Exploring the Forgotten Realms
admit it. I've always loved the name "Forgotten Realms," but I never really knew its etymology; I just accepted it as a compelling name for a fantasy setting, something akin to The Dying Earth, Bas-Lag, or Earthsea.
I was wrong, of course. Ed Greenwood naturally had his rationale behind the name!
Ed Greenwood Presents: Elminster's Forgotten Realms
releases October 16th, containing a wealth of information on the Realms, but also presenting illustrative background documentation on the making of the setting.
As Ed writes in the book:
In 1986, I began sinking the upper floor of TSR’s Lake Geneva headquarters under the weight of many, many typewritten sheets. The principal sufferer was Jeff Grubb, a superlative game designer who became a great friend—and who first suggested that TSR acquire the Realms. Every week, Jeff asked for specific lore, and I assembled and typed it up, and sent it off. This is from the first of many packages; my response to being asked to briefly outline major regions of the Realms for anyone unfamiliar with the world:
"The name "Forgotten Realms comes from the fact that the fantasy world of the Realms is linked to our Earth of today and other parallel Prime Material Planes that a DM wishes (such as the World of Greyhawk, and any favorite worlds depicted in fantasy novels; for example, Fritz Leiber's Newhon); in the past, there was much travel between these parallel 'worlds' (hence, our legends here on Earth of vampires, dragons, unicorns, et al) but today. Most have forgotten the Realms and the ways to them, hence the name."
This month also sees the paperback release of Elminster Enraged:
Commanded by the vestige of Mystra to work together, Manshoon and Elminster engage instead in a ferocious battle that sends the Sage plummeting into the Underdark as a cloud of ashes. Elminster soon inhabits the body of a fallen dark elf, so that he can begin carrying out Mystra's orders to rally Cormyr's Wizards of War, seek blueflame items to mend immense rifts throughout the realms that are releasing deadly monsters, and prevent the ancient primordials from rising and unleashing their rage.
But his sworn archenemy, Manshoon, has plans as well: to conquer Cormyr and be the new Emperor, and hunt down the Sage's clones. The battles are fierce, the stakes have never been higher, and the fate of Cormyr is on the line. Meanwhile, War Wizards are being mysteriously assassinated . . .
Back from Gen Con
Before we move on to the products and previews, I just want to add that it was wonderful once again to take part of Gen Con. If you haven't had a chance to watch the Keynote Address, it's still available via YouTube (along with, for the first time, a good many other of our seminars). Pictures are also available of the con, including the stunning statues of Lolth and Drizzt.
For my own part, I was pleased to snag some loot this year, which included the latest round of G.I. Joe-themed T-shirts, new booster packs for Munchkin, and some long overdue games (including Arkham Horror). I also managed to get in a bit of Dungeon Command (being played all over the convention), as well as try out Twilight Creations' Zombies!!! and Fantasy Flight Games' Dust.
And, as always, it was great to chat as much as I could manage (innumerable five-minute conversations, between rushing from one place to another), this year including Ed Greenwood! Ed had a few stories about the days back in TSR/Lake Geneva (including one of a mishandled lawnmower plowing straight into a neighboring building). It was a pleasure to chat with Ed at the show, and I'm thrilled that we'll be releasing Elminster's Forgotten Realms—for everyone to experience more of his storytelling!
The latest D&D Lair Assault has now started up. “Kill the Wizard” (best name yet for a D&D Lair Assault, in my opinion!) runs September 1st through November 30th. As the D&D Lair Assault opens:
An elf wizard has built a construct with a single purpose: the destruction of the drow. This discovery has led the drow houses of Menzoberranzan to forge an alliance and send a “murder squad” to kill the wizard and destroy his sinister creation.
How is this D&D Lair Assault a bit different from others? From the section on creating characters: Players should create 8th-level characters, using any official 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons sources. All characters must be drow or drow revenants.
That's right, this time you're playing as the drow. And, of course, being drow means plenty of machinations. As such, at the start of the challenge, each player receives a random card upon which is written a specific house goal. The leaders of the various drow houses give these secret goals to their agents before sending them on their mission. Any character who accomplishes his or her goal is awarded the House Agent achievement (worth 10 glory).
