The Forgotten Realms is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game, created by Canadian author and game designer Ed Greenwood. Commonly referred to as simply The Realms, it became the most popular setting with D&D gamers in the 1990s, boosted by the success of novels by authors such as R. A. Salvatore and numerous computer role-playing games such as Pool of Radiance, Baldur's Gate, and Neverwinter Nights. The primary focus of the setting is the continent of Faerûn, part of the world of Abeir-Toril, an Earth-like planet with many real world influences.
According to the creators, It is the name of an imaginary fantasy world that exists somewhere beyond our own world. It is a world of strange lands, dangerous creatures, and mighty deities, where magic and seemingly supernatural phenomena are quite real. Unlike our world, the lands of the Forgotten Realms are not all ruled by the human race: the planet Abeir-Toril is shared by humans, dwarves, elves, goblins, orcs, and other, more or less strange peoples and creatures. Technologically, the world of the Forgotten Realms isn't nearly as advanced as ours; in this respect, it resembles the earth in the 13th or 14th century.
Ostensibly, once upon a time, our Earth and the world of Forgotten Realms were somehow more closely connected. As time passed, we, the inhabitants of planet Earth, have mostly forgotten about the existence of that other world -- hence the term "Forgotten Realms". In the original Forgotten Realms logo, the little runic letters in it read "Herein lie the lost lands". This is another allusion to this connection between the two worlds.
However, in spite of this connection, the world of the Forgotten Realms is in many ways nothing like our world. On the planet Abeir-Toril, the dead sometimes choose to walk among the living, gods meddle with mortal matters, a desert seems to have a mind of its own, dragons are always a very real threat, and no tale can be too strange to be true. Many wondrous kingdoms and events of the past have been long forgotten, and with every passing year new mysteries arise. In the Forgotten Realms, survival itself can be an epic adventure. It is currently one of only two campaign settings, along with Eberron, for which official Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast is still creating new material.
In 1967, an 8-year-old Canadian boy wrote the following lines: "Now in all the lands 'twixt bustling Waterdeep and the sparkling waves of The Sea of Fallen Stars, no men were more loved -- and feared -- than the stoic swordsman Durnan, the blustering old rogue Mirt, and the all-wise, ancient wizard Elminster
." [source: Dragon Magazine #218, p. 8]
These were the very first words written about the Forgotten Realms and that boy was Ed Greenwood, who originally designed it and began writing little stories of his own about heroes adventuring in an imaginary world and publishing a series of short articles detailing the setting in Dragon magazine. Although The Realms were yet to be an official campaign world, the first module based on the setting, H1 Bloodstone Pass, was released in 1985 by TSR. The first fully official Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (often referred to as 'the old grey box' or just 'grey box') was later released in 1987 as a boxed set of two source books and four large maps, designed by Greenwood in collaboration with author Jeff Grubb.
Late '80s-Mid '90s
After the initial popularity of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
, the first novel based on the setting, Darkwalker on Moonshae
, the first of The Moonshae Trilogy
, by author Douglas Niles
was published in May 1987. The following year saw the release of The Crystal Shard,
the first novel to feature the highly successful character Drizzt Do'Urden
, who has since appeared in more than seventeen subsequent novels, many of which have been featured on the New York Times Best Seller list
In 1988 the first in a line of Forgotten Realms computer role-playing games
, Pool of Radiance
was released by Strategic Simulations, Inc
. The game was quite popular, winning the Origins Award
for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1988
, and in 1992, the game was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System
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 also released in 1990.
The setting received a revision in 1993 to update it to the newer second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rules system, with the release of Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, containing three books and various "monster supplements." Additional material for the setting, as well as further novels by various authors, was released steadily throughout the 1990s.
Late '90s-Mid '00s
1998 saw the release of Baldur's Gate
, the first in a line of popular computer role-playing games developed by Bioware for the PC. The game was followed up with a sequel, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
in 2000, Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor
in 2001, as well as Icewind Dale
, a separate game that utilized the same game engine
as Baldur's Gate. Several popular Forgotten Realms
characters such as Drizzt Do'Urden
made minor appearances in these games.
In 2002, Bioware released Neverwinter Nights, set in the northern reaches of Faerun and operated on the revised 3.0 rules for D&D. It was followed by two expansion packs (Shadows of Undrentide in 2003, Hordes of the Underdark in 2003), 6 Premium Downloadable Modules (Witch's Wake, Shadow Guard, Kingmaker, Pirates of the Sword Coast, Infinite Dungeons, and Wyvern Crown of Cormyr) and a sequel in 2006, developed by Obsidian Entertainment, which was followed by the expansion set Mask of the Betrayer.
With the release of the revised Dungeons & Dragons rules system in 2000 by Wizards of the Coast, the Forgotten Realms campaign setting received its own revision, released in 2001, updating the official material and advancing the timeline of the game world. In 2002, the latest revision of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting won the Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Game Supplement of 2001.
With the announced release for D&D's 4th Edition, Forgotten Realms will remain as one of the primary campaign settings and be supported by a line of new source materials and their continuing book line, featuring a very changed realms and moving 105 years into the future. The 4th Edition of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting sourcebook was released in August, 2008.Forgotten Realms is also the primary campaign settings for Neverwinter Nights 2.
- See also: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
The planet of Abeir-Toril
consists of several large continents
, including Faerûn
, the focus of the setting, which was first detailed in the original Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
, published in 1987 by TSR
. The other continents include Kara-Tur
, 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.
Various products detailing specific areas of Faerûn have been released, and as such much of the continent has been heavily detailed and documented to create 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 worshippers 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 is concerned with the actions of various deities or 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.
- See also: List of Forgotten Realms deities.
