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In D&D 3.x, the core books stated that the default setting was Greyhawk and the first few adventures were set in it (e.g. The Sunless Citadel, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil).

In D&D 4e, the core books stated that the default setting was Points of Light and the first few adventures were set in it (e.g. Keep on the Shadowfell, Pyramid of Shadows).

The D&D 5th Edition Starter Set includes a scenario called "Lost Mines of Phandelver" and the first adventures will be Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, all of which take place in Forgotten Realms. The core books haven't come out yet, but has there been an indication of whether Forgotten Realms will be the default setting for 5th Edition? Or have the creators indicated elsewhere that Forgotten Realms will not be the default setting, despite it being the setting of the initial adventures?

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Not exclusively.

Does the #dnd tabletop RPG have one official setting? The answer is yes. That setting is the multiverse, which includes all #dnd worlds.

a tweet by @JeremyECrawford

(Emphasis mine.)

In case you're wondering (just like I was) who Jeremy Crawford is, and how serious / official is what he says, he is

(...) one of the two lead designers of the new edition, as well as the lead designer of the Player’s Handbook and one of the leads on the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I’m also the managing editor who oversees the creation of material for the game.

"PHILOSOPHY BEHIND RULES AND RULINGS, Sage Advice", published at dnd.wizards.com

+

Update: In a reply to a tweet that pointed him to this Q here, Jeremy Crawford actually said the following:

The core books intentionally emphasize the multiverse. FR is the focus of OP and our first #dnd5e adventures.

Abbreviations:

OP: Organized Play, ie. D&D Adventurers League

FR: Forgotten Realms :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would note that Crawford's tweets are also considered official ruling by WotC. That's how serious/official what he says is. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 6 '18 at 3:57
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No. The default setting is the multiverse of all D&D worlds, which includes the Forgotten Realms.

Jeremy Crawford, in 2015, states this in a tweet:

Does the #dnd tabletop RPG have one official setting? The answer is yes. That setting is the multiverse, which includes all #dnd worlds.

In the reply thread to that tweet, he directly answers this question:

The core books intentionally emphasize the multiverse. FR is the focus of OP and our first #dnd5e adventures.

In other words, Forgotten Realms is not the default setting, not in the way that Greyhawk was the implied setting of D&D third edition, and we see this in the core rulebooks where the deities are not limited to those of one setting, but mention Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Eberron and pantheons of real-world myth.

Jeremy Crawford describes in his twitter thread how this multiverse works in spite of seemingly incompatible cosmologies:

The worlds occupy pockets of the Material Plane—sort of like planets but in a space shaped by magic and divine forces.

The inhabitants of each world in the Material Plane have different ways of imagining the multiverse (check out chapter 2 in the DMG).

In a 2013 article, James Wyatt described this multiverse approach as a deliberate design choice in D&D 5th edition (called in this article by its working title D&D Next), so we know it's not just Crawford coming up with this on the spot:

Pretty early on, we agreed that the core rules for D&D Next had to acknowledge the existence of all the worlds of D&D—not just the Forgotten Realms we’ve been talking a lot about, but also Greyhawk, Eberron, Krynn, Athas, Mystara, Ravenloft—and, most importantly, the thousands and thousands of worlds created by DMs for their own games.

Wizards of the Coast has decided to make Forgotten Realms the default setting of several of their published adventures. For example, Princes of the Apocalypse is set in Forgotten Realms, with a conversion guide for other settings. Tomb of Annihilation is similarly set in Chult, and Storm King's Thunder is explicitly set in the Realms too, as is Lost Mine of Phandelver.

On the other hand, Tales of the Yawning Portal contains three adventures which have no default setting, three set in Greyhawk, and one in Forgotten Realms by default. Out of the Abyss is set in the Underdark, a Realms feature of Greyhawk origin, and Curse of Strahd is set in Ravenloft. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is named for a Greyhawk character.

In short, while D&D 5th edition material makes heavier use of Forgotten Realms than any other D&D world, it is not the default setting; officially, it's only part of the larger D&D multiverse that includes all D&D worlds.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ worth pointing out that the PHB's sidebars intentionally mix in FR and DL characters? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Apr 4 '18 at 0:34
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Sort of:

The Players Handbook does not support any specific world over another. The sample characters, domain descriptions, and other sections in the book use examples that cover the gamut of game worlds. The list of deities in Appx B in the PHB covers 4 ancient earth pantheons (Celtic, Norse, Greek, and Egyptian), and the major game worlds for D&D (Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Eberron) as well as the 'non-human' deities.

The 'multiverse' has been publicly stated to be the default setting as a whole, thus being inclusive of all game worlds simultaneously and allowing cross-overs between game worlds.

Does the #dnd tabletop RPG have one official setting? The answer is yes. That setting is the multiverse, which includes all #dnd worlds.

source: https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/558363349549711360

Although the quote given from escapist magazine by Mike Mearls all but says the FR is the default setting, the date on that is still in the pre-release phase of D&D (2 June 2014), and Jeremy Crawford's statement was in January after the DMG was released, thus the more current comment seems more reliable in this case.

However, the adventures coming out for at least the initial two campaigns and encounters seem to be exclusively focused on Forgotten Realms. One of the first two campaigns is based on a story that has a very Greyhawk feel, and is based on an old storyline from Greyhawk (Elemental Evil, out in March/April). The first campaign is based primarily on Forgotten Realms, but the story would take very little conversion to move to Dragonlance in particular, substituting Thakesis for Tiamat. The flavor is very similar to a Dragonlance story.

Yes, the current material focuses on Forgotten Realms right now, but this is primarily as it relates to the Adventure League and published adventures. The overall statements, to me, seem to imply that they wanted a generic and inclusive world that they could put an infinite number of stories/campaigns and would be well received by the fans overall, and Forgotten Realms has historically made them more money than any other established game world due to the popularity of the setting and the novels.

TL;DR

In short the Core Rules don't favor any game world, but the other released materials point toward Forgotten Realms. The developers' statements seem to focus on the multiverse as a whole, but individual printed campaigns back up a Forgotten Realms bias.

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Yes.

Mike Mearls and others on the WOTC RPG team, have said on several occasions that Realms is the default setting for 5e.

When I was working on third and fourth there was this dialogue of "Should we just embrace The Realms as the core setting?" And we were always very wary of a big backlash. Honestly people have complained, but I think when you look at how we handled the playtest, and they'll see as we roll out the core rulebooks and Tyranny of Dragons that The Realms elements are strong enough that if you like The Realms or if you don't have a setting they kind of fill in the blanks and really bring the adventure to life, but one of the strengths of The Realms is that it's so diverse that we're not really cancelling anything out but get access to things like the Cult of the Dragon. Using The Realms lets us have a very flavorful villain group with an ongoing story that we can use in the future. If you look at like Red Hand of Doom, one of the big 3rd Edition adventures that went over very well, now that adventure's published we can't really use that adventure again because it didn't have a home in D&D. It doesn't really fit into a larger world. Using The Realms let us have that. (Mike Mearls, Escapist Magazine)

Realms is the default setting for 5e.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am a Sad panda :( \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Mar 27 '18 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth Never fear, Mearls turned out to be wrong later. See this answer for background on WotC overturning this Mearls statement. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 27 '18 at 22:05

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