Ravnica, the city of guilds is one of the most beloved fantasy settings ever created. It is a beautiful world, full of amazing characters, and constant conflict. Ravnica was one of the first worlds I was introduced to back in 2012 with the release of Return to Ravnica. When I first heard that the D&D team would be creating a setting guide to Ravnica I was really excited. Being able to fight alongside the Boros, infiltrate guilds with the Dimir, and be a part of crazy experiments with the Simic was something I had never really considered before.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica and also had the chance to do the one-shot “Krenko’s Way” located at the end of Chapter 4: Creating Adventures. Today I would like to give my opinion about the product, and whether it is something you should be interested in or not. As a brief TL;DR I would have to say Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is an excellent product for both Magic playing Dungeon Masters and those who don’t, and I would recommend it. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty and talk about why I like this book so much.
Disclaimer: I am the perfect target audience for this book. I am a Dungeon Master who is heavily invested in Magic: the Gathering. Ravnica was one of the first MtG worlds I was ever introduced to, all the way back in 2012. As such, my review may have bias regarding this product. I will do my best to analyze it objectively, and understand that not everyone comes from my background.
Ability to Create Stories
When I first heard that they were creating a Ravnica product aimed at the Dnd audience, I was understandably ecstatic. Being able to play in a Magic: the Gathering world was something I always wanted to try and having an official hardcover book that supported this style of play was very exciting. However, once my mind starting thinking about the possibilities of a campaign set on Ravnica I was overwhelmed. Ravnica is a world that has hundreds if not thousands of stories happening on a daily basis. The characters, organizations, and locations were all there and finding a way to fit in a plucky party of adventurers seemed difficult and even impossible to me. How could I possibly fit in the story of my players into Ravnica?
It wasn’t until I got the book that my fears were quelled. Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica provides many points for inspiration, from character design, adventure seeds, and even villains associated with the guilds. There are a plethora of ideas for me to choose from and add to the world without feeling out of place. The amount of inspiration the book provides, both for planning and improvisation is impressive and makes me feel prepared to start an entire campaign just from reading the book.
Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is not an adventure guide. Unlike Hoard of the Dragon Queen or Out of the Abyss, very little of the book is dedicated towards an outlined adventure. Instead, it is there to provide details about the world and give you ideas that allow you to create stories out of the plane. Its ideas are short and quick and serve as inspiration first and foremost. An entire adventure can be formulated with 3-4 tables, as long as you are willing to fill in the details. As someone who adlibs a majority of my campaigns, this is ideal for me. By being given a framework, I can allow myself to succeed.
The World of Ravnica
One thing that I was excited to see about this book was the detailed description of the world of Ravnica. You pick up snippets from cards here and there, but you don’t truly get an idea of the plane unless you decide to read the articles and stories about Ravnica. I find that this book only told me half of what I wanted. A lot of information was devoted to the guilds, so much so that the entire book is basically talking about each of the various guilds at one point or another. Even as someone who knows a decent amount about each guild, reading this book revealed a lot of insight about all of the guilds and what they are about. The book went into great detail describing what an average character of that guild would look like, what they do, how they can advance up the ranks, and even how that specific guild feels about everyone else.
One thing that I was disappointed by was the lack of content describing the history of Ravnica. I do not follow the stories very closely, and I was hoping that this book could explain more about Ravnica for me. All I got was half a page description covering as loosely as possible the history of Ravnica. It briefly mentions Jace, one of the most prominent and well-known characters in all of Ravnica and didn’t go into detail on how he became the Living Guildpact, a position that allows him to magically keep the guilds at peace. If I were someone who knew very little about Magic, this would be confusing to me. Understanding the guilds is easy, but I have no idea who Jace is, or what the Living Guildpact even means. The book also doesn’t describe what has happened in the last few years of Ravnica, which for me is important in figuring out a setting. I can safely say that this book is set between Return to Ravnica block and Guilds of Ravnica. (Isperia is still alive and is mentioned several times throughout the book). What happens during that time period is left to the players and the DM I suppose.
