Wednesday, April 27, 2011

twenty quick questions for your campaign setting

You can run D&D with just some PCs and a dungeon. I think that's totally legit. But if you have a campaign setting, here are some things for you to think about.  Better to muse on these before your players ask you, rather than finding yourself on the spot.
  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
  6. Who is the richest person in the land?
  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
  18. What is there to eat around here?
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Campaign worlds, whether published or just notes scrawled in some DM's binder, contain a lot of material that most players honestly just don't give a crap about.  That's entirely okay.  Answer some of these questions or others like them and you'll have yourself a campaign regular players can relate to.


  1. You make a great point Jeff. As a DM building a world from scratch itès all too easy to get lost in stuff that dosent really matter all that much in the long run. Great questions, a lot like what you find in the Pathfinder Gamemastery book recently put out by Paizo.

  2. Good stuff, as always, thanks.

  3. Eminently practical, but also forces one to think about questions that get at the real underpinings of a setting.

  4. This is a pretty good list you have of very real concerns a GM will eventually be addressing as the campaign takes off. Thanks for this!

  5. Very cool Jeff. Oddly in my D&D milieu the answer to alot of these is 'Almost anywhere.' Sill it's very to think about.

  6. Anonymous7:43 AM

    These are all great, but "Which way to the nearest tavern?" should be question #1 ;)

  7. Anonymous8:11 AM

    21. Where's the next tavern
    22. What do you drink at the tavern
    23. If I drink too much, who would be the worst person to piss off while drunk?

  8. Very nice! Nabbed for future use.

  9. Anonymous9:38 AM

    The most substantial post in the last two years. I salute you! Cores of relevance, here they are.
    Please do compare to an UWP and what it tells you in Traveller.


  10. One I find myself in consideration of fairly frequently:

    What happens when the players figure they are the toughest people in town and decide it would be easier to just loot and pillage the whole place?

  11. Jeff, I want to buy you a beer one day.

  12. Great as always -- pdf'ed and printed!

  13. Beautiful! I have been asking different people for something like this in various forms for years. (Never quite got the form of the question down well enough, I suppose.)

  14. VERY nice. And, holy shit, I actually have all of these covered in my notes? How the hell did I do that?

    word verification: "dingog."

    The dingog is a sort of centaur-like creature, the torso and head of a decomposing dingo-man sitting atop the powerful, oversized body of a dire dingo. They are Undead for spell effect purposes and occur when normal dingoes eat enchanted Undead remains.

  15. The nice thing about this list of questions is that all of them are pretty much phrased just as your players might ask them. Thus it takes on a more game-related setting questionnaire, whereas many such lists seem to approach the issue from a writing standpoint.

    As you pointed out, a lot of the stuff us world-building GMs come up with are interesting and fun for us, but may not necessarily be of any interest whatsoever to the players. This list gets my mind back to where it's supposed to focus: on the players' experience.

  16. Wow, I am not a morning person. My post should read, "Still, it's very fun to think about".

    Damn. Kids, don't be an insomniac.

  17. Anonymous10:52 PM

    Great list, with actual important things on it, unlike a lot of what usually gets put in campaign setting write-ups.

  18. Neat. Now these are the kinds of questions people might want to know and the right mix of RP and combat oriented ones.

    BTW I'll answer them on my blog.

  19. Me too!

    Actually it was harder than I thought in some cases, easier in others.

  20. Very cool. These are some very good questions to have answered before the dice hit the fan...

  21. Anonymous6:26 AM

    I think this is great and you need to make it easier to find! I left my self a note, so I managed to get back to it, but it was not easy. And it should be. Because this is useful.

  22. This is fantastic, Jeff. I'm in the process of building a campaign setting for D&D 3.5/Pathfinder (and a big chunk of my own recently-begun gaming blog is dedicated to chronicling the creation process), and I'm reading this list and getting all sorts of inspired. I'll probably end up answering all twenty (most likely in much more detail than will ever truly be required) over at the Crown and the Ring. Thank you so much!

  23. "What happens when the players figure they are the toughest people in town and decide it would be easier to just loot and pillage the whole place?"

    Simples - there's always someone tougher than the players in town/country who can kick their asses should the need arise...

  24. Here's an example.

  25. Here is another example.

  26. One of the things I like about this format is that it allowed me to break down the campaign notes for the players in bite-sized chunks, instead of having to write one big wall o' text.