5 Campaign Worlds for Your Next D&D Game
I know top [INSERT NUMBER HERE] lists have saturated the internet, but let’s face it – we love them. It’s fun to read a few ideas that can give your mind advice or inspiration in bite-sized chunks. This is especially true when it comes to tabletop RPGs!
What would be more appropriate for this blog than a list of five campaign world ideas for D&D? Below are short blurbs on each world to get your brain juices flowing and a few adventure ideas (because a world ain’t worth playing in if it doesn’t have adventure).
1. Avorta, World of Diamonds
Diamonds (an important component in any spell that returns a creature to life) are an adventurer’s best friend in any D&D world. Avorta was once rich with them. Thanks to this fruitful crop many noble families were rich, powerful, and bored. The boredom ended when the nobles became thrill-seekers unafraid of death, thanks to the seemingly endless supplies of diamonds. They engaged in all sorts of reckless activity: hunting powerful creatures both good and evil and sometimes dying just to see what falling 10,000 feet or being completely immolated felt like. The demand for diamonds increased and over-mining began.
The first way to restrict the consumption of diamonds: cut off the poor class, who are mostly the miners themselves. It is illegal for any person who wasn’t of noble blood to own a diamond. Peasants are outlawed from being bards, clerics, druids, paladins, and from pursuing any other path that could allow them to learn to cast spells that rejuvenate.
These new laws barely delayed the inevitable. Some mines have already dried up and those that are left are waning. The noble families are now at war with each other over these remaining mines, sending peasants into battles to fight for them, all the while stockpiling diamonds as the threat of death of death increases.
- The characters work as mercenaries to the highest bidding noble family. They capture enemy diamond mines, become deep cover spies, and keep the peasants in line.
- The characters are rich nobles who seek thrills and fight their own battles in the war.
- The party works is part of an organization lead by druids that wants to end all mining in Avorta as it pillages the earth. They raid and shutdown mines, convince peasants they can get jobs in other industries, and try to get the nobles to see the impact of their actions.
- The party is a group of peasant rebels, who go against the noble class to take the diamond mines for the people of Avorta. They rally other peasants, topple noble regimes, and make alliances with monsters who are tired of being hunted for sport.
2. Fidala, the Disappearing Land
Fidala is a flat world and a black abyss has begun eating away at its edges. The darkness moves in from all sides of the map. Each morning it is a bit closer to swallowing up the world. No one is sure why this is happening, but creatures and objects that enter the abyss are never seen or heard from again.
The panic surrounding the darkness swallowing the world is great. People on the outskirts of the world flee toward its center as do all of the unsavory monsters in the land. As civilized humanoids watch their resources disappear, they have to battle an incursion of beings from gnats to dragons. The crowded center of the world is only becoming more so with disease and poverty amongst refugees running rampant.
Some governments at the center of the world have closed their borders and refuse to take refugees. As such some of the displaced people have banded together to form a desperate mob that is at war with these nations. All the while, the abyss takes a bit more of Fidala each day…
- The characters have to battle against monsters and angry mobs who want the center of Fidala for themselves.
- The characters must discover what’s creating the abyss.
- The characters must search the rest of the multiverse for a suitable home for the millions of beings in Fidala.
- The characters must escort large groups of refugees safely to the center of the map.
- The characters must quell riots and disease in crowded places.
- The characters must convince governments to open their borders to end lives and stop violence.
3. Enora, the Bound Sky
I’ve already written a post about my world of Enora. The idea is that years ago, a kingdom of prosperous humanoids was beset by a lich necromancer with an army of undead. Dwarves and tieflings retreated underground into a massive city and locked themselves behind heavy doors. The rest of the humanoids called upon the magic of powerful wizards to raise their cities into the sky. Those cities that weren’t raised into the sky were overrun. That was fifty years ago.
Since that time, the armies of undead built huge, smog spewing furnaces that put clouds of soot into the sky to block out the sun. None of the floating cities can see through this smoke layer and do not know what remains of their old surface world. That’s just the start of the problems in the sky. Lack of land and resources have led many souls to pursue life as sky pirates, robbing airship merchants to take what they want. All the while people worry the undead below could be amassing to take over the sky.
The situation underground is no better. Resources are scarce in the crowded city and plenty of other unsavory beasts that burrow made their way underground when the undead took the surface. Everyday the hoard bangs on the doors and it is only a matter of time before they break through and devour the residents… if disease or starvation doesn’t take them first.
- The characters are from the floating cities and asked to go on expeditions to the surface to discover what’s happening with the undead, search for survivors of a crashed airship, or find resources that can be brought back.
- The characters are sky pirates who plan airship raids and robberies.
- The characters are working as spies to infiltrate the sky pirates and bring them down from the inside.
- The characters live in the underground city and must go out into the tunnels of the world to find resources and defend the doors from hoards of undead.
- Check this post for a whole campaign arc.
