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 Help me love the Dales

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keftiu Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 10:50:10
I come to you all with a heretical opinion: I’ve never cared for the Dales.

Without the nostalgic tie to the older material and having never dipped into any of the Elminster novels, I’ve never had a strong reason to dig in, especially when other parts of the setting have felt more dynamic, exciting, and different. But it so happens that I’m workshopping a post-Spellplague Netheril game, and this corner of the map is now finally demanding I pay attention to it.

So... what’s there to love? What’s the punchy elevator pitch for the reason that makes it so well-loved and compelling?
18   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Wooly Rupert Posted - 24 Feb 2020 : 03:02:45
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

The reason the Dales have always been special is they are a place where all the different basic aspects of the Realms collide. To the North you have the wicked, cold hearted peoples of the Moonsea (Hillsfar, Mulmaster, and of course the Zhentarim). To the south you have the boundless greed of Faerun's mercantile interests personified in the people of Sembia. To the East (or Northeast), you have the Elven Woods - the deep dark boundless expanse of an ancient forest - full of monsters and mysteries and treasures untold. To the West you have the Kingdom of Cormyr and the Purple Dragons - a land of high fantasy and grand knights and adventure.

Folk of the Dale live their lives on the perilous balance forged between these forces, making the Dales the proverbial blade's edge.


On top of all this, the Dales are rural areas -- it's a lot easier for players and DMs to keep track of NPCs and shops and inns and such when there's a much smaller selection of them.
The Masked Mage Posted - 22 Feb 2020 : 23:46:31
The reason the Dales have always been special is they are a place where all the different basic aspects of the Realms collide. To the North you have the wicked, cold hearted peoples of the Moonsea (Hillsfar, Mulmaster, and of course the Zhentarim). To the south you have the boundless greed of Faerun's mercantile interests personified in the people of Sembia. To the East (or Northeast), you have the Elven Woods - the deep dark boundless expanse of an ancient forest - full of monsters and mysteries and treasures untold. To the West you have the Kingdom of Cormyr and the Purple Dragons - a land of high fantasy and grand knights and adventure.

Folk of the Dale live their lives on the perilous balance forged between these forces, making the Dales the proverbial blade's edge.

I think your first point is central to the issue here - you lack the ties of nostalgia. Therefore you need to go get some quick.

Read Spellfire. I firmly believe this should be where everyone starts their tour of the realms.

Then read Cloak of Shadows / All Shadows Fled / Shadows Of Doom (Ed's Shadow of the Avatar Trilogy).

All of these novels are set in the Dales of yesteryear. They will introduce you to the people of the Dales and the Dales mentality. as well as give you a crash course in the chaos of all the power groups trying to converge on the "backwater" Dale lands.

Finally, read Volo's Guide to the Dales (this is where you will find all the flavor Ed put into it). There is so much here its hard to describe what you'll come away with. At the very least, therein you should come away with an understanding of what makes the Dales tick.
Arivia Posted - 18 Feb 2020 : 03:59:53
quote:
Originally posted by keftiu

My current plan for them for the primer I’m working on is a sort of “write your own” background option, to contrast with Cormyr, Sembia, Myth Drannor/Cormanthyr, and Netheril, with a strong sentiment of independence and do-it-yourself attitude. They’re the Americans, basically.

How off-base does that read?



A bit. You're forgetting that the Dales are Ed's first and foremost, and so when you think of the people, you want to be thinking of Canadians, not Americans. So small groups banding together against the wilds, the animals, and so on, in order to make a better life for themselves. The emphasis is on community and cooperation and caring for each other, not independence; do it yourself to help everyone else out, but also help others when they fall down. Folk are friendly but conservative from a position of just being uninformed. A lot of emphasis on the community, more than standing alone.
Renin Posted - 16 Feb 2020 : 16:55:10
The Dales have always felt like the carte blanche entry into a D&D fantasy realm. "You walk into a pastoral little village. Thatched roofs, beaten dirt paths, the sound of Little House on the Prairie theme song playing in the background. Suddenly, a red dragon attacks, breathing it's horrible flaming breath everywhere. Quick hero, rise up to protect all these simple yokels!"

