D&D General Do you Prefer a Bespoke Setting or Established Setting for a Campaign


In another conversation here about Dragonlance, I had a bit of an epiphany. For me, Dragonlance was probably the first larger setting I ever really got into. Yes, I played/ran in Mystara (well, at the time it would have been the setting in the back of the Moldvay Expert rules), Greyhawk and whatnot, but, it was Dragonlance that I actually dug into a little deeper. I bought the modules, I ran most of them, I read the stuff in Dragon magazine at the time, read the novels, so on and so forth. At least up until the release of the Dragonlance Adventures anyway.

But, in that conversation I realized something. To me, a campaign setting is indelibly linked to a specific campaign. Dragonlance, to me, is the War of the Lance and the 14 modules that went with that. I never got into anything after that. I never tried to run anything in Dragonlance that wasn't War of the Lance. To me, Krynn=War of the Lance and nothing else.

And, that pretty much characterizes my experience in gaming. Even back in the stone ages when I started gaming, settings were always tied to a single campaign. Star Frontiers, to me, is always Volturnus. Gangbusters is set in the 1920's real world. Same with James Bond. Campaigns that we played would be set in a specific setting, but, once we either changed campaigns, or changed games, that setting would always be left behind in favor of a new setting.

Even today, that still holds true for me. Since the release of 5e, I've either DM'd or played about 8 different campaigns. Some have reached a conclusion, some died a sad death, but, out of those 8 campaigns, I've played in Krynn, Ravenloft, Forgotten Realms, Primeval Thule, Greyhawk and Nentir Vale (sort of). Six settings for eight campaigns.

How about you? Do you set your games in the same setting, over and over again, building a library of lore specific to your table? Or, are you more like me and each setting is a specific backdrop for a specific campaign and even games set in the same setting likely have nothing to do with each other? Or, something in between?

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He / Him
For me, creating campaign settings is one of my favorite aspects of D&D. I love to create a brand new setting with every single campaign I start.

Usually I start with a very vague sketch of a setting, usually more a theme than anything else... Maybe "knights vs undead" or "explorers entering the unknown."

Then once characters have been created I'll go into creative overdrive, filling in the world with things I think the characters will have fun interacting with.

As the campaign goes on I fill in more and more of the world, often with player suggestions or ideas.

Then the campaign wraps, and we start again!


My only issue with established settings is that there is just too much detail nowadays for me to remember - which is likely an age thing I guess. So I tend to distil the setting into principles, and as @BookTenTiger mentioned, Knight vs Undead, or whatever the established setting is about, to help me fill in any blanks in lore when I run a game in the setting.

What established settings, do, and have, is to show you ways of putting your world together. I quite often draw from established campaign settings and put the stuff I like most into mine - just done my way. So in a few of my settings I was struggling with a few bits then upon re-reading some of the MtG settings, and Midgard World Book, with how the bestiary and world was put together it finally clicked.

In essence I like both.


Golden Procrastinator
Or, are you more like me and each setting is a specific backdrop for a specific campaign and even games set in the same setting likely have nothing to do with each other? Or, something in between?
This. I tend to use a lot of different settings. I've recently ran a couple of short adventures and I made up a specific setting for them. I'm currently running a 5e Greyhawk campaign. With the same group, I did ran a long AD&D GH campaign. Even though the setting is nominally the same, each campaign exists independently of each other; basically two "instances" of the same setting.

It depends, to be honest. If the campaign has an overarching goal, then I want a setting that captures the feel of a novel. If it’s a sandbox campaign, I design my own and see where the players take things.


'Tis true that I associate Dragonlance only with the sixteen modules I played through in the 1980s. Playing in that world outside that specific epic would feel to me like Amazon's bastardization of Tolkien. (I am aware that Krynn is full of far more lore than that: just my ingrained habit to treat Krynn as a bespoke world.

On the whole however, I think each fantasy world should be an endless source of lore, stories, characters, places and ineffable memories. I do prefer a multiverse to a kitchen sink world as a means to variety however.

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The High Aldwin
I nearly always use my own homebrew campaign world, unless I am running a published adventure (like Frostmaiden). Older modules from AD&D typically can be set in my own world easily.


I've always used my own homebrew campaign. I find it more difficult to run and prep in existing worlds, getting ready to play a published mods for AL takes significantly longer than just running my home game. I may borrow and adapt ideas from published settings, but if I do I put my own spin on them anyway and feel no need to keep true to the source material.

Bespoke, but a mash-up version of a established campaing. Then the lore is enough known by the others, but you have the key of total creative control. It is like fandom writting fan-fiction.

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