A campaign setting is a world in which a Dungeons & Dragons campaign may take place. Many campaign settings were published officially by TSR and Wizards of the Coast, while countless other Dungeon Masters have created their own homebrew campaign worlds.

History[edit | edit source]

Before Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

The wargames which originally inspired Dungeons & Dragons allowed for multiple battles in a "campaign", originally a real-world term for a series of battles. This usage spread to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign in the early 1970s, considered one of the earliest prototypes of roleplaying games, and from there to Gary Gygax's early playtests of Dungeons & Dragons.

Gygax's original Greyhawk world was drawn over a map of the United States, and not intended for publication.

World of Greyhawk (1980)[edit | edit source]

After the creation of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, Gary Gygax was surprised by popular demand to publish his campaign world. In 2003, Gygax said:

"When I was asked by TSR to do my World of Greyhawk as a commercial product I was taken aback. I had assumed most DMs would far prefer to use their own world settings."

Gygax had not planned to release his world, but shortly developed it into a product:

"For certain the WoG product as published by TSR came into being about two or three months before the date of its printing and sale. Brian said that a campaign setting was needed, so after ascertaining the maximum size map sheet we could have printed, I free-handed the land outlines on those two sheets of paper, used colored pencils to put in terrain features, located the cities, and made up the names for everything. that took me about 1 week."

In 1980, TSR released the resulting product as the The World of Greyhawk Folio. This was the first official campaign setting released for Dungeons & Dragons, and for several years was the only official setting for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Post-Gygax TSR (1985-1999)[edit | edit source]

Following Gygax's departure from TSR in 1985, TSR was eager to replace Greyhawk with other worlds.

TSR's decision to create a large number of campaign settings added variety to the game and created many memorable and innovative worlds, but had the drawback of dividing the playerbase among multiple campaign settings. This made it difficult to support campaign settings with supplements, since only a fraction of the playerbase would buy each release.

WotC era (2000-current)[edit | edit source]

Wizards of the Coast merged the D&D and AD&D product lines, doing away with the non-AD&D settings in the process. D&D 3rd edition made Gygax's World of Greyhawk the implied core setting.

During that edition, WotC debuted two all-new campaign settings: Ghostwalk, which was rushed out prior to D&D 3.5 and not supported thereafter, and Eberron, a steampunk-ish setting and winner of a large user-submitted campaign setting contest. This edition also saw a single sourcebook for World of Greyhawk, heavy support for the Forgotten Realms, Rokugan in Oriental Adventures, and third-party sourcebooks for Ravenloft and Dragonlance.

With the release of D&D 4th edition in 2008, WotC made that edition's default setting a concept known as Points of Light, with the Nentir Vale location a prime setting within. Sourcebooks were released for Eberron, Forgotten Realms, and Dark Sun.

D&D 5th edition (2014) was characterized by fewer product releases and a return to much of D&D's history. As a result, the core setting of that edition is considered to be the multiverse of all D&D settings, specifically citing the worlds of Birthright, Dragonlance, Eberron, Greyhawk and other settings.

List of official campaign settings[edit | edit source]

World of Greyhawk[edit | edit source]

Main article: World of Greyhawk

The World of Greyhawk campaign setting was the original world to be released for Dungeons & Dragons with the The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (1980). Created by Gary Gygax, it was later used as the default setting for Dungeons & Dragons third edition.

Forgotten Realms[edit | edit source]

Main article: Forgotten Realms

Originally created by Ed Greenwood, the Forgotten Realms is one of the longest-running and most popular Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings. Many novels use this world as their setting, and it has received strong support in D&D sourcebooks since the AD&D 1st edition era.

Mystara[edit | edit source]

Main article: Mystara

Mystara was the campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons basic product line from 1991 to 1996.

Lankhmar[edit | edit source]

Main article: Lankhmar

TSR released several products set in the world of Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar novels.

Ravenloft[edit | edit source]

Main article: Ravenloft

A gothic horror campaign setting inspired by the Transylvanian vampire mythos.

