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Ravnica-Inspired Setting: I need help

VoidDrifter

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Validated User
#1
Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica is due out in late November of 2018. A newcomer to Magic's multiverse as a whole, what limited lore I have been able to find has made me fall in love with Ravnica; it's like the Sigil setting I always wanted and which Planescape just can't provide. So, why am I wanting to make my own setting inspired by Ravnica, rather than just waiting for the GMGtR to come come?

Firstly, as I said, I'm a newcomer to Ravnica. I've found that it's usually easier to run your own settings than to run a canon setting you're not familiar with, as players who are more familiar can turn quite nasty if you "disrespect" the source material - at their worst, this can even result in backlashing or power-gaming which can throw off whole campaigns.

Secondly, whilst I love Ravnica as a whole, I find there are certain lore aspects that do throw me off or which I feel need tweaking - for example, the over focus on humans & elves at the expense of more interesting races, or the baffling lack of a ratfolk race in a setting with an environment and a faction tailor made for them. I guess it just feels more respectful, and less of a burden on my players, if I make my own setting from scratch rather than play around with some other world's lore.

Finally... to be brutally honest, after bad experiences with the non-adventure splats from WotC, I don't really trust WotC to deliver the things I WANT from a Ravnica Splatbook. Rather than just pine hopelessly and let myself be disappointed with the end result, I figure I should just make my own world, and that way I can homebrew the stuff I want to include and be sure it gets through.

So, why am I here? Mostly, I was hoping for help. I have lots of ideas here, but little focus, so I was hoping folks might be interested in discussing the ideas that I have, critiquing my efforts, helping me figure out names (I hate names), explore the religions of the city (one of my least favorite cultural aspects), examine geography (topography? can't recall the difference), and just generally act as lightning rods for my brainstorming. So... yeah; anyone up for things? The first major things I want to talk about is Factions/Guilds, and Races, and I don't know if I should post my thoughts on these two matters first, or if I should discuss more with other posters, or just what I should do.
 

Count Dorku

Renegade librarian
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#2
I would definitely be interested in having a poke at this project.

Factions and species are probably good places to start, yeah.
 

VoidDrifter

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Validated User
#4
Thank you both for your expressions of interest! To start with, because these are going to be very meaty posts from me, let's talk about Factions...

The most iconic element of Ravnica are its ten guilds; organizations that serve simultaneous roles as competing life philosophies and as vital sociological organizations that keep the city functioning smoothly. Now, this is not unprecedented; the factions in TSR's Planescape campaign setting for AD&D are similar, but I find Ravnica's guilds are designed better, perhaps due to having a coherent shared outline in the overarching idea of each guild being based on a fusion of two elements from the famous Color Wheel of Mana.

For the purposes of this thread, I'm going to outline each of the canon guilds of Ravnica, to hopefully provide an idea of what they believe, what role they fill and how they function, and underneath each I'll put my own thoughts on adapting that Guild for my setting. Like I said in my opening post, I want to adapt the functioning framework I saw in Ravnica, so I feel no need to reinvent the wheel; Planescape is my abject lesson in how badly "philosophies with clubs" factions can end up.

Just to step ahead for a second, we know that in Ravnica, there is a significant portion of people who choose not to belong to a guild - the simply called "Guildless", and that there are advantages and disadvantages to that position, which I've always interpreted as "freedom vs safety"; the Guildless are free of needing to pay tithes or obey a chain of command, but at the same time, there's a vulnerability that comes with this freedom, as the Guilds all have a culture of protecting their own and regarding others as secondary. This is something we'll need to discuss at some point.

Likewise, much like Ravnica and Planescape, I see my setting as kind of anarchistic. As the Guilds seek power motivated by philosophical supremacy, that leads to clashing both overt and subtle - the city isn't a constant riot, but there are plenty of places with a reputation as "rough spots" or "lawless zones"; the "bad streets" where Guild members will actively fight it out, gangster style. That's one of the reasons why adventurers exist on this world; think "Shadowrun" (or "Necromunda").

Anyway! The Guilds...

