Making sense of Forgotten Realms

A little while ago I wrote DM lost in Forgotten Realms. I have been thinking a bit more, and I even talked to my players (who thankfully are not into Forgotten Realms lore).

There are some problems with Forgotten Realms (or Faerûn, the continent where most things happen):

  1. It is very much a mix of everything (Kitchen Sink Setting), which makes it a place of little character (although, there are nice spots in Faerûn the big picture is confusing and/or makes little sense).
  2. There is very much magic, and many magic-users.
  3. There are very many deities, and they are rather active.
  4. Faerûn feels overloaded.
  5. The extreme events of Time of Troubles, Spellplague and Second Sundering are all very recent.
  6. Some people complain there are too many high-level NPCs.
  7. It is confusing with different source material for 2e/3e, 4e, 5e when things dramatically change.
  8. Do I want half-orcs to be common, and dragonborns and tieflings?

The good thing is that if you want some type of place to run your campaign, it is very likely that such a place exists in Faerûn. The bad thing is that when you start looking around (or just back a little in time) it probably gets very twisted compared to your expectations, like:

  • city of undead run by 60 liches
  • island is run by a vampire
  • another island is populated by lycantropes

This is not far away in Mordor. You find it most everywhere. You may argue that Forgotten Realms is big, and I can change what I don’t like… and that is what I intend to do.

The Dark Ages

This is just my idea of turning Forgotten Realms into something we like better in my group. I am just drawing out the primary ideas.

After Time of Troubles, Spellplague and Second Sundering things did not calm down. Instead both Good and Evil tried to dominate and the deities kept being active.

16th century was a century of war, death, fire and destruction throughout Faerûn, and in the end of it some major players were beginning to get enough of it, among them Lord Ao (the overgod). Lord Ao established some new principles and managed to have them enforced.

  1. The people(s) and beast(s) of Faerûn shall have Faerûn as their world, just as the deities have their worlds (planes).
  2. Silvanus (Oak Father – neutral god of nature), who did not participate in the century of war while much of Faerûn was burnt, is alone set to guard Faerûn, being neutral.
  3. Faerûn shall be dominated by wilderness.

The other deities mostly accepted. They were wounded, tired of war, imprisoned or not achieving their goals on Faerûn or elsewhere.

17th century, was a century of unusually little magic in Faerûn as many spellcasters were dead after the wars and the deites (including Mystra, deity of magic) were quite absent. Instead hard working mortals formed city states or smaller countries than had been seen before. Rangers started roaming the growing wilderness in the name of Silvanus, and druids settled around the lands.

18th century was the end of the Dark Ages of Faerûn. The newly born Faerûn is a beautiful wild mysterious place with scattered villages and towns inhabited by hardy, brave people.

Magic

Spellcasters are found across the lands. The old deities are rediscovered, as is arcane magic. Attitudes to magic vary, from hostile to friendly, and often curious.

Good and Evil

Lawful ambitious mortals are aspiring to form new empires in the present power vacuum, both good and evil, but the lands remain mostly wild and chaotic. Among the good there is some appreciation for the beauty, the wilderness and the relative peace under neutral Silvanus. The evil on the other hand see much potential and quite little resistance.

Recovery of civilization

The (low magic, nature oriented, somewhat) Moonshae Isles fell less into chaos than other lands. You find the isles not too different from what they were bofore Time of Troubles. Lycantropes, vampires have faded and Kazgoroth has not been seen in long, remaining the symbol of evil on the isles.

The heartlands (the Sword Coast to Cormanthor) saw great destruction and devastating wars during 16th century. However the cities of the heartlands were not all completely destroyed, some remained and some has been rebuilt. The heartlands is where hard working mortals have gathered to build new nations.

In the northwest, the coastal areas were not so damaged by the wars, and some settlements of good people remain.

The rest of Faerûn, the north, the east and the south, are very wild lands. There are of course settlements of good people, but nature dominates and evil is more common.

The truly far away lands (east of the deserts, south of Shaar) can be an enirely different story.

Using Resources

I shall be able to use most maps, and all lore is valid, just history. I shall also be able to cherry pick stuff (places, NPCs, adventures) from 2e-5e and just import it into my setting (without my group of players having any reason to complain).

The year is 1772 DR, and I think it will be great fun!

Everything should be simple…

Einstein said: “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. I guess that could apply to my campaign world as well. Why would I not want a simple story and feeling that captures my campaign?

On the other hand I understand that for WotC, Forgotten Realms is complicated because they have very many different requirements on it (not the least to fit all current and past adventures and novels).

So maybe Forgotten Realms is good for WotC, but I can actually do better for myself.

Much ado about Nothing?

You may be well read about Forgotten Realms and think: “But that is how forgotten realms already is: mostly wilderness, mostly citystates, no dominant nations. You just got rid of interesting places and lore because you didn’t understand it, and you may regret that down the road when Tethyr och Calimshan would have been ideal for your ideas.”

And you may actually be right about that!

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