Yes, I’m the guy who created the Forgotten Realms. Back in the spring of 1965. You read that right: 1965, about a decade before D&D, which came along in 1974, and wasn’t seen by most of the world (all the places that weren’t colleges in or near Wisconsin) until 1975. This column is part of the D&D/RPG History series.
So we have our bones for Rethmar, the basic “what’s the place look like, and who governs it, with what enforcement” stuff. Now, onto the lore that makes the place come alive. That I actually did first, surfing as far as I could on the ideas that came to me, the “what stories can I tell here?” before I turned around and derived the bones (last column) from.
So how to turn a name on a map of the Realms into a place that “feels real”? Well, I start with an idea in my head of what’s there—and regardless of whether I’m developing a locale for a story or for gaming adventures, from that base idea I leap straight into what gamers now call “adventure hooks.”
One-shot adventures, like binge-watching a great mini-series, can be fun, but sooner or later any FRP gamer will want to try a campaign, a sequence of interconnected adventures where the stakes—and hopefully achievements—can be higher.
I’ve worked on the Forgotten Realms every day of my life now for over fifty years, and for over forty of them have been joined by scores of fellow creators, all of us pumping our energies into the setting. So a lot has happened, in-world, and with so much going on, the place certainly seems alive. Some hapless crofters in the Dales or shopkeepers in Waterdeep would probably tell you their world was a lot too alive, a lot of the time.
So the Forgotten Realms began ten years before I first saw those initial three booklets of D&D, as an imaginary world for one young boy to explore by writing stories in. Stories written to entertain myself, that usually flowed from something I’d read written by someone else, in a “So what happened next?” fashion.
It’s the spring of 1965, and in an unassuming house in a back corner of the ritzy North York neighborhood of Don Mills, a tall, thin, shy geek of a boy is sitting in the dimly-lit den of the family home, scribbling tiny words in pencil all over a piece of paper.
Begin at the beginning, saith the maxim. So here we go… Yes, I’m the guy who created The Forgotten Realms. Back in the spring of 1965. You read that right: 1965, about a decade before D&D, which came along in 1974, and wasn’t seen by most of the world (all the places that weren’t colleges in or near Wisconsin) until 1975.