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First Impressions – Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica

A segment of the Dungeons & Dragons' fan base have been clamoring for setting releases and while Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica won't appease those who want a 5th Edition update of an older setting like Greyhawk, Planescape or Spelljammer, it is a fresh setting that Wizards of the Coast clearly hopes will bring the Magic the Gathering crowd to D&D.


So what's my first impression of Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica? Fresh and familiar at the same time. Now don't take that as an insult MtG players. This is a first impression article. A more nuanced review will follow after I have read the entire book. This is based on an overall skim of the book and reading of selected passages.

For any veteran D&D player, Ravnica is new but has enough overlap with classic D&D that it won't be a shock to the system. For example, races include humans, elves, goblins, minotaurs and centaurs along with new-to-D&D races Vedalken and Simic Hybrid. Charts break down which classes work best with the 10 guilds, though you can be guildless.

Ravnica is a fantasy world with the magical technology flavor of Eberron. That's not to say it's derivitive of Eberron. Both settings offer modern conveniences through magic but get there and express them in different ways.

The introduction and first three chapters focus, understandably, on Ravnica as a setting and how to create a character and it gives you a lot of meat with which to work. Chapter 4 is about creating adventures, with some broad adventure ideas at the start of the chapter and then each guild section has more adventure hooks, specific to that group. I like the “Cross Purposes” charts and “Complications” for ways to make a villain affect the players without doing a blanket “you have to stop X” approach. It feels more organic. Having done similar things in my own home games for D&D and other RPGs, it can work really well.

Guild intrigue is, of course, a part of the adventure seeds. With 10 guilds and Ravnica's backstory, including the broken Guildpact and how things function now that it's been restored, intrigue really should be a key story driver in Ravnica adventures.

One odd note for those who might buy Ravnica on D&D Beyond is that you really want to tap the “View Welcome” button on the upper right instead of diving directly into chapter 1 and the rest of the leftside sidebar links. “View Welcome” actually takes you to the book's Introduction, which has a LOT of useful, downright essential, material for anyone new to Ravnica and even MtG players wanted to learn how the popular setting has been adapted to D&D. It covers everything from the history of Ravnica, both in-game and as part of MtG, to its currency and calendar.

Obviously readers of the physical book will naturally go to this essential chapter and all of the D&D Beyond editions of the hardcover books have the “View Welcome” button that separates the introduction from the chapters, but it's an odd layout issue. I handed my tablet to a friend who has played both MtG and D&D for years but never used D&D Beyond, and he was confused by the lack of introduction until I pointed out the “View Welcome” button.

I like the precinct by precinct breakdown in Chapter 3. The people and rumors tables in each section are a nice way of adding flavor, misdirects and possible adventure hooks as your players wander the city of Ravnica.

The art is very good and provides the context for this new (to D&D) world. It as much as anything helps to set a different tone than Forgotten Realms' adventures.

Really, I'm going to pay Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica the highest compliment I can in a first impressions article – that I can't wait to dive in and read the entire book.

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!!
 
Beth Rimmels

Comments

VengerSatanis

High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing
Yes... why?
Anyway at that time I focused more on 3rd party products with the largest possible amount of open content because at that time I considered OGL being the best thing in the industry.
Check out the OSR! Independent, grassroots content that opens D&D all the way.

VS
 

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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
The art books are fantastic campaign guides.
Except for Kaladesh, that one seemed lacking and with that I stopped picking them up (combined with the fact that I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to kick their tires!)
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Kick their tyres?
It’s a saying, basically try them out, interact with them in some way other than just reading them :)

(Funny note on tires/tyres: I’m English but have lived in the USA for years and I really couldn’t remember that tyres were spelt that way in British English, it looked so weird :) I still say tom-ah-to though...)
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
It’s a saying, basically try them out, interact with them in some way other than just reading them :)

(Funny note on tires/tyres: I’m English but have lived in the USA for years and I really couldn’t remember that tyres were spelt that way in British English, it looked so weird :) I still say tom-ah-to though...)
Something else that's weird. I hadn't even realised that I'd spelt it differently. I'm a New Zealander we use the British spelling, so I guess muscle memory kicked in.
 

