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Forgotten Realms 4e: 100 Years Later

As rumoured for some time, Wizards of the Coast are advancing the Forgotten Realms timeline by 100 years for 4th Edition. Not sure what I think about this yet but it will obviously make my large library of old FR supplements (1st, 2nd, 3.0 & 3.5) of limited use if I want to run a 4e Realms game using the new FRCS.

Year of the Ageless One: The Realms of 1479 DR

Ninety-four years ago, Mystra perished and the world went mad.

Unchecked, ungoverned, the raw stuff of wild magic danced across the world, wreaking terrible destruction. Cities burned, kingdoms fell, luckless people were changed into monsters, and mages went berserk. This was the Spellplague, a rippling outbreak of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of magical catastrophes that left no corner of Faerûn untouched. For almost ten years new outbreaks appeared here and there, striking randomly and without warning. Wherever they struck, chaos reigned.

During the Year of Blue Fire and the terrible years that followed, heroes all over Faerûn battled to contain the magical plague. In some places they succeeded; in others, they failed and died horribly. Places guarded by powerful, persistent magical wards were largely unharmed; the Spellplague flowed around mythals and other such mighty enchantments. But even then, some mythal-guarded sites fell prey to invasions of plaguechanged monsters or the spells of maddened archmages. No place was truly safe.

In many places, the Spellplague wrought drastic changes to the very shape of the world. The vast Underdark system beneath the western Shaar suffered a calamitous collapse, leaving a miles-deep pit the size of a country where the Landrise once ran. Thay’s forbidding plateaus were lifted thousands of feet higher, leaving many of its cities in ruins. The Priador and eastern Thesk are a maze of monster-haunted foothills beneath Thay’s daunting ramparts now. Fencelike ridges of glass spires, drifting earthmotes covered in weird aerial forests, towering mesas of whorled stone… all over Faerûn magical landscapes are interspersed with the common rock and root of the lands that existed before. Even in countries that survived the Spellplague more or less intact, these “changelands” stand as striking new landmarks—landmarks that sometimes harbor monsters never before seen in Faerûn.

In time, the fury of the Spellplague burned itself out. New outbreaks became fewer and weaker, and finally seemed to cease altogether. Pockets of “live” Spellplague still exist in a few places known as plaguelands; one of the largest is a vast waste known as the Changing Lands, where Sespech and Chondath used to be. Few people dare to enter such places, but from time to time they disgorge horribly mutated monsters, tormenting the lands nearby. No new plaguelands have appeared in decades now, and some seem to be weakening as the years pass. But the damage has already been done.

No one will ever be able to create a comprehensive chronology of where and when each outbreak struck, or how each town and city fared through the chaos of the Plague Years. Countless thousands of people fled from each new outbreak, migrating here and there across the continent. War, rebellion, and brigandage reigned unchecked. Mad prophets walked the world, preaching that the Spellplague was the wrath of this god or that and demanding repentance, sacrifice, or holy war in atonement. Anarchy descended over most kingdoms and lasted for a generation or more before some semblance of authority was reestablished. The world that emerged from the Plague Years was not the same Faerûn.

The Sword Coast
The Spellplague left the cities of the Sword Coast almost unscathed. Perhaps it was attenuated by the lingering high magic of ancient Illefarn, perhaps it was deflected by the efforts of mighty heroes, or perhaps sheer chance steered the magical contagion away from the Sea of Swords; however it happened, the Sword Coast looks much as it did a hundred years ago.

In Waterdeep the great walking statues hidden within the city arose for a single day and wrecked several wards, only to suddenly halt where they stood when the Spellplague’s influence retreated again. To this day the towering colossi remain standing where they were at that moment, while the city has been rebuilt around their stony waists. Waterdeep is still governed by its Lords, advised by the Blackstaff—the most powerful mage of Blackstaff Tower, heir to the lore of the mighty Khelben. The city remains a hub of trade and commerce; all roads lead to Waterdeep, or so it is said.

