Before I start, I want to make it clear I know absolutely nothing about the Magic the Gathering story stuff, I play the game occasionally and have a couple of decks from about 5 years ago, but know next to nothing about the lore behind it so I am completely new to the world of Theros, I’ve had so many people asking me for this though, so here it goes!
First impressions – Mythic Odysseys of Theros is great and looks beautiful, which is honestly a surprise (the book being good, not the artwork being brilliant). I have been so worried that this was going to be done badly but I will tip my hat to WoTC, the World Design team and the illustrators, they’ve all done a brilliant job.
Those that know me know that when people screw with Greek mythology, it makes me seriously angry – for example: Clash of Titans (2010) and Wrath of Titans (2012), did you know they actually considered making a 3rd film?! 95% of the time, there is literally no need to screw with Greek mythology in order to make it interesting and engaging, so why do people still find it necessary to do so? With that being said, there are so many issues you have to face when building a Greek TTRPG world, from the treatment of women to widespread prolific slavery and the near limitless capabilities of the gods to railroad the worlds inhabitants into doing whatever the hell they like – as much as it’s a great mythological setting, it provides many challenging hurdles to overcome to effectively mould it into a playable world whilst still doing justice to the mythology and history.
Am I disappointed that WoTC still haven’t capitalised on the glaringly obvious gap in the market they’ve created by including their version of the Greek pantheon in the 5ePHB? Yes I am, but I think the reason Theros works so well is because it isn’t Greek. As much as it draws its inspiration heavily from that period of history, it doesn’t try to replicate it. They’ve taken the essence of Greek history, mythology and religion and moulded it into this microcosmic world of epic proportions that I can’t wait to play in and DM.
Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be doing some deep dive posts looking at the character creation options, world lore, pantheon, treasures and the bestiary and breaking down where the inspiration comes from and the differences between the traditional mythology and the world lore, and I’ll be taking a look at the new systems the book introduces. I’m not sure how many of these posts there will be yet, but there will be at least one for each of the sections mentioned. What I’m most looking forward to though, is the Pantheon deep dive because there is so much to unpack there and the write up is so in depth.
I also love the Bardic College – Eloquence? So cool!
From my first read through, the only real issue I can find is the ‘Iconoclast’ Supernatural Gift and it’s not even a real issue, I just really don’t like how they’ve named it. I completely get the need to introduce it as an option, not everyone is going to want to play a character dedicated to one or more of the gods and that’s perfectly fine and they needed to have that option available, but the connotations behind ‘Iconoclast’ are not pretty, it generally bringing to mind images of the mass destruction of religious iconography by ardents of the faith or those that wish to destroy it.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an Iconoclast as:
1) a person who attacks or criticizes cherished beliefs or institutions
2) a destroyer of images used in religious worship
In a world where the existence of the gods cannot be refuted, does a personal belief that the gods don’t deserve the worship and reverence they receive equate to me being an Iconoclast? Does my belief automatically mean I will actively seek to criticize the belief of others, attack their beliefs or seek to destroy the iconography of their faith? Nope! It just means my beliefs aren’t the same as theirs and I’m going to continue about my life while they go about theirs. As a supernatural gift, the Iconoclast is a great way to work around the ‘I don’t want to follow the gods’ issue, but I think it should have been named more thoughtfully.
And that is literally the only issue I found from my first read through, which again, is an honest surprise.
They have clearly put at least some thought into the ongoing arguments about alignment ‘orcs and drow are/aren’t all evil’ ect, having listed multiple alignment options for the gods and creatures within the supplement and made clear distinctions that those ‘evil’ playable races within the world aren’t all evil and the inhabitants of the world recognise that. Is it perfect? No, but it is a step in the right direction and one I’m happy to see in place.
Overall, I am very happy with Theros and I’m really looking forward to diving into this in some more depth over the next few weeks and breaking it all down for you. For now though, I’m going to leave you all to enjoy the rest of your afternoon or evening or whatever time of day it is for you, and get some research done!