In this exclusive interview, Ed Greenwood and Eric L. Boyd, designers for the new Power of Faerūn, discuss the book's new trove of knowledge for running Forgotten Realms campaigns -- whether as ruler, religious leader, or battlefield general!
In the interests of better involving the player community with the D&D website, questions for this interview were solicited in part via the message boards, and our thanks to all players participating.
Wizards of the Coast:Dragon magazine #335 hosted an interview with you (Ed Greenwood), in which you professed a desire for a sourcebook dealing with merchant trade, banking, courts and etiquette -- is this essentially the role Power of Faerūn looks to play? Was this previous lack of information much of the incentive to create this book?
Ed Greenwood: I believe DMs interested in running a rich, long-running Realms campaign should have access to details of merchant trade, banking, courts and etiquette (among many other things) if they want to use such elements in play. Power of Faerūn touches on all four of those specific topics, but lacks the space to deal with any of them exhaustively (and I'm not sure how exhaustively a majority of gamers would really want to delve into them).
My incentives for working on this book was the chance to delve into some of the hitherto-neglected facets of running high-level campaigns, including trade, intrigue, and social matters, and the opportunity to tackle the project alongside Eric L. Boyd, who's a great friend, superb 3.5e designer, and top-notch Realms expert.
Wizards: According to the book's description, Power of Faerūn is "a comprehensive guidebook to playing high-level heroes and running high-level campaigns in the Forgotten Realms." Does "high-level" in this case refer to killing things with even bigger spells and weapons with more and more +'s on them, or refer instead to political power, nation building, trade, advancing religious or philosophical causes by virtue of influence? (Or, a bit of both?)
Eric Boyd: A bit of both, although the emphasis is much more on creating a position of influence for your PC than it is on killing bigger bad guys. Note that we designed the system of advancing your influence to also reward targeted dungeon crawls. For example, while your high priest can certainly increase his religious power by performing a miracle, he can also do so by recovering a long-lost relic buried in a lich's crypt.
Ed: Previously-published D&D books, such as the Epic Level Handbook, have already done an admirable job of dealing with high-stats foes and impressively powerful magic items. Power of Faerūn is indeed "more about political power, nation building, trade, advancing religious or philosophical causes by virtue of influence." It was time, and past time, to take a good look at such things.
The official rulebooks and sourcebooks can help DMs in two main ways: providing quick reference "here's a detailed NPC, here's a sample, ready-to-use this or that," and giving DMs tools for long-term campaign planning (discussing these threads of cause-and-event, and those arcs of unfolding events, and the aims and current doings of yon power groups). Power of Faerūn is the second sort of helpful aid.
I hope it will become a DM's "dream book," in the way young kid used to drool over Christmas catalogs from major department stores: reading and re-reading it will spark ideas and start the imagination going. Along the way, of course, it provides a lot of little bits and pieces of hitherto-missing Realmslore.
Wizards: Although stated for "high-level heroes," can many of the systems and areas in Power of Faerūn be applied to lower level (non-epic) characters?
Eric: I think of the book as appropriate for anyone capable of taking the Leadership feat (i.e. 6th level or higher). The book is definitely targeted at PCs capable of acquiring large numbers of followers (i.e., level 13+).
Ed: Almost all the material in Power of Faerūn can be applied to low-level characters and play. Even first-level fighters journey through kingdoms (and so are affected by local laws and law enforcement), and perhaps even adventure in some specific Realms places described in the book. Eric and I tried to write a book that dealt with characters, power groups, institutions, and rule mechanisms that are useful in running a campaign at any level. The mention of "high-level heroes" in the book description refers to the characteristics of most high-level play, wherein PCs increasingly get caught up in fighting or running powerful organizations, ruling territories, or investing coins in mercantile trade, as opposed to fighting the next and bigger monster and trying to stay alive. In other words, we're trying to provide fresh challenges for PCs who've already carved up a dragon or two. Or two dozen.
Wizards: Are there particular elements from the book that you've particularly enjoyed creating to further flesh out life and times in the Realms?
Ed: For me, the court intrigues were the most fun to explore. Although everyone enjoys a good dramatic battle against foes, I've always loved something it's always been hard to put into rulebooks: PCs trying to solve mysteries and uncover metaphorical (rather than literal) skeletons in closets at royal courts and inside guilds and small towns, taking part in the intrigue as they interact with this noble family or that courtier (who may well be trying to frame or mislead the PCs, or cozy up to them so as to gain them as allies). The building tension, and verbal fencing, can be just as fun -- and go on a lot longer -- than a swords-out fight. Some DMs and players are naturals at this, and some like a little guidance; I hope reading Power of Faerūn spurs everyone into plunging more into intrigues -- because battles with villains the DM has managed to "build up" during roleplaying are far more satisfying than bashing a scaly ugly the players have never seen before.