Azorius Senate
Born from the union of Blue Mana (Logic & Power) and White Mana (Law & Order), the Azorius Senate believes in the primacy of Logic and Law above all else; they value law and structure as the guidelines to true society, and disregard individuals as "messy imperfections". In a nutshell, they are hyper-conservatives, believing in the preservation of order and the status quo by any means necessary. The Senate controls the legislative bodies of Ravnica; all matters of law and bureacracy fall under their jurisdiction. They employ bureaucracy as a weapon, deliberately making the governmental functions of Ravnica as vast, obstructive and labyrinthine as possible to slow down, if not minimize, any possibility of social change. Still, they do handle the messy work of keeping the city-world as a whole functioning; if the other Guilds are the distinct arms of the government as a whole, then the Azorius are the policy-setters, and whilst not free of bribery, corruption or powermongers, the smooth functioning of the day-to-day machinery is their sacred upkeep, and they take it very seriously.

My Thoughts: I'm honestly not sure what to say here. I find the Azorius one of the less interesting Guilds in Ravnica canon, although I do appreciate that they provide a much more relatable "status quo enforcer" than the Lady of Pain ultimately was, and they're far less jokey than their closest Planescape counterpart, the Fraternity of Order. They just seem like a natural fit, with a good level of moral complexity that can make them antagonistic but not necessarily evil, and without resorting to base caricatures.


Boros Legion
One of the guilds born of contradictory mana alliances, the Boros Legion's underlying philosophy is based on the marriage of White Mana's desire for order and Red Mana's desire for passion. How do they satisfy this? By embracing the ideals of Justice and Order as the highest calling. Thusly, they work closely with the Azorius Senate, serving as Ravnica's law enforcement. Ironically, they can be considered their own worst enemy; there's a constant internal tension between those who value Justice and those who value Order - after all, sometimes to get Justice, you need a little chaos - and whilst different ranking officials emphasize different interpretations, as a whole, the Legion's ideology is "the rules are meant to help the people, so when they don't do that, then break 'em!" Whilst this clash between "cowboy cops" and "by-the-book cops" leads to internal headbutting, rivalries and a certain level of unpredictable behavior from the Boros on the street, the Legion as a whole remains united to the idea of making the world a better place.

My Thoughts: I really like the Boros Legion mostly as its "cowboy cop" interpretation; the idea of a police department who values justice over the mere letter of the law is way more interesting than the abusive cop cliche, and luckily Boros fluff supports depicting it as being mostly justice warriors who'll break the letter of the law to serve its spirit with a few bad eggs who use law as a weapon to bully and punish. Again, this is way more interesting and way better written than the Harmonium.


Cult of Rakdos
Created as a grim necessity, the Cult of Rakdos was founded to sate the destructive rampages of Rakdos the Defiler, a powerful demon lord who threatened to annihilate Ravnica in its founding years. To do this, they must embrace his philosophy, born of Red Mana's connection to chaos and passion and Black Mana's connection to selfishness and hunger; feats of mayhem and ecstasy, of hedonism taken to its most destructive heights, amuse Rakdos when he is awake and ultimately lull him into his centuries-long periods of torpor, where they serve to keep him quiescent. Whilst the Guild is most famous for its bloody bacchanals, its slaughter games and murdrous carnivals, it has a deeper purpose than that. A short piece of official fiction called "Life in the Ring" reveals that the Cult of Rakdos believes in the necessity of what they do, a sacrifice for the greater good. Further, they view Rakdos' philosophy as a wise one; death is inevitable, and so one should embrace every moment of life one has whilst one can. The Cult manages the entertainment industry, running everything from the famous gladiatorial arenas, drug dens and brothels to theatres, nightclubs and restaurants. They also are heavily involved in the manual labor business, with slaves and/or zombies contributing much of the brute force that keeps the city-world running, although I'm not sure how much if this is still true after the rise of the Living Guildpact.

