If you love the Forgotten Realms — or should I say, if you love to tinker with the Forgotten Realms — then Fourth Edition presents a rare opportunity.
I recommend that DM’s running 4E games take a crack at revising their Realms before the official update, which presumably will advance the timeline and explain the evolution from 3E to 4E magic systems, is published in August.
Why? Here’s a chance to put your own stamp on this storied world.
Even if you are a DM who relies the Realms and its innumerable supplements for its completeness and continuity — which is an admirable approach to gaming in itself — there’s something to be said for not waiting.
Advance the Roll of Years on your own terms
Potentially, the artificial timeline Wizards of the Coast may impose on the Realms could be a game-breaker for your gaming group’s sense of continuity. Why take that chance? By choosing the passage of time yourself, you can better gauge how 4E Realms should fit with the story you and your players have created.
The AD&D and 3E adventures your group has had is now part of the “past” of your 4E game — an official product can’t account for that. Established home games have such an advantage in this regard. I guarantee, your own history of great deeds is every bit as rich and varied as anything the professional designers will envision.
Dragnet approach: Only the names have been changed
Less about protecting the innocent, but more to reflect how time changes all things — even names. Just as Londoninium becomes London or St. Petersburg becomes Petrograd and Leningrad (and back to St. Petersburg, again), so to can changing or altering a few names to reflect corrupted pronounciation or political whims drive home the point that time has elapsed. Perhaps Silverymoon has become Fortress Silvenmon or Sembia is now the Semben Republic. Have some fun stirring things up, then come up with interesting backstories for how those place names became altered.
Keep what you love — discard the rest
Anything about the published Realms bothers you, cause problems in your campaign’s structure, or possibly comes across as offensive? There’s never been a better chance to excise those little nuisances than right now.
What about the Harpers? We don’t have any more bards
No one laments the loss of bards as a core playing class more than me. In the interim, I’d say use the Warlord or Wizard classes to represent bards, and whenever the PC or NPC of that class uses any of their powers, say she’s playing an instrument or singing (instead of barking orders or casting a spell). It’s not perfect, but … if you love the Harpers, it might be the only way.
The key thing is to take advantage of this opportunity. Just about every Forgotten Realms product I’ve ever seen extols DMs to make the setting their own — by adding or deleting as they see fit. Well, any DM who’s been reticent to take that plunge has the perfect reason now to go for it.