Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Forgotten Realms in 4th Edition, Part I

The Forgotten Realms was the first pre-generated campaign world I ever ran a game in.  For whatever reasons, I had never gotten into Greyhawk, so my initial forays into Dungeons & Dragons all used a home-brewed setting called Malakath.  This changed when the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting came out in 1987.

Something about the advertising for the original Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, now known as “the old grey box”, hit home for me.  Maybe it was just that I was a fan of Ed Greenwood’s Dragon Magazine articles staring Elminster, and was curious for more background on the world he came from.  Maybe it was the inspired “and on the 3650 day we rested”, implying, somewhat disingenuously, that the setting had been in development for 10 years.  Maybe it was the novels, since I was an avid reader and I found Forgotten Realms novels to be a fun quick read. 

For whatever reason, I was hooked.

Now it’s been years since I have ran a Forgotten Realms game, but I have always had affection for the setting.  I dutifully picked up the 2nd, 3rd, and 3.5 edition updates to the setting when they came out.  So you can imagine I was thrilled to hear that the Forgotten Realms was making the transition to 4th edition.

Wizards of the Coast recently released a podcast talking with members of the 4th edition Forgotten Realms team.  It would be pointless to reiterate what they talked about, but I would like to bring up a few of their main points and give my opinion on them.  Today I will address the fact that they are advancing the setting 100 years.  A future installment will include my thoughts on the Spellplague and the reappearance of the long lost continent of Abeir on the world of Abeir-Toril

Honestly, I think advancing the setting 100 years is an inspired idea.  It allows them to make dramatic changes to the setting without upsetting the continuity of what has gone on before.  Frankly, for those of us who have been around for over twenty years (since 1987!) something needed to be done to reinvigorate the setting.

One downside to this approach is that it is not very friendly to people with established campaigns currently running in the Forgotten Realms who wish to convert.  Even though they stated they will have a section devoted to making the jump, the changes wrought by the 100 year jump will be difficult to explain via hand -waving.  So I imagine a lot of Rip Van Winkle type stories to explain everything.  Oh well, at least the fey will be up for the job in this edition.

Now for a slight digression.  When the next novel staring Forgotten Realms cash cow Drizzt comes out, will it be set in the 100 years in the past or in “the present day?'  I know as a young drow he could easily be alive in 100 years, but will R.A. Salvatore want to abandon most of his supporting cast?  Even though Wizards of the Coast technically owns Drizzt, I imagine R.A. Salvatore gets pretty free reign with him considering how much money his novels bring in.  Personally, I think a 100 year jump may reinvigorate the character, but the author may not agree with me. 

[EDIT -  Apparently Salvatore has already handled the 100 year jump.  Oops!]

I guess that is enough about the hundred year jump forward and overexposed dark elves.  Tune in next time for comments on the Spellplague and the long "forgotten realm" of Abeir.