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Troy’s Crock Pot: Realms as a freebie

What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Beaten to the punch

Before the last of my Remaking the Realms posts hit the Stew Pot, those crafty Wizards of the Coast dropped a freebie excerpt on us. We now have the “official” description of the Silver Marches, as it will be detailed in the upcoming Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting

What’s in a name?

The Silver Marches are now called Luruar, a name that rolls trippingly off gnome tongues, to be sure. The heir of Silverymoon is Alustriel’s son Methrammar Aerasume (whose last ‘e’ in his name has an accent mark — an accent mark?!?). And what was once the separate woods of Moonwood, Druarwood, Cold Wood and Night Trees is now a single green expanse called the Glimmerwood.

Well, at least I can pronounce “Glimmerwood.”

Seeing Green

I like the creative decision to expand the northern forests. It’s a logical expression of the Points of Light concept, that the forests of the North have grown wilder during the retreat of civilization. 

But here’s a cautionary note for DMs. I imagine the original designers of the Forgotten Realms created each woodland to be distinct for a reason: so it was easy for DMs to pair each adventure locale with specific monsters and to design each wilderness adventure around a specific theme. The Moonwood being the home of the lycanthropes and the Cold Wood home to the Uthgardt tribesmen, for example. Does blurring those boundaries make it more difficult for DMs to design their adventures, or does it actually provide more freedom? Time will tell.

Also to consider: With the High Forest already occupying the southern edge of the region, do DMs really need another vast forest for wilderness adventures? Has any variety and flavor been lost by this decision to go green?

Lady Alustriel’s fate

The official timeline has Alustriel survive the spellplague and pass leadership of Silverymoon to her son before her eventual passing. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Realms as a freebie"

#1 Comment By tman On August 14, 2008 @ 7:27 am

I wondered what you’d think of the ‘official’ writeup. It looks like WotC has embraced your ideas! 🙂

1) Dwarven kingdoms have withdrawn from human affairs.
2) Alustriel is no longer in the picture either politically or as an NPC. I think your idea of a human lord trying to grab & hold power still works here.
3) The 3rd Ed. FRCS talked about the High Forest expanding to merge with other nearby woods. I guess they just carried that idea further.
4) I would think the combination of three wooded areas wouldn’t be too much trouble. Area 1 is dominated by these opponents, Area 2 by those opponents and Area 3 by this opponent. No, there are no distinct lines to separate them. Yes, you can go in, but be careful!
5) The High forest was a very different place than the northern woods ever were. It was a pleasant place with pockets of unpleasant ruins, etc. and you had to make nice with the ancient treant. The four area now combined into the Glimmerwood were not nice places.

Seems like your writeup and the official one are working hand-in-hand to me!

#2 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 14, 2008 @ 10:04 am

Well, I don’t know about “embrace.” I’m sure Wotc had the Realms book in the can and at the printer before I ever wrote word one. But, yes, there certainly are similarities.

Strange as it seems, I’m a little put off by the changed place names, not only for the Silver Marches, but for other places that have been previewed so far.

I know that I even advocated that tactic to DMs as a means to “make the Realms their own,” but I didn’t really expect it from Wizards — which tends to be very guarded in those sorts of changes.

Is it a good thing? Probably overall. I think die-hard Realms fans will be disappointed.

I think the thing is that the changes don’t reflect my “taste” in fantasy names. I prefer a certain rhythm and sound — which is highly subjective, I know. What works for me? Hard to say. I just know that Luruar ain’t it.

I guess I’m curious to know if anyone else has tried tinkering with the Realms. What changes have you introduced to make your Realms distinct?

#3 Comment By tman On August 14, 2008 @ 10:45 am

Yeah, obviously, WOTC had their stuff written some time ago. But interesting that the details were pretty similar. I’ve gotten the feeling all along that the Realms are going to change pretty drastically with the Spellplague. It seems like they want to give DMs and players more freedom to play and ‘change the world’ through adventure.

My advantage is that my players don’t know all the Realms lore and novels (nor do I). It’s just a sourcebook that gives us a greatly detailed world to play in.

My last campaign was based in the Silver Marches. Long story cut short, my players retook out Citadel Ascore (near the great desert) so Citadel Adbar could resettle it. The Vordrorn forest harbored a great threat to Ascore, so that got cleared out. A bunch of prophesies of Moradin and some good backstory (usually done through email so we have more time for RP and combat at the table) established how this was largely foretold and that the PCs were heroes of legend, etc. One PC became the governor of the new Ascore colony and everyone became Barons of the Silver Marches

Not a huge ball of changes I know. I pretty much played the setting as it was written and ran with it.

