5E Crash-Course On The Forgotten Realms

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
Hey! Of the different settings you're allowed to write for on the DM's Guild, I think that Forgotten Realms is the one I dislike the least, I think. (My preference would be writing for Greyhawk or Dragonlance but what're ya gonna do--I have a Greyhawk project I'm doing completely on spec for direct publication by WotC (guy can dream!) that might or might not have something to do with something that rhymes with Harrier Beaks--it is what it is.)

Please tell me like, the most important things about the FR setting. Here's what I already know (pathetically limited and mostly from memes, but FR is one setting I only ever PC'd in and never DM'd which explains why I knew so little about it):
  • There's an omnipotent wizard named Elminster who is so powerful he could solve all of the problems in Faerun with a snap of his fingers, but doesn't, because reasons.
  • There's a very powerful secret society dedicated to Good called the Harpers, who could probably acting on their own defeat most or all of the forces of evil in Faerun, but don't, so the PCs still have something to do.
  • Drizz't (dro Urden? did I make that up?) is a dual-wielding Drow hero that launched a zillion copycat PCs.
  • There's a place called Thay, they have Red Wizards there, they look really cool, but are bad guys.
  • There's a place called Cormyr, they have Purple Dragon Knights, and they are good guys (more or less).
  • There's a nasty secret society called the Cult of the Dragon that worship dracoliches or worship a specific dracolich or something. They're bad news.
  • Magic is all wrapped up in something complicated called "The Weave".
  • Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Icewind Dale, and everywhere else in D&D famous enough to have a videogame named after it comes from FR. IIRC, Waterdeep is roughly equivalent to the Free City of Greyhawk in the Greyhawk setting.
And that's all I know, like I said, basically nothing. Please tell me what you think are the most important things to know about the FR setting. If you want a little more structure, what year it currently is, the really major points on the timeline, and a breakdown of the most pivotal factions & nations

Thanks!
 

Eltab

Adventurer
There is no 'short version' of FR. The closest you can get is the 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. You will want (but not need) Grand History of the Realms, 4e Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide and Player's Guide if you want to get more up-to-date. But you can get an 'FR feel' just fine if 3FRCG is your "day one" mark.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Hey! Of the different settings you're allowed to write for on the DM's Guild, I think that Forgotten Realms is the one I dislike the least, I think. (My preference would be writing for Greyhawk or Dragonlance but what're ya gonna do--I have a Greyhawk project I'm doing completely on spec for direct publication by WotC (guy can dream!) that might or might not have something to do with something that rhymes with Harrier Beaks--it is what it is.)

Please tell me like, the most important things about the FR setting. Here's what I already know (pathetically limited and mostly from memes, but FR is one setting I only ever PC'd in and never DM'd which explains why I knew so little about it):
I'll try.

There's an omnipotent wizard named Elminster who is so powerful he could solve all of the problems in Faerun with a snap of his fingers, but doesn't, because reasons.
Elminster is a powerful wizard sure (he's nominally the oldest of Mystra's chosen mortals), he's also by nature a loner. In comparison the leaders of several organizations are also powerful wizards, Szass Tam (more on him below) is the leader of the Red Wizards, and a lich too boot.

Elminster gets a bad rap because he's the hero of Ed Greenwood's books about Elminster (duh) and he's a powerful wizard, as well as being one of a dozen of Mystra's Chosen (empowered champions); so there is the impression that there isn't much he can't do. The novels are vary in quality quite a bit, but general thrust of being a Chosen of a god was that the character gets an enhanced life span (Elminster is well over one thousand years old), enhanced knowledge/ability in their deity's portfolio, and they are charged with protecting the deity's interests in the mortal realm.

As a point of comparison Halaster Blackcloak (the owner/operater of Undermountain and titular Mad Mage of Dungeon of the Mad Mage) is stirge-poop crazy and also a Chosen of Mystra.

There's a very powerful secret society dedicated to Good called the Harpers, who could probably acting on their own defeat most or all of the forces of evil in Faerun, but don't, so the PCs still have something to do.
Definitely more on the secret, less on the powerful. They were at one point fronted by Khelben Blackstaff, but that was to counter evil secret organizations like The Zhentarim (who were fronted by Bane's high priest Fzoul Chembryl, until he died and became a demigod).

The Harpers are more designed as information gatherers and spies who pass on the information about the bad guys to people that can do something about it. Like the PCs.

