Land of Myth: Age of Palaces is designed as the roleplaying game’s PLAYTEST MODULE Vol. 1, so from the start sets out to explain what it is and how it differs from Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. That setting is Ancient Greece, in a mythic age when the worshippers of the Olympian pantheon have the opportunity to gain glory and be great heroes, perhaps even achieve Apotheosis and so be granted divine status by the gods. It takes place in a world watched over by the gods of the Olympian pantheon, a world not made for man—forcing him to struggle to survive and make a home for himself, and a world full of the supernatural, peril, and the unknown for those who step beyond the walls of the settlements and enclosures where it is safe. Beyond that lies the Wilderness, an enchanted and supernatural land of thick forests and remote mountains which leads into the Shadow Meadows, which lie on the edge of the Underworld and are Hades’ attempt to expand his influence into the world of the Olympians. Those do step forth beyond the walls, in the name of the kings in their palaces and the gods on Mount Olympus and for glory, are of course, the player characters.
In terms of mechanics, it highlights the differences between the System Reference Document for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and Land of Myth: Age of Palaces. It supports its humanocentric setting with several new Classes drawn from both historical and mythological Greece. The six on show in Land of Myth: Age of Palaces include the Hoplite, a skilled heavy infantryman capable of wearing bronze plate and wielding a heavy shield; the Black Hunter, trackers, scouts, and hunters who revel in the worship of Dionysus; the Trickster, a skinchanger and spy who can alter reality, life, and death; the Myrmidon, skilled fighters able to challenge and focus on individual targets; the Hieria, itinerant priests who serve as intermediaries between man and the gods and are granted theurgist magic in return; and the Theban Magus, whose Phoenician origins enable him to cast the sorcery forbidden in Athens. Land of Myth: Age of Palaces also downplays the use of the Proficiency bonus in favour of Skills, adding in a ‘By More Than 5’ rule, which allows for a better or worse result on a skill if a player rolls five more or five less than the Difficulty Check, but as good as if a player rolled a ‘20’ or a ‘1’. Group skills are handled by each player rolling against a Difficulty Check and then each successful result adding towards the value of a Group Difficulty Check. So each individual Difficulty Check might be a ‘12’, but the Group Difficulty Check might be ‘60’, so every roll above ‘12’ goes towards the total.
Although Land of Myth: Age of Palaces is Class and Level setting, it places less of an emphasis on each character’s Level and Experience Points. Characters are not actually considered to be professionals until they are Third Level. Glory is actually more important for characters in Land of Myth: Age of Palaces and reflects their standing and fame. Characters also have Divine Favour, given as gifts by the gods and used to ensure automatic success on Attack, Saving Throw, Death Save, and Ability check rolls. These are earned during the Winter Phase when the player characters will typically spend in and around the Palaces, perhaps having urban rather than Wilderness adventures. There is the possibility to use Define Favour as a roleplaying tool, but that is only mentioned in passing in Land of Myth: Age of Palaces – A Fantasy Setting in Mythical Greece.
Combat in Land of Myth: Age of Palaces makes radical changes to initiative. Instead of rolling a twenty-sided die, each player rolls one or more six-sided dice depending upon the actions his character wants to undertake. So using a light weapon or casting a Zero Level spell only requires one six-sided die to be rolled, two six-sided dice for medium weapons and spells of First through Third Level, and so on. Movement adds further dice. The aim is to roll as low as possible and then count up from one. Further rules cover simple chases, whilst others allow for the Morale of NPCs to be broken, especially if the player characters possess Glory. Lastly, Magi in Land of Myth: Age of Palaces do not have spell slots, but Sorcery Points. In a somewhat complex set of rules, Sorcery Points are divided into different pools for a Magus’ Apprentice spells, Adept spells, Master spells, and so on. Sorcery Points are used to fuel and improve the power of a spell, as well as Metatropic effects like subtle casting and extra damage, but use too many Sorcery Points and a Magus will suffer from fatigue and exhaust himself. The complexity here provides the player of any Magus with choice of how his character casts spells, but it is not straightforward especially after coming from ordinary Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition.
The second part of Land of Myth: Age of Palaces – A Fantasy Setting in Mythical Greece presents ‘The Palladium of Troy’, a six-chapter scenario. Designed for between four and six players, it takes place not after the Trojan War, but during it. The six included with Land of Myth: Age of Palaces – A Fantasy Setting in Mythical Greece for use with the scenario are all Seventh Level and are all serving with the Achaean army which has been laying to Troy for many years. Now there is an opportunity for the Achaeans to bring the war to an end and defeat the Trojans as foretold in the prophecies. Acting on information provided by the spymaster Odysseus, the player characters are tasked with making their way beyond Troy to capture a prince who has gone into exile and then later make their into Troy itself. Drawing from Homer’s Iliad and later stories, ‘The Palladium of Troy’ is a mix of wilderness and urban adventures, the latter involving a delve into the city’s plumbing. It is solidly good adventure, a decent mix of roleplaying, exploration, and combat, the exploration in particular, taking place in a really well drawn dungeon. Rounding out PLAYTEST MODULE Vol. 1 are the six pre-generated heroes, all Seventh Level and clearly detailed.
Physically, Land of Myth: Age of Palaces – A Fantasy Setting in Mythical Greece is handily presented. It is all neat and tidy and easy to read, with good use of spot colour to highlight parts of the text as necessary. It is not illustrated, but the cartography is really nicely done in both two and three dimensions.
Being based on the System Reference Document for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition means that the PLAYTEST MODULE Vol. 1 for Land of Myth: Age of Palaces has an accessible starting point, since its base game play barely differs from Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. Nevertheless, it is different and Land of Myth: Age of Palaces – A Fantasy Setting in Mythical Greece takes it time to patiently highlight and explain those differences before showcasing in ‘The Palladium of Troy’. The only issue is perhaps the complexity of having to play characters of Seventh Level and thus deal with all of their abilities, especially if playing a Magus. Nevertheless, Land of Myth: Age of Palaces – A Fantasy Setting in Mythical Greece is a good introduction to the setting, highlighting and showcasing differences between it and other fantasy roleplaying games.