D&D 5E Is the Forgotten Realms experiencing a new Golden Age now that its NOT the default 5e setting anymore?

The key to good relationships is understanding that all arguments are conversations; but not all conversations are arguments.

Back in my day D&D and RPGs were about joy and whimsey and having fun....and most importantly having the kind of fun you wanted to have.
If you liked Faerun but thought that Fizban was more fun than Elminster; you picked the one you wanted to interact with and that was that. If this island was on Oerth and that castle was in Mystara, you just penciled in the stuff you liked where you liked it.

Even if there is no default setting; the fact that Wotc doesn't really create anything new and just keeps recycling old material over and over...and then tells us there is no cannon... means that they will use the names that go with the places they are writing about. Otherwise people on some forum (not this forum) (not us people) will argue about where the jungle of this or the plains of that are REALLY located.

A more productive use of our time might be answering the question..."Can't they just come up with new stuff for us to argue over vs. us arguing over all of this recycled material?"

Now the conversation will devolve into how 4e was the worst and how Wotc is something something........

Enjoy your Friday gamers.
Nothing's quite as productive as telling other people to be more productive with their time, eh?

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I shamelessly stole from FR during its whole run, but the 5e "laissez-faire" approach to it, has made me explicitly ran adventures in it for the first time.
FR is full of good ideas. I still think that not all these ideas need to be used however, nor to they have to be used ´fully’. The best realms are your own realms. That is mostly true with any setting however…

It is (to my mind) blisteringly obvious that the Realms, and the Sword Coast region in particular, was, at 5e's outset, as close as it gets to being a "default" setting for D&D, de facto if not formally designated as such.

The vast majority of adventures published to date are set in the Realms, with one anthology that included non-Realms adventures, Tales from the Yawning Portal, linking them to the Realms by means of the eponymous locale.

It's only since the pandemic that we've hit an inflection point where more adventures aren't set in the Realms than are.

Setting Books
The first setting book, published less than a year after the DMG, was the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, and it would be several years before another is published in book form (Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica)

Both Volo's Guide to Monsters and Xanathar's Guide to Everything are thematically tied to the Realms because their titular characters are from there. The tie-in is superficial, though, but not on-existent.

Even so, as has been noted upthread, it's still quite different compared to Nentir Vale in 4e or Golarion in Pathfinder, which are unambiguously default settings.

I would say that 2018 is the year that things start to change:
  • Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (which links to a Greyhawk character) is published in May
  • Ravnica is published in November
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh is published in 2019, and non-FR adventures become more common as noted above.

Since 2018, it's also clear (to my mind) that FR is no longer the de facto "default" setting of the game. That position is more fully taken up by the D&D Multiverse, as has been clear in statements from designers, remarks in playtest documents, and the published materials:

As noted above, since the pandemic, more often than not adventures are not Realms-focused, although the Realms are hardly being neglected.

Setting Books
I don't know anything about Acquisitions Incorporated, so I'll leave that aside for others to clarify, but none of the other setting books published since SCAG are for the Realms. We've also now had two slipcase box sets for Spelljammer and Planescape.

Starting from Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, the supplements are no longer thematically tied to the Realms - indeed, apart from Fizban they're more Greyhawk themed, what with Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, the Mordenkainen monster remix, and Bigby's book on giants. (That said, just as with the Volo's Guide and Xanathar's guide, the theming isn't that strong.)

Whether this change has been for the good for the Realms, I couldn't say.

Considering the movie and BG3 are both set in the Realms, it might be premature to truly say the Realms is no longer the de facto default setting of D&D, although I suppose that depends on whether one is looking only at the TTRPG products or not - if you restrict your analysis to TTRPG products, then the above analysis hold good (so I would assert).

Oh yes, but...

Ttrpg Brianslewis GIF by zoefannet


I genuinely like Forgotten Realms, was amazing at how beautifully and faithfully rendered it was in BG3, and hope it continues to thrive in the future. (But seriously, there are some really deep lore cuts in BG3 that are just amazing.)


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I agree that it is nominally set there. Emphasis on nominally. And Candlekeep is not really important to most of the component Adventures.

Very different than Shadow of the Dragon Queen being very firmly based in Krynn, for example, or Icewind Dale for the Realms.

Ij ghe four full years starting with 2020, there have only been 3 books set in the Realms explicitly, including the very nominally Candlekeep Mysteries. Books in that period not even nominally set in the FR include:

  • Explorer's Guide to Wildemoint
  • Mythic Odysseys of Theros
  • Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • The Wild Beyond the Witchlight
  • Fizban's Treasury of Dragons
  • Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos
  • Call of the Netherdeep
  • Mordenkainen's Monsters if the Multiverse
  • Journeys through the Radiant Citadel
  • Spelljammer
  • Shadows of the Dragon Queen
  • Keys from the Golden Vault
  • Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
  • Planescape
  • Book of Many Tjings (digitally already, at least)

So, 3 FR books to 16 non-FR specific books. Adhere have been as many books in the 20's narrated by Greyhawk NPCs. Some of these do suggest you can put them in the FR, but also make suggestions for Greyhawk, Ravenloft or even Mystara.

Hence why I say the FR is not the default Setting the way that the Nentir Vale or Golorion are default Settings.
Late to the party so sorry if this has already been covered, but I think perhaps there’s a meaningful distinction to be made here between “default setting” and “assumed setting.” Forgotten Realms can kind of be seen as 5e’s default setting, in that published adventures seem to, well, default to being set there, if there’s no specific reason for them to be set somewhere else. Golarion is Pathfinder’s assumed setting, because all of the writing assumes the setting’s lore. It isn’t just the go-to example, it’s woven into the game itself.

If we do draw such a distinction, I would argue that 5e’s assumed setting is kind of a Planescape/spelljammer mashup, which uses the great wheel and the astral sea to connect all the various settings (Forgotten Realms included) into a unified meta-setting
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