Player Characters for your Ravnica Adventure

A few weeks back Wizards of the Coast announced two new settings, Eberron and Ravnica. There’s a significant crossover between the fandoms of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, two of WOTC’s biggest properties, but not everyone is familiar with both. Ravnica is a setting from the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering, and the first to be getting a hardcover D&D book. Ravnica is a planet covered by one megacity, co-ruled by ten competing guilds.

Whether MTG was your gateway drug into D&D or you hadn’t heard of Ravnica until a few weeks ago, this article will take a quick look at each of Ravnica’s guilds, and the kind of characters you might make for a game set in Ravnica.

Update:

WOTC has released some playtest material for races of Ravnica, which you can find here. Includes loxodon (humanoid elephants), vedalken, viashino and Simic hybrids.

Azorius Senate

Azorius are the law enforcers of Ravnica, mostly cops.

 

Races: human, vedalken

Classes: wizard, paladin, fighter

Backgrounds: city watch / investigator, soldier

To me, one of the most iconic Azorius cards is Detention Sphere:

Detention Sphere makes me think of making a control wizard, probably a human wizard with the city watch background and spells like friends, lightning lure, shocking grasp, charm person, color spray, grease, sleep, snare. If you were using the variant human you could choose the moderately armored feat to give your squishy wizard a bit more protection in the line of duty, unless you’re happy with just the mage armor spell.

Boros Legion

Boros and Azorius seem  kind of similar. If Azorius are the cops, Boros are the troops.

 

Races: human, minotaur, goblin, viashino (use lizardfolk)

Classes: fighter, paladin

Background: soldier, mercenary veteran

While they have a lot of human, minotaur and goblin soldiers, they also have fire elemental soldiers. If you wanted to make one of these, I’d suggest a fire genasi fighter with the champion subclass for increased crits, and the soldier background.

Another option is a human paladin (soldier) on a griffin, specializing in great weapon combat.  (Azorius have ‘skyknights’ too, so you could do something similar for an Azorius character.) Obviously you’d want to make sure your dungeon master was on board with this plan.

 

House Dimir

Dimir are Ravnica’s crime syndicate. Most of Ravnica doesn’t know they exist. Some of their most valuable business is information stolen from other guilds.

 

Races: human, shapeshifter (use changeling), vampire

Classes: rogue, wizard

Background: charlatan, criminal / spy, urban bounty hunter

I’d suggest using the changeling race (from the Eberron playtest material) to make a rogue character using the criminal background. One of the quirks of the new changeling rules is that one of their tool proficiencies is enhanced when they adopt a persona associated with it. So, if the tool proficiency was alchemy, they might take on the persona of a member of a rival guild (perhaps Izzet or Simic) in order to steal that guild’s secrets.

Golgari Swarm

Golgari are the castoffs of Ravnica’s society, living in the sewers beneath the city, recycling the city’s waste, creating life out of death.

 

Races: elf (shadar-kai or drow), human

Classes: cleric, druid

Backgrounds: far traveler, outlander, urchin

For a Golgari character, I’d suggest an shadar-kai cleric using either the life or death domain. If you’re creating a zombie, say that it’s being held together by animated vines. If you’re healing your comrades, say that their wounds are filled in with fungal growths.

Gruul Clans

Gruul are the barbarians and anarchists of Ravnica.

 

Races: human, goblin, minotaur, centaur, viashino (use lizardfolk)

Classes: barbarian, druid

Background: far traveler, folk hero, outlander, uthgardt tribe member

This card makes me want to have a go at making a Gruul earth genasi barbarian:

Izzet League

Speaking of genasi, I think they could make good Izzet characters too. Izzet are mad scientists and alchemists.

 

Races: human, goblin, weird (use genasi)

Classes: sorcerer (wild mage or storm), wizard

Backgrounds: cloistered scholar, sage

One of the most iconic Izzet creations are weirds – elementals created from opposing substances. In order to make a weird character, I’d make a water genasi sorcerer (probably wild mage) and choose lots of spells that do different kinds of elemental damage.

Orzhov Syndicate

Orzhov is a church ruled by a council of ghosts who worship wealth and power. Orzhov exerts control over the masses through debt and extortion.

 

Races: human, vampire, revenant

Classes: cleric, rogue (spy, assassin, inquisitive), warlock

Backgrounds: acolyte, criminal / spy, haunted one, inheritor, noble

I could imagine running an adventure with three different Orzhov characters:

  • an innocent life cleric whose eyes haven’t yet been opened to the corruption of the church
  • a cynical grave cleric who can’t leave because they’re indebted to the church hierarchy. Maybe they’re a revenant, forced to pay off their debt beyond death?
  • an evil death cleric (perhaps a vampire) on a quest for power
Cult of Rakdos

Rakdos is an insane, demon-worshipping clown cult who provide sadistic forms of ‘entertainment’.

