You got your gothic chocolate in my fantasy peanut butter! Wizards of the Coast recently released an artbook for their brooding, vampiric Innistrad setting, and hot on its heels came Plane Shift: Innistrad, a free 40-page PDF filled with D&D rules content allowing you to play D&D in the Magic: the Gathering world. Though the Plane Shift PDF doesn’t go into great depth on the setting, but when combined with the Innistrad art book, a sizable hardcover full of gorgeous M:tG art and Innistrad lore, it is every bit as useful as useful as a world guidebook like the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2008) or the Eberron Campaign Setting (2004).
So, what’s the deal with Innistrad? Why this, why now?
“On the plane of Innistrad, horrors stalk the shadows and scratch at doors in the night. Humanity is beset on all sides: vampires thirst for human blood, werewolves live for the thrill of the hunt, the restless spirits of the dead haunt the living, and no corpse is safe from reanimation at the hands of cruel necromancers or cunning scientists. Only their grim determination—and their staunch faith in the protection of their patron archangel, Avacyn—has allowed humans to survive in this nightmarish realm.”
If you’re interested in the Innistrad setting, it’s probably because you played one of the two blocks set there; either Innistrad or the in-progress Shadows over Innistrad. If you’ve never played a game of Magic in your life, its settings are incredibly rich even for the uninitiated, though it’s still worth looking at some of the cards to see the flavor text. The Innistrad setting is one of gothic horror in an Earth-like world with 18th–19th century technology.
You might want to play a D&D campaign set in Innistrad if you like conflict between the forces of Hell and Heaven (demons versus angels) or between those afflicted by gothic curses (vampires and werewolves) or between humans and eldritch horrors (humanity and the Eldrazi titan Emrakul). You might want to avoid Innistrad if you like playing elves and dwarves (humans are Innistrad’s only “heroic” race) or if you like your fantasy with lots of dragons (they are exceedingly rare and incredibly vicious).
What Free D&D Stuff can I Steal?
As a free PDF, any of the game content revealed in Plane Shift: Innistrad can be lifted out of its original gothic horror setting and used in another context, if you prefer. Humans get special subraces that model the different peoples of Innistrad, and all characters gain access to the Inquisitor background.
Dungeon Masters get a few new toys to play with, too. Three wholly new monsters—Magic-inspired takes on the vampire, werewolf, and spectre—are provided, a unique “creepy doll” monster, as well as ways to modify flesh golems into Innistrad’s horrific skaabs… plus a few more. A few light rules on how to use a Sanity system in D&D is prefaced by the madness of the eldritch abomination known as Emrakul.
Haven’t I Heard about this Gothic Horror D&D Somewhere Before?
Plane Shift: Innistrad’s release was cleverly timed just after the release of Curse of Strahd, a reimagined version of the classic D&D adventure Ravenloft, updated for 5th edition. Both settings drink deep from the thematic well of gothic horror, and Plane Shift capitalizes on this similarity with its closing chapter, “Curse of Innistrad.” This appendix highlights parallels between the two worlds and gives ways to convert assets from Strahd for use in Innistrad.
If you’re interested in Curse of Strahd but don’t want to drop $30 on Amazon for it, check out Dice, Camera, Action!, a Critical Role-style livestream in which Chris Perkins and YouTube personalities like Anna Prosser and ProJared play the adventure.
If you’re a Magic: the Gathering fan, the Innistrad art book is an instant buy. If you’re a fan of both Magic and D&D, then definitely check out Plane Shift. If you’re just a D&D fan with no interest in Magic… well, still take a look at the setting. You might find it scratches an itch that Ravenloft doesn’t quite scratch. For fans of Magic’s Zendikar setting, Plane Shift: Zendikar was released in April.
What other worlds do you want to see collide with Dungeons & Dragons? Talk about it in the comments… or if you really want to see something happen, tweet it to @Wizards_DnD!
Featured Image and Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast