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Imagining the World
Dragon's-Eye View
By Jon Schindehette

T hank you—all of you—for being more than patient in the past several weeks as I took you into the world of computer games and comics for a while. I promised you earlier that we would start up world building again and that I would loop you in as we did. Today, I'd like to play in an area that I haven't really had the opportunity to explore for many years. That is, I want to play with the world of D&D, or more specifically, the world of the Forgotten Realms setting: Faerûn. We are often so busy looking at the characters and critters in the world that we forget to look up and see the world as it is. So let's lift our gaze for a few minutes and see what's around us.

When I was talking with James Wyatt about the world recently, we both agreed that the lands of Faerûn should be familiar, and to a degree, welcoming. We don't want anything so extreme or alien that folks have a hard time relating to it. At the same time, this should be a land of wonder and awe. If I present the world of Faerûn as nothing more than a bunch of postcard locations that could be seen here on Earth, then we are missing the essence of Faerûn and doing the world a disservice—and we're doing you a disservice as well.

Faerûn is a huge place and as varied as our own, and trying to document this setting is a breathtaking undertaking. So rather than drown in the immensity of world, I decided to stick close to home in the first forays. "Close to home" means that I'm focusing on the northwest region of Faerûn. We talked about detailing regions both familiar (shown in the past) and those that would be unfamiliar (not seen before). For myself, I wanted to give the world a fresh visual pass. For too long, we've allowed the visuals to pale in relation to our imaginations. This time I wanted to really amp things up. I wanted to take a look at the lands from the perspective of a film director. I wanted to look at the world as a way of depicting the wonder and magic of the place. I also wanted to provide you with a visual sense that leaves you with a burning desire to visit those lands.

Question for you: How many of you were like me and had an ache to walk the same mountains and forests shown in the Lord of the Rings films? I couldn't wait to get over to New Zealand and check out the spaces. Unfortunately, I've had to wait. So the next best thing was to create my own little world that I'd love to walk through.

Given the scope of what I was up to, I wanted to work with an artist who understood thinking big. In what seemed like no time at all, I talked Thom Tenery into joining me in a romp through the land. We started small by just taking on a few ideas to test the water. We began with a few shots from around the world, and we simply tried to capture that "D&D essence"—not show an actual specific location. Thom, who has experience in the entertainment, video game, and publishing industries, dove in with gusto.

Whether we were checking in on a band of barbarians in the Spine of the World, or dreaming up what the grandest temples erected to a deity might look like, we tried to make sure that every image was infused with light, character, and awe. We tried to sneak narrative into every image and make you feel like you were actually seeing something fresh and new.

It's just a first small step into building the world of Faerûn.

Here's my next step: This week, I have two young interns from DigiPen Institute of Technology joining my team for the summer, and I'll be giving them the chance to contribute to the world as well. I'm sure you'll have the opportunity to meet them and see some of their ideas here in the future. Shortly, additional talent will follow them, and we'll be kicking things into gear.

Yep, the fun is just starting. I hope you'll come along for the ride.

In the meantime, here are some first glimpses of the concept art we're working on right now.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Jon Schindehette
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.
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