Joining the Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica -- a Review
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  1. #1

    Joining the Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica -- a Review

    How much you like Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica will depend upon what you want. If you're a Magic the Gathering player who wants an RPG version of Ravnica, GGtR may or may not satisfy you, depending upon how much setting depth you want from MtG. If you're looking for a full setting like the old Dungeons & Dragons' box sets, then you'll probably be disappointed because this is more of a slice of Ravnica than a comprehensive resource. If you're looking for more of a toolkit for creating adventures in the famous Magic the Gathering setting, GGtR is it If you're looking for a D&D fantasy setting because you're tired of Forgotten Realms but still want something in a similar ballpark thematically, then GGtR will also work for you.

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    Really, the biggest complaint I have about Ravnica is that Wizards of the Coast might not have managed expectations for it well, as explained in the examples above. And since I've talked to or read comments by members of all four groups since Ravnica was announced, the reaction will probably be split, though not necessarily into even quarters.

    There is a lot to like in Ravnica, but a thorough exploration of the world (well, plane, actually) it is not. It doesn't even thoroughly cover the entire city of Ravnica, just mostly the Tenth District. That's because in 5th Edition, instead of making explicit, heavily detailed settings they've focused on what Mike Mearls has called “genre toolboxes” to unleash a GM's imagination. Some will – and do – grumble over this approach but empowering home games has also been hallmark of 5th Edition. As someone who has always combined setting material to create new combinations, I approve.

    For those of you who haven't played MtG, Ravnica is one of the planes. It's also the name of a city that is actually a worldwide cityscape, so the naming convention is easy but confusing. Whereas D&D has factions, Ravnica has guilds, which Mearls has described as “civic building blocks.” Yes, that same term could be applied to factions, but guilds seem to be far more important in Ravnica than factions are.

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    As I explained in my First Impressions article, Ravnica is both familiar and different to anyone who has played Forgotten Realms. They're not connected at all, but races like humans, elves, goblins, minotaurs and centaurs are the familiar part with Ravnica races Vedalken and Simic Hybrid being the new.

    Players can use any class from the Player's Handbook and their various subclasses from all of the official books in Ravnica, though some classes work better with certain guilds than others. Additionally, the Order Domain for clerics and the Circle of Spores for Druids, which both previously introduced in Unearthed Arcana, are making their formal debut in GGtR. As of this writing though, nothing in Ravnica is Adventurers League legal.

    But perhaps more important than race or class in Ravnica are the guilds, as the book's title indicates. The first key decision is whether the party will be all one guild or a mix or guildless. From there, the choice of guilds influence a lot. Unlike some other games, the choice doesn't lock you into rigid actions or behavior. Rather it's more like an aspect of life that is highly influential while still maintaining your character's free will.

    Backgrounds, however, are more useful in Ravnica than in other D&D adventures and settings. Typically backgrounds provide skills, languages and starting equipment along with prospective bonds, flaws and personality traits. In GGtR, backgrounds also give you guild spells – extra spells that are added to your normal spell list. Rank and renown are also heavily featured.

    From the third chapter on, GGtR is a resource guide for the setting of Ravnica, predominantly the Tenth District.

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    Speaking of which, the district and precinct maps, especially the large one of the Tenth District, are gorgeous. In my review of Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, I praised the simple style of the maps with an easy-to-see grid and for a dungeon crawl or other adventure where being able to clearly and easily read what is where, I'll stick by that praise. In Ravnica, these maps are more of an overview of the district with the other maps doing the same on a precinct level. They're broadly based, much like the setting content itself, so the style difference works. In other parts of the book when maps detail a location, such as a Boros Legion guildhall, the style is like the ones I praised in Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

    Chapter 4 is a toolbox for creating adventures and pairs well with the chapters on magic items and friends and foes that follow it. Each guild gets a list of villains, adventure hooks, a sample location with map, guild goals and more. If you want to get a feel for Ravnica without creating an original adventure, Krenko's Way in that same chapter is a short adventure for four to six 1st level characters to try, with story seeds at the end for possible other adventures.

    In addition to the 75 new creatures included in GGtR, each guild gets a list of associated creatures from the Monster Manual and Volo's Guide to Monsters. Thirty pages of NPCs, broken down by guild, finish the book and providing more fuel for homebrew Ravnica adventures.