4. Onvale, Land of Strangers
Jonvale seems like an idyllic fantasy world, but there’s one problem. Doppelgangers are plotting to take over the world and already closer than most people know. The creatures once had a peaceful colony underground, but Onvale’s Empress Malticum burned the city down in order to get to the precious adamantine veins beneath. Decades later, the doppelgangers return for their revenge by taking over all of Onvale. They pose as peasants and noble alike, fooling even those closest to their victims.
The rumors of doppelgangers taking over are whispered everywhere, but no one is sure what’s true and what’s not. Who can the adventurers trust with such creatures about?
- The characters must identify any doppelgangers in the population through spying and interrogation.
- One of the characters is captured and replaced with a doppelganger, but the others don’t know it.
- The characters must search the abandoned city of the doppelgangers for clues about where they are hiding now.
- This world could also work with an incursion of mystauk.
5. Zaltus, the Prison Plane
Zaltus is a harsh world of extreme terrains – deserts, swamps, tundra, and jungles. Predatory beasts roam the plane, but they are not the most dangerous villains Zaltus has to offer. The plane is easy to enter, but nearly impossible to leave. Planar travel spells do not work in Zaltus. As such, other worlds in the multiverse use Zaltus as a prison. The truly dangerous criminals and the folks who others need to be forgotten wind up here. They do have free reign of this world, harsh as it is. It is a place of dangerous anarchy from which there is no escape.
Some criminals have banded together to form gangs, build hideouts, and even form cities. Others wander the wilds alone, content to murder or rob anything they come across. There are good folk in Zaltus who were wrongly accused, plotting against tyrannical governments, or locked up because it was politically convenient. Many search for a way out of Zaltus, but none have succeeded… yet!
- The characters are wrongfully imprisoned on Zaltus and must escape.
- The characters must travel to Zaltus to free another prisoner, item, or piece of information and be at a specific location at a specific date and time to catch a portal back home.
- The characters are imprisoned in Zaltus and must survive by any means.
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S J Grodzicki
November 17, 2016 @ 6:01 pm
I love Zaltus!
November 17, 2016 @ 6:02 pm
November 18, 2016 @ 4:23 pm
I do also like Zaltus. I’ve had ideas of running a prison world type game, but mine was placed in a sinkhole. https://5egrognard.blogspot.com/2015/05/world-building-idea-sinkhole.html
My players have recently expressed interest in playing a swashbuckling campaign. I showed them Enora, and it looks like we will push forward using that idea!
November 21, 2016 @ 7:14 am
Whoa! That’s awesome that you’ll be playing in Enora! Let me know how it goes.
This sinkhole idea is badass!
November 21, 2016 @ 6:25 pm
I really like the sinkhole idea, but it’s not really my regular style to run. I feel it needs heavy resource management, and I have to be in the right mood for that. I have one player who likes that style, the rest, not so much.
It will probably not be until after Christmas that we start up Enora. The main stumbling block is that I work for UPS, and my free time takes a hit this time of year.
I’m also figuring out what system I like for the airships. Looking at a couple, but haven’t really given them more than a cursory glance. I want more than just “sailing ships in the sky”. I would also prefer a system more streamlined and easy to run.
Overall I do like parts of all of your worlds. Any would be great for a short term campaign. I did copy and paste them all into my “campaign worlds” folder. Fidala makes me think of The Neverending Story and The Nothing.
November 22, 2016 @ 7:43 am
Very true. Thanks for the work you do at UPS and the kind words!
Airship systems…. I’m not sure I know of a perfect one, but you could maybe make it a skill in FATE? Hmmm…. let me think on that!
November 19, 2016 @ 12:45 pm
I still really like the Enora, back from when you originally posted it.
I find that I prefer settings that aren’t as so heavily themed though. I could see using Enora for a very targeted campaign, but not to go back to over and over. I prefer settings that have more diversity in geography, culture, environment, etc. Some settings, for example, just don’t seem to leave a lot of room for stories that involve bigger armies/mass combat.
Savage Worlda settings and their Plot Point campaigns are particularly prone to that to me. I think Enora would be fantastic for a game in that vein.
November 21, 2016 @ 7:15 am
That makes sense. I like larger campaign worlds too, that have lots of hooks for DMs to draw on and inspire players (Eberron has a lot of dangling threads like that). That’s what I want to do with Exploration Age for sure.
DwD&D#77 – What’s New & SKT Chapter 2 » Misdirected Mark
December 6, 2016 @ 5:01 am
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April 20, 2017 @ 10:08 pm
I have run a game on Enora! Mainly just starting out in a tavern in Bonport before setting sail on a skyship. I ended up using a 5e conversion of Spelljammer, since I always liked the ship designs. I got rid of the Spelljammer helms, though. How do the ships fly? Magic, and I leave it at that.
April 21, 2017 @ 7:34 am
Seriously this made my day. Thank you so much for running a game in Enora!!! I gotta publish. Someday!