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Realms Roundtable: It's Here! 2
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Ed Says: It's Here!
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Ed Says
It's Here!
by Ed Greenwood

And so at last it's out. The third incarnation of the Forgotten Realms setting, the third successful attempt to squeeze a gallon into a pint pot, the third road to adventure. That's what you're holding when you pick it up, a road to -- well, no.

You're holding a window with a lovely view of adventure. You can peruse its pages over and over again, doing nothing more than dreaming and seeing things in your mind's eye -- changing the vistas of fairy lands forlorn that this magic casement opens onto.

The moment you do something with it, writing your own Forgotten Realms tales or starting a campaign or stirring some of the sauces and spices the book offers into an exciting campaign, this window has changed into a door, and you've stepped through it. In front of you is a road to adventure -- your road, with this new Forgotten Realms tome as the helpful guidebook. You choose where your road goes, its bends and twists, plucking what you like and need most from this newest Forgotten Realms "baseline" book.

I loved what we sometimes call "FR0" and now usually lovingly refer to as the "Old Gray Box." I thought Jeff Grubb and Karen Boomgarden did a wonderful job of twisting the notes of one eccentric, roleplaying-over-rules DM (uh, that would be me) into rules that everyone could use. They called a halt to my enthusiastic shoveling of Realmslore notes in their direction all too soon, and even then, it didn't all fit.

I also loved the thicker "Second Box," also know as the "Gold Box" (if you had an early one) [or the "olive drab box"-- Ed. note] or "The Whirling World Soup Box" (if you had a later one). Julia Martin took over the main long-suffering editor duties this time, Don Bingle contributed a starter Shadowdale adventure that I've never thanked him properly for (sorry, and thanks, Don!), and Jeff pulled off the miracle of cramming and shoving and stuffing material (of a world that had more than started to grow!) in to fit. I just filled in little bits and pieces around the edges, the second time around.

I must confess that I also love this third baseline Forgotten Realms product, this "Forgotten Realms Box in a Book." Julia stayed aboard, editing with Michele Carter and John Rateliff, and Rich Baker led the design team and learned what Jeff already knew: The leader has to make the really tough "chop this because it just won't fit" decisions. Jim Butler watched over us all, aided by Anthony Valterra and a cast of interested others (we must never forget the "Lore Lords" of the Forgotten Realms, such as Steven Schend, Eric Boyd, George Krashos, Grant Christie, Bryan Wischstadt, and many, many others who check this and add that and fix this other little bit). I wrote seemingly tons of stuff, but I was really only the color commentator behind veteran designer Skip Williams, and the newer folks: Sean Reynolds, Rob Heinsoo, and James Wyatt. Did I miss someone? Undoubtedly, and I apologize now for it. I'm sure readers get my point, though. This is a team effort, every time, and the Forgotten Realms grows under our fingers and gets away from us, every time.

Yes, folks, it's alive. . . .

I must confess that I'd love to see a shelf of thick, leatherbound tomes with placemarking ribbons, eight-color maps, gilded edges, and random recordings that play every so often when such a book is opened (Elminster, of course, murmuring such helpful irritants as, "Ye're sure that's what ye're looking for? [Sigh.] All right. Say not that I didn't warn ye."). But then, I can't save money or balance budgets to save my life, let alone keep a gaming company in the black.

In the last few Realmswatch installments, I've passed on little bits of lore that I didn't dare try to hand to Rich (um, to try to sneak them past him somehow into the book). It just doesn't work. He's way too good for that. I didn't want to do that again, and have this swan song Realmswatch from me be yet another "Sorry, we couldn't fit this in, so it's missing, but enjoy the book anyway." That's not fair to all of these good folks I've just mentioned.

So instead, I'll mention something they probably didn't think they'd put into the book. This is an old trick, so old that some of you reading this will dismiss it as juvenile or useless fluff, and others will nod and smile and remember doing it. Keep this Forgotten Realms tome close beside you when you're playing in the Forgotten Realms setting (but of course!) because sooner or later your players are going to have their characters snatch a book or letter or scroll from a library shelf, a treasure chest, a courtier's bedside table, or even from some unfortunate's body and ask you what it says, and you're going to realize that you have four or five prepared cryptic messages ready, but for whatever reason, this occasion isn't the right one for any of them. Or perhaps you need a few whispered words for the PCs to overhear, or a strange dying utterance for them to puzzle over.

Well, no problem. Just open your lovely new Forgotten Realms book (even if it has become an old, worn friend, no longer new), and pick a few words at random. I've just done it with mine, using the end few words of the third line of one column on a few pages, and come up with:

"where the sword appears"
"a cabal of evil priests"
"without wings or magic"
"up the side of the Hellgate crater"
"legendary hoard in a tunnel"
"threatened war"
"could turn friendly or lethal"
"the collapse was caused by the divine"
"that demon has since escaped"
"four hundred battle-skilled Red Wizards"

I could go on and on. String these together with a few framing words, and Storm's your aunt! (As Mourngrym of Shadowdale would say, before leaving -- quickly.)

Your finished message will be different than mine, but it'll still work. Don't worry, Elminster and lots of other doddering old wizards and sages do this all the time and rarely get caught at it. And, hey, you're smarter than they are, right?

I hope that you all continue to enjoy the Realms as much as I do!

-- Ed of the Greenwood.

Go to the June Realmswatch main page for more of information about the release of the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting or the Forgotten Realms main news page for more articles and news about the Forgotten Realms game setting.



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