Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What's Your Favorite AD&D 2e Setting?

2e was the edition best known for pumping out settings as if they were going out of style.

Greyhawk / From the Ashes
Forgotten Realms
Dark Sun
Council of Wyrms

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones I recall owning.

I think besides the core / usual suspects (Greyhawk / Forgotten Realms) the setting I got the most use out of was Dark Sun, even if the adventures were a railroad and a half.

Plansescape I could never get my players into. It was "too different". ah well.

Birthright we all wanted to play but couldnt really grasp the political layer of play and how it meshed with adventuring.

Mystara seemed like reworking of Basic D&D's Known World, which was a turn off back then, but much more appreciated these days.

So, I'd have to vote for Planscape as the setting I most wanted to run but didn't and The Forgotten Realms as the setting I ran the most and wish I hadn't.


  1. I loved almost every 2e setting, but Planescape was the postmodern gem in the crown. Of course, now we play nothing but the 10th Age because I've spent four years working on it and there's a considerable homebrew inertia that keeps us going.

    I love Dark Sun (and REALLY love Birthright). Hell, I even enjoy FR... but Planescape is where it is AT, particularly with players so inclined to philosophical discussion anyway.

  2. I should add, however, that though I only played Al Qadim briefly and never ran it myself... as a total rules conversion of AD&D, it is one of the most well-designed and beautiful adaptations of the system to a new milieu.

    1. Agreed. This is still my favorite setting. I still read through all the box sets and books every year or so.

    2. Got into rpgs at the tale end of 2e and honestly I continually tried to get people to play Dark Sun. Alas it was a no go and Greyhawk was the way we went.

  3. Our group mostly played GH, some FR, tiny amount of Spelljammer. The rest I read and own and were interesting but we never used them.

  4. I never played it, but heard great things about Al-Qadim. Ravenloft was a great setting.

    1. The most amazing part of Al-Qadim was the deftness of the way the system was rebuilt. You COULD NOT play a generic character class, you needed to take one of the special Al-Qadim kits. They were keyed directly into the setting, allowing the whole setting to hang together in a really amazing way.

      Also, I mean, Sorcerers of Flame and Sand and Mechanician Wizards. What else do you need?

  5. Ravenloft.

    There was nothing else on the list that was even close.
    Hated the Realms, hated what they were doing to Greyhawk, hated the stupid "cant" of Planescape. But Ravenloft...well it wasn't perfect that's for sure, but I loved it all the same. I embraced every cliche, I got on every railroad and damn if I didn't have a blast.

    1. I still really like Ravenloft. It's such a perfect blend of melodramatic gothic horror and melodramatic D&Desque adventure.

      Does Masque of the Red Death count as it's own setting? I think it is one of the most underrated settings of all time.

  6. Birthright, far and away.
    Dark Sun was also a lot of fun but still comes in second.
    I have all the books for Al-Qadim and loved the setting but never ran it - it takes a group of players who are into the culture aspect of the game to make it work.

  7. I like Planescape and Ravenloft and Dark Sun and Spelljammer and even some of the green cover historical settings. My favourite would probably depend on the day you asked me the question but I think I'd pick Planescape as the best and Spelljammer as the most fun.

    I've never read Al Qadim or Birthright as they both seemed a bit dull back in the day but given how popular they seem to be, I want to take a look at them.

  8. I'm a big Al-Qadim fan, and I am still running games in the setting to this day.

  9. Birthright was my favorite by a long way. I played it three different ways

    1: Part of a huge PBeM campaign, with one season roughly taking one month of real time to play (two weeks to submit your turn, two weeks for the DM to send you the results). Lots of politics, back-stabbing and forum posts! Good times! Best campaign I've ever played in.

    2: Part of a traditional small party where ever player was a domain lord. I was the Paladin in charge of Tournen, the cleric ran Medeore, the Ranger had Roseone, the thief had Ilien and the two magic users split their source domanis between the realms ruled by the rest of us. We managed to defeat an invasion by the Gorgon, conquer Ghoere and then we played the two big boys vying for the throne (Bouruine and Avanil) off against each other. Again, good times.

    3: Part of a traditional adventuring parrty, with the goal of establishing a domain of our own at around name level. That would have been cool, but it folded long before we had the xp, the contacts or the fame to claim any territory for ourselves.

