The DM wears Prada

With a new month it comes a new theme for the RPG Blog Carnival. One more time our Lady of All Faeries from Pitfalls and Pixies is hosting, and she has selected “Tabletop Tales” as the theme in this occasion. The theme is slightly ambiguous, including posts about a plot point that made us especially proud, criticism or review of a storyline, exploits of characters and even lore behind our world. Now, if you’re a regular in this blog, you may know I’m not only a fan of Eberron, but also Magic: the Gathering. I usually adapt its storylines to my campaigns and that’s what I decided to write about: first, on how to re-flavor wildly different places as just remote areas of the same world; second, on how to negotiate with players to create particular heroes to fit the story of the campaign in was that are rewarding to them. And for both endeavours, I need to put my best act together in order to make a good Perusasion check: I need to wear Prada.

MtG storylines are full of bigger-than-life threats and emperiled worlds. Extraplanar dangers and different situations plunge some characters into being the only ones who can manage to avert the world’s destruction, most of the times in the shape of a quest. Of course, every single fantasy trope fulfills that description at some extent, so it shouldn’t be rare to use them as basis for my D&D campaign. They provide a full cast of NPC’s with quotes providing personalities, inspiring art providing visual cues and in most cases, even a narrative structure: all you have to do is to branch the possibilities so you don’t railroad the characters. During the years of 4e, you could even fit them into three-arcs stories matching the three tiers of play (heroic, paragon and epic).

By the time I learnt about Eberron, my party was immersed in a campaign set in the Forgotten Realms. I fell in love so much with this new setting, that I tried to have my players start a new campaign, but they were not into it: they already liked their characters as much as I did Eberron.

So I wore my Prada for the first time in my life as a DM.

I offered my players to keep their characters: they will have to visit a different world in order to continue their quest, and there was no way to come back (in-story). All of them LOVED the idea of their characters sacrificing their lives in order to save their world and having the chance to help a totally different one in which not even their gods would be able to hear them. Once in a while, I introduced a planar phenomena that they pursued hoiping to go back to Faerun, but this was a tribute to the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 80s, and my players knew it and played along.

Two years into the new setting, their quest was finally over: it was time for their characters to retire. We used to play some Magic games while waiting for the party to arrive in order to start D&D, so my players were already familiar with some Dominaria basics (the post-apocalyptic ones from Time Spiral, though). Would they want to play the story in the cards as a D&D campaign?

I wore my Prada for the second time in my life as a DM.

What did I offer this time? Well, the Time Spiral timeline features temporal rifts being applied to the world, causing multiple parallel universes to merge into the already colliding past-present-future of current events. So I offered a way to send their original characters back home. That short campaign (it was designed to be a limited campaign, as the rumors for 4e were growing steadily) saw my players using two characters each, embracing an old and a new generation of heroes helping each other and with a heartbreaking farewell through a unique Gate spell powered by time essence itself.

From that point, I knew I didn’t have to bargain for my players to play my campaigns, of course, but my next was already being planned to be experimental in a wayit turned out spectacular. In the meantime, I was transforming some of my favorite MtG storylines into short, limited campaign, but what they required was my players to create characters fitting into the needs and powers required to succeed.

So I wore my Prada one third time in my life as a DM.

And from that point, I do it all the time: when introducing a new campaign, I give background advice into how to fit into the storyline in a deeper way than an adventure hook would. I’ve placed Ravnica into Sharn, Innistrad into the Karrnathi countryside, Mirrodin into Cannith laboratories and of course (one of my favorites) Zendikar into Xen’drik uncharted territories.

And now I’m planning into releasing my notes as ready-to-play limited campaigns. So I ask you, dear reader: which one would you like to see first?

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