Those Magic: The Gathering players looking for traditional fiction set in the Dungeons & Dragons-tinted world depicted in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms might need to align their expectations, as the normal short stories have been replaced by a series of adventure modules for the popular tabletop RPG starting with one called In Scarlet Flames.
Previous sets of the trading card game have historically been accompanied by stories set in whatever plane they might be visiting, following established popular characters such as mindmage Jace Berelen or the apocalypse herald-turned-tenured professor Liliana Vess. Publisher Wizards of the Coast have tapped authors from their own narrative department along with outside authors and game designers to give voice to the art on the cards.
The first released adventure, titled In Scarlet Flames, was written by freelance designer Will Hindmarch and designed by Magic: The Gathering art director Bree Heiss, with art from Alayna Danner, Bram Sels and Kafis Zielinska. Meant to host a group of four to six adventurers of 8th level, it sends players underneath the frigid earth of a barrow in the High Moors in pursuit of two secretive Red Wizards of Thay.
They discover an abandoned wizard sanctum still floor to ceiling not only with treasures and catalogued knowledge, but also traps, monsters and whatever the two Red Wizards brought along to make sure their dark deed was accomplished. Reading through (and without spoilers), In Scarlet Flames is a solid dungeon delve in the contemporary D&D 5E sense: described well, full of hazards that are challenging without feeling unfair and enough approaches to conflict that will satisfy both the dice-happy combat monger and the sworn roleplayer.
It is light on story, but that makes sense for an introductory adventure in a series of five. The second episode, The Hidden Page, will be released in due time - Wizards of the Coast have said each will run about 15-20 pages and offer fun challenges for mid-level characters.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is an indulgent treat of a card set for Dungeons & Dragons fans, providing familiar faces in characters - Lolth and Drizzt Do’Urden among them - but also classic beasties such as the chromatic dragons, gelatinous oozes and anything else that might stalk a dungeon hall.
Speaking of dungeons, one of the new mechanics players will see on new cards is Venture, which allows the player to either enter or proceed through three distinct dungeons themed after well-known entries: intro set Lost Mine of Phandelver, the notorious Tomb of Annihilation and the Dungeon of the Mad Mage located underneath a certain famous tavern. Every room will offer a beneficial effect, from drawing cards to sapping the opponent's life, and the final room holds treasure worth the journey.
Players will need the core Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks in order to play this and future adventures in the series. Those new to the tabletop RPG can learn the basics and read more on creating - and playing - their characters on Dicebreaker’s website.