Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting

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The original 1987 edition of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is a role-playing game sourcebook first published by TSR in 1987 for the first edition of the fantasy role-playing game Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that describes the campaign setting of the Forgotten Realms. It contains information on characters, locations and history. Various revised and updated editions have been produced over the years.

1st edition[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. 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. The package covers only the western half of a single continent, with the eastern half reserved for future publication of Kara-Tur. 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.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.

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. 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.

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.

Publication history[edit]

Shannon Appelcine detailed how Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb collaborated beginning in 1986 to publish Greenwood's Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and how "The result was the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987)."[2]: 72–73 

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. It was published in 1987,[3] 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]

2nd edition[edit]

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


  • "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]

In 2001, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. published an updated version 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.


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 maps, and a fold-out map of the continent of Faerûn. There were also many sidebar topics and tables. Game statistics were provided for popular Forgotten Realms characters such as Drizzt Do'Urden, Artemis Entreri, Elminster, Khelben Blackstaff, Fzoul Chembryl and Manshoon.

4th edition[edit]

Wizards of the Coast released another revised edition of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide for the fourth edition of D&D in August 2008, and also released the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide in September 2008.

To usher in the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, major campaign world events included the death of the goddess Mystra and her Weave, and the subsequent Spellplague, which caused calamitous events such as animation of giant statues, violent earthquakes, corruption of various beings into monsters, and the collapse of some regions of the Underdark.[4]

An additional campaign setting book, covering the city of Neverwinter and its environs, was released in 2011,[5] while an overview of the history, both fictional and real-world, of the Realms was published as Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms in 2012, written by Realms creator Ed Greenwood.[6]


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]

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".[7]

Other reviews[edit]

  • Envoyer Issue 23 (September 1998)
  • Asgard Issue 1 (April 2001)
  • Envoyer Issue 57 (July 2001)
  • Anduin Issue 88 (July 2004)
  • Rebel Times Issue 27 (December 2009, Polish edition, "(Nie)zapomniane Krainy") [in Polish]
  • Backstab #4 (2nd edition)[8]
  • Envoyer (German) (Issue 23 - Sep 1998)[9]


  • The 1st edition boxed set is a Gamer's Choice award-winner.[1]
  • At the 2002 Origins Award, the 3rd edition of Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting won Best Role-Playing Game Supplement of 2001.[10]

Other recognition[edit]

  • The third edition of Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting made the bestseller list at number 47 in September 2002.[11]
  • A copy of the third edition of Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is held in the collection of the Strong National Museum of Play (object 116.6072).[12]

See also[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. ^ Shannon Appelcline (2014). Designers & Dragons: The '70s. Evil Hat Productions. ISBN 978-1-61317-075-5.
  3. ^ Carbonell, Curtis D. (2019). "Chapter 3: Dungeons and Dragons Multiverse". Dread Trident: Tabletop Role-Playing Games and the Modern Fantastic. Liverpool: Oxford University Press. pp. 80–108. ISBN 978-1-78962-468-7. OCLC 1129971339.
  4. ^ "What campaign settings will 4th Edition D&D support?". Ask Wizards. Wizards of the Coast. 22 August 2007.
  5. ^ "Neverwinter Campaign Setting (4e) - Wizards of the Coast - Dungeons & Dragons 4e - Dungeons & Dragons 4e - Dungeon Masters Guild". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms - Wizards of the Coast - Forgotten Realms 3.x - Dungeons & Dragons 4e - Forgotten Realms - Dungeon Masters Guild". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Pyramid: Pyramid Pick: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (for Dungeons & Dragons)". 1 June 2001. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Backstab Magazine (French) Issue 04".
  9. ^ "AD&D Die vergessen Reiche - Kampagnen- Set | Article | RPGGeek".
  10. ^ "Origins Award Winners (2001)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  11. ^ (September 2002). " in Canada bestsellers lists", Books in Canada 31 (6): 11.
  12. ^ "Game:Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 28 August 2020.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]