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Erik Scott de Bie
Forgotten Realms Author

USA
4586 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  16:42:23  Show Profile  Visit Erik Scott de Bie's Homepage  Send Erik Scott de Bie an AOL message Send Erik Scott de Bie a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
This is tied to my ONE CANON, ONE STORY, ONE REALMS thread (see page 8, about 2/3rds of the way down), but I thought I'd post it up here for those who haven't been reading along:

Question of the Week: What about a Realms product (sourcebook, novel, etc) speaks to you as a "Realms" piece?

Specifically, what is it about the Realms that makes the Realms the Realms?

This is a deeply personal question, so don't give me the answer you think I want to hear or that everyone wants to hear. To you, specifically, what makes the Realms really special?

Cheers

Erik Scott de Bie

'Tis easier to destroy than to create.

Signature of Shameless Self-Promotion +6: Order my sixth novel, Shadow of the Winter King (Amazon, e-signing, Dragonmoon Press)

Also check out my Realms work, most recently Shadowbane: Eye of Justice, out now on e-readers everywhere! (Kindle, Nook)

scererar
Master of Realmslore

USA
1615 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  17:07:37  Show Profile Send scererar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A good example for me would be the novel spellfire. That was my introduction to the realms and is "the feel" I am looking for when describing what makes the realms an interesting place for me to explore.

"Yap,yap, little dog!" - Riven - page 326 Shadowbred, by Paul Kemp

_________________________

I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
- J. R. R. Tolkien
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Darkmeer
Senior Scribe

USA
505 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  17:23:23  Show Profile  Visit Darkmeer's Homepage Send Darkmeer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Note: I am primarily a Realms Gamer, not novel reading person (sorry), so please bear that in mind.

What made the Realms special for me is the level of detail in the various areas. I loved that the deities of the Realms got their own sourcebooks in 2e and 3.x (not so much in 4e). I love that there are enough power groups with different foci that sometimes overlap that you, as a GM, can make your players guess who is causing the problem. When the players figure it out, and it's worse than they thought, it's great! This is coming from both a player and a GM of the realms here. I especially love that so many areas have been well-detailed (and wish more areas were detailed in the various eras, since I loved that information as a GM).

The level of detail in the earlier products made it very easy to run a game. I don't use novels as canon unless I note it otherwise when writing a campaign statement/document. At the same time, both small stories and epic stories can be told, with or without the so-called "just us league" (Elminster, Driz'zt, Fzoul, etc.). When things get to that level, it doesn't mean the league has to be included.

So, being a high-magic setting that both large and small stories can easily fit in is great. I like this ability. It could be something along the path to Kara-Tur, crossing over to Maztica (dependent on era of the Realms), or something in Faerun proper, all of these are valid ways to play and enjoy the Realms.

The story types are virtually endless:
Arabian Knights,Wuxia, Non-wuxia asian themes, Horse Nomads, Antislaving operations, Pirate adventures, Jungles and hidden cultures, high Magic society, Knighthood and protections, rebelling against the evil empire, Norse adventures, person in a new culture ("fish out of water" characters), and so much more.

Now, what other campaign world can offer EVERYTHING the realms can? I can only think of a fantasy Earth that could do this, but no other world that I'm aware of as a gamer can do as much as the Realms can.

"These people are my family, not just friends, and if you want to get to them you gotta go through ME."

Edited by - Darkmeer on 07 Aug 2012 17:25:05
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Garen Thal
Master of Realmslore

USA
1082 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  17:34:57  Show Profile  Visit Garen Thal's Homepage Send Garen Thal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
For me, the realms is the feeling that I'm witnessing (either as an observer or a participant or a plotter) in an ongoing story. The players were there before I got there, and will be there after I'm gone, not waiting in frozen frame for me to pop my head back in, but constantly moving, constantly changing, with motivations and desires beyond what makes for an interesting adventure or a fun tale. It's joy and tragedy and senseless violence and triumphant victory, sometimes when no one at all is looking.
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Delwa
Master of Realmslore

USA
1247 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  17:38:07  Show Profile  Visit Delwa's Homepage Send Delwa a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The depth of culture and the "current" existence of people bigger than you. You're not Luke Skywalker listening to tales of the good old days and trying to bring back what once was.
Yes, Faerûn has it's golden age that's now past. But today is just as great in many ways. While (as a DM) it's my job to keep the spotlight on my PC's, at the same time, they know both in and out of character that there are people out there that will bury them if they get too big for their britches. At the same time, those same famous people might provide the insight they need to complete a quest, or just rub shoulders with them in a tavern and have a few drinks together then go their way.

