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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Any game, any genre, any edition. What setting do you find has the best writing overall?

    And is there any particular passage or section that really sells you on the game world?

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Shadowrun, hands down, just for the sheer mass of information out there about anything and everything. It really does feel like a lived in world, rather than just set dressing for an adventure. Most settings would never establish things like the brand names of sodas, or a comprehensive list of gangs found in the city, or a guide to bars, restaurants, and hotels around the city. The different groups all feel authentic and the whole point of the setting is that you live and die in the gaps between all those groups, rather than the factions just being things you interact with sometimes. There's an entire source book dedicated to the differences in corporate cultures between the megacorps, there's a whole source book about the underworld, there's even a source book dedicated to fashion, music, gaming, and sports. There's also an incredibly well established historical timeline, partially because the setting moves along in years as the editions get published. The major modules and pre-written adventures of one edition are referenced in the next as though they're canonical historical events, because they are. The Renraku Arcology incident, the Chicago insect spirits and the subsequent quarantine of the city, all of that is stuff thats remembered and referenced in the world.
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Do not try a linear campaign, without some discussion with them. Players very often look at your hooks and then try to accomplish it in a different way, not touch it, try to do the complete opposite, or somehow set it on fire.

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    I'm not sure it'd be my ultimate answer, but my first thought when I read the post was the Spire. I've barely even played it (I was in a PBP game but it died out after like one page), but there's something about it that just feels awesome. It has a kind of... weird, almost fairy tale-ish vibe that really speaks to me. Not sure why.

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    I'm not sure it'd be my ultimate answer, but my first thought when I read the post was the Spire. I've barely even played it (I was in a PBP game but it died out after like one page), but there's something about it that just feels awesome. It has a kind of... weird, almost fairy tale-ish vibe that really speaks to me. Not sure why.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Do not try a linear campaign, without some discussion with them. Players very often look at your hooks and then try to accomplish it in a different way, not touch it, try to do the complete opposite, or somehow set it on fire.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Space 1889.

    It mixes solidly detailed Victorian history and the classic sci-fi of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. This creates a setting where people already have basic familiarity and can feel comfortable with it. The primer that ties up all alternate history from the late 1860s to the year 1889 is short, easy to digest and sets up a wide variety of possible adventure settings.

    There is a a range of highly detailed source books that give you a solid feel for the sci-fi setting (Venus, Mars and the Moon) and if you want to play on Earth you have an almost infinite amount of source material and then the steam punk tech just gets layered on top.

    The introduction is available for free on drive thrurpg here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...-to-Space-1889

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Any game, any genre, any edition. What setting do you find has the best writing overall?

    And is there any particular passage or section that really sells you on the game world?
    Oh this is hard because two of my favorite settings are neither super well written, just very imaginative.

    One setting I do think is well written and quite expansive is HârnWorld. The level of details and coverage is incredible. Makes for fun reading.
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude... seeming to be true within the context of the game world.

    "D&D does not have SECRET rules that can only be revealed by meticulous deconstruction of words and grammar. There is only the unclear rules prose that makes people think there are secret rules to be revealed."

    Consistency between games and tables is but the dream of a madman - Mastikator

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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    2E Al-Qadim.

    A continent-wide common culture just familiar enough to role-play in while alien enough to be engaging.

    A stunning depth of lore and history available to the DM and PCs.

    A setting big enough to have edges of the map where There Be Genies.
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Tekumel, original Empire of the Petal Throne.
    Followed by Dark Sun.
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    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Tekumel, original Empire of the Petal Throne.
    Followed by Dark Sun.
    What little I've read of Tekumel, yeah, it is very detailed.

    I was going to raise Dark Sun, though some of the revised stuff released when TSR was churning out products in a desperate event to stay afloat are probably best left ignored.

    And also the Cyberpunk setting for 2013/2020/RED (and cp2077).

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    Eldan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Hm. Lots of good candidates, really. Degenesis, Unknown Armies, Eclipse Phase... for D&D, Planescape, and some of the books for original Ravenloft.

    Edit: Seems I slightly misunderstood. Writing, not Good Setting.

    Probably Unknown Armies, the previous edition? It explains like half the setting entirely through tiny anecdotes that are 1-3 sentences long and are all delightfully weird.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-12-01 at 07:46 AM.
    "In dark times, should the stars also go out?"

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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    I'm actually struggling to think of any campaign setting that I consider having good writing.
    Lots of settings that are very cool and evocative. But the presentation always leaves a lot to be desired.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    I'm not sure it'd be my ultimate answer, but my first thought when I read the post was the Spire. I've barely even played it (I was in a PBP game but it died out after like one page), but there's something about it that just feels awesome. It has a kind of... weird, almost fairy tale-ish vibe that really speaks to me. Not sure why.
    Ooooh. Not a massive fan of the artwork (I've seen this very jagged, high-contrast dark artstyle in comic books before and I don't like it), but the setting looks impressive. I may need to buy that. It basically seems to have everything I like.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-12-01 at 07:42 AM.
    "In dark times, should the stars also go out?"

