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5E 3 Classic Settings Coming To 5E?

On the D&D Celebration – Sunday, Inside the D&D Studio with Liz Schuh and Ray Winninger, Winninger said that WotC will be shifting to a greater emphasis on settings in the coming years.

This includes three classic settings getting active attention, including some that fans have been actively asking for. He was cagey about which ones, though.

The video below is an 11-hour video, but the information comes in the last hour for those who want to scrub through.



Additionally, Liz Schuh said there would be more anthologies, as well as more products to enhance game play that are not books.

Winninger mentioned more products aimed at the mainstream player who can't spend immense amount of time absorbing 3 tomes.

Ray and Liz confirmed there will be more Magic: The Gathering collaborations.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I mean, they're the same setting, its just 4E Dark Sun knew where to stop and also not to kill off all of its villains in novels.

But, I think people are overestimating how much needs to be done in a Dark Sun book.
A 4e-inspired Dark Sun would be really be simple. You need a Dark Sun inspired subrace of elf, dwarf, and halfling, variant racial traits for humans, half-elves and dragonborn (dray), reprinted aaracroka and genasi, and mul, half-giant and thri-kreen races, plus some guidance on other races. Then you reprint the psionic subclasses and spells from Tasha, add a few new subs (Dragon-king pact, elemental domain) and some new backgrounds and your done. Perhaps aping the Mythic rules from Theros for wild talents. After that, defiling mechanics and some refluffed equipment.

But that's a "D&D first, Genre second" take. The 5e settings have not been quick to change anything but race options in settings so far: classes feats spells and equipment have all been untouched (even as far as keeping rapiers and fullplate in Theros). Anyone expecting them to alter or ban classes are probably going to be disappointed. I just don't see them listing large amounts of the PHB and other supplements as "not available". They might be neglected to be mentioned, but outside of races, I don't expect ban lists. And yes, that includes paladin.
 

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Rygar

Explorer
I think it's worth noting that everyone's ignoring Gamma World in this thread as well. Which is a fair thing to do as GW was marketed as a "Separate Product" through it's history, but was really a heavy reskin of D&D. Gamma World is alongside Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance as having been present through D&D's history since 1st edition.

So I suspect that the three settings are:
1. Dragonlance - Been at least as successful as a product line as Forgotten Realms over the years, the only D&D product to have heavy penetration outside of the RPG market so it has a lot of recognition and power to bring in new customers, well known brand in many circles, highly marketable in movies and TV, dedicated built-in large audience to evangelize, very large novel range with the potential to bring in even more sales in E-Books increasing profitability, deeply invested writers who've asked WOTC to give them access. Dragonlance is a lock as one of the three settings.
2. Gamma World - Been released adjacent to pretty much every edition of D&D, been reasonably successful, has the ability to introduce a sci-fi aspect to D&D that allows for variety and breaks up monotony, post-apocalyptic material is still a hot seller right now.
3. Planescape - Dedicated fanbase, rules for very high level play supporting groups who've been playing for some time and want to advance higher, introduces a "Hub" to allow DMs to bring in different worlds.

Why I think the rest are out:
1. Al-Qadim - They didn't just go slapping warning labels all over their old product to bring back a setting certain to cause more outrage.
2. Kara-Tur - As above. There's no way they're doing this.
3. Dark Sun - About as popular as Gamma World and Planescape, but doesn't bring anything to the table beyond it. Planescape is high level and a hub, Gamma World is a different experience with familiar rules, Dark Sun is just a setting with nothing else going for it.
4. Greyhawk - In the same boat as Dark Sun, plus it's largely been on a shelf for decades so it just doesn't have a wide draw.
5. Birthright - Wasn't popular when it was in publication, it has no draw to it any more.
6. Spelljammer - Fills the same niche as Planescape, but doesn't open doors to different places as easily, and doesn't bring the high level play support. Not really a reason to pick it over Planescape.
7. Other settings - The other one-off or two-off settings tried over the years definitely aren't going to sell.
 