One thing I really did enjoy was the art. It goes without saying that the art in Magic: the Gathering is incredible, but seeing a bunch of full sized images of the art on the cards was incredible to say the least. There is so much detail put into these cards that simply can’t make it into the small frame of a card, and all of the new pieces they had in the book were incredible. One of my favorite pieces of art in the book was of a Rakdos cultist playing with a puppet of Jace Beleren. It was hilarious and is totally something that would fit into the world Ravnica.
I was invited to DM Krenko’s Way for my local game store and I was very excited about the opportunity. One thing I do not have a lot of experience with, however, was DMing from a module. I create all of my campaigns using my own thoughts and ideas, and so using this chapter would have been a first for me. I read the chapter beforehand and did my best to get myself into a Ravnica mindset. I thought about what Krenko would sound like, and how I would roleplay the various characters.
We started off the adventure, and things went smoothly. It suggested creating connections with all of the players, which I attempted to do without the book. (I purchased the book after I DMed this one-shot). It was kind of hard and relied a lot on the players figuring out how they were connected to each other. Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica provided tons of tables specifically for this purpose and would have made that portion of the adventure easier.
The quest giver you are supposed to roleplay as has a list of bullet points that he intends to get through the conversation. The book offered a lot of nuance, and secrecy around this character, but my players mostly just accepted what he said at face value and didn’t really question who he was or why he wanted Krenko. Regardless, once they were done talking to Nassius they immediately jumped into the adventure.
The quest is given to them around duskfall. The way the adventure is laid out, it is assumed that the players will go to bed, and then come back in the morning to discover the location of Krenko. When I played Nassius I urged them to find Krenko as soon as possible, and to them, that meant start looking by tonight. They went to Foundry Street, the known location of Krenko’s gang and started asking questions. Here I introduced several NPC’s and very quickly discovered the power of Ravnica as a setting: very colorful characters.
One thing I love to do as a DM is roleplay wacky and zany characters. In a normal campaign, these characters only come up semi-frequently. In the space of 15 minutes, I had already introduced 5 distinct characters all with unique voices and mannerisms, all of it improvised. There was a Loxodon barkeep with a scar over his eye, and a slashed insignia of the Boros legion behind him. There was a Rakdos cultist performing a rude show about Jace (that one was gladly stolen). There was a goblin informant, who had a lisp and believed he was the most important person in the town. A golgari elf sat in the back corner, a cloud of spores keeping others away. And finally, an izzet goblin engineer came in, her hair still sparking with electricity. All of these characters came very easily to me, partly because of my own personal background with Ravnica, and also because Ravnica encourages these kinds of characters. That to me is the main reason to play a game set in Ravnica.
Because my players were asking too many questions, a couple of thugs showed up from Krenko’s gang. They tried insulting them to get them to leave, and when that didn’t work they fought them. After a tense fight, with one of the players dying, they eventually were able to capture one of the goblins and discover the location of Krenko. The very next day they ambushed him, struck a deal with him, threw his clothes in a fire, claimed he died, and let a naked goblin flee the scene. We all had a lot of fun and we barely scratched the surface of this adventure. There are options for if the players choose to go to the sewers, go to Tin Street, there are consequences if they take too long in the form of the Shattergang Brothers and more. It was very easy for me to run and provided a lot of options while still showcasing the world of Ravnica really well.
Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is a book I have been anticipating ever since it was first announced. The world, characters, and guilds are all something I have been wanting to play around in since I was first introduced to Ravnica. I am happy to say that Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica did not disappoint, and the book provides more than enough to help anyone start their own campaign. I know I will personally be starting a campaign set on this plane, and I hope others enjoy this book as much as I did. If you are a DM, who enjoys Ravnica as a setting, or simply wants a change of pace from the Forgotten Realms than I would recommend this for you.