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    Batcathat's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Ooooh. Not a massive fan of the artwork (I've seen this very jagged, high-contrast dark artstyle in comic books before and I don't like it), but the setting looks impressive. I may need to buy that. It basically seems to have everything I like.
    That's funny, I was a little unsure of whether I should call it one of the best-written campaign settings since I like the art so much, I suspected it might influence my opinion on the writing. But I can see why the style wouldn't be in everyone's taste.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Cheap answer: Tolkien's Middle-Earth.

    Slightly less cheap answer: Jaconia and Borvaria of Praedor.

    The cheapest: Earth.
    Last edited by Vahnavoi; 2021-12-01 at 07:48 AM.

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    Eldan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    That's funny, I was a little unsure of whether I should call it one of the best-written campaign settings since I like the art so much, I suspected it might influence my opinion on the writing. But I can see why the style wouldn't be in everyone's taste.
    I can see that it is very well done from a technical standpoint, and it's very evocative, and I like all the characters, outfits etc. shown, but I just don't like the style.
    "In dark times, should the stars also go out?"

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I'm actually struggling to think of any campaign setting that I consider having good writing.
    Lots of settings that are very cool and evocative. But the presentation always leaves a lot to be desired.
    This was how I felt thinking of different settings. Some of my most favorite settings from a creative and or fun to play in are less than great from a written point of view.
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude... seeming to be true within the context of the game world.

    "D&D does not have SECRET rules that can only be revealed by meticulous deconstruction of words and grammar. There is only the unclear rules prose that makes people think there are secret rules to be revealed."

    Consistency between games and tables is but the dream of a madman - Mastikator

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by dafrca View Post
    This was how I felt thinking of different settings. Some of my most favorite settings from a creative and or fun to play in are less than great from a written point of view.
    God damn does this describe Rifts in a nutshell. It's absolutely ridiculous and almost none of it runs on any logic other than the rule of cool, but damn if it isn't fun as hell.

    (The same can't be said for its rule set, but that's just the price you gotta pay).
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Do not try a linear campaign, without some discussion with them. Players very often look at your hooks and then try to accomplish it in a different way, not touch it, try to do the complete opposite, or somehow set it on fire.

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    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Cheap answer: Tolkien's Middle-Earth.

    Slightly less cheap answer: Jaconia and Borvaria of Praedor.

    The cheapest: Earth.
    Earth has terrible writing. All the cool classes get nerfed by Deus Ex Machinas (who has a rock fall down and wipe out most of the factions not once, not twice, but three times?) repetitive ice age cycles, just a mess. Also some of the reskinned factions are just boring, like the leathery winged flyers being replaced by feathered flyers only to quietly reintroduce them tiny with a couple new powers.
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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Hm, three is awfully specific; to my knowledge, K-Pg is the only mass extinction to definitely result from a bolide impact; most of the other big ones are either deeply ambiguous or down to other/multiple factors (vulcanism, climate, continental reconfiguration, ocean anoxia, etc.)

    Which others did you have in mind for impacts?
    Last edited by Gurgeh; 2021-12-01 at 10:13 PM.

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    Lord Raziere's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Exalted 3e. Because no other campaign setting has made me think so in depth about the world works, what a culture is like, or how people in power think. The way it presents and details how its politics and environment interacts helps inform me how to do so for any campaign I do even if I'm not playing in Creation, because it has a certain way of breaking down all the parts of this or that into discrete and relevant bits of information and connecting all those sections to give you a picture of a larger whole and how those things interact with each other. like the Dragon-Blooded and the Realm books just do a great job of giving you insight into the kind of power differences and struggles the Blessed Isle has, how that informs its interactions with the rest of the world, from the lowest criminal to the highest echelons of power. and it does so not in a dry way, but in a way that is evocative, that is full of life and flavor that lets you get a feel for the world and its tone rather than just dryly stating the facts about it. The Realm alone is probably the best look I've seen into how an empire works, what the concerns are of the people in that empire, and how it could all change or break down because of what is currently happening in the setting, because its showing the events being motion to an extent, because the world never truly stops, its always happening and there are many people moving many directions within it.
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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Glorantha for Runequest. Chaosium's recent releases for it have been quite impressive, including a $160 two volume setting guide if the $40 one isn't enough. If not the best written, it is indisputably the most written.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Earth has terrible writing. All the cool classes get nerfed by Deus Ex Machinas (who has a rock fall down and wipe out most of the factions not once, not twice, but three times?) repetitive ice age cycles, just a mess. Also some of the reskinned factions are just boring, like the leathery winged flyers being replaced by feathered flyers only to quietly reintroduce them tiny with a couple new powers.
    You might like the Pilots & Panoramas sourcebook, they introduce new Construct type flyers, who they say were all originally invented by a couple of NPCs named Orville and Wilbur Wright. I mean, c'mon, how can you not love a NPC with a name that stupid?

    EDIT: And no, I'm still not apologising for recommending the Einstein Adventure Path to you either. If you want to raise the number of nuclear weapons in your campaign from 2 at the end of 1945 to 2,000 less than 40 years later that's your problem as a DM, not me, the writers say right there in the text that you should only consider increasing the number of nukes once your party has passed the "Mars Colony" checkpoint.

