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

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 think Greyhawk is also appealing because it has an air of 'this is the original D&D'. There's a perception sometimes that the earliest form of a tale is the most 'authentic', and you can interact with Otto, Tenser, and Bigby from the spell list as actual people. The historical aspect is interesting, and you often realize how unseriously the game's creators took it--the cleric class was invented to defeat a vampire called Sir Fang!
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.
I kind of felt like Dark Sun and Spelljammer were more fun for book-reading than gaming--the inventiveness of the world is really interesting but not everyone wants to game in it. (No offense to those that do--I especially love the silliness of Spelljammer's attempts to mix sci-fi tropes into fantasy.)
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.
It's a good point about certain settings being made for some game types and not others. I mean, the LOTR party is pretty unbalanced...a whole cast of fighters, a few thieves, and one wizard...but of course that's not Tolkien's point. The world only allows for five or so wizards because the wizards are really angels, which makes magic rarer and 'magical', but is lousy 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.
<cue Pet Sematary>...sometimes, dead is better.

log in or register to remove this ad


Do you mean the Jiangshi?

Yep, although they were just called hopping vampires in Dragonfist.

"Hopping vampires are the most fearsome undead in Tianguo. When a body is buried improperly or in an inauspicious location, the po soul returns to the body and animates it; however, the hun soul has already moved on to Heaven. The po soul, already suffering after death, reverts to animalistic behavior and hungers to kill mortals. Without the heavenly spark of the hun soul, the body is not truly alive, so it retains the rigidity of death. The result is a hopping vampire. This spectacle of these creatures hopping around looking for victims is vaguely ridiculous; they are deadly opponents, however, and not to be underestimated.
The return from death gives the hopping vampires a greenish tint to their skin, fangs in their mouths, and razor-sharp fingernails that are virtual claws. They are usually dressed in the decaying remnants of funerary wear. In combat they use both claws and bite, each inflicting 1d8 of damage."

OA/Kara Tur had more Japanese origin monsters and the Chinese jiangshi was not in the original 1e OA or the 2e Kara Tur monstrous compendium appendix.


Spelljammer just needs a book with the basics (races, subclasses, equipment, and ship stuff) and lots of fluffy lore.. Then set dmsguild loose upon it. In no time, we’ll have converted adventures and a plethora of new 5e material.

Dead settings? Every setting that Hasbro thinks cannot turn a decent profit. Printing a setting guide that is going to only sell 10k or 20k copies, or whatever would be the break even point for sales and profits, is never going to be done by WotC. It would have to be expected to do SCAG-level or Eberron-level sales, whatever those are, for a setting to get an update. The whole "revisit a setting and revive 2 settings" will likely be all that will get that treatment, maybe one more after those. Also, look at Eberron. They were so unsure it would get the sales they wanted that they did the PDF setting book first, and even publicly said that how well that sold would determine if the setting got an expanded, fuller physical book.


Dead settings? Every setting that Hasbro thinks cannot turn a decent profit. Printing a setting guide that is going to only sell 10k or 20k copies, or whatever would be the break even point for sales and profits, is never going to be done by WotC.
As an old bastard here is where I see the problem with the current business model. If we still lived in the days of print magazines these would still be supported. It would only be the occasional article or the occasional issue dedicated to the setting but support would be there. I weep for the poor youth of the today and all they miss by not embracing the old ways.

I kid, kind of......

I have mentionated several times Hasbro's strategy about D&D is this as multimedia franchise, not only TTRPG, but also other type of products. Lots of ideas from the rest of Hasbro's IPs could be added to Spelljammer but I guess this is not the priority now because now the priority is Star Wars while there is partnership.

Northern Phoenix

An interesting discussion is definitely Planescape and Spelljammer. I've personally always envisioned these as "meta settings" more than settings of their own (i.e to me "Planescape" is just the outer planes of Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, or whatever), and that seems to be the direction wotc is going with them too, at the moment. I think 5e will see products for both, but they will not be framed as their own self-contained settings. Does this make them, if not dead, perhaps "reincarnated", in the DnD sense?

I would rather the term "transitional setting" for Ravenloft, Planescape and Spelljammer.

I think there is a lot of possibilities for the return of Planescape. One of them is the videogame.

Spelljammer is in the list of candidates for a possible return, but now it is now the priority. Now I am thinking about a mash-up version of Spelljammer crossoving with other famous franchises, Power Rangers, Transformers, Overwatch, Star Wars(!!!?). Maybe the space explorers discover strange and misterious new spheres imitating a D&D version of franchises by other companies.

An Advertisement