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

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Things that expand the rules mechanically for players and DMs.
Those to me are not the priority in a setting guide. I want the guide to tell me about the physical-cultural-historical aspects of the setting itself, i.e. do all that grunt work for me so I don't have to do it.

For example, Ravnica provides rules for factions and guilds. Ghosts of Saltmarsh provide guidelines for naval/sea encounters. Eberron provides new races and the Artificer class. What will a FRCS book give me apart from listing all the women that Elminster slept with?
You can rest assured that Elminster's scorecard wouldn't be in any FR book I ever wrote. :)

As for the rest of those examples, while all cool stuff they should IMO be collected in a rulebook, not scattered across setting guides; as any of those things - particularly the naval combat stuff - could and IMO should be seen as setting-agnostic.

Telling me setting info is its own reward will not cut it as an answer because that's what wikis are for.
Wikis, in my experience, are both useful and useless at the same time.

Useful in that in theory they have loads of information. Useless in that you've often no idea how accurate (or in this case, 'official') any of it is, unless you refer back to the given source.

Further, wikis are online; a drawback to old-schoolers like me who don't have a computer behind the screen (and my phone browser is hopeless :) ) nor really anywhere to put one.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Those to me are not the priority in a setting guide. I want the guide to tell me about the physical-cultural-historical aspects of the setting itself, i.e. do all that grunt work for me so I don't have to do it.
But you are not publishing the book. WotC is. So we need to look at the sort of materials that WotC likes including in 5e setting books. And surprise!, but no 5e setting book exists solely as an info dump about the setting without some additional perks.

As for the rest of those examples, while all cool stuff they should IMO be collected in a rulebook, not scattered across setting guides; as any of those things - particularly the naval combat stuff - could and IMO should be seen as setting-agnostic.
Except that is how WotC has been publishing a number of setting books for the past odd five years, so I don't see a FRCS book bucking this trend. So excluding setting info dump materials, what additional tools for 5e could a FRCS book provide?
 

Hoffmand

Explorer
I would like a setting book to be all about the setting. But if they throw some archetypes in their custom built for a setting that can be adapted to other settings and a few spells it will probaly sell better. Throw in a few monsters, magic items, and a cool NPC write up and it is a must have book for everyone.

eceryone?

not me I ain’t buying that crap

okay, almost everyone.
 

Voadam

Legend
So excluding setting info dump materials, what additional tools for 5e could a FRCS book provide?

Chosen, Mythals, Spellfire, Thayvian circle magic, Wild Magic from the 1e to 2e transition, Spellplague, FR specific monsters, races, subraces, spells, magic items, and subclasses (the subclasses based on kits or specialty priests or prestige classes or paragon paths from prior FR editions).
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Chosen, Mythals, Spellfire, Thayvian circle magic, Wild Magic from the 1e to 2e transition, Spellplague, FR specific monsters, races, subraces, spells, magic items, and subclasses (the subclasses based on kits or specialty priests or prestige classes or paragon paths from prior FR editions).

All of which pulls the near hat trick of being very specifically Realmsian, but also useable outside of the Realms.
 

Having just joined the thread it is amusing to read all the earlier posts saying Ravenloft is dead. (The bats have left the bell tower, the victims have been bled...) Well, it's now UNdead...appropriately...

I'm guessing the multiplicity of settings in 2e (which I liked, I thought they were very creative) were seen as splitting the brand too much and they decided to narrow it down (too bad!).

Seems like they're mostly pushing FR now, from what I can see.
 

TheSword

Legend
I would put Birthright in the dead setting list.

Wasn't that popular first time around, no active groups in any sort of numbers.
They have until this day an active website birthright.net and there have been conversions for every edition. At one point last year there were 1,800 users on the website so I would say you are talking out of your fundament here.

Birthright was awesome. You just needed the right group to play in it to its full extent.
 

I am afraid that I must regretfully disagree. IMO settings that are no longer actively supported and published by the owner are dead. They are worse off than editions no longer supported and published by WotC because there is no OGL/access point for them. What substitutes for these settings on DMsGuild is more placation than anything else, to wit, Greyhawk isn't even included (nor do I see it ever being included). The idea that Greyhawk is in "limbo" or "frozen," for example, is a distortion of reality, a wishful and wistful thought long sipped at because it forestalls the bitter taste of reality.
 

Meaning, which settings--published by TSR, WotC, or even third party specifically for D&D (e.g. Judge's Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy) that are essentially "dead," meaning with no active or ongoing campaigns anywhere? At least beyond the occasional one-off ("Hey, remember Ghostwalk? Let's play that tonight!"). Purely speculative, of course. Or to rephase: which settings would you guess have no active campaigns? Or at least, almost none?

We can use this Wikipedia page as a starting point, but feel free to discuss third parties. My guess would be to put them into the following categories:

  • A - Significant active campaigning: Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Exandria, Ravnica
  • B - Large cult following: Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Planescape, Ravenloft, Nentir Vale, Mystara
  • C - Small cult following: Blackmoor, Spelljammer, Birthright, Kara-Tur, Al-Qadim, maybe Council of Wyrms
  • D - Little or no active following ("Dead settings"): Pellinore, Jakandor, Ghostwalk, Dragon Fist, Mahasarpa, Rokugan, maybe Council of Wyrms

I think you could shift some of B and C back and forth, depending upon how "large" and "small" are defined.