As far as Dales history goes, it seems so laughingly weird to me that with all the settling and rushing expansionism that founded Cormyr, Sembia, Impiltur, all the regions affected by Jhaamdath/Chondath settlers, the Nars, longer ago from that with Mulhorand and so many others I'm barely passing over; its like in the Dales a bunch of people came in, eked out their farm land and simple logging needs, and everyone said, "Eh, that's enough. All that kingdom building and Duke-ing and warring seems a bit unnecessary. Let's just all stay put." LOL

What I've gone to do is really enjoy all the smaller stories that each Dales have. There are more of those in the 3rd Ed campaign setting, but Volo's book really helped open up the Dales to me. My current campaign doesn't have anyone stay put in the Dales; I'm rather doing a rock star tour of the Dales and then all around the Sea of Fallen stars. My Dales have been changed in that a) Semberholme and then Myth Drannor have been resettled as a fledgling, returning Elven homeland, which has seen Deepingdale and even Harrowdale become near full elven cities. Tasseldale is essentially a full Sembian satellite city (no need for pretense). Mistledale has always been a really great place on its own. Shadowdale? Passed by other Dalesmen simply wanting to avoid anything to do with the peril that Elminster brings to the area.

However....the Dales are also not a favorite area of mine. I prefer to introduce strife, chaos, and turmoil to the area as Dales subsume each other, or become taken by other gov'ts and people
Lord Karsus Posted - 16 Feb 2020 : 00:37:14
quote:
Originally posted by keftiu

My current plan for them for the primer I’m working on is a sort of “write your own” background option, to contrast with Cormyr, Sembia, Myth Drannor/Cormanthyr, and Netheril, with a strong sentiment of independence and do-it-yourself attitude. They’re the Americans, basically.

How off-base does that read?


-I can definitely see that.
keftiu Posted - 15 Feb 2020 : 02:42:37
My current plan for them for the primer I’m working on is a sort of “write your own” background option, to contrast with Cormyr, Sembia, Myth Drannor/Cormanthyr, and Netheril, with a strong sentiment of independence and do-it-yourself attitude. They’re the Americans, basically.

How off-base does that read?
Lord Karsus Posted - 15 Feb 2020 : 00:58:52
-I was never much a fan of the Dalelands, but I've come to appreciate them a bit as a "stereotypical" fantasy area, a little more laid back than Cormyr.
Seravin Posted - 14 Feb 2020 : 21:52:03
Okay...Mistledale and Shadowdale..how can you not love them both?

I fell in love with Shadowdale in Azure Bonds, and in Curse of the Azure Bonds computer game. I just love the Old Skull Inn, and there is SO MUCH lore and material on Shadowdale.

Mistledale and it's riders, and the River Ashaba, and Ashabenford...love everything about it that I read in the Volo Guide and the Shadow of the Avatar trilogy. I would love more novels/etc set there.

Ayrik Posted - 14 Feb 2020 : 19:32:06
The Dales were only briefly outlined in 1E FR0 Grey Box and in 2E FRA - just not enough material to really know or care much about them. The Dales might have been vital and central to Ed's campaigns but TSR did a rather inadequate job of bringing these Dales to their published Realms setting.

2E Dalelands splatbook and Volo's Guide focussed on the Dales region as a "proper" subsetting. 3E FR0 made an attempt to include the Dales as the cultural and historical heart of the Heartlands. 4E FR0 just reported their updated status to 1479DR. It's quite understandable to find the Dales dull and backward without access to these sources.

By the time I'd obtained enough lore to bring the Dales alive I'd already had enough to make Cormyr, the Moonsea, the North, the Sword Coast from Baldur's Gate to Waterdeep, and a handful of "exotic" lands far more interesting places to be. My players had no attachment and no interest in the Dales unless my operations by Zhentarim or Shadovar deliberately brought their attentions to the region. And even then the Dales remained as much the ad-hoc "filler" we'd first invented as the published lore which (for us) came afterwards.
St3v3nMC198666 Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 23:20:33
"Born-villain. Don't pretend to be a victim..." ~ Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids

quote:
Originally posted by keftiu

I come to you all with a heretical opinion: I’ve never cared for the Dales.

Without the nostalgic tie to the older material and having never dipped into any of the Elminster novels, I’ve never had a strong reason to dig in, especially when other parts of the setting have felt more dynamic, exciting, and different. But it so happens that I’m workshopping a post-Spellplague Netheril game, and this corner of the map is now finally demanding I pay attention to it.

