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The Witch-King
2009-08-24, 06:16 AM
What makes a good D&D campaign setting?

Do you prefer for a campaign sourcebook to have a very detailed history so you know what's going on in the historical background of that world or do you prefer to have a more basic timeline so the DM can fit whatever he likes into the game history without someone saying "That's not what the book says!"

Do you prefer for a campaign setting to have a place for all the basic races you're used to or would you prefer a world with all new PC races? How important is it to have humans as a PC race--would you run a game in or play in a campaign setting that had NO humans in it at all? If the race you really liked wasn't part of a setting, would you just add them? ("There aren't any dwarves in Fairybottom Saga!" "There are now.")

How much attention do you pay to the restrictions suggested by the campaign sourcebook? For example, I just read over a background someone was hoping to have Peached on the forum and they said "Core classes only." As a DM, would you follow such a rule or would you tell your players they can play whatever they like as long as you consider it balanced? If you like psionics and the campaign sourcebook expressly forbids them, would you import them into the world?

How important is originality? Are you and your players more interested in seeing something new even if its strange ("The players are all Mushroom Men rebelling against the evil Lava Trolls") or is it better to remain close to Tolkienesque fantasy because everyone can pick that up in a heartbeat?

Ultimately--what are you looking for in a campaign sourcebook and what attributes about a campaign world make it successful for setting games there and what makes a campaign world one you can easily pitch to players and have them be enthusiastic about it?

Temet Nosce
2009-08-24, 07:54 AM
What makes a good D&D campaign setting?

Problems.


Do you prefer for a campaign sourcebook to have a very detailed history so you know what's going on in the historical background of that world or do you prefer to have a more basic timeline so the DM can fit whatever he likes into the game history without someone saying "That's not what the book says!"

Depends on how well it's written (and I don't object to DMs altering setting stuff anyways).


Do you prefer for a campaign setting to have a place for all the basic races you're used to or would you prefer a world with all new PC races? How important is it to have humans as a PC race--would you run a game in or play in a campaign setting that had NO humans in it at all? If the race you really liked wasn't part of a setting, would you just add them? ("There aren't any dwarves in Fairybottom Saga!" "There are now.")

Once again, it depends on how well its written. If they manage to work out both fluff and crunch to a minimum of the level of the base races its ok, otherwise no and yes I regularly alter settings to suit myself.


How much attention do you pay to the restrictions suggested by the campaign sourcebook? For example, I just read over a background someone was hoping to have Peached on the forum and they said "Core classes only." As a DM, would you follow such a rule or would you tell your players they can play whatever they like as long as you consider it balanced? If you like psionics and the campaign sourcebook expressly forbids them, would you import them into the world?

Not a snowball's chance in hell. I might pay attention to a racial restriction against playing a certain class (to the extent that I wouldn't make any NPCs of that race using it, although I'd let players with a good reason), but if the author just tried to ban classes in general from the setting I would first off be inclined never to use the setting (since the author has just dropped way way down on my respect scale unless they had a really good IC reason for that) and second would alter it out if the setting were so good I felt it really deserved to be used anyways. As far as Psionics, pretty much the same to a lesser extent. I expect a high caret diamond level of reason for that kind of thing and will be disgusted if it doesn't show. Banning classes is a DM's prerogatives not an authors, unless the setting has some specific background which explains in detail why those classes would completely and utterly ruin it.


How important is originality? Are you and your players more interested in seeing something new even if its strange ("The players are all Mushroom Men rebelling against the evil Lava Trolls") or is it better to remain close to Tolkienesque fantasy because everyone can pick that up in a heartbeat?

Highly, however your listed example is less original and more like what someone might do if they wanted to be original and were failing. Even in Fantasy you have a positively massive range of ways to detail differences in your setting without resorting to that kind of thing, and if you can fit D&D into a non fantasy setting I'll be even more impressed (assuming you do it well anyways).


Ultimately--what are you looking for in a campaign sourcebook and what attributes about a campaign world make it successful for setting games there and what makes a campaign world one you can easily pitch to players and have them be enthusiastic about it?

Defining differences in the setting which can be used to explore themes, new classes and races (new content when well written is always a plus), and ideas on which to hang plot hooks.

