Top Ten D&D Settings of ALL TIME!
  • Top Ten D&D Settings of ALL TIME!

    I'll save you the experience of one of my awesome countdown videos and present this one as an article. I asked folks on EN World and elsewhere what were their favourite official D&D settings of all time. You answered in the hundreds. Here's what you said!

    10) Golarion

    Golarion is the official setting of the PATHFINDER RPG. Now, I got a bit of stick for (a) including Golarion or (b) not including the 567,345 other non-official D&D settings. I'm sorry. I included Golarion because I remembered that it was originally created while Paizo was making official D&D materials, but I'm told I am misremembering. Mea culpa; but if it's presence bothers you, pretend you can't see it and slip in #11 in its place:

    11) Spelljammer

    Spelljammer. Published by TSR in 1989. Magic sailing ships in space. Crystal spheres. Spelljammer attempted to "unify" all of the official settings and allow adventurers to sail from one to the next.

    9) Birthright

    Released in 1995, Birthright allowed players to take on the roles of rulers and emphasized political leadership in the gameplay. Based around the concept of bloodlines, the game used multi-month turns to ortray national actions.

    8) Mystara

    Back as far as 1980, Mystara - originally called The Known World - was introduced in module X1: The Isle of Dread. Over the years, a series of gazeteers expanded the world by adding new nations and other features. Mystara included the Savage Coast, the Hollow World, and set Blackmoor in its distant past.

    7) Dragonlance

    One of the earliest true Adventure Paths, the Dragonlance series of adventures was also supported by novels in the 1980s. Authored by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the series of adventures depicted the War of the Lance on the world of Krynn. Dragonlance introduced the infamous kender race, and made death knights popular in the form of Lord Soth. Later, the setting expanded with dozens of novel lines, a new continent called Taladas, and then advanced the metaplot into later generations.

    6) Ravenloft

    Inspired by the module by Tracy and Laura Hickman, Ravenloft was a gothic, horror setting located in a pocket dimension. The dimension was divided into domains, each with its own ruler - such as the vampire Strahd von Zarovich. Raveloft was launched as a campaign setting in 1990 with a boxed set called Realm of Terror.

    5) Eberron

    Designed by Keith Eberron was the winner of the "setting search" competition in 2002 and was published in 2004. It featured pervasive low-level magic functioning as common technology (lighting, transport, etc.) in the form of magical lanterns and "lighting rails". It's a bit less high-magic and a bit more gritty than some other settings.

    4) Dark Sun

    Set on a fictional desert world called Athas, Dark Sun launched in 1991. Hihglighting psionics, thri-kreen, defiling magic, savage nomadic elves, and ferocious halflings, Dark Sun was popular with those who liked a dangerous, unforgiving setting and was a stark departure from the Forgotten Realms.

    3) Forgotten Realms

    The big daddy of D&D campaign settings, originally created by Ed Greenwood, the Forgotten Realms has scores of novel lines, video games, setting supplements, major NPCs such as Drizzt and Elminster, and a myriad of locations spanning almost every type you can imagine. It has been described by some as the "kitchen sink" of D&D settings, but there's no denying it's been the most successful. It was launched as a D&D setting in 1987, and has endured through several editions of D&D.

    2) Greyhawk

    You know all those named spells in D&D? Mordenkainen, Dwamij, Tenser? They all hail from Greyhawk. Published as a 32-page setting in 1980, Greyhawk and it's world - Oerth - go back further than that, based on Gary Gygax's home campaign. Indeed, some of those names were characters in his game (and Drawij was Jim Ward backwards). It started as a castle and environs, with the insane achitect Zagyg at the bottom of the dungeon beneath Castle Greyhawk, but soon grew as cities and countries were added.

