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One of the interesting aspects I built in to the Forgotten Realms setting years ago was a full range of types of governments, so not every locale in Faerûn has a king, nobles, and commoners -- or the usual alternative of "replace king with evil/grasping cabal of rich decadent wizards or merchants or haughty old-money noble families, and perhaps also sprinkle the populace with slaves." There are places in Faerûn that can be described as superficially close to feudal, yes, such as Cormyr, but there are also lots of places, such as Waterdeep, Scornubel, and Sembia, where merchants rule and where established families are continually challenged by the rising and ambitious.

Although game play can obviously point toward getting PCs into positions of rulership or at least authority, most Forgotten Realms gamers down through the years have resisted getting their characters tied down by such obligations and responsibilities until retirement of a sort seems desirable. Like religion, taxes, trade detail or politics in general, nations can feature heavily in play or not -- in other words, individual campaigns set in the Forgotten Realms setting can make heavy use of national differences and local color or treat the setting as an almost borderless backdrop. We've always been careful to leave maximum choice open to gamers.

However, gamers who ignore the variety of realms, local outlooks, and varying governments offered by the setting are missing a great ingredient that can both spice up play and drive adventures. There's an entire region -- the Border Kingdoms, which I've been exploring for years in the pages of Polyhedron, the RPGA magazine -- populated by adventurers seeking to carve out their own kingdoms, and there's no reason that such carving can't happen anywhere in the Realms. . . .

But of course, if Fronzil the Fierce decides to set himself up as Lord-Emperor of the Great Land of Harondil and decides to declare a cow pasture within sight of Waterdeep's walls to be the shining realm of Harondil, ridicule (and resistance, notably from the next road patrol out of Waterdeep) are going to be almost immediate. Fronzil need not be a PC, of course. He could be a fat, walruslike retired warrior who quickly hires the PCs to guard the borders of his realm for him -- and even if most such ventures are doomed to failure, every campaign can use a little comic relief. And almost every throne currently resplendent in Faerûn had its beginnings in a land grab every bit as bold and apparently foolish as Fronzil's.

One of the best spurs to ongoing play in the Forgotten Realms setting is going to be picking up the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting big book and reading it in leisure moments while taking mental tours of the countryside. Like a travel book to anywhere exotic, it'll offer many, many colorful places to visit. So check out the variety of realms on offer -- and of course the traveler who ignores local border disputes and national differences does so at considerable peril! Game ON!

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