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What makes the Forgotten Realms a great setting

Wulf

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Familiarity.

Im not really sold on the realms. It feels kinda bland compared to say, like Golarion or Midgard (Kobold Press) or wihout the charm of old TSR stuff like Known World-Mystara. But being a fan of Baldurs Gate series, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter etc a lot of setting lore and fluff just stuck. Some people I play rpgs with also have this love for the old BG series + other D&D CRPG titles, collected novels, read stuff on wikis and collected FR setting books but that they never played it in table top rpgs.

So FR is kind of good thing to use when running D&D for me. People know stuff about it. Its just so easy to just say: "Ok, so you are sitting in a shadey tavern in the Bridge District of Athkathla. The Zentharim and the Shadow Thieves has been at each others throaths for months since "LAZY ADVENTURE BACKGROUND CRAP" and the Coweled Wizards has arrested several for crimes agianst illegal use of magic in the street brawls, including "SOME PERSON KNOWN BY THE PC", and you are to meet a contact, a Harper with a grudge against the Coweled Wizards, with a way to get into Spellhold". Because anyone wanna go and save a dear companion from Spellhold, right :)? Everyone is on the same page.

And I also thought FR could work ok as a Prime Material World to reference to when playing my Planescape adventures.
 
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Scrivener of Doom

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I find it difficult to describe exactly what makes me enjoy the Forgotten Realms. It's certainly not the novels. (snip) There is a lot of fun fluff in the sourcebooks, though. Many are positively crammed with great ideas or alluring bits of lore although I personally feel that the more magical the Realms have become through editions, the less magical it actually feels.
The Ed Greenwood-penned material, particularly the Volo's Guides, are very entertaining and help scratch that elusive itch.
While I think that the Realms in one way is a bit too "cartoony" there's something about it that keeps me coming back. (snip)
The Volo's Guides are simply brilliant. I have gotten a new appreciation for them as a result of using them to flesh out my 4E version of the Realms. At a glance it's easy to think they're just recipes and other useless tidbits... and then you dig in and realise how full they are with adventure hooks. I wish Ed had been able to write more.

I made the mistake 20 (25?) or more years ago of buying and reading lots of the novels and that is time I will never get back. So much of it is just poorly-written generic fantasy with the FR brand slapped on the cover and a few token nods in FR's direction (this is particularly the case with the early stuff). But then...

From what I remember, the novels by Elaine Cunningham are pretty good. Ignore the rest. (snip)
... Elaine Cunningham came along and made an effort to write well and to write Realms-ly, much as Jürgen Hubert implies. Paul Kemp also came along at an important time and proved that FR novels didn't have to be Salvatorean trash. Rich Baker is another who did a good job with the ones he wrote; he was certainly infinitely better than his erstwhile colleague Bruce Cordell who named his monk protagonist Kane (which is much the same as choosing the name Gandalf for a wizard).

(word) The novels by Ed Greenwood are especially bad, which is astounding when you consider that his setting writing is generally excellent.
This is also what surprises me. I love Ed's work beginning with his early articles in Dragon/The Dragon that hinted at the existence of the Realms and, of course, the Old Grey Box and some of the other Ed-penned products particularly of the 1E and 2E eras. But why, oh why, does he reduce his novels into a single style: fast-paced fantasy "romps" - "romps" is a term he often uses - that lack clarity and need a heavy-handed editor to sharpen into something worth reading. That said, his descriptions of the Realms are fantastic... but it's the pacing and manifold confusing plots that make his work difficult to read.

And the less said about R A Salvatore the better. How he remains popular with his penchant for seriously stupid names and dialogue that is so ridiculous that even George Lucas would have thought twice about using it in the prequel trilogy is beyond me. I don't even consider him a Realms author as his vision for FR simply isn't reflected in FR products except when his effluent breaks through the sewer pipes and enters an FR sourcebook. And you can tell if it was from one of his books because it doesn't feel like it belongs in FR....
 

gourdcaptain

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I may not be the biggest Realms fan, but I do love some of the stuff in it, especially Al-Quadim. Great subsetting.
 

Stacie.Winters1

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I am starting to like the Realms again. :)

I once started a game for some people and set it in Shadowdale and then had a meteor comet fall out of the sky and strike Elminster in the head and blew up his home. Only one person the group was amused. :)

That was so many years ago.
 

Nerag

Cat Fragment
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Interestingly the Forgotten Realms works reasonably well as a post apocalyptic setting. I'm running a long winter version of FR and I don't have to alter the adventures much... isolated villages, ruins everywhere and the local beasts still want to eat you.
 

Lauren

Social Justice Druid
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Y'all are making me miss the FR game I was GMing a while back. I think we only got through three sessions before the mechanics of getting everyone together in the one place fell apart, but it was set in Waterdeep and I had big plans involving Stormwrack.
 

Scrivener of Doom

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Interestingly the Forgotten Realms works reasonably well as a post apocalyptic setting. I'm running a long winter version of FR and I don't have to alter the adventures much... isolated villages, ruins everywhere and the local beasts still want to eat you.
This also provides a handy segue into why I have grown to like the 4E Realms with its post-apocalyptic feel.

And there are even more ruins now than before the Spellplague! :)
 

Akrasia

Lord of Procrastination
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...Paul Kemp also came along at an important time and proved that FR novels didn't have to be ... trash.
I highly recommend Paul Kemp's Erevis Cale novels. They are quite dark, far darker than I ever would have expected FR novels to be, but at times funny as well.

Kemp's novels are sort of like Joe Abercrombie's version of the Realms.
 
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