My Thoughts: Here we come to the first guild that I think might need some flavor adjustment in my own version. I like the basic idea behind it - the philosophy of "life is fleeting and precious, so seize every moment you can" - but in an RPG, there should be more focus on the non-crazies side of the guild, which you can't have in the original card game that inspired it. One thing I've considered is making my version of the Cult actually a cluster of demon-cults that have managed to gain respectability, but that I think risks undermining its position as The Entertainer's Guild. I definitely want to tone down the murder-carnivals a little; they do exist, and you do find Cultists causing trouble a lot of the time, but they aren't constantly massacring everyone in their way like a Slaanesh warband, which is the inferral one tends to get from their Ravnican counterpart. In fact... there's a segment in a well-written MtG fanfic that I think is worth borrowing from; it describes the Rakdos as a last resort, one more extreme than the Golgari or the Gruul, a place you go when you've lost everything you can and are gripped by either rage against fate or a despair so intense that you no longer care whether you live or die. It's a place that gives purpose to those who have nothing else. This makes sense as one of the "recruitment roots" of my not!Rakdos. Other changes I'd make... for starters; the Cult has a very high "tither" (lowest-ranked guild member, who pay their tithes but only offer... what's the term... a nod to the actual philosophy? They don't believe, they just want the social security that comes through membership) to "namer" (true believer) ratio, and the tithers are safe from the more extreme acts and roles in the guild. Further, the Cult is extremely protective of its members; give the cult more of a "Safe, Sane, Consensual" aspect overall, but in particular their primary rule for others is "Don't break my toys" - the stereotype of the swaggering pimp who casually cows his prostitutes with brutal backhanded slaps doesn't exist on this world, because the not!Rakdos butcher people who seek to prey on their members, making prostitution actually a safe and respectable job - so long as you're willing to join the Cult, who will come down on abusive johns and pay your medical bills.


Golgari Swarm
Born from the seemingly contradictory fusion of Black Mana (death) and Green Mana (life), the Golgari revere the philosophy of life as a great, unbroken circle of birth, death, decay and rebirth. Life creates death and death creates life; the two are inextricably linked, and power comes to those who accept this fact. Necromancy, then, is no blasphemy, but a natural part of the cycle, and their fusion of life-magic and necromancy gives them an affinity for the most humble yet resilient of creatures; fungus and vermin. Survive. Reproduce. Overcome. That is the mantra of the Swarm. Though often looked down upon as one of the least of the Guilds, the Golgari perform an essential set of tasks, clearing away the dead and other organic detritus of their world and converting it into useful elements; their rot-farms produce everything from cheap food to medicine. Social mobility is quite high in the Golgari, although they're not free of internal prejudices, and it's not necessarily safe - the Golgari's dynamic view and acceptance of the undead means that assassination is a perfectly valid tool in their environment.

My Thoughts: I love the Golgari Swarm. It's just such a unique and interesting take, deliberately subverting the cliche of nature mages and necromancers having to be enemies.


Gruul Clans
In a city whose government is defined by its guilds, the Gruul are defined as the Guild that isn't. The vengeful descendants of a guild dedicated to protecting the wilderness from the ever-expanding city, the Gruul were betrayed; the wilderness was consumed and their duties were stripped from them. Now they seek to topple the city and bring back the wilderness, taking in those who, for whatever reason, have turned against city life. Combining a reverence of nature with a warlike disposition, the Gruul Clans are born of Red and Green Mana's unity; they live by the maxims "Don't Think, Feel" and "Nature Red In Tooth And Claw". They actively shun the city and its weakness, and seek to tear it down to restore the balance that was shattered so long ago. Alone amongst the guilds, they are the outsiders to the system, and that suits them fine.

My Thoughts: This is the second faction that I think needs changing. The "luddite" angle isn't bad, it's perfectly believable that there are people on this city-world who fight to restore the original forms of nature and wilderness, but they need to be deeper than that - from my limited knowledge of Magic's lore, the Gruul tend to be used as "the obligatory bad guys faction" for the Boros to fight and/or the "savage barbarians faction" a lot, not to mention that they can obviously act as a stand-in for mocking some of the more... "out there" anti-government/anti-science groups like anti-vaccers. I think perhaps the best angle to go for with my version of the Clans is to emphasize the "willfully chose this lifestyle" and "back to nature" angles - the not!Gruul inhabit the Rubblebelts (regions of the world-city that have been demolished and overgrown turning them into the closest thing to wild nature areas) and choose to live in their "old ways" lifestyle. The majority of them do not have a hostile relationship with the city; instead, they act in a similar fashion to African tribes who live in/near nature preserves; they make money off of people who come to hunt the wild beasts of their land (in a sustainable fashion, of course) or to try living the old ways lifestyle themselves - they hope that such individuals will convert to their way of thinking, but at the least they know that doing this gives the rest of the city an incentive not to reclaim their territory. That's not to say the ecoterrorists don't still exist, but they're a minority who get all the press attention.


