5E Important facts about your campaign world


With the recent news on the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide I'm tempted to update my notes and convert my next campaign from being set in the 1st edition era of the Forgotten Realms to the current one. To help set the parameters and tone of my version of the Forgotten Realms I've boiled down 3 important facts of the campaign world for my next campaign.

1. The gods are remote

When the cataclysm known as the Spellplague wracked the world and clerics had to relearn how to cast spells and channel their divine power in new ways, many abandoned their faith and turned their back on the gods they had worshipped. Doubt and fear spread across the land as people cried out to the gods and received no aid. Many priests feared that their gods had abandoned them and declarations of dead gods rang throughout the land. Only the largest and strong of faiths were able to weather this period of uncertainty as their priesthood relearned how to cast spells without use of the Weave.

However not all of the faiths of the so called dead gods were truly abandoned. Remote monasteries kept alive the teachings of their faith and ministered to those few who sought shelter, or quietly walked the world carrying out the teachings of their gods and encouraging people to live their lives in accordance with the old scriptures without requiring the people they aid overtly revere specific deities. These faithful have slowly but surely kept alive the teachings of their gods and slowly regained the confidence of the communities they live within. And when the time is right they have openly adorned themselves with the accoutrements of their gods and declared themselves priests of these gods that people had forgotten about or had assumed dead.

When the Weave was restored many had assumed that the dead gods had returned. In truth the priests who had remained loyal to their gods had never stopped receiving divine power for it is mortal folly to assume that the gods are killed and reborn instead of merely accepting that the worship of particular deities had ceased and then restarted once more. However the common person all too often attributes to the gods the work of their mortal priests. Most priests are only too happy to allow this misconception to continue as well for it leads many to underestimate the true power of the clergy.

2. A land of high fantasy

A dragonborn mercenary may walk down the street of a bustling city with a plane-touched sorcerer on one side and an elven bladesinger on the other. The Forgotten Realms are a magical place with fantastic landscapes and creatures throughout the land, allowing there to be a place for everything. However just because something does exist in the Forgotten Realms doesn't mean it will be appropriate for inclusion in the current campaign.

3. A world of mysteries

When the Weave was restored there was no terrible cataclysm. Magic continued to work much as it had without the Weave. However more efficient and older forms of magic were now possible once more. In the intervening years most spellcasters have relearned the old ways of casting magic once more, although retaining some of the techniques they had invented in the years following the Spellplague. However there are many ancient spells and ancient artifacts that still remain lost. Many have gone out in search of clues to this ancient lore so that what was once known might be recovered once more.

The events surrounding the return of the Weave remain a mystery in and of itself. Whoever was responsible has demonstrated a high degree of power, and while that power may not yet threaten the world it could do so in the near future.

the purpose of the above is to introduce a bit more uncertainty and mystery (and emphasize the lessened role of gods in my campaign). What are the most important things people know about your campaign world for your next (or current) campaign?


My most recent campaign setting had a Desert Pirates theme, with sand skiffs and elemental galleons plying the desert wastes. So as not to dilute the concept, one ground rule I established was:

Nobody goes to sea.

The oceans in my world teem with megafauna - dragon turtles occupy the same place in the food chain that regular turtles do in our world, and krakens stay close to the surface because they fear what lurks in the depths.
Yep, it's a good idea.

I'm using Eberron, and the "ten facts" from the original Eberron book are still good enough for me. :)
Three major facts of my Six Kingdoms setting are:

"All mortals are pieces of the Game of Kings."

There are artifacts called the "royal relics". They empower a mortal king or queen holding with Divine Sovereignty and ensures a golden age of a time. Therefore everyone from kings to peasants are chasing after them and stealing them from those whose time has run out. That power is so pervasive that all mortals are involved somehow. The only way out the Game is to die or live forever.

"Republics are destined to fall."

When people who that their king's specter and crown means a 400 year golden age no matter how many demons, hobgoblins, and giants attack if his word is law, the idea of democracy loses traction. Democracies and republics are just stabilizing forces to hold a nation together until they can steal a royal relic and become a monarchy.

"All dragons want to be kings"

Promise a dragon a crown and you have a powerful ally. Dragon hunts are done not out of hatred but fear for the nation. Every dragon, good or evil, is a threat to at least one mortal king. That's where adventurers come in.


Steeliest of the dragons
Wow...That's tough...well, modeling after the OP, I'll see if I can come up with the "top 3" major things people know about/in my campaign setting...hmmm:erm:

1. I suppose top/first thing would be: Bounded Sandbox.
The campaign world has just about anything you could want in terms of type and tone of adventure. It's simply a matter of where you are/go to get it. Urban/metropolitan cities with courtly intrigues and thieving guild-wars? Orea's got that. Commonplace high magic or gritty rare magic? We can do that. Carve out a domain to call your own/rule over? You can do that. Warring nations? Conflicting religions? Racial Tensions? Yup, Yup, and Yup. Or barely have to scratch the surface of those. High seas swashbuckling/pirate shenanigans? Got it. Desert exploration? You want huge Pharaonic Empire/very different culture or simple Indiana Jones/The Mummy-style archaeology and treasure hunting? Looking for old school dungeon delving? Oh yeah, TONS of places and [nigh limitless] history for that...