To the south, the city of Baldur’s Gate became a refuge for countless thousands fleeing the ruin wrought by the Spellplague in the lands south of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Where other cities and lands turned away such refugees, Baldur’s Gate tolerated them… and now, almost a century later, it is the largest city in Faerûn, sprawling for mile after mile along the banks of the Chionthar. Each group of refugees created their own neighborhood under the walls of the previous immigrants’ districts, and the city is a mad patchwork of crowded neighborhoods, each dominated by a single race or human ethnicity such as dwarf, halfling, gnome, Turmic, or Shaaran.

Across the Sea of Swords, the Moonshaes have fallen into a patchwork of small kingdoms. Caer Calidyrr still stands as the chief kingdom of the native Moonshavians (the Ffolk), but over the last century the powerful mainland realm of Amn has set its sights on this land. Amnite merchant-lords control much of the large island of Gwynneth, while the warlike Northlanders hold Oman and Norland. The Feywild, the realm of Faerie, lies close to Faerûn here, and from its shadows a dire new threat is gathering—the terrible fomorians, who dream of sweeping away the human kingdoms and subjugating the islands beneath their mighty fists.

The Empire of Netheril
Between the North and the Moonsea Lands lies a land under the dominion of shadow. The reborn Empire of Netheril now lies in the basin that once held the desert Anauroch. The new Netheril claims all of the lands that ancient Netheril once occupied, and seeks to dominate Faerûn just as ancient Netheril did twenty centuries ago. Much of Anauroch’s vast basin is still desolate wasteland, but the lords of Netheril have spent decades weaving mighty spells to summon water to the parched lands and fill the empty skies with rain. Slowly but surely, grassland grows over the dunes, and young forests cover the stony barrens. Netheril is a magical tyranny, governed by a noble caste of shades—powerful human mages and lords who have exchanged their mortal essences for the stuff of shadow. Beneath the shade lords are the citizens of Shade, the ancient city-state that fled into the plane of Shadow when the old empire fell and survived many centuries in dark exile. They are a race  of ambitious and masterful humans who strive to advance the power of their realm, hoping to earn the reward of transformation into undying shades themselves. When folk of other lands refer to “the Netherese,” they mean the people of Shade, both human and shadow-transformed. Decades ago, the Netherese subjugated the nomads of Anauroch and many of the savage humanoid tribes inhabiting the desert. More importantly, the Netherese seized control of the wealthy nation of Sembia in the Twilight War just before the advent of the Spellplague, and they have not relinquished it since. Sembia is the crown jewel of the Empire of Netheril, and provides the Netherese with the wealth and manpower they need to bring more of Faerûn under their control. Only the fragile alliance of Myth Drannor, Cormyr, Evereska, and Luruar checks Netheril’s further expansion… and Netherese diplomats and agents work constantly to break the alliance apart.

While Netheril claims all of Anauroch and the neighboring lands, the Netherese are still few in number, and great portions of this desolate land are left to ruins and monsters. The ruined cities of old Netheril and the Underdark caverns of the monstrous phaerimm (now all but extirpated from the Realms) hold many secrets the shades want to remain hidden, and ancient treasures they seek desperately to recover.

Imperial Cormyr
Cormyr is a strong, stable kingdom that has benefited from back-to-back reigns by very capable monarchs. Azoun V, born in the troubling times at the end of his grandfather’s reign, went on to become a just, wise, and long-lived ruler. Under his rule Cormyr quickly recovered from the chaos of the Plague Years. Azoun V successfully resisted Netheril’s efforts to bring Cormyr under its domionion, and he fought Netherese-sponsored Sembia to a stalemate in a war 40 years ago, preserving Cormyr from Sembia’s fate. Late in his reign, Azoun V enacted a new code of laws that restrained the power of Cormyr’s restless nobility and established rights for commoners oppressed by nobles. His son Foril is now king of Cormyr. Foril has ruled for 30 years now, and while he is not the legendary warrior his great-grandfather was or the brilliant law-giver his father was, he is a shrewd statesman and administrator. Foril continued his father’s reforms, and authored the alliance of powers that keeps Netheril at bay. Standing between Sembia and Netheril, Cormyr’s best security lies in firm alliance with Myth Drannor and the Dalelands. Cormyr is wealthierand more powerful than it’s been in centuries, largely due to the foresight and determination of the Obarskyrs.