While Kara-Tur is just another part of the Realms, I think they will do something Asian-themed sometime soon. After all, one of the panels/talks thing was basically how to run an Asian-themed campaign without being offensive or insensitive. I think they are prepping for something to be released:

 

I think it's worth noting that everyone's ignoring Gamma World in this thread as well. Which is a fair thing to do as GW was marketed as a "Separate Product" through it's history, but was really a heavy reskin of D&D. Gamma World is alongside Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance as having been present through D&D's history since 1st edition.

So I suspect that the three settings are:
1. Dragonlance - Been at least as successful as a product line as Forgotten Realms over the years, the only D&D product to have heavy penetration outside of the RPG market so it has a lot of recognition and power to bring in new customers, well known brand in many circles, highly marketable in movies and TV, dedicated built-in large audience to evangelize, very large novel range with the potential to bring in even more sales in E-Books increasing profitability, deeply invested writers who've asked WOTC to give them access. Dragonlance is a lock as one of the three settings.
2. Gamma World - Been released adjacent to pretty much every edition of D&D, been reasonably successful, has the ability to introduce a sci-fi aspect to D&D that allows for variety and breaks up monotony, post-apocalyptic material is still a hot seller right now.
3. Planescape - Dedicated fanbase, rules for very high level play supporting groups who've been playing for some time and want to advance higher, introduces a "Hub" to allow DMs to bring in different worlds.

Why I think the rest are out:
1. Al-Qadim - They didn't just go slapping warning labels all over their old product to bring back a setting certain to cause more outrage.
2. Kara-Tur - As above. There's no way they're doing this.
3. Dark Sun - About as popular as Gamma World and Planescape, but doesn't bring anything to the table beyond it. Planescape is high level and a hub, Gamma World is a different experience with familiar rules, Dark Sun is just a setting with nothing else going for it.
4. Greyhawk - In the same boat as Dark Sun, plus it's largely been on a shelf for decades so it just doesn't have a wide draw.
5. Birthright - Wasn't popular when it was in publication, it has no draw to it any more.
6. Spelljammer - Fills the same niche as Planescape, but doesn't open doors to different places as easily, and doesn't bring the high level play support. Not really a reason to pick it over Planescape.
7. Other settings - The other one-off or two-off settings tried over the years definitely aren't going to sell.

I'm going to have to disagree about Dragonlance being a lock. And it is for the same reason TSR never was able to sustain it much after 1st edition. Once the novels by Weis and Hickman came out and shot into the stratosphere they quickly eclipsed everything else. Witness how many people here seem to think the setting was created by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis.

It wasn't.

The initial concept was dreamed up by Tracy and Laura Hickman, and then Douglas Niles, Harold Johnson, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley and a whole lot of other TSR staffers that most have forgotten. Weis was an editor who was given the job of getting someone to adapt the modules into novels and then when she couldn't find a suitable author, did it her self. She was not an RPG designer but succeeded as a novelist beyond what anyone would have envisioned at the start of the project. (And Hickman himself rapidly transitioned to novelist more than designer)

Whereas the Forgotten Realms was a setting with a novel line, Dragonlance became a novel line with the occasional RPG book. Dark Sun can be revived in 4th edition and ignore the novels because no one cared about the Dark Sun novels. Notice even Forgotten Realms has never "undone" their novel canon, in the end, they catapulted the timeline forward and then ended their novel line. And the Realms novels are far less central to the setting than Dragonlance's is.

The modules theoretically can be played without the Heroes of the Lance, and without following the plot of the novels, but as the novels gained popularity and became the main entry point to Dragonlance I would say the groups that would actually do that became rarer and rarer. For most, players and readers alike, the novels were Dragonlance.

