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. TarionzCousin's Avatar
      TarionzCousin -
      What would it be like if all of the posts in this thread were positive; if nobody chimed in to say how much they hate "Setting X" and decry it as unworthy of even being mentioned here?

      Would the world end?

      Would all the internets implode?
    1. enrious's Avatar
      enrious -
      Great list, fun memories. I wouldn't have been surprised if any of the settings listed here had been #1.
    1. Manabarbs's Avatar
      Manabarbs -
      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.
    1. Olgar Shiverstone's Avatar
      Olgar Shiverstone -
      Wow -- surprised that Planescape is #1, and that Greyhawk outvoted FR. I'm down with GH > FR myself, but never grokked the PS setting.

      Morrus -- I think you're right. The first Pathfinder adventure path was for 3.5E and was set in Golarion. "Pathfinder" as a game came out later. They were published after Paizo lost the Dragon/Dungeon license (I got mine as a continuation of my Dungeon subscription, IIRC), but they were still for D&D. Not sure if that meets the criteria or not.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      Wow, that was a surprise. I mean, PS is a great setting, but when I saw FR was #3 I was sure that meant Greyhawk had to have won it.

      Anyway, TSR sure did know how to make some fine settings.
    1. gweinel's Avatar
      gweinel -
      Planescape, Mystara and Birthright were my choices, so i am very pleased with the result. Now, if could revive these settings
    1. koesherbacon's Avatar
      koesherbacon -
      I'm kind of surprised that Dark Sun out ranked Eberron. I know that in terms of nostalgia, Dark Sun will always hold a special place for people, but with there are so many new players who like the Steampunk or Gas Lamp Fantasy genera I would think that Eberron would appeal more to them than Dark Sun or even the more "typical" fantasy worlds like Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms.
    1. Storminator's Avatar
      Storminator -
      While I have preferences, and wouldn't have ordered them like that, I'd play in any of those settings.

    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Storminator View Post
      and wouldn't have ordered them like that
      I'd imagine not! If those results were your exact order, you'd best start playing the lottery! The odds of that happening are 10x9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2:1!
    1. ThirdWizard's Avatar
      ThirdWizard -
      It warms my heart to see Planescape is still so popular.
    1. Jhaelen -
      Wow, really some surprising results - I approve!

      My personal top five would have been:
      1. Dark Sun
      2. Eberron
      3. Planescape
      4. Ravenloft
      5. Greyhawk
    1. Jiggawatts's Avatar
      Jiggawatts -
      My List:

      10. Birthright
      9. Mystara
      8. Al-Qadim
      7. Eberron
      6. Dark Sun
      5. Greyhawk
      4. Ravenloft
      3. Dragonlance
      2. Planescape
      1. Forgotten Realms
    1. DMZ2112's Avatar
      DMZ2112 -
      Wow, Planescape? Really? I mean, I wholeheartedly approve, but I've always thought of it as a niche. Thought Forgotten Realms would have taken it for sure (and secretly pleased to see Greyhawk beat it out!).

      Thanks for running the poll, Morrus!
    1. dm4hire's Avatar
      dm4hire -
      I was surprised by the results, but can see why Planescape took 1st. It effectively could be tied to almost any campaign outside of Darksun, but even then the DM could change that.
    1. Dioltach's Avatar
      Dioltach -
      I think that what this poll shows more than anything is that the EN World crowd are probably not representative of the whole D&D market.
    1. scott2978's Avatar
      scott2978 -
      Awesome poll Morrus, thanks for posting it. Great results. And I think it's interesting how many comments say they are both surprised and agree with the results.
    1. havard's Avatar
      havard -
      Great seeing Mystara (and Blackmoor) in there!
    1. Zelkon's Avatar
      Zelkon -
      I'd take this with a grain of salt. They did this over on the WotC forums and got similar yet still quite different results. Grayhawk was much less popular, and Eberron and FR were the top two in that order IIRC. That said, I like all these settings with the exclusions of the more generic ones like FR, GH, and Golorian.
    1. Jan van Leyden's Avatar
      Jan van Leyden -
      Quote Originally Posted by scott2978 View Post
      Awesome poll Morrus, thanks for posting it. Great results. And I think it's interesting how many comments say they are both surprised and agree with the results.
      Me, I'm just the other way round: I saw it coming, but I never gave a damn about Planescape myself
    1. Balesir's Avatar
      Balesir -
      Nice poll, great to see the result.

      As for my own choices; the first two were easy - Planescape and Birthright. The third was much harder to select just one. It was between Dark Sun and Eberron, and I went with Eberron, IIRC - but it could have gone either way.
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