Forgotten Realms is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. Commonly referred to by players and game designers alike as "The Realms", it was created by game designer Ed Greenwood around 1967 as a setting for his childhood stories. Several years later, Greenwood brought the setting to the D&D game as a series of magazine articles, and the first Realms game products were released in 1987. Role-playing game products have been produced for the setting ever since, as have various licensed products including novels, role-playing video game adaptations (including the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game to use graphics), and comic books. The Forgotten Realms is one of the most popular D&D settings, largely due to the success of novels by authors such as R. A. Salvatore and numerous role-playing video games, including Pool of Radiance (1988), Eye of the Beholder (1991), Baldur's Gate (1998), Icewind Dale (2000) and Neverwinter Nights (2002).
Top: The Forgotten Realms logo (1987–1999)
Bottom: Forgotten Realms logo (2000–present)
|Media type||Game accessories, novels, role-playing video games, comic books|
The Forgotten Realms is a fantasy world setting, described as a world of strange lands, dangerous creatures, and mighty deities, where magic and supernatural phenomena are quite real. The premise is that, long ago, the Earth and the world of the Forgotten Realms were more closely connected. As time passed, the inhabitants of planet Earth have mostly forgotten about the existence of that other world – hence the name Forgotten Realms. On the original Forgotten Realms logo, which was used until 2000, small runic letters read "Herein lie the lost lands", an allusion to the connection between the two worlds.
The focus of the Forgotten Realms setting is the continent of Faerûn, part of the fictional world of Abeir-Toril, usually called simply Toril, an Earth-like planet with many real-world influences. Unlike Earth, the lands of the Forgotten Realms are not all ruled by the human race: the planet Toril is shared by humans, dwarves, elves, goblins, orcs, and other peoples and creatures. Technologically, the world of the Forgotten Realms is not nearly as advanced as that of Earth; in this respect, it resembles the pre-industrial Earth of the 13th or 14th century. However, the presence of magic provides an additional element of power to the societies. There are several nation states and many independent cities, with loose alliances being formed for defense or conquest. Trade is performed by ship or horse-drawn vehicle, and manufacturing is based upon cottage industry.
Toril consists of several large continents, including Faerûn, the western part of a continent that was roughly modeled after the Eurasian continent on Earth. Faerûn was first detailed in the original Forgotten Realms Campaign Set, published in 1987 by TSR. The other continents include Kara-Tur, Zakhara, Maztica, and other yet unspecified landmasses. Kara-Tur, roughly corresponding to ancient East Asia, was later the focus of its own source book Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms, published in 1988. There is also a vast subterranean world called the Underdark beneath the surface.
Various products detailing specific areas of Faerûn, such as the 2nd edition FR13 Anauroch (1991), FR15 Gold and Glory (1992), FR16 The Shining South (1993), and FRS1 The Dalelands (1993), have been released, and through these much of the continent has been heavily detailed and documented, creating a highly developed setting.
In early editions of the setting, The Realms shared a unified cosmology with various other campaign settings called the Great Wheel. In this way each of the Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings were linked together to form one interwoven world connected by various planes of existence. With the release of the 2001 Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, the setting was given its own distinct and separate cosmological arrangement, with unique planes not explicitly connected to those of the other settings.
Religion plays a large part in the Forgotten Realms, with deities and their followers being an integral part of the world. They do not have a passive role, but in fact interact directly in mortal affairs, answer prayers, and have their own personal agendas. All deities must have worshipers to survive, and all mortals must worship a patron deity to secure a good afterlife. A huge number of diverse deities exist within several polytheistic pantheons; a large number of supplements have documented many of them, some in more detail than others.
Much of the history of The Realms detailed in novels and source books concerns the actions of various deities and The Chosen (mortal representatives with a portion of their deities' power) such as Elminster, Fzoul Chembryl, Midnight (who later became the new embodiment of the goddess of magic, Mystra), and the Seven Sisters. Above all other deities is Ao, the Overlord. Ao does not sanction worshipers and distances himself from mortals. He is single-handedly responsible for the Time of Troubles, or Godswar, as seen in The Avatar Trilogy.
