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D&D 5E Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Official Campaign Settings


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turnip_farmer

Adventurer
Before joining a game, for official settings, there is a large chance they have heard of it before and know the themes of the setting. A published, but non-official setting has less audience so they won't be immediately familiar (I know nothing of Mystara, for example, and I don't know if it would click with me). If it's a homebrew... you have to trust the GM. If you want "high fantasy" and the GM is putting you in a gritty world, you'll be disappointed. Leaving at session 0 would be bad form..
Just as a small aside, leaving at session zero is fine! This is much preferred to the standard approach of 'well, this doesn't sound like the game I wanted, but I guess I'll give it a go anyway' and then leaving at session three.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
It's a network effect. People want an official campaign setting because they know that other people are more likely to be willing to play in an official setting, and this increases their chances of having a gaming group that does not fall apart.
This is true, but also kinda just kicks the can down the road. Why are those other people more likely to be willing to play in an official setting? See the opening post for a lot of possible reasons.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Convenience. This one is easy. Making stuff? TOO HARD. Finding stuff? TOO HARD. Having the official maker create things for you? THAT'S JUST GOLDILOCKS RIGHT! Convenience also means availability. Official product is usually more likely to be available as well, and you don't have to sort through other products.
For me, it's mostly this one. In my experience, modern players grumble about homebrew (which is still really weird to me), so having an official product you can point to as the starting line then tweak is a way easier sell than homebrewing something whole cloth.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
For me, it's mostly this one. In my experience, modern players grumble about homebrew (which is still really weird to me), so having an official product you can point to as the starting line then tweak is a way easier sell than homebrewing something whole cloth.

Do you think it's an issue of time or validation?

In other words, do people today want the official campaign setting because home-brew takes too much time (that they don't have), or because having an official product validates the setting, and (weirdly) their interest in it?
 

Do you think it's an issue of time or validation?

In other words, do people today want the official campaign setting because home-brew takes too much time (that they don't have), or because having an official product validates the setting, and (weirdly) their interest in it?
or because of so much busted homebrew?

but I say a mix of all the above.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I like seeing different takes on the things I am fan of. Worst case I still have the old thing. Best case like in Exalted Third Edition or 4e Darksun I have something I like much better. Almost as good as liking a new version for different reasons like with 5e's Ravenloft compared to the original adventure or like I'm fan of Classic Vampire - The Masquerade, Vampire - The Requiem, and Vampire 5th Edition all at the same time. Sometimes just having a new take can be exciting!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Do you think it's an issue of time or validation?

In other words, do people today want the official campaign setting because home-brew takes too much time (that they don't have), or because having an official product validates the setting, and (weirdly) their interest in it?
I think it’s not understanding the origins and history of the hobby along with a weird deferment to authority. The assumption that home-brew is bad because it was made by some person with years of experience instead of made by some person in an office with years of experience. Gary’s old saw about “official rules only” and all that.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I like seeing different takes on the things I am fan of. Worst case I still have the old thing. Best case like in Exalted Third Edition or 4e Darksun I have something I like much better. Almost as good as liking a new version for different reasons like with 5e's Ravenloft compared to the original adventure or like I'm fan of Classic Vampire - The Masquerade, Vampire - The Requiem, and Vampire 5th Edition all at the same time. Sometimes just having a new take can be exciting!
If only cartoon and comic book fandoms had this attitude...
 

Yora

Legend
in my experience D&D setting books offer very little that I can actually use to run campaigns. They are worlds build for the sake of worldbuilding, apparently with little thought for GMs who want to use it for a campaign. Eberron is a bit better about this, but it's still needlessly overscaled. I don't need 40 settings in one.
 

reelo

Adventurer
in my experience D&D setting books offer very little that I can actually use to run campaigns. They are worlds build for the sake of worldbuilding, apparently with little thought for GMs who want to use it for a campaign. Eberron is a bit better about this, but it's still needlessly overscaled. I don't need 40 settings in one.
I don't care how big or small in scope a setting is, but what I can really do without is metaplot! Just give me a thorough description of the setting, with one fixed point in time, and then FREEZE IT. Like Hârnworld. Give me all the details you can up to a precise point in time and then never advance the timeline officially. Leave that to DMs.
 

