[Let's Read] Forgotten Realms: The Revised Campaign Setting

Thane of Fife

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Fiend Folio had lots of weird monsters.
Blindheims
Garbugs
Carbunckles
Hound of Ill Omen
Crabmen
and of course...Flumphs

I think Necromancer Games/Frog God did a Fiend Folio remix.
I know some people complain that a lot of D&D monsters are just variations based on different names for the same monster (haunt, specter, ghost, poltergeist, phantom, etc.), but.... I don't know, I think it's better than Gambados and Wolf in Sheep's Clothings.

I think that's a Realms original. As far as I can tell, it debuted in Haunted Halls of Eveningstar (1992) and was republished in TRCS (1993) and Monster Compendium Annual 1 (1994). Waukeen's entry in Faiths & Avatars is crawling with those things and that's not the only time they're mentioned offhandedly in Realmslore.

While it is a pretty stupid monster, the idea of a scorpion that camouflages as a coin is pretty cool. Drop the etherealness (the tail could just coil around a crab-like round body, while legs pulled close could look like a minted pattern) and the inexplicable want to live in locks and among coins (seriously, wtf. It's a perfect monster for someone to breed and put into places as a defense measure) and voila - a much less stupid "gotcha" monster. I have them pegged for use in my game, though an appropriate opportunity has not yet appeared.
I couldn't find anything on where it debuted, so I'll take your word for it. I will note that the entry here, at least, does have them specifically placed around doors and coins and such, either for assassination for defense. On their own, they just live in buildings like spiders.

That's the mystery isn't it? Where do they get the damn swords?
Well.... Gibberlings are chaotic neutral and very prone to violence. Tempus is also chaotic neutral and very prone to violence. In Warriors and Priests of the Realms, Tempus has a priest kit called the Battleforge or something, so he is clearly also god of weaponsmithing, to at least some degree. So, perhaps they are some terrible incarnation of Tempus.


Next monster is the Quaggoth. Another one later reappearing in the Monstrous Manual, the Quaggoth is slightly different here - we get no detail on the thonots' psionic powers, but do get a method to replace them if not using psionics. The quaggoth is another Fiend Folio monster, apparently, but it's a much better one. The main question here is the origin of quaggoths - the suggestion is that they had some ancient civilization that collapsed. Perhaps they were one of the Creator Races?

After that, we get Skum. Skum are a titanically strong race slave race bred by the aboleths from captured humans and demihumans. Originally a magazine monster, the skum found their way into the SRD for 3e. In any case, ey're a slightly strange fit here, as the book hasn't featured many aboleths (or, indeed, any), but I guess the Realms are probably the setting most associated with the Underdark. The entry notes that, though skum can't change captives into skum, they can change them so that any offspring they might produce will be skum. There is some nightmare fuel there, though the entry suggests that it may be a fetish in-setting.

And wrapping up the new monsters here is the Tressym. These are definitely a Realms monster - flying, highly intelligent cats. Smarter than most humans, even. They are also loaded with magic resistance and special abilities. Anyway, if you thought normal housecats were bad news, you don't want to tangle with a tressym, because they will mess you up. I suspect that tressym intelligence is supposed to be relative to other animals, rather than actually as high as is stated. In any case, presumably they are used as pests, familiars, or pets. I mean, even as deadly as a tressym is, they don't seem threatening enough to be real adversaries or monsters.
 

Thane of Fife

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And with that, we're onto the third and final volume of the set: Shadowdale. Bearing a picture of Elminster on the front cover, this book appears to give a thorough look at a single Dale. Shadowdale received a similar treatment in the Gray Box, though there it was mostly just a complete census of the people of the Dale, with occasional notes as to what they may be like. There, it was a bit more like we were getting some notes from Ed's personal game to add a bit more flavor to the text. Here, it's a bit less explicable why Shadowdale gets special treatment like this.

The book begins by trying to explain just that: Shadowdale is a attractive to adventurers because it is on an important trade route, is home to the well-known Elminster (who, while not terribly hospitable to passing adventurers, does at least attract the sort of people that adventurers might be inclined to talk with), is full of folk who depend on adventurers for protection, and is surrounded by ruins and caverns that may hold great riches and terrible dangers. It also makes a good base for the continued exploration of the depths of Cormanthor.

We then move on to the history of Shadowdale. In the Gray Box, it said that Shadowdale was originally ruled by drow, they were driven out by humans, there was a long line of human rulers, and then the most recent - possibly an evil usurper - was slain by Khelben, and the lordship of the Dale given to Doust, and then to Mourngrym.

Here, we get a significantly more involved timeline, though it still follows the same basic line. Drow built the Twisted Tower before being forced to retreat back to the Underdark. Ashaba, a mage, took over rule of the Dale, and eventually passed it on by acclamation of the people to another. The lordship passed down for a few centuries, before eventually coming into the hands of Aubry, husband of Sylune, one of the Seven Sisters. He was murdered by Zhentish agents, and they orchestrated the rise of one of their own. But he was eventually killed by Khelben, and eventually Doust took over. And then Mourngrym. Elminster is apparently a recent arrival, and doesn't really spend much time in the Dale - it's more of a mailing address, if you will.

There are a few questions in the history - why didn't Sylune know that her husband's successor was a Zhent, for example, or why didn't the Elven Court take action against the drow living practically in their midsts? But really, it's short and to the point, which is a good way for this sort of RPG history to be. Really, what you need to know is that the Zhentarim desire control of Shadowdale and that the ruler of the Dale must have the Pendant of Ashaba and the acclamation of the people.
 