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    I mainly dislike the new Pandemic supplement for Earth. Whose idea was it to write a supplement book where the party is expected to split up and then stay inside instead of having adventures?
    "In dark times, should the stars also go out?"

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I mainly dislike the new Pandemic supplement for Earth. Whose idea was it to write a supplement book where the party is expected to split up and then stay inside instead of having adventures?
    Yeah, between the erratas that changed whether Common Masks provide a +5 or -5 to Communicability rolls and that weird optional subrule for Ivermectin I don't think it'll be their best seller. I really preferred the previous edition's Black Death rules. Rat sailors bringing death everywhere they went was just cool.

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Shadowrun I can get behind, although I feel that Legends of the Five rings is also very detailed and has a lot of lore. A lot of this is because they had a card game before the RPG and they used the results of the card game tournaments to work out the lore, meaning they had a lot of history in their setting before they actually started the roleplaying game.
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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Not sure if this is a correct answer to the question. But of all game setting I think classic World of Darkness has one of the best thought out settings of any game.

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    I'm going to echo what Milodiah said; Shadowrun's future Earth has had a lot of great stuff written into the setting. While the recent editions mostly stick to the crunch, I love the fluff you get from the early editions, and how later boos and adventures will call back to previous ones like known news (at least within the shadows).

    The fact there are rules for some of the really complex future sports like Urban Brawl is pretty awesome.

    The other neat thing are the little meta chats you can find throughout the books from various runners that make it seem like they're reading the book along with you. This is something at least modern editions kept in, and I haven't seen anything its equal until D&D 5e came out with Volo's guide and Xanathar's book (I forget which came first).
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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Some candidates, but like most co-op efforts the writing has highlights..... and low-lights.

    - Shadowrun
    - Legend of the 5 Rings
    - Battletech
    - Warhammer 40K
    *This Space Available*

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    BardGirl

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    Eberron. If I had to sum up why, I'd say it feels like D&D with thought put into it....okay, that sounds snobbier than I meant it to be, but I love how it takes a lot of the stuff that regular D&D glosses over, and has fun examining and reimagining it WITHOUT going for cheap and glib take-that's or shallow "noble savage orcs vs evil humans"-style deconstructions.

    It feels like a morally grey setting. And it's easy to do a "grey" setting badly, by just saying "everyone's a jackass, power inevitably corrupts, people are stupid panicky animals" and leaving it there (see: Exalted). But with Eberron, it's done in a way that opens up possibilities rather than just leaving the reader stuck in a mire of apathy.

    To put it another way, you could take nearly any faction in the game, and come up with both a black-hearted villain and a noble hero from their ranks, both of whom are totally plausible characters and who could exist in the same faction without conflict. Are the Ashbound dangerous terrorists, or are they misunderstood heroes fighting to save the world from self-destruction? Is the Church of the Silver Flame a collection of intolerant and corrupt zealots, or beacons of hope and salvation from the evils of the world? Are the Blood of Vol sinister death cultists, or are they compassionate humanists who offer a way for humankind to become great without needing gods? Are the dragonmarked houses an enlightened meritocracy that represent an egalitarian future for Khorvaire after the kings and queens nearly destroyed it, or are they ruthless monopolists who seek to bind the poor into a new form of serfdom? The answer is "yes".

    Non-humans feel believably non-human (rather than rubber forehead aliens), without being incomprehensible. If you're playing a changeling, warforged, elf, hobgoblin, orc or halfling, you can play them as just a regular person, or you can lean into the more distinctive aspects and have fun with that.

    The depth of the setting, once you get into Keith Baker's blog and secondary material, is amazing. The Dark Six feel like generic Gods of Evil when you first read about them, but then....yes, I can understand why they might appeal to oppressed people who have been failed by society in some way and who must step outside of "civilised" methods to get justice.


    I don't think it's a coincidence that my other favourite setting, Fading Suns has much of the same traits.

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Best-Written Campaign Setting?

    It also seems like a lot of the "what if people get creative with what you can do with magic" stuff gets pushed into Eberron because the writers don't want to threaten the vibe of the generic medieval fantasy worlds of the other settings. Its something that a lot of my settings get into in various ways, what cool stuff you can do if you really dig into how magic works and how it can be combined with other things. Not that I'm saying every setting should be the Tippyverse, but it feels like magic is just tacked on in some places rather than being woven throughout. It feels like a lot of the time wizards are constantly depicted as actively studying the nature of magic and its role in the universe, but when's the last time any of 'em actually found something new? Created a truly revolutionary magic item, or came up with a useful spell? And when they do, nine times out of ten its something obviously combat related, even if this wizard is supposedly purely academic.

    Sure, a lot of it is because D&D focuses on adventurer stuff, and something like a wondrous item deep fryer that uses prestidigitation's flavor altering properties to make anything you stick in it delicious doesn't line up with that. But it contributes to the empty feeling I get when reading the "main" published D&D settings, like the world is just set dressing and backdrops for the play that the PCs are putting on rather than a living thing that the PCs are part of.
    Last edited by Milodiah; 2021-12-11 at 08:16 PM.

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