D&D4e: 3 [campaign settings] books and out


The Gamer Dome reports from the GAMA Trade Show: "Forgotten Realms 4e is three books, period, done, end of line: Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, Player's Guide to FR, and DM's Guide to FR. All settings will be done like that, one per year, until they run out of settings. They mentioned Greyhawk, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and Spelljammer as settings on their list!"

The Gamer Dome reports from the GAMA Trade Show: "Forgotten Realms 4e is three books, period, done, end of line: Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, Player's Guide to FR, and DM's Guide to FR. All settings will be done like that, one per year, until they run out of settings. They mentioned Greyhawk, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and Spelljammer as settings on their list!"

The implication suggests:

  • New material will be subscription-only articles in Dungeon/Dragon.
  • It reinforces "the GM's world" - he doesn't need every sourcebook.
  • Other paper products will be settings-less.
  • The three books would, theoretically, be "best of breed".

Alternatively, one could think that this means that Wizards will license settings-specific books to third parties - as they've done with Dragonlance. Discussion continues on both Enworld and Gleemax. And, finally, on a random side note: Sigil is in the DMG! (Planescape whore is me.)

Huh. I've always loved Dark Sun, and Eberron is neat is its own way, but I can't say I'm a huge fan of any of the other D&D settings. Planescape was interesting, but a little too "melting pot of planar freakshows" for my tastes. Spelljammer was pretty gross.

Yay for leaving things undefined!

While I've never played a campaign in it, I found SpellJammer exciting and intriguing.

Why did you think it gross?

I'm trying to come to an opinion about this announcement, assuming it will pan out. I'm not sure if I approve or disapprove of this method.
On the one hand, it should lessen the glut of books and material which is "canon" to any given campaign. On the other hand, will generic sourcebooks be enough to explore and develop unique campaign worlds?

If Dragon and Dungeon are going to be the source for new material, it moves the publishing model away from "paper-backed books that cost $30 each and may suck" to "a monthly subscription that costs as much as $14.95 or as low as $9.95 and may suck too", with no paper-equivalent.

I'm conflicted about it too, really. I had stopped picking up FR/Eberron books recently due to the 4E announcement. But, with the lack of sourcebooks (which I read as enjoyably as a I read any novel), it'll make me want to scour around to complete my 3E sets. But, if new material does appear in DDI/Dungeon/Dragon (electronic only), I'm not sure I'll actually get time to /read/ it - nowadays, when I'm at the computer, I'm usually doing something besides just reading passively.

What he said.

I actually like it. I hate having 80 billion books for one world. "This particular cobblestone of Waterdeep was made by Miller Johnson, a well known rock-man (lol) who was HAUNTED!" (always insert random plot hook) Besides, if you really want the depth, you can just check out old books for ideas. Though, this could be taken as a way of WotC trying to get their 3e books sold (there won't be a 4e Waterdeep! must get the 3e one!). But I like it. Also, they'll be able to cover more settings, getting out more interesting worlds instead of being devoted to Forgotten Realms like some...(insert interesting monogamous relationship here). I'm really excited for Dark Sun - I missed that. And Oriental Adventures/Rokugan. Oooh, I'm almost drooling thinking about it. So I like it. I got really, really sick of Eberron and Forgotten Realms for a while there (though I hate FR anyway).

Dark Sun is back!

Well, I'm not a big fan of anthropomorphic animal alien species in sci-fi, and, assuming I remember it correctly, Spelljammer had everything from spaceships powered by giant hamsters running in wheels to talking hippos.

The whole thing just had a little too much of the whole "Star Trek with fantasy races and D&D rules," and not enough stuff to warrent its own setting. I dunno, I just don't like using the D&D system for anything other than heroic fantasy.


Rokugan (the world of Oriental Adventures) was from Legend of the Five Rings, which is still being published (not under d20). It has five or six books to it now. More at http://www.l5r.com/. I use it for source material, but don't much care for the rules.

I have to say that I agree with Lorthyne's sentiment here. I've never really looked at SJ, but if it's going to be interesting, it needs to have its own flavor, something that makes it different from Star Trek meets LOTR or whatever.

That's something about some D&D settings that just makes them so lame. The setting needs to have a special feel to it. I mean, what would Lost be if the island was just a normal island. Lame. What would Firefly be without the Alliance and Reavers? Non-existent. What would BSG be without Cylons and the cool polytheistic religion? Super lame. I get the "I wanna play elves in space!" sentiment, but the setting needs to be unique in it's own right or it's not worth checking out. That's what makes settings like Dark Sun and Eberron so cool.

However, I'm okay with D&D being used for other than heroic fantasy. But it needs to have a very good reason for it - cause otherwise I'll just use simpler systems like the Serenity rping game if I want to check out the final frontier.

Yeah, I know. Rokugan's probably the only setting that I like having many books for. I plan on keeping the huge collection of Rokugan books I have - that is one of the coolest settings.

I loved Dark Sun but I wonder how it will work in 4th Edition. Dark Sun as designed really took advantage of the flaws and foibles of 2nd Edition.