#4 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 14, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

Tman: I think what you did with your Marches campaign sounds great. Prophesies. Backstory. I’m sure that’s all good stuff that kept your players engaged and eager to forge their own futures in the North — and they did!

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 14, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

“WotC book in the can” Thanks for the imagery. 😉

I would agree that the changes you made and the changes WotC made are very similar. I’d further state that they’ve both pretty necessary for the game to remain a “fight monsters and bad guys” game, and not a “let’s help manage the trade agreements” game. I’ve always wondered how established and settled countries could have so many top-level predators around.

(I know, Silverymoon was somewhat of a frontier already, and I’m bringing science to the table, but there’s no reason to blur the lines when the lines were drawn in the wrong place the first time. In other words, if you operate in a frontier, you don’t have to explain why there are so many monsters around.)

#6 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 14, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

“The Trade Agreements Game”

Yeah. I think it’s always been clear that one of Ed Greenwood’s influences on the setting has been this (over?) emphasis on the economics of the world — which may make sense for his home game — but which seem to intrude on a classic “kill monsters, take their treasure, let’s level up” approach that is at the core of what D&D is.

One of the things I’m not seeing in the FR previews is the rippling effects of the spellplague. In my thought process, having the Moonbridge fall was consistent with the damage wrought by the spellplague. But the freebie indicates the Moonbridge remained in tact. I guess, I’m wondering if the spellplague was really as devastating as we were led to believe, or whether many of the changes in the setting are independent of that event, and are simply changes that were made for creative or strategic reasons.

#7 Comment By tman On August 15, 2008 @ 6:48 am

WOTC made mention early on that many magic items would continue to work because the process of making them ‘loaded’ them with the magic they needed to function. But making more of that same item would fail because it’s no longer possible to access magic the same way. Similarly, mithals and such would survive intact. Charged items like wands and staves would become useless.

See: [1] and look for the heading “Effect on Items”.

This same article mentions that many of the horrific changes to geography did not take place in the north or Sword Coast.

“The plague raged on and on in ever-widening spirals, leaving some places completely untouched (such as many northern lands of Faerûn, including Cormyr and the Swordcoast), and radically altering others (such as Muhorand, Unther, and points south).”

So, I think the area we’re talking about was specifically spared the widespread destruction. Probably because in plot terms, it didn’t need a tremendous amount of ‘reset’ to adapt it to the points of light idea. Heck, part of the appeal of Silver Marches was that their lights were just starting to burn bright in the first place and there’s plenty of dark to beat back.

Just my $0.05 (adjusted for high gas prices).

#8 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 15, 2008 @ 7:09 am

Thanks for pointing that out Tman. I find Wotc’s official description of the spellplague to be … well … a tad lacking. On one hand it was really, really devastating, but on the other, there was no affect. Continents can change, but your +1 sword didn’t? You see what I mean? It’s inconsistent on what should be a key story point.

#9 Comment By tman On August 15, 2008 @ 7:51 am

Oh sure. There are lots of niggling details that don’t really make sense. Just where did residuum come from? How come nobody ever noticed it before? Is it basically ‘Weave dust’? 🙂

OTOH, a +1 sword is still a +1 sword in 4th ed., so does it need changing?

And as mentioned in this podcast, it has really given the Realms authors some freedom to tell some interesting stories: [2]
[Man, I’m really becoming a Link Gnome this morning! 🙂 ]
Much like the old Thieves World shared setting, it’s a place to set interesting stories. So, let’s make for some interesting times.

I was planning on setting my next campaign in Vilhon Reach, city of Arrabar. But rereading the spellplague link I used last post, it may or may not be a viable location – it seems like it was one of the ‘ground zero’ sites. OTOH, it may be fabulous – it seems like it was one of the ‘ground zero’ sites! 😛

After a point, you just have to click your heels together and go forward. You can always tell your players that your campaign does not and will not match canon – it’s a gonna be like this! You’ve got great ideas and the game will be lots of fun – that’s the whole objective.

I think WOTC is doing the best they can with the lore/setting to try and make it match the game mechanics.

#10 Comment By tman On August 19, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

So, I stopped by my FLGS today after work and took a look at the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

I was *completely* underwhelmed.

