Content of the article: "IMO, the game would benefit from smaller scale settings"
tl;wr Campaign settings that cover entire continents are fun, but many will never use them. Campaign settings with the same amount of content, but small/independent enough to be inserted into any campaign (such as Ghost Walk or Ravenloft) would see more use in play.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that WotC should stop releasing large scale campaign settings. Eberron, Ravnica, and Theros(among others) are great products. The issue is that many players(of those who own these books) are likely to never use them as campaign settings, or if they do, employ them in a campaign of 1-3 sessions. The other content in these books (races, backgrounds, subclasses) see far more play than the settings themselves. There is nothing wrong with this; as players are still getting use out of these books, but I worry that a lot of time and effort went into a part of the product that few will use.
To this end, let’s look at a product released for 3rd edition, Ghost Walk. For those unfamiliar Ghost Walk was a campaign setting for third edition. It contained all the same things we associate with 5e campaign settings: new subclasses (Well, prestige classes, but same principle), new races (in a way of speaking), examples of possible adventures to run, and of course an in-depth overview of the setting(racial make-up, political structure, etc) with maps and artwork*. Where it differs from these other campaign setting is that Ghost Walk is made up of only a single city and it’s surrounding area. The opening of the book says as much, “But the city of Manifest can just as easily be transplanted into whatever world your current DnD campaign occupies”.
The major barrier to playing a campaign in one of the published settings is that it’s a big commitment, and if you are already part of/running a long ongoing campaign, the new release is meaningless to you, outside of a small monster list(for DMs) or some races (for players whose character died). Hence why the 1-3 session campaigns of the setting books are so common. The other issue of course, being that many of the DMs who would be interested in the work needed to create a campaign in these settings are more content creating their own settings and using these products for ideas.**
With settings like Ghost Walk, on the other hand, there’s no need to find time for a side-campaign. New adventure setting comes out, if the DM likes it, they simply have it be the next city the players wander into. If it goes well, maybe they come back later (or simply never leave). Obviously this is doable with the larger settings, but that tends to involve plane hopping, which isn’t suited to every campaign, and the likelihood of coming back later is slim.
So, what about the 5e products that are already like this, namely: Descent into Avernus (Baldur’s Gate), Dragonheist (Waterdeep), and Curse of Strahd (Barovia, Ravenloft). While all of these are perfectly fine, there are a couple of issues. These aren’t settings, they’re adventures. You aren’t going to get as much playable content out of them. Races & backgrounds? Maybe. Subclasses? Nah. Adventures? Just the one plus encounters. In-depth overview of setting? Absolutely not. Imagine if you will, a Barovia campaign setting. Simple concept (Valley ruled by Vampire) that can be inserted into any campaign. Maybe it adds Romani as a player race. A warlock patron to represent the dark powers, and IDK a stage magician sorcerer origin*.
My point being that this would be something you could add into any campaign in any setting. Yes, you could already do this yourself, Barovia is just an example. You could have set an adventure in Eberron before Rising came out, that doesn’t make the book pointless. Also lets be clear that I’m not criticising CoS, as it was not created to be a setting.
To end let me restate one thing; I do not think these should replace large campaign settings entirely, but that the inclusion of smaller setting as described above might see more use in play for actual adventures. I am not calling for smaller books; the same amount of content, but applied on a smaller scale.
To briefly go over what Ghost Walk provided: A bone subclass(not necromancy, just using bones as weapons and armour), a grave warden subclass (esn a grave cleric that’s also a paladin), and the ability to play as a ghost (not technically a race, but I feel the point still applies). * In no way do I mean to suggest that no one plays these campaigns, simply that campaigns in settings that are A) Not set in FR B) Not set in a home brew setting and C) Are not treated as a ‘side-campaign’, are rare. *** What about Ravnica? Yes, you could shrink shrink Ravnica down and plug it into a different campaign, but as Ravnica is kind of it’s own beast, I decided not to talk about it here. ****Stage magician was a prestige class in one of the old ravenloft books, and I really wish it would make a comeback
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