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Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms
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Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms

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The Forgotten Realms is the most successful and widely known Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting ever created, and it owes its existence to creator Ed Greenwood.

This 160-page book describes the campaign setting as it lives and breathes in the imagination of its creator. Through the alter ego of Elminster, Archmage of Shadowdale, Ed Greenwood presents the Realms as a setting where companies of crazed adventurers are born and have rich lives, and where they get to call the shots. In this book, Ed presents a world where friendships are forged, endless intrigues unfold, and heroes wage war against the monstrous inhabitants of famous dungeons and untamed wildernesses.

Product History

Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms (2012) is an edition-neutral sourcebook for the Forgotten Realms. It was published in October 2012.

Farewell to 4e. (Take Two.) Two months before the release of Elminster's Forgotten Realms, Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue (2012),
appeared as an edition-neutral sourcebook, marking the end of the D&D 4e era (2008-2012). This was a trend that Wizards had also following during the transition between D&D 3e and 4e (2007-2008); it was intended to keep supplements relevant even past the lifespan of a game edition.

Now, Elminster's Forgotten Realms put the final nail in 4e's coffin: not only was it another edition-neutral book, but it was also the first book to do away with the D&D 4e trade dress. Its cover and interior instaed mixed elegant blacks with constrained parchments — a big change from the brighter colors and plainer whites used during the D&D 4e era.

Returning to the Realms. Elminster's Forgotten Realms was also the harbinger of another major change: a return to the Forgotten Realms. During the 4e era, Wizards' production plans called for the publication of just three books for each setting, after which the company would move on to a new world in the next year. The Forgotten Realms got its spotlight in 2008, and for a few years after that, the only support for the setting came from organized play programs like Living Forgotten Realms (2008-Present) and D&D Encounters (2010-Present).

D&D Insider offered a little support for the Realms with the advent of Ed Greenwood's "Eye on the Realms" column in Dungeon #172 (December 2009), but Wizards didn't publish any more mass-market book until almost the end of the 4e product line, when Neverwinter Campaign Setting (2011) and Halls of Undermountain (2012) appeared. Five Realms RPG books produced over five years was a historic low that had never been seen before. It was a total that was matched by any one or two years of Realms publication from 1987-2007. But now, that nadir was finally ending.

The inflection point came with the publication of the editionless Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue and Elminster's Forgotten Realms. A year later, when Wizards started publishing new mass-market RPG books again, the Realms would once more be at the heart of the game. From summer 2013 to the end of 2015, Wizards has published another seven mass-market Realms adventures plus one sourcebook. They've also produced three mass-market Realms PDFs, including two more adventures and one mini-sourcebook.

Origins. Wizards had a simple concept for Elminster's Forgotten Realms: get Realms creator Ed Greenwood back in the game. They wrote:

"We basically went to Ed and said hey, why don't you take all your campaign notes, all the information you've been putting together for your FR campaign and let's compile it into a book. Show us the Realms as you've developed it in your campaign setting and let's get that to everybody. It's our celebration of the Forgotten Realms and pulling back the curtain to show you what the designer of the campaign setting has done."

Unearthing the History of the Realms. When Greenwood handed the Realms over to developer Jeff Grubb and TSR in the '80s, he sent them numerous packets of Realmslore material that detailed the world. Elminster's Forgotten Realms for the first time ever reprints about 30 pages of those notes, making it a crucial historical reference for fans of the setting.

The earliest packets date back to 1986 and are each labeled "An [Xth] Look at the Realms". They're type-written and sometimes illustrated. Though the first packet was "just" 15 pages, longer 40-60 page packets followed. Each week, Grubb would ask Greenwood to detail something, and he would, sending out the response by snail mail. Of the "looks" excerpted in Elminster's Forgotten Realms, the 7th is the longest, listing a count of 205 pages!

The details depicted in these brief excerpts are amazing. One packet includes a person-by-person census of Shadowdale. Another responds to a potential cover for the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987) with hand-drawings of "Robin Hoody" Realms costumes that moved away from the near-naked swords & sorcery conceptions of fantasy that had been popular in the '60s ad '70s. With so much detail, it's no wonder that TSR decided to publish a whole setting — and it's no wonder that it quickly became TSR's most deeply and most supplemented world!

Exploring the Realms. Prior to the publication of Elminster's Forgotten Realms, TSR and Wizards had published four major Forgotten Realms references: the 1e Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987), the 2e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1993), the 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001), and the 4e Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008). They were each major overviews of the Realms … and totally unlike this new reference.

If Elminster's Forgotten Realms has any predecessor, it's Ed Greenwood's own series of Volo Guides (1992-1996, 2000). Like those books, this one is all about the details of the Forgotten Realms: the small-picture Realmslore rather than the big descriptions. It's about how people live their lives, not where political boundaries are drawn. It's entirely fluff, but richly detailed fluff.

The details of Elminster's Forgotten Realms are divided into six major parts: life in the realms; laws and orders; hearth and home; money matters; gods and followers; and the art (i.e., magic). Even sections that seem like typical gaming fare aren't. Thus, the section on gods doesn't just talk about the deities that people worship, but also why the people of the Realms tolerate evil churches and how temples raise funds.

The setting of Elminster's Forgotten Realms was somewhat surprising for fans. It's largely focused on life in the 1350s, before any of the changes brought on by the D&D game. Sentences here and there touch upon events as late as the 1400s, but they're mostly asides and additions, not the core of the content. Some fans thought this might herald an upcoming reboot to do away with the changes implemented by D&D 4e, but D&D 5e (2014) continued right on with the Realms' metaplot chronology — albeit while reversing some of D&D 4e's major effects.

About the Creators. Greenwood is of course the creator of the Forgotten Realms. Following his work on the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008), he'd largely stepped away from RPG work on the Realms during the 4e era, so this marked a major return.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (3)
Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Brian R October 04, 2018 2:32 am UTC
It's great to know that this is POD. If I already didn't own this, I'd grab it from here. Besides an insight into Ed's original vision, it's a great resource for almost any era of the Realms!
Customer avatar
Icculus P October 24, 2017 8:46 am UTC
"The setting of Elminster's Forgotten Realms was somewhat surprising for fans. It's largely focused on life in the 1350s, before any of the changes brought on by the D&D game. Sentences here and there touch upon events as late as the 1400s, but they're mostly asides and additions, not the core of the content."
sounds perfect for my purposes: recollecting everything from 3.5 and earlier, since i held on to almost nothing after originally purchasing retail first-release copies of all published FR material from 1e and most of 2e. (i blame White Wolf for the subsequent massive diversion, but not for my loss of TSR/WotC materials.)
Customer avatar
Icculus P October 24, 2017 8:37 am UTC
"One packet includes a person-by-person census of Shadowdale"

this was included in the 1e FR campaign setting (or at least all of their names were).
Customer avatar
Andrew G May 05, 2016 5:44 pm UTC
Read the main description and ignore the Rule System(s) part from the Product Information section. There is no real 4e content here (if anything it seems specifically like a non-4e book).
Customer avatar
Jeremy M October 24, 2016 10:40 pm UTC
and thats bad because?
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This title was added to our catalog on November 24, 2015.