Drizz't (dro Urden? did I make that up?) is a dual-wielding Drow hero that launched a zillion copycat PCs.
Drizzt, no apostophe in the first name. Family name Do'Urden. Basically yes. Books he's in are moderate to good quality.

There's a place called Thay, they have Red Wizards there, they look really cool, but are bad guys.
Pretty much. 3E had them less outwardly evil, or maybe affably evil. At the high levels they're into chattel slavery, human sacrifice, and crushing oppression. This was before their grand high poobah became a lich.

They also hate the country that is more or less (is it still?) run by Elminster's girlfriend/lover/Rose to 10/whatever.

Of interest as a magocracy Thay is run by wizards of the necromancy specialty. Not that its a huge issue in 5E rules, but back in AD&D/AD&D 2E that was a big deal since Red Wizards could double specialize at the cost of even more prohibited schools.

There's a place called Cormyr, they have Purple Dragon Knights, and they are good guys (more or less).
Pretty much. As with all good guy countries some nobles hate the king and are trying to overthrow him. Its been the same dynasty for over 1000 years, those nobles have a really bad track record.

There's a nasty secret society called the Cult of the Dragon that worship dracoliches or worship a specific dracolich or something. They're bad news.
Dracoliches, and its actually a translation error that caused it. I don't recall the deatils, but the canon version is that they worship dracoliches due to a typo.

Magic is all wrapped up in something complicated called "The Weave".
Timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly... stuff if you prefer. Its the same fundamental idea most settings uses, magic is interacts with something, FRs version is called The Weave and is controlled by Mystra (the goddess of magic) to the point if anything affects Mystra The Weave goes crazy. o_O

Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Icewind Dale, and everywhere else in D&D famous enough to have a videogame named after it comes from FR. IIRC, Waterdeep is roughly equivalent to the Free City of Greyhawk in the Greyhawk setting.
I'd actually liken Baldur's Gate to the Free City more than Waterdeep. But yes, if its a named D&D game its in FR, EXCEPT Planescape: Torment which is set largely in Sigil. I'm assuming you're familiar with Sigil.

And that's all I know, like I said, basically nothing. Please tell me what you think are the most important things to know about the FR setting. If you want a little more structure, what year it currently is, the really major points on the timeline, and a breakdown of the most pivotal factions & nations

Thanks!
To get a clear update I believe the current year is DR 1489. DR is short for Dale Reckoning, basically FR's standard calendar based on some stuff in the setting about elves, and big rocks, and elves not blowing up humans who stood a big rock on its end.

Major Recent Events:
DR 1358 Time of the Troubles - the gods are made mortal and walk the land (transition from AD&D to AD&D 2E)
1368 - AD&D 2E campaign setting
DR 1372 to 1376 - any 3E stuff happens
DR 1385 - Spellplague (rules change to 4E)
DR 1479 - 4E campaign setting - also the year the newer of two Neverwinter MMO is set in.
DR 1485 - The Sundering starts - D&D Next playtest material
DR 1489 - The Sundering is over - 5E rules (basically everything goes back to the way it was, more or less)
 
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ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
@Beleriphon that is awesome thank you so much that's the exact kind of thing I'm looking for in this thread. Although some of your "Click to expand..." hyperlinks don't seem to be working for me.
@Eltab idk Beleriphon did pretty good just now! I can't seem to find evidence that a 3E Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide exists (there's one for 4E). The closest thing I have is the 3E Player's Guide To Faerun which is almost 200 pages so I hope you're not seriously saying that's the "short version" of FR cuz...yikes.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
@Beleriphon that is awesome thank you so much that's the exact kind of thing I'm looking for in this thread. Although some of your "Click to expand..." hyperlinks don't seem to be working for me.
@Eltab idk Beleriphon did pretty good just now! I can't seem to find evidence that a 3E Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide exists (there's one for 4E). The closest thing I have is the 3E Player's Guide To Faerun which is almost 200 pages so I hope you're not seriously saying that's the "short version" of FR cuz...yikes.
I have a Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book still, and its 3E before the transition to 3.5, I think the Player's Guide is the 3.5 update book, it also pushed the setting forward a few years on some of the adventure hooks the FRCS uses. There's a lot books, and I mean a lot of books. The FR Wiki article on Waterdeep has 45 books references, those are just the ones the article authors used. There are hundreds of novels (there's another thread about a poster reading ALL of them, his count is 295), dozen and dozens of source books, adventures, and the computer games. The classic Gold Box games were sent in the Forgotten Realms, as was AOL's Neverwinter MMO circa 1991.

