This month, we asked the Forgotten Realms design team what kinds of changes are taking place in the nations and states of the new Realms?. Their answer: "Quite a few, but as a development from the history of the setting, not just to 'shake things up."
Sean Reynolds: A lot of shakeups have occurred [in the new Forgotten Realms book], some as extensions of events established in earlier products, some as natural developments from political situations, and some to provide interesting places for adventurers to go.
Rich Baker: In general, we opted to implement evolutionary changes, not revolutionary. There are a couple of exceptions, of course (hey, we need to surprise you somehow!) but for the most part we wanted the new vision of the Realms to flow logically and smoothly from the last stages of the 2nd Edition vision.
Rob Heinsoo: I'd describe many of the changes as "allowing the domino to fall." There have been some ongoing plotlines that have extended for years of product, situations that were mentioned once or fifteen times as underway..... but they never fully landed. One thing the new set does is let 'em land. It takes some situations that appeared unstable but had never gotten around to changing and says, "OK, the instability's over, we've got a resolution here on the way to a new conflict."
Rich Baker: For example, we looked at Scardale, a land that has been under martial occupation through two previous editions of the Realms, and asked, "Just how long is this city going to be garrisoned by foreign powers?" If you check the dates of previous sources on this topic, you find that Scardale was occupied in 1356 DR -- and now it's 1372 DR. Sixteen years seems long enough for a contentious, fractious alliance of Sembia, Hillsfar, Zhentil Keep, and the other Dalelands to all commit to maintaining garrisons in Scardale. So, the occupying forces have been spurred into abandoning their watch over Scardale -- just in time for some new, interesting events to surface in that corner of the Dalelands.
What do you think are the particularly exciting or intriguing things going on in the Realms?
Rich Baker: I can think of several. First, the Silver Marches -- also known as the lands of Luruar -- are uniting into a federation of city-states in the North. There's a lot of opposition to a rising nation in the North. The Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan rightly views Silverymoon as a threat to their sinister ways. The orc multitudes of the Spine of the World don't want to see a strong, united kingdom in their path to the soft lands of the south. And the Zhentarim has to view its cross-Anauroch routes as endangered by Silverymoon's rise.
Rob Heinsoo: I, for one, enjoy the power shifts and migrations that are occurring because of the Elven Retreat and the new elven response to the end of the Retreat. The major woodland power pulled out of Faerûn, and when you go into the forest, away from the open spaces easily ruled by human kingdoms, there's a whole lot of guerilla warfare and ranger-style limited conflict being fought by groups that would like to slice off a piece of the elves' former power.
Rich Baker: There is an impending clash of several major powers in the Moonsea. The Zhent alliance with (or subversion of, more accurately) Mulmaster effectively makes the Moonsea a Zhent lake. Hillsfar is surrounded by hostile powers, and the independent cities on the north shore of the Moonsea are even worse off. Will they bow to Zhent power? Seek outside aid to bolster them against the rising power of the Keep? Strike preemptively? It's an unstable situation, and those are always interesting.
Sean Reynolds: The Mulhorandi invasion of Unther has the potential to cause a cascade of changes across Toril. If Unther is completely subsumed by Mulhorand, Mulhorand is once again a huge empire with control over a large piece of the coast of the Inner Sea. Given Chessenta's constant civil wars, they might be the next conquest.
Rich Baker: The Lake of Steam is becoming very interesting. We don't give it an exhaustive treatment, but there are several powers in that area heading for a major clash -- and if you look at the map, the Lake sits astride several major trade routes to and from the south of Faerûn.
Sean Reynolds: Cormyr, having suffered famine, plague, war, and the loss of its king, is now fortifying itself against monster raids and pressure from Sembia. The mysterious new danger from the north has people worried as well, which might drive some to leave Cormyr for Sembia, the Dragon Coast, and the Western Heartlands.