Romance is an unlikely subject for adventures coming out in October, but that makes Ravnica Pride an even more surprising delight. While there's some monstrous thrulls and Orzhov ghosts for those really digging for a Halloween connection, this is a charming, light-hearted, and earnest pair of adventures focused on exactly what the title promises.
In short, I love it, but who checks out reviews for opinions? Read on for a rundown of what you get for $4.95, background about the characters, and an overview of the adventures:
Five custom stat blocks:
Chandra Nalaar, a famous Magic: The Gathering planeswalker with a challenge rating (CR) of 12
Ral Zarek, another notable Magic: The Gathering planeswalker with a CR of 19
Tomik Vrona, a legendary character from Magic: The Gathering with a CR of 8
a new type of Orzhov thrull with a CR of 3
an original CR 5 Orzhov NPC who is a 6th-level spellcaster
The custom layout by Anja Svare (@anjaproductions on Twitter) is clean but distinctive, with a heavy Valentine's Day feel that's appropriate for the content.
You don't need to know anything about Magic: The Gathering to dive into these adventures, but because they revolve around notable characters from the setting, prior knowledge adds depth and excitement to the proceedings.
What I also love about the adventures is that they provide great ideas that you can also take and use elsewhere. The adventures make me want to play a campaign where the party runs a dating agency. While a lot of D&D adventures can be combat-heavy, these stories really let the social and exploration pillars of gameplay shine.
The Perfect Date focuses on Chandra Nalaar and Nissa Revane. Chandra is a fiery (figuratively and literally, because magic) and impulsive character while Nissa is shy and contemplative, more attuned to plants than people. It's a case of opposites attract. They worked together for a time as part of an Avengers-style band of planeswalker superheroes hopping from plane to plane fighting off powerful menaces, and that's when they drew together, culminating in a declaration of love for each other in the novel War of the Spark. Their relationship was the subject of controversy when Wizards of the Coast replaced its long-time Magic story team, which had been building up the romance over years, causing a sudden about face that canned the budding romance and retconned Chandra's sexuality from pansexual to heterosexual.
Labors of Love covers the relationship between Ral Zarek and Tomik Vrona. Their romance is canon in Magic: The Gathering and covered in the novels The Gathering Storm and War of the Spark. Both are native Ravnicans, with Ral belonging to the technocratic Izzet League guild and Tomik belonging to the part-church, part-bank, all-mob Orzhov Syndicate guild. Their romance is kept secret because of their conflicting allegiances, but they otherwise have a healthy relationship apart from Ral being a workaholic.
Adventure Overview: The Perfect Date
In The Perfect Date, Chandra goes to an actual matchmaking firm for help planning the perfect date with Nissa. The matchmaker quickly decides they're out of their depth and hires the adventuring party to assist.
This adventure is very role play heavy and relies on the party to come up with creative solutions. There are broad categories the players can work with, such as planning a dinner, identifying a location for the date, or building a flying machine. The author provides roll tables containing complications, my favorites of which are the ones that bring in other Ravnican characters for cameos. Beyond that, the party can do as they like.
The setup is perfect for social groups and players who love improv. I could immediately picture my friends coming up with outrageous plans and then running into problems getting them to work. Players invested in the NPCs get to control the story, making their own happy ending that Wizards of the Coast refused to deliver.
DMs who want a clear blueprint to follow may have trouble with the open-ended nature of this adventure and should consider running the other included adventure instead, which has a more traditional structure. However, I think the The Perfect Date provides everything you need to tell the particular story it wants to tell, and the joy of tabletop role playing games is that they're wide open enough to enable these more inventive, hands-on stories. For a group that's into collaborative storytelling, it's going to be a memorable experience.
Adventure Overview: Labors of Love
In Labors of Love, Ral is so busy with work that he doesn't have time to see Tomik. When a possible opening in his schedule appears, he hires the adventuring party to help him wrap up his work and book a restaurant while he's stuck in meetings all day. I feel very called out by this adventure.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a more traditional adventure with a three act structure culminating in a dramatic battle. It feels very much like an episode of a TV show, with what seems like a mundane task leading to a conspiracy that blows up and then wraps up by the end of the episode.
There's potential for shenanigans, such as when the desired restaurant is already fully booked, which can lead to some hilarious outcomes if players roll poorly. Nothing should stall out the story at the recommended party level though. Players have plenty of opportunities to improvise and explore while still following a tight story path.
The final battle is interesting in that it's designed to be a hold-out-until-reinforcements-arrive fight rather than an outright kill-the-big-bad fight, though it does account for that outcome. I'm a fan of anything that shakes up combat, though parties who are touchy about NPCs "stealing their thunder" by showing up and saving the day may not welcome this particular setup. It's easy enough to rebalance the fight to have the players win the day though, or to add other objectives to the fight such as preventing a sabotage from occurring. Overall I like its flexibility, and it's not designed to cheat—a well-constructed party at the recommended level very well could win the battle before the NPCs arrive.
I also enjoyed the design of the custom stat blocks for the enemies in the final fight. The new eviscerator thrull has an area-of-effect attack as well as a defensive reaction that could lead to some interesting moments, and the big bad is a spellcaster, which always shakes up a fight.
Overall I love when D&D takes a break from dungeon crawls and dragon slaying to try something different, and these two adventures succeed in showcasing a slice of life in the great city of Ravnica. They hit all the buttons for me—notable NPCs who feature prominently in the story but don't overshadow the player characters, a story that can be silly and sincere at the same time, and creative encounter design that serves a story.
I also love any time a book provides stat blocks for planeswalker NPCs, and my biggest complaint is that there's no stat block for Nissa Revane, though given that there's no combat in The Perfect Date unless players choose to initiate some, we should consider ourselves lucky we got one for Chandra. The official D&D books skate over planeswalkers for a variety of reasons, so getting options from the community is excellent. I really like the design and CR of the included planeswalkers—a pet peeve of mine is designers setting the CR for them too low, which fails to reflect their status in the lore, and that's avoided here. All of the stat blocks can be used in other Ravnica (or Theros, for the planeswalkers) adventures, giving this content long-term value.
Both authors are also veteran writers for the setting, and their understanding of the lore and themes is evident throughout. There were several moments when I just sat back and said, "That is so Ravnica." As someone who is a huge fan of both couples featured in this book, I am thrilled to see them represented so well. The passion and love the creators put into this book really shine through, and I highly encourage you to check it out.
I was sent a preview copy of the adventure by Kor-Artificer, though there was no way I wasn't going to get this adventure. I did buy the adventure myself when it came out and all opinions in the article are my own. While I wasn't involved in the creation of Ravnica Pride, I am one of the writers for the Odyssey Anthology, which is run by Kor-Artificer and StickyHunter.
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