Sorry to all of the DMs and players of D&D out there, seeing that we have been quite busy with the new Magic the Gathering set #ZendikarRising. Spoiler season has been nonstop for awhile, but the introduction of the return to Zendikar and the new lore dump has had us very excited and VERY distracted. But what has also had us excited is the mounting cross-product promotion between D&D and MTG. Of course, most of you know, the two companies are owned by Wizards of the Coast and they are making the most of merging the two with the Theros campaign setting earlier this year (awesome book) and, now, MTG announcing a whole set of cards based on the classic FORGOTTEN REALMS setting (check out my article on this HERE).
You should check that out. But I’m not here to rehash or sell that. I’m here to pitch a campaign setting. No, not one of our homebrew worlds like War of the Banks. I’m here to give you some reasons as to WHY PLAY D&D in ZENDIKAR!
(Now, for some basic info look up the Planeshift write up for ZENDIKAR done a few years ago)
Zendikar IS Adventure
From the first, WotC built the plane of Zendikar as an ‘adventure world’. It was a place where civilization can no longer take root because of the violent elemental ‘roils’. It is a wild place; unpredictable and dangerous. So much wild territory to cover, creatures to hunt and ruins to plunder.
On every continent, great Expeditionary Houses are the center of this quest for adventure. Like the guilds of D&D, they served as base, barracks and shop for all equipment and weapons needed to venture into the wild. This will give a structure to begin all pursuits and a place for your adventurers to hang their hat. Here you can build a varied set of NPCs and a setting that gives a DM a lot of room for amazing flavor.
Ready-made random adventures: THE ROIL
The focus of concern of anyone adventuring in Zendikar begins and ends with the ROIL. The roil are upheavals in the elemental makeup of the land that make traveling it deadly. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their appearance, but it has been thought that the roil is Zendikar’s natural defense against threats or to ‘purify itself of corruption’. Although most talk about the roil as if it was a momentary call to action against the now-destroyed Eldrazi horrors and that its actions now are those of an injured, tainted nature, most ancients would probably argue otherwise. Either way, the roil is a problem.
This makes for ready to play random encounters. Any creature with an elemental stat block could be dropped into an adventure with ease. It gives the DM more storyline reasons for these creatures to be there. On top of that, studying and researching the roil would be a great focus for an adventuring party.
SUBCLASS: ROILMAGE ARCANE TRADITION
An obvious choice for a subclass here would be a ROILMAGE ARCANE TRADITION. These shamen are native to Zendikar and have been taught in the ancient Zendikarian arts that vary greatly to any other elemental style subtype from any other setting. A lot of the elemental subtypes in D&D seem to center on infusion of the elements within the sorcerer, wizard or druid etc. It’s simply a part of their power set.
The roilmage never seems to build the power from within. Most of their kind manipulate the elements, calm them, suppress them or incite them. They do not do this from some family bloodline, so they’re not sorcerers. No, they are taught the ways of the roil and study on their spells that effect the elements.
They are mainly a part of a tribe or adventuring party to protect others from the roil and their elemental attacks. You can play the mage as a pacifier but also as an inciter. Either is dangerous. I would suggest control, command and summoning spells to flesh out the Roilmage and charm, calm and abjuration spells for the lullmage.
Artificer subclass: Stoneforge Mystic
Another great subclass to work with would be Stoneforge Mystic. I see a lot of homebrew move toward sorcerer, but I think this would go better as an Artificer. Following the text of the cards and the lore fiction that WotC puts out and using Zendikar’s planeswalker, Nahiri, as sort of an example, you get the flavor of a character that can forge weapons out of the stone itself. Of course, Nahiri is also a Lithomancer, with natural abilities to manipulate the earth itself and we’re not sure if all of them have this. I would assume they all have a bit of lithomancy in their moveset as they mold the weapons this way.
Artificer just makes sense with the forging tools and the infusions. Adding the ability to pull the material you need from the very rocks and earth lends to great flavor.
Paladins of Fallen gods
There are no gods on Zendikar.
The idols they once worshiped have been revealed to be ancient memories of eldritch horrors that, in the not too distant past, revealed themselves in apocalyptic fashion. I would assume many have fallen from the faith that they had once clung onto. The merfolk worshiped the three traitor deities in their three elements: sea, air and earth. Although most have abandoned faith, I believe some would clutch onto their core beliefs so strongly that they would transcend betrayal.
Paladins have taken a strong turn in D&D to the point that they no longer need a god to power their spells. The paladins follow oaths that rely on a core set of values that they will follow to the end. For the merfolk, it is the three creeds that their people have followed for eons. The creed of the wind who sought wisdom and truth looking to the mystical rather than the natural causes behind life’s events. The water creed centered on the intellectual; reason over emotion who make up a good many of the navigators on Zendikar. The creed of the trickster formerly called Cosi. This is the way of the chaotic.
It would be easy to build a set of paladins around each creed. They believed the creeds before, some wouldn’t just give up the core drives of their whole culture. There would be some who would drop the traitor gods and continued onto beliefs that have served their people for generations.
You Had Me at Ancient Ruins!
Zendikar is loaded with ancient ruins and forgotten kingdoms. Their history is missing a lot of detail. This is how they ended up worshiping eldritch horrors as gods in the first place. But utilizing the Expeditionary Houses, you are able to access this forgotten history. This lends to a ton of mysterious artifacts and quests for power and magic. Or you could join Nissa, Jace and Nahiri in attempting to heal Zendikar.
Submerged cities, floating cities, cities on fire, this plane has it all! Ior Ruin, Singing City, The Sunspring, the Crypt of Agadeem, Emeria in the clouds, the Living Spire and the Ula Temple just to name a few. You can go to the MTG site to see some of the geography and Zendikar cards old and new to see some of the sites actual names
Zendikar Rising and the return of the Skyclaves
If the above were not enough, the new MTG set, ZENDIKAR RISING, is bringing a whole new set of locations and lore that will aid you in fleshing out a campaign setting and give you plenty of plot hooks to start out with. With the Eldrazi Titans gone, Zendikar is left to heal. Unfortunately, the roil that we mentioned earlier is even more volatile than before and is cause for concern going forward.
On top of all of this, new ruins are rising from the surface to the sky. These SKYCLAVES are seven ancient cities that one of the races, the Kor, used to rule from. Not only is this an opening for more lore, artifacts, magic and adventure, but the whole thing about raiding a mysterious sky city just rocks.
YOU NEED MORE?
That’s all I have for now. But surely you can see the richness of this plane and all of the possibilities. If you would like more detail about any of the above or would like for us to flesh out a some of the subclasses or other ideas touched upon here, just message us in the comments below or on our facebook. I’m really giddy about this whole plane and had to control myself to bring you what I did. But we’re all in this homebrew together and you’re as much a part of this as we are at the Magic Tavern.
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AND if you’re into #Mtg and its lore, check out my article on what’s going on in #ZendikarRising HERE!