I picked up The Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica book a week or two ago and I absolutely love it. I really want to run a game of it.
The big problem is what kind of game?
There’s no question that Ravnica is built mostly around intrigue. There’s 10 guilds with different goals, people can be subtle, go at silent dagger campaigns. Which could be cool. I also snagged a copy of the books that MTG put out concerning the setting and they are… not that.
See, I like my intrigue to have parity. No one should be innately the bad guy. What’s the point in intrigue if you can tell who’s at fault by virtue of them existing? Or that certain parties are probably the good guys? If one side uses literal skulls as part of their décor, why wouldn’t we blame them for everything?
That is the type of world that the novelizations paint. Dimir are set up as the unredeemable villains who want to destroy everything. If something bad is happening, it’s their fault, probably. And I don’t like that. They had 2 villains who could have been really cool, but instead they had a burning need to break the system. And that bothered me. So my first change on the world is to get rid of always villains. Shades of gray is what I’m shooting for. Everyone can be a villain, to someone’s eyes.
Not that I can run an intrigue. That is super dependent on the players and at the time of writing, I have NO IDEA who that is going to be. I have a list of potentials and a few people I’ve sounded out, but nothing concrete.. I do have one starving soul who is desperate for a game that I want to ensure has a seat, but one of my issues in running game in Colorado is I have a really large player base. We’re kind of starved for DMs here, just like everywhere with active players are, really, so I believe that if I put up the hiring flag, more players than I could support would flock to my banner.
Not that I’m scared of running for a large table, but I’ve been doing so for a year and it gets old, sometimes. Also, any attempt at intrigue is more difficult the more players you have. They go too many directions and ask too many questions without paying attention to things that other people are finding out. It’s chaos.
So If I run a game for a large group, I don’t want it to be intrigue. If I want to do intrigue, I need to cap my table size to a small handful.
Matt Note: “Also, for intrigue, I gotta have people who can be there consistently and are on board with the game style (not that being on board isn’t always important). I need to have people who are paying attention to everything and are trying to solve the puzzle, instead of doing their own thing.”
Of course, by “Intrigue” I mostly mean the story is about the interaction between the guilds. I have no idea what that would actually entail. My first thought to the actual style of game would probably be the PC Detective Agency, where players can do more whatever and I can use gold, reputation, and private stories to motivate players. I’ll have to do some prep and maybe rebuild the Character Sheet to make a game like that actually work the way I would want, but coming up with stories should be more interesting and better for people who might have to drop in or out, as, ideally, most of the tale exists in a single mystery. (Of course, ‘mystery’ might mean a bounty that they go after or an item that they are hired to steal. (Crime in Ravnica is weird.))
The other format that is probably going to be closed table is the Guild Squad. I could do it a couple of different ways, but, basically it would be a series of one-shots, where the party does A-Team like missions for the guild of the week. Could be a lot of fun, but I love story and continuity, myself. I don’t know how long I’d be able to keep that up. And players would need to be making and playing new characters and I’d have to decide on a level for these things and.. yeah lot of thoughts.
Those are the two types of games with limited tables that I can see from here, each dependent largely on the players. There is, however, another type of gameplay, that would work very well for a player pool of my size.
The Western Marches
A Western Marches game is one that DMs dream about. While it is normally seen as a framework for a hexcrawl, it doesn’t have to be. At the core of a WM game is a system that takes a player pool of any number and forces them to decide on the group for a game, paring them selves down into a table with five players. So you get the best of both worlds.
Now, while a WM doesn’t have to be a hexcrawl, I’m totally preparing one. Which is not something I or this book are really prepared for. So I’m in the middle of a lot of preparation for this game mode I might nor even run. But, ideally, I’ll have a greater ide of how random encounter tables work, as well as some mapping tools.
It might seem odd that I’m prepping a Hexcrawl in the city of Ravnica, but it can totally work. Ravnica is built on the ruins of Ravnica and there are areas of the plane that have been reclaimed by nature (or abandoned by civilization, I suppose. Thanks, Sid Meyer.) So I can do it, but it’s tricky as the Ravnica book is missing anything approaching Random Encounter Tables and maps beyond the city. So I have to do the work myself.
And, of course, as I was thinking about it, I realized I don’t know how to write a Random encounter table, so I began the arduous task of figuring them out. I mean, I know what they are, and who to use them, but how do you make a good one? What does that even mean?? So I’m going to analyze the tables in Xanathars and see what those are like. Mayble I’ll do other ones later, but I’ll start with those. (Actually, I might start with just one and see where that gets me. Hmm…)
I also need to make decisions about a lot of things, like leveling, acquiring magic items, the aforementioned character sheet rebuilds. Can I get rid of skills? Probably not. But should I swap some around? Acrobatics is basically a dead skill, right? Well, not quite dead, but is it going to be useful? Can I rename it or something? I know religion isn’t going to be doing any heavy lifting in this plane, so maybe I can swap it for a new knowledge skill. Is there anything lacking?
Questions like this support my staying up too late habit.
He’s going the distance
Another concern of mine is what level can these story frames get us to? Do I want to do a 1-20? If so, are there monsters to fight to get use there? I don’t know. I’m not sure. It’s probably not worth thinking about at this stage, but how long do I advertise the game as? That’s a thing you should do, right?
Oh, man, once I get my frame figured out, I have to write a briefing document. Those are annoying to write.
I have a lot to do still. I’m shooting for a January launch. We’ll see how that goes.