on June 12, 2001
I've been using the FR setting in my games for years now, and I gotta tell ya, this time around the WotC folks have really outdone themselves. The book is a wonderful example of what a fantasy setting can become - a map, a ton of ideas, and a framework to hold them together.
The FRCS gives you the nuts and bolts of running a realms campaign, (geography, weather, races, cultures, calendars, alphabets and languages) and then proceeds to give you a meltdown-inducing amount of adventure ideas. Add to that the Realms sourcebook gives you a host of new rules (what gaming product can resist?) for new magic, new feats (based on a characters origin-nice), new races, new organizations, and my personal favorite: new prestige classes. I'm sorry, but if you can read the description of the Archmage prestige class without salivating, you simply aren't RPG material. The new Archmage is devastatingly stylish, well conceived and (of course) frighteningly powerful. Archmages gain access to extremely powerful abilities called High Arcana in exchange for sacrificing spell slots (nice idea, that). So an Archmage can permanently give up a ninth level spell slot in exchange for the ability to cast any spell they have memorized as an energy bolt doing d6 per spell level + d6 per level of Archmage. (e.g. 4th level Archmage converts a level 4 spell into energy that does 8d6 damage as a ranged touch attack-no save).
Rules to govern the Realms peculiar framework for magic, "the weave," are included. At first, they seem a little over-stylized, but they give the Realms another opportunity for role-playing flair, and provide an "in-game" way to describe magic and its effects. I particularly like the rules for the "shadow weave" as they offer numerous possibilities for villains and adventures.
The new map for the realms has been altered slightly (to maximize the use of the map surface) and the artwork has really been stepped up. It's a marvelous and inspiring map, and I'm hoping that WotC will feel compelled to sell it as a rolled up (fold-free) poster.
The amount of information on locales and personalities comes across like an all out assault on your faculties. There are hundreds upon hundreds of ideas, introductions, and other "mental fertilizer" for DMs of all persuasions. The individual entries are not very long, but you will find working knowledge and pointers on where to take a given setting for practically everything in Faerûn with a name. It is intended to serve as a jumping off point, and in this it succeeds brilliantly.
Non-player characters are placed throughout the sourcebook as examples of members of organizations, new races, or prestige classes. Examples are by far the best way to get this kind of multi-faceted information across quickly. The stats for Drizzt-Do'Urden are presented to illustrate the rules for the Drow as a player race, the new regional feat rules, and to give you an opportunity to use him as an NPC. The Realms setting often takes some heat for having powerful NPCs, and while this incarnation has its share of dangerous characters- the product doesn't suffer because of it. The NPCs exist in the sourcebook as ideas for the DM, and campaigns that would be disrupted by the presence of NPCs like Elminster should simply keep them far away from their gaming table.
Anyone who enjoyed the Realms before will want to have this book as part of their gaming library. Players new to the setting will find a world that is ready for whatever they want to throw at it. For DMs, the amount of information in this book and the amazing level of detail is inspiring (You want to know what the trade patterns are between Thay and its neighbors? Check.) Anything in this book can be used to start an adventure, which of course is the point.
If you're serious about your campaign-settings, buy one from folks who clearly take theirs seriously. The Forgotten Realms was always popular, but this product all but establishes itself as the gold standard of fantasy RPG worlds.
on June 7, 2001
I have to admit I was hesitant to shell out the 40 dollars for this book, as I don't really even like Forgotten Realms all that much. However, upon opening the cover of this tome I found a wonderful collection of added game material for any games and world material for Faerun.
I divide this book into two halves really, the general section and the Faerun section. The first half is a general section where races, prestige classes, feats, and spells specific to forgotten realms are found. All of these could easily be used in other campaigns. The character region system actually adds a lot of personality to various regions of the realm and once again can be converted for other worlds. New races include Planetouched Genasi, Aasimar, and Tieflings while all the old races return with some unusual new sub-races. Over 50 new feats grace this book and several new cleric domains and spells of all sorts can be found in here. Finally, a few new monsters can be found towards the rear of the book, including the dreaded Dracolich template.
The next section of the book is largely dominated by geography of Faerun. However this is pretty in-depth and actually provides a great deal of information and even a few plot points are thrown in. Also in the last section of the book the gods are explained and there are a whole bunch of dieties. My main complaint here is that they only described a few of them in depth, the rest appear as names on a chart. Now of course there are a few specifics that can be found in the realms, from NPC's to such powers as spellfire, and all of them can be found in this book. Although some more notable NPC's are nowhere to be seen, but all the biggies are there (Elminster, the seven sisters, Szess Tam, etc).