Worldwide organizations, regional religions, nations and cultures from the pristine and innocent to wickedly corrupt. From hair-footed halflings to hulking muscled barbarians. Got all those too. ;)

Venture how far afield? Delve how deep and detailed? Invest how much involvement [locally, regionally, nationally, worldwide]? That's all up to you.

That is not to say it is a "kitchen sink" in terms of options, hence why I say "bounded." I do not ascribe to "any races can/should be PCs" or "all classes from whatever supplement will automatically get a place in the world" or any of that. There are definite guidelines and restrictions. But in terms of type of adventure/campaign that can be played and run, whether used for a session/two or carried all the way through 20 levels (most campaigns run a fair gamut), you [the players] are free to make/seek out whatever it is you want. Obviously a good deal (or at least starting point) is discussed before play begins so that desires and expectations can be aligned/get a baseline off which to work.

2. ...ummm...I guess is kind of two-fold: Alignment Matters, along with or perhaps due to, Good/Evil [and Law/Chaos to a lesser extent] are actual forces in the multiverse.
Many available classes have alignment restrictions. All races have societal norms and some races have inherent alignment restrictions. Orcs are creatures irretrievably tainted by evil. Case closed. Drow are evil...irrevocably, beyond redemption, born from the bile of the eldest darkness of the world. Period. Evil [AD&D/5e equivalent of] High elves are nearly unheard of...not in the day-to-day...in the eon-to-eon of elfin history. The "darkest" typical Elf races get is, generally, some flavor of Neutral. Paladins must be Lawful. Thieves can't be Lawful (but can easily be Good). Druids must be Neutral and observation of, joining with, and defending "the Balance" is a central tenant of the world-wide ancient mystery religion organization. Clerics [and other divinely-based classes], obviously, have the brunt of this needing match to the tenets of their deities and religions to maintain the favor and "reception of divine grace" that fuels their magics. And so on.

Alignment matters. It is not just something that sits on your character sheet. It is subject to change (and often, the best characters I've seen in play go through at least one alignment shift/transformation) in/as a direct reflection of your role-playing.

In example: A character that claims a Lawful alignment but is consistently going along with whatever is expedient or even random, from situation to situation, thinly veiling/defending their actions with "It's for the general good. So my character would do this!" [or worse, metagame reasons/justifications] That's all well and good. It's your character. You play how you like. MY job, as DM, is to shape the world and generate the reasonable [often predictable, even] consequences in response to those, your (the player's character's), choices and actions. Part of those consequences have led to your alignment shifting from Lawful to Neutral (if not chaotic). That is part of how the world has been changed via your choices and actions. If that shift somehow effects your PC beyond some letters on your sheet, then that's on you...and fixing it/seeking out some way to "undo" it is, likewise, on you.

All of this also speaks/leads to one of the primary guidelines of my campaigns: No evil PCs. You're here to play heroes. You WANT Good to triumph over Evil...or at least, not have Evil come a'knocking to take all of your stuff and enslave, kill, or otherwise make your life difficult. You can explore all of the "misunderstood/malcontent/emo, dark/secretive/tortured past/soul, even cruel, greedy, and/or selfish characters you can shake a stick at...without being LE, NE or CE. [edit: or, at least, starting LE, NE or CE. If you transition there without immediate steps to undo it, then -in most cases- you're into NPC territory and can roll a new character. /edit] So, yeah, no Evil PCs....maybe I should have just made that #2?

3. I guess I'll go with: Gods are Remote.
Due to mythological/historic reasons I won't go into here the current Orean pantheon, predominantly worshiped by humans, are decreed (by the current king of the gods) and conscripted to NOT involve themselves directly in the world and lives of mortals. They are permitted to empower their chosen representatives (clerics and, for a lawful few, paladins). So, spellcasting and channeling are functional, obviously. Visions, visits in dream, speaking through a statue or oracle, and the like. Hence, godly intrigues and plots, positioning their chess pieces around the world to various ends is definitely possible. But no "*Lightning Strike* Odin shows up and he's pissed!" or pillars of fiery wrath coming directly down on you for doing something wrong. Oh, there will be consequences. You can be sure, "The gods'll get'cha for that, Walter." [bonus XP for anyone who gets the reference] But as a general rule, the gods are not going to show up, themselves, to do anything to help you out (except/unless, maybe --and it's a big maybe- at very high levels). [note to self: come up with something to replace 5e's "Divine Intervention" cleric feature]

Obviously, the EVIL deities are not so prone to follow the [Divine] rules and have, on occasion, gotten their asses handed to them when/if direct involvement is revealed. Demon lords and the like, super-powerful extraplanar beings, are not concerned with such decrees, not enjoying "divine" status, technically, nor viewed as "equals" by the Orean pantheon. Though they are more than capable of empowering cultists and as good as "gods" on their respective home planes.

But, while [seemingly] omnipotent to mortals, most deities are neither omniscient nor [any] omnipresent. So things can happen/get by/escape their notice...and, as the saying goes, "Gods help you", if they find out.

I guess those are the fairly broad stroke biggies.
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1. The Prime material is the battleground between the angels and fiends.

Creation was good and harmonic. Then something happened and the demons and devils Fell. They fight with the angels and with each other for the souls of the mortal races. Celestial and infernal creatures roam the ethereal (near astral) regularly, and effects such as see invisible can be terrifying in their revelations. Eventually, the forces of Good will win and the Fiends will be utterly destroyed, but souls are in jeopardy until that day. This much is known by mortals.

What is unknown to mortals is that the devils believe they can change the outcome of the war by holding enough souls as a bargaining chip, or even as a means of usurping power. Souls are precious and the forces of creation are loathe to see them utterly destroyed. The devils want to stand on a pile of souls so large that no one is willing to hurl them into oblivion. Demons, on the other hand, have accepted that they will eventually cease to exist. They seek to survive as long as possible, but also to send as much of creation as possible ahead of them into the pit. If you look at the Abyss as a great wormhole to oblivion, the core being of the devils stands at the precipice and is building a levy of souls to give them stable ground from which to fight. The demons are past the point of no return and flailing wildly to slow their fall and drag bits of creation with them.

Angels fight to protect the souls of mortals. They do not directly use them, but generally feel a "calling" to gather as many as they can to the upper planes. The are more reactive than proactive, which troubles some of them greatly. Elves are not truly counted among the mortal races. Instead, they are a race of celestials that gave up their place to shepherd the mortals. This fact is lost to ancient histories, forgotten even to the elves. Today, elves are no more wise or elevated than any of the mortal races. The only remnant of their once exulted state is that they possess spirits which are constantly reborn, rather than true souls that go to their final rewards. These spirits can be claimed by the fiends almost as easily as mortal souls, however, but even the fiends don't know whether they are any more valuable than souls.

2. And other, more primal, forces.

Also unknown to most mortals is that the "gods" they worship (or fear) are beings that started out their existence as other types of creatures -- mostly celestials or fiends, but a few were mortal -- and somehow became entangled with certain primal archetypes to the point that they gained power from that relationship. Their power doesn't appear to be related to the number of worshipers so much as the prominence of their domains. Death does not need your prayers; it is simply inevitable. These immortals often struggle in their understanding of the universe as much as mortals.

Ancient lore speaks of a benevolent creative force. Many immortals, celestials, and even fiends believe this force is what cast out the fiends. Time dulls even an immortal's memory, though. There are competing theories that say the original celestials fought among themselves and the losers became the fiends. In this version, the Creator distanced itself from the corrupt creation, with the immortals eventually coming to power to fill the void.

Entropy is clearly in force, however. The degeneration of the elves, the loss of immortal memories, and even the howl of the Abyss speak to the multiverse slowly, but inescapably falling apart. Whether entropy is sentient, or even a necessary peer to creation is a matter of debate among scholars both mortal and ageless.

3. History repeats itself, but often on a different scale.

Wars in the heavens are reflected as wars on the Prime. Nations form and dissolve, but there are always "heroes" and "villains". Every few centuries, similar artifacts come into play. Civilization progresses to a point, but is always set back in a never-ending cycle of dark age and rebirth. An understanding of cause always gives an advantage, but the movements of entropy ensure full knowledge is hard to come by.

4. Bonus fact: There are no elephants, but there is a species of burrowing raptors.

This started as a joke, because someone observed that all fantasy worlds have essentially the same list of natural animals. The "no elephants", especially, worked its way into canon that old players occasionally threw out to new players.


4. Bonus fact: There are no elephants, but there is a species of burrowing raptors.

This started as a joke, because someone observed that all fantasy worlds have essentially the same list of natural animals. The "no elephants", especially, worked its way into canon that old players occasionally threw out to new players.
My Tiamat group's dragonborn barbarian is going to be disappointed should she ever join your group; she wants to charge into battle atop a mastodon !
I've been thinking about a way to make that possible but look accidental. Just to see the look on her face.
What are the most important things people know about your campaign world for your next (or current) campaign?
This was of particular importance for me, since none of the players were familiar with Greyhawk. What little knowledge they had was from late 2E and 3E, none of which I was using (I'm running a Gygaxian Greyhawk game), so it was going to cause confusion. I made up a series of threads for the campaign (on Roll20) called Player's Guide to Old Ferrond.

I was as detailed as I could get, but keeping it to fairly common knowledge. I detailed the common races/subraces, showing the differences between them and the "standard" versions, and mentioned the difficulties of some uncommon and rare races (races not mentioned, such as Dragonborn and Tiefling were disallowed). I discussed the classes and how they fit into society, along with backgrounds. I then went into common deities of the area and the political structures of the surroundings states.


My Tiamat group's dragonborn barbarian is going to be disappointed should she ever join your group; she wants to charge into battle atop a mastodon !
I've been thinking about a way to make that possible but look accidental. Just to see the look on her face.
That's easy.

Mastadon stampede.