Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 20, 2012
Forgotten Realms

If you thought that Azeroth had it bad, being torn up by a catastrophic Cataclysm, spare a thought for the poor inhabitants of the D&D world of the Forgotten Realms: They already had two world-shaking catastrophic events, the Time of Troubles and the Spellplague, and are about to experience a third, the Sundering. At GenCon WotC announced that the Forgotten Realms would become the primary world for D&D Next, and that a series of novels from different authors describing the Sundering would lead up to that.

While I read the early Forgotten Realms novels, I already skipped the Time of Troubles and the Spellplague, and I won't be reading about the Sundering either. These events simply don't have room in my Forgotten Realms campaigns. I don't want a world constantly shaken by huge events, where the pantheon of gods is repeatedly changing, and the heroes are characters from novels like Elminster or Drizzt Do'Urden. And I don't want to have to read hundreds of Forgotten Realms novels to be able to run my game.

In my campaign the players are the heroes. Due to an absence of CNN the players don't even know what is happening in other parts of the world. If they hear of a war it is because they have an opportunity to play a major role in it. And I don't make them feel small by letting them meet heroes much more powerful than they are. Whatever parts of a world I create, I create for them. There might be powerful adversaries or NPCs, but those aren't designed to steal the show from the players.

In a way this is a major advantage of pen & paper roleplaying over MMORPGs. If in LotRO you are on a quest to kill 10 rats and run across Gandalf and Aragorn, that doesn't make you feel like the hero of the story, but rather like a bystander. World of Warcraft has the same problem, where even if you kill the Lich King the cinematic sequence then tells the story of other people. Not to mention the "too many heroes queuing up" problem of nearly all MMORPG: The average orc invasion in a MMORPG has more heroes fighting the orcs than than there are surviving orcs in the invasion force. Having to wait for monsters to respawn doesn't create a sense of those monsters being a menace and you being the hero.

In a pen & paper game all these problems can be solved, because the group of players can be made to be the only heroes around, and thus the most important people. That allows for far more epic and heroic stories to be told. And characters from novels would just get into the way of that.

Ah, but at least the option is there for those who want to facilitate ERP by seducing famous characters in a horrifying blend of fanfic and roleplay exhibitionism.

...I know a guy who bragged about his bard's prophylactic of disease resistance. (I didn't get or want any more detail than that.)
Sheesh, those poor NPCs. At least the toons living in the DarkSun world just had heat and the odd bone spear to worry about.
Land prices must be shot.
A decent solution to the problem is used (rarely) by LotRO with session play: you get to replay some historic event in the role of one of the main characters.
Of course the outcome is known, so the experience is very "on-rail", and it's not your character you're playing, but it's a good solution (and since it's an instance, you don't have 1000 heroes smashing 100 orcs).

Tobold, what is your stance on WOW Caverns of Time?
These instances feature a lot of WOW celebrities, but I never felt my character "diminished" when running them.
I read Dragonlance novels a lot when I was a kid, and catastrophic shakeups of the world was probably the number one reason I ended up stopping. There is only so many restructurings of the entire world you can take.
For very long term players of the setting though, these major shakeups can be very much welcome. Faerun is one of the oldest and obviously one of, if not THE most popular D&D setting. There are people and groups who have been playing in it for decades.

Eorld changing events serve to freshen up the world, change the politics and let's the designers try to more seamlessly introduce the system's changes (ie the spellsurge was in part used to explain why the 3rd edition spell advancement for makes was no longer around).

If you are a fairly new player to D&D, world changing events mean nothing as you didn't know the world before it. If you are a long term D&D player, it shakes the world up and gives you reason to take your group back to familiar locations. If reading novels isn't your thing, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for each additional goes over the situation for dozens and dozens of popular locations (with less popular ones falling under the "let the DMs make fill in the blanks ad they like" rule)

Granted, the Spellplague was very recent, far more so than the Time of Troubles but, if done right, it could be beneficial.

I also briefly wonder if it will be a sort of reset for the setting for a potential Baldur's Gate 3 (which Beamdog, devs of BG: Enhances Edition have openly stated is their overall goal)
I still have the old grey box version of the Forgotten Realms campaign. If I ever run a campaign there, that's the version I'd run. At least it would be closer to what Ed Greenwood intended.
Sigh... It is sooo sad to see how badly 4th Ed screwed up the forgotten realms. Essentially any magic rich world got completely blown away with 4th edition. To make things worse the Spellplague forced people to suddenly fast forward about 100 years, which is fine for epic NPC's like Elminster but plays complete havoc with any normal lived NPC.

Don't get me wrong, I'm super glad that magic rich worlds are making a come back, where an Artifact/Relic is again something to behold with Awe but I have absolutely no faith in WotC, the same people who approved of 4th Ed.

PS. Despite naysayers Forgotten Realms was a very story rich world, and their most profitable ever. Eberron could have been good but turned out to be pretty flavorless IMO. You can't just create a world and say it is awesome just cos it has flying ships and constructs. You need memorable NPC's, awesome adventures and interesting places of interest. None of which were developed for Eberron.

I think they (WotC) have got the message and if you watch what they are doing it looks (at least for now) that they are wanting to return the "story" in the Forgotten Realms. They are supposedly going to make the Realms and the stories all character based and there will be no more world shattering events. Which I really hope so because the best stories are like the kind that are told around the gaming table.
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