The book itself is wonderful. I'm glad to see the demise of the box set as hardcover books have a longer life time then the little softcovers they put in the boxes. The art inside is on par and in some cases better then the core rulebooks and so far I haven't found many errors within. The prestige classes and races are neat and interesting for the most part and the new feats are wonderful. The gem of this book in my opinion however is the region system. By picking a region your character originates from you gain access to feats and equipment from those areas. This adds an indescribable amount of personalization to any game world as people from each region will differ.
On the downside the book is overly expensive. While it has 80 pages more than the DMG it costs as much as 2 of them at 40 dollars. Also they do not go into enough depth with the dieties. of the 100+ dieties they describe only about 30 of them in any detail. How am I supposed to know if I want to worship the Red Knight based on his stats in a chart??? I would highly suggest this book for anyone who plans on adventuring in Faerun or who would take the time to customize the neat stuff in here for their own realms. If you don't have the drive to do that or you aren't gaming in Faerun, the price tag would seem a bit high to pick this one up. If it weren't for that darned price tag I'd say this book would be on par with the psionics handbook and players handbook even if it is realm specific!!!
on September 10, 2004
Forgotten Realms is the flagship setting for Dungeons & Dragons, and until the retooling for third edition I never paid it much attention. The group I was playing in was using a few things from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (FRCS) and I decided to pick it up after a brief thumbing through of my DM's copy. There are a number of things I liked about the book, but also I came away with a few things that I really did not like. The parts I enjoyed were the character building and options to be applied to other settings. The part I did not enjoy as much was the Forgotten Realms setting itself.
For the open minded: I hope to present a fair review
For Forgotten Realms fans: buckle up it might be a bumpy ride
Forgotten Realms applies the D20 RPG engine to a setting the best of any setting I have read thus far. The races are fleshed out well and their existence in the world is well thought out (though perhaps a slight nod of the hat to JRR Tolkien, but isn't that pretty much every FRPG?). There are some races that are more powerful, which include Drow, Plane Touched, Aasimar and Tiefling. The more powerful the race (e.g. those previously listed) incur a penalty to experience, so they start out as first level but might be considered a level or two higher for determining advancement. I thought it was a great mechanic to balance out these races with the regular races. I am not convinced that the writers did much to balance out the costs for these races in regards to their benefits. After playing with an Aasimar PC in my previous D&D group, this basically seemed to work out alright as the level adjustment was only 1 more than the rest of us (3 humans and 1 elf).
The prestige classes are a good combination of generic and FRCS specific. The magic oriented ones are what I liked, while I thought the more martial or rogue oriented ones were neglected in both quality and quantity. One harper class is thrown into this section, the harper scout. While the harpers are a great plot hook and it is good to see a prestige class for PC's interested in them to play, it is a broken class. It is very much oriented towards bard or rogues but offers a bunch of low level abilities that likely don't have as good of a payoff for a PC as compared to them sticking with their original class. Mostly this applies to the bard class, which as a jack-of-all-trades class takes a while to build up to a potent character. Side tracking to a harper scout I think pushes them even further behind the power curve.
The feats selections are great. I think the selections in FRCS combined with the 3.0 rules are a genuinely complete set for virtually any PC. The one wonky bit is regional feats, which is written in such a vague manner I am not sure how exactly that works out. My impression after several rereads is those feats are only available to people from that region who are of the preferred class of said region. If you are from there and not of that class; no dice. I would have rather seen regional feats as a free feat anyone from the region can take. Most of them are not all that potent.
Much of the FRCS book is dedicated to the setting. There is a great deal of stuff to chew on, but like a bad piece of meat it feels like there is more gristle than stuff I really could swallow. Most of FRCS apes feudal Western Europe, though I admit it does encompass a great many different government types: large kingdoms, states, principalities, city states, etc. Unfortunately while it tries to emulate Western Europe it sort of sloppily welds on the standard fantasy fare FRCS has built up over the years. I felt there was a large disconnect between the various elements of the setting.
There is much potential there but even this edition does not seem to tap it. I particularly like the Red Wizards, but there are a number of other groups and hooks that could be interesting. Tied to each section are usually an influential NPC, which is a good effort to make the areas more personalized. This turns out to be mostly a waste of space and I would have rather seen a couple of things added for each region's section. Firstly I would have liked to have seen a detailed map for each region or country. While there are maps interspersed in the setting section, they cover too much of an area and are too few. Aside from that, more verbiage on the areas would have been good too.