Most of all though? Problems, lots and lots and lots of problems. For a D&D campaign to succeed there need to be things for the PCs to do. Sure, even in the most boring setting you can have the PCs conquer the world but it's a lot more interesting if the world is in a post apocalyptic wasteland with dangerous and unknowable ancient magic floating around while a byzantine empire tries summon creatures from beyond existence to gain supremacy over their neighbors who happen to be constructs which consume the flesh of biological beings you know?

J.Gellert
2009-08-24, 07:55 AM
Do you prefer for a campaign sourcebook to have a very detailed history so you know what's going on in the historical background of that world or do you prefer to have a more basic timeline so the DM can fit whatever he likes into the game history without someone saying "That's not what the book says!"


I prefer a basic timeline that doesn't restrict me.


Do you prefer for a campaign setting to have a place for all the basic races you're used to or would you prefer a world with all new PC races? How important is it to have humans as a PC race--would you run a game in or play in a campaign setting that had NO humans in it at all? If the race you really liked wasn't part of a setting, would you just add them? ("There aren't any dwarves in Fairybottom Saga!" "There are now.")

All new races is great. Old races is great too, as long as it doesn't feel artificial ("Oh, they created that country because they just HAD to put halflings somewhere, didn't they?").


How much attention do you pay to the restrictions suggested by the campaign sourcebook? For example, I just read over a background someone was hoping to have Peached on the forum and they said "Core classes only." As a DM, would you follow such a rule or would you tell your players they can play whatever they like as long as you consider it balanced? If you like psionics and the campaign sourcebook expressly forbids them, would you import them into the world?

I don't care at all about restrictions. But I am a homebrew kind of person anyway.


How important is originality? Are you and your players more interested in seeing something new even if its strange ("The players are all Mushroom Men rebelling against the evil Lava Trolls") or is it better to remain close to Tolkienesque fantasy because everyone can pick that up in a heartbeat?

Originality is too general... Specifically? I don't mind ye olde fantasy (orcs, trolls, elves) at all. I love it. And I also love seeing new things (China Mieville comes to mind). What I hate is going overboard with trying to be original and ending up with nonsense (China Mieville - again). "Originality" can be good or bad so I can't say if I love it or hate it.


Ultimately--what are you looking for in a campaign sourcebook and what attributes about a campaign world make it successful for setting games there and what makes a campaign world one you can easily pitch to players and have them be enthusiastic about it?

Making it about a unique, distinct idea, and "pulling it off" successfully (if you tell me "It's a world entirely covered in water!" I'll say "Meh.", but maybe you can make it cool regardless?) Which gets harder as more and more worlds are created and the good ideas get taken :smalltongue:

ColonelFuster
2009-08-24, 02:03 PM
1.What makes a good D&D campaign setting?

Age-old stories being disguised as something original.

2. Do you prefer for a campaign sourcebook to have a very detailed history so you know what's going on in the historical background of that world- or do you prefer to have a more basic timeline so the DM can fit whatever he likes into the game history without someone saying "That's not what the book says!"?

DMs should never let a player tell them that. It says so right in the DMG. If the players are interested by history, that's fine; but they should consult the DM, not the books. If your campaign setting paints broad strokes with their history, that's peachy ("The Last War").

3. Do you prefer for a campaign setting to have a place for all the basic races you're used to or would you prefer a world with all new PC races?

I prefer a good mix. I've created races for my players, and they were well-recieved, even played in some instances. But All new races might make a player with a favorite role confused- or worse, make them want to play monsters.

4. How important is it to have humans as a PC race--would you run a game in or play in a campaign setting that had NO humans in it at all?

"No Humans" is fine as long as demi-humans (dwarves, elves, halfling, orcs) are still around; the players perspective will just shift into "All of these are human, just in different ways" mode.

5. If the race you really liked wasn't part of a setting, would you just add them? ("There aren't any dwarves in Fairybottom Saga!" "There are now.")

