Many of you may know that Innistrad is Wizard’s take on gothic horror. It’s pretty obvious from the creature types in the block: vampires, geists, skeleton warriors and werewolves, just to name a few. Humans also exist in Innistrad, but they struggle to survive. Magic takes up Innistrad’s story about a year after its savior, Avacyn, disappeared, leaving the humans vulnerable and letting the supernatural and evil take a larger hold on the plane. It’s definitely not a place I’d want to live.
The world-building of Innistrad is incredible. I was only able to scratch the surface this week. I spent a good amount of time reading about how humans live on Innistrad. Despite Avacyn’s disappearance, the humans on Innistrad still look to her for guidance. She is the pillar of their faith. To the humans on Innistrad, faith is not about getting to heaven and avoiding eternal damnation; it’s about being able to survive this life safely and, most importantly, actually resting in peace. In “A Planeswalker’s Guid to Innistrad”, Wizards points out that angels and demons are not abstract concepts in Innistrad; they exist in a very real form. Humans don’t need faith to describe them — they see it firsthand. People aren’t praying for safety to Avacyn because they think it might help, it actually does. Except, since she’s stopped appearing, the blessings and wards against evil have weakened and it’s become harder to achieve the ‘Great Sleep’. People celebrate their relative’s lives on the anniversary of their death because it means they’ve actually successfully avoided being awoken by necromancers or other foul things.
The highest concentration of humans live in the Gavony district, where the largest city on Innistrad, Thraben, is located:
Thraben is the largest city in the known lands of Innistrad. It’s the seat of the Avacynian Church, built as a city of walls and various bulwarks designed to keep supernatural threats at bay. While smaller settlements are constantly under siege by monsters, the inner parts of Thraben and the Cathedral are the safest areas in Innistrad, which sometimes gives the bishops of the church a skewed perspective on how dangerous the world outside really is.
— A Planeswalker’s Guide to Innistrad: Gavony and Humans
The outside world is very dangerous. For example, in one region of Gavony, Moorland, two necromancers regularly attack each other. The countryside is filled with geists and other leftover creations from their armies of undead. Creepy, no?
Safety is also a sign of class and status. The more money you have, the safer you are. The nobles have the money to make sure they have the best protection, while the lower classes are more vulnerable. This could also be linked to the fact the church is set up similar to medieval Catholic church — people have to pay for blessings and safety enchantments.
Tithing is required for everyone, and the church charges a small fee for every blessing and spell. Even at unstaffed little altars, payment is expected, and many of the faithful diligently pay even when there is no one to enforce it. Not unexpectedly, there is resentment among some for the amount of money required of the poor to uphold their faith. This resentment increases dramatically as the effectiveness of the Avacynian blessings diminish.
And since protection is the centerpiece of human life on Innistrad, it only makes sense that there is a very high value placed in militia. It is an honor to be trained as a soldier, but poorer families have a harder time having their children accepted in the training school. If a child shows signs of spellcasting ability, though, they are trained no matter their background.
But human life is only one aspect of Innistrad. There are three other provinces besides Gavony, too. Wizards definitely took their time in building this world, that’s for sure. I got all of the information above from guide to Innistrad, which was a series featured on the column “Savor the Flavor” around the time of the set’s release. Every section is filled with a plethora of information, and I can’t wait to share more interesting things. I didn’t include everything from the Gavony and Humans section of the guide, so if you want to more please read the guide! It’s fascinating. But also a little terrifying, which makes sense due to its base in gothic horror. It’s like Wizards took all the monsters and demons from classic horror, put them on a plane and threw humans in there for fun.
Next week I’ll look at Kessig and Werewolves. And hopefully more of the storyline behind the block. But for now, I’ll be happy that I’m not a human on Innistrad.
All for now,
Which supernatural being would you be most scared of? Vampires? Werewolves? Necromancers? And what gothic stories does Innistrad remind you of?