Notes on each group:

A: Obviously the FR belongs, as it is the default for most story arcs and the overall best-known and covered D&D setting that spans almost every era, especially if we count Ed Greenwood's first published Dragon article in 1979 (issue #30). Eberron was just re-published, Ravnica is still fresh, and Exandria is the new kid on the block and supported by the Critical Role behemoth.

B: Here's where it starts getting tricky. Greyhawk is a no-brainer: for most old-timers (grognards and quasi-grognards) it is "the" classic D&D setting. I'm guessing that Dark Sun, Planescape, and Ravenloft have enough of a following to qualify, probably Dragonlance too. I am less certain about Nentir Vale and Mystara, but think they belong here more than in C, but could probably be be convinced otherwise.

C: Again, tricky - depending upon where you draw the line between "large" and "small." Blackmoor probably has a very small player base, but both as the first D&D setting and because there's probably a small group of dedicated fans out there, it belongs here rather than as "dead." Spelljammer and Birthright weren't as impactful or as popular as Dark Sun and Planescape among the Golden Age of settings that was 2E, but both have a solid group of fans - at least Spelljammer. I'm not sure how many people are actually still playing Birthright, but it is at least enough in the public consciousness of old-timers that I think it earns its place. Similarly with Al-Qadim. Not so sure about Kara-Tur, but it earns inclusion as being part of the expanded Realms of 3E and later. I never owned or played Council of Wyrms and it doesn't seem like anyone talks about playing it, but it does get mentioned.

D: Pellinore? Exactly. But it existed. Jakandor and Dragon Fist were probably the least known and supported of the 2E settings. Rokugan is likely dead as a D&D setting, but I think it has a solid fan base for Legend of the Five Rings. Ghostwalk was a concept piece, the type of setting that people played once and were done; I highly doubt anyone is actively playing it, except as the occasional lark. Finally, Mahasarpa. I'm not sure it even qualifies as it was only published as a web enhancement, but I'm guessing no one is actively playing in it, except for perhaps James Wyatt and his group (no offense if you're reading this, James).

What do you think?

p.s. This is not meant as an attack on any of these settings! Popularity does not necessarily equate with quality. Just look at, well, music.
what on earth is dragon fist?
 

Today the companies notice the value now is in the brands, in the franchises, the IPs. It is easier to use an almost forgotten franchise than starting from zero.

Since the 3rd Ed the main goal by WotC is to sell crunch: magic items, PC races, spells, feats, prestige classes/subclasses...

Birthright may come back because it is the perfect setting for a economic management and strategy videogame.

Even Jackandor, the little ugly duckling of the D&D setting could become very popular thanks to an animated movie with a Disney princess' rip-off (like Moa but with more monsters and some little touchs of Xena).
 

GuyBoy

Hero
I am afraid that I must regretfully disagree. IMO settings that are no longer actively supported and published by the owner are dead. They are worse off than editions no longer supported and published by WotC because there is no OGL/access point for them. What substitutes for these settings on DMsGuild is more placation than anything else, to wit, Greyhawk isn't even included (nor do I see it ever being included). The idea that Greyhawk is in "limbo" or "frozen," for example, is a distortion of reality, a wishful and wistful thought long sipped at because it forestalls the bitter taste of reality.
I disagree to some extent with Rob.
I’m not sure Greyhawk can be termed dead. It was pretty significant as recently as 3e where it was the default setting, and saw action in products like Ruins of Greyhawk. It also carries the cachet of being Gygax’s setting and has a healthy online fan presence in places like Oerth Journal and Canonfire.
Of course, I also accept that I may be wistfully and wishfully sipping at the rich wine of memories of Eclavdra and Tharizdun.

Talking of wine, whilst ships still sail on the Winedark Sea, The Wilderlands of High Fantasy will never expire entirely.
 

I disagree to some extent with Rob.
I’m not sure Greyhawk can be termed dead. It was pretty significant as recently as 3e where it was the default setting, and saw action in products like Ruins of Greyhawk. It also carries the cachet of being Gygax’s setting and has a healthy online fan presence in places like Oerth Journal and Canonfire.
Of course, I also accept that I may be wistfully and wishfully sipping at the rich wine of memories of Eclavdra and Tharizdun.

