Dungeons & Dragons homebrew settings can be inspired by almost anything, from classic books to space exploration, if the rules are translated well.
Picking a new campaign setting can be a challenge for Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters. While there are many choices provided in existing sourcebook and campaign collections, often a party is up for doing something unique and unconventional. When this is the case, sometimes the best option is to create a homebrew setting. However, homebrewing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign isn’t as easy as it sounds, and can take a Dungeon Master a long time to properly build. Because of this, selecting a good foundation for a unique setting will be helpful.
When choosing a strange location or concept for a Dungeons & Dragons homebrew, a Dungeon Master will want to think about a few key points before getting started. First, the idea will need to have a primary goal. This could be slaying a dragon, overthrowing a king, or freeing a captive person, but having a clear endgame can make building the other plot points less frustrating. Secondly, good homebrew campaigns also translate D&D rules, classes, and races well. This helps keep gameplay consistent for the party and can less confusing for the Dungeon Master.
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The best part about creating a strange D&D setting is creative freedom. Picking a popular myth, legend, fable, or location can allow the Dungeon Master to rewrite a well-known story and flip it on its head. A previous villain could become a hero or victim, or a concept like space travel could become magic-based instead of technology-driven. These slight changes can create an interesting, unconventional campaign setting that keeps D&D party members on their toes.
Unique Dungeons & Dragons Settings: Atlantis
Creating a Dungeons & Dragons campaign using the lost city of Atlantis gives a DM an entire sunken world to explore. Whether the players must find the city or wake up there by some twist of fate, the options for exploring Atlantis are limitless. Atlantians as a race could be built off an existing people like Elves, but with modified culture. The party could be trying to escape with as many riches as possible, or use their combined skills to free Atlantis from the bottom of the ocean. Atlantis could also be empty of any living Atlantians, and instead by the home to a murderous god, evil monster, or haunted by the ghosts of the inhabitants that drowned there.
Unique Dungeons & Dragons Settings: Space Exploration
Space exploration can be very interesting when built for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. While D&D Advanced created the Spelljammer campaign, 5th Edition hasn’t implemented any such stories. A space exploration narrative can offer a complex web of world-building, especially for fantasy/science fiction fans. Whether the campaign takes place during spacer training, or on a ship fueled by magic exploring the galaxy, a space setting offers ambitious Dungeon Masters an opportunity to not just build one world, but an entire galactic empire. An example of successful space homebrew can be found in The Adventure Zone: Balance during the “Stolen Century” arc. Plot points for a space adventure could be overthrowing an evil empire, dealing with a galaxy-wide epidemic, or even battling against space pirates.
Unique Dungeons & Dragons Settings: Classic Literature
Whether using fairytales or popular literature, there are many stories tucked on the classics shelf which could make an interesting Dungeons & Dragons homebrew campaign. A setting based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream could include fairies, mayhem, and an escape from an enchanted forest.
Meanwhile, a story based on Peter Pan could have the party fighting to rescue Hook and his crew from the whims of a Litch boy who has trapped them in the pocket dimension of Neverland. Dante’s Inferno could follow a party that must survive through Hell in their attempts to escape banishment by a demon or god. There are many options that offer a range of different challenges.
Unique Dungeons & Dragons Settings: Park Rangers
Creating a homebrew campaign designed for specific D&D classes can also pose a unique challenge. For example, if a DM finds themselves with a party of rogues and rangers, creating a setting surrounding the adventures of magical park rangers could be an interesting option. The park rangers could deal with a mess of supernatural creatures disrupting camping sites and terrorizing remote cabins. These threats could be as simple as a druid herding deer, or as unbelievable as Big Foot attacking camp bathrooms. It could be the ranger service is tasked with protecting something important in the center of the park, like a doorway to an alternate world, where supernatural creatures like Big Foot escape from. A forest can be full of secrets.
Unique Dungeons & Dragons Settings: Haunted House
Homebrew can be used on shorter sessions like one-shots as well as longer, complex Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. A haunted house could be a way to create a fun short session or a waypoint in a bigger storyline. A haunted house could be set up like an escape room, where players stumble inside, become trapped, and must get out within a certain amount of time. The building could be filled with puzzles to solve, traps to dispel, and ghosts or monsters to fight. The house could potentially hold something important to a bigger story, or the reward could simply be escaping if the D&D campaign is set up as a one-shot. A haunted house could be narratively more comedic, or become a true horror nightmare for the characters stuck inside.
Unique Dungeons & Dragons Settings: Royal Court
To create a unique setting designed for D&D character roleplay, a royal court setting could provide just the place, especially for characters with high Charisma scores. Steeped in political intrigue and heavy with ability checks on Deception, Perception, and Insight, conflict in a royal court could be a challenge for a party interested in a less combat-heavy storyline. The objective could be to dethrone the current monarch, marry into the royal family for personal gain, or protect the crown against the evils lurking within the ranks of the court. This could be a Dungeons & Dragons setting where every character is in it for their own reasons, or where the party comes together to take down a common enemy, but leaves much to individual creativity to determine what direction the story will go.
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