he Forgotten Realms is rife with great characters—Drizzt Do’Urden, Elminster, Erevis Cale—to name just a few. But perhaps the greatest character inhabiting the Forgotten Realms is Faerūn itself.
World-building requires the same care and attention as creating characters. Just like a good character, a setting needs specific, vivid details and a mood, an emotional life, to make those details come alive. A good setting must live and breathe—and change.
When Ed Greenwood created the Forgotten Realms more than forty years ago, he dreamed up a world so detailed that he even knows the kind of underwear that Cormyreans wear. Ed continues to be a catalog of Forgotten Realms lore; call him up with almost any Realms question, and he has the answer on the tip of his tongue, along with many more related details that inspire new ideas. And does the Realms have moods? As many as a teenaged orc. From the dark alleys of Luskan to the dulcet lanes of Silverymoon, there's a place on the map to suit any temperament of story you want to tell or game you want to run.
For authors and editors, in some ways this encyclopedic level of detail makes storytelling so much easier. When I want to check how much a ritual book might cost (something I just did as I was editing Erin M. Evans’s sequel to Brimstone Angels, Lesser Evils), I don’t need to make the author invent a system of currency, I can look it up (or better yet, ask Ed).
But in other ways, it makes it so much more difficult. For the "shared" part of "shared world" adds a hefty responsibility. I share this world not just with authors and other editors and game designers—but also with fans.
Just like a favorite character, this world means so much to people—to all different sorts of people. There are old-school fans who have been playing in the world and reading its stories since Douglas Niles’s Darkwalker on Moonshae. And then there are some (such as new members in our WoTC Book Club) who just recently picked up one of our novels and were hooked. When we tell stories in this world, our goal is to make sure the world feels like Forgotten Realms to all kinds of fans.
It’s a tall order, but Erik Scott de Bie is one of our authors who has worked hard to fulfill that goal. A fan since he was ten years old, his passion for and knowledge of Faerūn is extensive. He says:
In his latest novel, releasing this month, Shadowbane: Eye of Justice, Erik Scott de Bie uses a classic Realms location (Westgate), iconic organizations (the Night Masks and Fire Knives), classic NPCs and gods (Helm), and all kinds of old-school lore (Cloak and Dagger was his reference bible). And yet he weaves a gripping tale with these elements, a cutting-edge story that could only be told in the 4th Edition Realms.
As a stalwart fan, Erik has seen the Forgotten Realms evolve many times over the years. In my time, I’ve stood on the sidelines as the Forgotten Realms transitioned into 4th Edition, and I’m right in the thick of discussions as we prepare for D&D Next and its implications on Faerūn.
For those who went to Gen Con, watched the videos posted on our site, or who have been frequenting various message boards, you’ve heard about our exciting new series planned for 2013: The Sundering. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry! You can learn all about it here and here.)
The Sundering is a series of six novels releasing every other month, beginning in August 2013. Each story will be set against the backdrop of an event (the Sundering) that will reshape and restore Faerūn. As Ed Greenwood announced in the Gen Con keynote:
I don’t want to give too much away either—watch this column as we’ll be talking more about it as time goes on. But I will say that Ed Greenwood will be walking alongside us as we chart this new path for Faerūn. I asked Ed to weigh in on how he feels about these changes facing the Realms:
Change in a shared world is exciting but there’s no denying it’s scary, too, and not just for characters. Everyone involved wants to get this right, to make sure we are truly “righting the Realms,” as Ed likes to say. But I firmly believe we’re on the right track and that ultimately this change will be well-received. Just like good characters, settings need to evolve to keep the story-telling vibrant and alive.
Erik Scott de Bie agrees:
As I told Erik, this is exactly the philosophy we’ve been taking of late in the storytelling in the Realms. Whether you’re new to the world or have every character in the Legend of Drizzt memorized, rest assured we’re keeping you in mind. Because no matter how much things change, they should still stay the same—and the Forgotten Realms should always be an old friend you recognize.
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