D&D General What are the "dead settings" of D&D?

Aldarc

Legend
From what I recall, Ghostwalk was essentially meant to be plugged into a given setting with the idea that the city of Ghostwalk could be a part of nearly any setting. Kinda like Green Ronin's Freeport, but far more niche.
I would also add to my earlier point that one could easily take the premise of Ghostwalk and drop it into the Nentir Vale, such as Hammerfast, which is a dwarf and orc city that features a lot of the spirits of the dead.

A non-exhaustive list of third party settings (some of these are wild guesses):
  • A - Significant active campaigning: Golarion (as Pathfinder), Midgard
  • B - Large cult following: Wilderlands of High Fantasy, Ptolus, Scarred Lands, Middle-earth
  • C - Small cult following: Freeport, Lost Lands, Diamond Throne
  • D - Little or no active following ("Dead settings"): Diomin, Castlemourn, Kingdoms of Kalamar (now probably small cult following as Hackmaster setting), Dawnforge, Morningstar, Melnibone,
What following does Diamond Throne have? I love it as non-LotR fantasy, but I rarely if ever hear people talk about it. I get more discussion from Midnight and Dawnforge.
 

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I just wonder what the percentage is. Is it 5%? 1%? 0.1%? 0.01%?

As for "trivial to find people talking about their Ravnica games", I've been searching for actual play threads/podcasts featuring people playing Ravnica now, but I wasn't initially able to find any at all. I found a number of ended campaigns from 2019, and a cool-sounding podcast, but that was also over.

I did find a subreddit for Ravnica for D&D, which whilst not super-active, is a bit more active than the Dark Sun subreddit, so there's that. Still, you'd hope so, given Ravnica fans are probably 10-20 years younger than DS ones (and thus vastly more likely to be on reddit. That's literally the only place I could find, but its something!

The DS subreddit being so much more active than the Greyhawk or Dragonlance ones (I mean, you'd kind of expect this, DL/GH players are probably mostly 45+ and thus less likely to be on reddit) does help explain why WotC might be so keen on it. Not because of the subreddit, obviously, but because they have data suggesting Dark Sun has a lot of people interested in it.

This also suggests, to me at least, something pretty interesting - that a setting featuring in official products is very important in getting that setting to a younger generation, and keeping that setting alive long-term. Why do I say that? Because I strongly suspect that if Dark Sun hadn't been a 4E setting, then it wouldn't have a subreddit nearly populous as the Ravnica one. It would probably still be less dusty than the GH/DL ones, but not that active.

So that, for me, bolsters people's arguments that older settings "should" get some kind of official release.

Yeah, the Birthright forums are pretty dead now as well. Much more active in 3.5 days, and then totally died in 4E and now are only patrolled by a few rusted on die hards.

To be fair, the PC power levels of 5E dont really match Birthright without stripping a lot of the more magical stuff from classes (barring Blooded scions etc). Monks never really had a place in the setting, spellcasting was limited to blooded scions, and it always tended to have a grittier and more mundane feel. It's not really in line with 5E's more 'core' gonzo approach (common to Faerun and Greyhawk) plus 'magic everywhere' common to those two and Eberron.

Loved that setting though.
 

For my part, I'd suspect that the following are in section D:

Red Steel
The Black Company
Thieves World

There are also some one-off Dragon magazine adaptations of existing properties that probably count - I doubt anyone is still playing in Terry Brooks' Shannara or Mieville's Perdido Street Station (or at least, using the rules from Dragon magazine).
 

Mieville's Perdido Street Station

There was an official Dragon Mag take on Perdido Street Station?! With China Mieville involved? I mean I know he's a keen RPGer and had a ton of D&D experience (most of his novels contain at least one pretty direct D&D reference, like the classic like in Perdido Street - "I'm just in this for the gold and experience!", or how one of the characters in Kraken views himself as a "Paladin in Hell"), but I did not know that. He's a pretty cool guy, I spoke to him once briefly after a lecture he gave on the immanent in city fantasy.

EDIT - Wow found it. You really don't want to get in the way of someone with a Possible Sword, which sounds about right. Huge article, too, but it came out around one of the times I was very definitely not playing 3.XE, which explains why I never saw it.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
  • A - Significant active campaigning: Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Exandria, Ravnica, Theros

  • B - Large cult following: Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Nentir Vale, Mystara

  • C - Small cult following: Blackmoor, Spelljammer, Kara-Tur*, Al-Qadim*, Dragonlance, Planescape, Lankhmar, Ravenloft, Wilderlands of High Fantasy

  • D - Little or no active following ("Dead settings"): Birthright, Council of Wyrms, Dragon Fist, Dragonlance, The Horde*, Malatar*, Maztica*, Ghostwalk, Jakandor, Kingsdom of Kalamar, Mahasarpa, Pelinore, Rokugan, Warcraft

Note- anything with an asterisk is a setting that is within Forgotten Realms, but this is mostly about campaigns primarily playing within them.

Explanations:
Anything within A is currently and actively supported by WOTC. Should be a no-brainer (including Theros, upcoming).

