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D&D 1E Forgotten Realms in AD&D 1st Edition a better setting for adventures?

teitan

Legend
There are two perfect starting points for the Realms. OGB and the 3.0 FRCS. 2e was carbuncles with all the weight of canon that had already accrued in five years with novels and comics and games and sourcebooks. 4e was nuked. 5e is… a region book like The Savage Coast or Red Wizards in 1e or The Silver Marches in 3e. It’s not a campaign setting. It’s a supplement to a campaign setting that wasn’t released. Even then, if you stick to the Sword Coast you don’t need much else to make a great campaign there. So in that sense it’s complete. It just should have stuck to being SWORD COAST and not had Purple Dragon Knights for example considering they’re leagues away from the Sword Coast.
 

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jgsugden

Legend
Hiya!

I DM in the FR on rare occasion. When I do... Grey Box. Ever single time...
This. I rarely run FR, but when I do it is one of three locations in the FR, and it is at the time of the Grey Box. I run Cormyr, Thay and Waterdeep adventures. They're all intended to be 'drop in' games for experienced players that will run the length of an adventure, with little chance of turning into a longer campaign. I want something people can find accessible, without a lot of explanation.
 



Orius

Hero
And I greatly appreciate that. I dont know why, probably because I'm such a fan of the idea of Point of Light, but having cities with millions of inhabitants breaks the dangerous-fantasy-land feel of the setting.

Depending on your source, first city to reach 1 million was apparently Rome around 1 AD. Chang'an makes it there around 700 AD, Baghdad around 925 AD, Kaifeng around 1000 AD, Hangzhou around 1200 AD, Jinling (now Nanjing) around 1400 AD, Beijing around 1500 AD, and we're out of the Middle Ages. (First city to 2 million appears to be London around 1845 AD).

So, possible, but maybe your game's in Shou Lung. ;)

I'm not too big a fan of going full Points of Light myself. You'll end up with a lot of small isolated communities where safety isn't necessarily guaranteed, and there's not going to be a lot of diversity when everyone's all holed up against the bad guys. A lot of very big cities don't work in a D&D setting either. With all of those big cities throughout history, keep in mind many of them were capitals of major civilizations. Rome was only able to maintain its population on the back of constant grain shipments from North Africa, as the Empire declined the shipments fell off and the population plummeted. China maintained a high population because they developed agricultural advancements that could support those high levels, in particular a specific strain of rice that was able to feed large numbers of people IIRC. Europe by comparison lost population from the collapse of Western Rome, and then another significant population loss from the Black Death, and they didn't have China's centralized authority holding them together. As a result, big urban centers didn't start spreading in Europe again until the beginning of the modern era.

Generally the advice I've usually seen for D&D is that most of the big cities should have a population between 20-30,000 people and anything over 50,000 should be rare and significant communities.


I’m a Greyhawk fan and have never understood Forgotten Realms, but this is an interesting thread to me as I always to learn a but about FR. There must be a half a million pages written about FR so it’s hard to know where to start. My starts have been playing in GenCon Online this year and last year, and reading FR modules in Dungeon.

My impression is Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate, the Dales, and the Ten Towns are where most things takes place … so mostly Sword Coast and North. I get a Renaissance Italy city state feel of Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep, but I don’t get where the trade go support that lifestyle is coming from … maybe it doesn’t matter. FR does seem to be missing Great Powers like the real world and GH have.

So 1996 FR is the good one to read?

The Realms are slowly recovering from the collapse of great empires in the past, primarily Netheril in the North. There are a few major areas of civilization. Waterdeep is the biggest city in the North but there's also places like Neverwinter and Silverymoon which are bastions of civilization. Further south, there's Baldur's Gate which is the biggest city in the region, though its importance has probably been boosted from the popularity of the Baldur's Gate games. Further south are Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan, but they're south enough to not be threatened by the dangers of the North. In the center of Faerun is Cormyr which is another fairly important kingdom and they have a long running rivalry with the merchant kingdom of Sembia to the east. The Moonlands are dominated by Zhentil Keep, where the villainous Zhentarim threaten the Dalelands and Heartlands. Mulhorand and Unther are old ancient empires in the East and Thay is a nation of scheming evil wizards that broke away from them several centuries earlier. So there are some main powers in the Realms, but there's a good deal of empty space regardless of what the critics say.

The two starting points usually recommended for the Realms are the 1987 Grey Box for 1e and the 2001 hardcover for 3e. The Grey Box in many ways is FR's equivalent to the 1980 Greyhawk folio or 1983 box. The FRCS book compiles all the developments from 2e and presents a very comprehensive setting balancing the setting information with the early 3e rules.
 


haakon1

Adventurer
I'm not too big a fan of going full Points of Light myself. You'll end up with a lot of small isolated communities where safety isn't necessarily guaranteed, and there's not going to be a lot of diversity when everyone's all holed up against the bad guys. A lot of very big cities don't work in a D&D setting either. With all of those big cities throughout history, keep in mind many of them were capitals of major civilizations. Rome was only able to maintain its population on the back of constant grain shipments from North Africa, as the Empire declined the shipments fell off and the population plummeted. China maintained a high population because they developed agricultural advancements that could support those high levels, in particular a specific strain of rice that was able to feed large numbers of people IIRC. Europe by comparison lost population from the collapse of Western Rome, and then another significant population loss from the Black Death, and they didn't have China's centralized authority holding them together. As a result, big urban centers didn't start spreading in Europe again until the beginning of the modern era.

