New Fantasy RPG Campaign Worlds?

D&D needs a new name, a fresh face, and lots of room to explore in the setting of its next incarnation. Right now the Fortnite Island is probably more recognizable than Forgotten Realms. Homebrew is great, but Wizards of the Coast can’t really build an entire lifestyle brand based on homebrew, can they?


Giving some thought to worldbuilding again.

The other day I was looking over my bookshelves at many of the old, mostly D&D, campaign settings I used to run or at least borrow heavily from.

Birthright
Dark Sun
Planescape
Greyhawk
Forgotten Realms
Kara Tur
Al Qadim
Ravenloft

Sovereign Stone
Dragonmech
Dragon Star
Kingdoms of Kalamar
Etherscope
World of Warcraft
Everquest
Earthdawn
Steampunk D20
Iron Kingdoms
Legend of the 5 Rings
Legend of the Burning Sands
Midnight
7th Sea.

I think that was most of it. Each one of those campaign settings has at least one cool feature that makes it unique and entertaining. Some of them have been brought back for a run under 5E, still others continue to thrive on their own unique systems. What sticks out to me is that every name on the list was a pretty sweet release when it first came about. Plus I never met a campaign setting I didn’t like or at least give a chance.

What about new titles during the 5E years?

I might be alone in this, but Wizards of the Coast hasn’t dropped a new campaign setting that has stood out since… 3.5E? Maybe? Generic fantasy settings and homebrew are great and all. Sure, there have been some pretty spiffy third party 5E supplements. But has there really been a brand new 5E setting that went much further than a big Kickstarter? Has there been one that everyone said, “I have to play this?”

Grim Hollow was talked about quite a bit when it first came out. Even Critical Role’s Exandria setting hasn’t made a huge splash the same way Planescape did. Yes, CR is popular, but what about Exandria? Even as overplayed as Forgotten Realms was, there was still some wiggle room to find adventures and people talked about it.

As a side note, I might not love Golarion as the setting for Pathfinder, but King Maker looks pretty sweet. If I ever have money again, I so want to invest in the new King Maker and run it. Paizo is at least trying to build something cool. It’s the closest D20 has come to Birthright in a very long time.

If WotC is complaining about “under monetization” then why do they keep rehashing the same old material?

Yes, we’ve heard the spiel out of WotC about how they want to monetize the player base. We know Dungeon Masters supposedly spend all the big bucks on books and supplements. (We kinda have-to because not only are we running things, but because sometimes shifty players like to quote out of poppy new rulebooks…) We also know from history that DMs tend to be the ones to buy campaign settings.

WotC has an inkling of a good idea right under their noses and I’d bet they haven’t thought much about it. Eberron was a 3.5, 4E and 5E setting. But for 5E, they released a player’s guide outside of the main Eberron setting book. They did the same maneuver for Ravnica, too if I remember correctly. Basically the player’s guide was a somewhat toned-down version of the larger campaign guide to give players enough information to make characters and play in a lush world without having to read all of the DMs lore, stats, and NPC info. It’s a good idea for players to have, save work for DMs and costs about half what the setting book cost. Win-Win, in my opinion.

Eberron breathed new life into that old 3E D&D brand. People went bonkers over the submission contest leading up to WotC discovering Keith Baker. Truthfully, I think Keith was onto something. They keep bringing it back. It’s a solid setting even if it’s not exactly traditional Western medieval fantasy. But maybe that’s exactly what is needed.

When do we get a new “official” setting?

Heck, when is somebody going to drop a new “official” fantasy setting for D&D? I know what I’d like to see in a fantasy setting, but there’s a lot going on and I’m still not sure it would ever catch on. Yay homebrew, but it would be nice if several thousand people had the book (or boxed set) in hand and were discussing it. When are we going to go online and see full message boards talking about campaigns and official lore drops from this new setting? When is something going to catch on that even makes D&D Adventurer’s League have to branch off?

This radical-ish new approach to D&D becoming a lifestyle brand is lacking seasoning. There’s no real flavor beyond “Nerds roll dice.” This new movie comes out. Where’s it set? In Dungeons & Dragons.

Okay, where’s it set within Dungeons & Dragons? In, uh… D&D world? D&D Cinematic Universe? Does anyone remember the original D&D movies “cinematic universe?” Please dispose of your own barf bag when finished, if it’s even that remarkable.

The car commercial featuring the kids from the 1980’s cartoon had more clout than the D&D movies. Pretty sad. I’ll take Venger and Tiamat over Damodar and that uh, mage guy Jeremy Irons any day, though. At least the cartoon had a storyline.

They really, desperately need a new setting for D&D.

I’m sure Ed Greenwood would love it if Forgotten Realms becomes the star campaign of yet another edition of the game with One D&D. Personally, I think FR has been flogged to death. I’m sick of Elminster and that Drow named Fritzz or whatever. (LOL.) It’s been done to death. Everyone has to much stake in the old properties of FR, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance to work as a flagship campaign setting.

One D&D’s writing team had better be thinking long and hard about a brand spanking new campaign setting beyond “generic fantasy.” A lot of games do generic fantasy as a setting with their shiny, cool, sleek, well-tested rules systems. Go ahead and name a few. I’ll wait.

I say new D&D not-edition, then new fantasy world setting that highlights the iconic trademarked D&D monsters. If WotC wants stuff to put on a t-shirt, video game, TV show, movies, and D&D the toilet paper, then come up with a never-before-seen campaign world. And it needs to have room to explore. There is no point in adventuring in the same stale campaign world that has been limping along in every edition since the 1980s.

Right now the Fortnite Island would work better than Forgotten Realms. I mean, “forgotten” is right in the title and who wants their game to be forgotten? At least most gamers recognize Fortnite and maybe know a little about it. Unreal Engine is the new digital landscape of D&D, btw.

I have more ideas, but I’m keeping them for my homebrew and maybe published campaign setting. Thanks for stopping in. I appreciate you!

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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