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Three Things about ... the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting

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17th Apr. 2012 | 05:48 pm

Three things about the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting by Ed Greenwood, Skip Williams, Sean K. Reynolds, and Rob Heinsoo:

Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting cover
  1. There is a limit to my admiration: One of the things I really like about 3rd edition is the covers and the interior page style. Make no mistake, I have a fondness for the old 1st editions covers, which range from charming simplicity to familiar polished fantasy art. The first round of 2nd edition books mainly fell into the latter category; Jeff Easley’s cover for the Dungeon Master’s Guide, with a dragon and wizard in magical combat with bubbles and sparks around them, is fantastic.

    But I liked the idea of the main books for 3rd edition looking like, well, books and artifacts — things that were made for the worlds they described. Forgotten Realms follows the pattern set by the core rulebooks, with a cover that looks like it is made of leather, with leather bindings and strings to hold the book closed. Inside, the pages are deeply yellowed around the edges, and the rest of the pages are slightly colored with flyspecks and small discolorations randomly spread on the page. Unfortunately, this presents a problem: those little specks combine with commas to create semicolons and periods to create colons or just fall in the right place to look like a comma or period. It is deeply frustrating to try to puzzle out a strangely punctuated sentence only to realize you’ve been wasting the last five minutes on a wayward bit of verisimilitude.

  2. I have the power! (and so does everyone else): Those who are familiar with the Forgotten Realms know that it is a high-power, high-level magic world. So if you don’t particularly want to run into 30th level NPCs (or if you dislike them more than you like the opportunity to make your PC 30th level), stay away from the Realms.

    It will save you the embarrassment of being beaten up by a random bartender who has six level of fighter or wizard.

  3. I hope you paid attention, class: The only other campaign setting I had read is the 1st edition Dragonlance Adventures, which set my expectations for the FRCS: nearly equal sections on organizations, gods, races, creatures, history, and prominent NPCs, with magic items and spells mixed in. There would probably be prestige classes, I thought, since that’s new to 3rd edition. All that is present in the FRCS, but the book is dominated by 130 pages on the geography of the campaign.

    More than 130 pages. Out of 320. The next largest section is deities, which runs about 30 pages.

    The geography section lays out the cities, geographical features, and campaign hooks for most of the countries on the map, although for those unfamiliar with the Realms, it’s a bit difficult to see how they decided to order the section. I had to keep referring back to the map on pg. 100-1 (I had that memorized by the end) to figure out where the country they were talking about fit into the world. Not to mention that “countries” are not just countries — sometimes they’re entire regions, and sometimes they’re divisions of regions, with size being only usually the deciding factor.

    Unfamiliarity with the Realms is a big problem with reading the FRCS. Names are thrown around carelessly, leaving the reader to try to figure out whether the name belongs to a city, country, god, or important NPC and what significance that particular city, country, god, or NPC has. There had to be a better way to lay out the book to minimize this confusion — but every time I tried to figure it out, I ran into the problem that something has to be in front of what I wanted to put first to make everything clear. Perhaps a glossary or quick reference guide at the beginning of the book would have been the best solution.

    I think they could have cleared the page space from the geography section.

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