Talking of wine, whilst ships still sail on the Winedark Sea, The Wilderlands of High Fantasy will never expire entirely.
Not going to argue too long on fan supported or created material vs. published and supported company material, for my position is as one would describe a discontinued model of car. Yes there are those who still tinker with them, form clubs around them, write histories of them, but they are gone except for that. Studebaker anyone? Just because it was in the Muppet Movie didn't change the fact that it was gone. Then there is the discontinuance of 2E in the switch to 3E and the resulting disfranchisement that produced sites and material from these, like Dragonsfoot, They held onto the past system before the OGL hit and OSRIC appeared where it became viable again marketwise in the 3rd party sense. Before then 1E/2E were abandoned and dead. Like I intimated upthread, the editions have a better rebirth chance once killed due to the OGL. No such option, really, with the settings.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Ravenloft and Planescape have effectively been killed off for good, outside of DMsGuild, since 3rd edition and later have clearly proved WoTC has no intention of bringing back the settings as they existed in the late 90s. (Look at Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and Curse of Strahd - they have nothing to do with the Ravenloft setting, and indeed contradict it in several aspects). As for Planescape we might get an adventure set in Sigil with a Gazzetteer. But that will be it because for better or worse WoTC decided Planescape turned a lot of players off the planes with its cant and distinctive style (not to mention the tone of exclusivity a lot of the products had).
While CoS has mostly been a disappointment to me, since I've had to rewrite large portions of it, I'd have to say that VGR is a fine continuation of the line. Is it identical to the 2e and 3x books? No. Does it do its job well? Yes, I think it does, for the most part.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
what on earth is dragon fist?
Dragonfist was a wuxia setting that came out right at the end of 2e. WotC offered it as a free download from their site in the early 2000 but it was soon drowned by the introduction of 3e.


Birthright had a biggish following in 3e but its dropped since then, nonetheless there remains interest in Kingdom-level play which might help bouy up Birthright (although popularity of other rulesets (Pathfinder) might spell its final demise)
 


Greyhawk is more alive than Darksun, Spelljammer (which really isn't a "world" perse) or Dragon Lance as WotC is still releasing explicit Greyhawk content in the form of modules. However, I'd argue that that latter three are dead, and Greyhawk is dying. Each has its own flare that makes for interesting content. The love of Dragon Lance comes primarily from the novels and not the RPGs. If the novels are not selling then it's dead. For Greyhawk, Darksun and Spelljammer the opposite is true. They have fans because people played D&D in those settings. The love of Greyhawk is classic swords and sorcery that the earliest years of D&D were built on, considering the game's creators built and played in that world. There's still a place for each of these but whether or not WotC decides to keep them alive remains to be seen.

I still run Greyhawk and Spelljammer for 5e. I've wanted to play in and/or run a Darksun game but it never gained ground. I loved what they did for Darksun 4e but we never got around to playing it. For a decade I've tried and had three different Greyhawk campaigns with different players. I suspect it's because swords and sorcery the setting is far more open since anyone can picture themselves in a world with a little more magic and a few more monsters, rather than a weird outerspace adventure, a world teeming with dragons, or a dead world ruled by psionics and dracoliches. The niche aspect of these other settings makes them intriguing, but also limits them.

Insofar as Ravinica as a new and alive setting, I'd put it in the same realm as Spelljammer or Darksun - it's a niche world of gaming. I know lots of DMs and groups that use the WotC supplements for Ravinica, but none who play the setting. Mind you, I'm currently playing MtG with the D&D expansion every week and not a single card gamer is interested in the RPG. One of the players who holds tournaments has a homebrew world that borrows quite a bit from Eberron. As he told me, the Guilds for Ravinica work just fine for a card game as they separate the decks on fundamental differences in magic but that doesn't work well for RPGs as the parties and their interests vary greatly. The monolithic nature of the guilds limits the game, as is designed, but it also limits the DMs. Eberron's guilds were designed in an RPG, and their economy is built in the system you play, not a different system and then imported. Ravinca has great ideas you can steal, but no one is using it as a campaign setting. Dragon Lance has similar problems with their Knights and uber NPCs. It's great for novels but not for RPGs.

WotC really has the power to kill or revive these worlds. As we've seen with movies and television, sometimes the worst thing you can do is try to revive something that you thought was dead.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
We just had a levels 1-10 5E official adventure for Ravenloft, and I'm pretty sure the stuff from Plansecape is referred to a fair bit now that the great wheel is back (there have been Sigil references etc, and decent into Avernus had a fair bit of references in there as well).

I'd give my kingdom for an official Birthright... anything really. Heck; just a reference in an official book somewhere would be nice. Faerun, Greyhawk, Eberron and Krynn get all the love.
As someone said upthread, book sales do not equate to settings played. I bought Ravnica and Theros, but I'd never play it.
 

Voadam

Legend
what on earth is dragon fist?

Dragonfist was a wuxia setting that came out right at the end of 2e. WotC offered it as a free download from their site in the early 2000 but it was soon drowned by the introduction of 3e.
Dragonfist was fantastic. It was 2e with a few differences, each base class had slightly higher hit dice and their own automatic martial art that did damage based on the class, and it used ascending AC and attack bonuses instead of THAC0 in a 2e rules system.

It also had some fantastic monsters like hopping vampires which I do not remember seeing in Oriental Adventures or Kara Tur materials.
 

Dragonfist was fantastic. It was 2e with a few differences, each base class had slightly higher hit dice and their own automatic martial art that did damage based on the class, and it used ascending AC and attack bonuses instead of THAC0 in a 2e rules system.

It also had some fantastic monsters like hopping vampires which I do not remember seeing in Oriental Adventures or Kara Tur materials.
Do you mean the Jiangshi?

does anyone have a copy as I kinda want to cut it up for parts?
 

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