Theros is a great setting for a new dnd campaign. Full of adventures hooks, plethora of sources and amazing new book by Wizards called Mythic Odysseys of Theros. Here’s what makes Theros absolutely awesome and worth trying.
What is Theros?
Theros is a shared D&D and Magic The Gathering (MTG) setting, revolving around powerful gods and mythical creature and fate. In its core, Theros is a mix of ancient Greece, greek mythology and fantasy. Think Hercules fighting hydra or Theseus and Ariadne defeating Minotaur in the Labyrinth (but with Mythical Actions!).
There is a great video talking about Theros world and its intricacies made by D&D Beyond. It’s a conversations with three designers, James Wyatt, Ari Levitch and Adam Lee.
Theros had been created as a MTG setting, so there is already a lot of interesting content to dive into. Just like in case of other settings based on MTG, having dozens of cards with beautiful art, clever mechanics and juicy flavor texts, can be extremely helpful in building campaign.
Whether you are a MTG player or not, checking the cards and drawing an inspiration from them is a great idea to start your preparation.
Tip#1: Pick 4 – 5 cards that resonates with you and put them together on a table. This is your starting point. Now thing of a ways to connect them and build the rest of narrative out of those cards.
To understand Theros even better, there are stories already written by Jenna Helland. Her books Godsend are packed with ideas, hooks and heroes, that can become NPCs in your campaign.
What makes Theros special?
Theros introduces some new mechanical elements, but definitely changes the feeling of the game. It is a chance for new and old players to start something entirely fresh, but within the comforts of 5e simplicity and familiarity.
Gods in Theros DnD are Finally Real
Certainly gods were always present in DnD games, especially for all those divine infused characters that we count on, while rushing into the battle. However despite established pantheons of gods, in most DnD settings the divine is hidden, obscured by mystery and faith.
Theros is twisting this idea. Here, everyone believes in gods. They see them in the sky, they talk to them, interact with their oracles all the time. The relationship between gods and mortals is a bread-and-butter of Theros dnd campaign.
Mythic Odysseys of Theros goes into details on who the gods are, what are their powers and realms of influence. It also gives plenty of ideas how to use each of the gods as a patron or a villain of the party.
Also, like Greek gods that we know from myths, Theros deities are also prone to emotions, mistakes and favoritism that can lead to dire consequences.
Theros PC are the Most Heroic Heroes
Each player starts with not only a background, race and class boons but is also grant
Starting from level one, each PC starts with background, race and class boons along with a new supernatural gifts.
Those powerful features gives you all sorts of mechanical advantages on par with Feats and introduce some additional ideas for building character backstory, personality or destiny.
But wait! There is more.
Each player can gain special piety points, by acting and representing their god accordingly to their will. Gathering piety points grants additional boons, usually in form of casing special spells and at the top tier by increasing one of the ability scores by 2.
Theros new monsters and new monster mechanics
There are numerous interesting monsters, beasts and divine beings in the books. Even though the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes are pack with monsters inspired by greek mythology, Mythic Odysseys of Theros still manages to introduce some new, fresh ideas.
Stopping an army of new demons coming from Underworld, composing your own unique Chimera, clashing with terrifying Typhon or building alliances with banished archons is possible now.
Theros might contain one of the most important monster in 5e. Fleecemane Lion, a CR 3 monster with Legendary Actions, works perfectly to start the campaign on truly epic scale. It also shows that changing and boosting monsters with different mechanics is a valid technic.
It might not be a new idea in TTRPG world or even in D&D itself. Matt Colville made an amazing video on cranking up the encounters and monsters, even those on the very beginning of your game.
Theros introduces one more thing into the realm of Monsters and Encounters – Mythic Actions. Similar to Legendary Actions, they are triggered at some point of the encounter, usually when the monster is already weak and provide with additional arsenal of attacks and moves.
The book describes three mythic encounters – with an ancient kraken Tromokratis (CR 26), a horrific Arasta (CR 21) and cruel medusa Hythonia (CR 17). Each of those encounters should be counted as double, since the monsters regain huge amount of HP and access those terrifying Mythic Actions right when you believe it is over.
Nyx and Worldbuilding
Theros worlds is not too big or extravagantly complicated. This simplicity works for its benefit. Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk or even Ebberron can feel a little too much, especially for new players and DMs.
Theros has three major cities of very distinctive style and purpose in the world. Presents a good amount of friendly gods that could easily supports the PC and offer some patronage. Gives more than enough ideas for several adventures, just to explore the possibilities of the world.
It is easy to understand. Easy to play. And easy to build intricate stories upon those solid foundations.
The idea of Nyx, a plane of gods, where everything imagined can become real, is just a never ending source of conflict, goals and resources, to create a rememberable campaign.
Theros DnD Campaign Sources and Ideas
Myths and legends are the very essence of storytelling. They shape our culture, language, religions, politics and all other stories that came afterwards.
