On the weekend of 9th to 11th November, dungeon masters around the world (including in Malaysia) ran a special Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Krenko’s Way, at various game shops. This Ravnica Weekend event was intended to promote the first book combining D&D with the Magic: the Gathering multiverse, the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. The introductory adventure serves as a gateway to bring new players into the RPG hobby.
Calling the Guilds
I and several other dungeon masters from GMGMY – Game Masters Guild of Malaysia had already signed up to run the D&D Ravnica game. It appeared a bit risky to make the commitment ahead of the event, because we had not received any details about the adventure – would there be pre-generated characters, and what would the plot be about? Nonetheless, nine volunteers stepped up to promote Ravnica Weekend.
My own interest in Ravnica Weekend sprang from the potential of the Ravnica setting – a world-spanning magical megacity peopled by ten colourful and diverse guilds. I have a warm place in my heart for fantasy cities that are dense, complex and cosmopolitan: New Crobuzon, Ankh-Morpork, Camorr, Sanctuary, Darujhistan, Sigil, Doskvol. It’s always easier for me to create – and continue – adventures in cities, where everyone is interconnected, and any action will have consequences.
I managed to book a time slot at a friendly game store (Geniuz Maze in Shah Alam) several weeks before Ravnica Weekend. But many other dungeon masters and stores could not make detailed plans until the week of the event, because Wizards of the Coast only released the PDF of the adventure to stores on 5 November. My helpful contact at Geniuz Maze, Ian Adly, arranged to pass me the adventure the moment it became available.
Krenko’s Way is a pretty straightforward adventure in which several novice adventurers from different guilds are hired to bring in an excaped convict, the goblin gang leader Krenko, before his enemies find him and start a war on the streets. There are a few potential clue trails which can lead to roleplaying interactions with various contacts, a confrontation with a renegade arms dealer, and a sewer exploration side-trip. The main set piece of the adventure is Krenko’s hideout, a warehouse guarded by goblins and a magical construct called a Loading Rig that could potentially stomp over our heroes.
There are exactly ten Level 1 characters for players to pick from, one from each of the guilds of Ravnica (although one of them is undercover as a different guild). The adventure has a nice variety of classes and races, including the uniquely Ravnican versions of goblins, vedalken (learned blue arcane humanoids), loxodons (elephant-men), minotaurs, dark elves, simic hybrids and more.
The folks from GMGMY weren’t able to physically convene between the release of the scenario and the weekend of the event. Still, we did discuss possible sticking points through online chat. For instance, we noticed that some of the goblin enemies carried deadly bombs that could potentially knock out the Level 1 player characters in one shot, and made plans to give the players ample chance to avoid getting blown up all at once.
Freebies of Ravnica
At the last minute, GM Gary Ooi stepped up to produce several sheets of Ravnica logo stickers at a printing shop, which he distributed to some of us at cost. It was an inspiring example of local GMs going the extra distance to pay for free give-aways for new players. I also brought ten pre-generated character sheets and some Role Over Play Dead stickers (designed by Elisha) as freebies.
I was fortunate to get a full table at Geniuz Maze on the night of 10 November, for my Ravnica Weekend time slot. We had four newcomers to roleplaying and three veteran roleplayers, including my friends Ian and Marvin. Some of the players didn’t have experience with Ravnica either, so I showed them a Return to Ravnica trailer video to help give them an idea of how vast and fractious the city could be.
The party consisted of a Golgari dark elf druid named Vraska, a Rakdos goblin bard named Doot Doot, an Orzhov human cleric named Eldric, a Dimir human rogue named Jack (pretending to be Orzhov), a Boros minotaur fighter named Bardos, a Selesnya loxodon paladin named Andro and an Azorius vedalken wizard named Frisk.
Dungeons & Detectives
After being briefed on their mission, the adventurers began by gathering information and investigating the escape of Krenko. The Azorius wizard, the Rakdos bard and the two Orzhov members (including the Dimir spy) went around visiting guild contacts to get some background on Krenko’s gang, and learned about his resources, his powerful Loading Rig, and likely gang territory in the Foundry Street area. Eventually, the bard found them a goblin tavern on Foundry Street to stake out the area and wait for the others.
Meanwhile, the Golgari druid led the rest of the group through underground shortcuts to investigate Krenko’s sewer route. I am in love with the Golgari Swarm as a faction and provided plenty of narration of the journey through ruined, fungus-covered caverns where Golgari farmers tended their giant insect herds.
After a brief confrontation with some sewer-dwelling kraul (who had to be bribed to let them through), the group eventually ended up underneath Krenko’s base. To make it interesting, they had to get through a heavy grate in order to exit the sewer. But the muscle-bound loxodon and minotaur were both unable to lift the grate (both players rolled really badly). So close, yet so far!
Reuniting a Party
When the game takes a strange turn off the proscribed path in a published adventure, it is the duty of the gamemaster to improvise interesting twists that keep the players engaged. Earlier, Doot Doot’s player had rolled really badly (a 1) when using contacts to find a suitable tavern. I decided that the tavern they chose was under surveillance by Krenko’s gang, and the gang would respond by gathering some toughs to go wallop the investigators. Knowing this, I had the sewer team overhear some of Krenko’s gang members at the base talking about how the gang was calling in all its warriors to go ambush some nosy guild agents at the tavern. Suddenly, the sewer team had a new goal – get to the tavern to save their teammates (and possibly ambush the ambushers).
The goblin gang burst into the tavern to shoot at Frisk, Eldric and Jack with crossbows. Eldric almost died in the ensuing skirmish, and soon the tavern was on fire and filling with smoke, bystanders fleeing in terror. After a couple of combat rounds, I arranged for the adventurers from the sewer team to arrive on the scene to fight their way through the goblins. Hurrah for dramatic timing! Eventually they managed to beat up Krenko and drag their wounded out of the fire, and it was Mission Accomplished.
Your Ravnica Experience May Vary
Other gamemasters who ran Krenko’s Way reported having very different results. Some groups of players were able to seize explosives from the optional arms dealer encounter, using them to good effect against the goblin gang. Others found themselves outgunned and overwhelmed by a second goblin gang (Krenko’s enemies) who made liberal use of bombs, and the end result was a bloody street war between rival gangs.
This is not such a surprise, because Wizards of the Coast’s adventure design for D&D is often a mixed bag. Krenko’s Way made use of a few elements of the Ravnica setting, but any Magic: the Gathering veteran would find themselves underwhelmed by the lore content. Krenko’s Way is best run out of the Ravnica sourcebook, which supports the game with a lot more setting information, including guild rules and maps for common locations.
Although the gamemasters were organised well in advance, attendance was spotty, as not all Malaysian stores have a strong D&D community presence, even in the Klang Valley. Some gamemasters found themselves playing with only a couple of players, or not being able to get a group themselves, as in Gary Ooi’s case. As mentioned before, the adventure was not released until a few days before the event, giving gamemasters very little time to prepare.
Nevertheless, the event was a fun outing for me and my players, and I certainly feel the Ravnica setting itself has a lot more untapped potential. Will I return to it someday? We’ll just have to see.
A big thanks to all my fellow gamemasters who contributed to the event, and thanks to Ian Adly at Geniuz Maze for his help as well. Be sure to take a look at the other photos of this event in our album.
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