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D&D General Great and not so great setting specific sourebooks/modules


I haven't seen a related thread (if there is one - please point me to it!)

Just want some examples of setting specific sourcebooks or modules that you think fit the thread title.

Sourcebooks/modules that do a great job of representing the setting - making you immediately want to play in that world.

Sourcebooks/modules that do a great job making the gameworld seem like something you could really get your players into - etc.

Conversely - what are some sourcebooks/modules that fall short - they don't do a good job of conveying the setting, have serious problems with execution etc?

Any edition is fine - I'm, not looking for 5e specifically.

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For the Forgotten Realms setting, regardless of the edition you actually choose to play in, I would say the 3.0 FR Campaign Setting Guide, Demihuman Deities and the companion Faiths & Avatars, Lost Empires of Faerun, and Player's Guide to Faerun.


Anything that specifically stands out in those supplements?



Anything that specifically stands out in those supplements?
I agree on a lot of these. The 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting provided a great all in one in-depth overview of a ton of realms and groups and gods. A lot.

The 2e God books (Faiths & Avatars, Powers & Pantheons, and Demihuman Deities) provided in-depth information on a sprawling Multi pantheon God cosmology which works great for D&D. Each also has church stuff and stories about stuff the gods have done, particularly in the recent avatar Time of Troubles that really makes them feel like mythological parts of the world.
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Getting lost in fantasy maps
Some setting products that hooked me.

The Red Steel boxed set, designed around the AD&D 2e kits. The mutations were a bit off putting but easily ignored, I wanted to play in a swashbuckling, age of exploration, with fire arms, dueling, turtles, lupin, rakastas so badly.

The Poor Wizards’ Almanac line for Mystara. Each book covered an entire year, month by month, reporting rumors and events across the Known World. So many adventuring hooks, and it helped solidify that the setting was alive and growing.

The Birthright box, finally a setting that put the idea that PCs would run stronghold at its core, and it focused on game play in the PC levels D&D campaigns mostly were run in, under level 10. The abundance of detail on each realm was a godsend for a DM who needs noodly realm details. However, I know of no one who used the warfare rules beyond their first attempt, just not great.

The AD&D FR1 Waterdeep plus City System box. Those massive Waterdeep maps from City System just blew my mind. I could imagine a full 1st to 20th campaign without ever leaving Waterdeep.

Tyler Do'Urden

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This beast. Accept no substitutes.

Enrico Poli1

Mystara: GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos; GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri.
Greyhawk: Gord the Rogue novels.
Dragonlance: Heroes of the Lance novels.
Forgotten Realms: original Gray Box or 3e Sourcebook.
Dark Sun: original Boxed Set.
Ravenloft: original (black) Boxed Set or revised (red) Boxed Set. Or, 5e Curse of Strahd.
Planescape: original Boxed Set.
Spelljammer: original Boxed Set.
Eberron: original 3e Sourcebook.

Enrico Poli1

Mystara: B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B10, Eye of Traldar, X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X8, X9, X10, CM1, CM2, CM3
Greyhawk: Against the Cult of the Reptile God, Against the Slavers, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, Lost Caverns of Tsojicanth, Against the Giants, City of Skulls, Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Age of Worms
Dragonlance: the adventures replicating the novels.
Forgotten Realms: Tomb of Annihilation, Descent into Avernus.
Dark Sun: Dragon's Crown
Ravenloft: original Ravenloft module, From the Shadows, Roots of Evil

Enrico Poli1

Pathfinder 1e: (all are APs) Reign of Winter, Kingmaker, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Skulls&Shackles, Strange Aeons
13th Age: Eyes of the Stone Thief


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2e Dark Sun Campaign Setting Expanded and Revised (box set). I first became aware of Dark Sun from PotA’s appendix on adapting the adventure to other settings, and went looking for more. This was the first DS product I found, and while I would later delete it, it still inspired me to look for more.

2e Dark Sun Campaign Setting (box set) & 4e Dark Sun Campaign Setting. After reading the Expanded and Revised, I purchased these two products (2e PDF and 4e hardcover) and loved them both so much that I started building a 5e Dark Sun-inspired campaign right then and there.

I believe that the original 2e Dark Sun box set was the best D&D product ever made.

I could continue on with Dark Sun and similarly flavored sourcebooks (Dark Sun Monstrous Compendiums, the Ravaged Wasteland of Crifoth, B/X Mars, etc). However, that wouldn’t be fair to the other sourcebooks I draw inspiration from.

D&D Basic, Where Chaos Reigns & Twilight Calling. Technically adventure modules (set in Aelos and Mystara respectively), but I think they work better as a campaign resource.
Time traveling cyborgs, a domed city at the end of time, and several unique demiplanes? Heck yeah!

2e Time of Dragons (Taladas sourcebook). A sub-setting of Dragonlance. Great in its own right, and also a precursor of sorts to Eberron.

3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting. The first official setting I discovered on my own. I was so impressed by the world that next session I started telling my old DM about it, without knowing that he had the entire line of 3.5 Eberron products himself.

3.5 Secrets of Xen’Drik. This one was recommended to me by my old DM. I especially enjoyed the adventure sites chapter. The Sulatar are also the only interpretation of the drow that I actually like.

4e Eberron Campaign Guide. The two 3.5 products above made me a fan of Eberron, but this was the one that convinced me to actually run an Eberron campaign. It’s the best official Eberron sourcebook ever produced by WOTC in my opinion.

Monte Cooke Games’ Arcana of the Ancients. I consider this one to be a Numenera sourcebook.
When I’m running an Eberron campaign and the PCs enter the Mournland, this is the book I reach for. It’s got sci-fi items galore and bizarre monsters, all perfect for the Mournland.

