Many a player and DM have sat around thinking about their next campaign, wondering if they can go beyond the current boundaries of Dungeons & Dragons. Luckily enough, thousands of fans and creators wondered the same thing and, what’s more, have made settings and campaigns outside of what is considered ‘canon.’ Dungeons & Dragons operates with an Open Gaming License, meaning that the game system can be used and built upon by publishing companies and creators who aren’t affiliated with Wizards of the Coast.
In laymen’s terms, it means that DMs have the freedom to bring their homebrewed campaign settings to life. Many of the settings listed below are not only compatible with the Fifth Edition rules system but also have additional or optional mechanics to enhance your campaign. Check out some of the most popular unofficial Dungeons & Dragons settings below to play or influence your next campaign.
- Scarred Lands
- Wagadu Chronicles
- The Islands of Sina Una
- Swords of Kos
- Mists of Akuma
- Land of Azurth
- Blood and Bone
Originally put out by Green Ronin Publishing, the newly formed Darrington Press released their first guide to a continent in the world of Exandria, the brainchild of renowned DM from Critical Role, Matthew Mercer. Although Wildemount is a canon location in Dungeons & Dragons, Tal’Dorei is not, and Tal’Dorei Reborn definitely deserves a place on every gamer’s bookshelf.
Mercer introduces an entire pantheon of deities, well-fleshed out factions and their corresponding societies, deep worldbuilding, new feats, subclasses, backgrounds, and a new system of magic known as Hemocraft. It’s easy to fit existing characters from Fifth Edition into Tal’Dorei or to create something brand new with the wide array of customization options.
People who have enjoyed watching The Legend of Vox Machina or the Critical Role live play campaigns will get a kick out of seeing the lands that the characters traversed and running their own games alongside the heroes of Vox Machina.
Put out by White Wolf Publishing (later Onyx Path Publishing), Scarred Lands takes its inspiration from popular Greek myths to help players live out a larger-than-life campaign full of heroic battles and epic misdeeds. Scarn is a world in the midst of recovering from a devastating war between gods and titans. Their battles left the lands scarred (as per the name). The Titans couldn’t be destroyed, so they were left in pieces.
Scarn is still ravaged by the remains of the great war, and the optional mechanics help bring home the horrors and aftermath of such a conflict. Players can compare the superior attitudes of the deities and their titanic parents and the mere mortals who have been left to pick up the pieces.
The creators have plenty of fascinating gods and titans for players to worship or hate, and all of the entities have significant impacts on the world’s recovery. How will your players navigate the complex webs that gods and titans alike have woven? Will they follow the divine righteousness and continue to restrain the titans? Or will they attempt to release the entities and curry favor?
One of the best benefits of allowing unofficial creators to make new worlds is the recent inclusion of new viewpoints and ideas. The Wagadu Chronicles take players beyond the normal medieval European fantasy settings into a world rich with African folklore and mythology. They made a self-identified Afrofantasy setting for tabletop roleplaying.
There are new subclasses to play, items to find, monsters to defeat or subdue, and adventures to be had. The game was funded through Kickstarter, and, amazingly, the 300-page lore book is available for free on their website. Plus, although it is compatible with Fifth Edition rules, it includes optional rules to supplement and enhance the experience.
If you want to experience Wagadu but don’t have a group to play with, you can also check out their online video game. It is a combination of role-playing and action game that lets you experience the world on your own and bring it to your friends at the table at the same time.
The Islands of Sina Una
Hit Point Press recently unveiled the world of The Islands of Sina Una, a fantasy setting inspired by Filipino mythology. There are seven unique islands in Sina Una, and the peoples who populate them are as diverse and exciting as the writers and artists who collaborated on the project. The setting introduces new and fearsome monsters, environmental challenges, ancestries, and subclasses.
For people who aren’t familiar with Filipino mythology, the primary belief system is based on animism, or the idea that every natural creation has a soul. The most powerful souls have ascended to godhood, but there are plenty of strong spirits that have chosen to remain as they are. There are even festivals that briefly help connect the living with their ancestors to ask for boons or guidance in their lives.
The best part of Sina Una is that it can either be self-contained or incorporated into a wider world. It makes for a good place to start a campaign, and then, if your players want to travel, you can expand and possibly add other settings to the planet.
Swords of Kos
This ambitious endeavor focuses on a setting that the Dark Ages of Mediterranean countries loosely inspire. Like many other settings, it is post-apocalyptic and primarily features towns and peoples struggling to recover some of their former glory. Not only were most of the inhabitants killed in the Great Cataclysm, but magic was awakened throughout the world.
Players must contend with new magical abilities, ancient technologies, and lost secrets of how to wield both as powerful weapons or protections. The lore book includes over 100 unique NPCs to populate and breathe life into the world of Kos. There are new races, monsters, deities, and plenty of other new things to discover.
Mists of Akuma
Although the presentation is somewhat questionable, anyone who wants to see a Fifth Edition setting in fantasy Japan will love everything in Mists of Akuma. Whether your players are looking to be ninjas or samurai, there is something for everyone in this steampunk noir setting. Airships powered by lightning came and colonized the area of Soburin, marking the beginning of the end for the region.