So the designers from 2nd edition onwards were faced with a conundrum: How do I keep Dragonlance as a setting for play, rather than novels. There were some great attempts - Taladas at first, setting the RPG material on a different continent than the novels, theoretically solving the problem. But for most Dragonlance = Ansalon and nothing would come in the way of that,no matter how imaginative or creative Zeb Cook's creation was. So the Tales of the Lance boxed set was released along with other products mostly set after the War of the Lance. But still, they couldn't compete with the novels. So they just gave up and released 2nd edition conversions of the original modules, complete with the stats of the Heroes of the Lance.

Weis and Hickman then effectively "blew up" the world, at the time meant to be a final end to their contributions. But some imaginative designers were able to salvage a new setting out of it, which TSR used to showcase an innovative new system. But because it wasn't AD&D it wasn't embraced (despite having probably some of the best fluff ever, and a fantastic bestiary), fans were divided on the changes to the setting. Wizards of the Coast, the new owners, ended the experiment, while Weis and Hickman were brought back to write the "War of Souls", the "Sundering" of Dragonlance, ending with a setting that had the best of the old and new. With the novels winding down there was more freedom for the RPG to reclaim it and the 3rd edition Dragonlance team (including Cam Banks) did some excellent sourcebook allowing play in all time periods, in a cohesive world that acknowledged the novels but allowed players to step out of their shadow.

So now more than a decade later we look at how can this setting be revived? I know what my preference is - a setting book allowing play in all eras that acknowledges the novels but doesn't seek to try and retell them. However I might be an outlier, since everyone seems to want a "reimagining" of the original modules. (Isn't that effectively a slightly bigger scope Tyranny of Dragons). But to most people that won't be Dragonlance, since Autumn Twilight and its siblings loom far too large in the collective imagination. So I imagine we could get yet another conversion of the original modules. I'm sure that will please many, but to me that would be another missed opportunity.
 

Nymrod

Explorer
I think it's worth noting that everyone's ignoring Gamma World in this thread as well. Which is a fair thing to do as GW was marketed as a "Separate Product" through it's history, but was really a heavy reskin of D&D. Gamma World is alongside Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance as having been present through D&D's history since 1st edition.

So I suspect that the three settings are:
1. Dragonlance - Been at least as successful as a product line as Forgotten Realms over the years, the only D&D product to have heavy penetration outside of the RPG market so it has a lot of recognition and power to bring in new customers, well known brand in many circles, highly marketable in movies and TV, dedicated built-in large audience to evangelize, very large novel range with the potential to bring in even more sales in E-Books increasing profitability, deeply invested writers who've asked WOTC to give them access. Dragonlance is a lock as one of the three settings.
2. Gamma World - Been released adjacent to pretty much every edition of D&D, been reasonably successful, has the ability to introduce a sci-fi aspect to D&D that allows for variety and breaks up monotony, post-apocalyptic material is still a hot seller right now.
3. Planescape - Dedicated fanbase, rules for very high level play supporting groups who've been playing for some time and want to advance higher, introduces a "Hub" to allow DMs to bring in different worlds.

Why I think the rest are out:
1. Al-Qadim - They didn't just go slapping warning labels all over their old product to bring back a setting certain to cause more outrage.
2. Kara-Tur - As above. There's no way they're doing this.
3. Dark Sun - About as popular as Gamma World and Planescape, but doesn't bring anything to the table beyond it. Planescape is high level and a hub, Gamma World is a different experience with familiar rules, Dark Sun is just a setting with nothing else going for it.
4. Greyhawk - In the same boat as Dark Sun, plus it's largely been on a shelf for decades so it just doesn't have a wide draw.
5. Birthright - Wasn't popular when it was in publication, it has no draw to it any more.
6. Spelljammer - Fills the same niche as Planescape, but doesn't open doors to different places as easily, and doesn't bring the high level play support. Not really a reason to pick it over Planescape.
7. Other settings - The other one-off or two-off settings tried over the years definitely aren't going to sell.