For more recent information, or a general over view for the feel of the setting.

In the Forgotten Realms the gods are real, they take an active interest in the world, and also Xanatos Gamble against each other. They require worship, this is all laid out by AO (Alpha-Omega... I just realized that BTW) the Over God of Realmspace. All of the gods are necessary, yes even the evil ones, since they control some aspect of reality. Umberlee (goddess of storms, and ship wrecks) comes by her epitath "the Bitch Queen" honestly, but sailors propriate to her to make sure she ignores them.

On Ubermensch NPCs, yes they exist. Elminster along with with the other Chosen of Mystra are all excellent examples. However, most of them are tied up in situations that don't allow them to act openly, Laerel Silverhand (one of Mystra's seven daughters... its all very complicated) is the current Open Lord of Waterdeep. In Dragon Heist she's presented as a CR 23 NPC that can cast 9th level spells, but for most the adventure she has better things to do than screw around chasing goblins in the sewers. Without spoiling things she doesn't get involved until an artifact of the city is found in the climax.

I think one of the things to recognize with the over powered good guys is they're designed that way from a narrative/rules perspective to stand up individually to a cohort of not quite as powerful bad guys. Elminster might be be able to paste Szass Tam in a fight, but he's meant to be able to withstand an onslaught from all of Thay's Zulkirs (there's 8, one for each school of magic) and be able to escape.

Other NPCs like Drizzt get a lot of hate, but ultimately Drizzt is a local hero. He's in the league of 10th or 11th level PCs. He protects kingdoms from threats, along with pluck band of Scoobies friends.

Big things to watch out for between 3E FRCS and the 5E stuff, the default 5E races like dragonborn and tieflings have an in universe explanation. Short version: it was Spellplague and then The Sundering. Long version: 4E campaign guide and six novels.

@Nebulous has it right, the FRCS is an awesome sourcebook no matter how you slice it. It's also 360 pages, but there's a bestiary and it does a fantastic job summarizing the setting as a whole.
 
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Nebulous

Hero
I can't seem to find evidence that a 3E Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide exists (there's one for 4E). The closest thing I have is the 3E Player's Guide To Faerun which is almost 200 pages so I hope you're not seriously saying that's the "short version" of FR cuz...yikes.
No, you want the 3rd edition FR guide, it's an amazing sourcebook by any comparison. I'm sure you can find a copy somewhere.

Here, $25 on ebay, this is what you want.

 

Zardnaar

Legend
It really is. Mine is buried somewhere in a box but I would never get rid of it.
It's also the version that's least destructive to the setting. 2E/4E had the Time of Troubles and Spellplague. Best FR is 1E or 3E although I like the 2E specialty priests.

5E realms doesn't really exist it's just the Sword Coast and Chult really.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
No, you want the 3rd edition FR guide, it's an amazing sourcebook by any comparison. I'm sure you can find a copy somewhere.

Here, $25 on ebay, this is what you want.

....annnnnnnd that one is literally 300 pages. Holy crabs. I feel like Homer Simpson a little: "REMOVE THE ROCK OF SHAME. ...ATTACH THE ROCK OF TRIUMPH!"

That seems like a great, comprehensive reference work but it also looks way too long for me to actually read and internalize on any kind of reasonable timescale (I mean, not if someone was actually paying me a living wage to research a made up world, but that's a whole other topic). I'll have that "on the table" so to speak, but I expect to learn more immediately useful stuff from posters in this thread and/or one of the FR wikis.

I have a Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book still, and its 3E before the transition to 3.5. There's a lot books, and I mean a lot of books. The FR Wiki article on Waterdeep has 45 books references, those are just the ones the article authors used. There are hundreds of novels (there's another thread about a poster reading ALL of them, his count is 295), dozen and dozens of source books, adventures, and the computer games. The classic Gold Box games were sent in the Forgotten Realms, as was AOL's Neverwinter MMO circa 1991.
I can remember being younger than 10 and playing Hillsfar on my grandmother's 386. Well, attempting to play Hillsfar, except for the part where you jump your horse over things I don't think I made much progress. At this age I unironically wondered what a "ling" was and what it meant to be 1/2 of one, no joke. I didn't properly discover D&D for almost a decade afterwards.

