Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Plane Shift and Freeport 5E

In order to promote their The Art of Magic: The Gathering books, Wizards of the Coast has released a series of Plane Shift articles as free PDFs. Each art book provides background and adventure hooks for one of the planes of the Magic multiverse, while the Plane Shift articles provide the mechanics needed to adapt it as a setting for the D&D Fifth Edition game. Four planes have have been detailed so far: Zendikar, Innistrad, Kaladesh, and Amonkhet.

I do not own any of the art books, and have not played Magic in several years. For these reasons, I've decided to review the Plane Shift articles in much the same way that I treated the new material presented in "Unearthed Arcana," by discussing how they could be used in conjunction with Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure setting.

Plane Shift: Zendikar 

Zendikar was strongly influenced by D&D, so this plane feels very much like a typical D&D campaign setting. The plane has few large settlements, which may require a bit of a stretch to use it as Freeport's native plane, but the existence of ruins from multiple ancient civilization does fit the City of Adventure's aesthetic.

Races of Zendikar include humans, kor (a humanoid race skilled at climbing and white magic), merfolk, vampires (who are diseased humanoids rather than undead), goblins, and elves. This world's two-legged merfolk are more comfortable on land than the fish-tailed D&D race, which makes them imminently suited as PCs in Freeport. Similarly, Zendikar's goblins work quite well for the smaller inhabitants of Bloodsalt, and this plane's elves are very similar to standard D&D elves.

The Bestiary's discussion of the Eldrazi and their minions can provide numerous ideas for eldritch horrors inspired by Lovecraft's mythos.

Plane Shift: Innistrad 

Innistrad is a realm immersed in Gothic horror. This makes it very similar in feel to Curse of Strahd, and in fact, this article provides suggestions for setting that adventure in Innistrad.

Most PCs are humans, so provincial traits are used to provide the diversity usually gained from having multiple races. In the World of Freeport, these traits could be used as models for new human "subraces" based on various nations of the Continent.

The inquisitor background is perfectly suited to characters associated with the World of Freeport's Hexworth Inquisition.

In general, Plane Shift: Innistrad is most useful as a source of ideas for isolated Gothic tropes, for a campaign where an entire region has descended into horror or madness, or to flesh out a more sinister reflection of Freeport in another plane (such as the Shadow Plane, or Freetown in Hell in Freeport). "The Creatures of Innistrad" section provides many ideas for giving more variety to standard horror monsters, such as werewolves and vampires. "The Coming of Emrakul" might be used as an example of the effects of a Great Old One (like the Unspeakable One) manifesting within a plane.

Plane Shift: Kaladesh 

Kaladesh is essentially a magical steampunk setting, where the substance of aether is used to power all kinds of intricate devices. Freeport is a far more desperate, dark place than bright, optimistic Kaladesh, but elements of the latter setting can be found in the City of Adventure. In particular, clockwork and constructs have appeared in Freeport adventures ("The Ironjack Legacy" is the latest example).

The pyromancer sorcerous origin easily fits into the World of Freeport, and would be most common among the efreet-blooded azhar.

Races of Kaladesh include the aetherborn (short-lived byproducts of the aether-refining process), dwarves, elves, humans, and vedalken (experts on aether lore and technology). The airship-flying dwarves from the "Death From Above?" plot seed (in Tales of Freeport) could easily be visitors from Kaladesh.

Plane Shift: Amonkhet 

Amonkhet shares its ancient Egyptian inspiration with Green Ronin's Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra, but the two settings are not very compatible as written. Hamunaptra is a fantasy land closely based on real-world ancient Egyptian mythology and culture, with the addition of D&D races. In constrast, Amonkhet has a much smaller pantheon, and a single story or theme (the five trials, and the sinister secrets behind them) that dominates all adventures set there. However, individual elements of Amonkhet can be useful in helping to convert Hamunaptra to a D&D Fifth Edition campaign set in the World of Freeport.

The three new backgrounds (initiate, vizier, and dissenter) are too closely tied to the Amonkhet storyline to be easily adapted to other settings. It would be much simpler for characters with religious training to use the more generic acolyte background from the Player's Handbook.

Races of Amonkhet include humans, avens (bird-headed flying humanoids), khenra (jackal-headed humanoids), minotaurs, and nagas. Khenra can be used to represent the jackal-headed gnolls of Hamunaptra. Avens, minotaurs, and nagas could easily fit into that setting as uncommon races created by other gods who lacked the wide-ranging influence of the more numerous core races' patrons. Nagas could also find a home among the Naga Cult of Naranjan (detailed in Green Ronin's Mindshadows setting) or be used as a subrace of serpent people anywhere in he World of Freeport.

This document also provides four new cleric domains (Solidarity, Strength, Ambition, and Zeal) that could easily be assigned to gods in other settings. For example, the cobra god Rhonas's Strength domain would work well for the more warlike factions among Yig's followers, while the cult priests of an archdevil might gain access to the Ambition domain.

The Bestiary provides a few new monsters that are perfectly suited to adventures in Hamunptra: the criosphinx, the heart-piercer manticore, and the serpopard. (This section also has useful notes for reskinning an elephant to create a hippopotamus.)

Finally, this fourth Plane Shift article includes an appendix about how to model Planeswalkers in D&D.


The "Coils of Yig" cosmology of Freeport assumes contact with a wide variety of different planes (see the "Beyond Freeport" chapter in Freeport: The City of Adventure). The Magic: The Gathering multiverse can provide inspiration for some of these new worlds. None of the first four featured planes makes an ideal home plane for Freeport itself, but all of them provide material that can be mined to enrich any Freeport campaign.


For ease of reference, I've compiled a list of all my previous columns discussing running D&D Fifth Edition games set in Freeport.

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