House Dimir
Drawing from Black Mana's association with selfishness, parasitism and unbridled ambition, and Blue Mana's association with knowledge, House Dimir is the most guild of information brokering. Originally, they were thieves, assassins, spies and black marketeers, hidden from the public eye and relying on secrecy, magic, and an alliance of shapeshifters, psychics, vampires and psychic vampires to ferret out whatever they wanted and covering up what they didn't want others to know. Forcibly exposed during the events of the first Ravnica storyline, they have since tried to establish a legitimate niche for themselves as the information and transport guild, running libraries and managing courier systems. Nobody really trusts them, though.

My Thoughts: Again I'm not sure of what to say here. I find House Dimir to be kind of boring, personally.


Izzet League
To properly function, a city of any kind needs a civic engineering program of some sort - people to manage water supply, sewers, heating, power and roadways. The engineers and the scientists who keep the lights on and the toilets flushing. In Ravnica, this is role of the Izzet League, who combine Red Mana and Blue Mana to create a philosophy about the need to gather knowledge and the importance of pursuing it through passion and intuition, as much as study. They are, in a nutshell, magitek mad scientists, whose efforts at manipulating matter and magical energy help create the marvels that make the dungeonpunk setting they live in so inhabitable. They are famously indifferent to pursuing political power; the passionate seeking of and thirst for knowledge is their creed, and they have far better things to do than try to manage the city. Instead, they prove a headache to the Azorius and the Boros mostly in how they have to try and keep the Izzet League from leveling the city with their latest advanced spell or prototype death ray.

My Thoughts: I really like the Izzet League for being one of the "politically pure" factions; they don't care about social power, they care about their philosophy, which is a unique angle for them. Plus, without the Izzet, Ravnica wouldn't be the dungeonpunk world I love so much, and I've really grown fond of the "industrialized magic" aesthetic for my settings.


Orzhov Syndicate
So, what do you get if you take a mafia comprised of necromancers and have them take on all the trappings and social role of a church? In Ravnica, you get the Orzhov Syndicate, also known as the Church of Deals; a notoriously corrupt and cynical guild that manages all matters of business and commerce on their plane. Ruled over by a council of ghosts, under whom exist fractious "underbosses" whose life-preserving magic and, perhaps, more than a little inbreeding leads to a tendency towards deformity, the Orzhov worship only profit and power. Their power is founded on necromancy; debts WILL be repaid, and debtors who die are brought back as indentured ghosts or as mindless zombie slaves, known as thrulls. They're infamous for their focus on the letter of the law, their archaic but religiously pursued rituals and customs, and their blatant nepotism.

My Thoughts: Again, this is one of the more boring guilds to me, which I think stems from my general disinclination towards religion and the sparse amount of lore I have available when researching. There's no reason they should be boring! I mean, how do you make "necromantic mafia-church" dull? The Orzhov have a great internal culture clash, being torn between White's focus on community and Black's focus on individuality. I think just being able to expand upon their internal culture and customs will probably help them seem a lot more interesting.


Selesnya Conclave
Whilst the Orzhov Syndicate has the trappings of a church, the Selesnya Conclave is perhaps the closest thing to a "true" religion in Ravnica. Combining Green Mana's love of nature and White Mana's love of community, they believe in the notion of unity between individuals and nature; the path to peace comes through learning to work together and to harmonize with nature. This is referenced by their symbol, which shows a tree supporting a sun and being fed by it at the same time. A decentralized collective, whilst the Conclave is a selfless, nurturing, spiritual group on the surface, a darker aspect lies beneath. The Conclave also embraces the darker sides of its mana bases; Green's shunning of intellect for instinct, and White's emphasis of the community over the individual. The Conclave's vision of a perfect world is a kind of global machine, where every being, animal and plant is an interchangeable cog in the greater whole. Their goal is the extinction of individuality and the subsumption of all things into the Worldmind, through which there will be an end to individuality's evils such as want and chaos. Until their vision comes to pass, they manage Ravnica's agricultural industry, creating farms and "living blocks" where trees are manipulated to form living buildings.

My Thoughts: I love this faction for its ability to make a unique antagonist; White and Green Mana are typically presented as the "good guy" colors in a lot of MtG lore, and the Selesnya do a great job of showing how those two colors can logicially take on a dark turn. I love how reasonable their belief seems at first, how naturally it flows from their base values, and how you almost catch yourself agreeing at first, which just makes it all the more insidious.