They have indeed taken out a lot of the historical weight of the whole setting in favor of just giving you a setting with some bare bones to play in. In fact, they took so much out, that every nation state got no more than two pages and in some cases only one page to 1) describe it, 2) include a small map, 3) detail up to three towns for two paragraphs each.

The preview of Luruar on WotC’s web page – that’s the entire entry for that nation. The map included in the entry showed no more than the full continent map included.

I just picked up my 3rd Ed FRCS – the Silver Marches got 4.5 pages of text and a full page map. There was more text on one full page as the entire entry in the new setting. The full page map covered a huge amount of territory in *much* greater detail than the full continent map, so it was really useful.

There are some magic items, new monsters and a section about organized threats to the realm. In some cases, one organization got more verbiage than some of the nations.

I mentioned earlier that I was thinking of setting my next campaign in Vilhon Reach/Chondath. It got exactly one page in the new book. I could practically recreate the entry from memory.

It seems to me that you’d almost have to have the 3rd Ed. version to have a complete setting! I was very unimpressed and I don’t feel it’s got enough meat in it to warrant $40, so I didn’t buy it.

Troy, have you gotten a chance to look it over?

#11 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 19, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

TMan – The level of detail in the 3.x setting is my primary complaint about FR. There’s so much information at such a granular level that it’s difficult to shoehorn anything into the setting without having to rewrite swaths of material. Even minor changes require checking with multiple books to make sure you haven’t broken anything.

This is why I run Greyhawk – I can easily make it my own.

I’m sure that there are plenty of opinions on this, but I’m apparently not alone in mine. At Gen Con a few years back, I made a request at the Eberron seminar that plenty of ‘grey area’ be left in the setting. The request got a standing ovation and left the developers passing nervous looks at each other… 😉

#12 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 20, 2008 @ 1:34 am

Not yet seen the new FR, I spent the last weekend camping with my family (I know, I know, I missed Gen Con again, this year).

Tman: A thinner FR? Your reading confirmed what I sensed about it. I’m not surprised, really. And frankly, the 3.0 version of the setting is really the gold standard. It not only is packed with good setting stuff, I think time will prove it stands up extremely well.

Telas: Yours is the same reason I decided to set my ongoing Age of Worms campaign in Greyhawk, rather than FR or Eberron. Conversions? I make my own conversions in Greyhawk, not the other way around. 🙂

#13 Comment By Bookkeeper On August 20, 2008 @ 3:58 am

I found the new Marches write-up to be an interesting place, but, in the process of ditching those elements of the story that would run up against the 4e feel, they’ve also dumped a lot of the older edition’s thematic elements for Luruar.

I agree with your response regarding the Trade Agreements game, but my most recent FR campaign also hits a snag, one mitigated by the fact that all of this is 100 years in the future, but a snag just the same – A trio of dwarves dedicated to finding and resettling the lost territories in the marches, including Gauntlgrym. With the dwarves kind of out of the picture, Dwarven PCs have some thinking to do.

While I agree that some of the FR material did not support a classic “kill the monsters and take their stuff” D&D campaign, there was a lot of good material to support a campaign that switched back and forth – most prominently (in my hapless little brain) Dynasties & Demagogues, which created systems for political intrigue to net you XP in the same fashion as hacking your way through a dungeon. Still, WotC made their choice; I just wish they hadn’t gone cutting off the other options for those of us who liked them.

#14 Comment By tman On August 20, 2008 @ 8:01 am

Telas/Troy: I can certainly understand that idea and agree with leaving ‘open places’ in any campaign setting. And Vilhon Reach was going to be that spot for me – it had some framework but not very much detail. But what we got here was so bare bones that it felt more like an outline for the real book.

If the pricetag had said $15, it might be something I’d grab. The new map looked pretty good. But at $40, there’s just not enough in it. As it is now, I’ll just take some of the ideas and update it on my own – I think I can come up with something just as interesting.

Bookkeeper: You definitely need not get the new book. The 3rd Ed book had enough info about the old dwarven empires in the Silver Marches to go to town with. If you want even more, look up a copy of ‘Lost Empires of Faerun’ and it will give you more good background ideas.

#15 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On August 20, 2008 @ 8:05 am

Tman: I’d love for you share some of those ideas you have for the Vilhon Reach. It certainly is the kind of place you can carve out something of your own.

#16 Comment By tman On August 20, 2008 @ 8:13 am

I’ll start whittling then! 😛