D&D General Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide: Is it (stealthy) a reboot of the Forgotten Realms?


Hi there!

In these days I had the pleasure to check the original grey box of the Forgotten Realms. I know the setting got a lot of events since its inception, like games, novels, adventures, entire campain books... But at first I was a little surprised to notice that the Cyclopedia part of the box is pretty similar to the SCAG. Except for the "Gaming Notes", that explained how to play the realms, a lot of information is presented in the same way. Missing in the SCAG is the second book, about NPCs and last months recording.

So I'm asking: did WotC tried to reboot the realms? Like, if you are a newcomer, using the Core Books and the SCAG, you can create adventures like you did with 1e and new grey GR box. If you had played something FR related, then yes, you'll miss a lot of information, and I think this is why SCAG was not so well received.

I'm a newcomer, I play D&D since 2020 (altough I liked a lot Neverwinter Nights, but a lot of names were important after I read the 5e sourcebooks, like "Oh, Waterdeep was a bigger city than Neverwinter, go figure..."). I'm trying to create a campaign from scratch, after running premade campaign books... and I noticed that it's easier not having the burden of 200 years of minutiae to account for. I know the pubblication story of the realms, the sunderings, the 4th edition fiasco and so on... but for me it was like "oh, I like this place of the map! Checking for cities... oh, this city is nice (for the records, Scournbell, that had like a quarter of page in the SCAG, instead of the full city treatmen of the original box, I was shocked!), let's build an hexcrawl around the city for my 5 level party. I'll build Scournbell using the DMG tools for building settlements". You know? I think that is working. I've made a pact with my players to ignore inconsistences with what they know about the realms, and this is ok.

Maybe SCAG was the right book for the wrong audience? And, did WotC drop the ball about rebooting the realms? Other settings book are more dense, but was the idea of the 5e realms not to be a "Setting" but a "Empty space" to start playing?

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5th edition's treatment of campaign settings in general, but Forgotten Realms in particular, always had me really confused.
Forgotten Realms is the setting for most of the big adventures, but they don't seem to be interested at all in having a campaign setting as a product.


D&D RPG books can generally br broken down into two pieces: Rules (aka crunch) and Lore.

The Rules tell you how things work mechanically. They are edition specific, and they require updating with each edition.

Lore, however, is edition agnostic. You can use the Lore materials from the first Grey Box and insert the mechanics from 5E.

It has long been my position that WotC should sell settings in these two separate pieces: Lore books that do not provide or rely upon mechanics, and Rule books that provide the mechanics for the current edition. You could continue to sell the Lore books over and over through the decades while the rule books get updated each edition. Yes - some of that 'lore' gets to be dated and will eventually need to be rewritten to avoid offense, but that evolution takes decades while edition changes have been more frequent... and even new material is sometimes problematic.

Of course, in truth you don't need to buy the lore at all. There are dozens of wiki options out there that collect it for free.


The SCAG was meant to give the effects of what a reboot is meant to accomplish, while at the same time not overwriting and replacing what has come before.

Most traditional "reboots" do a previous thing over... replacing the original item with the new version that is meant to take its place. This allows the rights-holders to create something completely new, while at the same time keeping it in the known quantity space of the general public's knowledge.

The thing about the SCAG though that doesn't make it a "reboot" is that it doesn't replace and do over a previous historical era of the Realms. Instead, it was purposefully set at the furthest point along the timeline of Realms history. The SCAG and all the 5E adventure paths are the newest current history and thus aren't replacing anything, or changing or invalidating what went on in the past.

However, that being said... because they also aren't actually creating a new "setting book"... they aren't writing down all the events at this point in current history. They are just not detailing anything, that way if/when they decide to create a new book, they don't have to be beholden to what they came up with before. The SCAG is like Star Wars Episodes 7, 8 & 9... it had history to use and reference if they wanted... but really the time period was far enough forward that they could create new characters, new villains, new stories and not have to "fit it in" to the old stuff if they didn't want to.

And this is why I don't believe WotC has wanted to write a full campaign setting book like the Grey Box or the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book-- they didn't want to create a lot of details for areas that they might eventually want to place an adventure book in and might possibly would end having to change those details anyway. Had they done a full setting book when the SCAG came out... all the stuff they would have wrote for Baldur's Gate for instance would then be completely invalidated by the Descent Into Avernus book that created whole new details for that particular adventure. So what would the campaign setting ultimate have given them? Nothing. Just a lot of creative writing for that location that was then wiped away. So why do that to yourselves? By leaving the history open, the game designers can create whatever they want whenever they want.


Might be interesting to see some kind of compilation that presents the setting based on the fragments of information located in the various adventures.

Maybe SCAG was the right book for the wrong audience?
I don't think they'd make it the same way today, but I've noticed a lot of newer players think it is fine. There's a reason it keeps getting printed and keeps selling better than all but the core and rules expansion books - people actually like it.

They're just not the type of people who comment online.

I don't think they'd make it the same way today, but I've noticed a lot of newer players think it is fine. There's a reason it keeps getting printed and keeps selling better than all but the core and rules expansion books - people actually like it.

They're just not the type of people who comment online.
What do you think they'd do different today?

Agreed on WotC probably viewing it was being fine for what it does, my table generally liked it but then again none of us were hardcore FR fans so maybe we're just easier to please. WotC hasn't been shy about looking at things they've released and changing or delisting stuff they think conflicts with current design philosophy, such as MToF or VGtM.

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