Steal This Setting: Ravnica, Part 1

Today I’m posting the first in a 3-part series on using the Magic: the Gathering plane of Ravnica in RPGs. In this series I’ll also be giving some sample rules components for D&D 4th edition. At the end of the series, I’ll also release a PDF with all the stat blocks used in the series so that you can print those out without getting all the extra crap. I’m still trying to keep things general enough that they can be applied to any RPG, but think of the rules content as a value-added bonus to those who play 4th edition D&D, and I hope it should be easy enough to ignore if you don’t. In any case, please, let me know what you think about all this!

Ravnica: City of Guilds. A planet covered entirely by city, ruled by ten guilds vying for control and kept in check only by an ancient enchantment called the Guildpact.

Ravnica is the setting for the Ravnica block, the twelfth block of Magic: The Gathering, and setting for the Ravnica, Guildpact and Dissension sets. It is also an absolutely fantastic setting for your favorite fantasy RPG.

Pros

  • The Guilds: The ten guilds which are central to the plot of Ravnica are also amazing resources for gamers. There’s so much intrigue and so many interactions and plot hooks that I don’t even know where to begin. Characters might belong to the guilds, trying to join them, trying to escape them, etc.
  • Room for Expansion: Aside from the guilds, Ravnica’s actually not been explored that much. There’s room for pretty much anything in the city which spans an entire world.
  • Dungeons: The city of Ravnica is like an urban parfait, with layers upon layers of streets and buildings. More importantly, while much of the city is constantly being demolished and rebuilt, there’s also room for ancient tenements thousands of years old, inhabited by Urza-only-knows what, and filled with ancient secrets and treasures.

Cons

  • Lack of Diversity: Actually, not as big a problem as you might think. Despite the fact that Ravnica’s just one giant city, the city is actually quite diverse. Upscale high rises kept in pristine condition, dilapidated slums, dark and noxious sewers, etc. That said, at the end of the day, it is still a giant city, so you’ll never find, say, a mountain or a forest.
  • Narrow power band: Ravnica seems like a setting with a relatively narrow band of power, where it’s difficult for me to envision truly epic stories. Using 4e D&D as a reference, I can certainly come up with a couple of challenges for 30th level characters (Niv Mizzet and Rakdos immediately spring to mind), but I can’t really see a whole lot there to challenge a group of really high-level characters. Ultimately what it comes down to is that, without making some radical alterations to the assumptons of your system, the “big fish” aren’t as a rule much more powerful than the “small fries.” Still in the D&D 4e paradigm, I probably would have difficulty coming up with much else to do beyond, say, 15th level. Then again, maybe not. Who knows?

The Guilds

Wikipedia, as usual, has a really great article on Ravnica, including awesome descriptions of the guilds. I’ll be going over each of the ten guilds in a bit of detail, and today we’ll be talking about two of them, the Azorius Senate and the Boros Legion. Not the most exciting pair, to be completely honest, but they have an interesting dichotomy. In essence, you might think of the Azorius as the lawmakers and the Boros as their enforcers. It’s a bit of a simplification, but not much.

Azorius The Azorius Senate: A bunch of pencil pushers and lawmakers who seek to create absolute order by stifling everything under layers and layers of bureaucracy.

To be completely honest, the senate is probably one of the more boring guilds, for roleplaying purposes. Sure, there’s some potential for entertainment as you stymie the players and have them arrested for not filing the proper paperwork before sticking their gum to the bottom of that table, but that would get old pretty fast.


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Grand Arbiter Augustin IV Level 12 Elite Controller (Leader)
Medium Natural Humanoid XP 1,400
Initiative +9 Senses Blind; perception +25
Stifling Bureaucracy (Psychic) aura 10; Enemies within the aura must take 1 fewer action each turn, for example if an enemy spends an action point, it only takes 3 actions that turn instead of 4.
HP 242; Bloodied 121
AC 28; Fortitude 23, Reflex 26, Will 30
Resist Psychic 10
Saving Throws +2
Speed 4
Action Points 1
R Axiomatic Light (Standard; at-will) ♦ Radiant, Psychic
Ranged 15; +16 vs. Fortitude; 1d8+5 damage, and the target must take 1 fewer action on its next turn (this ability stacks with the Stifling Bureaucracy aura, but not with itself).
r Decree of Apathy (Standard; recharge 56) ♦ Psychic
Ranged 15; 3d8+5 psychic damage and the target is stunned (save ends)
c Paralyzing Edict (Standard; encounter) ♦ Psychic
Enemies in Close Burst 20; +16 vs. Will; the target is immobilized (save ends).
Rule of Law (Immediate Interrupt, when targeted by an attack by enemy within 20 squares; recharge 6) ♦ Psychic
The attack is cancelled and the triggering enemy cannot take any standard actions until the end of Augustin’s next turn.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Common
Skills Arcana +15, Diplomacy +18, History +15, Insight +20
Str 15 (+8) Dex 16 (+9) Wis 24 (+13)
Con 17 (+9) Int 20 (+11) Cha 22 (+12)


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BorosThe Boros Legion: Think of the Boros as the natural result when you’ve got a town guard in a city that takes up an entire planet. They’re a regimented military which concerns itself with upholding the laws and morality, preferring swift action and retribution.

Again, not one that jumps out with any really interesting possibilities, but they’re sure to show up a lot. Whenever the characters are involved in some hijinx, a Boros guard’s probably not far off.


Sunforger Level 10+
The business end of this hammer bears the fist-in-sun insignia of the Boros Legion, leaving its mark of justice on the guilty.
Lvl 10 +2 5,000 gp Lvl 25 +5 625,000 gp
Lvl 15 +3 25,000 gp Lvl 30 +6 3,125,000 gp
Lvl 20 +4 125,000 gp
Weapon: Hammer
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 radiant damage per plus
Power (Daily): Minor action. You regain the use of an expended encounter power with the weapon or radiant keyword.


Tune in next week for House Dimir, the Golgari Swarms, the Gruul Clans, and the Izzet League!

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5 Responses to “Steal This Setting: Ravnica, Part 1”

  1. There’s a fan-made rpg that uses magic cards called Mana burn: http://homepage.mac.com/whymme/ManaBurn/

    There’s some interesting ideas there, but I don’t know how well it works in practice.

    Tommi’s last blog post..WoAdWriMo

  2. I checked it out a while ago, but couldn’t really get into it. Too long-winded.

  3. so, I actually had implemented Ravnica in my campaign by introducing it as a city that spanned an entire continent (like, a really big one). That way, if the PC’s aren’t into it, or get tired of it, they have the mountains forests and non-urban areas of the world. But your compilation of articles here inspired me to lure them back into it, with a hint or two of revenge against the Boros (they lost a dear Party member there in 3.5)

  4. Ooh, cool. Good luck with it!

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