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
R. A. Salvatore
The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
has seen three complete revisions of the core setting over four editions of Dungeons & Dragons
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987)—called "The Old Gray Box", and including Cyclopedia of the Realms and DM's Sourcebook of the Realms, 4 poster maps and 2 hex grids—for 1st Edition AD&D.
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, 2nd edition (1993)—another boxed set, including A Grand Tour of the Realms, Running the Realms, Shadowdale, 4 poster maps, a Monster Compendium and 2 hex grids—for 2nd Edition AD&D and post - Time of Troubles.
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001)—a 320-page hardcover book with poster map—for Third Edition D&D.
- Forgotten Realms Player's Guide (2008)—a forthcoming 160 page hardcover for players updating the realms for 4th Edition D&D.
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008)—a 288 page hardcover for Dungeon Masters updating the realms for 4th Edition D&D.
Various campaign accessories, including:
- Menzoberranzan (1992)—A 240 page boxed set detailing the drow city of Menzoberranzan, which featured heavily in The Dark Elf Trilogy.
- City of Splendors (1994)—A 320 page boxed set detailing the city of Waterdeep.
A revised version for 3rd edition was released in 2005.
- Sea of Fallen Stars (1999)—An relatively recent campaign expansion that covers the events and of The Threat from the Sea trilogy.
- The Forgotten Realms Interactive Altas (1999)—A PC-based atlas with over 800 maps of the Realms in Campaign Cartographer format.
- Players' Guide to Faerûn (2004)—A recent supplement detailing the creation and play of characters within the Forgotten Realms setting.
- A website, realmslore made up of articles by Ed Greenwood, weekly updates.
Over two hundred novels concerning the fictional events of the Forgotten Realms have been released by many authors, including:
- Moonshae Trilogy - Douglas Niles
- Icewind Dale Trilogy - R. A. Salvatore
- The Crystal Shard (1988)
- Streams of Silver (1989)
- The Halfling's Gem (1990)
- The Dark Elf Trilogy - R. A. Salvatore
- Homeland (1990)
- Exile (1990)
- Sojourn (1991)
- Legacy of the Drow - R. A. Salvatore
- The Legacy (1992)
- Starless Night (1993)
- Siege of Darkness (1994)
- Passage to Dawn (1996)
- Paths of Darkness - R. A. Salvatore
- The Silent Blade (1998)
- The Spine of the World (1999)
- Sea of Swords (2001)
- The Hunter's Blades Trilogy - R. A. Salvatore
- The Thousand Orcs (2002)
- The Lone Drow (2003)
- The Two Swords (2004)
- The Sellswords - R. A. Salvatore
- Servant of the Shard (2000)
- Promise of the Witch King (2005)
- Road of the Patriarch (2006)
- The Transitions Trilogy - R. A. Salvatore
- The Orc King (October 2007)
- The Pirate King (October 2008)
- The Ghost King (October 2009)
- The Elminster Series - Ed Greenwood
- Elminster — The Making of a Mage (1994)
- Elminster In Myth Drannor (1997)
- The Temptation of Elminster (1998)
- Elminster In Hell (2001)
- Elminster's Daughter (2004)
- War of the Spider Queen - Various authors
- Dissolution - Richard L. Byers
- Insurrection - Thomas M. Reid
- Condemnation - Richard Baker
- Extinction - Lisa Smedman
- Annihilation - Philip Athans
- Resurrection (2005) - Paul S. Kemp
- House of Serpents Trilogy - Lisa Smedman
- Venom's Taste (2004)
- Viper's Kiss (2005)
- Vanity's Brood (2006)
- The Pools Series - James Ward and Anne K. Brown
- Pool of Radiance (1989)
- Pools of Darkness (1992)
- Pool of Twilight (1993)
- The Erevis Cale Trilogy - Paul S. Kemp
- Twilight Falling
- Dawn of Night
- Midnight's Mask
- The Cleric Quintet - R. A. Salvatore
- In Sylvan Shadows
- Night Masks
- The Fallen Fortress
- The Chaos Curse
- Year of Rogue Dragons Series - Richard Lee Byers
Many computer role-playing games have been set in the Forgotten Realms. Notable titles include:
- (1988) Pool of Radiance - The first Forgotten Realms based computer game released, also the first in a long series of Gold Box engine games.
- (1990) Eye of the Beholder - A popular first-person perspective RPG in the city of Waterdeep.
- (1991) Neverwinter Nights (AOL game) - The first graphical Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG).
- (1992) _The_Legend_of_Darkmoon - New adventures for the heroes of the first game. It used the same engine as the previous game in the series. The introduction featured the famous Forgotten Realms Mage, Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun.
- (1998-2001) Baldur's Gate - The first game to utilise the Infinity Engine, it was highly popular and spawned one expansion Tales of the Sword Coast, and the acclaimed sequel Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn and the expansion; The Throne of Bhaal . Several other games based on the engine were also released, including the Icewind Dale series and (using a different campaign setting)Planescape Torment.
- (2001) Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor
- (2001) Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance - a game released for Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube and GameBoy Advance. The first in a series, it features Drizzt Do'Urden as an unlockable character.
- (2002) Neverwinter Nights - a highly popular third-person perspective role-playing game set in the Forgotten Realms. The game features online play and a toolset allowing creation of new adventure modules.
- (2004) Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II The second and, so far, last in the Dark Alliance series, it continues on from the cliffhanger at the end of DAI, and features Drizzt Do'Urden and Artemis Entreri as unlockable characters.
- (2004) Demon Stone - a game released for PC, PS2 and Xbox. It is a 3D third person role-playing game, constructed using The Two Towers' game engine.
- (2006) Neverwinter Nights 2 - the sequel to the 2002 game. Like its predecessor, it features online play and a toolset.