View Full Version : Campaign Settings

2012-01-20, 08:31 PM
So I am writing up my very own campaign setting. As of right now I do not plan on having it published, but I guess I'll see where my life goes. But anyway my question is how do I avoid making my setting trite? Because even if I am just using it for my own private use I do not want my setting to be seen as trite by myself or my players. Or do you guys not see this as an issue at all? My feeling is that it would take away from the setting if it very trite.

2012-01-20, 10:26 PM
A campaign generally needs one standout feature in order not to feel trite. It can be a new mechanic, a style of play, or some really cool thing that is present in the setting, but it needs to be unique and a major focus of the setting.

For Eberron, it's the dragonmarked houses (or the draconic prophecy, or the lighning rail or...Eberron has a lot, actually.)

For Dark Sun, it's the sheer lethality and nihilism of the setting.

For Forgotten Realms, it's...I don't know, the Chosen? Mythals? I'm not that familiar with FR.

For Iron Kingdoms (if you've heard of it), it's steam-powered magic.

The point is, you need at least one major, novel concept in the setting. It doesn't need to be something that nobody's done before, but you need to put your own unique spin on it. My homebrew setting is basically Iron Kingdoms (steam-powered magic) combined with Eberron (the Last War and the urbanization of the setting) and the Ancient Astronaut hypothesis.

Mark Hall
2012-01-20, 10:50 PM
I think FR and Greyhawk both suffer, both because they were designed to be generic settings (i.e. not cliche, archetypes), but also because they were USED as generic, nigh-default, settings for so long. A lot of them is in the DNA of D&D.

However, it comes down to the kind of game you want to run. Build your setting so that kind of play is forefront, and so the details of the setting support it. Birthright was about Kingship... the mythology of the world supported a divine kingship, and the ancillary mechanics supported that.

2012-01-21, 12:16 AM
Whenever you make something, ask yourself "Would I want to play this?"

If so, you're on the right track.

If your answer is no, or you're not really sure, continue to refine.

Also, borrowing from other sources is fine, as long as you build on them. Having a group of do-good wandering duelist spellcasters who are basically the Jedi is boring . Having a group of wandering do-good duelist spellcasters who power their spells by sucking the life force from the people around them--well, it depends on how you develop that idea, but it's much more interesting (since now you've got an interesting conflict between the need to fight evil and the need to not suck life force out of people.)

2012-01-21, 03:45 AM
An easy and effective way to make a setting different is to break one or two of the key assumptions of D&D. You should have other things to make it unique and interesting, but this will ensure it's different from a default/generic setting.

D&D is post-apocalyptic and filled with the ruins of fallen empires - maybe your setting takes place in a tribal setting, or as those empires are beginning or flourishing.

Human and elves are normally dominant cultures in D&D - in your setting, they might be marginal or even nonexistent.

D&D has broad and active pantheons of deities - you could have only one or two gods, or none at all.

And so on. Just another thing to think about.

2012-01-21, 08:03 AM
That's what me made this thread for: Playgrounders Guide to Worldbuilding (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=227507).

2012-01-21, 08:41 AM
I agree with Wiwaxia and kieza - the novelty of a setting is where it deviates from the cliche, but there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Just take the sort of setting you like (be it Tolkeinesque, western or whatever else takes your fancy) and throw in those little ideas you've always wanted to see in a game, bringing them to the forefront.

My other tip takes slightly more effort, but probably has the better payoff. Take time thinking about the little details. Where do people get their food from? If magic exists, is it hoarded by the magicians, or is magic used to help with everything from bringing in the harvest to modifying the weather. What are the main sources of employment? Are all races equal, or are some more equal than others? They may sound like petty details, but it's stuff like this that really makes a setting come alive, and, coincidentally, really helps for coming up with adventures (and means you never flounder when a party member asks an NPC something you haven't though about).

2012-01-23, 09:35 AM
Along the lines of "little details" that Gunpowder mentioned, building interesting locales and rulers add some value as well. In my own Campaign Setting, there's a citystate where I took an idea from the writer Issac Asimov: the local wizards of this citystate created what essentially are self-aware machines to rule the city. Thus the government is uncorruptable and completely fair.

At least, in theory. :smallsmile:

This opened up great adventure ideas and added a unique place that sets the campaign setting apart from others. Take inspiration from your favorite writers and see what kind of unique rulers and cities you can add which would set yours apart from the norm.