Theros doesn’t shy away from introducing its own myths, but also doesn’t go in too much details, leaving a lot of space for filling the blanks. It is for you and your players to create your own myths. The heroic past filled with great deeds is now. Songs and stories are forged by Your action.
Make it count.
Reading, Listening, Breathing Myths
Essentially, your Theros campaign will be your own myth. Yours and your player’s. Therefore knowing and understanding myths, especially greek mythologic is a huge advantage for you.
Reading is always a great option and you should never shy away from it. Going for a long dives into Wikipedia is a great way to start learning, making notes and finding tropes that you find interesting. Audiobooks such as Stephen’s Fry Mythos and Heroes were a great inspiration to me.
Understanding the structure of myths, the essence of adventuring, the allegorical meaning of slaying the monster are a cornerstone for all stories, but in Theros it’s all out on the open. The flesh of the story is exposed and thus it can be even more visceral, real, emotional.
To understand how myths work on psychological and storytelling level I most sincerely recommend The Hero with Thousand Faces written by James Campbell. It goes into great details how myths are effects of human psychic, why they are universal and why eventually all stories are built upon it.
Reach for Odyssey and Iliad. It’s also invaluable source on conflict, power, love, bravery, adventuring and much more. Odyssey in itself is a campaign, a set of tasks that Odysseus and his crew need to accomplish to finally reach the goal of their adventure. A ten years full of struggle, battle of wits and dangerous encounters that help Odysseus realize the truth about himself and the world.
Through that you will not only create amazing DnD campaign but you will also become much better story teller and DM overall.
Theros Gods are Your Pillars in This DnD Game
There is no better source of terror, struggle and drama than gods. Powerful beyond imagination, yet flawed, they represent overwhelming force that should be overcome to reach the final goal.
Make a good use of them.
You want to pick one god that will serve as a villain and the books does a pretty good job in giving you ideas, even on how to use the most benevolent deities against the party. Give the god a plan, their representation in the world (monsters, npc, organizations) and let them roam.
Build the forces of evil and tie them to your PC flaws and goals. One of your players wants to gain wealth? Throw them against greedy politician that hurts people by his greed or gluttonous hydra feeding on gems and terrorizing a part of the world. Someone wants to become a king, let them prove they’re worthy by acquiring a godly weapon.
But your heroes cannot win against a god by themselves. Prepare a set of allies, with a different god among them. That is your main axis of conflict.
Two gods are fighting and your party represent one of them. They fight the gods forces but actually they need to overcome their own shortcomings to become the better versions of themselves.
Start with No Silent Secret Adventure
No Silent Secret is a short adventure included in the Theros book. I can highly recommend it, since it introduces cool mechanics like using omens, throw some interesting and decent encounters at the PC and has and open ending easy to tie with your own story.
It shows vulnerabilities, structure and ways of gods that can easily be expanded to others. The fact that gods have secrets, that they can be fearful and it is possible to outsmart them immediately brings a sense of freedom to Theros world, which otherwise might be lost to players.
Build the Campaign on Heroes
Don’t overshadow the heroic deeds of your players. Theros oozes with feelings of accomplishments and great deeds. Something that would be impossible in more ‘realistic’ settings like Forgotten Realms is a thing to do in Theros.
Give your players agency and courage to do extraordinary deeds that bards will turn into poems and songs. Make them the heroes you read in greek myths. Let your barbarian be a Hercules and your Sorcerer to be the Pythia.
But use it against them as well. Hercules had his 12 Labours, Pythia by her choices and prophesies could change the world or destroy human lives. Challange the PC on the same epic level.
Greek mythology in video games – more Theros DnD inspiration
There is a lot of games, that use either elements of greek mythology or fully emerge themselves in the world of ancient Greece and mythological beings.
Here are only some of the examples that can be a great source of inspiration for a plot, world building, level design, encounters and more
- God of War (1, 2 and 3)
- Assassins Creed Odyssey
- Titan Quest
- Age of Mythology
- Hades (Play if you can!)
In my Theros Dnd campaign I use all sorts inspiration from those games. Starting with how buildings and mundane items looks like through the sounds and geography, to the visual aspects of armors, weapons, etc.
Ready to start Theros DnD campaign?
Theros is a simple but not simplistic setting. It give a very real opportunity of creating epic, fresh and meaningful story without overflowing it with lore and plot.
The plethora of sources, from classical material to pop culture makes it easily understandable for everyone.
Mechanical boosts in form of piety and Supernatural Gifts make the game slightly easier at start, but make those starting levels more impactful and exciting. Adding some legendary actions to low level monsters can balance that and bring the campaign to epic levels almost instantly.
So tell me, are you planning on new Theros campaing? Which god are you going to use as a villain?
I might have some cool homebrew for you to make the gods interactions more complex, to add more flavor to it and introduce brand new NPC from the realm of each of the god.
There is an opening for 3D Commission, check here.