The flexibility of the Dungeons & Dragons
rules means that Dungeon Masters
are free to create their own fantasy campaign settings
. For those who wanted a pre-packaged setting in which to play, TSR
, Wizards of the Coast
(WotC), and other publishers have created many settings in which D&D
games can be based. Some are standard sword and sorcery
environments, while others borrow Oriental, Central American, swashbuckling, and even space-travel themes.
As of 2005, only Forgotten Realms and Eberron are being supported by new products from Wizards of the Coast. New Dragonlance material (and, until recently, Ravenloft material) is being produced by other companies via licensing.
Official campaign settings
These are official D&D campaign settings published or licensed by TSR or WotC. Some are no longer published or officially licensed, though all have active fan bases.
- Greyhawk: The first published setting for D&D, created by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax. Greyhawk is Gygax's original campaign, expanded into an official game supplement and greatly expanded upon with many supplements. Greyhawk is the "default" setting for the 3rd Edition ruleset (that is, the rulebooks are written assuming the players are campaigning in the Greyhawk setting) but supplements are no longer actively published.
- Blackmoor: The original campaign of D&D's other co-creator, Dave Arneson. Blackmoor was actually created prior to Greyhawk, but was only published later as part of the distant past of Mystara. In 2004, Blackmoor was again published by Arneson and Zeitgiest Games. It is also run as a Massively Mutiplayer Role-Playing Game or MMRPGF (a type of living campaign).
- Dragonlance: The first complete fictional world to be intentionally produced and marketed as an RPG supplement, with product tie-ins (novels, role-playing modules, figurines, etc.) prepared and manufactured when it was first released. The success of the Dragonlance series encouraged role-playing game producers to invent and market additional fictional game worlds. Created by Tracy Hickman and his wife Laura, with heavy tie-ins to the novels by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis.
- Forgotten Realms: Created by author and game designer Ed Greenwood as his personal campaign and detailed in a long series of articles in Dragon Magazine, this campaign became the setting most popular with D&D gamers in the 1990s. It is also the setting of a large number of novels, featuring among others the popular characters Drizzt Do'Urden, Artemis Entreri, and Elminster. Several other campaigns have been set on the Realms world of Toril:
- Kara-Tur: An oriental setting based loosely on mythical and medieval Japan and China, introduced in the original Oriental Adventures rulebook. The setting was eventually placed on the eastern edge of Toril.
- Maztica: An environment west of Faerûn that parallels Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
- Al-Qadim: See below
- Al-Qadim: A fantasy Arabian setting, with genies, elemental wizards, holy assassins, and a land unified by belief in the power of Fate. The land, named Zakhara, is located near the southern border of the continent of Faerûn, the main landmass of the Realms. However, Al-Qadim appeared under its own label, and not the Forgotten Realms label, unlike Kara-Tur and Maztica.
- Dark Sun: A setting based on the harsh desert world of Athas, that draws heavy inspiration from novels like Dune and the Barsoom series, which was once a lush planet teeming with life, but which has since been stripped of its fertility by uncontrolled use of defiling magic, although a small offshoot of magicians called preservers tends to maintain life and ultimately restore the primeval lushness. The world is dominated by psionic powers rather than magic, giving it a unique flavor among campaign settings.
- Ravenloft: A gothic horror setting originally created for an adventure module, Ravenloft, then expanded into an entire series and campaign setting. After years of production by TSR and WotC, Wizards licensed Ravenloft to Arthaus Games, which published its materials through White Wolf, Inc.'s Sword & Sorcery label, but rights returned to Wizards of the Coast in early 2006. In October 2006, Wizards released Expedition to Castle Ravenloft an updated version of the original module as a hardcover, but they have not as of January 2007 announced any plans to republish Ravenloft as a campaign setting.
- Birthright: A setting in which the players took on the powers of the divinely-empowered rulers of nations, with emphasis on tactical gameplay with a broad scope.
- Council of Wyrms: A setting that allowed players to play dragons as characters.