I tend to respect campaign restrictions on races. Races are for the players, and if they can't deal with trying something new, they don't deserve to be playing a thinking game! On the flip side, if a DM can't seperate himself from his favorite races of NPCs, and has to import them, that shows inflexibility; in the above example, if dwarves did not have a place in Fairybottom, but the DM needed industrious and loyal workers for a plot, he could say that there was a group of good Formians that had a colony in the Dark Mountain. Not only does a race of giant insects fit into a fey-oriented setting, but it adds a greater element of fantasy to something stale like "dwarves" (which would probably be the reason for the authors restricting them in the first place.)

6. How much attention do you pay to the restrictions suggested by the campaign sourcebook?

Not a great deal. I tend to stick to my own judgements.

7. For example, I just read over a background someone was hoping to have Peached on the forum and they said "Core classes only." As a DM, would you follow such a rule or would you tell your players they can play whatever they like as long as you consider it balanced?

All of the classes outside of core are meant to be in any setting, with a few exceptions (like the orient-flavored ones). As a DM, it's your job to decide what's up. Not the writer's. (In my campaign setting, the Gods are beyond an impassable barrier and can't affect the planes at all. So, a player asked, can there be favored souls? Sure, I says. It points to the "one-way mirror" concept that I like to give to the divinity.)

8. If you like psionics and the campaign sourcebook expressly forbids them, would you import them into the world?

This question does not apply to me, as I think psionics are a problem to be overcome. However, in my campaign setting, there are mysterious islands that hold people with mysterious powers... oooooo...! And if a character really wanted to learn the fine art of mind-rape, they could always go study under an illithid. Just, good luck surviving.

9. How important is originality?

Only as important as your players think it is.

10. Are you and your players more interested in seeing something new even if its strange ("The players are all Mushroom Men rebelling against the evil Lava Trolls") or is it better to remain close to Tolkienesque fantasy because everyone can pick that up in a heartbeat?

Everything in D&D is based on that Tolkien-esque fantasy. Therefore, it's better to stick to that, unless you're talking about a total revamp.
If the players are all mushroom men, they will ALL have certain weaknesses and strengths that are precisley the same, unless there were different races (the battle-hardened and adaptable ****akians; the Magically-inclined, long-lived Pufferlies; The sneaky but ultimately lovable Buttonas; the insane outcast race of Psychadelicans who work for the trolls; and the technologically advanced, hidden, not-worried Rhizoidres?). If their enemies were always the Fire-themed Lava Trolls, there would be certain abilities (Giant Bane, Favored Enemy [Giant], the Water domain's ability to turn fire creatures) that would be overpowered. If you were to revamp the system so that all of them had their own strengths and weaknesses versus fire, then that would be fine for a Lava Troll only based campaign (Smite Fire, Evade fire, Fire Sense, etc....).

11. Ultimately--what are you looking for in a campaign sourcebook and what attributes about a campaign world make it successful for setting games there and what makes a campaign world one you can easily pitch to players and have them be enthusiastic about it?

Well, if no one else says it, cool pictures are a must. Nothing can inspire a beginning player like a good picture. Nothing can make a veteran go, "Oh, wow, I want to try THAT" like a good picture. This is one reason Eberron was so successful, in my opinion. Seeing the catgirls, robots, psions, and aliens fighting and living together is fascinating.

Also, a campaign setting needs internal conflict and external conflict. This may seem simple, but some can't pull it off. Conflict among the core races (whether it's dwarf/elf/human machinations or a hidden battle of politicians and ninjas between the traitor Psychadelicans and the Buttonas) should be central to political campaigns, helping players develop their characters, and serve to make your world believable. External conflict from other planes, countries, or monstrous races (The Dal Quor come to re-conquer Eberron; The once-good formians of the dark mountain try to conquer all of Fairybottom, and the Pufferlies are now at risk from a threat even greater than Lava Trolls) coming in as your main plot devices to get your players leveled up, and make the world exciting.