  10. I've probably played most my games of D&D in the Known World specifically and Mystara generally, usually a slapdash combination of some gazetteers and a heaping pile of stuff we made up. I kinda wish WotC would set it loose under the OGL for the OSR community to have fun with.

    I really loved reading Spelljammer and Forgotten Realms material, but never did get around to running a game with either. If I were to run Spelljammer I think I'd ditch the spelljamming helms for something that didn't feel quite so much like a kludge to make something powered by a measurable force into something that meshed with Vancian magic.

  11. I love Council of Wyrms. I've only played in a couple of short campaigns in the setting and run it maybe twice total, but I dig out the box set every now and then. I'm still surprised how well they managed to create a coherent world and rules based on the concept of dragons as PC's. It's just so fun (plus the box had plenty of cool posters and art to keep my magpie self happy.)

    To this day I pretty much only used 2nd ed as a vehicle for the setting.

  12. I'm a die hard Greyhawker. :)

  13. Planescape for playing with big ideas. The Multiverse and traversing the infinite weren't new, but Planescape put its own (D&D) spin on those concept and made them its own. Not counting the Cant, which was only a minor component of its flavor.

    Of the Prime Material settings, it's Forgotten Realms. I see it as a chimera of Tolkienesque epic fantasy (the firmly Euro-centric core areas) and Sword & Sorcery with its ambiguous exotic locations (Thay, Calimshan, etc.). It seemed like a place where normal characters could actually grow up and not be horribly scarred people.

    Certainly where is darkness in the setting and places of corruption, even in the nicer areas, but it was an option if characters wanted to seek it out in other lands or turn over a rock in their homelands to disturb the festering hives of scum and villainy there. It was a place one could live in comfortably and a place worth fighting for. Contradictory to the common criticism, I felt characters could reasonably make a difference where as in darker settings, the good guys should logically always lose (or they lost already and just don't know it).

    I like that the Realms wasn't a horrible post-apocalyptic hellhole, which come to think of it is a rarity in campaign settings nowadays, especially the 4E Realms "sorta, kinda" post-apocalyptic gimmick.

    We played Dark Sun when we did want something post-apocalyptic. I would rate it higher but the further I dug into the setting the less I liked the setup and the musings behind the mysteries. It felt anti-climatic. It works better with the just the basic premise of Sorcerer-Kings despoiling the land and leave it at that. The ancient history stuff was uninspiring and added nothing but baggage. Disappointed this wasn't D&D's entry into a full on Sword & Sorcery/Weird Fantasy setting.

    When I first looked through Ravenloft, I found the flavor impressive, but then the artificial patchwork nature of the Mist didn't sit well with me. It made everything feel less real for some reason, it was a lazy execution, an odd Planescape-lite explanation with restrictions to enforce a mock-horror veneer. I would have preferred an actual world inspired by a Gothic and horror atmosphere where the various great evils won. Sort of like FFG's Midnight, but instead of a Sauron-like Dark Lord winning through orc armies, it's Dracula with vampire knights, werewolf clans, ancient empires lead by mummy lords.

  14. Spelljammer. Definitely Spelljammer. I wanted to play Planescape and Al-Qadim, but the group enjoyed Spelljammer too much. :)

  15. Spelljammer is my favorite. I didn't get into it at first, but the ideas grew on me. It needed more low-level starter adventures, though, but that's really a complaint that applies to most of the 2E settings.

    I love the idea of Birthright, but I've unfortunately never had a chance to play it. The groups that I've been in have all been afraid of domain level play.

    Another one that I love the idea of is Dark Sun, but I am kinda unhappy with the actual execution. In my opinion, it should have been set up so that players start at first level, for instance, and psionics should have been rare. There's also a bit more that I would have done quite differently.

  16. During 2e it was mostly all about the Forgotten Realms because everyone knew it.

    Personally, I always loved Birthright, even though I could never get my players to play. They just weren't interested.

    Ravenloft had a lot going for it, and I tossed my players into the mists on a regular basis.

    I liked Planescape in theory, but hated the whole Great Wheel theory of cosmology.

  17. I loved the Forgotten Realms, but avoided the novels. The box set and handbook gave us enough details to run with and run with it we did. A lot.

    I liked the individual domains of Ravenloft, but not the overall demi-plane idea. I mined it for ideas a lot.

    I never got to play Spelljammer, but always wanted to.

    I never wanted to play Dark Sun, but now that I'm more well versed in dying Earth stuff I would love to try it.


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