The world of Dungeons & Dragons 5E is designed to be rather flexible. Any person’s brain can come up with a fantastic fantasy world that completely boggles the mind. If you can dream it, you can play 5E on it! However, Wizards have introduced two worlds that players can use, either for modules or for a background of their own campaign; Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms. These are two entirely different worlds, but each have some similarities, upsides, and downsides for running campaigns in them. What world should your campaign take place in? Read our Greyhawk vs Forgotten Realms 5E guide to find out!
Greyhawk vs Forgotten Realms
Of course, a campaign setting is as important as you want it to be. Your version of the Forgotten Realms is likely different from another DM’s, or the game designer’s vision of it. That’s because every world in a tabletop campaign is formed around the players and DM. But, these two worlds do have some things set-in-stone, and you likely want to play by some of those rules.
Greyhawk is a standard fantasy world with some darker elements. The Free City of Greyhawk, which the world is named after, is the centerpiece of any game in this setting. Outside of the city, survival isn’t exactly guaranteed; there are many, many problems with every city (including Greyhawk), roving bandits, cultists, and remnants of the Greyhawk Wars. This is a setting that constantly regresses; war has a distinctly negative impact on the entire continent. However, throughout the land, you’ll find extremely familiar and lovely people who are more than happy to help you on your way.
It’s also notable that Greyhawk is a slightly older map, usually used for older editions of D&D. It’s 100% fine to use it, but it might be slightly basic on the surface. That’s not to say that there’s not ample opportunity to advance it into the modern realms; some of those adventure paths could easily be adapted for modern D&D.
You’ve likely heard of the Forgotten Realms. The Forgotten Realms is a bonkers, everything-goes setting. There is years upon years upon years of lore, a deep, complex, interconnected legacy of nations, politics, and evils. It also has a brighter tone than Greyhawk; wars hit hard, but nations recover quickly. The world is absolutely massive, allowing for a larger variety of locations with incredibly distinct landmarks. It also tends to be slightly more supported in newer editions; there are more mentions of rare races, slightly more up-to-date lore, and more modules within the Realms. If you’re newer to 5E, and want to play the campaign books, the Forgotten Realms tend to be much easier to adapt.
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Both worlds are vast, popular, and filled with lore. But, Greyhawk has lost support for the world over the years, compared to the more modern Forgotten Realms. That does not, by any means, make the Greyhawk setting old or outdated; it’s still extremely well loved by fans, and you can find plenty of adventure paths from 2E-5E to augment your campaigns. But, if you’re new to D&D or want to have a slightly more complex world, the Forgotten Realms tend to be better.