You Got Your MTG In My D&D

Inspiration Station

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. MagicMike 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.

A Bold Bestiary

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!



  1. Awesome article! I love this about Magic, you have some truly epic battles if you really get your head into it and use your imagination. I never thought to try and port that to D&D. 🙂

    I wonder if you could do some sort of “wild magic” setup (using very specially selected cards, of course) to create some randomness in a game (such as while running through the Feywild, for example)…

  2. I once used MtG terrain cards to lay out a stretch of unfamiliar wilderness that characters had to cross. The cards were set out face-down in a staggered pattern and flipped face-up when the party tried to move onto them. Once they saw what lay ahead, they’d decide whether to proceed or back up and try another direction. Each terrain type had its own travel rate and encounter table. Somewhere in the far row of cards was the objective they were seeking. It was fun for the players and for me, because it kept me guessing almost as much as them.

  3. There was actually a PDF floating around back in 06/07 from WotC that was going to convert mtg into a campaign world & use mtg cards ‘in game’. The idea was scraped but their new D&D fortune cards where inspired by this. I still have that PDF lurking around my server somewhere…

  4. I’ve used Magic cards to help players come up with backgrounds. They pull 7 cards from the deck and take inspiration from them to write their PC’s stories. They can use the flavor text, the card name, the pictures, the rules. Whatever they want. They enjoyed it a lot.

    • Thats a hell of an idea, especially for those players who are ho-hum on the whole roleplaying aspect of roleplaying games. Might give this a whirl too. Way too many good ideas here in the comments, overwhelming. Keep em’ coming!

  5. I haven’t bought new MtG cards in years, but I was a collector for a decade so I have *lots* of cards lying in boxes in my basement. I’m also always on the lookout for good tricks and tools to help me quickly generate cool story, effect and NPC ideas — this use of MtG cards does that and also provides the benefit of a handy, easy-to-carry reminder that I can keep on hand at my games without having to write up a bunch of notes. Thanks for the ideas (and maybe I’ll buy a few Innistrad packs…)

  6. This is simply badass, I being new to DnD have been trying to figure a way between the worlds (so to speak) since my first game. As I sit here at my desk on my hour long lunchcapade I have decks broken down into categories for possible uses in DnD…Jerry Congrats for successfully reading my mind, yet again…

  7. Awesome, brilliant, and many other words I can’t think of at twelve am. I started playing mtg when the D&D group I was in drifted away. After 3 years life and jobs finally got us all. Anyways I recently started playing mtg again and have been looking for a group to jump back into D&D with. Now that I can have my cake and eat it too so to speak i’m even more energized to get back to rolling dice. Thanks for the inspiration and just for the record I too found out the hard way that “My game” was not “the game” everyone wanted to play. Discouraged me from DM’ing for a while until I sacked my ego and listened. Being the top guy was a real ego trip for me and when I figured out it was more fun to have passengers with me than driving by everyone, it was too late. Well enough self flagellation for one post. Love the ideas, I’ll be back to borrow more and leave any offerings I come across myself.
    Golem foundry …. Oh crap I need some paper this is gonna be AWESOME! I let ya know. Later.

  8. I am curious if it would be possible to share that Magic to D&D conversion PDF? I have found two threads online where people came up with some formulas for creating NPC and critter stats based on the card information, and I have used a few cards for the basis of some campaign ideas. Just to really see what the creators at Wizards were thinking when they started to look at it, as well as help generate more ideas for my campaigns.

  9. Great article! I would love to read a blog on why WoTC doesn’t cross pollinate the two brands. It seems like such a good idea to me. They have already invested a ton of time and money creating the Magic worlds. They even publish a few novels for each setting. It couldn’t be that much more effort to turn that material into a campaign book. You already have a huge chunk of the backstory and the fluff from the Magic creative team and the cards themselves. Artwork is already done. Just add some crunch and you have a product.

  10. I really enjoyed this post, so I feel sorta guilty for this comment which is mostly off-topic, but here it is anyway:

    You mentioned that “a lot of people clamor for a D&D setting based on (MTG).” I want to see the opposite, an MTG block based on D&D. Is it just coincidence that the five colors of mana match the five colors of Tiamat’s heads? How cool would it be to have a set featuring the chromatic dragons, dragonspawn and other draconic creatures? With the exception of white, the lands match the dragons pretty well. And then a set featuring the metallics as multicolored creatures?

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