Kaladesh was my favorite of them all. It would make a terrible D&D world but it had a ton of fun ideas.

one of the items on my bucket list is to run Curse of Strahd in Innistrad, but amp up the Colonial-horror vibe by putting in some guns.
 


Gavin O.

First Post
Honestly, I was really disappointed by the lack of new subclasses. I think the circle of Spores druid is a slam dunk from a thematic perspective and fills a hole that wasn't filled before, though the Order Cleric domain feels less fresh thematically. I was really hoping we'd get at least one subclass for each of the ten guilds, to better represent those guild' specific quirks.
 

kittenhugs

Villager
Honestly, I was really disappointed by the lack of new subclasses. I think the circle of Spores druid is a slam dunk from a thematic perspective and fills a hole that wasn't filled before, though the Order Cleric domain feels less fresh thematically. I was really hoping we'd get at least one subclass for each of the ten guilds, to better represent those guild' specific quirks.
They had intended way more subclasses, but that group of UAs were pretty widely panned. Brute fighter and the wizard School of Invention both got dropped, the latter in favor of a magic item that made it into GGR proper.
 


I think the problem with the hardback book format is it is simply far too short to fully detail a setting, compared to the boxed sets of the 1980s.
 

gyor

Legend
Part of it is that it's straight lacking in chunks, like how the history section glosses over 10,000 years of history like nothing happened, to cases of just not telling us anything about important NPCs (Like, there is nothing about Isperia besides that she's a sphinx and that she's apparently female, as far as I can tell.) The intro teases of locations like the Mausoleum District, Smelting District, and Lake district, all of which sound like they'd be really cool to explore, but none of them show up at a later point, from what I can tell.

There's times where it seems to undermine its own premise. For example, fine cuisine and coffee being an apparently common luxury according to the intro, but then goes on to say that the closest thing to large scale agriculture are from the Selesya gardens and the Golgari mushroom farms, which an earlier description implied wasn't that fine of cuisine. It talks about how the entire world is a city, but the fact that it only focuses on one district, and how the guilds all happen to have their base of operations in it, makes that element irrelevant.

Minor nitpick, but the Calendar being the Gregorian Calendar but with renamed months and starting on March feels lazy.

I guess for me, though, it feels like it's missing that thematic thread that ties everything together. Like, to compare and contrast, Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron has the opposite problem; there is very little about the setting of Eberron within it. However, it oozes with character, and its opening section is clear on answering, "Why play in Eberron?" Because of its pull to noir fiction, it emphasizes the shades of grey in morality, and how problems don't necessarily have a clear cut answer. The player characters are encouraged to be flawed figures, with their own vices and guilts. However, because it also plays into pulp fiction, it pushes for high stakes action where the only ones capable of saving the day are the aforementioned flawed PCs.

Ravnica, however, I can't help but wonder what the theme is. I get what it's about on a superficial level; political intrigue spurred on by the guilds in an urban environment. But that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for stories that Ravnica is uniquely suited for telling, stuff I'd have a hard time telling in other worlds. I can do Urban campaigns in other settings. I can do political intrigue in other settings.
It's what happens when you try and stuff a monster book, a setting book, an adventurer, a players book, a ton of art into a single book. They really should have made it into three books or abox set.
 


Rossbert

Explorer
I think it is an interesting experiment of a setting. It sounds like a lot of people don't like the idea of a setting that doesn't have a geography as we know it to influence the world's development and that role in societal development is subsumed entirely by political entities that rebuild the world as they see fit.

I am curious how people deal with it in play. I am not entirely sure how to build a culture where a given group of people or city isn't there because they needed to live by the forest, but the forest is there BECAUSE of that city.
 