 

Races: human, goblin, devil (use tiefling)

Classes: bard, fighter, wizard (necromancer), warlock (the fiend)

Backgrounds: entertainer, gladiator, haunted one

Selesnya Conclave

Selesnya is a kind of utopian environmentalist collective, led by dryads.

 

Races: elf (high or wood), human, centaur

Classes: druid, fighter

Backgrounds: acolyte, outlander, sage

Simic Combine

Simic are a group of mad bioengeneers who create strange combinations of different creatures. Many of them have experimented on themselves.

 

Races: sea elf, triton or anything that you can reskin as a hybrid

Classes: wizard, sorcerer barbarian

Backgrounds: cloistered scholar, far traveler, hermit, outlander, sage

One of my favourite ideas is using existing character races to make characters who are results of Simic experiments. For example, to make a giant predatory lizard-frog, I’d make a bugbear barbarian with the totem warrior subclass. Choosing the tiger totem would allow them to make large jumps between buildings, just like a giant frog mutant. The urban bounty hunter background would help them hunt prey on the streets of Ravnica.

What kind of characters would you make for a Ravnica adventure?

The Almighty Dollar and the Cost of Gaming

In this special guest article, veteran gamer Sigismund Lee types up a late-night analysis regarding the costs of gaming. Originally posted in the Waycross Gaming Community forums for the benefit of local enthusiasts, he has allowed one of Encounter Roleplay’s longtime colleagues, Remley Farr, to edit the post and publish it here. His original gaming post has already been shared over multiple Facebook groups. It’s time to shine some more light on his contributions to the gaming community.

How much will your hobby cost you?

You know you’ve been privy to that discussion: “My hobby is better/best because I get more bang for my buck than you do!”

I’m going to preface this article by saying I take no sides in any matter and merely want to illuminate the path. I’m going to do my best to break things down by entry cost, average cost to play, and renewable costs. I realize there are a ton of ways to manipulate dollars and cents. I’m going to reiterate the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and not sales, second hand, eBay, and what-have-you. Those are all real, but incorporating non-MSRP prices makes it hard to discuss without common ground. Away we go!

1) CONSOLE GAMING

Let’s start with something easy. I love video games and choose to play on the Xbox 1 because that’s where my population of friends is. We can all agree in this digital age of turnkey pushbutton entertainment that console gaming is pretty convenient.

Cost of entry:

  • Console: $300
  • Game: $60 per game
  • XBox Live Gold: $46/year
  • DLC: $6 which adds 8-10 hours to a gaming experience.

The average playtime of a game is about 2 weeks (or 30 hours). Some AAA multiplayer titles (Call of Duty, Battlefield, MMO’s) probably stretch far longer. At it’s prime (thinking older generation of game consoles), you would see about two purchases per month. Yeah, okay, this is also rife with piracy and grey markets such as GameStop, but gamers truthfully bought a new game per month.

So $300 initially + $46/year + $60 x 12 months and (just for kicks say you got the piddly 25% credit by trading them all back) – $15 x12months = $886 in your first year. Let’s say you were a good kid and only bought every other month (maybe a DLC or downloadable retro game on the off months): $652. Oh, and don’t forget $480 for monthly internet.

 

2) PC GAMING

Right about now the PC guys are laughing themselves silly, I’m sure, so let’s bring this into the same kind of light.

Cost of entry:

  • DIY rig: $500
  • Dedicated gaming rig: $1500
  • Display/controls/chair: ~$200
  • Internet Service Provider: $40/month
  • Games on Steam: $10 per each (most PC games thankfully have about twice the longevity over console games.)
  • Subscription (to WoW): $13/month
  • Microtransactions: variable but about $1 average

$500 + $200 + $480 + $60 in annuals games purchased as well as a year’s MMO ($156) = $1396. If we tacked on the ISP to console gaming, it’s neck and neck. The major only difference is the cost of software is cheaper and varied on PC.

3) BOARD GAMES

Okay, time to pull the plug and look at tabletop gaming. Specifically, the gateway games of the modern tabletop era: Eurogames such as Settlers of Catan ($30) or Ticket to Ride ($35)! Look at how much more economical board games are when compared to digital games! Well, here’s the caveat: even my favorite boxed board game starts and ends within the confines of the box. In it’s unaugmented form, a board game gets (don’t quote me on it) only 20 play sessions. Yeah! That’s it! It’s not that the game is bad or poorly designed, but unless you really love that game, you are unlikely to convince a group of players to undergo the same experience more than three times. Over a long enough period of time, you will get more than enough play, and certainly companies are following the DLC method by adding supplements such as 5-6 players expansions, new maps, new pieces, and extra “strategy” cards. In this way, companies extend the life of the original game. So what do you usually do? You buy a new one of course. There’s a converse relationship with games these days: more complexities yields more play time, which likewise yields more playthroughs to explore those complexities. This is balanced by the fact that complex games have narrower audiences.