Simic Combine
Combining Blue Mana's association with knowledge and Green Mana's association with life, the Simic Combine is fascinated by life's potential and regards its calling as the study of how life works and what life can become. They are, in summary, mad scientists - but biologists to the Izzet's engineers and physicists. The Combine studies life, medicines and biomancy, and also seeks to understand how life can be improved upon. They are medical industry of Ravnica, armed with highly advanced healing abilities, but they also do an infamous sideline in organic technology, engineering new life-forms for diverse purposes, and in bio-augmentation, seeking to enhance themselves and interested parties through magical gene-splicing and grafting. Many of Ravnica's wildlife have their origins in the Simic Combine, such as the Aquastrand Spider, a giant spider that has an innate ability to create and sculpt water.

My Thoughts: Next to the Golgari, I think the Simic may be my favorite Guild in Ravnica canon. They just work so well as allies, enemies, or those creepy NPCs who remind you that this ain't Greyhawk.
 
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Eric_Diaz

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Validated User
#7
So, why am I here? Mostly, I was hoping for help. I have lots of ideas here, but little focus, so I was hoping folks might be interested in discussing the ideas that I have, critiquing my efforts, helping me figure out names (I hate names), explore the religions of the city (one of my least favorite cultural aspects), examine geography (topography? can't recall the difference), and just generally act as lightning rods for my brainstorming. So... yeah; anyone up for things? The first major things I want to talk about is Factions/Guilds, and Races, and I don't know if I should post my thoughts on these two matters first, or if I should discuss more with other posters, or just what I should do.
Hummm... I've played some "fast and loose Ravnica" campaigns in the past. A few random ideas:

Ecumenopolis - High fantasy Multiplane Teradungeon

Other type of setting I enjoy is the "super high fantasy", where heroes deal with multiple planes of existence, mega-cities with endless dungeons, and magic so powerful and advanced that it can become indistinguishable from high tech.

Society is very urbanized and as complex as our own; warring factions are bound by byzantine laws enforced by sorcery; and the (very strange) gods will often meddle in the affairs of the City. Civilization is booming; it could reach singularity or destroy itself any day, although it has lasted for hundreds of years. Magical creatures and items are commonplace, but "traditional" fantasy are almost verboten: no orcs, dwarves, or traditional elves. Ravnica is my main inspiration here, but I there is plenty of other stuff I can find no better place for, such as Planescape and China Miéville.

D&D 5e seems to be a perfect fit; characters become extremely powerful and might even shape reality but are still susceptible of being brought down by a powerful gang of thugs.

Characters: anything goes, except the usual stuff!

Locations: mazes, enormous buildings, endless cities, back alleys, courtrooms and arenas.

Inspirations: Ravnica, Talislanta, Ptolus, Star Wars, Planescape, China Miéville.

In this blog: my "Lost Mines of Ravnica" series; and Planet Asterion has a similar vibe in some (but definitely not all) aspects. tag: Ecumenopolis.

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2017/10/my-four-favorite-metasettings.html


... and a few adventures seed s from Ravnica lore:

- 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).

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-lost-mines-of-ravnica-iii.html
 

Eric_Diaz

Registered User
Validated User
#8
Gruul Clans
In a city whose government is defined by its guilds, the Gruul are defined as the Guild that isn't. The vengeful descendants of a guild dedicated to protecting the wilderness from the ever-expanding city, the Gruul were betrayed; the wilderness was consumed and their duties were stripped from them. Now they seek to topple the city and bring back the wilderness, taking in those who, for whatever reason, have turned against city life. Combining a reverence of nature with a warlike disposition, the Gruul Clans are born of Red and Green Mana's unity; they live by the maxims "Don't Think, Feel" and "Nature Red In Tooth And Claw". They actively shun the city and its weakness, and seek to tear it down to restore the balance that was shattered so long ago. Alone amongst the guilds, they are the outsiders to the system, and that suits them fine.