Interesting.....If I'm buying a world book, so I can set my games in the world, I kind of want a lot of world based info.....more than class info certainly. An entire world that is a city sounds interesting, but only if, you know, you actually have any information on the world, not just one city on it. I'll have to look at it carefully in the store before buying it. Which is surprising, I thought I'd buy it for sure.....
 

Kite474

First Post
I think it is interesting to see who is buying this book.

Short anecdotes:

So in my town there are 3 LGS. Of them 2 of them are heavily into the Magic:The Gathering scene the other is more Wargaming. Over the weekend I went around looking for a copy and I noticed that the two that were Magic focused the book was flying off the shelves. The wargaming store they were just kind of sitting there with no noticeable interest to them (they still had all their copies by the weekends end).

When I asked a few folks how they liked the book it was all around positive and when I inquired if it was enough (content wise) the response was generally: we have guilds now and some new info, we good.

Like I said its just an anecdote but I found it curious. If I can I should see if I can find anyone at the Wargaming shop who will give a response.

But I think its interesting for those who were already into Magic what the book provided it was enough, maybe because it was their familiarity with the setting or maybe they only needed broad strokes to they create the setting as they envisioned it.

Now that I think about it this feels alot like the responses from Older vs Newer players with the Sword Coast Adventures guide.

As for myself well ive been enjoying it. While it is a little sparse here and there I feel like its more than enough to help me create "My Ravnica" which in itself is an interesting thing to think about.
 
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Bupp

Explorer
I just got my copy, but won't be able to get into it until tomorrow.

I agree with earlier comments that the Guide is very barebones in regards to the description of the world, so much so that I think it would be difficult to set an entire campaign in Ravnica unless the DM is prepared to homebrew 90% of the setting.

However, I think it would work better if Ravnica is used as a homebase for a group of planeswalking PCs pursuing the conflicts between the guilds not just in a Ravnica but also in Innistrad, Kaladesh etc. The content of the Guide would be just enough to give the homebase sufficient details and the focus on the guild would give impetus to the campaign.

I may try this for my next campaign. It would be nice however to have a system to use color mana for spells to give the campaign a MtG flavor.
That sounds like a fun campaign! I've been tweaking and working on some stuff to have a five color mana system. I have the bare bones of a "mana caster" class that I've had on the back burner. I was waiting for this book to see what I could do with it.

Here's a bit of the foundation I was laying on my blog. I hope to get into brewing up some more stuff soon.
https://jonbupp.wordpress.com/?s=plane+shifted
 

Dausuul

Legend
Yes! Compare this book to the massive depth for settings we got in 2e.
As I recall, that was the edition that cranked out such a huge volume of material (mostly setting material), with such poor quality control, that it drove the company to the edge of bankruptcy, and it would have gone over the edge if Wizards of the Coast hadn't swooped in at the last second. If you read Ryan Dancey's account of coming in to take over post-acquisition, one theme that pops up several times is "too much about your worlds and not enough to support ours."

The setting material in GGtR is highly portable. You could easily pluck any of the guilds out of Ravnica and drop it into another campaign, with or without the others. That would be much harder to do if there were a lot of Ravnica-specific lore. I think leaving detailed lore to the DM's Guild is probably a wise move*.

[size=-2]*Not to mention thematically appropriate.[/size]
 

Remathilis

Legend
I mean, you can't really call a book "Guide to Earth" and then only concentrate on the USA.
The world colloquially known as "Nerath" was never fleshed out more the Nentir Vale in any great detail. The first of the Known World Gazetteers only covered Karameikos. The current Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron really only gives any detail about Sharn, while every other area gets between a paragraph to a page of info tops. While some setting books take a macro-cosmic view of everything, some, like these ad GGtR, prefer a micro-cosmic view; a single ward and the major players in it vs the whole world/plane.

Sometimes, its worth detailing one small part fuller than giving a shallow overview of a millions things.
 

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