And we are here again. When I started talking about the many D&D settings it was a simple Twitter thread. I was trying to list all the official D&D published D&D settings. I was trying to figure out what Wizards of the Coast might release next as a setting in 5e. They had already released a large amount for Forgotten Realms and had just announced Ravnica and Eberron books. I thought I could list them all off as I had been around for most of them.
I managed to get most of the big ones. The ones I missed were the sub-settings (subsets of the larger settings), meta-settings(settings that crossover to other settings) and the micro settings. Micro settings are small tightly contained campaign settings with little thought given to a larger world.
Alright, I took a little break for family holiday madness. It is time to resume my exploration of the many official settings of D&D. My previous posts (found here and here) listed the more traditional settings. Today I am going to write about the meta-settings.
I suppose I should talk about definitions first. Up until now, I wrote about “settings” which can be defined as a fictional world in which the action of the story or game occurs. “Sub-settings” are small, thematically encapsulated settings inside the larger one. Thematically they are different enough to feel like a separate setting, even if they are still inside it. A “meta-setting” is a setting which is, by its lore and design, is intended to be a cross-over between multiple settings. This means it may have its own lore and geography, but much of its content is about how it crosses with other settings.
Setting = Forgotten Realms
Sub-setting = Kara Tur
Meta-setting = Spelljammer
A meta-setting is a multiverse setting, where tales can stretch across multiple worlds. Their origins are almost always shrouded and obscure, but they have clear ties to other existing settings.
That definition in place, lets begin…
In D&D, spells have names. This is based on some fiction and some legendary sources so it didn’t start with D&D. The notion of names having power is actually pretty old. The concept appears in ancient Egypt and Greece by various terms. By naming the spell, they describe its power.
Most of the spell names in D&D are relatively innocuous if descriptive of their effect. A Fireball spell creates a big ball of fire. Simple and easy. Then there are some spells that have little more story to them. They not only describe the effect, but carry the name of the wizard who created it.
This has been a part of D&D since the earliest days. It is evocative tells you something of the world. If you know that there is a Tenser’s Floating disk, then you know that Tenser is an important figure in the world your playing in. He made a spell that is important enough that you learned it without meeting him. You might have questions about this Tenser person? or Bigby? or Melf?
So, what do you do if your world has no Melf? No Bigby? Do you just leave them the same or do you change the names to reflect your world? This will depend on your world.
I am writing this for use in the Midgard setting, but I should state upfront that this can be used for just about any setting. A grappling style Monk would fit in just about any setting that allows monks. I recently wrote a blog post about the weird misconceptions held about martial arts and how they shape their presentation in D&D. One of the reasons I wrote that was because I could see some specific archetypes for Monks in Midgard I wanted to make.
So, there is an idea out there that monks have no place in a western European inspired campaign setting. Settings like Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk owe a lot to western European history, legends, and literature for their basis, and monks are not part of those traditions, or so the argument goes. This came to mind while looking at the Midgard setting and noticing they had many character options for the range of character classes, but not for monks. I asked about this and was directed to this blog post about monk weapons characteristics, which is awesome, but was also told there was not a lot of places for monks in Midgard to be from. That feels like something I can counter. Note: I love the Midgard setting and I am not offering criticism here. I am writing this because I feel this is a common sentiment that maybe should be countered.
I proposed a question a while back. Are immortal PC’s a problem or are they workable? The consensus appears to be that they are workable. I decided to take a pass at setting up a framework for using it in D&D. Death is ultimately just a small challenge after all. Immortality offers a range of cool stories that make the PC’s feel special in the world, which is sort of the point.
Here is another installment of my describing a post apocalyptic fantasy setting called God Thrones. This is the ruins of Chapel Hill, which is pretty different in the world I am describing. It is a stop on on the way to the capital of Durnham. If people like these, please let me know. I will keep writing more.
When I began writing a post apocalyptic fantasy setting, I knew a radiation or toxic corruption would be a recurring theme. It is part and parcel in the genre. The Blight Elves were part of that, and so is today’s offering. There will be others. Thing is, I am not personally afraid of all things nuclear. I grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This is where the material for the first atomic weapons came from. My grandfather was scientist at the labs, and I grew up understanding that nuclear was not necessarily a bad thing. Nuclear medicine was saving lives daily and nuclear power, while not yet perfected, was easier on the environment than coal burning plants.
That said, nuclear war is the thing that kept you up at nights back in the cold war. It was terrifying to think of a war where dying in a flash was probably the “good” option. This vision of apocalyptic war shaped the genre. The irradiated mutant is a trope that comes up often. With this in mind, I wrote this little variation on orcs.
Monsters are often born of myths and legends. Oh sure, there are some born of fiction. There even some created specifically for games, like the Beholder. Many of the iconic monsters pull from real world legends, though.
The Dragon is one of the oldest of man’s monsters. There are legends of dragons all over the world and they seem to even predate written language. Could be someone saw a dinosaur fossil and wondered about the monsters.
This post is an experiment. I will do a second part soon. My favorite gaming supplements over the decades have been the ones with an in character commentary. This is my attempt at that sort of thing. Here is a travelogue style bit from a scholar traveling through the Kingdom of Durnam. I have included a random encounter table at the bottom, and some other game information. I also made sure there are some story hooks in there.
This is set in the post-apocalyptic setting I have written about in the past. It is hundreds of years after the giant Space Gods came and reeked enormous havoc on the world. The Hollow Mountain Library, found in what is now Cheyenne Mountain sent our narrator out to survey distant lands and see to the state of the world now that civilizations begin to reform out of barbarism.