My Thoughts: This is the second faction that I think needs changing. The "luddite" angle isn't bad, it's perfectly believable that there are people on this city-world who fight to restore the original forms of nature and wilderness, but they need to be deeper than that - from my limited knowledge of Magic's lore, the Gruul tend to be used as "the obligatory bad guys faction" for the Boros to fight and/or the "savage barbarians faction" a lot, not to mention that they can obviously act as a stand-in for mocking some of the more... "out there" anti-government/anti-science groups like anti-vaccers. I think perhaps the best angle to go for with my version of the Clans is to emphasize the "willfully chose this lifestyle" and "back to nature" angles - the not!Gruul inhabit the Rubblebelts (regions of the world-city that have been demolished and overgrown turning them into the closest thing to wild nature areas) and choose to live in their "old ways" lifestyle. The majority of them do not have a hostile relationship with the city; instead, they act in a similar fashion to African tribes who live in/near nature preserves; they make money off of people who come to hunt the wild beasts of their land (in a sustainable fashion, of course) or to try living the old ways lifestyle themselves - they hope that such individuals will convert to their way of thinking, but at the least they know that doing this gives the rest of the city an incentive not to reclaim their territory. That's not to say the ecoterrorists don't still exist, but they're a minority who get all the press attention.
IMO the thing about te Gruul is... they are RIGHT. They have been duped, nature has been violated, and the city is now bigger than it should be, maybe getting dangerously close to disasters of epic proportions. Hunger, disease, erosion, etc.
 

VoidDrifter

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Validated User
#9
Now, let's talk about races... Firstly, let me share a look at where I'm coming from when I'm brainstorming this designing aspect:

1: Not your standard menagerie: We're all familiar with the dwarf/elf/gnome/halfling lineup and, frankly, it gets a little boring. I want to try and experiment.

2: The Melting Pot Effect: This may not be the canonical Ravnica, but it's still an enormous great city where different races have intermingled sociably for centuries. I can see some rather broad "base races" - for example, a "Fae" core race with subraces for Elf, Gnome, Merfolk, Dryad, etc.

3: Monsters on the Streets: To emphasize the melting pot nature of this world, I intend to integrate unusual or "traditionally monstrous" humanoids into the civilization where I can. Some can, of course, pursue a "traditional" lifestyle as part of the Gruul Clans or the Cult of Rakdos, but ideally there are places for orcs, kobolds, etc amongst other guilds too.

4: Domestication: I see no reason to shy away from including beastfolk races, because they can add to the setting just as much as the monsters can. Ratfolk make great sense, "Braygors" (minotaurs with bovine, goat and sheep features) have a lot of potential symbolism, kenku and raccoon-folk and fox-folk and spider-folk all represent the kinds of animals that readily adapt to urban environments, and so forth.

So, what races am I tentatively contemplating? Well... to start with, I'm going to divide these races into Solid and Weak categories. Solid races are ones I have a strong idea for and which I am set to incorporate. Weak races are ones I'm undecided on or which don't have a strong basis or which otherwise I am undecided on and need help solidifying my course of action.

There's also going to be a lot of race choices here because, well, I like diverse arrays of races, and it's a D&D tradition that's just obscured by not putting everything in one book. If you look at Al-Qadim, for example, your actual PC race options are explicitly: Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Orcs, Half-Orcs, Ogres, Half-Ogres, Ogre Magi, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears, Kobolds, Lizardfolk, Aarakocra, Wemics, Gnolls, Merfolk and Locathah.


Solid
Humans: Well, you gotta have humans, don't you?

Faery: Inspired by the Shadow Fey of Ravenloft, the idea here is to exploit 5e's Base Race/Subrace mechanic; the Faery "race" is a collective term for the various fae races that have been assimilated into the omnipolis, banding together over shared heritage and culture - if they aren't literally one race with different forms.

Deva: Ravnica has Angels, so it makes sense to me to include something akin to angels. Nentir Vale's devas, angels who forsook the heavenly realms to walk amongst mortals and who possess immortality of the "serial reincarnation" variety, fit that niche perfectly.

Daemon: One of the ideas I want to explore in this setting is how urbanization changes society. Yesterday's demon prince of miscegenation may find itself quite surprised at being today's respected god of interspecies love and hybridized races. Daemons are a way to bring in Tieflings, going with an angle of "risen fiend" rather than "humanoid with a dash of fiendish heritage". In fact, I've actually got a couple of ways to bring these in; for example, my actual notebook on the setting describes them like this, which I don't know if it's better or worse: "Dark mirrors to the Devas, the Daemons are said to be what is left of fiend-lords who were imprisoned and bound in the City Eternal as it grew, whose essence was sundered and divided into multiple shards, rendering them irrevocably trapped by dividing the former dark gods amongst their own mortal races. And yet, in a way, this has been to their benefit, for it has lifted them from the darkness, and made of them a people no worse than any other."