On Al-Qadim and Kara-Tur (and I guess Maztica), there is also an incentive to redeem formerly insensitive interpretations of certain cultures. Both of those settings also had a fairly loose timeline and thus canon was quite fluid and they could easily be changed. Settings that make use of diverse cultural paradigms that did those cultures justice usually receive good reviews. The answer to a call for diversity done with respect certainly should never be to simply refuse to touch those topics at all for fear you might insult someone; it's to make the effort and do the work so you can get them done properly (and maybe employ a few people who are from those cultures and grew up with their respective mythologies)

Was Al-Qadim really that insensitive in the way it handled things though? The issue with Kara Tur is that it tried to cram dozens of major cultures of East Asia into one setting and didn't do that good a job at it. Al-qadim I felt did a much better and more respectful job at that.
 

2e Dark Sun had a separate monster's manual. I owned it. 4e also had a separate monsters manual. The box didn't have everything you needed to run it. TSR was notorious for doing that.

I have 2E Dark Sun, dude, all of it.

You don't need the monster manual, and you could easily include all the important DS creatures in a modern hardback DS book.

A Spelljamming Helm appears in Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and it very much does require a spellcaster to attune to it to use it, although it didn't drain spells to use it (although the spellcaster can't cast spells while attuned).

Bet you that if SJ becomes a setting they change that. Seriously.

There's no way they're going to limit piloting a Spelljammer to specific classes in 2020 if they revisit that setting. I also guarantee they won't stop you casting spells. They may well say "Oh well there are old-fashioned helms that require a spellcaster and block spells, but the new-style helms don't!" or something.

I see nothing in this list that is both necessary (a Gladiator Class, for instance, is unnecessary) and not easily doable in a 320 page book. The Ravnica/Eberron/Theros model shows this is very doable. Ravnica had almost as many stat blocks as Volo's!

I think they could fit all that stuff (albeit it might be pretty tight in 320 pages), but the question for me is, would it be done in a way that made it seem like 2E Dark Sun, or even 4E Dark Sun? Theros shows they're totally willing to exclude races, so that's a good start, but to do Dark Sun as it has been, they have to be willing to exclude and re-work classes, too. I'm not saying they won't, they are getting bolder, but it would be another bold step. Likewise I can't see any way you can do Half-Giants and have them be balanced with existing races, unless they're a bad joke like 4E's Goliath ones, and Thri-Kreen are pushing it too. I can see ways to do them, like making Half-Giant be a race and a class with a couple of levels, but again, this would be something pretty new.

My concern is more about Muls though, I wonder if they will be seen as unacceptable, given they're a race bred as slaves, who are still typically enslaved. In fact I'm not sure if they whole deal with tons of slavery and so on in DS will fly at all, even though the PCs are likely to be at the front of smashing it all. It's kind of dangerously topical. In the 1990s, being topical was seen as a massive asset, especially as even big RPGs were still a bit punk/indie societally. Nowadays, with D&D once again a phenomenon (indeed bigger than ever), and WotC being ultra-corporate in a way that makes TSR look like some indie zine publishers (in good and bad ways), I'm wondering if they'd have the cojones to do DS or even PS properly.

This is the one reason I think SJ has a chance. I don't think it's remotely as beloved or nostalgia'd or wanted as those two settings, but it's a fair bit safer than PS (which involves the dreaded PHILOSOPHY and culture and so on), and ten times safer than DS (which is all about fighting oppressive forces in a world wrecked by destructive climate change fueled by the wants of feral elites, and this is text not even subtext!).
 

Nymrod

Explorer
Bet you that if SJ becomes a setting they change that. Seriously.

There's no way they're going to limit piloting a Spelljammer to specific classes in 2020 if they revisit that setting. I also guarantee they won't stop you casting spells. They may well say "Oh well there are old-fashioned helms that require a spellcaster and block spells, but the new-style helms don't!" or something.
Spelljammer did have a large variety of helms many of which did not need spellcasting anyway.
 