Anyway, is Hillsfar that one of the Goldbox games of which you speak? I think I vaguely recall Hillsfar being a place in the FR.

(And I get it, it's a huge world with a TON of history, but I would bet not as much so as Shadowrun (which has, I can safely say having written for it, one of the most ginormous, detailed, and convoluted metaplots of all time) and I can still give people a "short version" of Shadowrun in 1000 words or less, you just have to, y'know, leave a lot of stuff out.)

I can remember being younger than 10 and playing Hillsfar on my grandmother's 386. Well, attempting to play Hillsfar, except for the part where you jump your horse over things I don't think I made much progress. At this age I unironically wondered what a "ling" was and what it meant to be 1/2 of one, no joke. I didn't properly discover D&D for almost a decade afterwards/

Anyway, is Hillsfar that one of the Goldbox games of which you speak? I think I vaguely recall Hillsfar being a place in the FR.

(And I get it, it's a huge world with a TON of history, but I would bet not as much so as Shadowrun (which has, I can safely say having written for it, one of the most ginormous, detailed, and convoluted metaplots of all time) and I can still give people a "short version" of Shadowrun in 1000 words or less, you just have to, y'know, leave a lot of stuff out.)
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
I can remember being younger than 10 and playing Hillsfar on my grandmother's 386. Well, attempting to play Hillsfar, except for the part where you jump your horse over things I don't think I made much progress. At this age I unironically wondered what a "ling" was and what it meant to be 1/2 of one, no joke. I didn't properly discover D&D for almost a decade afterwards/

Anyway, is Hillsfar that one of the Goldbox games of which you speak? I think I vaguely recall Hillsfar being a place in the FR.

(And I get it, it's a huge world with a TON of history, but I would bet not as much so as Shadowrun (which has, I can safely say having written for it, one of the most ginormous, detailed, and convoluted metaplots of all time) and I can still give people a "short version" of Shadowrun in 1000 words or less, you just have to, y'know, leave a lot of stuff out.)
Hillsfar is in the Moonsea region.
 

Nebulous

Hero
It's also the version that's least destructive to the setting. 2E/4E had the Time of Troubles and Spellplague. Best FR is 1E or 3E although I like the 2E specialty priests.

5E realms doesn't really exist it's just the Sword Coast and Chult really.
yeah, the official 5e "Realms" so far is about 10% of the actual Realms. Although Tomb of Annihilation expands greatly on Chult, which I don't think even the 3e version covered that much. Did it?
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
And that's all I know, like I said, basically nothing. Please tell me what you think are the most important things to know about the FR setting. If you want a little more structure, what year it currently is, the really major points on the timeline, and a breakdown of the most pivotal factions & nations

Thanks!
The most important thing to know about the FR when writing for this setting is... to know about the FR. At least a bit more than a few condescending memes.

People have been working hard on linking the different regions to one another in their interactions but for the most parts, the different regions of FR are mini settings of their own, existing more or less independently from other regions. As a matter of fact, many such regions were grafted upon FR because TSR didn't want to support yet another setting. So pick a region that speaks to you, or throw a dart on the FR map, make a bit of research on that region, and you probably know enough to publish decent FR content.

Something to know is that indeed, there are high level wizards/spell casters all over the place in FR. Elminster could solve any problem... as long as it doesn't involve another evil uber-wizard. And if he ever goes nova and spend all his spell slots, another bad guy will bushwhack him while his pants are down. But that's ok because Elminster has many other uber-Mage friends that can come to his rescue. Some villains are just waiting for that moment when elminster friends are away however, so they too can't go all-in... Powerful wizards are the nukes of FR, and they are essentially locked in a Cold War.
 

Nebulous

Hero
That seems like a great, comprehensive reference work but it also looks way too long for me to actually read and internalize on any kind of reasonable timescale (I mean, not if someone was actually paying me a living wage to research a made up world, but that's a whole other topic). I'll have that "on the table" so to speak, but I expect to learn more immediately useful stuff from posters in this thread and/or one of the FR wikis.
Yeah, it's a lot of information. I'm not exactly sure what you're using FR history for either. Another option is to look at some of the zoomed in FR settings where they just take a region and detail it. The Savage Frontier was always one of my favorites. I mean, look at that artwork! PDFs would be easy to find.

