Because I'm me, I write this with a bit of puffed up pride, as in "I'm too good for that goofy property." But the fact of the matter is, I simply missed the whole FR experience. The original boxed set detailing the Forgotten Realms was published in 1987, a year after the last new AD&D book I would purchase (the Dungeoneers Survival Guide). By that time, I wasn’t even running a game, having surrendered all DM authority to my friend, Jocelyn. I would give up the hobby entirely circa 1988, only briefly returning (a couple-four years later) to DM my brother and his buddies in a turgid, short-lived AD&D campaign. My interest in the D&D during the 90s was roughly equal to the Seahawks playoff hopes during that same period (translation for non-Seattle residents: slim-to-none).
Here’s what I know about the Forgotten Realms: it was the home campaign setting of Ed Greenwood whose “Ecology Of...” articles (as voices by Elminster the Sage) I would occasionally read in Dragon magazine Back In The Day. When I was bored. After I’d already peruses any new classes, monsters, magic items, or Marvel-Philes that might be present in the mag.
I know Elminster is a prominent figure/NPC in FR. There were some video games based on the setting (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, etc.) that I never played. I've never read or owned an FR novel, though I understand there's quite a few of them, some of which feature a Drow ranger named Drz'zt (or whatever).
Um...that’s about it.
Of the various D&D campaign settings that were put out over the years, the ones in most familiar with are Krynn, Mystara, and Oerth ("Greyhawk")...in that order. Krynn I know because I read the first seven or eight novels (multiple times for some of them), not because I ever owned or played any of the game publications. Mystara I know from reading (and using) the Gazetteers (during my BECMI days) or from more recent research. Greyhawk was a large part of our old AD&D campaign, although we never did use more of it than the map and the names of cities/regions...I couldn’t tell you anything about the “Suel” or Iuz or the Horned Society, etc. to save my arse.
[I did read Gygax’s first two Gord novels, though. Still own them, too]
And that’s it. I picked up a used (and incomplete) copy of 2E’s Dark Suns campaign setting decades later, but I’ve never done anything with it. Oh, and does SpellJammer count as a campaign setting? Steve-O game me a copy of that back in college, though we never did use that either.
Really that is pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the “official” D&D campaign settings. I don’t know anything about Birthright or Planescape (besides the fact that tieflings originated there), or Eberron, or anything else. And I know absolutely nothing about the Forgotten Realms (besides the Greenwood thing) except for the fact that everyone loves it and it continues to be a standard setting for the current edition of D&D.
Okay, okay, not everyone loves it, but quite a few people do.
|More or less how I|
picture Prince Gwydion.
Okay, that didn't give me much...though, wow, there have been a TON of FR-themed vid games released. I had no idea.
Dragon of Icespire Peak does provide a page briefly describing this particular section of FR ("The Sword Coast"). Regarding the Realms in general it states:
"The world of the Forgotten Realms is one of high fantasy, populated by elves, dwarves, halflings, humans, and other folk. In the Realms, knights dare the crypts of the fallen dwarf kings of Delzoun, seeking glory and treasure. Rogues prowl the dark alleyways of teeming cities such as Neverwinter and Baldur's Gate. Clerics in the service of gods wield mace and spell, questing against the terrifying powers that threaten the land. Wizards plunder the ruins of the fallen Netherese empire, delving into secrets too dark for the light of day. Bards sing of kings, queens, heroes, and tyrants who died long ago."
[in other words, it's just D&D]
"On the roads and rivers of the Realms travel minstrels and peddlers, merchants and guards, soldiers and sailors. Steel-hearted adventurers from backcountry farmsteads and sleepy villages follow tales of strange, glorious, faraway places. Good maps and clear trails can take even an inexperienced youth with dreams of glory far across the world, but these paths are never safe. Fell magic and deadly monsters are the perils one faces when traveling in the Realms. Even farms and freeholds within a day's walk of a city can fall prey to monsters, and no place is safe from the sudden wrath of a dragon."
Okay, that's mostly just an overview of the D&D game's premise. However, there are some clues in this text (besides the proper names provided) as to the make-up of the setting. I don't usually think of "steel-hearted adventurers" coming from "backcountry farmsteads and sleepy villages." But when "no place is safe" and "farms and freeholds within a day's walk of a city can fall prey to monsters" that says something about the make-up of the setting: namely that there isn't any sort of serious government or military presence and that the landscape is a frightened no man's land where death is no more than a stone's throw away.
A hellscape, really...and that's something I can work with. Those "teeming cities" are probably nothing more than huddled masses of refugees from the countryside. These fallen empires and long-dead kings, etc. (not to mention "terrifying powers that threaten the land") speak to a vanilla fantasy world that's had all the idyllic/pastoral bits squeezed out of it. This isn't the Shire...it's Mordor. There's even an active volcano less than 35 miles from the area's major city (Neverwinter). The closest large town to Mount St. Helens is probably Kelso (about 60 miles away)...and it's only the 80th large town in Washington State as ranked by population. One might think it strange that the people of Neverwinter would hang out "rebuilding" after the most recent eruption (50 years before the campaign start) "badly damaged" the city. I can only assume that other areas of the region are so dangerous and monster infested that moving wasn't a real option.
Phandalin, the "home base" for the adventure is pretty much described the same as it is in Lost Mine of Phandelver (I think GusL's comments on the village are appropriate). While there are some callbacks to the idyllic ("you see children playing on the town green") I don't think it can't be rectified by playing up the mud, squalor, and horse shit of your typical medieval village (especially a slap-dash mining town as Phandelvin is). This should be something closer to HBO's Deadwood, not Downton Abbey's little village, especially one under constant menace of orc raiders and dragons.
|"I've got a f*!%ing|
quest for you."
[actually, I suppose if you really wanted to re-skin Phandelvin as Deadwood, you'd keep Harbin as is and make Toblen Stonehill, the real "Swearengen" character. Then you could set up Linene Graywind (by way of Patience from Firefly) as a competing, slightly less underhanded town faction]
|Will probably kill|
The rest of the Forgotten Realms? Meh. Not all that important at this point.