I like the depth the Realms has with sources like the "Volo's Guides;" books and histories the PC's might know and read.
I like the fact that great and powerful magic is common yet rare. Not every realm has peasantry that is casting cantrips to aid their crops (though there may be a few that do) or every realm has skyships as common as a car might be on the Interstate here.
I like the fact that the gods are numerous, and while an adventurer might be facing the mechanizations of Shar's priesthood, the average commoner might not even know what's going on.
All that together makes the Realms an intriguing place. I don't mind that there aren't vast kingdoms of unexplored territory. I can tweak whatever I want to fit my current needs.

- Delwa Aunglor of Tangled Trees
I am off to slay yon refrigerator and spoil it's horde. Go for the cheese, Boo!

"The Realms change; seldom at the speed desired of those who strive, but far too quickly for those who resist." - The Simbul, taken from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Conspectus

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LastStand
Learned Scribe

130 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  17:48:01  Show Profile Send LastStand a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In short:
A well fleshed-out world, rich in culture and colorful characters. You add to this an equally well fleshed-out and detailed Patheon that's not afraid to interfere in mortal affairs.

"Don't. The battlegrounds that you and I have returned from alive are too different."

~ Claymore ch106
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LastStand
Learned Scribe

130 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  17:48:51  Show Profile Send LastStand a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In short:
A well fleshed-out world, rich in culture and colorful characters. You add to this an equally well fleshed-out and detailed Patheon that's not afraid to interfere in mortal affairs.

"Don't. The battlegrounds that you and I have returned from alive are too different."

~ Claymore ch106
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Hawkins
Great Reader

USA
2130 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  18:04:56  Show Profile  Visit Hawkins's Homepage Send Hawkins a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I would have to say characters (NPCs/Deities), locales, and continuity.

As an example of a short story that did not feel at all Realmsian to me, I put forth "The Greatest Hero Who Ever Died" by J. Robert King (Realms of Infamy). Even though for some reason this story made it into the Best of the Realms, Volume I, it never struck me really as a Realms story, and more as a story that someone used to fill out an anthology.

Errant d20 Designer - My Blog (last updated January 06, 2016)

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He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back. --Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

"Mmm, not the darkness," Myrin murmured. "Don't cast it there." --Erik Scott de Bie, Shadowbane

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Edited by - Hawkins on 07 Aug 2012 18:06:09
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Markustay
Realms Explorer extraordinaire

USA
15675 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  18:08:30  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The people, and their inter-connectivity to everything else. Real people are not two dimensional 'characters', and the Forgotten Realms was able to convey that.

Secondly (and way behind the first), the massive portal network, otherwise know as the Road of Stars and Shadows. Most folks don't realize how important it is, and how it's connected to the Weave. That means the Weave is number three, and probably equally important with #2, since I don't really differentiate between the two. Thats like having trains without a railway, or vice-versa. They go hand-in-hand.

If some designers just understand how extensive it is, how Ed used it, and precisely what it is, we never would have had the constant need to modify/shrink the maps in every edition. Somehow they thought getting rid of them would achieve PoL, but in reality, they just pushed the 'darkness' further away. With a portal network (and by extension, the Weave), every dungeon/lair is just a around the corner. How much more PoL can you get when 'beasties' can appear right outside your bedroom door?

You narrow the 'points of light' down to people, not locations. And isn't that how I began this? Its about PEOPLE. Thats the MAIN difference between P&P RPGs and MORPGs. Video games have to focus on locations, because they can't make characters all that interesting (until our tech is able to simulate AI better). P&P games - when run correctly - become all about character interactions - something VGs will never achieve (at least, not within the next decade). Once you pull the DM out of the equations, the NPCs just 'flatten out'.

Play to D&D and FR's biggest strength - personality.

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone


Edited by - Markustay on 07 Aug 2012 19:13:43
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Dalor Darden
Great Reader

USA
3594 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  18:24:03  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What makes the Realms to me?

History...forgotten kingdoms and lands to be explored and "dungeons" to be found and looted!