Generally the advice I've usually seen for D&D is that most of the big cities should have a population between 20-30,000 people and anything over 50,000 should be rare and significant communities.




The Realms are slowly recovering from the collapse of great empires in the past, primarily Netheril in the North. There are a few major areas of civilization. Waterdeep is the biggest city in the North but there's also places like Neverwinter and Silverymoon which are bastions of civilization. Further south, there's Baldur's Gate which is the biggest city in the region, though its importance has probably been boosted from the popularity of the Baldur's Gate games. Further south are Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan, but they're south enough to not be threatened by the dangers of the North. In the center of Faerun is Cormyr which is another fairly important kingdom and they have a long running rivalry with the merchant kingdom of Sembia to the east. The Moonlands are dominated by Zhentil Keep, where the villainous Zhentarim threaten the Dalelands and Heartlands. Mulhorand and Unther are old ancient empires in the East and Thay is a nation of scheming evil wizards that broke away from them several centuries earlier. So there are some main powers in the Realms, but there's a good deal of empty space regardless of what the critics say.

The two starting points usually recommended for the Realms are the 1987 Grey Box for 1e and the 2001 hardcover for 3e. The Grey Box in many ways is FR's equivalent to the 1980 Greyhawk folio or 1983 box. The FRCS book compiles all the developments from 2e and presents a very comprehensive setting balancing the setting information with the early 3e rules.
Thank you Orius! Best intro to FR I’ve heard.
 


Orius

Hero
Keep in mind that I'm not a hardcore Realms fan myself, but I'm familiar enough with the setting that I usually know what people are talking about unless they hit the really obscure stuff. Usually I use the Realms to steal useful material for my own game, and there's always been plenty of that.
 

AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
One thing to be ready for, compared to Greyhawk of any era, Faerun has comparably fewer state borders drawn on the map. It’s an adjustment to get used to, but the main focus of attention (dalelands, heartlands, moonsea, the north) is all basically city-states… except for Sembia and mountain-surrounded Cormyr.
 



The Goldenfields and the plant growth spell? It also felt implied that all the towns up the Dessarin Valley were involve exporting food to Waterdeep.
Beyond that, it has good fishing offshore, and it's a middleman for a lot of ore and metal originating from the various cities and settlements (often dwarvish) in the Spine of the World mountains, the trade of which presumably would go towards any additional food necessary.
 

S'mon

Legend
The Goldenfields and the plant growth spell? It also felt implied that all the towns up the Dessarin Valley were involve exporting food to Waterdeep.

The main problem IME is that the maps don't distinguish settled farmland from wilderness, so some authors will place wilderness right up to the city walls. I tend to put some work into drawing out/circumscribing the farmland around the towns and cities. Waterdeep needs dozens of farming villages and noble estates to make any sense at all. 555 square miles of farmland at minimum to support 100,000 people at 180 per square mile, but IRL agricultural surplus rarely exceeded 20% so to look historical you really need 400,000 rural people for a 100,000 city, and 500,000 people needs 2,777 square miles of farmland. Fishing should help, of course.

Mind you, even 2777 square miles of farmland can fit in a 60x60 mile square, so it's not undoable. Just don't put Waterdeep population much over 100,000. While Waterdeep looks more like medieval London (100,000 people in a national capital), classical Athens was a city state that also reached about 100,000 with a relatively small hinterland - plus rich silver mines and a maritime empire.
 
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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
ust don't put Waterdeep population much over 100,000. While Waterdeep looks more like medieval London (100,000 people in a national capital), classical Athens was a city state that also reached about 100,000 with a relatively small hinterland - plus rich silver mines and a maritime empire.

Yeah, putting the population of Waterdeep at over 2 millions is really exaggerated. Even more so when the smaller villages around the city, which should be farming estates and other production villages, are pushing populations over 50 000 themselves!
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
I have to say, I'd hate to be the continuity editor for these people. Can you imagine keeping track of everything that's been written about Zhentil Keep in 40 years?
 


Scars Unseen

Adventurer
I have to say, I'd hate to be the continuity editor for these people. Can you imagine keeping track of everything that's been written about Zhentil Keep in 40 years?
Seems pretty easy by dint of the permanent nature of text. It's not like they don't know what they've published. Time consuming? Absolutely. But only for the initial setup. Hire a team to comb through all the old material, build a wiki out of it, and then create custom software similar to the old FR Atlas, but made searchable by location, name, event, author or year. Once it's setup, you could find out every event that's happened in a location, everything a specific characters has done, interactions they've had with other characters, every major and minor event that happens in a given year, etc. Once you have that, it's simply a matter of keeping minimal staff - possibly even just a single person - to update as new material is released. And any authors -novelists or adventure writers - could get any information they needed at a few keystrokes.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
One thing to be ready for, compared to Greyhawk of any era, Faerun has comparably fewer state borders drawn on the map. It’s an adjustment to get used to, but the main focus of attention (dalelands, heartlands, moonsea, the north) is all basically city-states… except for Sembia and mountain-surrounded Cormyr.
Got ya on the FR city-states. But Greyhawk, on the Darlene maps (1981 folio/1983 gold box) doesn’t show any borders - I like that it’s vague and variable.
 


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