Cost of entry:

  • Gateway boxed game: $30 (roughly bought once a month)
  • Modern boardgame: $50 (duration about 2 months)
  • Modern “ameritrash” game: $80-$100 (duration about 6 months, but less plays than former options)

A dedicated boardgamer purchases to cover a rough year: 6 gateway games, 4 modern board games, 2 complex games: $580. Not bad! Especially since the experience is spread across multiple users and, unlike digital gaming, has consistent replay value.

4) COLLECTIBLE CARD GAMES (aka Magic the Gathering)

Discourse on MtG is up there with politics, religion, and a woman’s weight, but being a fan of the game and the style of gaming, I think it’s only fair to dissect the game.

Cost of entry:

  • Magic the Gathering Intro Pack: $15 (the bare bones of what you need to play)
  • Magic Fat Pack $33 (for the first time you try to build your own deck or keep up with the bi-monthly release)
  • Magic Commander Deck: $30 (for multiplayer play)
  • Competitive Modern Magic Deck: $1100 (average cost)
  • Competitive Standard Deck: $800 (average cost)
  • Kitchen Table Deck: $50 (average cost)
  • Average cost to play events per year (events, drafts, tournaments): $600
  • Cube Format: $150 for 8 players (cheapest way to play)

So for the typical person who has gotten into the game and never set foot into a store to play competitive Magic (what we like to call Kitchen Table players), you will have purchased 1 deck at $15 and $33 every 2 months for a year ($198) and assuming you’ve never bought any singles which is highly unlikely.

The novice player has usually acquired one deck for each of the five colors, if not at least four of the major archetypes. The running total: $463. This in truth is still not bad, but the price of staying ahead of the arms race is an intangible feature as people rush to add the cost of singles to their existing decks, indulge in impulse buys of fatpacks, or *gasp* bust open booster boxes, or decide they want to build their 6th, 7th, 8th and so on deck.

5) LIVING CARD GAMES (aka Netrunner, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones)

This class of card games (LCG’s) was made famous by Fantasy Flight Games,who figured they could focus on creating a DLC to boxed cardgames. This model works by having a loyal fanbase and removing the frustrations of the collectible card game’s secondary market. In this way, you buy a customizable game experience with the core box, and then you purchase add-ons as you wish. The catch: most players are compelled to buy all the add-ons to have a true, complete game experience that appeals to their collector’s nature.

Netrunner is probably the most iconic, but Ascension follows closely.

Cost of entry:

  • Core box: $40 (MSRP for Netrunner Core set)
  • Big expansion: $30
  • Little expansion: $15 (monthly release)
  • Cost to own everything: $480 (as of 2015)

So one of LCG’s advantages is the lower cost in exchange for the subscription-based releases. It curbs your individual costs (because there are no singles on the market), but to stay with the curve, you’ll be buying $15 data releases (or chapters or whatever) on a monthly schedule.

6) COLLECTIBLE MINIATURE GAMES (aka X-Wing)

A long time ago, there was Mage Knight and Heroclix. What they did was combine the random lootdrop of Magic the Gathering with miniatures. This made for some ridiculously overpowered miniatures, and collectors would spend $75+ on prepainted figures to have a competitive edge on their opponents. Then Fantasy Flight Games stepped in and, using the same model they used with LCG’s, said “No.” Combined with a tight rule set and attention to field balance, collectible miniature games are a new class of customizable army with a subscription-based business.

Cost of entry:

  • Core Box set (either Core set or Force Awakens): $40
  • One large ship: $30 (Millenium Falcon, Slave 1, etc)
  • One small ship: $15 (B-wing, Tie-Advanced, etc)
  • Typical tournament level: $60 (2 large ships or 3-4 small ships)
  • Cards to augment your list: $15
  • Largest known army in X-wing (8 Tie Swarm): 2 Core sets, 4 Tie-Fighters $140
  • Typical purchase of beginning player: Core set, 2 small ships, 1 large ship, 1 “Aces/Veterans/Heroes” pack. Running total is $130

As a personal experiment, I tallied my cost of entry to buy into one style of list. This gives me some tweaks here and there, such as varying the quantity of ships versus quality of pilots. After reviewing a majority of blogs and internet sources (again, please don’t quote me), most people buy into the entirety of one of the 3 factions, which is about $300. This gives them massive flexibility in planning and playing, and it replicates the competitive level. Unfortunately, new releases happen every 3 months as well.