It was the first published world I read about that was soooo deep in history and feeling for that history.

AD&D for me!
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Jorkens
Great Reader

Norway
2950 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  18:26:53  Show Profile Send Jorkens a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is actually a pretty difficult question for me to answer. I would say the basic frame of geography and people given by Ed and combined with Ad&d tropes and ones own brain. Everything else is filler in some way for me, much of it in a good way. This is the reason my brain has a tendency to lock down when there is something I don't like; it just doesn't feel Realmsian to me if it goes outside the way I have mentally filled the frame.

No Canon, more stories, more Realms.
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Jeremy Grenemyer
Great Reader

USA
2717 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  18:45:26  Show Profile Send Jeremy Grenemyer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My post is about Realms sourcebooks:

A Realms sourcebook is at its best when:
• It supports Dungeon Masters by giving them just enough interesting information about a particular topic (haunted keep, out of the way hamlet, wicked noble, etc…) that they can’t help but be excited and motivated to finish the story of that topic themselves, such that they want to develop the story and insert the PCs into it.
• It remembers DMs aren’t attracted to the Realms because the Realms does all the work for them. Rather, they’re attracted to the Realms because it inspires and equips DMs to do the work of a DM themselves: to imagine, to build on, to flesh out, to create, and to immerse their players in their story.
• The details it provides cause DMs and players to ask questions and always leaves some mysteries unanswered, as opposed to making them think, “Oh, that was a nice story. I’ll go read something else now.”
• It remembers the game rules are generally more important to players then the details of the setting, but that the right kind of lore can create an equal setting interest.
• The game rules reflect the setting and bring it to life at the gaming table. (Read: mechanics should bring the story and fluffy lore elements of the Realms to the gaming table so that players can interact with them.) This is what transitions player’s natural mechanics interest into setting interest.
• It presents the Realms as a living, breathing world and practically demands the DM present the Realms this way at the gaming table; as someplace alive and busy that goes about its business and doesn’t dote on player characters. Right after the PCs save the day the DM ought to be equipped with three examples of tyranny, trouble and turmoil that were going on somewhere other than where the PCs were just at, that could benefit from their attention.
[EDIT]• It utilizes, at least in part, an unreliable narrator.

A Realms sourcebook is at its worse when:
• The writing is so dense with lore that it becomes like an encyclopedia.
• The writing starts and finishes a topic so completely that DMs are left with no room, nor any desire, to develop the topic to suit the needs of their game.
• The writing treats Realmslore as sacrosanct and inviolable, as opposed to something that should be carefully reviewed and, where necessary, improved.
• The writing answers lore mysteries or closes off a previous open ended plot hook, without providing at least three new mysteries/hooks.
• It has no game rules.
• The sourcebook writing presents any element of the setting as something utterly inaccessible to player characters (certain Realms products during 2nd Edition D&D, I’m looking at you here).


There are exceptions to these bullet points, of course. I think the Grand History of the Realms is a great, fact-filled, non-rules sourcebook. It’s in the short stack pile of books I keep ready by my DM’s chair during game and for pregame planning. But I wouldn’t want every book to be like it. It’s one of a kind for a reason.

Thanks for starting the thread, Erik.

Look for me and my content at EN World (user name: sanishiver).

Edited by - Jeremy Grenemyer on 07 Aug 2012 19:02:01
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Kris the Grey
Senior Scribe

USA
422 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:02:23  Show Profile Send Kris the Grey a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd agree with the general content of everyone's responses up to now.

For me, the Realms is about specific characters (and yes, Mystra and her Chosen are among THE most important as you'll see below!), cultures (how the elves, dwarves, orcs, drow, and human civilizations are defined in the manner particular to the setting), places (Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Myth Drannor, The Dales, Cormyr and the wider Realms), history (the long and highly detailed roll of past civilizations, heroes, and deeds long past but not forgotten) and continuity of story that actually makes the Realms a living breathing place (unlike so many other fantasy worlds). The simple fact that the Realms has always strongly incorporated a calendar with colorful year and date names has imbued a sense of history and of the passage of time into it's stories. (A brief word on Elminster - he seems to fulfill a special role in the history and continuity of the Realms by being it's super powered 'Forrest Gump' - he's there for all the major events throughout recent history and thus helps tie them all together and give them a less distant feel).

