Books of Magic: Forgotten Realms Adventures
In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m obsessed with game setting books. Sure, like any role-player I can throw down about the merits of this or that system or edition in general. But I’d much rather throw down about the high and lows of this or that particular world, concept, book, or author.
澳门英皇娱乐Since I’m taking a few days off from monster blogging, I thought I’d highlight some books that I found magical back in the day—and still do when I take them off the shelf today.
Growing up, I was a “basic” Frank Mentzer box set D&D player, because that’s what my friends played and my tiny allowance afforded. My exposure to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came in the pages of Dragon Magazine and from bushels and bushels of Dragonlance novels.
That all changed with the Forgotten Realms’ Avatar Crisis. For the first time, Forgotten Realms novels showed up in my middle school library. For the first time, I got to spend time in an AD&D world that wasn’t marching in the Manichean lockstep of Krynn’s War of the Lance. Better yet, the librarian also accidentally ordered a copy of Forgotten Realm Adventures.
A hardback from the pens of Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb, Forgotten Realms Adventures had the utilitarian goal of updating the Forgotten Realms setting for 2e AD&D. But for me, it was my gateway to the entire Realms—and not sitting on some game store shelf, but right where I could check it out! It wasn’t the box set, so there were plenty of gaps—at the time I was utterly perplexed that there was nothing about this Waterdeep or those Moonshaes I’d heard so much about, and free city-states unattached to any kingdom was a novel concept for me—but I could still sit in the back of the school bus, flip to any random page, and see the Realms unfold in front of me.
Looking back now, almost 25(!) years later, it still holds a lot of that magic. Some of which is of course nostalgia for innovations that were riveting at the time, but which are now old hat. During 1e, Dragon Magazine’s “Forum” column was constantly debating weapon and spell choices for clerics of varying gods; now for the first time, we had specialty priests for more than three dozen Realms deities, as well as four gorgeous, full-color plates illustrating their ceremonial vestments and armor. No longer were illusionists the only specialist wizards; here were abjurers, diviners, and the like, with everything from each school’s typical personality to the color of their robes. And like any treasure table-obsessed middle-schooler, I devoured the pages and pages about gems and their symbolism/significance.
澳门英皇娱乐But the real meat of this book—and why I’m encouraging you to seek it out—is for Chapter 4: “Cities of the Heartlands.” Here 24 of the Realms’ most famous cities were illustrated in two-page spreads, with everything from eye-catching maps (courtesy of Dave “Diesel” LaForce) to descriptions of thieves’ guilds, important mages, sites of worship, friendly inns, and lists of that town’s notable sages and their specialties.
Even with only two pages to work with, Greenwood and Grubb managed to make each city feel like a distinct, unique entity. Each one felt like a place worth exploring and adventuring in and around. To this day I can tell you that Procampur’s districts are color-coded by roof tiles and why Westgate is a criminal hotbed. I’ve read a lot of setting books since then, but I can’t think of another book that has managed to achieve so much with such economy of space and word-count.
And it’s for those 48 pages I recommend this book even today. If you’re a Realms fan, it’s an up-close look at the Heartlands that hasn’t been equaled in 25 years. (Even the otherwise excellent 3.0 FR hardback doesn’t give that level of loving attention.) If you’re a Golarion or homebrew fan, you have cities ready to drop in and run the next time your players send their characters somewhere you don’t have a map for. If you’re a would-be worldbuilder yourself, it’s a model for tight, elegant construction: You have two pages—make the most of them. Or you might be someone like me—someone who likes to have a book by your bedside that will transport you somewhere else in just a handful of pages before you drift off to sleep.
Best of all, it’s a book you can actually go and pick up right now. The original Forgotten Realms Campaign Set—if you’re lucky enough to find one with the box intact—is at least a $60 price tag. But Forgotten Realms Adventures can be yours for little more than 13 bucks, and there’s probably a copy sitting in your local used bookstore. At 60 cents a city, it’s a steal—and one with more than a little magic between its covers.