 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
....annnnnnnd that one is literally 300 pages. Holy crabs. I feel like Homer Simpson a little: "REMOVE THE ROCK OF SHAME. ...ATTACH THE ROCK OF TRIUMPH!"

That seems like a great, comprehensive reference work but it also looks way too long for me to actually read and internalize on any kind of reasonable timescale (I mean, not if someone was actually paying me a living wage to research a made up world, but that's a whole other topic). I'll have that "on the table" so to speak, but I expect to learn more immediately useful stuff from posters this thread and/or one of the FR wikis.
The FRCS is your best starting place in a lot of ways. It's functionally complete, it uses terms and refers to things that anybody familiar with the setting would consider common. For example: the Seven Sisters. That term has a ton of setting meaning, but doesn't tell you much other than its something about seven related women.

I can remember being younger than 10 and playing Hillsfar on my grandmother's 386. Well, attempting to play Hillsfar, except for the part where you jump your horse over things I don't think I made much progress. At this age I unironically wondered what a "ling" was and what it meant to be 1/2 of one, no joke. I didn't properly discover D&D for almost a decade afterwards.

Anyway, is Hillsfar that one of the Goldbox games of which you speak? I think I vaguely recall Hillsfar being a place in the FR.
It is in FR, and I don't think Hillsfar is one of the Gold Box games. Wikipedia has a good break down: Gold Box - Wikipedia

GOG sells them BTW.

(And I get it, it's a huge world with a TON of history, but I would bet not as much so as Shadowrun (which has, I can safely say having written for it, one of the most ginormous, detailed, and convoluted metaplots of all time) and I can still give people a "short version" of Shadowrun in 1000 words or less, you just have to, y'know, leave a lot of stuff out.)
Shadowrun doesn't have much on FR's metaplot. It runs through 295 novels, at least 100 source books, and covers 50,000 years give or take a bit. There's probably some throw away fact for each of those years as well in some source book or novel.

The unofficial FR wiki has a link to each year with a factoid on the wiki:

TL;DR version of the years: there are dozens of instances where there are multiple years in a row where the factoid is some variation of "Humple the Wizards invents Fireball". Those are officially detailed facts from TSR and WotC by-the-by. Did you know in DR -1805 Prug invented the spell hold person?
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
So what was, in brevis, the Spellplague?

(Shadowrun has ~60-70 novels and I would guess somewhere between 70 and 100 sourcebooks (around 10 of which I worked on). And all of its metaplot is either harder to wrap your brain around for being set ostensibly in the future of Earth, or easier for the same reason, depending on how you've wired. I realize these numbers are still smaller than your numbers, I'm not trying to disprove your point, I'm just saying Shadowrun is also...a very, very expansive topic.)

Edit: speaking of Shadowrun, my research has lead me to conclude that I like Faerun's dragons WAY more than the plain vanilla dragons of default D&D (and, by extension, Greyhawk) and a lot more like dragons in Shadowrun. Leaving aside that there are like seven new kinds of dragons besides your basic chromatic & metallic 10, it seems like chromatic dragons can be good or neutral and metallic dragons can be neutral or evil, which is a house rule (if you can call it that) I have instated in every game of D&D I've ever run. Likewise, all or nearly all dragons seem to be able to assume human form, another ability I grant to dragons of all stripes in my games. Forgotten Realms even has its own version of Chal'han (!!) or I guess you could say Shadowrun has its own version of good thing I don't have to try to pronounce this out loud Xorvintaal.

When you play the Xorvintaal, you win or you die?

Edit:

The most important thing to know about the FR when writing for this setting is... to know about the FR. At least a bit more than a few condescending memes.
I'm pretty sure a meme can't be condescending, it's just a meme. Anyway, that's why I made this thread! I am a professional games writer dude. It's the only work I've ever earned money doing. I can learn a lot, very quickly. You'd be surprised. In any case there's no need to be defensive. I started this thread because I knew there was splenty of stuff I need to know outside the memetic stuff.
 
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Nebulous

Hero
So what was, in brevis, the Spellplague?
I'm not an expert in the lore, but it was in the transition to 3rd edition to 4th edition D&D to explain why some things had suddenly been changed, like why dragonborn were now in the world and why magic was different than past editions.

from the wiki:

Most Scholars believe that the Spellplague was caused by the death of Mystra, the goddess of Magic, at the hands of the god Cyric with the assistance of the Goddess Shar.