However, THE thing I like BEST about the Realms, and the reason I was so annoyed with 4E, is it's status as a 'high fantasy' 'high magic' world. While not everyone is a mage, and even less are powerful mages, those who work the Art are hands down the movers and shapers of Toril. It is no surprise that the most iconic Realms characters (Elminster, the Seven Sisters, etc) are mages and that the goddess of magic is primus inter pares (first among equals) of the gods. Mystras may change, but (as Markustay rightfully notes) the Weave IS the Realms!

3E to a lesser extent, and 4E to a much greater one, attempted to 'level the playing field' between the classes (and world characteristics) by granting 'supernatural powers' and the like to non-spellcasters in the name of 'game balance'. In so doing, they changed the Realms first slightly and then catastrophically. Well, you know what? Most people are Fighters and Rogues and Fighters and Rogues AREN'T SPELLCASTERS. In the same way that cops in superhero movies AREN'T SUPERHEROES. There should be nothing wrong with that! What's more, they can still be amazing characters, excel in their own right, and kick the crap out of spellcasters (see Conan, or Fafhard and the Grey Mouser, or Sylk from the Belgariad, or...).

However, in a world steeped in the magic of the Weave, it's not out of character for the central focus to be on the spellcasting classes. They are the Superheroes, and Supervillians, of Toril and they should maintain that status. Toril is magic. Toril needs it's Weave. Toril needs a Mystra and her Chosen (whoever they may be). They, for me, are what makes the Realms THE REALMS.

Kris the Grey - Member in Good Standing of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, the Arcane Guild of Silverymoon, and the Connecticut Bar Association
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Erik Scott de Bie
Forgotten Realms Author

USA
4586 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:10:09  Show Profile  Visit Erik Scott de Bie's Homepage  Send Erik Scott de Bie an AOL message Send Erik Scott de Bie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's an interesting point, about keeping mundane classes mundane and letting arcane classes be special. I see no mechanical reason you can't craft fighters and rogues who have no magical or supernatural abilities, who are just REALLY GOOD at what they do. (This is what happened in 4e, by the way--their powers are martial skills and techniques, not spell-like abilities or supernatural powers.)

But my main point was going to be that I'm ok with non-spellcasters using magic--items, particular tricks, etc--just because magic is so saturated in the world. It's democratized. If you look back at the earliest days of the Realms, it's clear that magic wasn't just for spellcasters. Shandril was doing it, and there were no spells to her spellfire. Alias was doing it, with the azure bonds. The drow were, of course, doing it.

I rather like that the Realms allows anyone to use magic, and has many ways for people to acquire magic. What I think we need are more mundane role-models to look to: heroes who don't use magic (outside of magic items at most) who still manage to succeed.

Cheers

Erik Scott de Bie

'Tis easier to destroy than to create.

Signature of Shameless Self-Promotion +6: Order my sixth novel, Shadow of the Winter King (Amazon, e-signing, Dragonmoon Press)

Also check out my Realms work, most recently Shadowbane: Eye of Justice, out now on e-readers everywhere! (Kindle, Nook)
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Kris the Grey
Senior Scribe

USA
422 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:16:34  Show Profile Send Kris the Grey a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Erik,

I agree with you completely about the 'Democratization' of magic (I like the use of the term by the way, it appeals to the political science major in me!). I was going to make the point that there were plenty of ways for non-spellcasters to employ the magic created by arcane and divine casters via items to 'level the playing field' particularly between them and lower level mages of the evil variety (all those 'petty Zhent magelings' and such out there that make such good villains) without granting them spellcasting powers.

Please do not read my comments about keeping arcane spellcasters 'special' as an indication I want to keep magic entirely out of the hands of Fighters, Rogues, and the rest. I am merely pointing out that Archmages are the Superman of the Realms. There is no reason someone else can't be Batman (or, in the case of some, Aquaman...Lol).

Kris the Grey - Member in Good Standing of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, the Arcane Guild of Silverymoon, and the Connecticut Bar Association

Edited by - Kris the Grey on 07 Aug 2012 19:17:47
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Markustay
Realms Explorer extraordinaire

USA
15675 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:27:34  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In Halruaa, its a given fact that everyone has a 'knack' for magic, even if its just to cast a few cantrips.

