Author – Michael Tresca
Cover Artist – dejankrivokapic
Publisher – Mal and Tal Enterprises, LLC
Has Mythic Odyssey of Theros piqued your interest in Hellenistic fantasy but you don’t know where to go next? 5E RPG: Ancient Adventures is a 5E compatible sourcebook perfect for anyone interested in playing in ancient Greece. Coming in at over 150 pages, this book is bursting with more Greek flavor than your local gyro guy could ever dream of.
Ancient Adventures begins with an eight-page explanation of what life was like in ancient Greece, including a multiple page timeline covering events from 1700 BC to 146 AD. While this may seem excessive, it is illustrative to the passion and research the author put into this project. Chances are you’ll never need to know that in 406 BC Polydamos of Scottusa introduced pankration in Asia but, just in case you do, the author has you covered.
Once we’ve completed our history lesson, our geography lesson can begin! Ancient Adventures contains a unique addition to character creation – city-state of origin. Players can choose from over two dozen city states, each of which provides a language, an additional background, and a divine patron, as well as access to city-specific prestige classes. The new races and subclasses introduced are, for the most part, well-balanced, however this is because several (many) of their features are lifted wholly from published races in official D&D books. Take for example the Amazon’s Saving Face, which is taken word-for-word from the Hobgoblin writeup in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, only with the word “Hobgoblins” replaced by “Amazons”. I’m not a lawyer and I have no idea if this violates Wizard’s OGL, but regardless, I found it disappointing to recognize so much of this book as something I’ve already read. But hey, there’s a crab person. You know you want to be a crab person. Further, there are some interesting subclass options, such as the barbarian’s werewolf-themed Path of the Lycaeon, or the monk’s whip-using Way of the Mastigophora. When the author lets his creativity run wild, the classes he presents are wonderfully thematic and new.
The equipment section and the bestiary are essential for a DM running an ancient Greek campaign. The author’s research is evident in the equipment section, given the variety of different vehicles, weapons, and armor presented. Similarly well-researched and fantastically creative, the bestiary contains over fifty new monsters, though the art is…rough. I applaud the attempt to find enough free art to flesh out the bestiary, however so much of it is poorly rendered 3-D models that it can be distracting from the otherwise stellar monster stat blocks.
There is so much attention to historical detail in this book I don’t think you would need another sourcebook to run a mythic ancient Greek campaign. Or pass a Western Civ course. At the end of the day, despite its flaws, this Heraclean effort by one person contains enough new material to make it worth its $5 price tag.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this book, nor did I receive this product for free in exchange for my review. I bought it, I read it, and I wrote this all on my own like a big boy.