advice on how to sabotage his plans and/or tower in exchange for 1 magic item per helpful hint.
8. Praxys’ very top, whose giant magical orb holds an imprisoned star which gives off great heat and light. The PCs can free it from its bondage by reuniting it with one of its kin, who can conveniently be found in a pool-portal to the Astral Plane in one of Praxys’ upper level rooms. When reunited (the stars are Medium size, not IRL size) the imprisoned star will break free in a great burst of light, causing the rest of the tower to violently shudder and start collapsing. Needless to say this is one of the 3 options which will summon Sydon to the dungeon to confront the PCs, the other 2 being killing the Cerberus hound or breaking into his treasure vault.

Generic Video Game Trope Alert: Load-Bearing Boss: It is traditional to have a boss battle where the conclusion results in the dungeon violently collapsing, exploding, or otherwise spelling certain death for the party should they not get out in time. In some cases you have to fight the boss while the timer is counting down! The freeing of the star has no set time limit, instead determined by what the DM feels is just enough for their party’s own capabilities for escaping.

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Battle With the Lord of Storms: Sydon does not fight alone: he has one of his favorite empyrean children accompanying him. Instead of immediately fighting the party, he will compliment them for their sheer bravery and give a short yet classic evil speech of “join me or die.” Unlike Lutheria, he has no interest in renewing the Oath of Peace: he spent centuries manipulating events for this eventual war and will look weak to his followers if he suddenly calls it off. Instead his terms are for the PCs to join him, otherthrow the Five Gods, and replace them as mortal kings of Thylea for a new order where he and only he is worshiped. In exchange he will spare Mytros, give divine legitimacy to their ruling status in exchange for sacrifice and tribute, and can give them magic items from his vault but only enough for half the party because he hopes to divide them via selfish greed.

The adventure naturally expects that the PCs will defy him and take up arms against the god, even more so than Lutheria. Joining Sydon and felling the Five Gods is not supported at all in the rest of the adventure path, so it sounds more like a Non-Standard Game Over where the PCs forsake their duties and join the cause of evil.

Sydon has more or less the exact same stats as his sister Lutheria. The major changes are that he’s Lawful Evil instead of Chaotic Evil and has a different load-out of innate spells, legendary actions, and a magic glaive and elemental bolt as his two main attacks. He’ll be a tougher match than Lutheria for several reasons: one, he has more long-range capabilities such as a 600 foot range elemental bolt which can take the form of lightning or any other energy type besides psychic and necrotic. He can create a fusillade of lightning bolts or strike the ground causing tremors as his Legendary Actions alongside the predictable ‘attack again’ option. His innate spells are of more immediate battle use: Greater Restoration can counter most debuffs, while Control Weather, Tsunami, and Storm of Vengeance are highly appropriate and useful in the terrain in which the PCs fight him. His utility spells include Water Breathing (to use on his followers), Water Walk, Pass Without Trace, and Plane Shift which can work only on himself. Only Pass Without Trace doesn’t really fit, given he doesn’t seem the type to be subtle.

However, Sydon will not fight to the death, even should his tower be collapsing. He would much prefer to be leading the siege of Mytros and use the map in the throne room to teleport to the city once he loses enough hit points. His empyrean daughter will fight and hold off the PCs in this case. Still, it is possible for the party to kill him, although the Battle of Mytros will still happen but in different circumstances.

Epic Paths: The Gifted One’s locket-grandmother can offer to spiritually bond with the dragon Nephele, granting it a soul which clones do not apparently have. Said dragon will now be able to speak and be slightly more helpful despite its mind now having warring personalities. The dragons in the arena will focus all of their attacks on the Dragonslayer. If the Gifted One and Sydon meet face-to-face, he will instinctively recognize the PC as their grandchild. The Lord of Storms will cautiously appraise the PC’s capabilities, but inevitably find himself disappointed that his descendant is but a tiny, frail mortal.

Thoughts So Far: I like this chapter much better than the Nether Sea, as it feels appropriately high-stakes for the eventual battle with a god. Sydon’s followers show actual tactical competence unlike Lutheria’s drug and wine-addled minions, and there’s a surprising amount of intrigue and alliances the PCs can take advantage of for a combat-heavy dungeon crawl. The various rooms paint a clear picture of Sydon’s plans and capabilities in a way Lutheria’s barge does not: the giant map-table, the scrying-telescope, the training arena, and even the optional encounter of the fleet sailing for war communicate to the players that this is a god who is taking the end of the Oath of Peace seriously.

While I understand that Lutheria’s psychotic nature and emotionally-stunted personality are tropes which can work for the right villain, I cannot help but feel that she fails in comparison to Sydon who feels like a much more existential threat. Not to mention less potentially problematic and squicky stuff besides the forced breeding of dragons. Which is still just one plot element to change around vs many in Lutheria’s case.