The setting is the home of several iconic characters popularized by authors, including Elminster the wizard, who has appeared in several series of novels created by Greenwood himself, and Drizzt Do'Urden, the highly popular Drow, or dark elf, ranger created by R. A. Salvatore.
Ed Greenwood began writing stories about the Forgotten Realms as a child, starting around 1967; they were his "dream space for swords and sorcery stories". Greenwood came up with the Forgotten Realms name from the notion of a multiverse of parallel worlds; Earth is one such world, and the Realms another. In Greenwood's original conception, the fantastic legends of Earth derive from a fantasy world, the way to which has been lost. Greenwood discovered the Dungeons & Dragons game in 1975, and became a serious role-playing enthusiast with the first AD&D game releases in 1978. The setting became the home of Greenwood's personal campaign. Greenwood began a Realms campaign in the city of Waterdeep, then started another group known as the Knights of Myth Drannor in Shadowdale. Greenwood felt that his players' thirst for detail made the Realms what it is: "They want it to seem real, and work on ‘honest jobs’ and personal activities, until the whole thing grows into far more than a casual campaign. Roleplaying always governs over rules, and the adventures seem to develop themselves." Greenwood has stated that his own version of the Forgotten Realms, as run in his personal campaign, is much darker than published versions.
Beginning with the periodical's 30th issue in 1979, Greenwood published a series of short articles that detailed the setting in The Dragon magazine, the first of which was about a monster known as the curst. Greenwood wrote voluminous entries to Dragon magazine, using the Realms as a setting for his descriptions of magic items, monsters, and spells. In 1986, the American game publishing company TSR began looking for a new campaign setting for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, and assigned Jeff Grubb to find out more about the setting used by Greenwood as portrayed in his articles in Dragon. According to Greenwood, Grubb asked him "Do you just make this stuff up as you go, or do you really have a huge campaign world?"; Greenwood answered "yes" to both questions. TSR felt that the Forgotten Realms would be a more open-ended setting than the epic Dragonlance setting, and chose the Realms as a ready-made campaign setting upon deciding to publish AD&D 2nd Edition. Greenwood agreed to work on the project, and began working to get the Forgotten Realms officially published. Greenwood sent TSR a few dozen cardboard boxes stuffed with pencil notes and maps, and sold all rights to the Realms for a token fee. Greenwood noted that TSR altered his original conception of the Realms being a place that we could travel to from our world, "Concerns over possible lawsuits (kids getting hurt while trying to 'find a gate') led TSR to de-emphasize this meaning".
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st editionEdit
Although the Realms were yet to be an official campaign world, the module H1: Bloodstone Pass, released in 1985 by TSR, is now considered to be a part of the Forgotten Realms, although it wasn't until module H3 The Bloodstone Wars was released that Forgotten Realms became the official setting for the module series. The first official Forgotten Realms product was Douglas Niles's Darkwalker on Moonshae, the first book in The Moonshae Trilogy, which predates the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set by one month.
The Campaign Set (often referred to as the "Grey Box") was later released in 1987 as a boxed set of two source books (Cyclopedia of the Realms and DM's Sourcebook of the Realms) and four large maps, designed by Greenwood in collaboration with author Jeff Grubb. The set introduced the campaign setting and explained how to use it, and reserved space on the map for SSI's Gold Box computer role-playing games set in the Forgotten Realms.
The Forgotten Realms became an instant hit. The compilation module Desert of Desolation was reworked to fit into the Forgotten Realms. The module N5: Under Illefarn bears the Forgotten Realms logo on the cover, as do the two modules released in 1988, H4: The Throne of Bloodstone and I14: Swords of the Iron Legion.