Was Al-Qadim really that insensitive in the way it handled things though? The issue with Kara Tur is that it tried to cram dozens of major cultures of East Asia into one setting and didn't do that good a job at it. Al-qadim I felt did a much better and more respectful job at that.

Al Qadim wasn't particularly bad, it's just kind of pretty basic orientalism. It made an effort to do a good job, and has a sort of Islam-equivalent, acknowledging how fundamental that is to a lot of the cultures it is drawing from, but it's still a pretty Westernized take on this. I don't think it would be very difficult to find people to write a good modern take on the same material, which was still broadly appealing.

OA was weird because it's at least kind of a respectful treatment of Japanese mythology and history, but instead of being just applied to some "Mythic Japan"-equivalent, it's suggested to apply to all these East Asian-equivalent cultures, which was bizarre and not cool.

Spelljammer did have a large variety of helms many of which did not need spellcasting anyway.

Sure, but the default helm, which was pretty detailed, did require it and had some serious stuff preventing you from casting for 24 hours after using it and so on. Helms which used other methods were pretty much all either bad-guy stuff (sometimes only usuable by a bad-guy race), or treated as old-fashioned and possibly wasteful, like the kind that ate magic items, and even the straightforward "Pump" helm is treated as grotesque and goblinoid-specific.

My suspicion is that if the do bring SJ back the default for most spelljammers will no longer be the "wizard lockdown"-type helm, but something which any class could control, and probably with some kind of fuel or charge, because that can lead to interesting restrictions and encounters.
 


Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I'm going to have to disagree about Dragonlance being a lock. And it is for the same reason TSR never was able to sustain it much after 1st edition. Once the novels by Weis and Hickman came out and shot into the stratosphere they quickly eclipsed everything else. Witness how many people here seem to think the setting was created by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis.

It wasn't.

The initial concept was dreamed up by Tracy and Laura Hickman, and then Douglas Niles, Harold Johnson, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley and a whole lot of other TSR staffers that most have forgotten. Weis was an editor who was given the job of getting someone to adapt the modules into novels and then when she couldn't find a suitable author, did it her self. She was not an RPG designer but succeeded as a novelist beyond what anyone would have envisioned at the start of the project. (And Hickman himself rapidly transitioned to novelist more than designer)

I don't disagree with the rest of your point, that the novels eclipsed the D&D setting, but I do think you're splitting straws here about "Who made Dragonlance." Yes it is true that Weiss wasn't involved in the initial concept, and I think uninformed people confuse Weis with Tracy's wife Laura in the famous "We came up with the idea on the drive to TSR."

But the Hickman's have always been at the center of Dragonlance, just like Ravenloft (though WotC does not need them to publish in 5e). And when Curse of Strahd was being made, the Hickman's were brought on to advise, so it's not impossible that this could happen.

That said, I definitely don't think it's a lock for one of these 3. Makes more sense as an adventure compilation a-la Ghosts of Saltmarsh IMO.
 

Nymrod

Explorer
Al Qadim wasn't particularly bad, it's just kind of pretty basic orientalism. It made an effort to do a good job, and has a sort of Islam-equivalent, acknowledging how fundamental that is to a lot of the cultures it is drawing from, but it's still a pretty Westernized take on this. I don't think it would be very difficult to find people to write a good modern take on the same material, which was still broadly appealing.

OA was weird because it's at least kind of a respectful treatment of Japanese mythology and history, but instead of being just applied to some "Mythic Japan"-equivalent, it's suggested to apply to all these East Asian-equivalent cultures, which was bizarre and not cool.
Yeah OA (+Hordelands) would need a lot of work but at the same time I think they'd be fairly worthwhile because asian mythologies are quite popular.

