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

Jer

Legend
Supporter
These days bespoke - every campaign that we have generally starts up a new campaign world to go with it.

Sometimes we'll do a sequel campaign and we'll revisit a setting where we had a previous campaign, but that's rare compared with developing a new setting with a new campaign.
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I am really on both ends of the spectrum but with little middle ground on this.

When I run, I do a new campaign setting each time. I have more ideas for campaign settings then I will ever have time to run (my average campaign is 4+ years), and I try to plan around a campaign around the things that make that setting unique, that wouldn't work or wouldn't be as effective in other settings.

That said, my formative years of playing were with a DM who ran well over a dozen campaigns in the same world, many of them concurrently with different groups (and sometimes overlap of players). It made the world so rich and dynamic - there were things going on outside the scope of what the party were doing, often world-changing. We would do occasional crossovers and be like "Oh, we're heard so much about Arlitha!", or becoming patrons. Heck, we had one powerful adventuring company that effectively brought in new parties under their charter to go do things we needed more manpower for. And since this was AD&D 2nd, we would often have a load of spare magic to give them. "Here, take this +1 trident, this ring of water breathing, and this chainmail +1, we don't need them".
 




Jer

Legend
Supporter
Then I guess homebrew settings would be both?
Homebrew settings could be either - if you have the same homebrew setting you use for most of your campaigns then it's not bespoke, it's established. If you come up with a new setting for each campaign you run then they'd be bespoke.

If you only use a single homebrew campaign world and you consider everything you've done in it to be a single years-long campaign even as characters and players have shifted out of it, then I suppose it would be up to you what to consider it. I'd consider that "established, but I only run a single ongoing campaign in that world" is in the spirit of what the question was trying to ask.
 

For me it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to flex my worldbuilding and run a game in my own setting. Sometimes I want to run a game set someplace familiar, someplace with rich and vibrant lore already existent to inspire me.

Generally speaking, unless it's generic enough to go anywhere, I will run a module where it is supposed to be located. The last thing I need is to be worrying about saying Lathander when I meant Pelor, or how this urban location translates to my homebrew magitech-earthmote city.
 

It depends. In my practice, I’ve been trending towards proposing campaign ideas to my players, getting their feedback, and developing the idea from there.

The campaign idea is a two-line “elevator pitch”, followed by 5-7 “campaign truths” that set the tone of the campaign.

Since the world spins out from the campaign, very often the result is a bespoke world, or a bespoke version of an existing campaign world.
 

Mezuka

Hero
I create a bespoke setting each time I start a D&D campaign. I don't want the players to know more than their PCs and it's part of what I like about being a DM. The way I create them has changed a lot, from a full pseudo-gazetteer document to a two page bullet point list.
 

Yora

Legend
I've recently come to accept that I'm probably destined to keep working on the same campaign setting for the rest of my life. It is an established world that I've used before in previous campaigns, but I regularly pick it up again to overhaul and customize it be better tailored to the kind of campaign I want to run. (And always wanted to run, but never manged to get quite right yet.)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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?
In-between for me.

For each campaign I build a new setting*; within that campaign different parties can operate in different parts of that setting (and may or may not ever meet each other, it depends) and those parts can be quite unique.

The constants to the setting as a whole is that the rules and mechanics work the same wherever you are; and the history etc. is the same. A major change to the setting (e.g. the appearance of a new deity in a pantheon) affects everyone as they hit the in-game date on which it occurs.

* - which is a big reason why I like my campaigns to run long - setting-building is a hell of a lot of work that I'd rather not do very often! :)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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?
It depends on the stories I want to tell. I’ve run many campaigns set in Greyhawk and FR, and even more in homebrews.

In one shared world (3 DMs, taking turns) campaign setting that lasted a couple of decades, we told stores from newbies to “epic” level.

But each of us also ran individual campaigns in published settings (Dark Sun, Spelljammer, etc.) and homebrews as well, as needed.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I have a dream of running a campaign with a group of creative players, where I would design the starting region, but each player would design a new region... for another player's character! They could include stuff from the other character's background, or goals the character has, or monsters and enemies specific to that character's build...

They'd write up the notes, and then I'd run adventures in the region for the group.
 


gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I probably do bespoken, even in my homebrew days, before I ever published, I designed the maps for a specific campaign, rather than an existing world where multiple or all campaigns take place. I love designing settings, and every campaign I run is in it's own world. Of my pubished Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), because it came with a trilogy of modules and 4 one shots, those could be bespoken, except it wasn't really ever developed with a full AP/campaign, so it was more a setting that came with some modules. Right now I'm developing for publication a Mini Setting Guide series of my interstellar Starfinder setting where my existing modules reside within. It was previously just the backstory for adventures, so now I'm creating the setting as a stand-alone product line...
 


Remathilis

Legend
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?

To me: setting works best when it's tied to genre. Not all my games will use the same genre considerations, so why use the same setting? I don't read novels all set in the same settings, or only watch cinematic universe movies. My setting is dependent on the game I'm running.

I USED to run a consistent homebrew world, but as time has marched on, I have found it to be a detriment both in terms of genre (my world has to support gothic horror, merry pirates, urban intrigue, pulp exploration, magi-steampunk etc) and continuity (both in tracking past PC exploits and in tracking the changes that have happened to the setting). In the end, I preferred to run my pirates in Eberron, my horror in Ravenloft, my pulp in Thule, etc.

It also allows me to tailor my options to each game rather than the "a dhampir, an Atlantian, and a warforged all meet in a tavern". And don't get me wrong, I like kitchen sinks too. But I prefer to choose if I want a kitchen sink or a more tailored setting.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
One thing I enjoy about creating bespoke settings is that the rules of the setting only have to apply to that campaign. They don't have to follow the rules established by a greater world. This means I can plop really quirky things in the setting without having to justify why it's there.

As an example, my current setting takes place in a single swampy valley that can be crossed in about three days. Most people in the valley worship animal gods, which have both a spiritual form and an actual physical form.

Do these animal gods exist outside of the valley? Do their powers work there? One is the god of the sun and moon, what's that mean about a sun god outside of the valley?

None of that matters, though, because the whole campaign takes place inside the valley!
 


Hussar

Legend
One thing I enjoy about creating bespoke settings is that the rules of the setting only have to apply to that campaign. They don't have to follow the rules established by a greater world. This means I can plop really quirky things in the setting without having to justify why it's there.

As an example, my current setting takes place in a single swampy valley that can be crossed in about three days. Most people in the valley worship animal gods, which have both a spiritual form and an actual physical form.

Do these animal gods exist outside of the valley? Do their powers work there? One is the god of the sun and moon, what's that mean about a sun god outside of the valley?

None of that matters, though, because the whole campaign takes place inside the valley!
I have to admit, this is largely my thinking on it.

I like having much smaller, focused campaign worlds. Even if it's a sandbox, my sandbox will probably only be a week of travel at most. OTOH, if I want to run an Epic Fantasy campaign, with a cast of thousands and a huge problem to solve, then I'd rather only break that one setting.

I have to admit though, having the Forgotten Realms wiki is really handy if I want to pull up some lore quickly and plop it into the game. It has served me well in my Candlekeep campaign. I do get the allure of a huge, sprawling setting with an encyclopedia's worth of material. But, then again, that's only for that campaign. I won't need that for my next one.

And there's ALWAYS a next campaign. :D
 

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