On Monday, July 23rd, 2018, Wizards of the Coast announced two campaign settings to be released for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Fans cheered, fans cried, fans let their opinions be known. Let’s see if we can figure out what all the fuss is about.
A WARFORGED, A CHANGLING & AN ARTIFICER WALK INTO A TAVERN…
First, let’s talk about the update of an existing campaign setting announced by Wizards of the Coast. Eberron was created by Keith Baker, a game designer, and novelist, and won the Wizards of the Coast Fantasy Setting Search back in the year 2002. The WoTC team reportedly received over 11,000 entries and Baker’s was chosen to become a new official campaign world. The Eberron Campaign Setting was release in 2004 for the 3.5 edition and later it was updated to 4th edition. A favorite of players young and old, many fans state it was their first exposure to the game of Dungeons and Dragons. A PDF, The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, with information and mechanics to update the setting for 5th edition rules, was released on July 23rd, 2018. It is available for download on the Dungeon Masters Guild website.
The second campaign book is a new setting never before seen in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. With a hardcover release date of November 20th, 2018 the “Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica” gives information and rules for running your games within the Magic: The Gathering plane of Ravnica. Originally the 36th expansion released for Magic: The Gathering in 2005, Ravnica also has a new Magic expansion scheduled for release in October of this year.
GIVE ME AN OUTRAGE CHECK, PLEASE!
The releases have caused a wide range of responses from the role-playing community. While many are glad the Eberron setting is being updated, there are several issues which have caused dissent. First, it is currently only available as a PDF. Various representatives from Wizards of the Coast have said there will be a future hardback book, but it is unclear at this time if that means a proper release, a print-on-demand solution or both. Additionally, while the content contained in the PDF is “official”, it is considered Unearthed Arcana, which means it is not compatible with Adventure League sessions at this time. As changes are made to the original PDF, eventually making the setting AL compliant, you will have access to them from your DMGuild library, thus making it a living document. Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) was quoted on Twitter as responding to this concern, saying: “this edition is official, and we are working through the details needed to make it AL legal without interfering with the upcoming Waterdeep season.”
Another issue which has been brought up is in regards to the content itself. As of this writing the UA: Eberron PDF, detailing “unofficial” rules for several aspects of Eberron, is available on the Unearthed Arcana page of wizards.com for free. The recently released Eberron PDF, which also includes that information, and more, is on DMSGuild.com for twenty dollars.
The perceived displeasure with the handling of Eberron has been aggravated by the handling of the Ravnica release. Ravnica, when it arrives in November, will be a full, complete hardback product. This means, theoretically, it will be playable “out of the box” with no updates. Additionally, many people hold with the idea there are other, more relevant settings from Dungeons and Dragon’s past which deserve an update and release before bringing a new property from a different game system. Some players have expressed a complete ignorance of Magic: The Gathering even having a backstory, voicing they knew nothing about the characters and settings outside of their card and deck effects. I have personally spoken with players that state they will not buy another Dungeons and Dragons book and are adapting their games to other rule sets such as Castles and Crusades or Fantasy AGE. Keep in mind, similar declarations are often made when a fan base feels slighted. On the other hand, jokes have begun to make the rounds regarding the Magic: The Gathering mechanics compatibility with Dungeons and Dragons. My favorite comes from Twitter when @TrashMobMinis asked, “When my character uses an action in Ravnica, do I have to turn my character sheet sideways?”
TAP OR UNTAP YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
For every detractor the two releases have, there are just as many if not more who have applauded the effort as appreciated and brilliant. Many players are excited for the chance to return to Eberron and many others look forward to a completely new setting to explore in Ravnica. For most, the release of any new campaign setting not connected to the Forgotten Realms is seen as a good move. Although many had hoped for a Spelljammer release to compete with Paizo and their Starfinder campaign setting, the current Dungeons and Dragons universe may need some updating before you could planet hop between worlds. What good is having a gnomish side-wheeler if you don’t have anywhere to go? The same goes for Planescape, where would those doors and portals lead? Dragonlance, for all the warm memories it gives fantasy lovers, focused mainly on the War of the Lance. It would need either a jump to a future timeline or a complete re-imagining. Greyhawk is less problematic, but even there the issues regarding populating the timeline, refining it or rebooting it, remain. What about the settings within a setting? Forgotten Realms swallowed many campaign worlds, placing them on the map of Toril as separate realms or continents. Will we ever see a proper Kar-Tu, The Horde or Al-Qadim 5th edition treatment? Even just a PDF with fluff and a few mechanics? What about Maztica and Hollow World? Gamma World, anyone?
Still others point to the timing between the Ravnica book release and the new expansion for Magic: The Gathering, seeming to imply that one is being used to promote the other. While this is not exactly a reason to burn the tavern, is it a concentrated effort to maximize Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast’s advertising dollar? What was that? A corporation using one event to make money or promote another? Inconceivable! Feel free to insert the relevant Inigo Montoya quote here.
Despite my own initial knee-jerk reaction, which fell somewhere in between the two camps, I finally have settled into the idea that anything new for the oldest of role-playing systems is a good thing. Who knows, maybe this could open up more of the Hasbro properties to a Dungeons and Dragons treatment. We already have a My Little Pony system, albeit published by Shinobi 7. Could we see a Transformers pen and paper game in the near future? Maybe G.I. Joe, complete with red and blue laser mechanics? A new Marvel Superheroes RPG? TSR, the originator of Dungeons and Dragons, did publish a great Marvel RPG back in the day.
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
Whatever the result, however fans react, it will be interesting to watch. The attention received by these two releases just proves it’s a great time to be a role player. Whether it is Dungeons and Dragons, Mutants and Masterminds, Savage Worlds or FATE, there is a lot to be excited about on a tabletop, digital or physical, near you.