The Golgari Swarm is a Guild that operates deep beneath the world-spanning city of Ravnica, bringing life (and death) to the undercity–find out what drives the heart of the swarm.
Not to be confused with the other Heart of the Swarm, the Golgari Swarm are a guild of Druids who live in a world that is overrun with civilization. But where the city grows (and remember this is a city that is ten thousand years old) eventually things fall into decay. There are layers upon layers of city to explore. Sewers. Undercities. Undercrofts. The Simic Combine and their Zonots aren’t the only ones who dredge things up in the deep places of the world. For in the places where Civilization has fallen to decay, the Golgari thrive.
Imagine a bunch of Druids who came across Necromancy and thought “yeah that sounds about right” — for the Golgari embody life, death, and undeath. The cycle of life and death and undeath all feed together to create this process by which the living grows, then is “reclaimed” and reforged into whatever new thing comes next. And to the Golgari, this natural cycle is present even in the trappings of Civilization.
They’re such an interesting Guild–like most of the ones you’ll find in Ravnica, you could easily see them being heroes, allies, villains, or foils. Their beliefs are broad enough that they can encompass everything from protecting and preserving life/undeath, to trying to nudge certain parts of civilization to make sure they fall.
And this breadth of belief is present in the options available to players and DMs alike. On the player side of thing, there’s a new subclass, the Circle of Spores Druid. These Druids find beauty in the decomposition of the natural world, and find themselves drawn to molds and fungi, whom they believe transform death into life via their strange alchemy. Death isn’t the end of life, but rather another stage on a long, unending journey.
Thus they will work with undead–they view undeath as a part of the cycle, companion to life and death, transitory–the only real inherently evil thing is the stagnation of say, replacing all life with undeath or otherwise trying to break the cycle they hold dear. And owing to their reverence for fungi, the Circle of Spores Druids will play host to a symbiotic colony of necrotic spores that help them deal damage in an area around them, transform them into a melee combat monster, and control the battlefield with their poisonous issue.
Nondruids in the Golgari Swarm might be Golgari Agents, who are one part of the teeming sprawling complex organism that is the Golgari Swarm. These agents know the hidden, underground pathways that take them through and around obstacles in the city. They can move swiftly to any place in Ravnica and are a delightful mix of the macabre and the merry. And like any good Guild, the Golgari have their own Guild ranks (check out our writeup of what exactly a Guild Rank is, and why it’s an innovative new system here) which belie the nature of the swarm. Orders are given to agents or “reclaimers” as a collective at first. Until as a player earns more renown, they become a special agent or earn the right to call upon monstrous favors and allies to help.
Speaking of monstrous allies–the Golgari are host to a number of monsters. If they are fungoid, or insect/arachnid in nature, or many shades of undead, they can be found working in concert with the Swarm. Among the new creatures introduced are the Skittering Horror, a terrifying aberration that paralyzes enemies before carrying them off to devour them, the insectlike Kraul, and various Golgari shaman.
But perhaps the most powerful Golgari is its leader, the Elven lich and necromancer, Jarad Vod Savo, presented here for your edification.
You can see how tough this Lich turns out to be–not only having a significant spell list to deal with, but also having a truly devastating melee attack that he can use while also casting a 1-action spell if he wants, is phenomenal. It means Jarad prefers to engage with one target that he can isolate from the group, or to use the Undead he commands in concert with abilities like Cloudkill in order to maximize their potential.
At any rate, the Golgari are a fantastic faction, and one of many you’ll find awaiting you in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.