Magic the Gathering has unveiled once again another Plane Shift supplement, combining Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons. This one was very well received flavor in the form of Kaladesh, the pyromancer Chandra’s home plane of invention and wonder known as aether. Artifice runs as the backbone of innovation within the Plane of Kaladesh, while diehard fans of Eberron still eagerly await a future supplement within 5th Edition, this recent release breaths some sighs and hope in a light twist. Readers get to learn more about the world of Kaladesh, the many races that inhabit them, the various creatures and races that roam freely, there is a new Sorcerer Origin called the Pyromancer (a call back to Chandra’s abilities) and the inclusion of new races like the Aetherborn and a return of an old Magic the Gathering race: the Dwarves.

Click here for the Plane Shift: Kaladesh supplement.

The World of Kaladesh – Aether is your Friend

The sprawling world of Kaladesh, Image by Wizards of the Coast
The sprawling world of Kaladesh, Image by Wizards of the Coast

Kaladesh is a realm of decadence, innovation, and invention. Everything is taking into an art form and elevated further to perfection, elegant clockwork automatons and majestic skyships are prevalent here. The artifice forged here are a culmination of intellectual prowess and creativity. The denizens of Kaladesh learned to harness the power of the raw energy in the Magic the Gathering universe as aether, using it to power practically everything from the automatons, the main infrastructures, street lamps, vehicles, and wondrous items. For nearly sixty years, the citizens of Kaladesh have sought to express their creativity and innovation using aether, with the central goal of refining their ability to harness aether efficiently.

The one thing I love about the Kaladesh setting has to do with power source known as aether, which is the raw energy that powers the many inventions and wonders crafted within this realm. Most importantly, since it is a moderated resource, that means there is scarcity and ultimately can lead to conflicts. A great premise to build a campaign or adventure, it was use very well as a story premise for the Magic the Gathering product line so why not for anyone else. Having a moderated or limited resource is always a great focal point for a political intrigue campaign or even dealing with the party choosing sides or even remaining neutral throughout the whole affair.

The Consulates vs the Renegades 

In the setting of Kaladesh, there is the Consulate, an order of bureaucrats and politicians that believe that the inventions and services produced with the aether is a right to all and as such governs the distribution of aether wherever them deem fit. The Renegades are largely disgruntled tinkers, inventors, and innovators who were criminally charged by the Consulate who have their own personal agendas but ultimate disdain the ruling body within Kaladesh.

Having two opposing forces and a sought-after resource makes for great campaign material, establishing these sort of backgrounds within the setting is imperative to convey the struggles between the factions and those potentially caught in the middle. Aether may perhaps have a hidden underlying danger unknown by either side and could threaten the realm and its people. Or perhaps the Consulate is not truly righteous (as with the current storyline with Chandra would attest) and is being manipulated by darker powers for an ulterior motive. The Renegades could also seem like a grassroots movement but equally have darker intentions. The potential for all sides having their shades of grey and false implications makes for great intrigue material, something that was highly regarded from Eberron.

Classes & Backgrounds in Kaladesh

The supplement provides some insight on how certain backgrounds would play within the artifice rich setting, some were given as little as a sentence of hints to a small paragraph for others. The backgrounds supposedly provide also hints for where characters should fall in regards to the dichotomy of the Consulate and the Renegade forces. Overall it seems criminals, guild artisans, and sailors have a good selection of choices and backstory potential.

As for character classes, all have a place and home within Kaladesh. Druids and rangers solely belong the elves of Kaladesh, while Clerics and Paladins simply do not exist at all. Religion does not have a place in Kaladesh, which is unique for a setting that focuses primarily on innovation and artifice. But it you can probably still include Clerics and Paladins in here, but that is more of a DM discretion if anything else. Bards and Sorcerers are coined under the category of mages but are considered dangerous and would most likely be persecuted by the Consulate authorities. Included with the class descriptions, we have the Pyromancer Sorcerer Origin where the source is pure elemental fire.

The Pyromancer Origin has some interesting features: Heart of Fire essentially allows a pyromancer to unleash a burst of fire around them to incinerate foes willing to enter into melee range of the sorcerer. The pyromancer also gains resistance to fire damage and later on treat fire immunity as fire resistance and ignore fire resistance altogether. The Pyromancer’s Fury is simply further assurances to the caster that any melee attacker will regret targeting the sorcerer with free fire damage that ignores resistance. The captstone feature for the Pyromancer is the immunity to fire and the ability to bypass for the most part fire immunity and fire resistance. Since fire is the most abundant elemental damage printed presently, and there are plenty of creatures with fire resistance, it stands to reason that a sorcerer who is a physical embodiment of fire be able to burn anything.

Adapting Magic Items from the DMG to Aether-Power Devices

The Inventor's Fair offers many innovative options, Image by Wizards of the
The Inventor’s Fair offers many innovative options, Image by Wizards of the

Since Kaladesh is a setting filled with magical items powered by the mysterious aether, it is encouraged that DMs be a little more generous with the magic item distribution. There are some minor adjustments to be made with traditional magic item rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide which personally add more to the flavor and atmosphere of the plane. For example, the notion that magic items with charges do not automatically regain said charges even after the next day is a testament to the fact that aether is now contained, its distribution is monitored by the Consulate which can problematic for unsanctioned equipment. I like the idea that traditional consumables like potions and scrolls can be repurposed into other objects, while I can still envision healing potions to being syringes and possibly pills, scrolls and the like could be schematics imprinted onto an object like gems or metal.