The ability to play in it easily is a must for hack-and-slashers. If you need to know three different greeting to try before it's okay to kill a gnoll, because the sourcebook says that they're good as often as evil, that's going to leave a bad taste in the mouth of people who are used to shooting first and asking questions later.
On the flip side, for people like me who love a good story, there needs to be gray area for us to muck around in. If the Lava Trolls themselves are the mind-wiped servants of a powerful force beneath the crust and mantle of Fairybottom, then what are we really accomplishing throwing off this bunch of opressors? If we become the strongest race, will our sporelings just become the next batch of evil slaves? It doesn't cut off all the action, because you don't realize it until you defeat the BBEG; but once it's out in the open, it's delicious for roleplayers.
On the other flip side, people who like to be grand powerful beings should have the right. In Eberron, you can become a political giant by doing some favors and getting a big dragonmark. In forgotten realms, you can become epic level and might even ascend to godhood. In my setting, there are plenty of churches looking for their next messiah. If people who have a favorite role or a lust for power are stuck as rebels, they better be able to become the leader of the rebels at one point or another.

ULTIMATELY, THE CAMPAIGN SETTING DOSEN'T MATTER.
That's right. I said it. The DM and the players working together to make the story exciting is what make players enthusiastic about playing. Nothing more, nothing less. You could be BSing your way through every aspect of the campaign setting, but if your players accepted it and had fun with it, it wouldn't matter. If you're using a pre-published campaign setting, there's still no way to know what direction the adventure will take you, hell, in D&D, it can even tale you to other planes of existence or other planets!

Have fun with your setting and with your players, and you'll be just fine. Throw in some awesome pictures, some internal and external conflict, and some opportunities for players to play what they like to play, and you're golden (Whether you're using Fairybottom or Forgotten Realms):smallbiggrin:

Thatguyoverther
2009-08-24, 02:44 PM
It might seem weird, I always felt that the most important aspect was a degree of realism.

Not as far as magic goes but as far as people and their interactions with the environment. I prefer low magic settings but even then the the existence of magic has a significant impact on society and social interaction. In a high magic campaign the effects of earth shattering magic should be taken into consideration. Like how does knowing that there is a definite afterlife affect people? What are the social implications of resurrection, undeath and eternal life?

I think it's also important to make the characters act realistically. I think to many DMs and players expect every enemy to fight to the death. In reality when things start going bad for the enemy their probably going to run, surrender, and do anything necessary to preserve their life.

I also think that creativity is important in a campaign setting. I prefer home brew world to pre-generated ones. If it is a pre-generated setting, I like too add a major twist. Adding zombie apocalypse to a setting is always a good choice.

The Witch-King
2009-08-24, 09:14 PM
I think it's also important to make the characters act realistically. I think to many DMs and players expect every enemy to fight to the death. In reality when things start going bad for the enemy their probably going to run, surrender, and do anything necessary to preserve their life.

My dad once said to me, "What's that last guy to fight Batman thinking? Like the other eight guys didn't get the job done but maybe they wore him down?"



ULTIMATELY, THE CAMPAIGN SETTING DOSEN'T MATTER.
That's right. I said it. The DM and the players working together to make the story exciting is what make players enthusiastic about playing. Nothing more, nothing less. You could be BSing your way through every aspect of the campaign setting, but if your players accepted it and had fun with it, it wouldn't matter. If you're using a pre-published campaign setting, there's still no way to know what direction the adventure will take you, hell, in D&D, it can even tale you to other planes of existence or other planets!

Have fun with your setting and with your players, and you'll be just fine. Throw in some awesome pictures, some internal and external conflict, and some opportunities for players to play what they like to play, and you're golden (Whether you're using Fairybottom or Forgotten Realms):smallbiggrin:

Yep, yep. Thanks for that. I think you're right. I guess in the end, a campaign setting is only good to the point it encourages that.

Hmmm... A Fairybottom RPG? :)

"Heroes Wanted--Six Inches Tall..."

Meek
2009-08-25, 10:35 AM
I think the more usable campaign settings to me would be ones with a history and territorial layout that encourages you to insert your own ideas and be creative, rather than one with a thick, pre-defined history you must learn and with metaplot developments and NPCs constantly referenced in the text.

Yora
2009-08-25, 10:58 AM
I'd say the most important thing would be, that the world is not made in a way that there's always an NPC who could do everything the PCs do, but better and quicker, or who could undo everything they archieved at any time.
There's no point in doing something if you only do it because some more powerful people like to watch your struggle.

And I agree that internal consistency follows immediately after that.