    1) Planescape

    So, the most popular D&D setting of all time is set in a range of planes - both outer and inner - and centered on a city named Sigil. Published in 1994, and originally designed by Zeb Cook, Planescape also spawned what may be the most acclaimed of the D&D video games of the era, along with a CCG and various novels, plus six boxed sets and a handful of accessories and adventures. Planescape is some distance from the Lord of the Rings inspired public vision of D&D. Never as widely popular as the Forgotten Realms - or as widely produced, promoted, and supported - Planescape has long been the critics' favourite.
    Comments 42 Comments
    1. Klaus's Avatar
      Klaus -
      My personal list:

      10. Mystara
      9. Nerath
      8. Forgotten Realms
      7. Dragonlance
      6. Red Steel
      5. Planescape
      4. Dark Sun
      3. Ravenloft
      2. Eberron
      1. Greyhawk
    1. thundershot's Avatar
      thundershot -
      My list...

      5. Greyhawk
      4. Dark Sun
      3. Mystara
      2. Planescape
      1. Spelljammer
    1. bandrewski -
      Glad Birthright made the list

      Mystara should be higher but so few people have read the Gazetteers which were amazing.

      Greyhawk > Forgotten Realms = awesome

      #1 is a bit of a shock
    1. vegaserik01's Avatar
      vegaserik01 -
      My Golarion Setting book came out before Pathfinder so it should be considered D&D 3.5

      Never bought or played in Planescape but it works for me. I think I'd have Ravenloft near number one myself ... but I find it all depends on my mood. Sometimes i'm in the mood for gothic horror, sometimes grim & gritty (Dark Sun) and sometimes nostalgic (Dragonlance for me) but I'd have to say I've used the Realms most of all.
    1. kitsune9's Avatar
      kitsune9 -
      Nice poll. Now go out and poll the other 567,345 campaign settings. I want to know which reached the top 10 there!
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by kitsune9 View Post
      Nice poll. Now go out and poll the other 567,345 campaign settings. I want to know which reached the top 10 there!
      I'll let you do that one!
    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -
      These results are almost as hillarious as the rexults of the top adventures of all time poll were.

      Goes to show how skewed internet popularity is compared to real world sales.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeffB View Post
      These results are almost as hillarious as the rexults of the top adventures of all time poll were.
      I'm glad you were entertained.

      Goes to show how skewed internet popularity is compared to real world sales.
      What, do you mean to say that Planescape isn't selling strongly right now?
    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -

      No comment.

    1. Lord Rasputin's Avatar
      Lord Rasputin -
      Ranking the ones I've actually played:

      5) Forgotten Realms
      4) Known World
      3) Ravenloft
      2) Greyhawk (tops if you want a more generic fantasy or a standard sandbox)
      1) Dragonlance

      I like settings I can grasp fast, which is why I like Greyhawk much more than the Forgotten Realms. I'm sure there's something I want in Faerun, but damned if I can muster up the energy to sift through everything to focus on something. Well, other than Waterdeep; I know I like Waterdeep since I just love cities.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by Manabarbs View Post
      Planescape's win is made even more impressive by the fact that it hasn't been directly supported in TTRPG form for so long. I know that EN World skews older/oldschool, but it's almost 20 years since the setting last received a main setting book. (And 14 years since the very popular videogame.) Sure, there are a lot of people who have been playing since 2e, but there are also a lot of people who haven't, so for Planescape to win is all the more impressive.
      I've often thought that Planescape is the Mage: The Ascension of the D&D world; a setting that's just as much (or more!) fun to have discussions about as it is to play.
    1. szarkel -
      No love for Jakandar or Ghostwalk? Cryin shame
    1. amerigoV's Avatar
      amerigoV -
      Quote Originally Posted by szarkel View Post
      No love for Jakandar or Ghostwalk? Cryin shame
      Ghostwalk was an interesting one. I always held that one in my back pocket if a long-running group ever got TPK'd. I most be soft, as I have not used it yet.

