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.
Campaign settings in the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons consist of only three books each: A campaign guide for the Dungeon Master, a player's guide for players and DMs, and a ready-to-play adventure. There will only be these three books for each campaign setting, although a new setting will be released each year, and all settings will receive continuing support in D&D Insider. As of 2009, only Forgotten Realms and Eberron have been released, with the 2010 setting to be Dark Sun. In the game's third edition, new Dragonlance material and Ravenloft material were being produced by other companies via licensing.
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.
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.
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.
The original campaign setting played for D&D, created by Dave Arneson, was Blackmoor. 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 Zeitgeist Games. It is also run as a Massively Mutiplayer Role-Playing Game or MMRPGF (a type of living campaign).
Council of Wyrms
Council of Wyrms is a Dungeons and Dragons boxed set that includes rules for playing dragon, half dragon, and dragon servant characters. It includes three rule books: one for the base rules, one for dragon family and clan histories, and one for adventure modules. In 1999 it was slightly revised and reprinted as a hardcover book.
The setting of the campaign is a chain of islands called Io's Blood Island Chain. These islands represent all major climates. It is separated from the rest of its fictional world by very large oceans.
The dragons on the islands are described as having a loose democratic government with a caretaker. Each dragon clan with a wyrm level dragon gets a vote on issues before the Council of Wyrms. The caretaker only gets a vote on tie issues. Thus dragonkind cooperates and makes decisions on issues effecting dragon welfare.
Humans are not native to the islands, and those humans who come to the islands are mostly adventurous dragon slayers.
According to the draconic myth described in the setting, the islands were created by the dragon god Io. Seeing his children, the dragons, engulfed in dragon war, Io cried out: "If dragon blood must be spilled, then let it be mine!" He then slashed open his belly with his own claws and spilled his blood into the oceans. The divine blood solidified and became a chain of islands. These islands Io gave to the dragons, hoping that they would be able to live there in peace.
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.
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.
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 and 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, airships, and even robots are common in place of traditional knights in shining armor.
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. The Forgotten Realms is also the setting of the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights series of computer games.
Ghostwalk consists of a single campaign book. The central locale for the Ghostwalk setting is a city called Manifest, a mausoleum city built atop a geological feature known as the Well of Souls, a gathering place for ghosts, unique as a place in which ghosts can cross over to the realm of the living.
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.
Jakandor, released in 1998, is a self-contained "campaign arena" conceived by Jeff Grubb. 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 who have been driven from a far away homeland to Jakandor.
The setting was released in the form of three books, as part of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Odyssey line. These books are:
- Jakandor, Island of War (Feb. 1998 ISBN 0-7869-0371-6) detailed the Knorr barbarians and eastern side of Jakandor.
- Jakandor, Isle of Destiny (June 1998 ISBN 0-7869-1245-6) detailed the Charonti and western side of Jakandor.
- Jakandor, Land of Legend (November 1998 ISBN 0-7869-1246-4) has additional information and adventures for characters from both civilisations.
A fourth book Jakandor: Land of Destiny by Jeff Grubb was planned for January 1999 but never released.
An oriental setting based loosely on mythical and medieval East and Southeast Asia, introduced in the original Oriental Adventures rulebook. The setting was eventually placed on the eastern edge of Toril, in the world of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.
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.
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.
Offered as a free web enhancement for the 3e Oriental Adventures, the Mahasarpa Campaign, by James Wyatt, is a South Asian-themed campaign setting featuring seven kingdoms that are the surviving remnants of a great kingdom brought down by its own arrogance. Mahasarpa includes brief descriptions of the seven kingdoms, character options for the setting, new magic items, and new monsters.
An environment west of Faerûn (in the Forgotten Realms) that parallels Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
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 is a sub-setting for Mystara. The Hollow World details the inner surface contained within the world of Mystara, similar to the real world legends of the Hollow Earth. In the Mystara setting, the Hollow World acts as a living "cultural museum" for the planet, forever preserving cultures and races that are near extinction on the surface world.
This world is lit by an eternal red sun at the center of Mystara. The existence of the Hollow World is not, in general, known to the inhabitants of the outer world. The north and south poles are actually huge, subtly curving holes that allow passage between the outer and inner world, although it is a long, hard trek through a cold, unlit, stormy and anti-magic area. The curvature of the holes is so subtle that explorers from either surface do not notice the transition until after it is already made, causing quite a shock for most.
The Hollow World was originally discovered by Ka the Preserver, an ancient Immortal who began life as a giant carnosaur, who after finding it, decided to use the inner surface of the world as a refuge and preserve for creatures that were on the verge of becoming extinct in the ever-changing outer world. Since that time, the Hollow World has become a vast refuge for cultures, and species that have become extinct on the surface of Mystara.