So... what’s there to love? What’s the punchy elevator pitch for the reason that makes it so well-loved and compelling?



I too am not intrigued by hypocrite at all. Most if not all the characters are actually deviants of one sort or another for example. I recommend focusing on the scenery of the location you are expanding on.
TheIriaeban Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 18:26:56
quote:
Originally posted by Zeromaru X

quote:
Originally posted by TheIriaeban

For me, the Dales were always where people come from but never go to.



So, like the rural country in my homeland, lol



Well, expansion of an area really kind of depends on farmers. So, if you are a 2nd or 3rd son of a farmer, why go to the Dales to start your own farm? You have to clear land for the farm and you have these crazy elves popping up getting mad you are cutting down trees. Then, you have gods know what come out of the forests to kill everyone in your homestead at any time. Not to mention you have Zhents, Sembia, Myth Drannor, etc. all fighting over who will or won't have control of the Dales. Not a real enticing place to go for a new home. Daggerdale is probably the worst of them and only a crazy monk would think it is a good place for a monastery.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 18:07:16
quote:
Originally posted by Seethyr

I like the frontiersy lumberjack (happy lumberjack day, btw) feel I picture it having. Very rugged and individualistic. Like the Texas or Montana of Forgotten Realms. Big thumbs up for that aspect, but admittedly lacking in fantasy.



I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay...

I do like Mistledale, but even that one, I don't pay a lot of attention to.
Zeromaru X Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 17:48:33
quote:
Originally posted by TheIriaeban

For me, the Dales were always where people come from but never go to.



So, like the rural country in my homeland, lol
TheIriaeban Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 16:45:12
For me, the Dales were always where people come from but never go to. Only two exceptions to that: one character retired in his hometown, Highmoon, and a monk that decided to build a monastery in Daggerdale.
Seethyr Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 15:18:36
I like the frontiersy lumberjack (happy lumberjack day, btw) feel I picture it having. Very rugged and individualistic. Like the Texas or Montana of Forgotten Realms. Big thumbs up for that aspect, but admittedly lacking in fantasy.
sleyvas Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 14:33:48
Honestly, the main appeal is that it was small for "starter adventures", and to allow the DM to use Mystra's chosen as guides for the players, etc... but I was never drawn to the area to run a game personally. Most of my games have been in the bloodstone lands, unapproachable east, old empires, shining south or Tethyr specifically. I've rarely used the north, cormyr, dalelands, etc... despite those being the areas with the most development. I do love the novels ABOUT Cormyr, Waterdeep, etc.. though. I've also rarely used the Zhentarim, though I do enjoy hearing of their exploits whenever they are done well. So, for me there's the realms that I play in and the realms that I read novels about, and they TEND to be separate areas.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 14:31:08
I don't dislike the Dales, but I'm all about Cormyr and the Sword Coast, myself -- and the latter more than the former.
Grumpy Hamatula Posted - 13 Feb 2020 : 12:55:05
I've never been quite sure of the appeal of the Dales myself. I ran a (very) brief 2e Dales game centered on Shadowdale about 25 years ago when I was new to the setting because I was using what came in the Revised Gray Box, but it's never quite captured my attention like other regions have. About the biggest point of interest for me in the region has been all the baatezu scampering around Myth Drannor at various points in its history...but as my username likely suggests, I tend to take at least some interest any time some part of the setting is full of baatezu. ;)

I could see it appealing to some audiences in that it contains, within a relatively small and well-bounded area, many of the traditional landscapes, perils, and opportunities of a traditional heroic fantasy setting. You've got forests full of fantastical creatures both friendly and perilous, ruins crawling with horrible fiends and dragons and worse (but full of treasure, if only someone were heroic enough to take it), mountains in which great secrets lie undiscovered in abandoned dwarf-holds, a terrible foe that invades from time to time (Zhentil Keep back in the day, and I believe the Shadovar later on), and enough friendlyish towns that an adventuring party can base out of at least one with relative ease.

However, it also has some drawbacks to me in that the Dales are, in my estimation, pretty...provincial? I suspect half-orcs, tieflings, and other races with a reputation for being "naturally evil" would have a much worse time there than they would in a place like Waterdeep. However, I've not yet caught up on the Shadowdale lore for 4e and 5e, and my knowledge of the region in 3.x is pretty hazy, so I'd be curious to see what others find most appealing about it.

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