The Crystal Shard was released in 1988, and was the first novel to feature the successful character Drizzt Do'Urden, who has since appeared in more than seventeen subsequent novels, many of which have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 1988, the first in a line of Forgotten Realms role-playing video games, Pool of Radiance, was released by Strategic Simulations, Inc. The game was popular, winning the Origins Award for "Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1988". In 1992, the game was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Several supplements to the original boxed set were released under the first edition rules, including FR1 Waterdeep and the North and FR2 Moonshae in 1987, and FR3 Empires of the Sands, FR4 The Magister, FR5 The Savage Frontier, FR6 Dreams of the Red Wizards, and REF5 Lords of Darkness in 1988. Also in 1988 came the City System boxed set, containing several maps of the city of Waterdeep. Ruins of Adventure, a module based on the computer game Pool of Radiance, was released in 1988.
The boxed set Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms was released in 1988, giving details of the lands of Kara-Tur which had previously appeared in the 1986 book Oriental Adventures, and were now officially placed in the Forgotten Realms world. The same year, the module OA5: Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw was released for the Kara-Tur setting as a Forgotten Realms product.
In 1989, DC Comics began publishing a series of Forgotten Realms comics written by Jeff Grubb. Each issue contained twenty-six pages, illustrated primarily by Rags Morales and Dave Simons. Twenty-five issues were published in total, with the last being released in 1991. A fifty-six page annual Forgotten Realms Comic Annual #1: Waterdhavian Nights, illustrated by various artists, was released in 1990.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd editionEdit
An eponymous module, based on the role-playing video game Curse of the Azure Bonds, was released in 1989, as was The Avatar Trilogy series of novels, consisting of Shadowdale, Tantras, and Waterdeep that detailed the storyline which became known as the "Time of Troubles". A series of module adaptations for these novels (Shadowdale, Tantras, and Waterdeep) were released in the same year, along with the Hall of Heroes accessory, detailing many of the major characters appearing in Forgotten Realms novels published up through that time. In early 1990, the hardcover Forgotten Realms Adventures by Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood was released, which introduced the Realms setting to the second edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game and detailed how the Time of Troubles had changed the setting. The RPGA used the Forgotten Realms city of Ravens Bluff as the setting for their first living campaign. Official RPGA support for this product line included the Living City modules series. A number of sub-settings of the Forgotten Realms were briefly supported in the early 1990s. Three more modules were produced for the Kara-Tur setting. The Horde: Barbarian Campaign Setting, released in 1990, detailed The Hordelands, which also featured a series of three modules. The Maztica Campaign Set, released in 1991, detailed the continent of Maztica.
The original gray boxed set received a revision in 1993 to update it to the second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rules system, with the release of a new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting boxed set, containing three books (A Grand Tour of the Realms, Running the Realms, and Shadowdale) and various "monster supplements", with a new graphic look. Additional material for the setting was released steadily throughout the 1990s. Forgotten Realms novels, such as the Legacy of the Drow series, the first three books of The Elminster Series, and numerous anthologies were also released throughout the 1990s, which led to the setting being hailed as one of the most successful shared fantasy universes of the 1990s. These novels in turn sparked interest in role-playing activity by new gamers.
Numerous Forgotten Realms video games were released Between 1990 and 2000. The Eye of the Beholder PC game was released in 1990. This game was later followed by two sequels, the first in 1991, and the second in 1992. All three games were re-released for DOS on a single disk in 1995. Another 1991 release was Neverwinter Nights on America Online, the first graphical Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). In 1998, Baldur's Gate was released, the first in a line of popular role-playing video games developed by BioWare and "considered by most pundits as the hands-down best PC roleplaying game ever". The game was followed by a sequel, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn in 2000 as well as Icewind Dale, a separate game that utilized the same game engine as Baldur's Gate. Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor was released in 2001. Several popular Forgotten Realms characters such as Drizzt Do'Urden and Elminster made minor appearances in these games.