B includes the primary Grognard / Legacy settings (GH, Mystara), as well as the settting for the last edition (4e) and Dark Sun.

C might be controversial; DL is barely played, if much loved, AFAIK. Same with Planescape.

Dead is dead.
 

@Snarf Zagyg

Dark Sun seems to have a highly comparable following to Ravnica, despite last having a new book ten years ago, thus it's slightly questionable that you put it in B, and Ravnica in A.

Dragonlance, from what I can tell, may have a larger active following than Greyhawk. Thus it is very hard to see why DL is D and GH is B - actually DL is in C and D so that's weird. I'd put both GH and DL in C.

Ravenloft is pretty actively played right now due to the 5E AP. Hard to see why that isn't a B.

Edit as for current campaigns:

1) Taladas (heavily modified, technically Dragonlance I guess though I never think of it that way) - 5E - running
2) Eberron - 5E - playing
3) Thylea (Odyssey of the Dragonlords setting) - 5E - playing
4) Ravenloft - 5E - playing
 
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Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
All I have to offer is what's happening at our table....

We have three rotating GMs, each with their own campaign.

1. Forgotten Realms - 5e rules
2. Al-Qadim - Castles and Crusaders rules
3. Homebrew Setting - 5e rules
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I just wonder what the percentage is. Is it 5%? 1%? 0.1%? 0.01%?

As for "trivial to find people talking about their Ravnica games", I've been searching for actual play threads/podcasts featuring people playing Ravnica now, but I wasn't initially able to find any at all. I found a number of ended campaigns from 2019, and a cool-sounding podcast, but that was also over.

I did find a subreddit for Ravnica for D&D, which whilst not super-active, is a bit more active than the Dark Sun subreddit, so there's that. Still, you'd hope so, given Ravnica fans are probably 10-20 years younger than DS ones (and thus vastly more likely to be on reddit. That's literally the only place I could find, but its something!

The DS subreddit being so much more active than the Greyhawk or Dragonlance ones (I mean, you'd kind of expect this, DL/GH players are probably mostly 45+ and thus less likely to be on reddit) does help explain why WotC might be so keen on it. Not because of the subreddit, obviously, but because they have data suggesting Dark Sun has a lot of people interested in it.

This also suggests, to me at least, something pretty interesting - that a setting featuring in official products is very important in getting that setting to a younger generation, and keeping that setting alive long-term. Why do I say that? Because I strongly suspect that if Dark Sun hadn't been a 4E setting, then it wouldn't have a subreddit nearly populous as the Ravnica one. It would probably still be less dusty than the GH/DL ones, but not that active.

So that, for me, bolsters people's arguments that older settings "should" get some kind of official release.

Yeah, good question: WotC probably has some idea, since part of their regular customer surveys goes into questions about Setting: heck, the last big survey let slip a lottle early and included Exandria in the list of official Settings to pick from...
 

The Glen

Hero
Blackmoor was established to be in the ancient history of Mystara. I'm pretty sure it's a retcon, but they did establish they are in the same world, just with Blackmoor happening long before all the later Mystara stuff.
The story behind it is Gary needed an ally in the power struggle at TSR so he brought Dave Arneson back with the promise that they will allow him to do blackmoor. They put it in the distant past of mystara, thousands of years before current day. Then they blew it up wiping it from the face of the map, and removing all aspects of it aside from a few scant mentions here or there.
 

The Glen

Hero
For my part, I'd suspect that the following are in section D:

Red Steel
The Black Company
Thieves World

There are also some one-off Dragon magazine adaptations of existing properties that probably count - I doubt anyone is still playing in Terry Brooks' Shannara or Mieville's Perdido Street Station (or at least, using the rules from Dragon magazine).
Red Steel is a part of Mystara, a 2nd edition expansion.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
There was an official Dragon Mag take on Perdido Street Station?! With China Mieville involved? I mean I know he's a keen RPGer and had a ton of D&D experience (most of his novels contain at least one pretty direct D&D reference, like the classic like in Perdido Street - "I'm just in this for the gold and experience!", or how one of the characters in Kraken views himself as a "Paladin in Hell"), but I did not know that. He's a pretty cool guy, I spoke to him once briefly after a lecture he gave on the immanent in city fantasy.

EDIT - Wow found it. You really don't want to get in the way of someone with a Possible Sword, which sounds about right. Huge article, too, but it came out around one of the times I was very definitely not playing 3.XE, which explains why I never saw it.

...

Man, I never got Dragon & Dungeon specifically, and I understand why it won't happen, but I sure miss magazines.
 

The story behind it is Gary needed an ally in the power struggle at TSR so he brought Dave Arneson back with the promise that they will allow him to do blackmoor. They put it in the distant past of mystara, thousands of years before current day. Then they blew it up wiping it from the face of the map, and removing all aspects of it aside from a few scant mentions here or there.

Wow, that was rude. No wonder there was bad bloody between them!
 

atanakar

Hero
All settings are dead to me. I home-brew only.