7) MINIATURE WARGAMING

I’m going to carefully break this down into two categories: Warhammer and anything non-Warhammer. In the 80s, Dungeons and Dragons was taking off, and companies were casting miniatures for use in tabletop adventures. Britain had long been a place of historical gaming and miniatures, and a little company named Citadel easily adapted to knights, dwarves, and orcs instead of colonials and redcoats. One day they printed rules on how to mass your collection of figures into regiments, and thus Warhammer was born. Unfortunately, collections grow and rules update to match the scale. Somewhere along the lines, the company realized they could push the sales of miniatures by upscaling armies for “must-haves” that most collectors simply did not have before. Unfortunately, the game has evolved out of scale and outpriced its beginners from being mainstream in the hobby. I’m going to go backward an edition (pre Age of Sigmar) to really make this clear, but I want to break down a universal cost to miniature wargaming: the supplies.

Hobby supplies:

  • Paints: $40 total (3 base colors, 3 highlight colors, white, black, 1 metallic, 1 shade)
  • Brushes: $10 (for 2)
  • Model glue, pva glue, super glue: $10
  • Clippers: $10
  • Hobby knife: $5

So even before we start, there’s inherently a $75 involvement tax from the supplies you’ll need to begin the hobby. Next up, we’ll dive into the specific games.

Warhammer cost of entry (2000 point army):

  • Starter box: $125 (Island of Blood two-player set)
  • 20 elf archers: $40
  • 20 elf spearmen: $40
  • Elf chariot: $30
  • Elf ballista: $30

Totaling $265, which is a fair investment into anything. However, like all collections, it would take $50-$60 chunks to make any modifications to your list, whether adding cavalry, a unit of light scouts, or a hero riding atop a dragon.

By comparison, Warhammer Fantasy’s futuristic sci-fi counterpart, Warhammer 40,000 (known as 40k), was scaling up dramatically with entries starting to crest the $100 marker. Despite the cost, it is insanely popular for it’s high quality miniatures and familiar game play, which has evolved over it’s inception in the 80s. By comparison, a typical Warhammer 40k army costs in the $450 range. Don’t get me started on the rulebooks and codices.

With that being said, it’s time to investigate the other big miniature game out there: Warmachine.

Approximately 2 years ago, I stepped away from 40k and dipped my toes into Warmachine, only to find myself fully flung into its ocean of steampunk warfare. The best I can describe to people who are unfamiliar with it is that players interact like Magic the Gathering, and the game has Netrunner’s availability in miniature gaming form. The community, like so many gaming communities, is vast, varied, and strangely close-knit. What was once considered a fledgling competitor to Warhammer is now a serious contender for the tabletop heap. Since Warmachine is soon due for a new edition, I’ll use its second edition ruleset/marketing to calculate costs.

Warmachine cost of entry (50 point army):

  • Battle Box: $50
  • 2 units: $50 ea.
  • 3 solos: $10 ea.
  • Alternate warcaster:$10

So that’s $190 to get into the game and play at max level with an alternate warcaster. In my own gaming group, the smallest functional collection sits at $220 while the average ownership is into the $350 range (over 1 year mind you). Similar to X-Wing, new releases happen every 3 months with big rules dropping twice a year.

8) Role-Playing Games (RPG’s)

I like to draw a comparison that RPG’ers have with PC gamers. All players like to imagine that the power of their mind and willingness to impart life to their characters is enough. However, what is the true value spent on this particular hobby?. Let’s jump to the poster child of RPG’s: Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), which is a bit tricky since a gaming group consists of a dungeon master (who typically buys lots of product) and players (who buy few products). This purchasing pattern is common in almost every other RPG.

Cost of entry (Dungeon Master):

  • Player Handbook: $50
  • Dungeon Master’s Guide: $50.
  • Monster Manual: $50.
  • Miniatures: Hey what? See my list for wargaming and hobby supplies (though many play without miniatures)
  • Campaign book settings: $50.
  • Adventure modules: $2-$5 each.

Now let’s look at the average cost to get involved Dungeons and Dragons as a player.

Cost of entry (Player):

  • Player Handbook: $50 (optional)

Wait, that’s it? And the handbook is optional? The dungeon master has likely spent over $200 alone while a player’s willingness to buy anything is pure gravy. By comparison, what the dungeon master is truly sacrificing is time since the majority of the experience is imparted upon players and borne from the dungeon master’s labor. Dwell upon that because without the dungeon master, the hobby is completely dead in the water.

In Summary…

These breakdowns aren’t meant to deter or scare anyone, but merely serve as a reflection of the very real world translation of our gaming passion. There are intangibles that exist for any game that cannot be accounted for: time setting up, skills gained, friends and relationships forged. Gaming means different things to different people and is worth different values to different people. Take a moment and take a good, hard, deep dive. In that tabulation, you will care to share how much money and time you’ve sunk into your favorite game.

Cheers, and happy gaming.

troll
One of Sigismund Lee’s trollblood handpainted warbands storming across the battlefield.