    I enjoyed GGtR quite a lot, though I doubt I'll run Ravnica itself. Instead I'll probably raid it for content that I'll mix with other adventures, original and pre-made. D&D players should enjoy the setting, too. How well it works to draw MtG players to D&D and how satisfied they will be with Ravnica's depiction remains to be seen, but I found GGtR to be a more satisfying source book than Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

    Now when can I get Kaladesh and Planescape 5E settings?

    This article was contributed by Beth Rimmels (brimmels) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!!

  2. #2
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    Great review, thanks......I just can't decide how I feel about so little setting information being in setting books......I like having a lot of information to use. Frankly, I'm not sure why I'd switch settings to one in a book, when the book didn't tell me much about the setting. I'll have to look at this in the store before deciding.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zaukrie View Post
    Great review, thanks......I just can't decide how I feel about so little setting information being in setting books......I like having a lot of information to use. Frankly, I'm not sure why I'd switch settings to one in a book, when the book didn't tell me much about the setting. I'll have to look at this in the store before deciding.
    5th Edition setting books, including the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, The Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron, and the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica are about setting the overall parameters of a setting and giving you the big picture in terms of tone, genre, and feel. They also support the settings mechanically with rules for PCs and extra rules to help maintain the setting. They are not about minute setting detail that often never sees the tabletop and is not really necessary to using the setting. This approach is most certainly different than past approaches, but it seems to be working well for WotC and the (sometimes silent) majority of D&D fans.

    I get you though, as not only do I play D&D, but a huge part of the hobby for me is reading and immersing myself in the various settings. I've never run a Dark Sun campaign, but I have all of the books and I loved reading through them and just soaking in the details, story, and flavor of the setting. Had I actually run a campaign, I wouldn't have used most of that detail at the table, but I loved having it.

    What we need is Wotc to rejigger the DMsGuild in such a way to encourage quality authors to give us that kind of content that doesn't serve the needs of the mainstream game, but some of us want none-the-less. I would gladly pay $30 for a well-written ebook on the DMsGuild that gave us a 5E version of the 3E Forgotten Realms Setting book, for any and all of the official D&D settings! With POD printing, we could even get this kind of thing for our bookshelves!
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    I'm not asking for minute details, and I know what their strategy is.....but from what I read, we get very little information about this plane other than 1 part. I don't know about others, but I'm guessing my players and I would want to leave the one district they provide any information on. Otherwise, it's just a city I can plug anywhere (which I get might be part of the plan.....). For me? It does not make me want to launch a new setting. I am not interested in minute detail, but some information to run the setting, otherwise, to me, it's not a setting book. But a book of options in a new city.

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    This is the first printed book in 5e I didn't pre-order. I'm trying to not get in the habit of just buying books to have them and have them sit on my bookshelf unused. But this review makes me interested. I actually like that it is only one district. I seems like something I can throw into my campaign as a city, with some homebrew on on why such an advanced civilization has hidden an isolated itself or otherwise not taken over the world. Maybe a D&D Wakanda, or just some curse/trap, or put it in a demiplane that they manged to get themselves stuck in. From this review, seems like this could be a good approach.
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    What I’m getting out of this book, is it’s the Megazord of Plane Shifts. Or it’s the Ravnica Players Guide, I’ve often commented I wanted more out of them, this books seems like that more. For the game master you probably need to get the Art of Magic Ravnica book that is due out in January. All of those books have been great imagination fuel, with bits and bobs you can steal for other campaigns.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrissTheGnome View Post
    What I’m getting out of this book, is it’s the Megazord of Plane Shifts. Or it’s the Ravnica Players Guide, I’ve often commented I wanted more out of them, this books seems like that more. For the game master you probably need to get the Art of Magic Ravnica book that is due out in January. All of those books have been great imagination fuel, with bits and bobs you can steal for other campaigns.
    This is what I've been thinking, too.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by GrissTheGnome View Post
    What I’m getting out of this book, is it’s the Megazord of Plane Shifts. Or it’s the Ravnica Players Guide, I’ve often commented I wanted more out of them, this books seems like that more. For the game master you probably need to get the Art of Magic Ravnica book that is due out in January. All of those books have been great imagination fuel, with bits and bobs you can steal for other campaigns.
    James Wyatt has stated that this is "Planeshift: Ravnica" as far as he is concerned.

  9. #9
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    thanks for the review! This is actually one product I am not picking up, not much interest for me setting wise. I will wait for Planescape and Spelljammer 5e when those are updated, which I am confident they will as they have with Eberron.

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