Onyx Path’s Blood Sea: the Crimson Abyss. The cover art alone was so awesome, I went and looked into the rest of the Scarred Lands.

Pangolin Press’ City of Salt in Wounds. If ever I actually run a Scarred Lands campaign, I’m sticking this place in as the source of the Blood Sea.

Pathfinder’s Numeria, the Land of Fallen Stars & Iron Gods. What happens when you take Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and create both a campaign region and adventure path based on this classic module.

Seth Tomlinson’s Blades and Blasters. What if UFOs invaded your standard tolkienesque fantasy?

Dragon #315 & #359. I’m currently creating a wide variety of campaign ideas. These two issues have been helpful with the Isle of Dread campaign. I plan to use the Defilers of Ka as one of the enemy factions, and will be including an abandoned temple to Shaktari as a dungeon.


My favourites:

1) Midnight (FFG): The core book + all of the region sourcebooks for the line (Hammer and Shadow, Honor and Shadow, Destiny and Shadow, Star and Shadow, Under the Shadow, Heart of Shadow, Forge of Shadow, City of Shadow). Still the most evocative sourcebooks I have ever had the pleasure of feasting my eyes on.

2) Greyhawk: The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and the From the Ashes boxed set (and add to that the Marklands, Iuz the Evil, and Ivid the Undying sourcebooks). Those books brought so much more historical, political and cultural depth to the setting, however controversial. While the strength of the 1983 boxed set was that it provided a sketch of the world for the GM to fill in, the LGG and FtA brought greater cohesion and a distinctive identity to the setting for those who wanted it (I realize that not everybody appreciated the contributions made by those products). In my opinion, only Birthright is on par with the LGG and FtA when it comes to political and historical depth among D&D settings.

3) While not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, both the original I6 Ravenloft and the 5E Curse of Strahd stand out as adventures that I really want to run.

4) When I first started gaming in the late '80s, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Scourge of the Slavelords and Queen of Spiders were modules that really fired up my imagination... and while in hindsight all of those products have pretty significant flaws and fall short of epitomizing great adventure design, I still want to run adaptations of them. There's just something about those old classics that keeps calling to me (I could add Against the Cult of the Reptile God to that list, which I had a blast running back in the day).

5) The original Dragonlance modules... don't know if they've stood the test of time, but when they first came out, I really wanted to play the War of the Lance.

Truth be told, I think the original Forgotten Realms boxed set, and the Birthright, Planescape, Ravenloft and Dark Sun boxed sets all really made me want to play or run campaigns in those worlds (the cloth map in the Revised Dark Sun campaign set alone was a huge inspiration). TSR had a knack for creating brilliant boxed sets. I have since lost interest in the Forgotten Realms, but still dream of someday getting to play/GM in the other settings... if only my players and I had more free time.

As for horrible modules...

Greyhawk had some real stinkers:

WG7 Castle Greyhawk, WG9 Gargoyle, WG11 Puppets, WGQ1 Patriots of Ulek... how those pieces of crap ever got published is beyond me. There are other terrible Greyhawk modules, but those arguably are among the worst offenders.

Interestingly, while I've probably played and DMed Pathfinder more than anything else, I can't say that the setting or any of its adventures scream "must play" to me. I think Paizo has tried to shoehorn far too much into Golarion (kitchen sink design) for it to really inspire me. I enjoy playing Pathfinder, but I wouldn't call it amazing.
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A few 2E Forgotten Realms supplements standout to me as being some of the greatest towards the tail end of 2E from 1997 thru 2000. Seems they really hit their stride, and had a good template down, not to mention they crammed a lot of information into those products. They all were areas I always wanted more information on and wasn't disappointed. I think they did a great job of checking all the boxes so I didn't want more after I was done reading them.

1) Lands of Intrigue
2) Empires of the Shining Sea (and its companion Calimport)
3) Skullport
4) Secrets of the Magister (was just a fun read, never used it)
5) Cult of the Dragon
6) the Sea of Fallen Stars

Another honorable mention was the FR Conspectus that came in every boxed set was great only for the fact we used it so many times to mark off the areas we laid waste to during our campaigns.

I'm sure there are more for other settings like Ravenloft's Carnival was really good, but those are the few that immediately came to mind. I really wish WotC coast would release books like those again but I know its not going to happen.

Tyler Do'Urden

Soap Maker
2e Time of Dragons (Taladas sourcebook). A sub-setting of Dragonlance. Great in its own right, and also a precursor of sorts to Eberron.

Oooh yeah. Don't really see the Eberron resemblance, but it never really felt like Dragonlance to me... just a great setting in it's own right. Very rugged, "points of light" setting with lots of interesting cultural spins.

Monte Cooke Games’ Arcana of the Ancients. I consider this one to be a Numenera sourcebook.

Recently got this one as well. All kinds of fun stuff for my Midgard campaigns - these can easily become Ankeshelian and Caelmarathian devices, littering the Wasted West and the ocean floor... and plenty of new occupants for my dungeons... ::evil grin::


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Oooh yeah. Don't really see the Eberron resemblance, but it never really felt like Dragonlance to me... just a great setting in it's own right. Very rugged, "points of light" setting with lots of interesting cultural spins.

Tamire Elves are quite similar to the Tairnadal Elves in attire.

Old Aurim is pretty much Darguun. Hobgoblins even live here, among the ruins of a now destroyed human civilization.

The Scorned Dwarves live underground and are fighting a war against slime-covered aberrations called Disir. The Realm Below was an underground kingdom of dwarves that fell to the Daelkyr, among whose number includes Kyrzin, the prince of slime.

The aereni elves’ face painting traditions are very similar to that of the death gnomes.

Thenol is a bleak and harsh nation that stockpiles and uses undead. Karrnath is both bleak and harsh, and they definitely used undead in the Last War.

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