[Header image courtesy River Siren/Flikr.]
Attention fans of gothic horror: it’s about to get a whole lot easier to combine your love of vampires with the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) hobby that I’m sure you’re hiding from (or proudly boasting about to) your coworkers. And even better news — this development comes courtesy of the Magic: The Gathering (MTG) card game that many of you already know and love.
Wizards of the Coast, the gaming monolith that produces both D&D and MTG, announced the arrival of the newest supplement to their beloved role-playing game, via an exclusive io9 article posted earlier today.
This fresh content is pulled from MTG’s recent expansion, Shadows Under Innistrad, which brings players to a dark and spook-tastical world, full of all manner of things going bump in the night. Says Wizards, “On the plane of Innistrad, humanity is beset on all sides. Horrors stalk in the shadows. Terrors scratch at doors in the night. Only grim determination and staunch faith in their guardian archangel, Avacyn, keep them alive in this nightmarish realm. But odd things are afoot: the forces that had protected them have been twisted into something dark and strange.”
Innistrad has already taken the MTG world by storm. Now, Wizards is offering Plane Shift: Innistrad, a free downloadable booklet that translates the willies-inducing world into the mechanics of the fifth, and current, edition of D&D.
This isn’t the first time Wizards has crossed their gaming streams. Earlier this year, players were treated to Plane Shift: Zendikar, which brought D&D to the titular MTG realm. That booklet was penned by author and game designer James Wyatt, who created the booklet as a companion to his The Art of Magic: The Gathering- Zendikar. Like its older sibling, Plane Shift: Innistrad is an outgrowth of the recently published Art of Magic: The Gathering– Innistrad. And like its older sibling, both the art and rule books were written by Wyatt. Io9 sat down with the talented author to discuss his work and the process of creating a brand new playable world.
According to Wyatt, Innistrad shares roots with established D&D plane Ravenloft, drawing from “the same roots of the Gothic Horror” as its pen-and-paper predecessor. And, while his earlier work on Zendikar was undoubtedly helpful, Innistrad provided its own challenges. “Innistrad is a human world,” Wyatt says, “So there were no races to write up—which was one of the most substantive parts of the Zendikar booklet. I did variant human ‘races’ for the different provinces of Innistrad instead, which proved to be a really interesting (to me) exercise in taking the rules in the Player’s Handbook and adding a specific flavor to them.”
Earlier this year, Wizards released a pre-written D&D campaign for lower level players, Curse of Strahd, set in the Ravenloft realm. Wyatt made sure to provide for fans of Ravenloft, including, “suggestions for translating Curse of Strahd over to Innistrad, which is, more than anything, a happy coincidence of timing between D&D and Magic.”
Though the Innistrad player characters are primarily human, there are still plenty of fantasy creatures around, including “vampires, werewolves, zombies, and geists”. Wyatt’s favorite? “I’m stupidly happy with the Creepy Doll monster in this booklet. But I was also really excited to present mechanics to differentiate the vampire bloodlines, the werewolf howlpacks, the angel flights, and various skaabs (flesh golems) from each other.”
And those already familiar with the conventions of D&D will find themselves right at home. “I am explicitly not interested in messing with the fundamental mechanics of D&D,” assures Wyatt, “Of course you can tinker with the rules as much as you want, but I don’t like to do more work than I have to!” He adds, “Given that starting point, the two most important things are making sure that the players can make characters native to the world in question, and making sure that the Dungeon Master has the resources needed to create and populate an adventure.”
For perspective Dungeon Masters, the upcoming Plane Shift booklet is obviously an excellent starting place. But Wizards also offers a multi-chapter short story set in Innistrad to help immerse new players. And, of course, there’s nothing like going back to the original Gothic Horror material that inspired these worlds in the first place. Perhaps now would be a good time to dust off that old copy of Frankenstein from high school?
Plane Shift: Innistrad will be hitting the interwebs tomorrow, July 12, for your downloading and printing pleasure. Check out preview pages and James Wyatt’s full interview over at io9. Or head over to James Wyatt’s site for more info on his writing and Dungeon Mastering.
Find our previous D&D coverage, including information on Plane Shift: Zendikar, here.
If you’ve never played D&D or MTG, but you think this all sounds amazing then A) you’re on the right track and B) head on over to either the official sites for Dungeons and Dragons or Magic: The Gathering for more info!