Each region has a fair number of pages dedicated to it, inside each section are the various countries. FRCS is a large setting, but this is only really noticeable when you fold out the spiffy map inside the back cover. The descriptions and such don't seem to bind the reader to this fact. From the perspective of descriptions, each region has a fair amount of material dedicated to it. The writers did make an effort to describe how regions and countries interact, and I think it would have been better to have lots of small maps for each country or region (rather than a few big ones). It would have tied the text to the setting a bit better. The quality of the text varies, but it does give enough for a DM to get an idea of what the area is like and apply that for a campaign.
There could have been more and editing out the mostly useless NPC's would have been a great way to add more. This leads to my biggest gripe about FRCS and that is the NPC's and specifically one, Elminster. For those of you not in the know, he is an uber-powerful epic/godlike NPC that represents the good interests of FRCS. Why bother giving him stats, skills, spells and levels there is apparently nothing he can't do expertly? He is the worst combination of aping Gandalf from LoTR and presumably Ed Greenwood inserting himself into the setting. While it is great to pay respects to a great work of literature it seems like too much of a fabrication. Self insertion (presumed) into any work is just lame no matter how well intentioned.
The deities of Forgotten Realms are satisfactory. Each has a snippet of verbiage to flesh out their beliefs, followers and goals. I think there is perhaps too many deities though. I would have rather had more detailed interplay and fleshed out pantheons rather than what feels like many duplicated gods. There is an effort to tie the gods into the setting as well from a cultures interaction and that not all cultures in FRCS worship in the divine in the same way. Both of which are good concepts.
Wedged into the meaty pages are chapters covering new equipment, trade, magic, clerical domains, sample adventures, groups, DM rules and a timeline. Most of these are sort of window dressing, but they do add to the setting even if the pages count on some are very tiny. I would have liked to have seen much more information written about the trade aspects of FRCS. That would have done much to tie the regions together. The timeline is problematic in that it is really detailed with thousands of years of history that really is not applicable or readable. FRCS does not have a monopoly on this however as Shadow World has hundreds of thousands of years of similar material that only seems to be an awkward way of saying; look how much history this campaign setting has!
Like any flagship product from Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) the layout design and art is top notch. The cover is reminiscent of other WOTC books, it is a faux old tome but much less gaudy then the others. The interior art is a mix of artists and does a good job of visually presenting the FRCS setting. The maps inside are well done, but as I have said a couple of times; there should have been more. Inside the back cover is a very lush fold out map of Forgotten Realms. The layout is well done and because there is a great deal of information presented (regardless of the quality at times) and edited very well.
Probably for fans of Forgotten Realms, this setting book offers a lot. In comparison to other similarly sized settings for D20 that I am familiar with (specifically Kingdoms of Kalamar) it is better written and offers much more to the aspiring GM looking for a prefab setting. For those not familiar with the Forgotten Realms setting (as I was before picking this latest edition up), it works well enough as a setting or simply for ideas and tools for your own. The character oriented material is top notch and can be used is almost any D20 setting. Also the presentation of FRCS is exactly what should be expected for a flagship product.
Forgotten Realms Campaign setting is not perfect either. I think WOTC did some injustice to it by not inserting maps for each region's section. The NPC's are colossally irritating in the case of Elminster or (sans one or two) useless. Some of the fantasy aspects are a bolted on are "and a kitchen sink" additions that do not feel seamless to the setting. Perhaps in other FRCS books this is fleshed out better, but as displayed in the primary book that is how it feels.
I would not dub the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting as an RPG must have for D20 players or those interested in world building exclusively. But for those whose interests lie in both or a DM wants a prefab world that is ready to go this is a good book to pick up.
on June 2, 2001
As someone who was mainly a Greyhawk DM, I've now fallen in love with Forgotten Realsm and have converted, after discussion and agreement with my players, my campaigns to the Forgotten Realms - I've played D&D for over 20 years, starting with Greyhawk.
Wizards of the Coast has updated Faerun with a forward move in the timeline, 1372 DR, so that it synches up with the history of it's novelizations, as well as the fact that we see the rules set updated to the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
One of the most oustanding features of this product is it's scope and depth, both in regional information on nations and city-states and it's history, both of the world and of the individual nations. When looking at any nation, or city-state, we're given plot hooks, populations, resources, and other such information (stats for NPCs) that it gives you a sense of purpose when you're looking through the book with plans and thoughts of campaigns in your head.