Cormyr now controls Daerlun and Urmlaspyr, two formerly Sembian cities that managed to break away from that realm before the Netherese yoke settled completely over them. During the chaos of the Spellplague and the years that followed, the small cities on the southern shore of the Dragonmere turned to Cormyr for protection. Only ten years ago, the thief-ruled city of Proskur proved so obnoxious to the Forest Kingdom’s growing trade and prosperity that King Foril brought it under Cormyr’s authority as well. Not all of these territories are content under Cormyrean rule.

Adventurers in the service of the Crown find plenty of excitement in the Stonelands, the Tunlands, and the Stormhorns, where various monsters and savage tribes (some secretly sponsored by Netheril) cause no small amount of trouble.

Tymanther, Land of the Dragon Warriors

Along the shore of the Alamber Sea, old Unther was swept away by a catastrophic outbreak of the Spellplague. Where once ancient Unther stood now stands an arid mesa-land inhabited by draconic humanoids calling themselves dragonborn. This is the realm of Tymanther. The dragonborn have proven to be a proud, martial race, and in the decades since the Year of Blue Fire they have slowly tamed the ruined changeland from the Riders to the Sky all the way to the Black Ash Plain. Some say that the dragonborn are creations of Tiamat, hatched from vast incubators hidden beneath temples of the dragon-goddess in the cities of Unther. Others believe that the dragonborn are descended from the human population of the old empire, changed by the touch of the Spellplague into something no longer human. But the truth of the matter is even stranger: As it did in many other places in Faerûn, the Spellplague opened the door to some other realm entirely, wrenching the aeries and castles of the dragonborn from their native land—wherever that once was—and depositing them amid the chaos of devastated Unther.
The dragonborn of Tymanther are highly militarized, and the “lords” of the land are those dragonborn who have proven themselves capable of leading their fellows. It is a harsh and unforgiving meritocracy, and each of the kingdom’s great clans is organized more like an army than a noble house. In the world from which they came, the dragonborn fought many terrible wars against true dragons, and they still harbor an ancestral hate for the winged wyrms.

Tymanther lies atop the rubble of ancient Unther, and Untheric ruins are common throughout the land. Even in its decline, Unther was a rich and populous land, and many palaces and treasure vaults of the God-King’s favorites still wait to be discovered. In other places, broken cities carried into Faerûn from Tymanther’s appearance are likewise storehouses of gold, gems, and magical artifacts. Unfortunately, many powerful monsters settled into these Untheric and Tymantheran ruins during the Plague Years, and still pose a deadly threat to those who delve too deeply.

The Changed World
This brief discussion touches on only a few of Faerûn’s myriad kingdoms and peoples. It’s a quick sketch of how a century has changed several familiar lands, and a look at one new land that has arisen during that time. Many of Faerûn’s most iconic locales are still what they were a century ago; wood elves still roam the High Forest, and pirates still sail the Sea of Fallen Stars. Other places such as Unther have changed drastically, as described above. But above all Faerûn remains a land of high magic, terrifying monsters, ancient ruins, and hidden wonders—the essential fantasy world for your players to explore.

In upcoming previews, we’ll take a more thorough look at other aspects of the new Faerûn—the fate of the Chosen, the nature of the pantheon, how magic has changed in the world, and an introduction to some of the threats that now menace Faerûn. Good fortune and good adventuring until next time!


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 13th, 2008 09:31 am (UTC)
Re: Planned Obsolescence
Yeah, I'm sure that's part of the plan. Having said that, I used a lot of my 2nd edition FR stuff while running 3.x games as they didn't update much of the Realms during its lifespan. My Lands of Intrigue game set in Tethyr is based around the 2e boxed set and Ptolus.
Jan. 13th, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Planned Obsolescence
They don't mention two of the main regions we've used: Bloodstone and the Lands of Intrigue. So maybe they'll be left untouched, apart from the different gods, races, etc.
Jan. 13th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
My inner cynic always goes into overdrive at times like this. They smash up an existing setting and glue it back together again, then try to market it on the basis that (i) it's different and (ii) it's the same. It didn't work very well in Traveller, it didn't work very well in Greyhawk, so I don't hold out high hopes for it working too well here.

Not that I was ever a fan of FR, but at least it wasn't Dragonarse. And, at least unlike the sorry demise of the Traveller 3rd Imperium, you don't actually have to watch the game designers breaking your toy up bit by bit in front of you...

