I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Lost Mines of Ravnica, III - Phandelver Remade

Read Part I here and Part II here. The first two parts were about ideas and techniques for adapting LMoP to Ravnica or some other setting. This third and final part is a straight-up conversion, or a description of what I did to LMoP without any criticism or analysis of the original module.

It will probably only be useful if you actually want to run LMoP in Ravnica, but who knows. I still plan to run this campaign again to people that are new both to Ravnica AND LMoP, one day.

Here you go - you need to be familiar with LMoP, but not necessarily Ravnica, to make this work. In fact, I altered some bits of Ravnica lore to fit my tastes, and I encourage you to do the same.

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Introduction to Ravnica

(There is an astonishing amount of lore in the MTG salvation wiki; the challenge is reducing it to avoid overwhelming first-time visitors).

The city of Ravnica is a sprawling gigalopolis that covers most of the surface of the planet. It looks like a high-tech world with magic in place of technology, insanely tall spires and towers, and multiple underground levels.


There are innumerable creatures in Ravnica, but most intelligent humanoids are humans, goblins, minotaurs, elves, centaurs, dryads, ogres, trolls, giants, Vedalken (think of blue-skinned, bald Vulkans), Viashino (lizard-people), Loxodon (elephant men), demons, mutants and the undead. Other races in the PHB such as orcs, dwarves, haflings and dragonborn should be re-skinned, although in such a cosmopolitan setting almost everything is possible.

In ancient times, innumerable factions were in constant war against each other (and, as legend goes, against gigantic alien monsters, but that is probably exaggerated...), until the ten most powerful ones made a magical contract - the Guildpact - that would keep the planet peaceful. The lesser factions were disbanded or destroyed.

999 years later, the guilds are still at relative peace - even if they disliked each other, the Guildpact stops any serious attempts of war. One of the guilds has been destroyed and forgotten. The other nine guilds control a separate aspect of civilization each - law, religion, food, mining, recycling, and so on.

There is no government "per se"; the guild often negotiate with each other and the Guildpact prevents things from derailing. The exact terms of the Guildpact are known to few, and understood by fewer, but basically it is a set of magically enforced laws that cannot be broken, lest the whole order be destroyed,

Most of the populace is Guildless, though, and they must offer services to the guilds in order to be admitted - or just to survive. Many resent the guilds and some even long for the days before the Guildpact, but without the guilds the world would go back to chaos.


Your guild is The Boros Legion, and your mission is to keep the peace and bring troublemakers to judgment. You were probably invited to join after showing martial progress at a young age. You are still being tested before being made a permanent member.

Most of the legion is comprised of humans, goblins, viashino (lizard-people) and minotaurs, but others can join too. The leaders of your guild are avenging angels with fiery blades; you hardly see them, but they inspire you with ideals of justice and vengeance.

In theory, you have to follow the byzantine laws of Ravnica, but in practice you can do harm with relative impunity as long as you follow your orders and don't disrupt official guild business (either Boros or otherwise).


[It is possible that people from other guilds will accompany a Boros band for various reasons, such as providing healing or technology, but I'm assuming most of the PCs to be Boros. Most classes will do just fine, with a few exceptions such as bards and druids. Alternatively, you can let the PCs start without a guild and acquire one during play. Also, I do not expected players that are not familiar with Ravnica to memorize all the guilds at first; three guilds, plus the knowledge of a missing one, will be enough for LMoP].

Background

In Ravnica, mining is the job of the sadistic Cult of Rakdos, one of the most dangerous guilds around. In their underground domains, they do as they wish, but they give plenty of gold to the other guilds in return. Still, there are plenty of ancient mines that the cult haven't found yet - the Wave Echo Cave is one of them. In theory, any mines should be given to the Rakdos, but in practice there are plenty of greedy, foolhardy opportunists that would try to take the gold for themselves.

This is what happened here. An ancient mine was found in Phandalin by Rockseeker, a goblin explorer. Soon enough, all criminal gangs in the area started being suspicious and started looking for a way to get their cut.

The thing is, Phandalin is basically a gigantic slum, filled with ruins and partly covered by overgrown forests. Worse, the Gruul clans are very active in the area. The Gruul clans were once responsible for the forest, but singe the growth or Ravnica has destroyed most great forest in the planets, the Gruul are now homeless, marginalized and angry. Swindled out of their share in the Guildpact, now the Gruul threaten civilization from within. Even then, their numbers never seem to dwindle, maybe because any guildless can potentially join the Gruul, although the weak are brutalized by the strong.


Chaotic, angry and prepared for war, the Gruul are in many ways the savage counterpart to the Boros. Like the Boros, they have humans, goblins, viashino and minotaur in their ranks, but also trolls, ogres, centaurs, elves and other creatures that are either martial or aligned with nature.

