Skip to main content

Crafting a Soulsborne inspired D&D Setting with the Magic the Gathering Color Wheel — Part 1: Plains, Forest, and Island

 A campaign idea that I’ve been perfecting for years since I first ran a few sessions of it, simply titled Cursed Kingdom, is finally going to see the light of day again and I couldn’t be more excited.

The campaign’s premise involves a group of adventurers, each from a different kingdom from around the world (which the players created in as much detail as they wanted while making their characters) traveling to a secluded, ancient kingdom in search of its secrets. Rumors say that the kingdom holds whatever someone could want: panacea, supreme power, great wealth, immortality.

The first time I ran the campaign, I flew mostly by the seat of my pants as I created the legendary kingdom piece by piece for each session. As our first session of the new campaign is this week, it looks like I will be doing that again to some degree. However, in this setting, the Cursed Kingdom is as much of a character as the players. Because of that, I want to get a good idea for at least what each of the regions look like before we start playing.

As you saw on the tin, I wanted to approach this through the colors of Magic the Gatherings color pie. Why, you ask? There’s a few simple reasons. For one, Magic’s lands provide a good array of geographic types, and I want the Cursed Kingdom to feel varied to explore. Also importantly, Magic’s lands are tied to philosophies which I can invoke or subvert when fleshing out the lore of the kingdom’s regions.

Let’s get into the specifics of how this:

Becomes a playable version of this: 

I say we go through these regions one by one, including their borderlands, and break them down by this little rubric: 

  1. The themes of the land, and how they draw from the inspiring color

  2. What aesthetics they’re going to draw from (including pictures!)

  3. Unique locations, inspired by the previous two points (including a castle for each region!)

In a future blog post, I'll flesh out the lore of each region and populate them with enemies and bosses.


The plains are the first place the players see upon entering the Kingdom, so we really need it to set the tone for the campaign setting as a whole. The white keywords listed on the pie as the guiding themes of the color are MORALITY and ORDER, with "Laws of God/Spirit" and "Laws of Man" on the second tier and "Uncreative," "Peace," and "Law" on the third tier. While white is generally associated with the bustling centers of civilization, I want to subvert that a little by leaving much of the land as vast, rolling, abandoned spaces. It is Peaceful, but the peace is almost eerie.

Visually, I imagine the Plains of the Cursed Kingdom to be like the environment of Shadow of the Colossus, a wide-reaching steppe/grassland that is interrupted with occasional rock outcroppings, river banks,  desert-like lowlands, and massive stone ruins.

To play up the color’s respect for the laws of Gods and spirits, the landscape will also be dotted with crumbling church steeples. For one of the Plains’ unique locations, let’s place a huge church ruin—something like the Temple of Time from Breath of the Wild.

White isn’t a complete color without humanoid civilization, so let’s also add an Old Hamlet to serve as a settlement for some humanoid enemies to inhabit. The laws of this land will be strictly enforced, including a law banning the presence of meddlesome outsiders. 

For this hamlet, let’s draw inspiration from the winding, ruined paths overgrown with moss and filthy with hiding enemies found in Dark Souls’ masterful Undead Burg location. 

The hamlet might butt up against a fortress dungeon… the ruins of a kingdom that fell, perhaps due to paying too much attention to enforcing the sometimes arbitrary laws of God and man. Our ‘burg’ can be built into the side of this castle, again referencing the architecture of Dark Souls.

Finally, for our true castle, I want to draw on some of the more positive elements of white—the comfort and security of home. Tucked away in the heart of the steppeland is a proud remnant of a king’s army surviving in the face of the kingdom’s curse. They’re distrustful, and maybe beset by their own internal troubles, but they’re loyal if you prove yourself to them. Something like the kingdom of Rohan from Lord of the Rings.


Joined to the Plains by the Duke's Hunting Grounds, a once well-kept area of planted trees and hedges between the grassland and the true forest, the Forest swaps the Plains' pensive loneliness with a claustrophobic envelope of green. The green keywords listed on the pie as the guiding themes of the color are INSTINCT and INTERDEPENDENCE, with "Natural Decisions" and "Natural Survival" on the second tier and "Naïve," "Growth," and "Nature" on the third tier. Emphasis on nature will be easy to show by populating the Forest more densely than the other areas with a variety of flora and fauna more diverse and numerous than the other areas. The forest borderlands need to capture a feeling of dark whimsy that warns the players of both the danger and majesty deeper within the biome... like a fairy's mushroom circle just begging a traveler to step within. For this goal, I want an area with lots of mist and drifting lights—something like the Lost Woods in Breath of the Wild.

Aesthetically, the forest proper should draw from Dark Souls' Darkroot Garden. The game region's mix of ancient, overgrown ruins with a cool, eerie nighttime palette is almost unforgettable, and I definitely want to evoke that here. For our region, the tree branches intertwine so tightly that large swaths of the forest are starved of any sunlight.

As anyone familiar with Magic knows, green is also the color of stupidly large creatures, so our claustrophobic woods will open out near the heart of the forest, where the oldest and biggest of old growth trees spread out to give room for giant creatures to travel. For this area, I imagine something like the Siofra River from the recent Elden Ring, replacing the natural stone pillars for ancient tree trunks, and the starry skyline for a galaxy of bioluminescent bugs that have taken residence in the massive canopy above.

