Campaign settings take the work out of creating a world, so you can focus on building adventures for your game, whether it’s 5E or a different system. Most of them are built so that you can drop part of their campaign setting (like a city) directly into your game. This is particularly good if you want a change of pace or to introduce a new perspective. There are all sorts of approaches, but the seven campaign settings listed below are particularly unusual for those days when you want to try something very new.
Unusual Campaign Settings That Aren’t Standard Medieval Fantasy
- A Visitors’ Guide to the Rainy City: This setting is weird. Incredibly weird, and incredibly visual. There’s a lot of competition in the weird category, and it’s still a stand-out. This earns it a top slot.
- Salt in Wounds: This book is excellent from start to finish. It’s distinctive, for starters: A city built on the perpetual harm of an immortal tarrasque. It carries this thought all the way through to its conclusion–what would people who choose to live in a city like that be like? They would be evil. It’s readable, and it’s well organized. It’s very good.
- Belly of the Beast. The setting takes place inside a worm big enough to eat mountains and cities. The writing is stellar. The idea is top-notch. It’s incredibly focused on its core idea: Exploring what life inside the belly of a giant worm would be like. The tone, the players’ role, the writing–everything aligns.
- Vornheim: The strength of Vornheim is its art and its tables and its consideration of the reader. It aims to make it easy to create a city, and the tables are really top-notch. This is a fun one.
- Dark Sun: This is many people’s number one pick, and it’s for a good reason: It excels. It’s incredibly visual. It’s written with the reader in mind, and very well-organized. It doesn’t lore drop too heavy at the beginning, and its class descriptions are extraordinary. It’s hard to read this book and not imagine life as a magic-user.
- Fever Dreaming Marlinko. Describes itself as “Slavic acid fantasy weirdness” and the writing is very clever. Set in a town divided into four sections, each with its own particular and unusual traditions.
- Woodfall. A dark swamp, filled with witches and thieves who are squatting on the property and won’t leave. Built with nods to 15th and 16th century European history. A couple other standouts: The organization of the Table of Contents is brilliant, the overall organization is incredible, and there’s a lot of heart.
Also, here’s a shameless plug: Check out the Heartwizard City Reference, a campaign setting of an enormous city, divided into nine distinct districts, each with their own vibe – imagine planning an adventure when you have maps and explanations of all sorts of key buildings, and you get the idea.