Aetheral: Between Eberron's Warforged, Kaladesh's Aetherborn and even Ravnica's rare occurences of sapient Weirds (elementals made from fusing opposed elements, like Fire and Water), an artificial humanoid race just makes sense for a dungeonpunk world. I'm currently undecided if I should embrace the idea of making them the Genasi stand-ins as well, or stick to just pure magitek-spawned humanoids.

Gorgon: I LOVE Ravnica's gorgons, ever since I was introduced to Vraska, and I really want to include them in my setting as well. I will admit I don't have particular fine details for them at this point - like, my other setting has gorgons as a highly mutable race, and I don't know if I should retain that or not.

Ratfolk: ...What do I need to say? I mean, seriously, come on; how can you have a cityscape setting, especially one with a faction like the Golgari Swarm, and NOT have ratfolk? It just boggles my mind! They do need some discussion, but I'm very set on their inclusion.

Minotaurs: One of the things I like about the Nentir Vale setting and Ravnica both is how they make minotaurs more than the standard savage mindless beasts they tend to be portrayed as. I also like this refutation of Warhammer's beastmen; the cow, the goat and the sheep are all species that prosper in the wild, yes, but they have been intimately involved in human civilization for eons - indeed, arguably we first became civilized when we learned to herd animals instead of depending solely on hunting and foraging. Naturally, I want to include them in my own setting, and I want to borrow MtG's idea of minotaurs (or "Braygors" as I'm considering calling them) varying between bovine, ovine and caprine(? whatever the term is for goats) features.

Kenku: With crows as one of the avian species that have best adapted to the urban environment, kenku - particularly using their deeper lore from 4e - are a great incorporation into the setting. I was planning on going with a matriarchal angle and incorporating some of the lore from the Ravenkin - the sapient talking sun-worshipping ravens from Ravenloft, who had a PC writeup in AD&D.

Kymerae: These are the species of one, the truest children of the city-world, the unusual hybrids, the bio-borgs, the mutants and the artificial lifeforms. They are the city's ultimate outcasts.


Weak
Jotuns/Orks: So, originally, I was going to go with a Jotun race which consists of the "big bruiser humanoids"; a base race split into Orc, Ogre and Troll, since these races have a fairly similar niche concept and they actually tend to intermingle a lot in standard D&D anyway. But then, I stumbled across something... on deviantart, a user named Flick-the-Thief has a series of NSFW comics set in a world where orcs almost wiped out the other races, who responded by casting an epic spell given to them by a mysterious stranger, which cursed the orcs to only produce female offspring; the orcs only survived by finding a magical ritual that allowed them to interbreed with males from other races, although they still produce only female "half-orcs". Thus, the current orc society has been forced to make a relatively peaceful co-existence with the other races for its own survival, even though it technically now consists of female half-orcs who culturally identify as orcs. Now, I won't deny that this is blatant fetish fuel. But, it made me wonder if it couldn't actually be spun into something serious. After all, prior to 5e, which tried to make Orcs a little more respectful of her, Luthic was very much a battered spouse - a literal goddess of "stay in the kitchen, and you better give me strong sons or else". I could easily see a divine power play, back before the city swallowed the world, when the other gods persuaded Luthic that Gruumsh's inflexibility was going to get the orcs wiped out, causing her to betray him by only creating female orc souls, and thus starving him (and his brothers) of power, because in their misogyny that had decreed that only the souls of male orcs were worthy to sustain them. I just... I don't know which is the better idea here. The former is safer, yeah, but the latter is more unique. I really need somebody to talk to about this.

Faceless: A "base race" divisible into Changelings (Eberron's famous lesser doppelgangers) and Skulks (a human offshoot with chameleonic skin, who have been playable despite their atrocious fluff in both AD&D and 3e). I'm just not sure if this is a good idea or not; they were mostly a kneejerk reaction to Ravnica including "doppelgangers and other shapeshifters" in its ranks. They do make sense, but they don't feel interesting to me, which may just be because they didn't really interest me in standard D&D.