So does that make Halruaa different, or just smarter? I think part of the problem stems from 'power level'. Yes, the Realms as intended was designed (by Ed) so that everyone could have a chance to 'do magic', be it however small (or large). However, these 'small magics' were non-consequential; the stuff of 'witches and hedge-wizards'. Only very few ever achieved the sort of magical might to be called Wizard or Mage (mostly because of attrition - they pretty-much 'feed' off each other).

So thats the difference, as I see it. Some folks think of FR as a 'high magic' world, but it really depends on your definition of 'high magic'. In the Xanth series of novels EVERYONE can 'do magic' - but everyone only has a single, unique spell. Too me, that's not a high-magic setting, that a low-magic setting, since quite a bit of the magic is useless (like the guy who could make a colored spot appear on anything). Only a handful of people throughout it's history could do "Magician-Caliber" (Wizardly) magic.

So despite the pervasiveness of magic, FR should be more along the lines of Middle-Earth. Very rare are Wizards of true power, and those few should be secretive and keep to themselves. When every other mage walking down the street can annihilate entire towns on a whim, then something is terribly unbalanced.

Oh... and this is along the same lines, although slightly off-topic: Every innkeeper in the Realms would not have to be a level 30 ex-adventurer if PCs learned how to behave themselves in a damn bar!!! The Realms gets artifically twisted out of shape by the existance of incompetent DMs who have no idea how to keep their players in-check.

Maybe they should give licenses for DMing. Or maybe a college degree.

Now I'm just getting cranky again....

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone


Edited by - Markustay on 07 Aug 2012 19:43:13
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Kris the Grey
Senior Scribe

USA
422 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:34:15  Show Profile Send Kris the Grey a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Let me go a step further and give a simple tactical example.

Flight. Some creatures (and people with items) have wings and so fly naturally. However, this is very much the exception and not the rule. Most fliers in 1E,2E,3E, and Pathfinder (I honestly like 4E so little I can't comment on it's details with true knowledge, so I'll omit it) rely on the 'fly' spell either cast by them or used in the form of a potion or spell cast off an item. Having the ability to fly grants a huge tactical advantage to a spellcaster (at least versus backstabbing Rogues and Fighters with massively damaging melee weapons, the most common kinds). Now, all those Fighters and Rogues need to do is pop a potion and they are also up, up, and away. However, what truly separates the mages from the non-mages is that any mage worth his salt is going to have a counter to that strategy up his sleeve in the form of dispel magic. Pop, there goes the warrior back down to earth. As the spellcaster gets higher level he or she will have more and more levels of counters. This 'second level' (or greater) defense is what gives the sense that mages have a mastery over magic that someone with simple access to items will never quite match.

Now, for all that power, mages are still quite fragile ESPECIALLY at lower levels! Fighters and Rogues never run out of swings with their swords and a spellcaster within arms length and bereft of his magical defenses is meat for the beast. Even at higher levels all it takes is the right ambush with proper planning (just like hunting most anything else). Even Superman has his kryptonite!

Kris the Grey - Member in Good Standing of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, the Arcane Guild of Silverymoon, and the Connecticut Bar Association
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Delwa
Master of Realmslore

USA
1247 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:45:00  Show Profile  Visit Delwa's Homepage Send Delwa a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Markustay

The Realms as intended was designed (by Ed) so that everyone could have a chance to 'do magic', be it however small (or large). However, these 'small magics' were non-consequential; the stuff of 'witches and hedge-wizards'. Only very few ever achieved the sort of magical might to be called Wizard or Mage (mostly because of attrition - they pretty-much 'feed' off each other).

So thats the difference, as I see it. Some folks think of Fr as a 'high magic' world, but it really depends on your definition of 'high magic'.
...
So despite the pervasiveness of magic, FR should be more along the lines of Middle-Earth. Very rare are Wizards of true power, and those few should be secretive and keep to themselves. When every other mage walking down the street can annihilate entire towns on a whim, then something is terribly unbalanced.


Agreed. This ties into what I was trying to say about magic in the Realms. If you think about it, in the published Realms, we only see the mages that "make it big." The ratio of big bad mage to average level 3 adventurer (and the average commoner to adventurer) is still large if you think about it.

- Delwa Aunglor of Tangled Trees
I am off to slay yon refrigerator and spoil it's horde. Go for the cheese, Boo!