      Of the actual results, I have only played in the top 5 anyway for any length of time (I ran/played in the I6/EtCR, but not the setting and played in one or two DL modules)

      In the top 5, only Planescape is not to my tastes. I am just not a big fan of planar stuff, other than as to prevent Something Bad from Happening trope. It also seems to me that D&D has drifted too much into planar stuff as a way to "make things interesting" instead of just making something interesting. But I know there is a lot of love there so its just something I do not think about.

      Darksun - I have loved the concept from the time I first heard of it. I was a po' college student when I first found out about it and only lightly into gaming at the time, so I never picked it up. I am not a 4e-er, but when they announced the re-release I eagerly picked it up. The fact that 40% of the book was just player option crunch really dampened my view of the book - I seem to have a hard time getting past that to really enjoy reading about the setting itself. But I am keeping an eye on the Dragon Kings ( since its supposed to be the spiritual successor of DS (and them announcing Savage Worlds as one of the support rule sets cinched it for me ).

      I have a renewed enjoyment of Greyhawk in the last couple of years. Someone one Dragonsfoot said it best on a discussion of game world there - you need to have something "normal" in which to contrast the fantastical against. Since Greyhawk grew up under the older editions, it just feels closer to the "medieval world with some spikes of magic" that I like vs. "every inch of the world is magical".

      I picked up a lot of FR during 3.x (I never really like the older stuff). The 3.0 FRCS is one of my favorite books. I love how at the end of each area write-up there are 3-4 little plot hooks to get you going. I know if I have an idea that does not fit any more specialized worlds I can always drop it somewhere in FR - it is truly a kitchen sink setting. None of my players are FR-fan boys so I can always use that world as a rich background without the fear of sticking all that close to Canon if I do not want to.

      But if I want a long-term high magic setting, I love Eberron over FR. It just makes more sense to me. If every barkeep can cast a few magic spells and every treasure pile has a +1 sword in it, then I would expect more "magic-tech" than FR seems to have. Eberron is magical and the magic is used for more than just making WMDs (Weapons of Monster Destruction).

      So I would rank the top 4 to be:

      4. DS (concept, anyway)
      3. FR
      2/1 (tie) Greyhawk/Eberron depending on the how "high fantasy" I want something.
    1. Greg K's Avatar
      Greg K -
      Edited: I had a memory lapse and thought I included Dragonlance. Also, I just read that unofficial settings were not eligible which ruled out Scarred Lands.

      My ranking
      10.Kara Tur
      9. Rokugan
      8. Hollow World
      7. Birthright
      6. Dragonlance
      5. Known World
      4. Forgotten Realms (1e Grey Box)
      3. Greyhawk (Folio or 1e Boxed Set)
      2. Ravenloft Realms of Terror
      1. Tie: Darksun (orignal boxed set)/Al Quadim
    1. megamania's Avatar
      megamania -
      Mysteria and Birthright beat Scarred lands?!? wow.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by megamania View Post
      Mysteria and Birthright beat Scarred lands?!? wow.
      Scarred Lands isn't an official D&D setting. It wasn't eligible.
    1. szarkel -
      It is easy to give props to the older campaigns. Greyhawk really came to its own (I feel) once 2nd ed came in I love those two box sets and I have Ivid the undying I got off the interweb. FRG which I loved from the start had the awful period where they reprinting things. I love me some Spelljammer but most don't so it like playing game most do not like. Planescape for atmospheric with its own cant and a real feel. I love campaigns. I have a couple of Kalamar Books and I own two of the three Jakandar books. After 3.0 Scarred lands is my favorite then fanstasy Flights Legends and Lairs.
    1. megamania's Avatar
      megamania -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      Scarred Lands isn't an official D&D setting. It wasn't eligible.
      Good point
    1. megamania's Avatar
      megamania -
      However, the first list given has Pathfinder listed as #10. So why not scarred Lands?
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by megamania View Post
      However, the first list given has Pathfinder listed as #10. So why not scarred Lands?
      You might want to look at the article again.
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