Join us next time as the Doom of Thylea arrives in Chapter 9: the Battle of Mytros!
 


pukunui

Legend
The art in that book is astonishing. Production values, I'd say they've outdone WotC! Absolutely gorgeous.
While they have commissioned art for the NPCs and monsters, most of which is fantastic, they've also used quite a few classical paintings that are in the common domain. There's a full list of them in the book.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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This chapter happens on the 60th day since the PCs began their voyage. 10 days before that Kyrah and the ship’s crew will grow increasingly worried and encourage them to speed up their quest if they have not confronted Sydon and/or Lutheria.

As the 60th day dawns, Kyrah and Pythor will dramatically watch gathering storm clouds on the Ultros’ Deck, grimly announcing that due to the Oath’s conditions they are no longer gods. Slowly they transform into their original forms, beautiful bronze dragons who take flight immediately so as to not weigh down the ship. Everyone present recognizes these dragons as the original ones who came to Thylea with the Dragonlords 500 years ago due to Special God Magic. Kyrah and Pythor will explain how the silver dragon Balmytria tricked the titans into giving up some of their divine power, which was used to turn themselves into the Five Gods. Mytros has since ascended to the celestial planes, with the other 4 watching over the realm left behind.

Of more practical concern, the 4 no-longer-gods have respectable stats as young bronze dragons but are Huge sized. PCs with the appropriate Epic Path or the Oath of the Dragonlord Paladin archetype can bond with them by sacrificing a magic item, although they will aid the PCs in battle regardless. Which seems a bit of a downgrade as said dragons will lose multiattack and have their breath weapons recharge on long rests...which due to the specifics of the battle below means they’ll only ever use it once per dragon the entire chapter!

Mytros is in chaos by the time the PCs arrive. Fleets of Sydon’s ships breached the harbor, and the city’s forces are losing ground to the invaders. King Acastus is holed up somewhere instead of animating the Colossus, while his silver dragon Icarus went insane from being fed too many aging potions and is attacking friend and foe alike around the harbor. Meanwhile Lutheria is taking advantage of the chaos if the PCs did not renew the Oath with her.

In the event that both Sydon and Lutheria are dead (or pactsworn in case of the latter), then Sydon’s forces still attack Mytros albeit serving under mortal leaders of their Order. Instead the PCs’ main threat will be Kentimane, who has come to destroy Mytros for the murder of his son and/or daughter.

Editing Retcon: I made a bit of a mistake in regards to the Nether Sea chapter. Lutheria will not go on her rape and murder spree in Mytros if the PCs swore Oaths of Service to her as part of the Oath of Peace bargain. Which makes what I thought was a major plothole less of one, although there’s still the issue of what happens if she’s called out when cheating at Twenty Squares.

There are 4 major encounters plus a 5th optional one comprising the Battle of Mytros, and the PC don’t even have time for short rests between them. The amount of civilian casualties is an important one, and numbers accrue on a variety of factors. In addition to their various allies the PCs have four of the former gods turned bronze dragons to aid them in all battles, but they can blunt said civilian casualties by dispensing two of said dragons to help evacuate the city and rescue people instead of helping for one encounter. Mytros smiles upon this self-sacrifice, and PCs who command her brethren to do so will receive divine blessings which last until the end of the siege. The encounters can be done in any order, although the fifth one will only activate if Sydon and/or Lutheria are killed.

Bioware Trope Alert: Main City Under Siege! Mass Effect had a Reaper attack the Citadel at the end of the first game. Dragon Age’s epic conclusion took place in the capital of Denerim, while its sequel had the Qunari invade the city of Kirkwall where most of the game takes place. Although not a siege per se, the cult of Bhaal attempted to worsen relations between the city of Baldur’s Gate and Amn to forement a war in the original Baldur’s Gate game.

The first encounter involves neutralizing Icarus, who is an Ancient Silver Dragon but suffers from disadvantage on rolls every other round due to not being used to his new powers. His massive body and breath weapon will inevitably result in more dead citizens unless the PCs direct his attention to them or otherwise neutralize his floundering maneuvers.

The second encounter involves confronting King Acastus at the Olympics stand. His so-called Order of Dragonlords are ineffectual, and after suffering many losses he figures that a mass human sacrifice along with the PCs will stay the Titans’ wrath. He also holds a Rod of Rulership which is needed to activate the remaining Colossus, which thankfully is still intact. Acastus himself is nothing special (he’s equivalent to a fighter around the PCs’ level) but he has 7 captains and young copper dragon mounts who can be a bother.

And yes, the Colossus of Pythor can be operated by one PC like a giant mecha. Seeing it walk improves morale among Mytros’ inhabitants, who point up to the horizon and shout that the gods have come to save them. The Colossus has a kickass stat block: it has an amazing 620 hit points, golem construct immunities, is impervious to nonmagical physical attacks, and has a giant spear attack and its own set of Legendary actions which includes an AoE stomp.

