Dungeons & Dragons Will Re-Visit Classic Campaign Settings

Dungeons & Dragons' Jeremy Crawford explains why there haven't been more campaign setting-specific books.

Dungeons & Dragons does not view the recent revivals of Spelljammer, Planescape, and other campaign settings as "one-shots" and plans to revisit at least some of these worlds in the future. At Gen Con earlier this month, ComicBook.com had the chance to speak with D&D lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford in a wide-ranging interview about the future of Dungeons & Dragons in the midst of planning for the 2024 rules revisions. During the interview, ComicBook.com asked about D&D's plans for its campaign settings, especially as Wizards of the Coast "revisited" many classic settings such as Planescape, Spelljammer, and Ravenloft in recent years. "Our campaign setting books are very popular," Crawford said. "People love the setting books that we've done, whether they're classic ones or new ones from Magic: the Gathering. And they're often among our most popular books." 

Crawford also stated that he didn't look at the recent campaign setting books as "one-shots," and that there were plans to return to many of the campaign settings in the future. "We love [the campaign setting books], because they help highlight just how wonderfully rich D&D is," Crawford said. "They highlight that D&D can be gothic horror. D&D can be fantasy in space. D&D can be trippy adventures in the afterlife, in terms of Planescape. D&D can be classic high fantasy, in the form of the Forgotten Realms. It can be sort of a steampunk-like fantasy, like in Eberron. We feel it's vital to visit these settings, to tell stories in them. And we look forward to returning to them. So we do not view these as one-shots."

In fact, Crawford noted that the upcoming 2024 rules revision provides more opportunities to re-visit these worlds, in part because the D&D design team doesn't have to keep going back to re-make certain rules systems or rulebooks moving forward. "This is another boon of the rules revision. It means we can just keep journeying in the multiverse," Crawford said. "Rather than sort of having to reset the clock, [the rules revisions] means then we can return and do different things the next time we visit a setting, look at it through a different angle, explore different parts of the setting, dig deeper in certain areas than we did before. If you imagine Fifth Edition as a D&D campaign, it means the campaign can keep going. So we are going to get to high level and see things that we haven't seen before."

ComicBook.com also asked about the release timing regarding some of these campaign setting books, as Eberron, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer have barely been revisited since their initial campaign setting books were released in Fifth Edition. Crawford noted that part of the issue is that the D&D design team wants players to actually use the material they publish instead of flooding the market with too many books. "

We're also mindful of how much content can people actually use in any given year," Crawford said when asked why there wasn't more support for these campaign settings. "Like many people, I love deep dives into various settings because I'm a D&D fan first. I've been a D&D fan since I was six years old. It's so fun to get all of that detail. But we also know after years of looking at groups' play patterns, if we give you too much information, really all we've done is given you a bunch of material you have no time to use. So our approach is to spread it out more, to give people time to actually play the adventures they bought, to actually visit the campaign setting that they just acquired."

Crawford notes that the D&D release schedule is structured so that players can not only read the material but play it, which differs from other periods in D&D history. "Our approach to how we design for the game and how we plan out the books for it is a play-first approach," Crawford said. "At certain times in D&D's history, it's really been a read-first approach. Because we've had points in our history where we were producing so many books each year, there was no way anyone could play all of it. In some years it would be hard to play even a small percentage of the number of things that come out. Because we have a play-first approach, we want to make sure we're coming out with things at a pace where if you really wanted to, and even that would require a lot of weekends and evenings dedicated to D&D play, you could play a lot of it."

The play-first approach to the D&D release schedule is critical to the D&D team, because they feel the game is strongest when it's actually played. "We feel that the real magic of D&D happens at the table," Crawford said. "As much as we love creating these books, we love reading them...we're DMs. We also experience the joy of preparing for adventures and building campaign settings. As fun as all of that is, the real alchemy, the wonder that beats at the heart of D&D, happens when you're playing it. Because that's when those stories arise that no one imagined when they were preparing for the game. That's when there are those moments that surprise even the Dungeon Master and make people gasp or cry or laugh, or shudder in terror if it's a horror game. And so for us, that's why play is so important. Because that is the heart of the entire game."