*This was originally posted on the British Fantasy Society Website.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Arcanum World has brought antiquity to the “world’s most popular role-playing game”, and created an epic quest inspired by ancient Greece. Not only is this an adventure, but it is also an entire fully-developed world that players can explore. Instead of adding elements of Greek mythology into your D&D games, Arcanum World has allowed D&D to be put inside a Grecian setting.
This is an ambitious and well-executed campaign for Dungeons & Dragons 5E. My device counted this book as 482 pages from cover to cover. It is a monster that will take characters from levels 1 – 15 (or more!) in a world called Thylea. Early on, the book references Jason and the Argonauts, and this is the approach encouraged throughout the book. The players will be asked to create characters reminiscent of classical Greek heroes. Titanic tales of bigger than life adventurers!
Everything is tightly wound around the plot, and all of the places, people, and things introduced refer back to the central story. The text is clean and well-written, as well as set against an attractive book. All of the art reflects the historical period that inspired it and is a judicious mix of original creations and public domain images.
Some fun ways to make characters fit in the world of Thylea are added to the appendices. Options for classes (and class archetypes), playable races, and more are detailed for players to make use of. For example, my favourite was the wizard’s class archetype, ‘Academy Philosopher’, which makes real philosophical schools, such as the stoics, playable in the game. This is a great addition and shows a level of research and nuance that I truly appreciate. Additionally, one spell was particularly fun, Theogenesis. Essentially, this is a spell to turn someone into a god. That’s a really interesting idea and is innovatively incorporated into the campaign.
While the quality isn’t in question, I couldn’t shake the feeling the authors had put the cart before the horse with this book. As much as this text is one single gigantic adventure, it is also a setting. After going over the whole thing, I would have liked Thylea as just a setting to have been a separate book. There were individual sites that would have been great to drop into other quests. While removing the story from the setting isn’t terribly difficult, having a dedicated setting book, and an adventure for that particular backdrop would have been better. The page count for the two tomes would have been about the same. When you consider that the appendices comprise a significant amount of Thylea’s setting material, and count for about 160 pages of the current Odyssey of the Dragonlords, a second book makes sense.
Arcanum World did a fantastic job with this and it is as good as anything else out there. If you’ve been looking for something different that is on par with what Wizards of the Coast has created, this is probably the kind of thing you’ve been looking for. It is ready to go out of the box, so to speak, and allows you to immerse yourself in a world that would have thoroughly embraced Hercules. I wish there was a release for this setting that wasn’t the campaign, but that doesn’t take away from the scope of this book. Odyssey of the Dragonlords is absolutely loaded with content that can be plugged into all kinds of campaigns. If you have any fondness for ancient Greece, this is definitely something that is worth checking out.