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd editionEdit
With the release of the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons rules system in 2000 by Wizards of the Coast, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting was released as a hardcover, in 2001, updating the official material and advancing the timeline of the game world. In 2002, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting won the Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Game Supplement of 2001.
Several additional rulebooks were released for the new edition, including Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (2001), Magic of Faerûn (2001), Lords of Darkness (2001), Faiths and Pantheons (2002), Silver Marches (2002), Races of Faerûn (2003), and Unapproachable East (2003). Adventure modules included Into the Dragon's Lair (2000), Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor (2001), and City of the Spider Queen (2002).
In 2002, Bioware released Neverwinter Nights, set in the northern reaches of Faerûn and operating on the revised 3.0 rules for D&D. It was followed by two expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. A sequel using version 3.5 of the rules was produced by Obsidian Entertainment in 2006, itself followed by the expansion sets Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir. The Forgotten Realms Deluxe Edition compilation was released in 2006, containing the Baldur's Gate series (excluding the Dark Alliance games), Icewind Dale series, and all Neverwinter Nights games before Neverwinter Nights 2.
With the release of the version 3.5 update to the rules, the Forgotten Realms product line continued to expand. Accessories released included Underdark (2003), Player's Guide to Faerûn (2004), Serpent Kingdoms (2004), Shining South (2004), Lost Empires of Faerûn (2005), Champions of Ruin (2005), City of Splendors: Waterdeep (2005), Champions of Valor (2005), Power of Faerûn (2006), Mysteries of the Moonsea (2006), Dragons of Faerûn (2006), and The Grand History of the Realms (2007). Adventure modules released included Sons of Gruumsh (2005), The Twilight Tomb (2006), Expedition to Undermountain (2007), Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave (2007), Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land (2007), and Anauroch: The Empire of Shade (2007).
Dungeons & Dragons 4th editionEdit
With the release of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, the Forgotten Realms were updated again to the new rules system, featuring a very changed Realms and moving the fictional world's timeline 94 years into the future. The Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, released August 2008, is a 288-page book for Dungeon Masters. The Forgotten Realms Player's Guide was released the following month, and contains information for players to help create Forgotten Realms characters. An adventure, Scepter Tower of Spellgard, was also released in September 2008 and can be used in combination with the adventure in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide to start a Forgotten Realms campaign. In 2008, the Forgotten Realms also became the setting for the RPGA's sole living campaign, Living Forgotten Realms, replacing Living Greyhawk. In 2011, the Neverwinter Campaign Setting was released.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th editionEdit
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With the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Wizards of the Coast announced that the Forgotten Realms would continue to serve as the official campaign setting for its upcoming published adventure materials. The official campaign guide, Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, was released in November 2015. With the 5th edition the world of Forgotten Realms was again returned to its previous, 3rd edition geography, and the event called The Sundering resulted in the worlds of Abeir-Toril to be split in two.
In his book The Fantasy Roleplaying Gamer's Bible, Sean Patrick Fannon describes the Forgotten Realms as being "the most ambitious fantasy game setting published since Tekumel", and that it "may be the most widely played-in game setting in RPG history." Similarly, in literature, the novels written in the Forgotten Realms setting have formed one of "the industry's leading fantasy series". Over time these novels have gained "unprecedented popularity", which led, as Marc Oxoby noted in his book, The 1990s, to the novels having an "extraordinary shelf life", remaining in print for many years. This popular reception has also been reflected in public libraries. For example, Joyce Saricks states in The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction that the novels have been among the most requested books by fans of the fantasy genre.
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- Milliot, Jim (October 22, 2007). "Wizards Brews New Fiction Line". Publishers Weekly. 254 (42).
- Oxoby, Marc (2003). The 1990s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-313-31615-9.
- Saricks, Joyce G. (2001). The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. ALA Editions. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-0-8389-0803-7.