This is the series where I think back and talk about the things that I loved and didn't love so much about the Forgotten Realms as well as what do I think about the new upcoming edition. It is meant to be a personal reflection on whether I should or should not buy the 4th rendition of the campaign setting which will be available at GenCon.
I've started off with what I loved about the Realms but it doesn't mean that I'm a realmslore-munching fanboy (although it's the first thing that made me fell in love with the Realms). But I would like to describe my relationship with the Realms as bittersweet.
Now that the sweet part is already mentioned, it's time to carry some troll clubs and move on to the bitter bits.
1. The Cosmological Mumbo-Jumbo
While I fully admit that the vibrant range of regions each with its own distinct geography, history, culture, people and adventuring opportunities is what really attracted me to the Realms, the whole cosmology and the amount of deities that are found in the setting is a divine turn-off for me.
Although it probably makes sense that with a setting as diverse as the Realms, it probably should have an equally diverse range of gods as well. However, that doesn't mean that every rock, tree and bird deserves to have a dedicated god watching over them.
There are 8 pantheons.
57 deities in the Faerunian pantheon.
10 gods from the Mulhorandi pantheon.
6 from the Drow Pantheon.
14 from the Dwarven pantheon.
12 from the Elven pantheon.
8 from the Gnome Pantheon.
6 from the Halfling Pantheon.
And 6 from the Orc Pantheon.
Which all adds up to a total of 119 deities!
I was inclined to the thought that gods were about quality over quantitiy.
The 3E & 4E PHBs only needed 19 gods! (including racial and evil ones) That's 100 too many on the job.
Come on, you wouldn't need that many if you tried a little harder instead of delegating godhood and divinities to someone else so they can do the job for you.
Oh wait, I forgot to mention Mystra and her pocketful of epic-leveled monstrosities (Elminster, I choose you!).
Many of the Realms gods were pretty redundant because they constantly overlapped each other in certain portfolios anyway. You don't need 2 gods for magic (Mystra, Corellon Larethian), 4 gods for Death (Kelemvor, Osiris, Segojan Earthcaller, Yurtrus) and 6 gods for War (Tempus, Anhur, Clangeddin Silverbeard, Corellon Larethian, Arvoreen, Ilneval).
I completely lost interest in the godly affairs of the Realms but they just don't like to stay in their demiplane and listen to the daily prayers and worships or accept the sacrifices they are given. Instead they go running around making things happen among themselves that have rather huge impacts on the setting itself.
During the Silence of Lolth, I made all female drows retire from my campaign because I don't need a helpless priestess who can't get her spells. That doesn't make them frightening villains anymore. Then it ended up taking along Selvetram and Vhaerun with her. No more drows period.
When Obould was being 'blessed' by Gruumsh in the Lone Drow, we were kept waiting to know whether he was the first orc to be Chosen and argued amongst ourselves for a pretty long time (but we don't have to worry about that now, don't we?)
What's the point of instigating these problems that just meant extra work for the DM who has to think up of a workaround and provide an explanation for the players?
Why doesn't Wizards give us an answer? I was just as baffled as my players when these events started occuring.
What's wrong with the Great Wheel? Why turn it into a Tree? It just made planar travel so much more complicated and inconvenient.
2.Novels are canon
Yes, believe it or not, novels are accepted as canon which means what happens in the novels written in the Realms, happens in the campaign setting as well. This is the most frustrating aspect of the Realms for me because it has created many trouble, less than saving them
My first stance about novels set in the Realms was the school that said, 'If you don't like it, you don't add it into YOUR Realms,'. It worked pretty well for awhile until I realized that the sourcebooks started echoing what the novels said.
It would be pointless to defy the sourcebooks at that point. If you didn't buy them for more information or realmslore to know more about a particular region then why bother to play in the Realms in the first place?
So I started to think that considering the small amount of sourcebooks that Wizards' put out every year about the Realms, the novels were actually the real sourcebooks that get published in larger numbers within shorter time periods.
So not only did I had to invest in sourcebooks for updated crunch, I needed to build a collection of novels for updated fluff as well.
While reading the novels were sometimes fun if written by a good author, it was a more painstaking process of extracting information about the favorite color of Alustriel.
Also reading fantasy novels is normally an inspirational resource for DMs who are looking for ideas for adventures or even campaigns. It's the reverse when you are reading Realms novels though.
The first campaign that I was encouraged to run in the Realms when I first cracked open the FRCS was to have my players fight against the returning Shades. Exploring the alien and mysterious intentions of the Shadovars after they've been altered for centuries in the Shadow Plane made a pretty good premise for a campaign.
Then, you had the Return of the Archwizard trilogy which picks up on that premise and turns into a cannonical trilogy. I let Wizards' scrap my whole campaign plan.
Then I moved on to the Silver Marches.
Check my FRCS. Neat, there's an Orc King who is coming back with a horde, attacking a confederation of Humans, Elves and Dwarves. Sweet! What a big classical war campaign this would be. This is going to be more epic than Lord of the Rings with more magic involved! Can't wait to pit my players with a real bad-ass Orc King! This is going to be a blast!
Ok...moving on. Maybe I'll try the Dalelands. According to the FRCS, there's an incursion of drow coming to the surface. Some are just trying to live peacefully while some are trying to know more about the secrets of the mythal at Myth Drannor and use it against the Dalelands. The elves are making a return from their Retreat and the Zhentarim are a constant threat looming on the north. Excellent! Sounds like a kitchen sink-type campaign waiting to be run here and I'll make my heroes try to find a way and revive that ancient city back to its former glory.
Oh, I'll get to use the 2E books I read about Myth Drannor and Cormanthyr. What's this? Oo, A prophecy. Nice, nice. This is really shaping up to be a roller coaster ride of a campaign that really potrays the ancientness of the Realms.
It's sad really, I would have really loved the novels, all the ones I read were great, but as I finish reading each one, I also bear a grudge against them.
That's it for part 2, so it's time to share your own pet peeves that you have about the Realms.