And before you ask, it has to be Acastus’ specific Rod of Rulership. The one possessed by the incubus on the Isle of Typhon does not count.

The third encounter involves confronting Sydon, and he’s not alone. Two of his empyrean children along with the three best warriors among the centaur, minotaur,* and gygan races make up his personal honor guard. Figuring that even the PCs will be awed by his unstoppable opposition, he’ll pull a Kneel Before Zod on them. Not to spare them, he just wants to humiliate them in public. PCs who play along and make a successful roll to trick him can get in a surprise round. If the PCs made a pact with Lutheria, she’ll show up for three rounds and attack her brother. Sydon has had it up to here with her** and focuses his attacks on her for this duration. Killing Sydon will result in an epic death throe where he looks in horror at his own wounds, unable to comprehend losing before bursting in a wave of power which sends torrential rains to blanket the region for weeks on end.

*which is a surprise, considering that the Order loves sacrificing them and looks down on them like much of Thylean society.

**their strained relationship is more or less offscreen.

If Lutheria is not constrained by the Oath, she’ll...sigh...be casually walking the streets of Mytros, casting spells to make citizens turn into animals and also to rape and/or cannibalize each other. Which is described briefly onscreen for the boxed text encounter. She finds the entire affair funny and will eventually attack the PCs out of boredom if they do not do so first.

The final encounter happens only if one or both Titans were killed, which is very likely as Sydon fights to the death. Gradually earthquakes will shake the region every minute, growing more intense until a giant hand slams down on the mountain range over the horizon. An even larger body connected to the hand will lift itself from a lying position to full height: it is Kentimane the Hundred-Handed, who has come to take revenge upon the PCs for slaying his children by destroying them and the entire city.

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Kentimane is the strongest enemy in this entire adventure path. I’m just going to copy-paste his stat block below:

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Even worse, the PCs have to defeat him in less than 10 rounds. Every round he deals immense collateral damage, destroying one entire neighborhood or large notable building. By the 10th round the city is in ruins. The PCs can mitigate some of these casualties by luring him away from the city (most likely offshore) or dispatch 2 bronze dragons to rescue 5,000 citizens.

At this point in the adventure path the designers assume that the party will be around 12th level. Not only did they likely fight one or two Titans, but also Sydon’s Empyrean children who are no pushovers themselves. And this is all without any short or long rests. Although they may have action economy on their side and a few NPC allies, chances are the party is in no condition to fight Kentimane at this time: the party warlock is likely reduced to their eldritch blasts, the primary casters’ best spell slots are likely expended, and limited healing resources will be consumed to make up for an inability to spend Hit Dice to heal due to the lack of short rests.

It’s up to the DM whether defeating Kentimane results in his true destruction or merely merging with the earth where he falls.

The battle’s conclusion depends on how many casualties the city as a whole took. The death toll is determined by looking at how many rounds the PCs took to defeat Kentimane* and deduct the values for every encounter where they sent the bronze dragons to rescue citizens. High casualties are a pyrrhic victory where people are in mourning and nobody really celebrates the PCs’ heroism. Medium means that there’s rejoicing at the fall of the Titans; the PCs are valorized and most certainly elevated to positions of political leadership. Low casualties are the same as medium, save that the PCs are viewed as practically gods and end up having many cults springing up dedicated to their worship.

*which makes no sense if he never shows up, as the casualties to defeating him in 1 round (literally impossible barring some 3rd party cheese or a horde of attacking characters with magical weapons and spells) are a mere 200 citizens.

But one thing is certain: there’s a huge power vacuum in Thylea. The old titans are either dead or powerless, the New Gods save Mytros are now but mortals, and the city-states of Estoria and Mytros lost their leaders. The rest of the adventure path focuses on this political/religious upset and the uncertain chaos that follows.

Thoughts So Far: Odyssey of the Dragonlords was originally a shorter adventure path in the initial KickStarter, and I have the feeling that this was its original endpoint. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and given Sydon’s likely retreat in Praxys means he will most certainly be fought here to a last stand. The Kentimane insertion feels like it was meant to be an alternate in case the Lord of Storms was slain beforehand. But it feels both unexpected and robs the PCs of an otherwise climactic encounter against the Titan siblings by throwing him in out of the blue.

The lack of any kinds of rest is meant to simulate desperation, but it really screws with PC resources and hurts the short-rest focused classes like warlock the most. Even should the party have allies beyond the bronze dragons and colossus, the legendary status of pretty much every major encounter besides King Acastus means that they’ll take a lot of special attacks and spells to put down.

Join us next time as the PCs get a strange request to find replacements for the lost gods in Chapter 10: the New Pantheon!
 

pukunui

Legend
Yes, the original campaign ended with the Battle of Mytros. The later chapters were stretch goals that they decided to integrate into the book instead of keeping them as seperate PDFs.
 
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