So, on 7/23/18 it was announced officially that there were 2 upcoming Campaign Settings for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. These would be the first non Forgotten Realms / Faerun settings that would officially be created for Fifth Ed (No I don’t count Curse of Strahd, that may be Ravenloft but it’s an adventure, not a setting). The settings are Eberron, and Ravnica. I wanted to take a minute and discuss what these settings are, where they come from, and how I feel about each of them.
I do want to take a quick mention about how these two books were actually spoiled. In case you missed it, both these books were actually spoiled ahead of time partially. Amazon posted the Ravnica product page a full day early, and the DMs Guild suddenly had an option to allow Eberron content alongside Raveloft and Faerun, with no warning. In both cases, these were indicators of things to come. I also hope WOTC does not get cold feet about announcements because of these leaks, and I also hope that companies in the future pay better attention to street dates.
First, let’s bring up Eberron. Many might know of Eberron’s existance. Originally Eberron was created by Keith Baker back in the days of 3rd Ed, and was one of the first settings to really marry magical high fantasy with some actual technology. Warforged as a race came from this setting, as well as the ideas of Dragonmarks (magical birthmarks), a lot of political intrigue and some pulpy action with a mix of tech in there. High level magic is rare, but low level magic is super common. For example. there are actual magical Trains in Eberron, and crystal skyships, and things like that. It was a pretty popular setting to, to the point that the only other DND MMO out there (besides Neverwinter) uses Eberron as its main setting. If you have never played Dungeons and Dragons Online, you might not have realized that, but it’s true.
Second, we have Ravnica. What you might not realize however is that Ravnica is NOT a new setting. Rather, its new to Dungeons and Dragons only. You see, Ravnica is a setting in the long running trading card game by WOTC called Magic the Gathering. There were entire expansions / blocks dedicated to the world of Ravnica and its 10 guilds, tons of characters and cards and lore built around this existing world, but in the form of cards. Again, this is another setting where magic coexists with high tech, but it’s a lot more advanced then Eberron, and a lot more colorful. Truthfully, I have not studied Ravnica too much, as I got out of Magic the Gathering right around the time it was really going, but it’s a setting they have gone back to a few times and its very very rich with information, locations, and characters.
Now, gentle reader, you may notice that both of these settings share similar themes. Both are high fantasy infused with technology, both have previously existed in some fashion in other edition or game. And there are, I believe, reasons Wizards has chosen each of these to be their next actual settings.
I want to talk about Eberron first. It’s a known setting, its existed for a while, and has an author / creator who has worked on it pretty much tirelessly. Eberron was born in 3rd Edition, actually had a players guide for 4th edition, and is now being reborn in 5e. This is not a bad thing, honestly, but I personally am not too interested. I know Eberron, I have played in it a bit (more with the MMO), and I own the 3rd Ed book. Its not really new to me, and so this book is not really for me. One reason I think WOTC decided to create this is BECAUSE there is so much already written for it. It’s easy for them, being professionals, to adapt the setting and mechanics to 5e. Further, they are basically putting this setting in Early Access. You can already buy the Wayfinders Guide to Eberron PDF for $20, and there was a tweet by Mike Mearls explaining that the Print version will not be available till everything has gone through Unearthed Arcana Testing, and then added to the PDF. Hell, the Races of Eberron PDF is already available on the Unearthed Arcana page for those who want to read up on the races for free.
There is however a second reason, beyond the fact that a wealth of information already existing, that I think WOTC chose this. I may be completely off, but I find it highly unlikely that this is a coincidence. You see, Satine Phoenix recently (A few months ago) joined the WOTC Team on their DND brand. You may not realize, but she is also the GM of a fairly popular DND Live Stream called Maze Arcana. Which is set in Eberron. Why is this important? Well, if you notice, WOTC is paying more and more attention to the live streaming audience (I am ok with this) and using live play and stream events, such as the Stream of Many Eyes, they are getting DND out to more and more potential people. It makes sense then, that if they have an employee who has a stream with name recognition, in a setting they have not used, to go ahead and create that setting as a physical product, that way they can promote the stream AND their product side by side, with little effort. I feel this is also why the Eberron book is already out, in a “Playtest” like format. You can buy the Guide, watch Maze Arcana, and get a real idea of how Eberron could be played. It’s a smart move, and I applaud them for doing such a thing. Use everything available to you to create the best experience possible! That’s how most GMs work, and I am not surprised that WOTC is doing the same.
Which brings us to Ravnica. Again, this is a setting that previously has existed, but only in the Magic the Gathering trading card game and novels. This is yet another smart business decision by WOTC. You see, Ravnica has a ton of lore, characters, and history already created for it, but most card players will never see it outside of flavor text on the cards, or by reading a novel. This is the first real crossover within WOTC to occur! And it is almost assuredly a business decision.
And frankly Ravnica has tons of stuff already written for it, and tons of art already made. Why not reuse that for a new audience? Its cost effective, and with a little work can easily be adapted for use in the Dungeons and Dragons world. Further, they get to expose DND players to the kind of lore that can be found in Magic the Gathering! Hey DND Players, did you know there is this entire card game with all these cool characters and art work out there? This is an example of what we do with that game! And then you can tap into the potential audience inside Magic the Gathering, the players there who WISH they could be Ajani, or Nicol Bolas, or Chandra, or Lilianna Voss. The ones who want to adventure inside Phyrexia, or Dominira, or Ravnica, or Innistrad. Now WOTC has a setting book to pitch DND to those players, and double dip. It’s a win-win all around! Expanding the game, the hobby, and their own product lines is just a smart move, even if a lot of us old DND players might not be too happy about it. I was not at first I admit.
So which of these will I be purchasing? Which one interests me?
Honestly, Eberron holds little value to me. I am well aware of the lore, setting, and information. Plus I have the 3rd Ed campaign setting book at home, and have read a few of the books written about Eberron, and even played the MMO. It holds little to no secrets for me, and because of this I have little interest in buying the Guide, especially when its unfinished and not in print. I hope that plenty of people who are new to Eberron pick it up, and I hope it shows that bringing back older settings holds interest, but sadly, it’s not for me.
Ravnica however, is a different story. Currently the release date is 11/20/18 with a price of $50 per the Product Page on WOTC. This is a setting I know very little about, which alone is enough to make me want to buy it. But, I admit, despite my knee jerk reaction when it was announced of “Ugh, why is it not Spelljammer or Planescape!” the more I thought about it, the more interested I got. I miss playing MTG sometimes, and as someone who played back when Ravnica was just getting started, I am very interested to see how it makes the transition to Dungeons and Dragons. Other than the Mad Wizards Dungeon, this is the only other main DND book I really want. And I will have it. Truthfully, I will have BOTH if I get my way. Maybe as my Christmas gift to myself.
How about you, dear reader? Which setting interests you the most? Do either of these catch your fancy, or do you wish one of the other many settings out there had been brought back to life such as Greyhawk, Birthright, Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer, or something totally new? Let me know in the comments, and remember: Get those Crits, Take those Hits, keep Pushing Through and remember to STAY NERDY!