I’ve played Magic: The Gathering since I was in 4th grade, I got into the game just before 4th edition came out. I had no idea what the hell I was doing but the artwork on the cards amazed me and I was pretty sure it would turn me into a mighty wizard or something. I lost my rights to play the game on at least one occasion due to my mother thinking the game was some form of witchcraft. I’ve also lost more money to Magic than I’d care to mention but it is still, without a doubt, one of my favorite pastimes.
D&D is obviously my mainstay but, whenever the opportunity arises I’m always up for a game of magic. Even if it means getting ROFLstomped by “Mr. Magic” Mike Robles himself. As you probably know, before my game fell apart I was running a Ravenloft game and it just so happens that the most recent set of Magic cards: Innistrad, was becoming a rather large piece of inspiration for setting up my game, especially the monsters (see my Grave Titan). The name has “Strahd” in it and as far as I’m concerned they basically took Ravenloft and injected its blackened serum straight into my favorite card game. Even now that I’ve pulled my head out of my ass, I still plan on using MTG as a source of inspiration for my games like it always has. D&D goblins are great and all, but the imagery of them in my brain will forever be the wacky, twisted, slightly cute, eccentric little martyr’s from Magic artwork.
I must make one more note on magic before I proceed with my fun ways to turn MTG into D&D. The Innistrad set is full of some of the most beautiful, macabre, evocative artwork I’ve ever seen. MTG is a universe packed with story, and while a lot of people clamor for a D&D setting based on it (myself included), I respect WotC’s desire to not cross brand these sorts of things. That’s a whole other blog post for another day though, let’s move on!
Ready Made NPC’s
Sorin Markov was an NPC I used a few campaigns ago, and required almost zero effort due to stealing him entirely from a magic card. He has three key abilities listed on his card, which helped me build his stat block – I gave him a life drain/heal at-will, a dominate effect and an encounter power that reduced a foe to bloodied HP. He served as the BBEG my PC’s were trying to track down and causing general havoc in true villainous fashion. This is only one example of how using creatures, planeswalkers and other Magic cards to whip up quick, evocative NPC’s. The Best part is, they already come with a visual!
Deck -O- Plot Hooks
There are a lot of great enchantments within Magic, some obvious easy ones like Wild Growth, or Blight work as great adventure hooks. The forest has become unnaturally overgrown and strange creatures are emerging (hello, Heroes of the Feywild), or a blight has swept across the land killing crops and animals alike, what sort of foulness is causing it?
But what about using them to dig a bit deeper like Cast Through Time, perhaps a place exists where a wizards spells aren’t all expended nearly as fast, maybe dailies count as encounter powers there. Leshrac’s Sigil, perhaps a necromancer has the ability to drain the life force, spells or more from primal based classes or those conducting nature based rituals or spells. The possibilities are endless.
As mentioned in my anecdotal tale above, using creatures from Magic to inspire your own D&D baddies is pretty much a given but what about NPC’s? What about new minion types? New races? I’ve created some pretty vivid companion characters from a couple of Goblins a few campaigns ago that worked out nicely. This kind of relates back to both NPC’s and monsters simultaneously but, don’t be afraid to try to take some magic terms and convert them over to D&D.
Perhaps a monster that can tap to deal 1 damage to a target in Magic, converts over to a monster that can make an attack that does automatic damage (ala magic missile) but also grants enemies combat advantage against them. Perhaps a creature with regeneration only dies if it drops to 0 hit points AND fails a saving throw with a +5 bonus.
Conjuring Up New Magic
Last but definitely not least are the many, many spells of Magic. Instants and sorceries provide tons of juicy ideas for powers, not only for your Big Bad Evil Guy but also for your more adventurous characters who attempt to craft their own spells. Granted there are many magic spells that may very much mirror spells in D&D that have already been done, but a lot of them have a different flavored twist on things than in the D&D realm. There’s also definitely more magic cards than there ever were spells in D&D, sorry buddy.
There’s also the distinction between instants and sorceries that could come into play for your D&D games, instants being like interrupts or immediate reactions could be perhaps put to use in dire moments or uber-specific situations – a spell of truly catalytic proportions. There is lots to cover here, poke around the database if you want an endless treasure trove of ideas for your D&D game. Search around for keywords and spell types, the search capabilities here are boundless, much unlike the actual D&D website *cough*.
Ever Expanding Archives
New magic sets come out regularly and with the MTG database you don’t even actually have to purchase the cards to take advantage of all the idea mining, so there’s basically no reason not to give this a whirl. Even if you know zilch about Magic, just poke around and find cool stuff for your game. I’d love to see someone come up with a way to auto generate adventures or dungeons with a deck of magic cards, or even a MTG to D&D conversion set of mechanics for implementing them straight into your game quickly and easily.
There are a few card types I haven’t covered here such as traps, artifacts, and planeswalkers, but I’ll get to them another day. The important thing is, search for inspiration for your D&D games everywhere you go, and in all that you do!