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Your D&D Setting's Campaign Guide

Multiple days of strife, countless hours of creativity, many minutes of preparation, and more than a few seconds of ingenuity have led up to this moment: you’re ready to begin your Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Your setting’s tenets? Finished. Your setting’s pantheon? Fleshed out. Your setting’s map? Made. Your setting’s major powers? Created. Your campaign’s starting point? Prepared. Some people may believe they’re ready to go on the warpath and kickstart their campaign. They can do that, but I like to take one more step before beginning. Today, we’ll be taking that extra step together; let’s create a campaign guide for our D&D setting.

Luckily, most of this should have already been finished after reading the Worldforge articles preceding this one! If you haven’t read them, check out the Worldforge Library before moving on.

Describe the Setting

Create a new document, name it, “ Campaign Guide,” and think about what is special about your setting. What sets it apart from the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun? Why is it yours? Once you’ve done that, write a maximum of three paragraphs to introduce your group to your setting. For the most part, stick to big ideas and use a few examples to get your message across. Where is this place? Who lives there? What are the powerful factions? What’s the largest problem posed to the setting as a whole? Try to answer all these questions in your opening paragraphs and you’re golden brown.

Write a Brief Timeline

Next up, it’s time to date your campaign setting. What year is it? What important, world shaking events happened in the last, say, five centuries? What’s happening locally, near where the campaign itself begins? Ask yourself these questions so you have context going in to the campaign and your players understand this world is living and breathing; it has a history right now and it will in the future. Perhaps their characters will be a part of it.

Attach Your Map

A map, no matter how simple, is a necessary part of your campaign guide. Many players love a visual representation of where they’re playing, whether it’s a brief sketch done in Paint or a professionally made map that rivals Tolkien’s. It should identify all places detailed in your campaign guide like nations, key cities, rivers and lakes, and regions. Always include your campaign’s starting location on this map to give your players a sense of where they’re starting; include the rest of the locales to give them a sense of where they can possibly go!

Clearly Outline Your Tenets

Look back to when we created our worlds’ tenets. Clearly state them in your campaign guide so that players know what they’re getting into. When they read this, they’ll come to understand how prevalent magic is, whether deities exist, how wide the wilds are and what monsters roam them. Dedicate a few sentences to each tenet and don’t go overboard; tenets should be concise and your players should understand why they’re important at a glance.

Flesh Out Race and Class Examples

Now it’s time to think about where the core races live across your setting. These example points of origin are by no means exhaustive; they’re simply meant to give your players an idea of where to begin. Where do humans live? Do wood elves live in great forests or exotic jungles? Are mountain dwarves as prominent as hill dwarves? Do halfling communities dot the lovely rivers that border human lands? As a baseline, provide a point of origin for each of the core races from the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, alongside any other relatively common races in your own setting (warforged, minotaurs, goliaths, et cetera). This gives players something to build on or use when they’re just starting in your world. When creating characters, encourage them to conjure up unique points of origin — build your world together!

With a plethora of racial points of origin set up, it’s time to move on to points of origin for the core classes. Where are some example places rife with barbarians? Do bards gather in cities or roam the continent? Is this a particularly popular wizard academy somewhere in your world? Think up one or more points of origin for each of the twelve classes and add them to your campaign guide. After that, you’re nearly finished!

Include A Pantheon

Remember when we built our pantheon? It was partly for this moment! Create a table of deities in your world, taking a few from each culture and combining them into a general pantheon. Include their name, what they’re the deity of, what their typical domains are, and what their symbol is. With that, you give inspiration to clerics, paladins, any players who might want their characters to be religious, and you give yourself a concrete list of deities to rely on when you create your plots, settlements, and villains.

My Example

I have an example you can view, if you wish. Follow the following ink to see it in Google Docs; it’s the campaign guide for the continent Aphesus on my world of Eldar.


In Summary

It’s important to have a setting guide for your homebrew playing ground. In some cases, your players will engross themselves in it and love it; in others, you’ll be the only one reading it. Regardless, creating a document with the most basic information about your campaign setting is necessary, whether it’s for you or your players to read and reference occasionally. Remember:
  1. Open the document with a three paragraph description of your setting. What sets it apart from other ones?
  2. Date the campaign. What important events happened recently? What’s happening now?
  3. Place your map prominently! Most folks love a visual of the setting they’re playing in.
  4. Bullet the most important tenets of your setting so everyone knows what playing in your setting entails.
  5. Provide example points of origin for races and classes using your map. It’ll give your players and you plenty of ideas and potential plot hooks.
  6. Include the deities or divine forces that provide power and hope to so many people in your setting.
And that’s a close to the opening articles of the Worldforge. Next up, we’ll be able to dive into more minute topics. If you enjoyed the article, the series as a whole, or my content in general, please share your support! I love seeing my work across our little setting of the Internet, and it’s key in growing my audience. You folks keep me going.

This article received a follow-up in January 2020. Here's the link to it:

Until next time, farewell!

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