Campaign setting

Campaign setting

A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A "campaign" is a series of individual adventures, and a "campaign setting" is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place. Usually a campaign setting is designed for a specific game (such as the "Forgotten Realms" setting for "Dungeons & Dragons") or a specific genre of game (such as Medieval fantasy, or outer space/science fiction adventure). There are numerous campaign settings available both in print and online. In addition to published campaign settings available for purchase, many game masters create their own setting, often referred to as a "homebrew" setting or world.

Types of setting

:"See also: History of role-playing games"The use of the term "world" in describing a campaign setting is loose, at best. Campaign worlds such as the "World of Greyhawk" detail entire cosmologies and timelines of thousands of years, while the setting of a game such as "Deadlands" might only describe one nation within a brief segment of alternate history.

There are three primary types of campaign setting. The first exists in genre- and setting-specific role-playing games such as "Warhammer" or "World of Darkness" which exist specifically within one setting. The second type of setting is for games that have multiple settings such as modern "Dungeons & Dragons" or those that were developed specifically to be independent of setting such as "GURPS". The final type of setting is developed without being tied to a particular game system. Typically this last sort are developed first as stand-alone works of fiction, which are later adapted to one or more role playing systems such as the "Star Wars" universe or "Middle-earth", though there are a few exceptions of settings which were designed explicitly for role playing gaming, but without a specific system in mind, such as Hârn.

Setting genres have touched on every genre of high-action fictional storytelling from role-playing's roots in fantasy to science fiction in settings such as "Traveller" to horror in the "World of Darkness". Even modern-day spy thriller-oriented settings such as "Spycraft" have been introduced.

A small number of campaign settings fuse two or more genres in a single game. "GURPS Infinite Worlds", for example, the characters play "Infinity Patrol" agents who travel to alternate worlds.


Fantasy settings draw their inspiration almost exclusively from fantasy literature, such as the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. The setting in these games is usually a world with a level of technology similar to that of medieval Europe. Fantasy elements include magic and supernatural/mythological creatures, such as dragons, elves, and orcs.

The very first role-playing settings from the late 1960s and early 1970s ("World of Greyhawk", and "Blackmoor") were based in the fantasy genre, primarily based on the popularity of fantasy works by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Over the decades since, fantasy role-playing has evolved and expanded tremendously, even developing its own sub-genres. The genre can be subdivided into high fantasy where supernatural events are commonplace, and low fantasy where there are few or no supernatural aspects.

While pure fantasy games were initially popular, games such as "Ars Magica" popularized the notion of fantasy set within elements of real-world history. Later games would update this concept even further, bringing fantasy gaming into the present day in a genre known as urban fantasy (e.g. "") or even into the future by combining urban fantasy with cyberpunk (e.g. "Shadowrun"). Even when the main setting of a game is not taken directly from the history of our world, they still tend to draw heavily on historical models, though distorted by the presence of magic; also, as gods often have direct and tangible interations with the world, religion tends to be very unlike our world.

Because the world's most popular roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons, is part of the fantasy genre, fantasy is also the most played roleplaying genre. RPGs of the fantasy genre are sometimes collectivelly called "Fantasy roleplaying games" ("FRP").


cience fiction

Science fiction settings are inspired by science fiction literature. The setting is generally in the future, sometimes near future but also quite often in the far future, though in many cases the setting bears no connection to the world we live in, e.g. Star Wars. Common elements involve futuristic technology, contact with alien life forms, experimental societies, and space travel. Psionic abilities (i.e. ESP and telekinesis) often take the place of magic. The genre can be divided similarly with science fiction literature into sub-genres, such as cyberpunk or space opera. Science fiction is the second most played genre after fantasy. Fact|date=July 2008Cooperative roleplaying can be a seed for the culture of international cooperation too. The experience of virtual "classical" roleplaying in 2050 helps the main hero of "Otherland", a book by Tad Williams, to gather partners and to solve a major challenge for the future of humankind.