Aye. being that the whole "power source" thing is apparently a big deal now, I wonder if they'll just translate the "arcane" source so that it reads "You defile the land with your magic, you jerk. You'd better hope the hippies (i.e., everybody except the sorcerer-kings) don't catch up with you."


If they don't come up with a good way to do it, we'll fix it with our gamegrene genius! Bring in the revolution!

You know, Gamegrene opened up the same day as 3E. I wish I could get a software upgrade in time to do the same for 4E, but I just a new baby girl (my second), so that's keeping me pretty busy. The site's in dire need of fresh code and paint though. /me sighs.

I do agree that SJ could use some more "unifying flavor" giving the setting a more coherent feel, but I think there are quite a few brilliant ideas in it - the tremendous power of the Royal Elven Fleet, the mysterious creators of the helms, the machinations of the Illithids and the Neogi slavers, coupled with derelict ships, turtle-mounted planets and volatile atmosphere (literally) have very appealing imagery for me.

Well, then, zip, congrats! Cuz in a couple years you can have at it old style! lol Yeah, I'll have to see what they've done with it - all I've been able to find is some tossed off 3rd ed stuff that feels like those derelicts ships you're talking about. So it'll be interesting to see what they do with it.

Jeez what's wrong with you! Gaming is OBVIOUSLY far more important than parenting! lol Well, congratulations on your second child, and don't worry about it. I like the green for now...

I've actually always liked the elegant simplicity of the various shades of green, but maybe I'm just lacking in taste.


Gamegrene without the green would be like...like a D&D player's handbook without Gnomes... ;-)

Heh, heh. Well, the greens would be staying, but I'm thinking more of "make it look like disobey.com, only green and with different trimmings". Largely, the reason gamegrene.com has lagged so far behind my other sites (code/tech wise) is because it was so different than all the others. Lots of steps to get it there though. (But, yeah, moving to a disobey.com-like design would mean the end of banner ads, etc.).

What tossed 3rd ed stuff are you referring to?
Are you talking about that Dragon article called Pirate Moon or something like that?
In any case, I'm referring to the 2nd Ed. material.

Yeah, I'm talking about the random Dragon stuff that came out a while ago you can only find bits and pieces of now. I haven't really looked at 2nd ed. SJ, mainly because I found other settings so much more intriguing. Again, there's some interesting ideas, but I want to know why elves are in space, not just that they are. It's got potential, but it could easily get bogged down by the combining of two different styles and worlds that just aren't as compatible, unless made into one world by the creators. Good luck there.

I totally agree with the motivational poster Lorthyne linked up here. I'd say SJ is lacking some cohesive flavor similarly to Star Trek (and a bit like Forgotten Realms, come to think of it).

Bah, Settings are for people with no imagination.

....or no time.

Hardly. Imagination takes many different forms. Personally, I use settings (and even *gasp!* pre-made adventures) because I find that I am much better at taking someone else's idea and turning it into something amazing than making that amazing something myself. I think it's focus. Taking a pre-made anything focuses me on the basic themes of the work and allows me to develop them and interweave them with ideas and themes of my own. When I try to develop something entirely new of my own it goes crazy and gets way out of hand. Settings provide a ground to start at. I consider myself a very imaginative person, but I prefer to use pre-mades because it keeps my time productive. Don't get me wrong, the pre-mades never end up as they started (they're usually incredibly different), but I would never have had that cool idea if I hadn't started with the premades. I don't do well with blank slates - my best ideas and works come when I'm inspired by something I read, saw on television, etc.

So don't bash pre-mades; they're great tools when used correctly. And I never would've been able to creat a whole setting like Rokugan in OA; I just don't know enough about Asian culture.

Creativity is not about coming up with new ideas. If it was, we could say that creativity and imagination have been dead for millennia. It's been argued that only 11 or so distinctly different stories actually exist, and that everything else is simply a variation on these common tropes and themes.

Creativity is all about theft. Steal from enough different sources, and you can dress anything up to look completely new. I challenge you to name one piece of fiction from the last century or two that doesn't in some fashion draw on another preexisting work. Even radically new ideas draw upon the culture and storytelling history of those who have gone before, such as those that Tolkien presented in Lord of the Rings, being inspired heavily by English and Europoean folklore. The challenge is not to come up with entirely new elements, but to combine old elements in interesting ways.

It's like Tzuriel said, you've just gotta choose your own starting point. For some folks, that starting point may be the history of the real world we live in, for others it could be Tolkien, and still others all published works with the words "Forgotten" and "Realms" on their covers. The claim that reinventing the wheel is the only way to come up with new ideas is simply ridiculous. To overextend the metaphor, why not instead push the wheel further and see what bumps come along the way, or adapt the wheel so that it fits your particular vehicle?

I think the idea of 3 books for each setting is stellar...what would be better would be just one book for each setting. Dragonlance recently did that well for 3.0 (I know I know...there are other books; but you don't need them. You could run a Dragonlance campaign with just the main book); likewise for Wheel Of Time.