In the 80s-90s I used to buy a lot of setting boxes, modules and novels for inspiration but I don't do that anymore.

The only setting book I bought for 5e was Sword Coast. I've resisted all other temptations so far. I do buy generic 5e books like Xanathar's.

I would buy a Greyhawk (+Blackmoor) setting book if it there was enough meat around the bone and a nice map.

Lack of setting books and dead settings are a non-issue for me.
 

...

Man, I never got Dragon & Dungeon specifically, and I understand why it won't happen, but I sure miss magazines.

Right? I mean, later Dragon is nowhere near as wild and wonderful as earlier Dragon (and this was very late, from my perspective), but it was fantastic to have content like this coming out EVERY MONTH. I mean it seems almost unimaginable now, right? And in a big glossy magazine you could lay around and read? Even digital stuff isn't remotely giving you that sort of content/month, not in a collected, well-edited, presentable format. I'm sure if one follows a few blogs and reads a few reddits, one can collect as much material, technically, and perhaps even of the same standard, but it's just not the same, to go around gathering up bits and bobs, as it was to receive a big honking magazine you could read on the soft or whatever.

I got so many good ideas from Dragon and Dungeon back in the day (and saw quite a few bad ones that made me go "Well now I know I definitely do not want to do that!", too!), and there was so much fantastic art. Which is the one thing D&D is bizarrely missing today - fantastic art. It's not like there isn't tons and tons of it out there. WotC themselves put out insane amounts of fantastic art via MtG, but D&D art for 5E just isn't great, as a whole, I think I've discussed this before, despite the odd good piece. Dragon had a lot of bad art, but it also had a lot of really good stuff, really inspiring stuff, too.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Dark Sun seems to have a highly comparable following to Ravnica, despite last having a new book ten years ago, thus it's slightly questionable that you put it in B, and Ravnica in A.

As I explained, I placed any campaign setting that is currently supported by WOTC in the highest category.

I would also assume that our anecdotal evidence is slightly skewed based on what I've seen here (the commenters on the forum seem to skew much older than the people that actually play). I think Dark Sun has strong support, and that is what makes it a "B."

Dragonlance, from what I can tell, may have a larger active following than Greyhawk. Thus it is very hard to see why DL is D and GH is B - actually DL is in C and D so that's weird. I'd put both GH and DL in C.

Um .... no? Based on everything I have observed, personally, in conversations, looking at forums, looking at the release of product from WoTC (Saltmarsh is a Greyhawk product), and based upon seeing campaign request on-line and PbP, DL is almost non-existent in terms of play, whereas GH has a thriving community both for 5e and certainly for those people playing older editions. I can't even understand this comparison, TBH.



Ravenloft is pretty actively played right now due to the 5E AP. Hard to see why that isn't a B.

Because that's not the campaign setting.
 



As I explained, I placed any campaign setting that is currently supported by WOTC in the highest category.

I would also assume that our anecdotal evidence is slightly skewed based on what I've seen here (the commenters on the forum seem to skew much older than the people that actually play). I think Dark Sun has strong support, and that is what makes it a "B."

Um .... no? Based on everything I have observed, personally, in conversations, looking at forums, looking at the release of product from WoTC (Saltmarsh is a Greyhawk product), and based upon seeing campaign request on-line and PbP, DL is almost non-existent in terms of play, whereas GH has a thriving community both for 5e and certainly for those people playing older editions. I can't even understand this comparison, TBH.

Because that's not the campaign setting.

Wow, so basically its completely arbitrary? Ravenloft is as much of a campaign setting now as it was in 1E, and claiming its "not a campaign setting" when people are clearly treating it as such and playing there is pretty bloody silly, frankly. You reject anecdotes, but your justification for including Greyhawk is anecdotes and an adventure - which is exactly the same situation for 5E as Ravenloft. You can't claim Saltmarsh for GH, and reject Strahd for Ravenloft.

So you're directly contradicting yourself on both anecdotes (they matter when they're your anecdotes, not anyone elses) and adventures which are set in specific campaign settings.

It also means your top category is extremely misleading in terms of its title. A setting could have almost no-one playing it, but because it was published, you'd class it as "significant active campaigning". I mean god, can you imagine doing this list for 2E? It'd be such a joke because there's no way all those settings had "significant active campaigning", and whilst you might just barely be able to squeak it by with 5E, right at this moment, give it 3-4 years and one of those or more will be not actually have "significant active campaigning". You should probably change A to "Currently in print at WotC".
 

atanakar

Hero
what was this red steel thing, was this mystara? I can't remember.

Yes Mystara:
Red Steel features a dust, vermeil, which grants extraordinary powers to anyone who brews it up and drinks it, but also may cause excruciating physical deformities, and rocks, cinnabryl, which can be formed into jewelry that fends off the side effects of vermeil, and shaped into weapons capable of wounding magical creatures. Both substances permeate the war-ravaged lands of the Savage Coast (introduced in 1985's X9 The Savage Coast module), spewing enchantments.[1]
 

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