We're also given history that references other sections of the book, a detail index promotes this ideal, and shows a solid, constant purpose of the book - the more information given, the more you will want to use it, and the more flavored your game feels.
Also the map of Faerun is given a face life, removing what many have felt of as unused spaces of blank water - as well as other features - and made into a more realistic map that fits on a solid page. This map is used many times internally, especially with a trade map that shows routes, resources, and other items to help flavor a campaign.
The prestige classes, as well as information on high level camapigns gives you something to look forward to when other books are published - D&D Epic Level Handbook, etceteras. Also, with regional feats - something added to 3rd edition for the Realms in specific - also add tot he flavor, taste, of this Campaign Setting.
Rich artwork, loving design, and full color layout makes this book one of the best buys, although at a price that is well worth it.
Overall this book is one of the best books put out by Wizards of the Coast, far surpassing the design and feel of Dark*Matter (for Alternity) and Star Wars (another d20 game).
As a resource for Dungeon Masters and Players alike, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is a good buy for the price, rich in all it's detail, and a lovely book in design and layout.
New to the Realms, or an old hand, the setting is rich, the detail is strong, the history is in depth, the timeline detail, and the feel for adventure is rich.
Do youself a favor, one of the best ones you can do if you're a gamer, and buy this book. You'll like it, love it, and very much you will want more of it!
on August 8, 2001
First of all, This is an EXELLENT BOOK!! It contains Discriptions for races, what realmsfolk think of classes, special multiclassing monks, regional quirks,feats, and skills, 13Prestige classes, Info about the weave,wild magic, dead magic, and spell fire, Secret lore, portals, and Spells(gasp!) Time and seasons, lore of the land, home and hearth, coin and commerce, magic in society, craft and enginieering(gnomes have invented pistols!), 133 pages of geography wich includes,Exploring Faerun, The underdark, Cormyr, A map of Toril, the sea of night, Selune, and the five wanderers, The book has a couple HUNDRED dieties, what happens in the afterlife, Cosmology, The god of the dieties, a complete history of the world from creation to The capaighns beginning, a 3,372 year timeline(wow!), Organizations such as the Cult Of The Dragon and the Harpers, 2 advenures, Rules for proggressing to level 21 and higher, known dungeons, optional rules, guidelines for not having guidelines, Rewards, A few monsters like the DRACOLICH and undead beholder, maps, names, and tables. As you can see, it has a lot of stuff. The problem is, it has a lot of stuff. It sometimes has stuff that is just a referance that you might never use, or stuff that just doesn't really relate to faerun that much, but don't get me wrong, Most of the stuff in there is some of the best information on a campaign world I've ever read, its VERY detailed.
on April 24, 2002
Really, the only book that even comes close is Manual of the Planes. For those who have been playing in 2e Faerun, this book makes pulling together 2e and 3e much easier.
The prestige classes are completely appropriate to the flavor of the Realms, and add a wonderful perspective on the capabilities of prestige classes over what the DMG shows. There is information on requirements to become an Archmage, Rashemen Witch, Divine Champion, etc. Some of the major players in the Realms have their character stats listed. Yes, this includes Elminster and Drizzt, as well as less-well-known people, such as a particular drow who's creating havoc in the Cormanthor Forest (Dalelands).
There is detailed history and geography on each of the major regions. The combination of these two, I found, really helps to describe a distinct 'flavor' to characters. As an example, my players have indicated that they found the differences between the Western Heartlands and the Dragon Coast (adjacent areas) to be akin to the difference between the US Midwest and South, respectively. For those in Europe, this might be similar to the differences between Ireland and England.
There are a considerable number of new feats, spells, and class enhancements to contribute to the FR feel. There are also lists of various plants, gems, and metals with details on their benefits or drawbacks, especially as they relate to magic or item creation. Between this and the descriptions of different 'normal' plants that players might encounter, I found it easier to describe the player's world with a broader brush, so to speak.
One of the nice things contained herein is a list of all the relevent pantheon gods, and their high-level details. Several of the major deities have more detailed information. It would have been nice if more of the deities were explained further, but WotC does offer the rest of FR pantheon as a download from their website for free, so it is still available.
