Ideas for Fantasy RPG Settings

Written by riccardo giovanniello
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Ideas for Fantasy RPG Settings
A detailed setting for your fantasy RPG will help keep your campaign interesting. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

In order to lead a successful and fun fantasy role-playing campaign, a Dungeon Master (or Game Master) must create detailed and imaginative settings for the players to explore. But since the world of fantasy has many faces, it is up to the DM to create a world that is not only unique to the campaign, but that is also familiar to the players. The DM must also keep his settings loyal to fantasy canon; leave the guns, tanks, spaceships and aliens for another game.

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Dungeons and Catacombs

Dungeons and catacombs have long been staples in role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, and for good reason. These locations, when accompanied by maps created by the DM, submerge the characters in the events thanks to chance encounters with creatures like orcs, goblins or trolls. The narrow, dimly lit underground tunnels create a sense of claustrophobia and peril which help set the mood. Creating a detailed map is paramount; letting the players see the map is another story. Leading them blindly into traps and other chance encounters will keep the campaign action-packed while the players search out precious gold or enchanted items and weapons as rewards for their heroism.

Towns and Villages

During a prolonged campaign, players will inevitably need to restock their characters' equipment, weapons and food that were lost, damaged or consumed. Creating a detailed town or village complete with shops, pharmacies (for healing potions) and blacksmiths will allow the playing characters to regain some of what they need; however, chance encounters are also common in these rural locations. Taverns are ideal locations to set the stage for a big fight or a meeting with an important NPC (non-player character). These chance encounters help progress the story, either in the flow that you, the DM, expected, or in an unexpected way dictated by the players. As DM, you may also want to include recurring NPCs that do not necessarily progress the plot, but add depth the world you have created. For example, you may wish to include a love interest for one of the characters, or create long-term contacts with guild members located in the town.


Deep, dark forests are an ideal setting for chance encounters with a number of different species in a fantasy world. Instead of fighting ogres and trolls, the standard villains in a fantasy world, forests are populated with fairies and pixies that pull pranks on playing characters. Because of this, playing characters are faced with encounters that are rarely experienced. Forests allow the DM to hold the world in his hands, as uninhabited woods are foreign territories to most character classes (except, of course, for Rangers and Hunters).

The Worlds of "The Lord of the Rings" and "Conan"

If the standard settings outlined by the Dungeons & Dragons books are not what you are looking for, feel free to go beyond the rule books. J.R.R. Tolkein's epic fantasy series "The Lord of the Rings" provides detailed maps and worlds for your campaign, as well as ideas for encounters and quests. The comic book and film series "Conan the Barbarian" provides further variations on the classic fantasy setting with less well-known creatures and races.

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