Within the Hollow World, characters from the surface world are severely limited by the magic used by the Immortals to preserve the stability of the various cultures. The requirements to learn magic are much higher in the Hollow world, and many spells are non-functional or unavailable. The Hollow World also adds several new player races including Beastmen, Brutemen, Kubbits, Krugel Orcs, Malpheggi Lizardmen.
The Hollow World has four major continents; Aercial, Iciria, Jomphur and Suridal. There are three major island groups; The Anathy Archipelago, The Hagvar Islands and The Wintillian Islands.
Dungeons and Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun is a Sega Mega Drive game which depicts a group of adventurers who find their home transported to the Hollow World by an immortal known as the Burrower.
Pelinore articles primarily focused on a major urban center, the City League, and the surrounding county. Articles in Imagine detailed small locations within the City League that could also be used in any setting, as they were almost generic in execution.
Imagine presented a slice of this campaign world with each new issue from issue 16, up until its cancellation at issue 30. NPCs were usually numbered with a small printing of their ability statistics and a key number. If a building had code number 25, people within would for instance be 25A onwards.
After the demise of Imagine the former assistant editor, Paul Cockburn, created Game Master Publications. This series of unofficial D&D modules was set in Pelinore with newly drawn maps and some renamed locations (eg, the "County of Cerwyn" became "Caerns"). Some modules described places beyond the boundaries of the established setting. From issue GM4 onwards Game Master Publications returned to the use of the original names and even reprinted the official maps from Imagine. Game Master Publications was cancelled at issue GM5 in 1987.
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.
Points of Light
Points of Light is the default setting of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It was specifically designed to be a looser, more customizable campaign setting than those seen in any previous editions. It emphasizes the danger of the wilderness and uncivilized areas, and the comparative safety of towns and civilization. Its deities are a hodge-podge of Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and newly created gods, and what uniformity exists beyond the plane-wide worship of some or all of these figures is little; the campaign setting mentions a few fallen empires out of hand (such as Bael-Turath), but very little else that unifies the setting. The 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide explains that the minimalism of the setting is meant to encourage Dungeon Masters to freely add their own creations to it, and not to be concerned with keeping their adventures "canon".
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 November 2008 announced any plans to republish Ravenloft as a campaign setting.
Masque of the Red Death
A spin off of Ravenloft set in a fantasy, high magic, version of 1890s Earth.
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.
The Savage Coast is part of the Mystara campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons and was later spun-off into a campaign setting for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition). The area is a 2,000 mile long frontier coastline about 2,000 miles to the west of the Known World of Mystara. The Savage Coast is an area under the Red Curse, which eventually kills its inhabitants by mutating them unless the metal cinnabryl is worn in contact with the body.
The first published information on the area was the module X9 The Savage Coast for Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set. The region was later expanded in Dungeon magazine issues 6 and 7 (1987) with the adventure "Tortles of the Purple Sage".
Two series in Dragon Magazine, "The Princess Ark" and the "Known World Grimoire", described the Savage Coast in more detail. These articles were partially reprinted in the D&D game accessory Champions of Mystara (1993)
In 1994 campaign setting for the area was published as a boxed set entitled Red Steel, an expansion Savage Baronies was released the next year. These supplements were for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition), all the previous material had been for the non "Advanced" version of D&D.
In 1996 the setting was revised and re-released under the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Odyssey line as three fully online products available for free download here. This range included the base Savage Coast Campaign Book by Tim Beach and Bruce Heard, a supplement Savage Coast: Orc's Head and a Monstrous Compendium Appendix.
A setting based in "wildspace", a fantastical version of outer space based on classical notions of the universe in which magic-imbued ships interact with each other and locations in space, including campaign setting planets such as Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance, allowing for inter-campaign interaction.
Wilderlands of High Fantasy
Wilderlands of High Fantasy grew from the officially licensed D&D material from Judges Guild in the 1970s and 1980s including The City State of the Invincible Overlord. It is currently being published for 3rd Edition by Judges Guild through Necromancer Games.
The original edition ran to a total of 18 half-continent sized maps (some dealing with ocean settings), with details of the cities, towns, islands and ruins/lairs to be found. The setting was then used as a locale for a multitude of modules and characters published by Judges Guild.
- Wizards' D&D page
- Living City
- Odyssey line at TSR Archive
- Myth Weavers adaptation of Jakandorto D&D v3.5
- Jakandor series description at SF Site
- TSR Archive Hollow World product list
- The Savage Coast Campaign Book
- Previous Edition Dungeons & Dragons Downloads (Free TSR download from Wizards of the Coast. Scroll down the page to find the Savage Coast Campaign Setting)
- Red Steel and The Savage Coast at TSR Archive.