Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting

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The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is a role-playing game sourcebook, first published in 1987. It details the Forgotten Realms setting and contains information on characters, locations and history, and sets specific rules for the Dungeons & Dragons (often abbreviated as "D&D") role-playing game. The latest edition was published in 2008 by Wizards of the Coast, for use with the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules.

1st edition[edit]

The original 1987 edition of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

Contents[edit]

The "Dungeon Master's Sourcebook of the Realms" describes how to set up and run a campaign in the Forgotten Realms. A pair of miniscenarios is included, and information is provided on wilderness terrain and movement, important personalities, rumors, and significant and magical books.[1] Written from the perspective of Elminster the sage, the book introduces the campaign setting, explains how to use it, and offers adventure resources.[2] Large areas were set aside to be developed for house campaigns, and no published materials were intended to be printed to exploit those areas, while one area detailed in this package was intended to have no subsequent publications use that area.[2] The package covers only the western half of a single continent, with the eastern half reserved for future publication of Kara-Tur.[2] Two complete dungeon-style adventures are provided: "Halls of the Beast-Tamers", a dungeon with many unconventional problem-solving exercises, and "Lashan's Fall", a dungeon with a mystery and an opportunity to parley with a monster.[2] The "Books of the Forgotten Realms" section is a treatment of several magical tomes that suggests a variety of adventures, with a description of the appearance, history, and contents of each book.[2]

The "Cyclopedia of the Realms" provides background information on and details maps of the locations in the accompanying maps of the Forgotten Realms.[1] It begins with an explanation of the Realms' treatment of time, names, language, and currency, and its gods and religion.[2] The remaining 75 pages of the book is an encyclopedic and alphabetic listing of important places, races, nations, cultures, character classes, and organizations of the Realms.[2]

The set includes four full-color, 34" x 22" maps, two of which combine to form a large-scale (1" = 90 miles) map of the western half of the vast Realms continent, while the other two provide a more detailed (1" = 30 miles) map of the regions featured in this campaign pack.[2]

Publication history[edit]

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set was written by Ed Greenwood, with Jeff Grubb and Karen Martin, and illustrated by Keith Parkinson, Jeff Easley, Clyde Caldwell, and Tim Conrad.[1] Greenwood and Grubb did the design, while Grubb was responsible for the development, and Karen Martin did the editing.[2][clarification needed] It was published in 1987, as a boxed set which included two 96-page books (the "DM's Sourcebook of the Realms" and the "Cyclopedia of the Realms"), four large color maps, and two clear plastic hex-gridded overlays.[1]

Reception[edit]

In a January 1988 Dragon magazine review of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set,[2] Ken Rolston stated that the Forgotten Realms setting achieves the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (or, AD&D) dual design objectives of compatibility with existing AD&D game campaigns, and colorful characters, themes, and cultures. This is made possible by its vast setting, and the way the Realms campaign "avoids epic themes and theological frames", "leaving room for the complex and contradictory jumble of pantheons and cultures encouraged by the AD&D game's developmental history". The Realms setting is a game setting, as opposed to a narrative setting like Krynn and Middle-earth, "firmly rooted in the traditions of a decade of AD&D game campaigns and adventures, both published and "house".[2] Rolston disliked the "DM's Sourcebook of the Realms"' handling of random encounters and its notes on dragons of the setting, and felt that its descriptions of NPCs are "not particularly useful or appealing", with the exception of Elminster, "an effective informant and presentation mouthpiece".[2] The recent-news-and-rumors section was described as "excellent, offering perfect examples of AD&D game-scale fantasy scenario ideas in a charming and flavorful style".[2] He called the two dungeon adventures "first-class", and described "Halls of the Beast-Tamers" as a "classic AD&D game dungeon with lots of weirdness and magical flourishes" which "provides a solid rationale for the ever-popular monster-motel adventure", although he felt that it may be too tough for novices. "Lashan's Fall" was termed "a nifty dungeon with a mystery", and said to feature "a loony monster that may not necessarily rip into the PCs at the first opportunity".[2] Rolston found in the "Cyclopedia of the Realms" book a "less-satisfying treatment of gods and religion" than that in books such as Deities & Demigods and Legends & Lore, as while "the major archetypes and game elements are covered, there's little detail, motivation, or game information provided for the deities".[2] He felt that the best entries in the encyclopedic section about places are several large- and medium-sized cities and towns, complete with maps and keys to the major establishments, and "a good treatment of Shadowdale, a village proposed as the setting for novice campaigners".[2] The strongest element of this encyclopedic section was considered to be the treatment of organizations such as the adventuring, mercenary, and merchant companies, which can be used as "backdrops for intrigue and adventure, and provide background material for PC and NPC role-playing development. Skim through a couple of these entries; they're quite good."[2] Rolston felt that the maps were "decent but unimpressive" artistically, and graphically were "exceptionally clear and useful", saying "These ingenious devices are sure to please mappers and travel freaks".[2] As a campaign setting, Rolston felt that the physical space of the Realms is vast and varied, and the important guiding themes of any campaign (good vs. evil, megavillains, depraved gods, quests, loot, power) "are all available in profusion".[2] He concluded that the setting was "well-conceived as the official AD&D game campaign setting – vast enough to accommodate a multitude of house campaigns and variable playing styles, and true to the established traditions of a decade of AD&D game campaigning".[2]

The boxed set is a Gamer's Choice award-winner.[1] Lawrence Schick, in his 1991 book Heroic Worlds, describes the Forgotten Realms as a "fantasy world with a little bit of everything in it, the setting for most of TSR's AD&D scenarios from 1987 on. The world is designed to be flexible enough to act as a setting for a wide variety of campaigns."[1]

2nd edition[edit]

Revised Cover from 1996

The Forgotten Realms boxed set was upgraded in 1993 to the AD&D 2nd Edition game rules, which was later republished in 1996.