Ready to start playing? Here's the full background before you head off:
Forty years ago, a raiding party of drow emerged from the Lurkwood and slaughtered the inhabitants of Silvershore, a village in the Valley of Khedrun. A sole survivor—a young elf with an aptitude for the arcane—escaped the carnage, and born within him was a hatred for drow that he would carry the rest of his days. Four decades later, this elf matured into a wizard of no small power and built the prototype of a new construct he hopes to mass-produce and release into the Underdark, with the sole intent of devouring drow.
The wizard, Etherik, is preparing to show off his construct to gain the full support of his peers, several of whom have arrived by using a magic portal to see the device for the first time. With their help, Etherik plans to build many more of them and release the constructs into the city of Menzoberranzan.
News of the wizard’s wicked machine reached Menzoberranzan quickly. The drow houses consider the elf a common threat and have banded together to take him out, unaware that their “murder squad” (which consists of drow from multiple houses) will be used to test the construct’s destructive power.
By Erik Scott de Bie
The tale of a never-say-die hero struggling against the forces of evil in a world full of peril. Kalen Dren, the vigilante paladin who calls himself Shadowbane, has turned his back on a life of crime and selfishness to chart a new course with the aid of the sword Vindicator, once wielded by the vanished God of Guardians himself. He will face legions of enemies and ultimately struggle with his own dualistic nature: the bright, goodly paladin and the dark, pragmatic assassin.
By R.A. Salvatore and Geno Salvatore
Is a stone that makes you forever lucky a blessing? Or a curse?
Adventure aboard Captain Deudermont’s Sea Sprite and follow the trail of the demon who is intent on destroying the luckstone inherited by one unlucky orphan. Featuring the sage wisdom of R.A. Salvatore’s best-selling character Drizzt Do’Urden, the Stone of Tymora is packed with action, magic, intrigue, and a heart-stopping twist that Salvatore fans won’t want to miss. Originally published as a trilogy for teens, this single volume, redesigned in a handsome adult package with a brand-new cover, is a must-have for adult Salvatore fans!
You've met the Hobgoblin Sorcerer and the Goblin Wolf Rider. This time, let's introduce one of the big bruisers of the Tyranny of Goblins faction pack: the Horned Devil.
If you're still new to Dungeon Command, each faction comes in its own box, which contains twelve miniatures (plus the cards, tiles, and rules for the game). In addition to their use in Dungeon Command, these miniatures and tiles can also be used in the D&D RPG, with their cards further usable with D&D Adventure System board games (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt).
And as further explained in the rulebook:
In the Dungeon Command game, you take on the role of a commander, sending a warband to battle the forces arrayed against you. You recruit troops and deploy them on the battlefield. You issue orders to those creatures, outfit them with spells and equipment, and direct their tactics to break the morale of your enemies and drive them from the field. Will your command ability carry the day against your opponent?
Last month, we showed you a tile that provided an approach to a castle in your game, complete with moat and drawbridge. This time, let's look farther within the castle, with a tile showing off an entry hall (including arrow slits):
- Wall. Thin wall, with arrow slit and torch.
- Castle Entry. Stairs leading up to castle entry. Small 10x10 room with arrow slits and circular stairways on side of entry. Large carpet with suits of armor flanking entry. Torches on wall.
We'll be showing off the complete rules to this board game in the weeks ahead! Until then, we wanted to showcase a look at the game and its components. Go ahead and click for an even larger view as well!
Who better to present the Forgotten Realms than Ed Greenwood! From the book's introduction:
Welcome to the Forgotten Realms, the world I began crafting when I was six, before there was anything called Dungeons & Dragons or a roleplaying game industry. The world I still work on, every day.
It’s been a long, rich, rewarding road, and the Realms now grows around me courtesy of many loving creators, toiling busily. We’re building a world that never has to end, a setting that can forever be home to novels and roleplaying campaigns and board games and much, much more.
This book is a peek at the beating heart of the Realms, at what makes it work and seem alive. A bright buffet of lore, with buckets of little details about all sorts of things. A grand gallimaufry of matters Realmsian, for your perusal and enjoyment.