Aldarc

Legend
in my experience D&D setting books offer very little that I can actually use to run campaigns. They are worlds build for the sake of worldbuilding, apparently with little thought for GMs who want to use it for a campaign. Eberron is a bit better about this, but it's still needlessly overscaled. I don't need 40 settings in one.
This is where I think that the Nentir Vale / World Axis succeeds as a setting designed to used and abused for adventure.
 

payn

Legend
I don't care how big or small in scope a setting is, but what I can really do without is metaplot! Just give me a thorough description of the setting, with one fixed point in time, and then FREEZE IT. Like Hârnworld. Give me all the details you can up to a precise point in time and then never advance the timeline officially. Leave that to DMs.
Golarion, kinda, sort of, did this up until PF2.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Eberron is like that. Wherever you look, the world is on brink of collapse in 998 barring adventurer intervention. None of the campaign I've played in reached year 1,000.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Quality. If you're in a supermarket (probably a Piggly Wiggly- this seems like a Piggly Wiggly crowd), and you see a name brand as opposed to a store brand, you will often assume that there is some amount of quality with the name brand. After all, that's one reason brands advertise; so that consumers have heard of them and believe that they provide a quality product. Even when the products are exactly the same (such as a store-brand acetaminophen as opposed to Tylenol) some consumer will gravitate toward the brand name product solely on the basis of assumed quality.

You'd pick the Pig over Publix or Wegman's?

But, anyway, even though I never ran it, I loved it when Green Ronin came out with a d20 Black Company book and tried to capture the Glen Cook series with no thought of being bound to the PhB/DMG/MM. I would love for someone to come out with a vaguely 5e Tun Faire setting (going with Cook's Garrett P.I. Series). I guess having it "official" would be better... but I'm not sure it would make a difference in practice to me.
 

Yora

Legend
I don't care how big or small in scope a setting is, but what I can really do without is metaplot! Just give me a thorough description of the setting, with one fixed point in time, and then FREEZE IT. Like Hârnworld. Give me all the details you can up to a precise point in time and then never advance the timeline officially. Leave that to DMs.
Metaplot is RPG cancer!

Timeline advancements make settings unplayable, especially when they come in regular pieces. (If they come every 10 years or so, it's basically alternate versions.)
If a setting updates what happened to important NPCs, major locations, and ongoing regional conflicts, then I wouldn't want to have anything happening in my campaign now that turns out to contradict and be incompatible with what the writers announce officially happened six months from now. What this means in practice is that I can't use the major NPCs and conflicts in my own campaign. Any time a new update comes out, I still can't use it because I have to wait for the update after that, and that continues until the metaplot is officially wrapped up and concluded. At which point the conflicts ar no longer interesting and many of the NPCs gone.
Metaplots are the antithesis of RPGs.

A book for GM is supposed to provide hooks and let every GM run wild with it.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Metaplot is RPG cancer!

Timeline advancements make settings unplayable, especially when they come in regular pieces. (If they come every 10 years or so, it's basically alternate versions.)
If a setting updates what happened to important NPCs, major locations, and ongoing regional conflicts, then I wouldn't want to have anything happening in my campaign now that turns out to contradict and be incompatible with what the writers announce officially happened six months from now. What this means in practice is that I can't use the major NPCs and conflicts in my own campaign. Any time a new update comes out, I still can't use it because I have to wait for the update after that, and that continues until the metaplot is officially wrapped up and concluded. At which point the conflicts ar no longer interesting and many of the NPCs gone.
Metaplots are the antithesis of RPGs.

A book for GM is supposed to provide hooks and let every GM run wild with it.

I loved loved loved me some metaplot back in the WoD and Shadowrun 2e days, but if you weren't playing those games at exactly the right time (meaning those times, as specific books were coming out) it was just terrible.

Spire is, I think, a great example of what happens when you fully set aside metaplot. Fantastic, rich setting, but it's so devoid of metaplot it doesn't even have a timeline for you to memorize. The game's designers have said that they want to provide "hooks, not history," which seems like a real evolution.

Only other thing I'd note, though, is that some other indie games have done a good job (imo) with providing more of a tight plot, rather than metaplot, for games whose campaigns aren't intended to be open-ended in length. Band of Blades gives you a clear beginning (on the run from the undead army) and end point (last stand against them at a specific location). Brindlewood Bay also suggests the GM set up a final mystery that the entire game is leading up to, and that's a big shift in tone and lethality. Again, I'd call those something like plots, or framing for plots, than metaplots, and their success (if one thinks their successful) is based on the idea that they aren't part of an ongoing story, but one with a pretty well-defined and narrow timeframe.

ETA: Couldn't resist fixing a dumb (minor) typo
 
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