"The Realms change; seldom at the speed desired of those who strive, but far too quickly for those who resist." - The Simbul, taken from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Conspectus

My Forging the Realms Archives (Google Drive pdfs)
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Mumadar Ibn Huzal
Master of Realmslore

1338 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  19:59:19  Show Profile Send Mumadar Ibn Huzal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The wealth of detail in the tapestry that has been woven(and continues to be woven) of the the Forgotten Realms makes for an imersive world without parallel. Its uniqueness in that it can be enjoyed as a setting for a RP game (whatever the edition) as well as being a world full of stories that one can just enjoy reading (without ever having had anything to do with D&D).
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31394 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  20:01:27  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What makes the Realms the Realms?

It's the feel -- everything has a history, and fits together into a logical, seamless whole. It's a place that I can picture actually existing somewhere. It's the potential -- around every corner, there is more history, more stories, and more wonder. It's a place I want to explore, and it's a place I think I could be happy to physically live in.

I sometimes think on the fact that as we progress from childhood to adulthood, we lose a lot of our sense of wonder at the world. The Realms brings some of that wonder back, for me.

At least, prior editions did. I'm not trying to start an edition war, and I'm not even going to discuss it further in this thread. I am going to note, however, that much of my dislike for the 4E Realms stems from the fact that I don't see the potential and wonder there, any more, and it now has more of an oppressive, dystopian feel, much like most cyberpunk tales.

I hope that the 5E Realms can recapture the feel of the Realms of 2E.

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BEAST
Master of Realmslore

USA
1714 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  21:09:55  Show Profile  Visit BEAST's Homepage Send BEAST a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The depth of detail and range of storylines does it for me. No matter where you are in the Realms and no matter what exactly you're doing, you can always know that there's a whole lot more going on all around you that you're not even involved with.

Drizzt gets bashed sometimes for his fandom being so out of proportion to his actual impact on the events within Realms history, but Drizzt himself has written in his diaries that he is only one person in a big, big world. The events in The Ghost King reminded him of that in the most terrible way.

And I like that admission, and the ramifications thereof. The Realms feel like a very complex, truly multifaceted world, and whatever we're doing in it, it is almost certainly only one small part thereof. The Realms are much bigger than any one, or two, or 5 of us.

Contrast that with Middle-Earth. While Tolkien's world had arguably even greater depth (down to fictional alphabets and dictionaries/grammar primers, etc.) than the Realms, most of the storylines in his two biggie stories had bearings on the central one (the One Ring) in his novels. He did detour a bit into the extended lore of the world with books like The Silmarillion, but generally speaking, most of his storylines were spin-offs of the main one. I guess you could say that Middle-Earth lacked the range of Toril.

"'You don't know my history,' he said dryly."
--Drizzt Do'Urden (The Pirate King, Part 1: Chapter 2)

<"Comprehensive Chronology of R.A. Salvatore Forgotten Realms Works">
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Kris the Grey
Senior Scribe

USA
422 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  21:16:25  Show Profile Send Kris the Grey a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wooly,

Well said! That sense of wonder is indeed a huge part of what makes the Realms live and breath.

For those of you who know my posts, you know I run a 'play yourself' style campaign that takes it's players from the real world of the gaming table and deposits them in the Realms. I have to confess, that a huge part of what has made those games successful for me down the years with group after group of players is the sheer volume of lore and the special nature of the Realms. It makes them 'real' in a way that such a campaign set in a place like Greyhawk could never achieve (and it's not like I haven't tried other worlds mind you...).

When I ask my players to suspend their disbelief and imagine themselves walking the hills, dales, and pathways of Toril they never fail to rise to the challenge. All it takes is a few hours spent describing the particular foliage and creatures in a glade somewhere in the North, or the names and personalities of person after person walking down the street (or sitting in the inn) in any one of a hundred little thorps or hamlets dotted throughout the Heartlands. Things like the Volo's guides, and Ed's exhaustive histories, make the Realms LIVE. I won't deny that I've spent many a late night hour with many a group of players asking the question, 'So, if I an open portal to the Realms lurked somewhere in secret nearby, and you could walk through it, would you?' and getting very thoughtful and very honest answers.

For me, the Realms will always be that place you dreamt of in your childhood. Your own little 'shinning city on a hill'. May it never lose that allure for us, and for our children's children.