Dragonlance[edit | edit source]

Main article: Dragonlance

Dark Sun[edit | edit source]

Main article: Dark Sun

Al-Qadim[edit | edit source]

Main articles: Al-Qadim, Al-Qadim at the Forgotten Realms Wiki

A middle-eastern inspired campaign setting. It is considered to be geographically located on the planet of Toril, previously established as the world of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Birthright[edit | edit source]

Main article: Birthright

Spelljammer[edit | edit source]

A campaign setting released for AD&D beginning with Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space (1989). It allows players to sail through the cosmos in ships and even travel between different campaign settings which appear. It did not receive strong support after AD&D 2nd edition.

Planescape[edit | edit source]

Main article: Planescape

A unique campaign setting released during the run of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition with the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994). It depicts the cosmology and culture of the previously released Great Wheel planar cosmology.

Council of Wyrms[edit | edit source]

An AD&D setting where the player characters can play as dragons.

Diablo II[edit | edit source]

Main articles: Diablo II: Diablerie (2000), Diablo II: To Hell and Back (2001)

In 2000 and 2001, Wizards of the Coast released two D&D sourcebooks set in the world of the video game Diablo II.

Rokugan[edit | edit source]

Main article: Rokugan

An east Asian themed fantasy world originating in AEG's collectable card game Legend of the Five Rings, Rokugan was the setting of Wizards of the Coast's Oriental Adventures (3e) (2001).

Ghostwalk[edit | edit source]

Main article: Ghostwalk

Ghostwalk (2003) was released as a single sourcebook for D&D 3rd edition, shortly before the D&D 3.5 release. It did not receive further support. Ghostwalk describes a city where planar confluences allow the ghosts of slain adventurers to manifest as solid, and even continue adventuring.

Eberron[edit | edit source]

Main article: Eberron

Originally released with the Eberron Campaign Setting (2004), Keith Baker's setting Eberron was the winner of a Wizards of the Coast contest to select a new campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. Eberron aims to combine the feel of heroic pulp stories with film noir influences. Magic is widely used as a form of technology approximately on par with 19th century Earth: newspapers, railway and street lighting exist, all powered by magic.

Nentir Vale[edit | edit source]

Main articles: Nentir Vale, Points of Light

The Nentir Vale was a loosely-defined campaign setting which formed the default world for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. No official sourcebook was released for this world, which was intended to be left for individual DMs to fill in the details themselves.

Ravnica[edit | edit source]

Main article: Ravnica

A world based on the Ravnica series of cards for Wizards of the Coast's Magic: the Gathering collectible card game. It was first adapted into a D&D setting with the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica{{UnknownBook}}. This collaboration between Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering departments was unprecedented, with internal company politics infamously precluding such a product throughout the previous twenty years when Wizards owned both brands.

Connections between campaign settings[edit | edit source]

Canonically, planar portals and other methods allow travel between many worlds of some campaign settings.

Planescape takes place within the planar cosmology previously established for generic D&D, and travel is canonically possible between Planescape and the World of Greyhawk.

Planar portals canonically exist which allow travel between the World of Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms settings.

The Spelljammer campaign setting described transit between worlds, including those of the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance.

Al-Qadim takes place on the same planet as the Forgotten Realms.

Notable third-party campaign settings[edit | edit source]

Several D&D-compatible campaign settings have been released by companies other than TSR or Wizards of the Coast. Some notable settings include:

  • Tal'Dorei, campaign setting of the Critical Role online campaign.
  • Kalamar, a setting which licensed the official D&D logo from 2000-2006 and later formed the core setting of the HackMaster RPG
  • Ptolus, a massive campaign setting based around a single city, and written by Monte Cook, former co-author of the D&D 3rd edition core rulebooks
  • Aurania, one of the first third-party settings created by the Aero Hobbies D&D group credited with invention of the thief character class. Connected to the Manual of Aurania (1977) and the unpublished Libram of Aurania.
  • Warcraft, setting of Blizzard's World of Warcraft online roleplaying game, to which Wizards of the Coast at one point possessed the license.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Campaign Classics, Dragon #315 (Jan 2004), p.12-13.
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