D&D 5E Questions to ask when developing a campaign setting as a group

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Well, I have successfully convinced some coworkers to start a D&D campaign! We've done a few introductory one-shot adventures, and now everyone is chomping at the bit to start a longer campaign.

I introduced the idea of creating a campaign map together, choosing monsters they might fight against, the themes of the setting... And they were really into the idea! This has always been a dream of mine, collaborating with the players to create a setting.

So now I'm thinking of coming up with some discussion questions we can use to guide our creation of the campaign setting. I would love some help coming up with more!

I'm thinking questions could be in a few different categories, like:

Heroes
Foes
Daily Life
Adventures
Rewards


And then those categories could have questions like:

Heroes

What is the role of an adventurer in this setting?

Why do adventurers band together?

How do adventurers gain levels?

Foes

What common foes do adventurers face?

What powerful foes threaten the people of this setting?

What legendary foes are rumored to be returning?

Daily Life

How are settlements organized in this setting?

How do most people travel from place to place?

How common is magic among common folk?

Rewards

What do adventurers spend money on?

How common are magic items?



Anyways, that's my instinct (probably because I'm a teacher, I like to provide thought-starters).

What kinds of questions would you use to guide the collaborative creation of a campaign setting?
 

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aco175

Legend
I would also get a feel of how big and open the BBEG is. Is the mayor of town corrupt and taking bribes to let the mining guild cut corners and not have proper supports in the tunnels? vs. Is the whole continent under the thumb of a tyrant who is part god, part demon and has 'loyalty' squads that travel the lands questioning everyone? I might try and steer things towards a more generic setting and smaller bad guys. I find that once the heroes defeat Lord Vader, they always find an Emperor behind the evil plans that needs to be confronted.

Might also need to talk about gods and their role in the daily life of regular people and adventurers. Are you making up gods or taking a list from a setting or old Deities and Demigods? I would find it easier to take this from a setting like FR or just several of them to get started. I'm not sure how long the group wants to spend on worldbuilding before starting to play and this could be a place to skip (to start at least).
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
All good ideas. I would add questions related to the settings cosmology. How the players want religion to work in the setting. How present are the gods? Is alignment a thing? What are the great supernatural opposing forces. Etc.
 

J-H

Hero
Here are the questions I used a year or two ago.

Creating a starting area/setting on the spot for a semi-episodic dungeon-based campaign.

Village or tribe? if it's a big city, there are probably a few hundred city guards and a couple of dozen casting priests; why are there a bunch of dungeons and lairs around that they haven't cleared out?


What races are prevalent?


What races are present in small numbers? alternate PC races; anything interesting like random Warforged or exiled duergar?



There are dungeons scattered around. Where do they come from? Ruins of past civilizations; cursed/trapped tombs; Is this post-apocalyptic where all the good stuff is buried? Old forts; Moria; near a big set of ruins from an old kingdom? etc.





What’s the climate & terrain like like? Arctic/temperate/tropical; mountains, valleys, plains; wet/medium/dry/desert? Trees, grasslands, rocky?



How close is the nearest other major point of civilization, and what is it?



Why does the village exist here? Is it on a river? Lake? Major trade route?




What are the major natural resources or occupation? Mining? Furs?



What pantheon are we using?



Is there an Underdark?


What 5 things are problems for the village? Ie, “monsters” (Chimera, perytons, etc.), aberrations, cultists, goblinoids, barbarian tribes, slave raiders, enemy soldiers, undead, fey, giants, kobolds, sahuagin, shapeshifters, etc. These can be internal or external but should be actionable. “Hatfield Vs. McCoy feud” is probably not a good choice, neither is pacificst vs militant, etc.


Who runs the village?



Aside from the party, who else in the village is notable as someone with special talents or powers? And why aren’t they taking care of the problem(s)?




Who does the party have relationships with? Mentors, bosses, family




What resources are available in the village, if any, for gear upgrades, spells, potions, etc.?
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Some questions that I think come before the questions you've asked here:

What do players want to play? Race, class, background, feats, etc.? Is this exclusive (e.g. ONLY the PCs' chosen <foo> exist) or open (the PCs' chosen <foo> exist, but other options might too)?
What faith(s) exist in this world? How important are they? Do the objects of reverence actually appear, or are they remote?
What tone/style interests the group? E.g. on the grim-to-noble, dark-to-bright alignment chart, where do people want things to fall?
How does the group feel about "heavy" topics, e.g. war, abuse, sexual themes, drugs, slavery, disease, etc.?

Questions of this nature help to ensure that everyone is actually on board for...whatever form the campaign takes. They are necessary background for all the questions that follow, shaping the answers to nearly every other question one could ask.
 



Voadam

Legend
I would start by asking what tone and themes they want to go with.

Pulp, hopeful, light-hearted, grim-dark, gritty, gonzo, Tolkienesque, Conanesque, action movie, PG-13, R, high fantasy, heroic, mercenary, evil, factions, shades of gray, tough moral choices, bright line morality, straightforward villains, challenging, etc.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Well, I have successfully convinced some coworkers to start a D&D campaign! We've done a few introductory one-shot adventures, and now everyone is chomping at the bit to start a longer campaign.

I introduced the idea of creating a campaign map together, choosing monsters they might fight against, the themes of the setting... And they were really into the idea! This has always been a dream of mine, collaborating with the players to create a setting.

So now I'm thinking of coming up with some discussion questions we can use to guide our creation of the campaign setting. I would love some help coming up with more!

I'm thinking questions could be in a few different categories, like:

Heroes
Foes
Daily Life
Adventures
Rewards


And then those categories could have questions like:

Heroes

What is the role of an adventurer in this setting?

Why do adventurers band together?

How do adventurers gain levels?

Foes

What common foes do adventurers face?

What powerful foes threaten the people of this setting?

What legendary foes are rumored to be returning?

Daily Life

How are settlements organized in this setting?

How do most people travel from place to place?

How common is magic among common folk?

Rewards

What do adventurers spend money on?

How common are magic items?



Anyways, that's my instinct (probably because I'm a teacher, I like to provide thought-starters).

What kinds of questions would you use to guide the collaborative creation of a campaign setting?
I'd be very careful not to lead, unless I wanted specifics in place.

For example, rewards sound like they are only money and magic items. I understand this isn't an exhaustive list and you are asking for feedback, I'm just pointing to it as an example. If you intend for them to be the rewards, then this is good, if you want it to be expansive, then its a bit leading.

Heroes is another good one. You have switched into "adventurers" instead of heroes in your questions. Are the PCs to in fact be heroes? Or can they be antiheroes, villains, etc..?
 

Questions that come to mind-

"What do you want to do?"

How common is magic? Items, casters, and high level casters? Are there enough 12th level casters to cause societal change, and are they interested in doing so?

How common are high level characters? What level would the local Cincinnatus be?

How do levels interact with the common folk? Is the blacksmith a third level fighter, or just a dude with an 18 STR and 6 hp?

What is the line between monster and animal? Cave Bear / Moa - Axe Beak / Dimetrodon / Owlbear / Manticore?

How important are the cultural structures / what are people loyal to? Temples, Clans, Families, Home City or State? What is important to defend outside yourself?

What are the religions? Not gods necessarily, but religions. How do people interact or propriate the supernatural?

What is an interesting cultural oddity that is shared (assuming people are from the same or similar culture)? Painting the door to your house a specific color, burying a bowl under the step, affixing prayers to the jamb, wearing a particular charm, stating a particular word as a reflexive greeting, &c.
 

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