My own setting is really just a bunch of stuff I stole from other people and sources then twisted to suit my own ends...and really, I brag all the time about how creative it is. So do my players. So who's creative? Not me...that's for sure.

I'm just glad my player's don't buy RPG books or they'd see what a plagiar, er I mean *miner* I really am.

Then again...they wouldn't likely care one way or the other.

I'm the same way, Scott. I'll just pick bits and pieces out of tons of source books and television shows and novels and movies until I have what I want. Ultimately, it ends up as something new, but at its fundamentals its just an amalgam of all this other stuff. I've thrown things at my players that have had their mouths open, but I can claim almost nothing as original - just elements smashed into what I like to consider my creation.

I think the way they're designing it is so it can be run with just one book - the core book. But then they have the DM and player's guides to buff it up and provide additional material. Personally, I think this is the best way to market campaign settings. It allows some depth and development (without making the core book 1000+ pages), makes sure what you're buying is worth what you're paying for, but keeps its focus and doesn't wander all over the place.

Looks like we only have 5 or so more years of 4th edition, what garbage.

good one.

I'm just really creative, I even feel guilty using the deities in the PHB.

I'm not bashing pre-mades, it's settings I'm bashing, pre-mades are fine.

And what the heck kind of culture would have a deity named Wee Jas in the same pantheonon as one named Saint Cuthbert?

Settings are basically huge pre-mades. They follow the same purpose - they get a lot of work done for you. Bashing settings as something for those with no imagination is the same as bashing premades like so. They kinda translate over.

That really has nothing to do with how creative you are. Some of the most creative people in the world decide to tell stories in the "pre-made setting" of this very world. Making worlds without end hardly makes you creative.

I think this comes down to a different sense of what creative means. To me, and I think most can agree with me, creativity doesn't mean coming up with something wholly new and creative. Creative means being able to look at things from a new perspective, shedding new light on an old subject. In this way, what's important is not the story or the setting it's placed in, but what the story is about, the themes it covers. That's why classics are always possible, because there's an infinite number of ways to look at something. That's why authors like J.R.R. Tolkein, whose only original creation (and that's even debatable) is the hobbit, are known for being incredibly creative because they looked at it in a new way. In this case, Tolkein looked at mythology and heroism in a new way, or at least a way that hadn't been thought of for a long time. Anybody can make a bunch of worlds (think Star Wars, with a desert planet, a jungle planet, etc.) but that hardly proves creativity. In fact, it really does the opposite. I can take a setting and still be very creative with it, because I use that setting to tell what is my own, that being my story. I created that story. There's plenty of creativity there. Ultimately, a setting is only a backdrop, a way of translating and making possible the events in your story, so you can say something, even something like, "Beating dragons is fun!" It has little other purpose, except when it serves as a character itself (like Sigil in Planescape). Even then, though, it's purpose is to facilitate your story. That's what important. I don't care how many neat worlds you can make, if you can't make a good story, it doesn't matter. You're missing the point.

As for the D&D gods, they are ridiculous, but they really aren't designed to be used; they're there to be examples of what you could do. The creative thing to do here would be to make up reasons why one god has a name like St. Cuthbert, and another like Wee Jas, and then tie it into your story.

I was playing Planescape: Torment last night (awesome game) and I wondered if they're gonna bring back the Planescape setting. Thoughts? News?

Sigil is in the DMG, I've heard, but I've not heard anything specific about Planescape as a setting. Really, the core design of Planescape 2E ("experience the planar wheel!") is *entirely broken* in 4E since they've redone the entire cosmology. The Manual of the Planes has been announced for late 2008, though, and we may see more flavor in there.

True, but you can apply pre-mades to your own personal campaign world,
your not forced to obey every single custom and facet of the setting.

You don't have to follow every single element of a published campaign setting, either. If you don't like something, throw it out, and if you feel the setting's missing something, add some of your own flavor in. It's not like the WotC secret police are going to come to your house and break your kneecaps if you diverge from established canon.

That's true. I hadn't even thought of it. Planescape was some really good stuff, though it did tend to get ridiculous at some points. They'll probably devise an alternate, 4e styled setting along the same lines.

I think that most of what makes Sigil unique and flavorful can stay as-is.
The philosophies, sects and strange creatures can all exist without there being a "great wheel".

The best GM I know uses Eberron. What you get is more or less "by the book" Eberron, but it is definitely *his* spin on the setting.

He spends many hours every week building big pieces of scenery and sculpting (!) his own minis. He also pre-writes letters and bits of evidence. This is all in addition to reading every page of every rulebook and scrutinizing the WotC forums for the latest word on "grey area" rulings.

Some people would say, "bah - I don't need those things. I have imagination!" Well...sure. We all do. We don't *need* his marvelous set-pieces.

But playing with them sure is fun, and fun is why I play a game.

Know what I mean?

Good job, Cocytus, you just summed up what I've been trying to say here. I just went at it in the wrong direction. Hats off to you.