As I write these words, in just a few short weeks the LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign will debut worldwide. On August 14, the first of many, many adventures will be released for our newest shared-world program. After all the talk over the past months of the history of the RPGA's old programs, now we look to a new program to lead the 4th Edition charge. So what's changed? What's still the same?
The main goal of the LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS (or LFR) campaign is to create an organized play experience that is as inclusive and accessible as possible, while still keeping the considerations of a massive shared-world campaign in mind. The barriers for getting involved in LFR have been significantly reduced over past campaigns. The focus of this campaign is on creating fun gameplay.
To start, LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS will have a regional system for your characters. However, it will work differently than Living campaigns have in the past -- no longer is play dictated by where you live in the real world. Rather, you determine your character's region from a list of twelve allowed in the campaign. You can play an adventure from any region, but you might find that playing your character's regional adventures proves more advantageous to you, at times, than to characters who are strangers to your home.
Your ability to access all of the adventures for LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS means that you'll have plenty of opportunities for play right in your own home. In the first two months of the campaign, at least eighteen adventures will become available for play in LFR. Adventures will be rolled out on a weekly basis, meaning that you'll rarely have want for a new play experience.
Mapping real-world locations to regions in the FORGOTTEN REALMS still exists, but really only for administrative and community-building purposes. One of the great strengths of the regional system is localization. Being able to talk to a campaign administrator that lives nearby, as well as helping to organize local events, is all made easier through the regional system. So, while your character might be from one of many different regions, your area falls into a certain administrative boundary that is associated with a particular region.
Adventure play has also evolved. Adventures are tightly focused on a narrower grouping of eligible character levels than in the past. In the days of LIVING GREYHAWK, you might have had an adventure written for characters levels 1–15, now the adventure will be written for a four-level spread. This gives the adventure a better sense of cohesion and improves its play.
We've also made a change in your ability to replay adventures. In the past, you could only play each adventure once. Now, you can play each adventure once with each appropriate character you possess. If you DM an adventure, you can play it afterwards. LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS is meant to be a casual play experience, and giving players additional play options allows them to interact with the campaign the way they want.
Our character creation rules have also been overhauled. All too often in the past I've heard "How do I create a character for the RPGA?" The answer's always been a little too complex -- each campaign had so many custom rules for character creation. Now, a standardized document that gives base rules for all RPGA character creation is available, and each campaign has an appendix with additional considerations.
LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS also gives you more freedom to make the character you want without having to jump through a bunch of burning hoops. We want you to get a lot of use out of your books and D&D Insider. Other shared-world RPGA programs assume that most material is unavailable for your character without special access. But in LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS, most material you'd want as a player is accessible right when the book hits the shelves or the monthly issue of Dragon is compiled. We'll even let you try out playtest classes (such as the artificer from issue #365) from Dragon in LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS!
Treasure and rewards has been brought in-line with the rules for distribution in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Characters will receive about one magic item per level, and they can buy more with gold they accumulate. Characters don't adventure to just gain access to items -- they actually find magic items during play and can choose to select a found item at the end of the adventure.
Recording your adventure play is straightforward. Each player maintains his or her character's adventure log, which contains just the important information: adventure name, XP totals, gold totals, and magic items gained. Heavy bookkeeping is now a thing of the past.
If you want to leave your mark on the Realms, this is the campaign to do it. Close cooperation with R&D and our books team ensures that we're able to provide adventures that fit into the official Realms while still providing you with plenty of variety in adventure locales. Most adventures have adventure questions that are collected to determine the future direction of the campaign. Decisions you and your adventuring company make have an impact on the future!
But perhaps the most important thing that's changed is the philosophy behind being a DM for our shared-world games. In the past, emphasis was placed on tournament-style play. Under this philosophy, adventures had to be run "as written" to provide a "consistent" play experience. Tournament-style play is an artifact of the past, and while it does have its place (like the D&D Championship Series) it runs counter to the experience of an accessible shared-world campaign. Now, the DM has been given one golden rule: Make decisions and adjudications that enhance the fun of the adventure when possible. DMs are now empowered to adjust adventures to accomplish this task, just like they would in their home games. Having a good play experience is now the number one priority.
LIVING FORGOTTEN REALMS excitement is building, and if you like what you've read here, go to the RPGA website at www.wizards.com/rpga to get more information on the campaign. Character creation rules and many more details are available right now. LFR has evolved from over 20 years of other shared-world games -- come join us and see what the future holds!
This concludes the first series of installments for the RPGA Report. Next month, stay tuned for a new series!