Realms Roundtable
It's Here 2

Rich Baker
Creative Director

Rob Heinsoo

Skip Williams
Senior Designer

James Wyatt

In the second part of this month's roundtable, the team shared with us what everyone's part in making the new book happen was and the current projects of the team members. We asked each member of the team, "What did you work on?"

Rich Baker: Well, I worked on the whole thing in one way or another. As the creative director, it's my job to look over the designers' work and help them make it better. It's my job to help the editors run down details and develop rambling portions of the manuscript from a rough draft to a finished, well-honed game world. And I also get to throw in my two cents about page layouts, interior art, cartography, and all kinds of other issues. Due to various team composition changes and scheduling conflicts, I pitched in and helped out with the development of the book a lot more than I expected to -- but I really enjoyed the opportunity to "get my hands wet" on this job.

Rob Heinsoo: The first draft of the Characters chapter was great fun to write. I wrote a whole bunch of geography: the North, the Dalelands, the Western Heartlands, Sembia, Dragon Coast, Luiren, Evermeet, and other islands. And I wrote pieces of what became the Life in Faerûn chapter.

Sean Reynolds: I worked on the character's chapter after Rob's initial draft, the deities and domains, the timeline, the iconic characters, chunks of geography (the Cold Lands, the Chultan Peninsula, Cormyr, the Hordelands, Lands of Intrigue, the Old Empires, the Unapproachable East, and the Underdark), the adventures, the trade routes, and the organizations. Of course, just about everything we did had some input from all of the designers, and we had a lot of inspiration from Ed Greenwood.

Skip Williams: My particular contributions were the chapters on Magic, Equipment, and Running Forgotten Realms Campaigns, plus several sections on geography. As the lead designer, however, I got my fingers into everything, suggesting content, critiquing, and occasionally revising.

James Wyatt: Why, I worked on the monsters chapter, thanks for asking. After my work on Monsters of Faerûn, I guess it was appropriate that I be in charge of the monsters that were too cool for that book -- like the dracolich, the death tyrant, and the rothé. (You're laughing at me, aren't you? Well, here's a fascinating bit of Realms-geek lore: The rothé entry in Drow of the Underdark originally described three subspecies of rothé, but two of them got cut -- mostly. Passing references to ghost rothé and surface rothé have haunted Forgotten Realms fans for years, but their stats have never been presented in published game material -- until now. I'm really inordinately proud of the rothé.)

Rob Heinsoo: James, I'm STILL laughing at you.

Sean Reynolds: I really liked updating the geographical entries on countries that we haven't touched in ten years. Plots that were started ten years ago that have been hanging (like the death of Gilgeam or the elven retreat) are being updated and completed.

We pioneered the concept of regional feats, and the book really allows you to make a fighter from the Dales something different than one from Waterdeep or Thay. I have to applaud Rob for all of the initial work on that section, and all of the playtesters for the volumes of feedback, both positive and negative, that they gave us during the book's development.

Ron Heinsoo: The coolest thing I got to do other than writing? I had a blast working with Julia Martin to reenvision/redesign some of the deities' symbols to match the new D&D style that shows holy symbols as actual physical objects: brooches, sculptures, jewelry, icons.

Julia Martin: I worked on the Characters, Magic, Deities, and part of the Life in Faerûn and Introduction chapters. I also did a lot of shepherding of the maps, except at the very, very end. Getting the most detail per inch in the big map without having the cartographers want to kill us was the biggest challenge. And boy, is that a cool map!

Rich Baker: The biggest problem to solve was the length of the manuscript. The final version of the manuscript is more than 350,000 words -- about four times as long as one of our paperback novels. The design turnover amounted to well over 500,000 words, so getting the book to fit was an absolute nightmare. The up side, of course, is that only the best, most inspiring, and most useful bits remained in the final version, since we passed the manuscript through a ruthless series of trimmings and cuttings that resulted in a better, more concise, book.

What are you working on now?

Rich Baker: Unfortunately, I can't say too much about our upcoming schedule. In general, I'm working on projects that come out at least six to twelve months down the road. But a couple of the things you can look for in the Forgotten Realms game line include a book called Magic of Faerûn, covering all kinds of spells, magic items, and spellcasters in the Forgotten Realms setting; a book on the principal villains and villainous organizations of Faerûn, loaded with adventure sites and cool bad guy specials; a book about the gods and clerics of Faerûn; and the first campaign expansion for the third edition of the Forgotten Realms setting.

Sean Reynolds: I just finished designing my part of Lords of Darkness, which takes a more in-depth look at the evil organizations of Faerûn, giving special items, spells, and prestige classes for a lot of them. Magic of Faerûn is being typeset, and I think all fans of the Forgotten Realms are going to love seeing many "old favorites" in the spells and magic items chapters of that book, as well as many new ones that complement the new features we introduce in the campaign setting.

My current project is top secret, of course. :-)

Skip Williams: I'm working on material for the core D&D game now.

James Wyatt: I just finished up a very cool feature for our web site, featuring the yuan-ti of the Forgotten Realms.

Rob Heinsoo: I'm working on the D&D Chainmail skirmish miniatures game. It's not set in the Forgotten Realms, but it won't be too hard to tweak the game to handle conflicts like the new wars in Cormanthor and the resurgence of the Zhents.

Julia Martin: Right now I'm the web producer for the D&D, Forgotten Realms, D&D Chainmail, Dragon and Dungeon magazines, book publishing, and electronic games parts of the Wizards website (say that three times fast -- whew!). I moved from the Roleplaying R&D team to that position in November.

James Wyatt

James Wyatt wrote articles for Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine before joining the Wizards of the Coast staff in January 2000. Game design is career No. Five, after stints as a childcare worker, ordained minister, technical writer, and web designer. He currently resides in Washington state.

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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