Like the Siofra River, this area is probably home to the deepest secrets of the forest and its inhabitants, littered with ancient, foreboding debris. To tie into the color's naivety, it probably also houses areas of beautiful serenity: healing springs, beautiful bugsongs, albino great elks. This area is definitely home to the region's Castle—a sprawling temple ruin overgrown with vines and branches.

To show the importance of interdependence, I also want to introduce a single force that has drastically altered the ecosystem—maybe a disease or fungus that has spread from the tree leaves to the herbivores to the carnivores, leaving chunks of the forest overgrown with invasive spores. I don't want it to have overtaken the entire region, but I want its presence to be felt on the periphery, gnawing at the sanctity of the forest's web of life. Perhaps this disease is tied to the Swamp region, or perhaps not. Island

Joined to the Plains by a series of jagged cliffs and stone structures, the blue biome comprises a rocky peninsula and its surrounding archipelago. The blue keywords listed on the pie as the guiding themes of the color are LOGIC and TECHNOLOGY, with "Intellectual Theory" and "Intellectual Application" on the second tier and "Intellect," "Omniscience," and "Inaction" on the third tier. In traditional FromSoftware style, the themes of this color will be embodied by a university where magical scholars doomed themselves and the land around them by digging into ancient secrets with no regard for the horrors they unearthed. Think of Dark Souls' Duke's Archives, Elden Ring's Raya Lucaria Academy, or Bloodborne's Byrgenwerth College.

As for the outside geography, the school buildings, research labs, and lecture halls are spread around the archipelago's islands, accessible by perilous jumps and precarious land-bridges. Aesthetically, I think of the unique, almost Grecian geography of the coastal area of Shadow of the Colossus, replacing the stone ruins for the more-intact mix of stone, wood, and crystal found in the aforementioned FromSoft universities.

For the castle, we have the largest and most intact of the college buildings, elevated at the highest point of the islands and doubtlessly hiding the most mind-bending of the arcane secrets. The path is winding and covered in arcane traps and glyphs of warding, and the inner halls are no safer. Design-wise, I think of the ominous Circle Tower from Dragon Age: Origins.

That's all that I have time for today, but I already feel more excited about this project. I'm really rearing to work on it more—both to finish the remaining three regions and to populate the areas I have already developed. I hope you can join me to work on it more next time!


Popular posts from this blog

How Bingo Can Revolutionize Your D&D Game

In May, I decided to run a very different sort of session for my weekly D&D campaign. My party had already faced off with ghost pirates, dragons, sandworms, and a giant time-controlling robot. This session, I wanted to give them a very different sort of challenge:  A fluffy, filler-y 'beach episode.' (Avatar the Last Airbender, "The Beach") Anyone who has watched cartoons long enough knows what I'm talking about. Danger and peril are set aside, just for a while, in exchange for sunbathing, watermelon smashing, volley-ball-playing, low stakes character development. In a game like D&D, where character development is often so tied to monster slaying, how can a DM mechanically engage their party with a session like this? Just as importantly, how can we squeeze as many of these tropes that we love to see into a 4 hour session? How do we give this game structure? Previously, I might have just run the session as normal, RP-heavy session, calling for rolls every o

Baseball in Dungeons and Dragons? — Trying Something Weird in D&D

(Naoni, our cursed wood elf ranger, donning his baseball uniform for the first time. Art by his player, lycanthroopy on twitter ) A while ago I posted a handout on twitter for a new 5th edition campaign I was starting called Dungeons x Dragons . The campaign's premise follows a group of novice adventurers as they enter the dangerous Adventurer's Exam alongside nearly 600 other applicants. At the end of the exam, less than ten applicants will pass and get their "Adventurer's License," a document which certifies them as an elite Pro Adventurer. The whole concept is heavily inspired by Hunter x Hunter, a manga that is a big favorite among myself and most of the players.  Having just survived a grueling week on Bumbo Island, an Australasian remote island where every living organism on the island is at least a Challenge Rating 3, the party of player characters earned their way into the Third Phase of the Adventurer's Exam. It was time for a big change of pace... I

Homebrew Souls Inspired Campaign Setting — XP is the Key (Literally!)

  Last time,  we developed the first three regions of our  Dark Souls/Shadow of the Colossus/Breath of the Wild  inspired "Cursed Kingdom" campaign setting, using the basic land types of  Magic the Gathering  as inspiration. Before I go on, I want to compile some of the lore and mechanics that I've written up for this campaign idea so that you can embark on the same journey as me in this strange, FromSoftware-inspired realm. If your character is named Albero, Euphemia, or Myoki, turn back now! Otherwise, let's dive into the world of the Cursed Kingdom. Here is the campaign's central conceit, as I see it: the players come from an outside world where magic and its affects are rarely seen. The long-abandoned "Cursed Kingdom," its true name long forgotten to most of the outside world, is said to be the last bastion of magical knowledge in the world. In the world of our character's backgrounds, the highest "level" that even the most potent and l