There is no “right” way to play D&D or to conduct a Realms campaign, and many gamers won’t use or want everything in this book. Yet if it spurs adventure ideas, or provides elements an overworked Dungeon Master can pick up and use rather than having to think through and create anew, it will be useful. It’s not an attempt to convince anyone to abide by every detail of canon, but rather to provide lore for those who want to use it, to make more time for unfolding adventures around the gaming table.
Real-world medieval or Renaissance conditions, arts, world views, religious beliefs, or standards of medicine don’t directly correspond to the Realms, just as steampunk fiction is seldom accurate Victoriana. So, DMs should feel free to twist matters to make their Realms seem excitingly—or unsettlingly—different.
By my deliberate design and my players’ preferences, play in my home Realms campaign has always featured these three characteristics.
1. Player characters have the freedom to do their own thing. Play unfolds in a large and detailed setting so I really can allow PCs the freedom to choose to stroll north today, instead of returning to that mystery in the alley to the south they stumbled into yesterday. No Dungeon Master’s carrot-and-stick, no railroading. I present the world, and the players around the table decide where to poke their characters’ noses. They control their destinies, and they impose their wills upon the world. (Yes, they see they can accomplish far more working together, as a united band of adventurers, and act accordingly.) My players run characters of various classes with different interests and obligations. For instance, clerics are under constant pressure from church superiors to do this, that, and the other. And yet, they also continuously pursue their own pet projects (notably investments and trade negotiations), as well as engaging in adventures with the Knights of Myth Drannor. Many play sessions begin with the characters holding a council wherein they debate and decide what to do next, rather than running through a prepared adventure. I lay out the buffet, and they sample what catches their eye.
2. The Realms is constantly unfolding. I keep a flow of current events (and rumors) burbling past my players’ ears to make the world seem alive around them and to present a continually renewed, rich selection of adventuring and roleplaying opportunities. Part of this ever-changing world is a steady stream of new nonplayer characters (NPCs), which make up the cast of thousands that is the Realms. The key to the Realms is not just that it has a past, but that things happen; history is being made every day. So, over time (and game editions), prices fluctuate and currency morphs. If values given here in gold pieces (gp), silver pieces (sp), and copper pieces (cp) don’t seem right for your campaign, change them. Merchants overcharge when they can, and undercharge when they must.
3. Subplots and intrigues abound. I love them, and so do my players. This means mysteries large and small, little secrets and big ones, clever and sinister behind-the-scenes villains (if I wrote Sherlock Holmes, his landlady would eventually turn out to be a sweetly manipulative crime boss, hiding behind his notoriety and proximity), and power groups galore. I try to keep my players so busy their characters have a hard time finding enough time to go off adventuring; there have seldom been less than a dozen subplots in play at a time. Tied to this is the clear understanding that people, groups, and events are all connected in the Realms, so every word and deed has consequences, just as in real life. Of course, in the Realms, the stakes are higher, the pace faster, and the mundane and boring elements are minimized. Clear and swift rewards keep Realmsplay from ever being a daily grind.
These characteristics are key to the longevity and depth of my home Realms campaign, and the thirst for detail that my superb players exhibit has spurred me to build it into the Realms. This in turn made it seem more real to my players, making their imaginary achievements matter more.
My first players were the Company of Crazed Venturers. Then rose the Swords of Eveningstar, who became the Knights of Myth Drannor. With other players, I explored the Realms in short-term public library games whose participants portrayed chartered adventuring bands in Cormyr and the Dales such as the Company of the Unicorn and the Company of the Manticore. At conventions for two decades, on three continents, the Baron’s Blades (hired bodyguards and agents of the baron of Hawkhill in the remote farming foothills of northeastern Amn) have fared forth into adventure.
It’s all been a lot of fun, and along the way the Realms has gained far more lore and depth than could ever be published.
Well met! Mount up and join the ride!
And finally, let's end things this month with one more mini—this time, a look at the forthcoming Curse of Undeath faction pack:
That's all for this month, folks!
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll).