August 11, 2008
Forgetting the Realms? Part 1
If you had known about the recent controversial changes that is installed for us in this edition of the Forgotten Realms from the previous (3rd) edition, you are either a longtime fan who feels disgusted by them or a follower of the changes who is getting excited.
For the latter, Critical-Hits is quite keen on buying this book and many of the comments that follow his post all seem to agree on one thing; FR was too overwhelming as a setting that is filled with too many uber NPCs who were stealing the limelight from the PCs. With the upcoming 4th edition version of the Realms, the WoTC designers has made it their mission to remove these barriers of entry to allow a free flow of new players by letting them into the 'brand new' Realms and share the fun.
As for the former, if you've been following this thread over at ENWorld, you would see how other gamers see it from the other side of the spectrum. There have been many displeasures and dissapointment going around about the changes and how WoTC had implemented them.
I'm one of them. Having run several FR campaigns occasionally over the course of years since the 3.0 period, it was a tremendous shock to read the last few pages of the Grand History of the Realms during the end of the 3.5 era. I was distraugh with fear of the changes that came so sudden which almost made my love for the setting was all but for naught.
It was just not the right way to end it. The status quo was being broken so unimaginably that it destroyed everything I've ever held dear for a campaign setting (despite my short years of playing with it), just like that, in just a few short sentences. There were so many things happening and there was too little explanations about why these are happening or why they were neccesary.
It had offended something inside of me as a supporter of the setting who had accepted every RSE novels as canon, even though I didn't buy ALL of them, which was not respected in turn by not giving me, at least, a more appropriate warning sign.
If this is what it has done to someone who has only been playing in the setting for only several years, imagine what it would do to grognards who have been playing since the grey box?
With the coming of the new edition Realms in just a few days, I'm quite torn between to buy or not to buy.
More importantly, do I still want to play in the Forgotten Realms anymore? Is it time to put my attachments down and put it to rest as a good old memory? Is it time to really forget about the Forgotten Realms?
I'll be recollecting some of the things that I really liked and don't liked about the previous editions of the Forgotten Realms as well as the new edition, that would be the running topic of this blog's first series. This would mostly be a personal reflection on whether or not I will subscribe to the new design ideology of the new 4E Realms or enough is enough for this disgrunted fan of his beloved setting.
So for starters (and this post), here's what I liked about the Forgotten Realms.
I'm a sucker for fluff. So you can bet that when I first read about the Forgotten Realms and dabbled a bit into the realmslore, it was like having a fluff-gasm.
Being 12 when I was first exposed to the Realms, I've never found a fantasy setting that is so enrich and detailed with history, characters, landscape, culture, color, and vivid descriptions as the Realms. There were real superheroes (Elminster, Khelben, the Seven Sisters, Harpers) that worked in mysterious ways and real Big Bad Evil Guys (Zhentarim, Cult of the Dragon, Church of Cyric, Red Wizards, the Drow, The Twisted Rune) that worked in more mysterious ways.
There were so many additional flavors in the setting that it would take a fantasy connoisseur to sample and appreciate every one of them. Every piece fitted so well together that it created a living, breathing, vibrant yet coherent world.
Every now and then when you think you know it all, you'll be surprised when you dig up something new that you hadn't known before about the realms. That discovery in itself is a very satisfying experience even without actually playing in the setting.
Ed Greenwood's imagination was truly beyond my own and I admire his dedication and love for the Realms by the amount of realmslore he has written along with creative and respected authors (Sean K. Reynolds, Steven Schend). Their writings is what I cherish most about the Realms. The Volo's Guide To series is still my most favorite books from the setting and I still flip them through every now and then to see the Realms come alive.
As for the gaming table, I immediately pounched on the FRCS when it came out for the 3rd edition. My initially thought of getting it was because I was running out of time to do my own homebrew (and because there was a real AWESOME Canadian doing his). My plan was to buy a well developed setting so that I could plug my players into them without spending too much time on the fluff and concentrate more time on actually running the crunchy adventures. The Realms had met my expectations and 'beyond' them.
This is the first reason why I loved the Realms. I fell in love with everything about it as a setting that was waiting to be explored in every wonderful corner of Faerun; the countryside of the Dalelands, the unforgiving wilderness of The North, the endless roaming along the Sword Coast, the hostile jungles of Chult, the deep dark caverns of the Underdark, the sands of the Old Empires, the open plains of the Shaar and the spirtual homeland of Rasheman.
The Realms was ancient and diverse, yet it was bubbling with new excitement and had a piece for everyone.
2. The Endless Possibilites
This was something that I felt the 3rd edition FRCS did right. After introducing all the spectacle of the Realms to a new fan like me, the FRCS immediately offered plot hooks to draw the new players into it all. Afterall, for a published setting, it was important to involve the players.
As much as the Realms had color, there were just as much adventuring opportunities! The setting is populated with ancient, forgotten, lost and mysterious ruins that almost all of them carry a bit of realmslore with them. From all the rich history and background, it added a whole lot more depth to every dungeon crawl. It's never just your average dungeon crawl in the Realms!
Exploring through the ruins of an ancient city is different when you are exploring through the ruins of Myth Drannor while uncovering the secrets of its mythal. At the same time, defending it from the Drow and beware of the hidden Cult of the Dragon and the phaerimms underneath the city.
Or you could just walk into Undermountain and it was already a campaign all by itself!
There were lost treasures and artifacts that is literally littered to be found and even finding a piece of ancient knowledge was a great reward in itself.
The setting wasn't all about your everyday dungeon crawls either. With the plethora of organizations in the Realms, each with their own agendas, there were many opportunities to run intrigue based campaign as well. It would be interesting to run a Harper campaign during the schism with the Moonstars or fighting against a particular known evil. Or where the players are agents of the Black Network could make a good evil power struggle campaign. Or to go even further, playing an all elf campaign were every PC is a member of the Eldreth Veluuthra.
The Realms was already a well established setting, yet it beckons to you with more. It is a sandbox for players to try all sorts of campaigns, feel and playstlyes.
3. There's Always More
When I jump on the FR bandwagon during 3.0, I was already behind in terms of realmslore that came before during the 2nd edition. Just go back to the Classic Downloads of the previous edition and you'll see there is already a boatload of fluff that addresses various subjects and regions of the Realms. Trust me when I say that all these was just the tip of the iceberg.
Even so, the Realms continued to expand during the 3.x days. New updates would be bought in to replace old fluff as new sourcebooks were released.
There was great online support for the setting as well. The WoTC site would regularly be updated with new and interesting realmslore and there was a whole slew of articles about magic books, perilious gateways and portals, personalities, dragons, bard tales, news from Waterdeep and adventure locales.
I particularly remembered enjoy reading Rand's Travelogue as each update expanded something more about a region in the FRCS.
You couldn't get enough from the setting as it keeps getting larger than life.
Oh, did I mention that the Realms even had its own Monster Compendium? (take that, Eberron!)
Well, that's all for now until the next post in the series. If there any great things that you love about the Realms, be sure to share them in my comments.
Posted by Questing GM