On Monotheism in D&D especially back in AD&D when there was a focus to have all the settings be united, it would be quite weird to have a monotheistic culture surrounded by pantheons of many gods in a world where you can readily interact with the divine. It could make sense in a place like Eberron or Ravenloft.
 

ersatzphil

Explorer
Weiss and Hickman pitched a new trilogy to WOTC when 5th edition came out. Interestingly, Weiss has been very quiet since 2018 on her site. Make of that what you will.

I've seen this brought up a couple times on the forums - I suspect that this has less to do with WotC being interested or uninterested in working with Weiss and Hickman, and more to do with them not being interested in publishing novels anymore. In his Between The Sheets Interview, Perkins specifically says that one of the things WotC has learned as a company is that they're just not that great at publishing novels: Ed Greenwood seems to be the one exception, but I believe they're under contract for that.
 

Azzy

Newtype
It seems to me that Dark Sun is pretty much a given at this point.

Considering Mordenkain's, Tasha's, and Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Greyhawk seems likely, too.

Now, here's the thing. In the current AL guide, SCAG is not allowed as a source for races, subclasses, or spells and is not even mentioned as far as I could see. This is particularly odd. Perhaps this means that a full Forgotten Realms setting may be in the works.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
One thing I'm sure they'll do about Bards in Dark Sun, is just say that certain Bards allowed in Dark Sun (like the College of Whispers) are using Psionics, that way they can step around the whole preserver or defiler thing.
 

Nymrod

Explorer
A Dark Sun bard is a rogue, likely an assassin, who is trained to perform. You don't really need any new class. 5E doesn't seem to care about printing new rules just so that they can directly correspond to what is in the world; it's more about "here are some ways to play, skin them however you like"
 

Reynard

Legend
In all seriousness I would love to see a version of Dragonlance that makes it a more open Chivalric High fantasy Setting rather than just the place where the books happened. I had a lot of fun running DL games back in high school, but even then it felt like a one trick pony. But there is potential there for romance, heroism and deep internal struggles.
 

Concerning Kara-Tur and Al-Qadim, there has been a century of disasters and little contact between them and the rest of the Forgotten Realms. All we know in 5e is the vague knowledge that they still both exist in some form. With that much time having passed, and with several planet-wide cataclysms having occurred, it wouldn't really be an issue lore-wise to redesign them to jettison the less appropriate material and rework them to be more culturally nuanced, and chalk up the changes to time passing...
 

Yeah OA (+Hordelands) would need a lot of work but at the same time I think they'd be fairly worthwhile because asian mythologies are quite popular.

On Monotheism in D&D especially back in AD&D when there was a focus to have all the settings be united, it would be quite weird to have a monotheistic culture surrounded by pantheons of many gods in a world where you can readily interact with the divine. It could make sense in a place like Eberron or Ravenloft.

I think if you re-did Al Qadim you'd want to make it clearly it's own thing, rather than an adjunct setting of the FR, which is a slightly insulting position to be in for any setting! Make Zakhara an optional thing you could use the AQ rules for (which it kinda was but also kinda wasn't), rather than the default assumption, which should be a whole world a la Theros.

I'm not sure "asian mythology" is even really a thing any more. It was huge in, say, 1985 and through the 1990s, with first the whole ninja/samurai obsession, then the rise in popularity of HK cinema of all kinds (which was deeply influential on Hollywood action, and still is, eh, John Wick? No John Wick or the Matrix or what-have-you without John Woo), and the rise of anime, but at this point, there's no clear dividing line between "asian mythology" and Western mythology. I'm not sure there ever really was.
 

Azzy

Newtype
I think if you re-did Al Qadim you'd want to make it clearly it's own thing, rather than an adjunct setting of the FR, which is a slightly insulting position to be in for any setting! Make Zakhara an optional thing you could use the AQ rules for (which it kinda was but also kinda wasn't), rather than the default assumption, which should be a whole world a la Theros.

This could work as Zakhara was already so remote from Faerun. Heck, they could put in a side note that Zakhara could be easily placed in the FR if one wanted, but otherwise just make it its own setting.
 

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