What Was Left Out of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica: An Issue of Character Race
As somebody who is a fan of both Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is something I thought previously only achievable in my dreams. But alas, and at last, here we are! However, I am first and foremost a fan of Magic, and the world of Ravnica is one I have loved dearly since it was first shown to the world over 10 years ago. In that time, there has been a lot of established and deep lore, and even some retcons, about the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why that is the world of Ravnica. As someone who has greedily devoured every ounce of this content, I am here to give my own say on what should have been in Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica.
Now, I am not here to say that any of the content already within Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is incorrect; after all, it was written and created by those who literally design Magic: the Gathering, and when you get right down to it, their word is law when it comes to the content that they produce about their own intellectual property. But, as a well-versed scholar who has explored the nooks and crannies of Ravnica, I can offer some additional information–some covert knowledge, if you will–about this beautiful, wonderful world. In this multi-installment blog series, I will give you some information on what was left out of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica.
Chapter 1: An Issue of Character Race
Ever uncomfortable is the topic of race. Who we are and what we are has gravitas, and when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons character creation, it is an important basis of who these characters are. The nice thing about Ravnica is that it not only has some of the classic Dungeons & Dragons races like Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, and Goblins, but it also introduces a plethora of new ones. The Vedalken are calculating and intelligent, Centaurs are noble and versatile, Minotaurs are strong and resilient, Loxodon are wise and powerful, and the Simic Hybrids are each unique in their own way. When I first saw these, I read them all with intrigue, until I reached the end of the race section. I remember frowning and saying outloud to myself “but what about the Viashino?”
Yes, my friends, one of Magic: the Gathering’s most utilized, original, and prolific races is the race of Lizard-like people known as the Viashino.
Now, there is technically one point in the book that mentions them outright, but I have a problem with this exclusive and passing mentioning of the Viashino. The section that mentions them is in the one that is about the Gruul clans, and mentions them constituting the bulk of the Slizt clan. It merely says to use the Lizardfolk stat block in the Monster Manual to represent them, and then moves on.
Let me make this perfectly clear: the Viashino are not simply a band of wild monsters that make up a singular clan of the Gruul. They are a race of Ravnica, to be treated no less than any of the other unique sentient beings of their world. Heck, Magic just released a story article on their website very recently that was from the perspective of a Viashino (which you can read here, if you are curious).
Not only that, but Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica only mentions them in the Gruul section. There is also a longstanding history of Viashino being a part of the Boris Legion. Their ruthlessness and resourcefulness making them great fighters, and brutal front-line soldiers or members of quick strike teams. If you plan on using the Viashino as your race of choice as you travel the wide-world of Ravnica, I recommend using the stats and benefits given in Volo’s Guide to Monsters about the Lizardfolk. They are certainly an interesting and unique race to explore the city world of Ravnica with.
This right here would have been the end of my article, but just after realizing that the Viashino were missing, I also noticed that the Merfolk were as well. Indeed, Merfolk, just like the Viashino, are not monsters on Ravnica, but are a race of sentient beings with their own personalities and place within the world. They are mentioned offhandedly in the Simic section, but only as possible workers in your lab as you gain renown in the Simic guild. Merfolk are predominantly a part of the Simic Combine, but as with all the races of Ravnica, variation, deviation, and exceptions to the rules exist. Merfolk of the Simic Combine, just like any other sentient race of the guild, occasionally are subjugated to/partake in the process of turning themselves into hybrid mutants.
As far as acquiring the information needed to play a Merfolk in a campaign, I recommend using the Merfolk race information that is given on the Plane Shift: Ixalan PDF document that was released by Wizards of the Coast. The Plane Shift document series is a precursor to Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica. Each describes all of the unique information one would need to set a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign for the world that it is particularly describing. In the Ixalan edition, they describe Merfolk as one of the races you can choose from, and they give you two options for subraces: Green Merfolk and Blue Merfolk. Although I would personally say that almost all the known Merfolk of Ravnica are closer to the Blue variation from Ixalan, you can certainly choose either as the basis for your character.
And this ends the first installment of “What Was Left Out of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica”. Now that we got the issue of race out of the way, we can talk about the world of Ravnica itself. Join me next time when I talk about just what exactly is meant by the term “City World” when it comes to Ravnica.