More than 45 years after the first boxed set was released, Dungeons & Dragons is more popular today than ever. Wizards of the Coast puts out plenty of new D&D adventures and supplements each year, but game masters who want to branch out from Eberron and the Forgotten Realms to build their own RPG worlds will need a little bardic inspiration if they want to bring their speculative fiction landscape to life. If you’re searching for invented worlds to set your next D&D campaign in, look no further, because I’ve got ten great titles for you to take a crack at.
10 Invented Worlds to Set Your Next D&D Campaign In
N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy swept the Hugo Awards three years running, and for good reason. The series features one of the most unique and dangerous worlds seen in contemporary fiction: the ironically named Stillness. Here, catastrophic earthquakes that can last for decades alter the landscape, transforming the flora and fauna into something deadly. Living in hiding or servitude, when they’re allowed to live at all, the orogenes—a race of people born with the power to control seismic activity—will bring some homebrew magic to your D&D table.
The Four Londons from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Want to set your next D&D campaign in an invented world that’s already optimized for interplanar travel? Then look no further than V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. The series centers on Kell, a magician born with the rare ability to cross between four separate worlds. The only thing these lands have in common is that each has its own version of London. Magic is plentiful in Red London, where Kell has grown up, but nonexistent in Grey London, where King George III’s son rules as his regent. The rulers of White London use magic to control their starving populace, and in Black London…well, nobody talks about what happened there.
Night Vale from Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Want a world in which everything can be weird and scary and change at a moment’s notice? No, I’m not talking about the U.S. in 2020. I’m talking about Night Vale: the setting for Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s hit podcast and book series. It’s a town where the local Boy Scouts hold rituals to ascend to higher ranks, where a pawn shop owner can be 19 years old forever, where cats and their kittens float around your bathroom, and where you never, ever approach the dog park. Sometimes described as Twin Peaks meets Lake Woebegone, Welcome to Night Vale‘s setting is sure to delight your D&D players.
Regency London from Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Game masters looking for some historical fun should check out Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, a fantasy novel set in Regency London. The novel follows Zacharias—a formerly enslaved man who has become England’s Sorcerer Royal—on an official trip to the edge of Fairyland. His mission? To discover why England’s running out of magic. Along the way, he meets Prunella, a talented sorcerer in her own right who’s whiling away the hours in a school that teaches her how to suppress her magical abilities in order to become a proper lady. Zacharias and Prunella’s world is one of fairies, lamiae, and plenty of posh—and not-so-posh—magic.
The Empire from Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Set in a world in which the Universe is controlled by nine houses of necromancers serving a divine emperor, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth is ripe for the D&D picking. This space fantasy murder mystery adventure is full of sword lesbians and every way of raising the dead imaginable. Even though readers only get to see a small fraction of what Muir’s invented world has to offer in Gideon the Ninth, there’s no reason you can’t fill in the blanks for yourself to throw your players into a creepy sci-fi-scape.
Discworld from The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
The late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld saga is perfect for anyone who wants to create an absurd, lighthearted game world. One of the series’s introductory novels—yes, there are several—The Color of Magic follows Rincewind, a shoddy wizard with luck that shifts between terrible and miraculous, as he leads a visitor around Ankh-Morpork: Discworld’s largest city. Although it won’t tell you everything there is to know about Discworld, this novel makes for an excellent introduction to Pratchett’s beloved fantasy series. Pick it up when you have the chance, and make a note to toss some Luggage at your players.
Dinétah from Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Journey to a post-apocalyptic version of the U.S. in which the Navajo homeland, Dinétah, has become an independent nation. Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning follows a Diné monster hunter as she seeks revenge for her family’s deaths. Accompanied by her medicine-man partner, Roanhorse’s heroine crosses monsters and deities of Navajo legend in her search for answers. If you’re looking for a way to explain why and how your players’ characters can contact their patrons, this is the book you need to read as you start world-building.
Mid-World from The Gunslinger by Stephen King
What could make for a better sandbox than a world that’s constantly in flux? Stephen King’s Dark Tower series begins with The Gunslinger, which is pretty much your standard weird west fare. The story gets a whole lot weirder as the series continues, though. It turns out that the eponymous gunslinger and his ka-tet—think Frodo’s Fellowship, if they were all time travelers—are caught in an epic battle for good and evil, and their world, Mid-World, contains the linchpin that’s holding all of reality together. The Dark Tower series is unlike anything you’ve ever read, and it’s full of ghosts, mutants, demons, and fearsome locations for you to introduce to your players.
The Radch Empire from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
So you’re looking for invented worlds to set your next D&D campaign in, but you want to trade magic wands for laser guns? Say no more. Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy is exactly what you’ve been looking for. The adventure begins in Ancillary Justice. In Leckie’s world, battles are fought using AI soldiers called ancillaries. One ancillary, Breq, is the sole survivor of a mysterious ship crash. Carrying a piece of the ship’s consciousness with her, Breq tries to piece together what happened to her all those years ago. If you want your D&D campaign full of combat and intrigue, this is the setting you need to steal from.
Louisiana from River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
I know what you’re thinking. What’s so special about Louisiana, right? Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth will make sure you never look at the bayou the same way again. In the real-life 19th century, the U.S. floated the idea of importing hippos to be raised for meat in the southern swamps. In River of Teeth, the initiative actually happened, leaving hippos to become an invasive species. So take a page from Gailey’s book: Throw your players into an ostensibly familiar setting, and then present them with the last creature they expect to encounter: a giant hippo.