Expanding Your D&D Setting's Campaign Guide



Last July, we explored how to build a campaign guide for our unique Dungeons & Dragons setting. Of utmost importance was a solid description of the world, a brief timeline, a lightly-detailed map, a set of tenets that define the world, multiple race and class points of origin, and a basic pantheon. If we enjoy worldbuilding, though, we can continue to expand our guide. Sure, some players might not read all fifty pages of our world bible, but that’s why we usually write a one to three page summary of our campaigns before we start them.

This campaign guide is for us and players deeply invested in the lore of our world. We write it to further develop our world and help those who want to build characters who are connected to it.

So, without further ado, let’s learn how we can expand it with examples from my world, Eldar.

Other Continents

Campaign guides usually focus on a single region or continent of our world. Before diving into it, we should quickly explore the rest of it. It’s time to answer questions. How many continents are there? Which ones are inhabited? Who lives on them? How can a player character originate from them? What are their stories? Hone in on that final question, it will assist in building the others. Detailing the other continents of the world gives us a solid understanding of it, steeping it in history with a single paragraph. When we are playing, it allows us to pull relatively mundane knowledge about the world. To us, it’s just a paragraph we wrote in our campaign guide. To our players, it’s a snippet of interesting lore that immerses them more into the world.

Here is an example from my campaign guide. This passage explores Garthuun, Land of Monsters.

Eldar Example

Goblinoids, ogres, minotaurs, trolls, and aberrations are almost always seen as uncivilized monsters. Thusly, Garthuun is seen as a continent dominated by monstrous races. Goblinoid empires reigned supreme across Garthuun, commonly warring with one another and tribes of lesser races who roamed the wilds like ogres, trolls, and minotaurs, until the entire continent was thrust into a state of turmoil 3,000 years ago. A coordinated beholder invasion from the Subterrane crushed each goblinoid nation, turning the honor-bound race into a savage people as they competed for survival with the creatures they once conquered. Over time, the aberrations molded the monsters to their will, forming new factions and nations with themselves at the top. Now, Garthuun is a continent of conflict between Subterranean masters who play war with monstrous pawns. If you are a monstrous race, being a Garthuunian is a great idea! You could have escaped to Aphesus from the grasp of your militaristic beholder overlord. Going from another angle, you might be an agent of one of these overlords, searching for something on Aphesus. Think about what a Garthuuni overlord might want. It’s possible they are scouting out new territory to conquer after 3,000 years of controlling most of Garthuun...

Campaigns Set in Your World

A great way to flesh out our world and make our players’ characters’ actions matter is giving them a dedicated section in our campaign guide. This part looks over past adventures & campaigns in our world and speaks to their impact. What happened during the course of the adventure? What happened to the adventurers? What consequences did their actions have on the world? How often is this epic tale remembered?

Here is an example from my campaign guide. It explains the Dead Isles of Altarin campaign.

Eldar Example

On a tropical archipelago dominated by a trio of liches called the Dread Admirals, unlikely heroes joined forces to overthrow their cruel rule. In the process, they slayed a lesser Demon Prince, reassembled a destroyed giantish artifact, and shattered the liches’ amalgamated phylactery. The party, White Crow, Gwenavine, Primedordus, and Red Tusk passed into legend. White Crow disappeared from the globe and Gwenavine constructed a druidic citadel. Primedordus became a scholar of Azudon’s Reach and Red Tusk returned to his northern homeland. Today, the ruins of the Dread Admirals’ empire is scattered across the tumultuous Karlith Straits and the story of their fall is locked away in old tomes of lore. Read more about this epic adventure here: https://www.rjd20.com/2019/10/the-dead-isles-of-altarin.html

The Main Continent

After glancing over minor points of our world, we explore the main location where our adventure will occur. Most of the time, this will be a large continent. Other times, it might be a smaller region of our world. Whatever the case, we want to detail this place in full. Because of this, we can start with a brief explanation of the continent: a piece of fiction or a fact. Afterward, we delve deeper into each individual region and nation that calls the continent home.

Here is an example from my campaign guide. It introduces the continent of Aphesus.

Eldar Example

Safety. A concept simple to understand but unattainable to so many folk across our realm for countless decades. And after centuries of seeking it, I can confidently say that we will never achieve it. Nonetheless, we can stay true and strong to our own. We are not weak. We are not lesser. We are powerful and we can stand in defiance of the forces that yearn to destroy or dominate us.

The Kothian Empire stirs once again in the east, stretching its claws across our lands. The terrifying dictator Achai the Red moves in the Enoach, an army of burning dead at his command. High up in the Scythian Reaches, shifters and lone rangers speak of more giants moving south from Isen. And in the heart of our civilization, a sorceress-queen plots to shatter her nation’s shackles, refuting all extensions of peace. In the face of these threats, I ask: what will you do for the good folk of the Brynland Nations? I can confidently say I will do all I can to achieve the impossible: safety.