Kris the Grey - Member in Good Standing of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, the Arcane Guild of Silverymoon, and the Connecticut Bar Association

Edited by - Kris the Grey on 07 Aug 2012 22:08:52
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Eilserus
Master of Realmslore

USA
1390 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  22:05:48  Show Profile Send Eilserus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The lore we receive. The Volo's guides as noted are perfect examples. It shows us living breathing communities and places in depth and far beyond what we normally get from say a campaign guide. I like how I can be reading about a tavern, some of its characters, their motivations and oh yeah, there's this rumor of a dwarven stronghold called Firehammer Hold and they all died of disease long ago and there happens to be maps scratched in the walls in the back of the taproom etc. Little adventure hooks like that, unique magic items with a history, interesting and ancient spells, realms etc. And these instances cover a few pages and there's many more through said book to read about and use. Those are the things that light my eyes up because I can take those ideas and riff off them or stick them wherever I want. I may be decent at creating my own realmslore, mainly underdark and dwarf stuff, but I can't hold a candle to what comes from Ed, Boyd, Schend and many other great loremasters.

I hope for 5E we don't see 3E's use of tactical maps and other stuff for half a product for adventures. Just give us a normal map like we've recently seen in Dungeon magazine. For other supplements, a quarter or half the product dedicated to prestige classes and feats, please leave out. I liked 3.5 for the most part, but there were so many feats, classes, and prestige classes to choose from, it'd take forever to sift through all the books to find something to use and half the time I dont remember any of them except the more common ones. Most of this is probably due to stat block bloat, which was one of the things I didn't like about 3.5...detailing out the above simply took too much space. If this can all be trimmed down for 5E to take up way fewer pages I'd be alright with it. Nice one line stats like the old 2E way of doing things for npc's works for me (Triel Baenre drow f, P20, STR 16, DEX 12, CON 15, INT 14, WIS 20). If the npc is important, stick them in the back of the book like Volo's and add a bit more detail about their aims, gear, etc.

Scererar above mentions a good point. I've been reading about the Realms since I was in 6th grade and have been following it more or less a good 20 years. And the Spellfire novel was a great example, because it evoked a sense of wonder and exploration that I didn't think was possible(as I just read it earlier this summer). I haven't kept up on my novel reading as well as I should, but Spellfire gave me the feel of something I havent' seen often since the days of The Crystal Shard, Homeland, Elminster Making of a Mage etc. There's been many great novels throughout the years, and I'm forgetting other titles at the moment, but some of them have the ability to completely draw a person in and invoke that sense of wonder of what's over the next hill or forest.

PS: Realms designers please go through the Spellfire series. There's some really good stuff in there that never seemed to have made it into official design. The biggest areas that stick out to me are the great details of the trade run from Scornubel to Waterdeep.

What also makes the Realms the Realms? The Zhentarim and the Red Wizards. They're just great classic bad guys. Maybe Manshoon will work more on the Zhents after we find out what happens in Ed's next novel. And perhaps we could get Fzoul back as a banelich, since they've been known to be on par with demipowers. I'm OK with Szass Tam ruling Thay, but it'd be even better if it was full of Red Wizards and Zulkirs of the classic sort and they reported to Tam in some sense.

Cormyr could do for a king like an Azoun type that is rising to power. The golden age for that country has ended and things are tough right now, but it'd be nice to see that country as a rising star fighting to regain what it lost. I think Ed is touching on this somewhat, but a phoenix rising from the ashes type deal would make for some great adventures there.
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Alystra Illianniis
Great Reader

USA
3747 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  22:08:05  Show Profile  Click to see Alystra Illianniis's MSN Messenger address Send Alystra Illianniis a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What makes the Realms special for me? I'd say it's the characters and places that move, change, and interact. Reading about nobles squabbling in Cormyr or Waterdeep, drow Houses scheming in Menzo, or the rich history of the elven kingdoms or the daily skull-duggery in Skullport (see what I just did? ;-) ) make it live for me. Sourcebooks that flesh out the people and locations in various parts of the world, and which detail the machinations of gods and organizations make things interesting and fluid, bringing a sense of real people and places. A town you visited in your last game might be razed by a passing red dragon during the Rage, or Elminster might be sitting with his feet propped in the corner of your local tavern. You just never know what you might run into!

The Goddess is alive, and magic is afoot.

