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General Great and not so great setting specific sourebooks/modules


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The 2e Ravenloft boxed set is so good. Just about every domain has something to get a DM started there. And that Stephen Fabian art!

Hollowfaust: City of Necromancers is a super-flavorful locale. One of these days I really need to get around to running a Scarred Lands campaign (instead of just using Hollowfaust in my homebrews).

Mythic Odysseys of Theros presents a world that feels both like D&D and like the ancient Greco-Roman tales. I don't play Magic, but I'd run a Theros game in a heartbeat.

The 2e Volo's Guide to... series are still indispensable when I'm running in the Realms. From shops, alleys, and inns, you get such a feel for the setting, and plenty of adventure sparks.
 


Mort

Hero
Supporter
4e's The Plane Above made me want to set a game in the Astral Sea SOOOO bad! It's fun to read even now and I love its version of the plane of the Divinities and all the stuff added to the cosmology!
I missed that in my 4e stuff. Just sent my group into the Astral sea and while I have some definite ideas and hooks ready I could always use more inspiration!

Will check it out.
 

Undrave

Hero
I missed that in my 4e stuff. Just sent my group into the Astral sea and while I have some definite ideas and hooks ready I could always use more inspiration!

Will check it out.
there's tons of great material on every major divine domain, they detail the various 'islands', the motivations of a bunch of deity (Erathis is my favourite!) and even a few new races. There's even exemple encounter groups and various adventure hooks.

The Quom in particular are super interesting! They used to live on a divine domain that was also their goddess and in the Dawn War that domain was shattered. They now traverse the Astral Sea on large 'Comet Ship' tracking down every single pieces of their lost domain in the hope of reviving it. They will stop at nothing and can detect even the most minute fragment when in close proximity. The book suggest having the PC come into possession of a magical item that include a piece of their domain in its construction. They look like human sized dwarves with weird colouring and some of them develop a second face on the back of their head.

It's a GREAT book.
 

Eltab

Hero
+1 for the 4e Dark Sun Campaign Setting.
I saw the original DS material in first release, but I thought it was just "desert D&D". Reading the 4e hardcovers showed me what I had not noticed (when I was young and foolish): a rich challenging setting that summons forth and demands to measure the hero - or scoundrel - in you.
 


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.
You have good opinions re: sourcebooks!
 

The great:
Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, 3rd Edition. The best single-book campaign setting work ever done for D&D. Even almost 20 years later it's THE seminal work on the Realms. It's the standard I hold every other setting book to in terms of introducing and explaining a setting, fleshing it out, and integrating the setting with the game system. Others have pointed this book out too, for good reason, it's stood the test of time and I think it's really become a classic D&D book.

Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue, 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms. The best dang equipment book ever made for any edition of D&D, it was just so immersive. It was literally the first D&D book I ever bought, I picked it up on a bookstore shelf and thought "this is awesome!" and started to look for other D&D books just based on finding this book alone.

Faiths and Avatars, 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms. The first FR book I was able to find (after Aurora's), an entrancing introduction to the realms by depicting the major gods and their priesthoods, and the illustrations did such a great job of conveying what the various clerics and priests of Faerun are like.

The not-so-great:
Castle Greyhawk, 1st Edition Greyhawk. Turning the venerable, classic setting of D&D into literally a joke module seemed an intentional insult to Gary Gygax. I presume this was done intentional to make nobody want to play Greyhawk. I pity whoever picked this up as their first introduction to the setting.
 

As everybody else has stated before: If your big on having your games set in the Forgotten Realms: The 3rd Edition Campaign Setting book is your go to choice when you want to flesh out your FR campaigns for 5E. The fact that it beats out the 2nd Edition books, and those books were known to be hella good at lore making for settings and stuff, then you know you have something very good on your hands. I have to procure a copy since all of my 5E games are set in the Forgotten Realms.
 
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To this day, I still reference my copy. When I need food and drink details in the Realms, or when I just need to know the price of something completely random, that book rarely lets me down.

Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue, 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms. The best dang equipment book ever made for any edition of D&D, it was just so immersive. It was literally the first D&D book I ever bought, I picked it up on a bookstore shelf and thought "this is awesome!" and started to look for other D&D books just based on finding this book alone.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Great
Aurora's Whole Realms Guide - feels like looking at a Sears & Roebuck catalog for FR, lots of nice little worldbuilding tidbits (though the Whole Realms "company" itself is silly)

Elminster's Ecologies - lots of in-depth detail on monsters to make them living, breathing creatures that is inspiring in making you want to incorporate them.

B4 - Lost City - very evocative and different from your typical dungeon crawl. Could be used as an entire campaign unto itself. All Hail Zargon!

Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Grey box) - A nice, in-depth tour of the Realms that is a goldmine for worldbuilding.

World of Greyhawk Set ('83) - A wonderful campaign set that isn't heavy on details, letting you flesh it out as you choose with several interesting world building opportunities.

S2 - White Plume Mountain - A good mix of combat, tricks and traps. Though it's got powerful prizes, Stormbringer - I mean, er, Black Razor is always fun.

Bad
B8 - Journey to the Rock. A confused mess of a module, though not as bad as Forest Oracle. Three railroad paths to choose from and the plot is exceptionally weak.

Roots of Evil - Unfortunately, a lot of 2E adventures were railroads, and most of the Ravenloft adventures started you out by killing everyone in the party. This one is probably the most egragrious*, and though it gets better after the opening, it's still a railroad and (bad) rehash of elements of the original Ravenloft I6.

The Horde/Maztica/Kara-Tur - While I like campaign worlds set in other cultures, these made the mistake of trying to hew too closely to historical counterparts and the text for these sets is just drab and boring. If the fantastic elements of these cultures - and more engaging writing - had been used, they wouldn't have fallen here. Contrast this to Al-Qadim, which I think was done better as it embraced the sword & sandal genre instead of trying to be a dry copy of Arabia.

* Though in truth, Vecna Lives probably has the title for doing this, though it's use is probably the most original and actually works because they aren't your own characters...
 



Mort

Hero
Supporter
I have to say one book that is both great and terrible is the 3E Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. It has a plethora of information that makes the setting ready to run. However, it's also about as interesting as an encyclopedia (assuming people even remember those).
I quite like it. While it's technically 3e it reads basically edition neutral. It also does a good job of summarizing a great deal of information - perfect for when you have a group that likes long journeys, like mine, as opposed to staying in one place. Even has plot hooks.

But yes, as far as reading, it's quite dry.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The great:
Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, 3rd Edition. The best single-book campaign setting work ever done for D&D.
You only say that because you haven't tried Yoon Suin ;)

(At this point, I would usually say "seriously speaking" or "jokes aside" - buuuut in this case I'm not joking. It's that good)

Even almost 20 years later it's THE seminal work on the Realms. It's the standard I hold every other setting book to in terms of introducing and explaining a setting, fleshing it out, and integrating the setting with the game system. Others have pointed this book out too, for good reason, it's stood the test of time and I think it's really become a classic D&D book.
It is an excellent book, no doubt about it. If I was to run a 5e game in the Realms, that is what I would run.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
If you want Forgotten Realms but something a little more condensed, higher detailed and tied to one specific area... get the 3rd edition Silver Marches softcover sourcebook. It takes one area of the Realms and really delves into it with much more detail than you'd get from the full 3E Campaign Setting book.
 


Azzy

Newtype
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.
For both of these, I'd have to say that Eberron: Rision from the Last War is it for me.

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?
Castle Greyhawk. That module needs to die in a fire.
 

Azzy

Newtype
I have to say one book that is both great and terrible is the 3E Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. It has a plethora of information that makes the setting ready to run. However, it's also about as interesting as an encyclopedia (assuming people even remember those).
I agree with your assessment on this. A great and informative sourcebook. But it's a slog to read.

However, it's also about as interesting as an encyclopedia (assuming people even remember those).
🤨 As a kid, I'd get lost reading an encyclopedia (ah, Funk & Wagnalls, I remember you fondly). I would get stuck in hyperlink hell (or rather, the analog version thereof). That and the dictionary. I've always been thirty for knowledge.
 

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