It was also equally pleasant to see some rule mechanics for inventing and manufacturing devices within Kaladesh. DMs are encouraged to refresh themselves with Chapter 6 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide regarding players crafting their own magical items. Any crafted item that is already a duplicate of an existing item simply needs a schematic plan in order to be replicated again. New items require an Intelligence (Arcana) check to progress through crafting the item. There are also some enhanced rules for buying and selling magic items, including selling items a character may make on their own in game. It’s definitely worthwhile for the DM to spend a little prep time to determine base market value for magic items and use the extra formulas provided in this supplement. I would suggest general values that seem arbitrary and move with the extra calculations from there.

There is also mentions about the aether-powered vehicles and lifeform automatons, especially for the few things that resemble or may be used as automatons instead of traditional magic items. All these features and items are still considered magical in nature though their implementation and purpose can be reskinned to suit the DM’s needs.

There are also inclusions for feats in this supplement regarding artifice crafting. Quicksmithing essentially allows for any character to have the Tinkerer racial feature from the gnomes in the Player’s Handbook. Servo Crafting is definitely a feat that grants access to the find familiar spell but only to tiny constructs called servos.

Campaign Ideas for Kaladesh Adventures

Before we get to the races of Kaladesh, the supplement offers three campaign ideas within the world. Each one grants a different outlook of the world of Kaladesh, from the main storyline with the Aether Revolt, to a classic urban intrigue with crime lords, and exploration into the Wildlands beyond the cities. Each campaign suggestion is unique and has their own touch on the different aspects of this setting.

The varied campaign selections give a sense of nostalgia of being in an Eberron campaign, as you had mixed of assortment of intrigue, exploration, and treasure hunting. Especially if you seek to incorporate ancient relics from a bygone era of Kaladesh. A campaign centered on Kaladesh could implement all three ideas and interweave some as sub-plots for a great overall plot. Urban intrigue is one of the fringe concepts when it comes to traditional views of D&D adventures but honestly these sort of elements provide insight to a given world and enriches the player’s immersion and experience into this different environment. Honestly, a well versed adventure should strive to incorporate multiple story elements, especially in extended campaigns with a large overreaching goal.

Races of Kaladesh

Kaladesh has true traditional humans, elves, and even brought back in old Magic the Gathering race in the Dwarves. Elves live mostly in the wilds beyond the cities while humans and dwarves live primarily within the confines of civilization. Vedelkan scholars eagerly seek to build, learn, and theorize anything relating to aether, including the race produced as a byproduct of the aether refinement process: the Aetherborn.

The Aetherborn live short lives, Image by Wizards of the Coast
The Aetherborn live short lives, Image by Wizards of the Coast

The Aetherborn have a wonderfully interesting lore, creatures with short lifespans who must live every moment as their last. As byproducts of the aether refinement process, they have resistance to necrotic damage, their odd appearance makes them quite intimidating, and if there are a select few Aetherborn who have learned a dark gift to steal life essence from living creatures to extend their own. Aetherborn tend to live in revelry and often are attributed to being a tad selfish which is understandable, but some wish to leave their mark in the world before the inevitable end. I would love to play an Aetherborn Rogue, or even a Warlock with a pact with an alien mind that stretched beyond the aether and from the Blind Eternities itself. There are some interesting notions to go with Aetherborn and I would love see this continue in future Magic storylines.

Beasts of Kaladesh – Yes there are still natural animals here

There are some new creatures with their own statblocks, namely the Gremlin creatures that stalk around aether rich refineries and are considered a menace by the Consulate. The Sky Leviathan is an interesting creature as the inspiration for Kaladesh’s airships, these creatures are massive in size and are seen afloat in the aethersphere within the air itself.

Like previous Plane Shift supplements, many of the creatures in Magic the Gathering can be reskinned from preexisting entries from the Monster Manual. All of this is to save some time and effort for the DM while also saving the people who draft these supplements some extra design space. In any of these supplements, it is refreshing to more information and suggestions implemented about the artifact creatures since many of them mimic real creatures and should treated as such but an added perk here or there. The creatures and their reskinned suggestions feel more thoughtful than the first one back in Zendikar and even more refined since the Innistrad supplement.

Final Impressions

If you have seen the Artificer Unearthed Arcana article (we did a review of it here), that is a great class to implement in Kaladesh. The whole setting has many parallels to Eberron, and if you or your DM feel the itch to play in Eberron or at least an artifice rich place such as Kaladesh, this supplement does the job of satisfying that itch. It will not replace a full fledge Eberron campaign setting but it gives enough of a feel for Magic and D&D fans to play with. Especially with new races like the Aetherborn, the new Pyromancer sorcerer origin, and even ideas and suggestions for running an intrigue campaign. This supplement is extremely useful in further explaining and giving examples of magic item crafting and running an economy with magic items through buying and selling. These are rules and formulas that were largely absent in the 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide and I’m quite pleased that we have some more thought placed on it finally. 5th Edition is designed to be a system with little to few magic items, while Kaladesh breaks that mold entirely and pleasant offers advice on how to run such a magic item heavy campaign.

Might I add that I really would love to do a vehicle race in Kaladesh, implementing some of the story elements suggested in this supplement. They sound fun and the ideas keep spinning. Give this supplement a good read, you will find some valuable ideas and suggestions that could implemented outside of a Kaladesh game.

Check out our previous Plane Shift review articles for Zendikar (here) and Innistrad (here).


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