Leonaru

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That's the mystery isn't it? Where do they get the damn swords?
Well.... Gibberlings are chaotic neutral and very prone to violence. Tempus is also chaotic neutral and very prone to violence. In Warriors and Priests of the Realms, Tempus has a priest kit called the Battleforge or something, so he is clearly also god of weaponsmithing, to at least some degree. So, perhaps they are some terrible incarnation of Tempus.
I kind of like the idea that Tempus just gave swords to a race of crazy guys with oversized lion heads.
 

Thane of Fife

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Next section is The Land of the Dale. Shadowdale sits where the North Ride crosses the River Ashaba. There is also a smaller north-south road. This road is apparently so small that it isn't even on the Dalelands detail map, even though it sounds like it stretches quite a distance. It makes you wonder how many other roads aren't on the map.

This section focuses on the less settled parts of the Dale. Apparently, apart from the Tower of Ashaba, there are two castles in Shadowdale - Castle Grimstead, now basically a ruin, and Castle Krag, also now a ruin, though one tower still remains upright. Grimstead is apparently some 500 years old, so it's not terribly surprising that the whole thing is a ruin. But Castle Krag was just refurbished within the past 30 years, so it's a bit surprising that it's in such bad shape. I guess it was burned after the fall of Jyordhan. Either one could serve as a base for an adventuring party to build their own stronghold (though Mourngrym might not be too pleased about that).

There's also a note on the druidic circle (which has left). Something about the increasingly civilized nature of the Dale. Most of the rest of the section just talks about hills. Some have caves under them, others might have caves under them if the DM is looking for a place to put a dungeon. Pretty straightforward.

Probably the number one thing to get from this section is that the Realms are full of failed attempts to build something greater. Probably every town in the Realms has two or three old keeps sitting about where somebody tried to declare himself Lord High King or something. Are your PCs just going to be the next in that long line of would-be somebodies?
 

Thane of Fife

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Next section is the Farms. Basically, we get about a paragraph of detail on each of the families which run one of the farms around Shadowdale. On average, they're smaller than a real medieval family would be, tending towards 2-4 children, and they comprise a mix of Dalesman proper and retired adventurers. The note is that these two groups are often indistinguishable from each other, so make sure the farmer you're pushing around isn't actually Storm Silverhand. Of course, even the regular Dalesman are all considered to be basically first level fighters, given the heavy fighting around Shadowdale over the past few years.

The text here isn't quite consistent with the census given in the Gray Box - that is, some of the people said to have been slain in "the Battle" there are here listed as having died in the second battle of Shadowdale, which I believe took place during the Time of Troubles. Also, they don't all seem to have aged ten years, though I suppose it isn't necessarily obvious.
 

Thane of Fife

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The Village of Shadowdale is next. We begin with some detail on what the village looks like with regards to construction, which is nice detail to have for flavor, if not something ever likely to be of great importance in a game. Then we get a small map of the town and what all of the buildings are, as well as who lives in them.

In a game set in Shadowdale, this part is probably going to be more useful than the farms, because PCs will probably spend more time dealing with smiths and innkeepers than farmers. To me, Shadowdale, as described here, feels more like a Wild West town than a medieval one. Then again, the Dales are kind of American Frontier in general. But you've got everything you need - your boardinghouse, inn, house for rent, festhall, blacksmith, local merchant, doctor, blown-up alchemist, baker, and so on. And there are a lot of largely undescribed apprentices about who could easily be replaced with PCs. There is also a handy list of where in the town you can get what.

Interestingly, the townsfolk seem to be less militarily capable than most of the farmers.
 

Thane of Fife

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The next chapter touches on Temples and Shrines.

Basically, there are three shrines in the area - one to Mystra and two to Tempus. These are almost more like monuments than anything else. More important are the town's three temples. There's one to Lathander, one to Chauntea, and one to Tymora. All three of the temples have a fairly high level cleric in charge - the Tymoran priestess is the only one not of high enough level to raise the dead, and it's suggested that she's being urged to go get that last bit of experience. That sure is quite a few high level characters, and there's a handful of mid-level priests, too.

Anyway, there are notes on what the temples are like, what the Dalesmen think of them, and who's in charge of each.

Following that is the section on Places of Interest in Shadowdale. There are three: the Old Skull Inn, Elminster's Tower, and the Twosted Tower. The Old Skull Inn remains a tremendously high class place with exotic rooms, good food, and a few secrets. Also, a very powerful magical item.

Elminster's Tower is a small, innocuous building that is home to Elminster, Lhaeo, and possibly the rare apprentice that Elminster takes on. Elminster himself has a habit of not being here, but even if he isn't, the tower is still very effectively defended. The most interesting note is the "extensive cellars," which I am pretty sure is D&D-speak for "dungeon, hey, let's loot it." Most of the text describes what it is like visiting the Tower (everything is covered in paper. Everything).

Finally, there is the Twisted Tower. The Twisted Tower is completely keyed out, as is the dungeon level underneath. There are no monsters - it's a proper dungeon. But it is connected to the Underdark. It's a decent map of a keep, and even if not running it in the Realms, you could probably use it in another campaign as a small fortress. Also, there are a lot of soldiers in the Twisted Tower. Probably a comparable number to the total population of the town. A little implausible, if you ask me.
 
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