D&D 5E D&D's Classic Settings Are Not 'One Shots'

Spelljammer-ship-in-space-asteroid-city.jpeg

In an interview with ComicBook.com, WotC's Jeremy Crawford talked about the visits to Ravenloft, Eberron, Spelljammer, Dragonlance, and (the upcoming) Planescape we've seen over the last couple of years, and their intentions for the future.

He indicated that they plan to revisit some of these settings again in the future, noting that the setting books are among their most popular books.

We love [the campaign setting books], because they help highlight just how wonderfully rich D&D is. They highlight that D&D can be gothic horror. D&D can be fantasy in space. D&D can be trippy adventures in the afterlife, in terms of Planescape. D&D can be classic high fantasy, in the form of the Forgotten Realms. It can be sort of a steampunk-like fantasy, like in Eberron. We feel it's vital to visit these settings, to tell stories in them. And we look forward to returning to them. So we do not view these as one-shots.
- Jeremy Crawford​

The whole 'multiverse' concept that D&D is currently exploring plays into this, giving them opportunities to resist worlds.

When asked about the release schedule of these books, Crawford noted that the company plans its release schedule so that players get chance to play the material, not just read it, and they don't want to swamp people with too much content to use.

Our approach to how we design for the game and how we plan out the books for it is a play-first approach. At certain times in D&D's history, it's really been a read-first approach. Because we've had points in our history where we were producing so many books each year, there was no way anyone could play all of it. In some years it would be hard to play even a small percentage of the number of things that come out. Because we have a play-first approach, we want to make sure we're coming out with things at a pace where if you really wanted to, and even that would require a lot of weekends and evenings dedicated to D&D play, you could play a lot of it.
- Jeremy Crawford​

You can read more in the interview at ComicBook.com.
 

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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I imagine settings are problematic for WotC given past problems that have been caused by over production of specific settings, and of books in general - 2e, famously, but not just 2e. It's not just a question of diminishing returns, it's a question of publications becoming so niche that they cannot be profitable, and also a question of dividing the player base so that folks start seeing themselves as primarily Dark Souls players, Spelljammer players, or what have you.

This is antithetical to the whole spirit of the OneD&D project, which is about keeping the concept of D&D unified so that it is easy to onboard new players, and there aren't obvious jumping off points for veterans (e.g. by expecting them to learn a bunch of new rules and buy new books).

So I don't think we will ever see again see WotC go down the settings rabbit hole to anything like the extent that TSR did, nor rely so heavily on churning out books. I expect that what we will continue to see is settings being carefully curated, one source book being released, and the occasional adventure book if there is demand, but years apart. The exception being the Forgotten Realms, which stands as the central IP.

Therefore, I don't think Crawford is lying - I don't think WotC sees its settings as one-shots at all. But they also don't see them as discrete sub-genres that require constant additions. They see them as a part of ONE multi-verse that might get additional publications when there is a good story idea that is likely to sell. I think it will be like Exandria - a sourcebook, then a few years later an adventure with a pretty setting-specific storyline, and now a new sourcebook but coming from a 3PP, so WotC doesn't have to manage much risk. What you won't see is something like 2e Spelljammer, where one niche setting gets over a dozen official publications.
The problem is canon. If the publisher produced lore as canon then as lore accumulates t becomes restrictive and settings with their own lore are market segmenting. So, WoTC wans to keep lore light or static. Additional lore as optional and unreliable, which is why the lore now comes through the voice of an in game character. Which allows other characters with a different perspective to offer a differing take on lore.
 

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I imagine settings are problematic for WotC given past problems that have been caused by over production of specific settings, and of books in general - 2e, famously, but not just 2e. It's not just a question of diminishing returns, it's a question of publications becoming so niche that they cannot be profitable, and also a question of dividing the player base so that folks start seeing themselves as primarily Dark Souls players, Spelljammer players, or what have you.

This is antithetical to the whole spirit of the OneD&D project, which is about keeping the concept of D&D unified so that it is easy to onboard new players, and there aren't obvious jumping off points for veterans (e.g. by expecting them to learn a bunch of new rules and buy new books).

So I don't think we will ever see again see WotC go down the settings rabbit hole to anything like the extent that TSR did, nor rely so heavily on churning out books. I expect that what we will continue to see is settings being carefully curated, one source book being released, and the occasional adventure book if there is demand, but years apart. The exception being the Forgotten Realms, which stands as the central IP.

Therefore, I don't think Crawford is lying - I don't think WotC sees its settings as one-shots at all. But they also don't see them as discrete sub-genres that require constant additions. They see them as a part of ONE multi-verse that might get additional publications when there is a good story idea that is likely to sell. I think it will be like Exandria - a sourcebook, then a few years later an adventure with a pretty setting-specific storyline, and now a new sourcebook but coming from a 3PP, so WotC doesn't have to manage much risk. What you won't see is something like 2e Spelljammer, where one niche setting gets over a dozen official publications.
Their long stated goal is to not have any supplement require anything other than the core books. The result is that there isn’t so much a development of the setting (even fr) but rather discrete products. Which is fine and makes sense, but doesn’t quite square with what Crawford is claiming, or at least he’s being a bit disingenuous
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Their long stated goal is to not have any supplement require anything other than the core books. The result is that there isn’t so much a development of the setting (even fr) but rather discrete products. Which is fine and makes sense, but doesn’t quite square with what Crawford is claiming, or at least he’s being a bit disingenuous
You don't need the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount to run Curse of the Netherdeep, nor do you need Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft to run Curse of Strahd. Obviously, they can be used together fruitfully, but there is no necessary relationship.

Similarly , if they put out a Xen'drik focused Campaign book, or an Adventure set on Ravnica, they would not need Rusing from the Last War or Guildmasters Guide to function.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
The problem is canon. If the publisher produced lore as canon then as lore accumulates t becomes restrictive and settings with their own lore are market segmenting. So, WoTC wans to keep lore light or static. Additional lore as optional and unreliable, which is why the lore now comes through the voice of an in game character. Which allows other characters with a different perspective to offer a differing take on lore.
If lore for a setting is too restrictive (although I struggle to understandhow that can be), make a new setting.
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
They already claim to have a solution for that - officially, nothing outside the current iteration of the core rules is confirmed canon (and lore from earlier editions is all non-canon). So everything outside of the core rules can be disregarded at will (as they did with Volo's and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes).
Well yes, but it sometimes bears repeating.
 


Their long stated goal is to not have any supplement require anything other than the core books. The result is that there isn’t so much a development of the setting (even fr) but rather discrete products. Which is fine and makes sense, but doesn’t quite square with what Crawford is claiming, or at least he’s being a bit disingenuous
Given that Bigbys makes a lot of references to Xanathar's, Tasha's, and Monsters of the Multiverse, I'm thinking these three are basically the "almost core three" now. Which is fine - I dislike the "it's in the MM or reprinted here" restriction in adventures, so opening them up to MotM makes it much better (and Bigby's gives alternatives if you don't have MotM, which allows for flexibility without shutting out those who don't own the book)
 


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