Eric: I've always wanted to do more with Faerūn's churches, which always seem to play second fiddle to the gods of the Realms. In this book, I particularly enjoyed exploring the religious conflicts in the setting. There's also a short bit on heresy and how to include "faithful heretics" in a campaign where there is no mystery: the gods do exist and they speak directly to their followers.
Wizards: As previously stated (especially on the battlefield), Leadership and Epic Leadership seem to play a large part -- how does the book make expanded use of these feats?
Ed: In several places in the book, notably Eric's Battlefield chapter, specific expanded Leadership Feat game mechanics appear (showing interested players and DMs how to apply leadership in, for example, a military chain of command). I don't want to plunge into an exhaustive "on this page, we apply it to that" list, but whenever possible, we did try to expand the use of existing game mechanics rather than creating completely new rule mechanisms. Which isn't to say that there aren't new feats, of course. Power of Faerūn is a book for players as well as DMs, so there's plenty of "here's how your character can succeed."
Eric: Leadership and Epic Leadership are important in every arena, though not just the battlefield. We expanded on the Leadership mechanic in the last chapter of the book, creating a positive feedback loop whereby your PC can increase his Leadership and thereby increase his Influence and thereby increase his Leadership. The use of the Leadership feat is integrated into almost every chapter in the book as a way of growing the political/militaristic/religious/mercantile/etc. power of your PC.
Wizards: Let's say I've conquered the battlefield and now I'm interested in ruling the lands. What rewards does Power of Faerūn hold for would-be nobles -- what benefits (and difficulties) are there for running a kingdom or stronghold? Are nobles addressed differently in Faerūn than they are in the real world? (And as a side note, are there any faux pas one should never make in Faerūn courts?)
Ed: To address that side note first, there are plenty of faux pas one should avoid, if possible, in the various ruling courts of Faerūn. Power of Faerūn doesn't list them, I'm afraid, because it seemed more important to use the space to delve into how courts work on a daily basis, and how courtiers use their influence to accomplish things, so a DM could bring any ruling court to life.
In like manner, you won't find lists of "if you run a kingdom of this size, you can collect X in taxes." The rewards of ruling are obviously the wealth one can gain, and power (the ability to make things you want to happen, happen). Power of Faerūn does cover rights and obligations of nobles and rulers, and what having a title really means. Finer points of etiquette are dealt with only briefly, because, in the Realms as in the real world, there's a huge variety of different customs, gestures, taboos, and forms of address -- and all of them change constantly, with changing fashions, attitudes, and rulers. When writing Power of Faerūn, both Eric and I tried to craft a book usable in all D&D campaigns, not just in Realms campaigns set in a particular region. The chapter on courts includes the duties of royal stewards, how courtiers earn their positions (and gain rank), and a sample "local" ruling court (both a map of the physical building that houses it, and a list of all the titled positions of the courtiers).
Eric: Would-be nobles are addressed in two chapters, as pursuing nobility can mean two very different things. In one chapter we describe life in the court, where rulers, stewards, and courtiers compete for titles and influence. We discuss making and changing laws, making deals, keeping the peace, winning favors, earning titles, and ruling a domain. In another chapter we discuss life on the frontier, carving out a domain, taming the frontier, and attracting a populace to rule. We also discuss ruling a fiefdom, including holding and expanding territory, and resolving conflicts as you group the population under your command.
Wizards: Of course, years of tough adventuring may have instead turned me more pious. What focus does Power of Faerūn have on religious organizations?
Ed: Eric wrote an entire, gorgeous chapter on matters religious, from how to behave within a priesthood to the rise of a cult. Again, although matters are illustrated with Realms examples, we concentrated on how characters should behave to "get ahead" within a church or in dealings with a clergy -- and how DMs should portray NPC priests and the internal intrigues and "life" of a priesthood. You'll get details of giving edicts, handling internal strife, and lots more.
Eric:Power of Faerūn gives a great deal of advice on how to rise to power in a religious organization. Where as previous "god books" have focused on the deity or the PC, the chapter on ruling a religious organization focuses more on the church and the divisions therein. The chapter touches on what religious leaders do, heretics in the church, building a religious following, manifestations of a cleric's connection with the divine, guiding the flock, and sectarian divisions (inter-faith and intra-faith). There's even a discussion about how a powerful priest with heretical ideas can garner enough influence to actually alter the belief system of the faith and the nature of the divine.
