Thursday, May 3, 2012

Old School Forgotten Realms

I have been reading the grey box Forgotten Realms lately. Yesterday I also took out the first supplement, Waterdeep. Apart from some very interesting art in that book, I suddenly realized that these books differed to some extent from other old school gaming books.

In the FR cyclopedia of the realms, you get a sketchy view of many kingdoms and different landmarks like bridges and villages. There are many opportunities for adventure and I felt like I wanted to start a campaign there. But, there was that other chapter that felt different. There's in both the cyclopedia and the Waterdeep book a long, really long, list of personalities of realm.

In the cyclopedia, there are some personalities that are of a different class, namely the Powers. I think this is interesting, for Ed Greenwood does not call them gods, but Powers. That and the list of NPCs makes me thing that the powers are just heroes of old that have ascended. You get the distinct idea that adventuring in the realms you will interact with many of all these personalities mentioned, god or mortals. Is this a peculiarity of the Forgotten Realms?

Thinking back on other distinctly old school game books, I don't think there as are many NPCs listed there. I remember thinking a way back that a dungeon, whatever it was I was reading that day, felt kind of empty, since there was no named personalities in it.

I know some people dislike FR, and anything touched by Ed Greenwood. To many it makes them think of Elminster, the deus ex machina, or heavy handed "story" based game mastering. Even though Ed is not to blame for those practices, it feels like his FR is slightly more about people than monsters. Even though I love the explorative part of the game, and some good exhilarating fights with foul beasts, I can't but help feeling a lot of sympathy for a game where there are heroes and personalities around. It kind of makes the world feel like a real place. Someone lives there, and are doing heroic deeds.

Maybe this subtle flavour difference of the Forgotten Realms it just my imagination, but I'm wondering how important interaction with named personalities is to my and other peoples expectation of fun. Anyhow, if you are having fun, you are doing it right. Right?


  1. I had similar thoughts reading and running a game out of the grey box and Waterdeep and the North. The Sword Coast has this almost Deadwood feel to it and the flavor of the supplements before the novels hit the bestseller lists is entirely different.

  2. Now I am really feeling like starting a game in the "grey" Forgotten Realms!

  3. It's not the Realms, but for some genres interacting with named personalities is part of the fun.

  4. I think the difference between (Grey Box) FR and (1e) Greyhawk is that GH stays sketchy. You know about the Circle of Eight and Mordenkainen and there's all those "named" spells, but one doesn't really see their stats until the late late 90's GH supplements.

    On that note, should FR have all those Tenser, Bigby, et al spells? Or just use the new named ones in the grey box and supplements?

    1. Anthony,

      If I'd run FR, I would skip all the named spells from GH. They don't belong there.

      On another personal note, I find GH to be very dull. Maybe I will read it later on and get a "grey" enlightenment, but for me that setting always seemed to be missing something.


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