There is no strict hierarchy among the Gruul; many criminal gangs fancy themselves part of the guild, but they fight each other almost as often as they cooperate.

Let the players know that they can arrest any Gruul that comis a crime and can destroy them in self-defense, but merely being a Gruul is no crime, although many Boros hate them. Some Grull might be informants, friends or even family to the PCs.

Part 1 - Goblin arrows

The players are charged with investigating the disappearance of Sildar Hallwinter, a Boros officer that was investigating a supposed criminal gang in Phandalin (in my campaign, Sildar was involved with the hiding of the mine). They have an informant in Phandalin that could help. As they meet this informant, he will say he must meet the PCs in a more private place. If the players are smart or suspicious enough, they will realize that this is an ambush; the informant has been compromised.

Part 2 - Phandalin

Phandalin causes mixed reactions to the Boros; they might be appalled by the poverty and lawlessness of the people, but the simple fact that the place is so filled with natural life could cause some admiration. While interacting with people in the city, it will soon become obvious that not not all guildless are alike, and even among the Gruul there are very different people.

The factions of Phandalin are mostly substituted by guilds in my version, but you can certainly have smaller groups that are not directly tied to any of the major guilds. If your PCs are Boros, they will probably not pledge allegiance to any competing faction, but they can - and should - cooperate with other guilds to advance the goals of the Boros or their own - make clear that this is part of normal life in Ravnica.

Part 3 - The Spider's Web

Not much to add here. The green dragon is a giant worm (or "Wurm") in Ravnica instead; a creature worshiped by some of the Gruul as a symbol of primal power and chaos unleashed upon civilization. The owl-bear might be a symbol of corrupted nature gone wild, too - like a giant boar out of Princess Mononoke. Or say it is a giant bear - and that the PCs had never seen a bear before. It adds to the strangeness of the setting.


Part 4 - Wave Echo Cave

The story behind WEC is that is was sealed a thousand years ago because it was overrun by the undead and many other foul creatures - specially one particular being (the spectator) that is an envoy from the dangerous, forgotten gods from before the Guildpact. The Black Spider is interested not only in the gold, but in the ghost-stones that kept the undead active for all this time. He wants to study them and use them to help building his own undead army.

The wraith and the spectator have a pact of their own, so they can't destroy each other. They will try to enlist the PCs for their cause, promising many rewards. The spectator will claim to be a herald of ancient gods that were hidden from the people of Ravnica by the corrupted guilds.

The Black Spider, in reality, is the psychic vampire Szadek, head of the secret tenth guild. In the original Guildpact, the tenth guild was charged with secretly challenging the power of the other guilds, a fact that only the ones who signed the pact know. The other guilds are forbidden to let the secret out.

He will not fight to the death; instead, he tries to run away (even before the fight ends) or surrender (promptly reminding the PCs they shouldn't attack a surrendered foe).


What comes next?

Giving the mines to the despised Rakdos will be an issue in itself - many Boros might agree with Sildar and try to take some of the gold for themselves. If the PCs arrest Szadek, the Boros will have a problem on their hands, since his existence being known would break the Guildpact. He might find a way to escape (in which case the Boros will eventually give the PCs job of assassinating him), or maybe he will be quietly executed.

Even if Szadek dies, there are still plenty of things to do in Ravnica, based on MtG lore, novels, etc. 


Here are some ideas:

- The PCs are assigned to look for one of the Ten Most Wanted of Ravnica, or maybe they are just looking for the reward.
- The angels that rule the Boros disappear, leaving a power vacuum.
- The ghost-stones will be used by other guild as a weapon to try and exterminate the Gruul, creating a ghost-town in Phandalin.
- A creature created by the Simic combine escapes and hides within Golgari territory.
- A power struggle within a guild makes conspirators search for allies in other guilds.
- Two guilds associate in order to gain supreme power.
- The guildless revolt against the guilds. Some Boros want to massacre them, some understand the anger, some want to leave the legion.
- The Guildpact is eventually broken. This opens Ravnica up to visitor form other planes.
- The ancient gods, no longer held back by the Guildpact, attack Ravnica. They look like something out of a Lovecraft story.
- The last dragon, Niv-Mizzet, finds a megadungeon under the Senate: the Implicit Maze. It contains the power to re-establishing the Guildpact, but all guilds must cooperate (even though not all members are willing).

(all art belongs to Wizards of the Coast)

2 comments:

  1. Now I'm really tempted to run D&D in Ravnica!

    Maybe even Lost Mine of Phandelver? Some of my players haven't played in it yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I obviously think it is a good idea! ;)
      LMoP is a cool module, Ravnica or not. In any case, I bet many modules could be easily converted to Ravnica, and D&D is a great fit. Other high-fantasy city-based settings would also be useful: Planescape, Ptolus, and so on.

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