However, if they haven't taken the opportunity to kill off Elminster, they deserve to be tied up and thrown into the sea. But they don't mention him, so I fear the worst!
Jan. 13th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
I actually think From the Ashes for Greyhawk was really cool but it upset lots of fans. Not sure how well these FR changes are going to work but moving the timeline on 100 years does make it hard to carry on with an existing campaign. Pretty sure Elminster will still be around - he's a Chosen of Mystra and, I think, immortal. I don't mind him actually - it's Drizz't that gets on my nerves. I think he survives too unfortuately!
Jan. 13th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
The one hope with Elminster (and, for that matter, Drizzt) is that Mike Mearls's stated preference for a "tiny points of light" game style, in which the PCs are pretty much on their own, would tend to suggets that, even if these behemoths aren't actually slain, they might not be foregrounded like the ghastly Mary Sues they've been in the past.

Of course, once the hack novelists get working on the fiction line, that will probably change. :( Personally, I never read game fiction, and I don't want to have to play in universes that have been royally f****d up the a** by it.
Jan. 14th, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
The other thing, of course, is that if Elminster is a Chosen of Mystra, and Mystra has bought the farm, where does that leave him?
Sep. 13th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
Since the whole point of being a Chosen of Mystra was to have backups for her power so that something like Karsus' Folly wouldn't ruin magic everywhere again - one would think that he should have remained a Chosen of Mystra. Unfortunately, game/fiction physics don't stay the same across writers and designers.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 17th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Buck Rodgers Shows the way
I'm afraid I'm not that much of a geek and haven't a clue what you're on about. However, I like the idea as this is a good, if cliched way, of carrying on your 4e FR campaign with the same characters. Oh, and nice old skool 1e reference - I don't think I've heard anyone say MU since 1989 or so!

Edited at 2008-01-17 07:45 pm (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2008 09:58 am (UTC)
The changed world
Overall I like the idea of them moving it forward and introducing some new powers into the realms. But like lots of players I have an irrational hatred of The Chosen and all the goodyness that seems rampant in the realms! (Graham, you have to run an evil campaign!!)

Fortunately in my FR 'End of the Universe' campaign it did exactly what it said on the can, and the realms were destroyed. I even let the players kill Elminster which was particularly satisfying for everyone concerned!

Jan. 15th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
Re: The changed world
>>Graham, you have to run an evil campaign!!

My campaigns are strictly Chaotic Neutral.
Jan. 17th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
Re: The changed world
I think the amount people hate the big Realms "personalities" is in direct proportion to the number of FR novels they've read. Or heard about on the internet without actually reading, more like. If you haven't read any, and don't spend time on ENWorld looking at threads called things like "Why XXX campaign setting sucks" you don't care much either way.
Jan. 18th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
Re: The changed world
I think my dislike of them comes not from novels but all the FR background material.

At one level you have the gods who work in mysterious ways beyond the understanding of ‘man’ which is fine. But then many of the FR ‘characters’ seem to make up their own pantheon of uber powers. Nowhere near as powerful obviously but much more so than characters are meant to obtain.

Player characters hardly ever interact with them unless its some adventuring errand, and those often seem contrived. I just think they are too abstract and removed from the level of the PCs and are just playing out a narrative that rarely involves PCs. I know that’s partly the point of a campaign setting but I think they have go the relative level wrong.

Rant over!
Jan. 18th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
Re: The changed world
I think it got worse with each edition of the FR campaign setting - the NPCs got higher and higher in level, started being referred to as Chosen of Mystra etc. I'd have to check but I don't think the key NPCs were very high level in the Old Grey Box.
Sep. 13th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
Re: The changed world
Those characters are a part of what makes up the setting. They're not supposed to be casually dying. Besides, you should have someone to look up to and be impressed by... or someone to be horrified by.

I liked Ed's originally saying that Larloch was like level 46.

It seems that even in games, people's egos tend to be hurt by the existence of those greater than themselves.
Sep. 13th, 2010 05:48 am (UTC)
Re: The changed world
Thanks for your comments Anonymous! Nice to see old posts like this one get looked at occasionally. What do you think of the 4e Realms?
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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