- Mystara: A campaign setting that evolved from the B and X series modules. Unlike other settings, "The Known World" had ascended immortal beings instead of gods. Mystara was the "default" setting for the non-Advanced editions of D&D, and the Blackmoor setting was later retconned to exist in Mystara's distant past.
- The Hollow World: Mystara is actually a hollow planet, and its interior is used as a time capsule by various immortals who decided to preserve cultures from the outer world that were in danger of extinction.
- Red Steel/Savage Coast: A swashbuckling-themed spinoff of the Mystara setting that revolved around a magical curse that afflicted all characters. Red Steel was originally released as a boxed set, but was later revised and released online for free as the Savage Coast.
- Lankhmar: TSR released a setting based on the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. The corrupt city of Lankhmar on the planet Nehwon is the starting place of grand adventures filled with mystery and deceit.
- Planescape: A setting that crosses the numerous "planes of existence", as originally developed in the Manual of the Planes. The setting crossed Victorian era trappings with a pseudo-steampunk design and attitude. Planescape won acclaim on its unique visual aspects, products of artist Tony DiTerlizzi.
- Spelljammer: A setting based in "wildspace", a fantasy version of outer space in which special sailing ships fly through a space based on classical notions of the universe.
- Eberron: The newest official D&D setting. Wizards of the Coast held a contest for fans to pen the most creative new setting, the reward being a publishing contract. Keith Baker's setting won, and with additional design by Wizards's creative department, the Eberron campaign setting was released in 2004. Straying from the 'standard' Western European flavor used in many other D&D settings (Greyhawk & Forgotten Realms being the most well known) Eberron takes place in a world of pulp action and fantasy noir, where the inhabitants make extensive use of magic in place of technology. Fantasy versions of steam trains, zeppelin airships, and even robots are common in place of traditional knights in shining armor.
- Wilderlands of High Fantasy: A setting that grew from the officially licensed D&D material from Judges Guild in the 1970s and '80s including The City State of the Invincible Overlord. Latter not official D&D material has been published for d20 System by Judges Guild through Necromancer Games. Future material will be released for use with the d20 based Castles & Crusades game.
- Jakandor: A small setting that was supported in three books, as part of the AD&D Oddssey line. Jakandor is an island divided between the native Charonti, a civilization heavily into the use of magic, especially necromancy and the Knorr, barbarians who despise the vile practice of magic.
- Pelinore: This lesser known setting was being developed by TSR's UK offices in its Imagine magazine.
- Rokugan: When Wizards of the Coast published the latest edition of Oriental Adventures, it included Rokugan as the official "sample setting." Rokugan is best known for being the setting of the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) collectible card game and Roleplaying Game, which are published by The Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). However, shortly after the publication of Oriental Adventures, AEG obtained all the publishing rights to all L5R properties. For a brief time, AEG published supplements that featured both L5R and D20 based mechanics. However, development of all D20 based Rokugan material has recently ceased, as Oriental Adventures is now out of print, and AEG, has decided to focus solely on L5R based supplements for the next edition of The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game.
- Kingdoms of Kalamar: A campaign setting designed and produced by Kenzer & Company. The setting was one of the first to take advantage of the Open Gaming License and the D20 System, making it the first (and, as of November 2006, the only) official D&D setting not produced by TSR/Wizards of the Coast. The Kalamar setting focuses mainly on six human sub-races on the world of Tellene and its creators pride themselves on grounding the fantasy setting in 'reality' by taking advantage of realistic looking geography and political structures.
are campaigns that involve thousands of role-players from around the world, sharing a single campaign setting. Dungeon Masters can obtain adventures in a vibrant, active campaign setting. Players can build characters, advance them in experience and forge relationships with fellow gamers from around the world. The RPGA Network
sponsors numerous living campaigns. The RPGA runs living campaign games at conventions, game days and other gatherings around the world. The most popular of the Living Campaigns
is Living Greyhawk
Other D&D Living Campaigns have included the Living City set in the Forgotten Realms and Living Death for Masque of the Red Death.The Living Campaign concept is also used for other d20 but not D&D games include Living Force for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and Living Spycraft for the Spycraft RPG. Outside companies frequently sponsor the creation and administration of these settings.