In all, I use the book regularly. In fact, with the exception of only a couple prestige classes, I don't have any need for the Tome and Blood resource book, now that I have this and the Magic of Faerun books.
on September 24, 2001
Since I started playing *D&D and becoming familiar with the various campaign worlds put out by TSR/WotC, I've always found Forgotten Realms to be my least favorite. To me, Greyhawk is rich in originality, and has a good, dark tone that makes a good backdrop for tough adventures. Krynn is by far my favorite, filled with high fantasy and romance, brought to life by some of the best fantasy novels to grace the market. The Realms is something I've always considered a melting pot of stock fantasy backdrops and super-munchkin character concepts (Drizz't, Elminister, etc). This treatment of the Realms, however, has changed my entire opinion of what I now consider to be an exciting and diverse world, full of possibilities. It's still a melting pot, but this book really plays up the diversity and how all of these different elements connect with each other. The geography and culture contained within the book's pages makes the Realm *real*, the regional feats are a great touch, and all the material in the book works great if nothing more as inspiration and ideas to steal for your own campaign world. Though it's expensive, I've found it to be worth every penny. The prestige classes are, in a word, LAME. However, that's to be forgiven since that's become the norm. Everything else is top-shelf. The book is also deceptively big because of the small typeset and the decision to cram as much information as possible into the book.
on May 28, 2002
This book is a must have for all D&D gamers out there, despite the hefty cost. Forgotten Realms players especially need it. Contained within is a wealth of informaiton for 3rd ed D&D. A wide and varying assortment of new spells, feats, magic items, several new Prestige Classes (outstanding variety), descriptions and dogmas of many FR dieties. But the true thing that makes this book irreplaceable is the descriptions of the different lands of Fearun. Complete with populations, geographical makeup, leaders, backround information on powerful people, temples, groups, histories of many areas, and a brief description of what's going on in each area now to give the DM some adventuring hooks for his players. Want some powerful NPCs to either aid or hinder your PCs? Many are outlined here from Dizzt, Elminster and a few of the Seven Sisters to Artimes Entreri and Fzoul. The artwork is simply fantastic. Vivid and detailed each piece in the book describes the characters as I envisioned them (the first decent drawing of Drizzt I have seen as well), though Elminster's beard was a bit short for my liking. Ah well nothing's perfect. Forgotten Realms has always been a mystic and wonderful fantasy world, this book will only enhance your gaming experience. Pick it up, despite the price tag, you will not be sorry.
on July 16, 2001
Let me preface this by saying that, by and large, I am not a fan of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. I find the campaign derivative, unimaginative and self-agrandizing... but WOW...
This is a beautiful package (though the price is a tad high) and contains everything necessary for a beginning group that needs a canned campaign setting. The illustrations are gorgeous and the book is jam packed with excellent examples of how to construct and layout a campaign. There are numerous (easily transportable) prestige classes and dozens of excellent feats that help to convert the concept of 'Feat' into one better described as a 'merit' (to use White Wolf vernacular) or 'Edge' (to do likewise with Deadlands).
The only flaws are the surprising number of grammatical and spelling typos and what feels like a rushed examination of religion (which is presented as key to the campaign). I expect the latter to be addressed in the upcoming Magic of Faerun book.
Finally, the price is STEEP, but, surprisingly, the product is worth it for the versatility it will add to your home brewed campaign or the indespensible value it will prove to your FR campaign.
on July 31, 2001
I figured this would be a 4 star at most, simply because I thought the nature of the book would make it only marginally useful for non-realms campaigns. I was quite happy to discover I was wrong. A great deal of this book is useful in almost any campaign setting. This is due to one main feature of the setting- diversity. I will focus on this aspect in this review, since most reviews already cover how well the book covers the realms
Many of the features of these books can be used in almost any campaign. Feats, Spells, Prestige Classes, Races- all of these can be applied to any campaign with little or no modification. Even the starting packages and regionla feats can easily be applied to custom worlds or other published products- I used the Halruua starting package and regional feats to make an Alphatian wizard for the Mystara setting campaign I was in.
Some of the book is less useful to other campaigns. The geography section was not terribly helpful as it deals specifically with Forgotten Realms history and geography. However, Some ideas can ve gleaned from the detailed descriptions, and this section can be used as inspiration for plots, nations, and events in a home-brew campaign.
If you play FR and want to play third edition, someone in your group (at least the DM) needs to have this book. But even if you play Krynn, Greyhawk, or a home-made world, there is a wealth of info in this book.