Handil ce’Iliun, high elf archmage of the Dwiergus Council of Galen, City of Magic

Who lives in the frigid Scythian Reaches? What remains in the Thayan Desolation? How do the folk of the Caeldrim Forests interact with their surroundings? Do the orcs of the Greenlands of Bryntoril have a tangible society? What is it like to live in the Kothian Empire? How broad is the Aphid Alliance? What is the Dwiergus Council? Where are you most likely to find drow? Do the Garthuuni affect Aphesus in any way?

The next part of the Eldar Campaign Guide explores the continent of Aphesus in-depth, poring over its regions, nations, and important factions. First, it details wide regions like the Enoach Desert and the Caeldrim Forests. Afterward, it delves into Aphesusian nations, from the Algravoth Kingdom to the Ungart Holds. Finally, it explores the prominent factions on Aphesus like the Aphid Alliance, Forgotten Kings, and Dwarven Defenders. You can use any of these to grow your backstory or background, and determine your future goals — or even build adventures set in this realm.

Regions

With our continent set up, let’s delve into the regions of it. Ideally, these are the largest parts of the continent: sprawling deserts, dense jungles, massive mountain ranges, and limitless plains. For each region, we want to write around a paragraph of interesting lore. When we do so, we must focus on the present and refrain from lingering in the past for too long. What does the region look like? Why is it important? Who lives there? Are there any points of interest? What’s going on right now? Once we’ve answered all of these questions in a single paragraph to the best of our ability, we move on.

Here is an example from my campaign guide. It introduces the Zinaen Jungles.

Eldar Example

A roaring waterfall spouts from the mouth of a massive serpent’s mouth carved from a stone mountain face. Snakeheaded humanoids emerge from a grand golden temple, ornate blades at their sides, as they prepare to assassinate intruders to their holy land. A balor demon lounges on a throne of wood and bone, surveying her prisoners captured upon entrance to the cursed Zinaen Jungles. These tropical thickets and fetid swamps are the territory of accursed races like yuan-ti and tieflings, fiendish creatures who guard the forbidden secrets of the Age of Blood. When fiends ruled Eldar, the seat of demonic power sat in the heart of the jungle and its abyssal taint remains. Three years ago, the Loreseekers built a settlement on the edge of the jungles, a stronghold named Meeko’s Bastion. Named after one of the assassinated leaders of the adventurer organization, Meeko’s Bastion serves as a point of entrance into the near impenetrable thickets of Zinae.

Nations

After all of our regions are created, we move on to the nations of our continent. We know what it looks like, but who are the primary powers there? We want to paint a picture of each nation, what drives it, and why it is important to note. Who makes up the population? Who leads the nation? How was the nation founded? How recently did it rise up? What recent event caused it to prosper or fall? Mix and match these questions nation-by-nation so no two pieces of lore are alike. In addition, include a section about the nation’s culture. What are its people like? What would a player character from the nation be? Are there any key factions that stem from it?
Here is an example from my campaign guide. It introduces the nation of Aralia.

Eldar Example

Massive arches of pale marble curve over a radiant temple, a joyous chorus pouring from its stained and open windows. A beautiful, silver-haired woman in gleaming plate armor holds a sun-tipped sceptre high as a praying crowd reach their hands to the sky. Locked away in the Vaults of Light, the Hand of Vecna struggles to break free, restrained by divine magic, steel shackles, and an avatar of Pelor himself. Welcome to Aralia, a theocratic nation lead by Archdiviner Eliza Tyrdaughter, the demigod child of Tyr. Currently, it is experiencing a golden age. Aralia was untouched by the War of Vecna’s Hand, managed to spread their laws across Aphesus, and secure multiple outposts from the Scythian Reaches to the Zinaen Jungles. Their only real threat is the Kothian Empire.

CULTURE: All Aralians are religious and a sizable amount are zealous. Mostly human, they hold just ideals and unbreakable opinions about the world around them. Aralians were the power responsible for defeating the greatest threat in recent history, Tarset, and they know it. As a result, they’re confident that their way of life is the correct — and only — way to live. Strangely, they managed to spread their laws, taught to them by the high clerics of Mount Celestia’s deities, across the civilized nations of Aphesus. Now the culture of Aralia spans from the north to the south, a culture of upholding righteousness and reinforcing the tenets of the good gods. How do you worship the deities? How zealous are you?

In Summary

If you’d like a complete version of my campaign guide as an example, here’s a link to it: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Sxxf0MPx1uGkFiGfvYrxA5cJTnKlcybZtum-41kVMzQ/edit?usp=sharing
  1. Campaign guides can always be expanded.
  2. These campaign guides are for us and the players who are invested in our world.
  3. Add information on other continents to the guide.
  4. Explore the previous campaigns set in the world.
  5. Delve into the main continent of the world, from the regions to the nations.
Until next time, farewell!

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