Wizards: Militia or religion, one way or the other, economics must play a large role in nation building. Does Power of Faerūn discuss your previous request for "merchant shipping, caravans, banking (currency, trade flows, and commerce)..."? In a fantasy realm, it must be difficult to regulate an economy where powerful mages can set up teleport circle trade routes, or use planar binding to call djinn capable of permanently creating silks, spices, or other valuable goods!
Ed: There's a chapter on trade that looks at running guilds, how costers work, dealing with pirates and bandits and the like, provides a sample guildhall, and so on. The focus wasn't on "this current takes ships just here" or "the caravans go around this rock," but rather on here are how things interact, so you can bring mercantile trade to life in any corner of the Realms or your own non-Realms campaign.
Eric:Power of Faerūn digs into the economics of playing a business leader and actively controlling segments of the economy. It touches on what do merchant princes do, building a mercantile empire, controlling trade routes (magical or otherwise), trade flows of various types of goods, trade consortiums, and recruitment. There are two prestige classes in the book, and one of them is "merchant prince", which addresses an important role in the Realms.
Ed: Yes, the magic of the setting can make regulating an economy very difficult, but it's important to remember that in most lands in the Realms, no one is "looking up from their own purse long enough" to "regulate" an economy -- until a real problem arises, and gets bad enough that a guild or ruler identifies it (and arrives at some truths about it, as opposed to the self-serving claims various vested interests may make as to the causes for the problem, such as Cormyrean merchants blaming something on "those Sembians," or one guild erroneously blaming a rival guild).
Wizards: Will we see some old friends from the Realms? Say, the Red Wizards for example?
Ed: In the "adventure hook" examples given in each chapter, we will indeed see "some old friends" of the Realms. I don't recall any Red Wizards offhand, but then, The Simbul was raging around my yard most of the time I was writing this, and prudent Thayans tend to try to look and act like someone else when she's doing that. If they don't, they have this all-too-swift tendency to look and act like fresh roadkill.
Eric: Many of the chapters have example campaign seeds. They are focused on a single powerful NPC over the course of a few months and the transformations they instigate in the Realms. Some of those NPCs are old favorites, including Dabron Sashenstar (last heard from in the FRCS [1e]) and Sythillis (last heard from in Lands of Intrigue [2e]), while others are new, like Sunlord Daelegoth Orndeir.
Wizards: As far as regions are covered, where will the book take us -- Calimshan? The Border Kingdoms? And what might we find there?
Eric: In general, this is not a regionally focused sourcebook, but we do get to touch on a lot of dangling plot threads, like the fate of the Sythillisian Empire and the Iron Throne. As we conceived this book, we realized that the Border Kingdoms (detailed in part long ago by Ed in the pages of Polyhedron) were the perfect "playpen" in which to allow your PCs to try out the concepts introduced in this book. So Ed takes us on a whirlwind tour of that everchanging backwater of the Realms ...
Ed: Eric and I provide "adventure hook" examples in each chapter of the book that take readers to various interesting locales in the Realms. And yes, there's an entire chapter on the Border Kingdoms, where a wayfarer can find just about anything. I chopped and hacked at my prose until I faced up to it: I just couldn't fit all of the Border Kingdoms into a 160-page book, even if we'd put in nothing else and shrunk the text down to tiny, tiny size -- so for the "complete" Border Kingdoms, readers will have to visit the Wizards of the Coast website.
Wizards: Of course, while a rise to power can certainly be desired, isn't there a phrase about absolute power corrupting absolutely? As a final note, what drawbacks might there may be to gaining power in Faerūn (spies? coups?) -- and if there are examples from organizations past or present that might have important lessons to impart to Faerūn's future rulers?
Eric: In a world of magic and monsters, achieving power and holding on to power takes every last ounce of energy. Every chapter of the book is filled with suggestions on campaign plot threads and adventure ideas that open up if the PCs try to work themselves into positions of influence. In one sense they are the "drawbacks of power", but in another sense they allow many new types of adventures by which to challenge your powerful PCs.
Ed: Certainly rising to success almost always has the unavoidable side-effect of rising up into a bright, shining beacon of a target for those who want you gone, want to take your place, or just want to feed off your coins and possessions. Power of Faerūn deals with spies, assassins, and other wish-you-ill perils in various chapters (as they apply to PCs achieving successes in different fields), and we do cite relevant past successes and disasters, in passing.
As for imparting important lessons: what, us? And ruin the fun of PCs learning them all the hard way?
No absolute corruption here. Nuh-uh. See my gleaming, wolf-bright smile? Don't you believe me? Elminster vouches for the both of us, and you know he never trifles with the truth. Right?
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