"Where Science ends, Magic begins" -Spiral, Uncanny X-Men #491

"You idiots! You've captured their STUNT doubles!" -Spaceballs

Lothir's character background/stats: http://forum.candlekeep.com/pop_profile.asp?mode=display&id=5469

My stories:
http://z3.invisionfree.com/Mickeys_Comic_Tavern/index.php?showforum=188

Lothir, courtesy of Sylinde (Deviant Art)/Luaxena (Chosen of Eilistraee)
http://sylinde.deviantart.com/#/d2z6e4u
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Bladewind
Master of Realmslore

Netherlands
1253 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  22:43:34  Show Profile Send Bladewind a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Tough question.

I'll just mention some of things that I usually find quite consistantly in (better) realms novels and sourcebooks.

Character. Even a simple object, like a sword, placed in front of the PC's has history attached to it, giving it character.

Mesopolitan cities I love to mentally walk through. Amn, Arabel, Baldurs Gate, Waterdeep, Neverwinter, Silverymoon, Ravens Bluff, I numerous others all have a distinct feel about them, and provide for some of the best skullduggery games with so little effort. A DM need only lay down a townmap in the middle of the table and spin some rumors or two, and lo and behold fun will be had. Usually a dozen organisations are plotting a score more devious plans at the same time in that city alone!

The ecology. I love the quircky dungeons like Undermountain like any other fan, but I practicly devoured the Elminster Ecologies series, and continue to mine those resources for coming up with cool encounters that fit logically in the area ecology. I love how adventurers are sometimes right smackdab in the middle of a food chain, struggling to rise to the top. (Eric, your novel Depths of Madness had a particularly neat ecology I thought!)

High Magic in a setting where swashbuckling wit and gritty sword and sorcery is equally common. Light hearted derring-do is balanced with the evil magelord experimenting on commoners or himself. Both light and dark fantasy is encountered across the broad range of playing areas in the Forgotten Realms.


My campaign sketches

Druidic Groves

Creature Feature: Giant Spiders
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xaeyruudh
Master of Realmslore

USA
1822 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2012 :  23:19:53  Show Profile  Visit xaeyruudh's Homepage Send xaeyruudh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with a lot of what's been said already. For me, what makes the Realms The Realms was Ed, and continues to be the designers. It's not a brown-nosing answer. I believe the reason the Realms has succeeded is because of the storytelling, and more specifically the fact that the storytellers take requests.

I don't think there's any single thing we can point to about the world itself and say that it's better than anything that's been done before. Yes, there are some unique features of the Realms that are awesome (the Weave, the concept of the Chosen regardless of how you feel about the execution, circle magic, mythals, mythallars, moonblades, and a long list of other neat stuff that maybe hasn't been done in quite the same way elsewhere) but other worlds have unique features too and they haven't made those worlds the King of the Hill, because it's not about the world itself. Ed's got a knack for storytelling, and evidently a decanter of endless ideas, but so do a lot of other authors (and as we've seen even here on Candlekeep, Ed's flavor of wordsmithing is not a selling point of the Realms for everyone).

The quality, and to a lesser extent the quantity, of the stories is the key... not the subject matter.

I can log on Candlekeep (and once upon a time, the FR mailing list) and find the words of the author himself, continually expanding the setting through his friends. Even if you aren't a lover of Ed's style (you're a weirdo), it's pretty tough to hate the fact that you can ask him any question you want and have a reasonable hope (NDAs suck) of getting an answer which will be personalized to you. It's like having a question about behind-the-scenes stuff in The Hunt for Red October, and being able to get clarification (sometimes many pages in length) directed to you by name, from Clancy himself, at 3am on a random Tuesday.

That is something no other setting that's captured my attention can offer. It's why I'm still reading and writing in the Realms, in spite of my contempt for the directions in which the setting is warped.

And I said designerS. Not only is Ed's brain available (in bursts) at any hour of the day or night, but so are the minds of dozens of other published authors/designers and probably hundreds of others who haven't been published yet but really deserve to be.

The Realms is in some ways better than the real world. We're not just traveling the world discovering things that have always been there and cannot be reimagined. We're creating those things as we go, and writing the past and the future. We're creating the neat features that make the Realms as a world unique. The ability to interact with the designers, and get their feedback, and be their feedback, is what makes the Realms as a setting unique.

Cheers, Erik. Thought-provoking topic.
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