Wyrms: Dragon-folk are an obvious fit for the setting, between Ravnica's Niv-Mizzet and the highly cultured history of Nentir Vale's Dragonborn, one of my favorite races. My big issue is that I can't decide which of two angles to go for; I want to go for the "Wyrm" race being split into two subraces, but I don't know if I want to homage Niv-Mizzet with a Red/Blue Mana split (fire & lightning elementalists vs illusionist telepaths) or if I want to base them off of the Arcane Dragons from Dragon Magazine, with a divide between the sagacious Tome Dragons and the dark, sinister Hex Dragons.

Sphinxkin: I don't know about this race, plain and simple. I mean, I've always felt that D&D sphinx lore is so messed up that gynosphinxes turning to humanoid spouses and producing a race of half-sphinxes actually makes more sense, and Ravnica does officially have sphinxes, but still...

"Scalies:" As if the name doesn't give it away, this is one of my weakest ideas. I really want to find a niche for Lizardfolk, because I hate their religiously motivated anti-intellectual culture from standard D&D, but I just don't have anything I particularly want to do with them.

Rabbitfolk: I feel that this is an underutilized race, and I'd like to include it if I can, but the honest truth is that I don't have a really solid basis for them; they feel more like a Simic Combine and/or Selesnya Conclave counterpart to the ratfolk at the moment, and I really want to discuss this so they don't become superfluous.

Aranea: I really like the idea of the aranea, but I won't deny, I don't have a particularly strong vision of them beyond scholarly, magically adept spider-people at the moment.

Renardois & Procyal: So, raccoons and foxes (and maybe also coyotes) are all species that have really, REALLY adjusted well to urbanization and can be found readily integrating themselves into the urban ecosystem in real life. That deserves some acknowledgement, I feel, but I do not have any really solid "hooks" to hang them on beyond renardois (foxfolk) being illusionists and procyals (raccoonfolk) being artificers.

Gnoll: I really like 4e's gnolls, and I'd like to include them in this city - people do domesticate hyenas in real life - but I don't really have any ideas for them.

Vryloka: Vampires are one of the races that canonically exist in Ravnica, so I'd like to at least try to incorporate "PC vampires" into my own setting. The precise angle, though, I'm uncertain of; at the moment, I'm kind of leaning towards Vryloka being akin to a mixture of their namesake's fluff from 4e (humans who sought powers through dark magic rites and became "living vampires") with a dash of the fluff on vampires from Innistrad (the angle of "vampires start off relatively weak and with a consistent set of powers, but develop increased might and unique abilities with time and experience"), so the "vampire as monster" you encounter would actually be an extremely old vryloka. Sound at all like it could work?
 
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Count Dorku

Renegade librarian
Validated User
#10
Orzhov Syndicate
So, what do you get if you take a mafia comprised of necromancers and have them take on all the trappings and social role of a church? In Ravnica, you get the Orzhov Syndicate, also known as the Church of Deals; a notoriously corrupt and cynical guild that manages all matters of business and commerce on their plane. Ruled over by a council of ghosts, under whom exist fractious "underbosses" whose life-preserving magic and, perhaps, more than a little inbreeding leads to a tendency towards deformity, the Orzhov worship only profit and power. Their power is founded on necromancy; debts WILL be repaid, and debtors who die are brought back as indentured ghosts or as mindless zombie slaves, known as thrulls. They're infamous for their focus on the letter of the law, their archaic but religiously pursued rituals and customs, and their blatant nepotism.

My Thoughts: Again, this is one of the more boring guilds to me, which I think stems from my general disinclination towards religion and the sparse amount of lore I have available when researching. There's no reason they should be boring! I mean, how do you make "necromantic mafia-church" dull? The Orzhov have a great internal culture clash, being torn between White's focus on community and Black's focus on individuality. I think just being able to expand upon their internal culture and customs will probably help them seem a lot more interesting.
One thing that might help would be to figure out what the Orzhov clergy actually claim to believe. As it is generally shown in the cards, it's hard to see how they always seem to have giant throngs of believers at the Church of Deals, given that "we have one commandment and it's Thou Shalt Hand Over Your Wallet" is not the most appealing religious message*. There are some vague references to purity, sin and penance, but as presented every other religious or pseudoreligious group should be out-recruiting the Church of Deals; sure, the Selesnya are a terrifying hive-mind cult and the Rakdos publish recipe books on how best to prepare some rather non-traditional forms of pork, but at least there seems to be some kind of benefit to signing up with them.

* [insert Scientology joke here]
 
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