Colonists forcibly stripped the lands of their resources and brought strange new technologies. People all across the land have been reduced to fighting for the precious scraps left to survive. The mists themselves, however, are the true enemy. They change even the most peaceful people into cruel demons, hellbent (literally) on destruction and chaos.
The setting introduces new monsters, items, backgrounds, conditions, subclasses, races, feats, and prefectures for players to explore while avoiding the effects of the Mists of Akuma. Any fan of anime will get a kick out of starring in their own spectacular adventures.
As the name suggests, this setting focuses on the mythology of Eastern Europe and the Vikings. Like many other settings, it is post-apocalyptic. The world was left reeling after the glorious bridge of the Bifrost fell. People are scarcely getting by with the small flames of magic and hope that are left in its wake. After the bridge collapsed, the dark forces of the world began to gather in sinister hordes.
The Shadow Realm is once again eyeing the people left, and the giants to the north rigorously prepare for Ragnarok, the end of the world. Kobold Press has put out multiple sourcebooks relating to the world of Midgard, and there are many locales within the setting to flesh out an entire campaign. If your party is looking for some good old-fashioned Viking fun, this may be the setting for you.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is a living, evolving setting. As such, new content is released every so often. Though the original setting is rules agnostic (meaning it is compatible with any tabletop roleplaying game system), there is a specific index and extra sourcebook that helps you adapt everything for Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
Land of Azurth
The Land of Azurth is something of a departure from traditional Fifth Edition supplements in that it draws from American pop culture. Picture classic comic book sensibilities and the wild, zany antics of Saturday morning cartoons all combined into one huge melting pot of fun. Of course, there are plenty of gritty details and interesting NPCs to round out the picture; not everyone is a superhero, after all.
There are a variety of adventures published for the Land of Azurth, some featuring pirates sailing the chaotic seas or facing legendary monsters with hilarious names. In fact, the author relies on the fact that the whimsical nature of the setting, and the silly naming conventions, will cause players to underestimate the challenges that await them. This, of course, leads to tense showdowns and more hilarity for the DM.
This is a fantastic setting if you want to make a game that is more family-friendly than a typical Dungeons & Dragons setting. There are no war-torn peoples scrounging to survive, no desperate lost hope, no ruthless hardened criminals…just a good time in a silly but mechanically challenging location.
Like the world of Exandria from Critical Role, Khalgun is the world from the popular podcast Godsfall. Aram Vartian, the DM, put together a rulebook for people who want to have fun playing in the world that he made. What’s especially interesting about his world is that it revolves around player characters who ascend to godhood.
Deification doesn’t always agree with everyone, however, and being a god is fraught with danger. Khalgun is still suffering from the mutually assured destruction wrought by the Old Gods. The wars eradicated the magic of the world, and much of the planet was destroyed as well. Now, five kingdoms have arisen and settled a truce.
In this new world, players are the New Gods, responsible for governing the world and bringing magic back to its people. Will your players succeed in winning over the kingdoms and rule? Or will they destroy everything that’s left?
Blood and Bone
If you’ve been looking for a setting for your low-magic campaign, Blood and Bone is a great choice. It is the equivalent of Game of Thrones, where players must rely on their grit, resolve, and skills to solve problems instead of relying on magical powers or items. However, the Blood is the capability to change reality, like magic, but using it comes with a terrible cost. Blood and Bone features realistic rules for travel, fighting, and life.
Fans of gritty fantasy who want to see what price magic might have and scurry underfoot horrific monsters while navigating the choppy waters of political intrigue will thoroughly enjoy this setting. DMs have a wide number of choices of ways to take the story, depending on what their players prefer and who they interact with.
Blood and Bone doesn’t have a pantheon of gods like traditional D&D settings. Everything that happens is driven by the actions and consequences of the people who live there. The setting has unique cultures and peoples who populate the locales. One of the nations has an army of undead to defend their gates. Although Blood and Bone has its own rules system, it is compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
Skirmisher Publishing released Aigyptos for everyone who has ever wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons in a fantasy version of ancient Egypt. The setting features encounter tables, monsters, environmental hazards, and items to help your players feel right at home among the Egyptian deities in the scorching desert.
It is also compatible with the Swords of Kos setting, meaning that the Great Cataclysm has affected Aigyptos too. Gods and titans warred with each other and decimated the mortals who got in their way, thus reawakening magic in the world. Players can support the titans, or the gods, or work against them in their own ways as they try to survive the perilous sandstorms.
If their efforts are successful, they can also leave Aigyptos and visit some of the other places outlined in the Swords of Kos rulebook. However, DMs can choose to play Aigyptos adventures as standalone campaigns or incorporate the environment in a different wider world.
Dungeons & Dragons operates with an Open Gaming License, meaning that the game system can be used and built upon by publishing companies and creators who aren’t affiliated with Wizards of the Coast. In laymen’s terms, it means that DMs have the freedom to bring their homebrewed campaign settings to life. Luckily enough, thousands of fans and creators wondered the same thing and, what’s more, have made settings and campaigns outside of what is considered ‘canon.’ Many of the settings listed below are not only compatible with the Fifth Edition rules system but also have additional or optional mechanics to enhance your campaign. Whether you choose to go the “Official Settings” route or create your own with one of the “unofficial settings” you’ve got plenty of options to find the setting that fits your group the best.