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Campaign Settings

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For almost all of my gaming Iíve played in the Forgotten Realms setting. The few times I was out of there it was in a custom world, which was thematically the same as Forgotten Realms. After 15 years of Forgotten Realms its starting to get to be about time to see something new. As luck would have it, D&D has had dozens of settings in the past, so thereís plenty of options out there to choose from. Now the real trouble is picking one to play in.

Scanning down the list I can quickly rule out a bunch of them. Grey Hawk, Dragonlance, Blackmoor, Birthright, Lankhmar, Mystara and a bunch of others sound like they all use a very similar take on high fantasy as Forgotten Realms. Each has their own twist to make them unique, but theyíd be similar enough that I donít think it would be much of a change. A few others I can rule out because of my gaming preferences; no spaceships rules out Spelljammer and I donít like bouncing between realms too much so Planescape might not be a good choice.
I do a bit of reading on each to see which ones grab a hold of my imagination and quickly whittle the list down to: Al-Qadim, Eberron, Iron Kingdoms, and Dark Sun. These are all still fantasy settings, but the themes and tropes they use seem to be fairly different that Forgotten Realms.

Al-Qadim, I think, was actually made to be a new area inside of Forgotten Realms, so the world doesnít change; but setting everything in Arabian mythology with djinns and genies roaming the lands would at least offer new descriptive text. Seeing as how all the Forgotten Realms tropes would likely creep in I might have to save this for another time.

Eberron changes things by having a new technology level. The fantasy setting gets a modern twist as magic has been proliferated enough that everyone has modern conveniences created from it. This is an interesting twist and campaigns set in cities would be pretty interesting because of it. Though I imagine the standard dungeon crawl wouldnít be changed much.

The Iron Kingdoms also increases the technology level, massive engines of warfare have been created in this setting. This has the same attraction as Eberron really, but the difference is that the feel I get from Eberron is that political scheming is more prevalent, where in the Iron Kingdoms all the nations are in the midst of a violent war so the confrontations are more direct and overt.

Finally thereís Dark Sun which throws out all of the themes and tropes that Tolkien created, and replaces them with new ones. Its difficult to draw many similarities between Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms which means that falling back on the old habits wonít be an option. The converse of that is that it will take significantly more reading to correctly handle the setting.

I think Iíll pass on Al-Qadim for now, its more of a new theme on Forgotten Realms rather than a change. Though it is a very valid option for a new direction to take the current campaign though. It would just be a matter of steering the party to this new land.

Eberron is a bit more than a theme, but its focus on political machinations isnít something Iím very good at handling in an adventure. Iím sure its something I can learn, but Iíd hate to ruin the game with a lackluster adventure and that makes me a little hesitant.

Iron Kingdoms and Eberron are about the same in my perspective. I actually keep wondering if perhaps some combination of those two might be fun. Take the level of magic from Eberron and toss in the direct warfare and powerful magic weapons from Iron Kingdoms and it really gets my imagination running. The trouble with them is that the Iron Kingdoms stuff is only written for 3rd Edition. Since my group really only plays 4th Edition Iíd have to do a pretty big chunk of conversion to make that work. I may getting started on that and see where it leads to, but right now this isnít a viable option.

Which leaves Dark Sun. This setting has actually been in the back of my head since the 4th Penny Arcade podcast. It seemed like it would be interesting to play in a setting where the land itself is out to kill you, making mere survival an achievement, let alone accomplishing quests. As it has already been converted to 4th Edition the only requirement on me and the players is to read through all the lore.

Iím not sure when exactly it will be, but Iím pretty sure the next campaign I start will be in the Dark Sun setting. Iíll still fool around with the Iron Kingdoms setting to see what can be done to get it 4E ready, but Iím sure that wonít be near ready for a long long time.

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  1. micalus's Avatar
    you could take a totally different setting entirely, such as Deadlands (Steampunk - from savage Worlds) or Shadowrun's setting (cyberpunk with magic) and just put DnD mechanics behind it. I plan to take Hellfrost from Savage Worlds and convert it over to 2nd edition DnD with a bit of modification. To me playing in a world with Vikings (West), Romans (East) and Saxons (in between) is a very attactive situation. I do plan to whittle down the number of nations and extend the ice age further south a bit. HellFrost even has the setting book separate from the actual game mechanics book, so you could Very easily put it into DnD.
  2. Q-man's Avatar
    Conversions are certainly an option, and its what I'm looking at doing with the Iron Kingdoms basically. I haven't looked into those other settings that you mention, aside from Shadowrun (which I played a bit a long while ago), so I'm not sure what they have to offer. Perhaps I'll look them up later on and see how they compare to the other ones I've considered using.