For eons, magic had been bound within Mystra's Weave, which contained and controlled how magic worked. Her death tore the Weave, and the unleashed magic exploded, creating the cataclysm now known as the Spellplague.
Other scholars argue that this cannot be the case, because Mystra has been slain before only to be reborn, and the Weave maintained its hold over the power of magic for the duration of her death. The truth will likely never be fully known to mortals, if it is even known to the gods.

Magic after the Spellplague

After the initial terror of the Spellplague receded, mages discovered that it had changed the way magic worked all across the face of Faerûn.
The most obvious effects were the floating earthmotes that hovered in the sky and the occasionally Spellplague pockets that continue to burn with blue fire. But the changes were deeper than that. Many spells were more difficult to access, and now required elaborate rituals. Others became so easy that wizards could cast them at will.

The entire foundation of magic had been altered, and mages now had to re-learn all they knew.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
I'm not an expert in the lore, but it was in the transition to 3rd edition to 4th edition D&D to explain why some things had suddenly been changed, like why dragonborn were now in the world and why magic was different than past editions.
Gotcha. Sorry to keep bringing up Shadowrun, but this is actually very similar to the Crash 2.0 which was an apocalyptic event at the end of Shadowrun's 3rd Edition which besides being a big epic spectacle and event was basically there to explain why the Matrix in 4E would work nothing like the Matrix in 3E. Utilitarian though it was, it was actually pretty awesome and the book (System Failure, I think?) is one of my favorite RPG sourcebooks ever. I was one of the writers on Stormfront (no relation to the neonazi hatespeech repository, but I couldn't convince Jason to change the name) which did more or less the same thing between 4E and 5E, only less drastic. I got to really eff up the city of Denver, though!

Anyway my ideas are already congealing just from what I've learned here and from the wiki. It seems like way off in Eastern Faerun there's a tiny kingdom ruled by dragons, Murghôm that appears to be THE center of draconic culture and society. Then way northwest of there all the way out on the edge of the northern Sword Coast there's a city, Waterdeep, that's either the center of Faerun's culture and society period, or at least one of three, has a mythal cast over it that basically enforces the rule of NO DRAGONS ALLOWED. I'm thinking that, in the absence of a nastier, more obvious, more existential threat, the former (Dragonland) might have some issues with being indefinitely barred from the greatest city in the world on Abor-Toril on the sole basis of their species.

Dragons + Civil Rights Activism = ???

And I'm away. But please keep telling me about Faerun, it's fascinating and I'm learning a lot!
 

teitan

Adventurer
For 5e? Read the SCAG. More in depth the 2e boxes set is good but needs a good updating as some of the usurper gods in the 2e boxed set are no longer a thing. Ideally the Old Grey Box is the best crash course.

oh and forget NPCs like Elminster and Driz’zt. They are window dressing and the game is about your players, not Bob and Ed’s novels. Elminster is just a sage and Driz’zt is a dude.
 

Nebulous

Hero
And I'm away. But please keep telling me about Faerun, it's fascinating and I'm learning a lot!
Honestly, one reason I use FR setting is because I like the maps and the names of places, they're very evocative. I'm semi-familiar with the deities, so when a player asks about who is the god of such and such I can generally spout off a name without looking it up. I've run only premade modules since 5e and they take place in generally small geographic areas, so the larger history/gods/heroes of the Realms really doesn't matter.

I had the original little gray box and it sucked me in when I was a teenage and it is still nostalgic.

I like the Red Wizards of Thay, tattooed bald wizards with insidious agendas. I like that there are several factions at play, the Emerald Enclave, Harpers and Zhentarim. They can be as vague or as detailed as I want them to be. I like that the Realms is so freaking HUGE that what happens at one end has no impact on another. I like that there are vast tracts of unexplored land and empty wild places. And I like that I can ignore every bit of official lore if I want, and I really don't pay attention to any of the novels. I don't even like dragonborn, and I would ban them expect a player wanted to be one and I didn't care enough to say no.

I ran Tomb recently and it detailed the entire jungle kingdom of Chult and it was pretty amazing. Dinosaurs, zombies and and all kinds of weird shit down there. ZOMBIE-TREX that spits zombies out its mouth.

Yeah, the Realms is a grab bag of generic fantasy tropes, but it works well enough for me.
 

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