Science fiction settings for role playing were first introduced in 1977 with the publication of "Traveller", a space opera-oriented game whose "Third Imperium" setting covered multiple worlds and alien races. Due to the success of "Star Wars", and the impact that the franchise had on popular culture, many science fiction settings were introduced or adapted, especially during the 1980s. The scope of a science fiction setting is typically larger than that of a fantasy setting, encompassing multiple worlds or even entire galaxies. Such settings often involve detailed accounts of military and/or trading operations and organizations.

"Gamma World", introduced in 1978, explored the replacement of traditional elements of fantasy settings with the pseudo-scientific elements of post-apocalyptic fiction. These settings lend themselves to the "adventuring" mode of most fantasy games, and thus focus on developing specific locations and loosely defined cultural or racial groups.



Historical settings take place in the past. Because historical games often overlap the fantasy genre, a distinguishing mark is that fantasy games are set on a "fantasy world" similar to but distinct from Earth, while historical games are set in the past of Earth. Settings that have been explored in roleplaying games include Pendragon (Arthurian), Sengoku (Japanese warring states), Recon (Vietnam War), (historical Tibet), and Fantasy Imperium (historical Europe).

The roleplaying game "Ars Magica" is one such 'historical' game, set in what its source materials call 'Mythic Europe': while history is generally accepted to unfold as depicted in real-world historical accounts, "Ars Magica" presents a detailed background for its setting, tying the existence of magic, wizards and the Faerie realms into a historical context while allowing for 'fantasy' elements to come into play.



Horror settings take their inspiration from horror literature. Horror role-playing can be divided into two major groups.

Modern horror settings such as "Call of Cthulhu" were first introduced in the early 1980s, creating a hybrid of fantasy horror and modern thrillers. These settings tend to focus on organizations and societies in which generally normal people fight against malevolent supernatural entities. Such games often are structured as a straightforward "monster hunt", though Call of Cthulhu also involves a great deal of investigation and clue-finding.

The second style of horror game reverses the roles, with the player characters being such supernatural creatures as vampires and werewolves. This second style was popularized by White Wolf's . A series of games by the same company followed, sharing a setting called the World of Darkness, which is collectively the most popular horror-themed role-playing setting, and the second most popular role-playing ruleset and setting, after Dungeons and Dragons.Fact|date=February 2007

The setting in both these styles of horror games is often contemporary, between the 19th century and the current day. Creating the correct mood and air of suspense is very important in these games.

Some elements of fantasy role-playing settings were often related to the horror genre. Vampires and ghosts are typical fare in most such settings, for example. Campaign settings that combine horror and fantasy elements on an even footing include the Dungeons & Dragons settings "Ravenloft" and "Ghostwalk". The D&D "Heroes of Horror" sourcebook also provides ways to emphasize horror elements within a more typical fantasy milieu.



Humor games are based on creating situations which are funny or have a funny premise. Humor is not usually a genre in itself (although it can be), but a modifier added to other genres. In 1983 "Bureau 13" introduced humorous modern horror/fantasy gaming. In 1984, the "Paranoia" game introduced a science fiction setting which used a post-apocalypse world in which to set a tongue-in-cheek game of futile struggle against a computer-controlled dictatorship. Humorous settings for multiple genres have since been released. Humorous settings typically develop few if any locations and organizations, focusing instead on specific characters of note and general tone.



Multi-genre games that mix elements of different genres together. For example, Deadlands presents a Wild West in which elements of horror and magic are prevalent, and Castle Falkenstein presents a Victorian-era world with Jules Verne- and H.G. Wells-inspired technology alongside fantasy elements like magics and the denizens of Faerie. Likewise, the superhero genre typically emulates the comic book universes such as the DC and Marvel Universes as a form of science fantasy set in contemporary setting where all fantastic elements from futuristic technology to mythic beings co-exist.


Licensed games are tie-ins to larger media franchises. They were once rare but the number of these games is increasing. Licensed games are usually considered part of their franchise's genre rather than a genre in and of themselves. Many licensed products are now defunct because of license expiration, while others such as "Blood of Heroes" take a system designed for a licensee's game world and create a new world to match it.

ee also

*Fantasy world
*List of campaign settings
*List of fictional universes
*Campaign (role-playing games)
*Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings


External links

* [ the Campaign Builders' Guild] - A community of world builders and campaign builders for role playing games.

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