Contents[edit]

  • "A Grand Tour of the Realms" – 128-page perfect-bound book describing the geographical regions of Faerûn
  • "Shadowdale" – 96-page book on the town of Shadowdale including the adventure "Beneath the Twisted Tower".
  • "Running the Realms" – 64-page book describing suggested ideas for running a campaign in the Realms
  • 8 Monstrous Compendium pages
  • 6 card-stock accessory sheets
  • 4-fold out maps
  • 2 transparent hex-grid overlays for use with the maps

3rd edition[edit]

Book cover

In 2001, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. published the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, a Forgotten Realms campaign source book for use with the 3rd Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The book was written by Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams and Rob Heinsoo, with additional contributions from members of the Wizard company's staff. Interior art was by Todd Lockwood, Sam Wood, Matt Wilson, Carlo Arellano and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. The hardbound book is 320 pages in length and features color illustrations.

Reception[edit]

The reviewer from Pyramid noted that the third edition book covers "a vast land with knights, barbarians, horse archers, and just about any other type of fantasy archetype you can name".[3]

In 2002, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting won the Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Game Supplement of 2001.[4]

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting made the Amazon.ca bestseller list at number 47 in September 2002.[5]

Contents[edit]

A number of changes have been made since the previous books were published by the former TSR, Inc. The most important update has been the inclusion of the 3rd edition's significant revisions to the game system. Various regional feats, character attributes, prestige classes, spells and non-player character statistics use the new rule set.

Notable updates to the campaign setting included the widespread presence of Red Wizard enclaves in various cities, the presence of a mysterious group called the "Shades" in the southern Anauroch desert, and the increasing "surface presence" of Dark Elves in the Dalelands. The setting history was updated to reflect various major events such as the changes to the pantheon of Faerûn since the Time of Troubles, and the defeat of the Tuigan Horde.

The book was organized into nine chapters, which cover the campaign setting in broad detail. The primary emphasis is on the continent of Faerûn, and the other continents are only briefly mentioned. The chapters are arranged as follows:

  1. Characters — How to create a player character for the setting, including races, classes, regional feats, religions, and setting-specific prestige classes. Many of these later have been merged into the version 3.5 release of Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide.
  2. Magic – An explanation of how magic operates in this setting, and a number of unique aspects of magic. A few additional spells are provided, primarily to support the new Domains.
  3. Life in Faerûn – A general overview of life, lore, culture and commerce in this setting.
  4. Geography – Each of the significant regions of the continent are explored, along with places of interest, cities, politics, and significant individuals.
  5. Deities – Only the major deities are described in this edition, with the remainder of the pantheon detailed in Faiths & Pantheons. Several new Domains are introduced, with the incumbent spells listed in the Magic chapter.
  6. History – An overview of the detailed history of this setting, with a lengthy time line at the end of the chapter.
  7. Organizations – Groups, cults, and other organizations play an important role in the realms, and several of the most significant are detailed herein.
  8. Running the Realms – Practical advice for the Dungeon Master trying to run an adventure or campaign in this setting. A pair of brief sample adventures are included.
  9. Monsters – A brief list of monsters unique to this continent are introduced, with a more extensive selection published later in other books.

This work contained a number of quality maps, and a fold-out map of the continent of Faerûn. There were also many sidebar topics and tables.

Stats are given throughout the sourcebook for popular Forgotten Realms characters such as Drizzt Do'Urden, Artemis Entreri, Elminster, Khelben Blackstaff, Fzoul Chembryl and Manshoon.

Source books[edit]

The following books have been published by Wizards of the Coast as 3rd edition D&D supplements to this setting.

These works provide additional geographic details on the various regions, as well as new prestige classes, creatures, and magic.

4th edition[edit]

The Forgotten Realms continues to be a supported campaign setting in the 4th edition of D&D. Wizards of the Coast released the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide in August 2008, and the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide in September 2008.

To usher in the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, major events occur in the world. The most notable of these include the death of the goddess Mystra and her Weave, and the subsequent Spellplague, a phenomenon which occurs with the decomposition of the Weave and either kills spellcasters or drives them mad. This Spellplague causes calamitous events in the environment and the natural world, such as animation of giant statues, violent earthquakes, corruption of various beings into monsters, and the collapse of some regions of the Underdark. Popular characters such as Elminster and Drizzt Do'Urden are stated to be included.[6]

5th edition[edit]

The Forgotten Realms is the primary campaign setting for D&D 5th edition. Again, major world events move the larger story onward. The Cult of the Dragon, a hidden but growing organisation, aims to bring back the dragon Tiamat.

No sourcebooks had yet been released to support the Realms as of the release of the Starter Set and Basic rules (3rd July 2014).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 99. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Rolston, Ken (January 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#129): 84–86. 
  3. ^ http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=2272
  4. ^ "Origins Award Winners (2001)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  5. ^ (September 2002). "Amazon.ca/Books in Canada bestsellers lists", Books in Canada 31 (6): 11.
  6. ^ "What campaign settings will 4th Edition D&D support?". Ask Wizards. Wizards of the Coast. 22 August 2007. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • "My Dinner with Elminster", Dragon No. 119.

External links[edit]