At least Wizards of the Coast remembered them
The Forgotten Realms is probably the most popular D&D setting created. Primarily, it’s focused on the continent of Faerun, a place found on the planet of Abeir-Toril, an Earth-like planet set in a fantasy world filled with elves, dragons, wizards and other creatures you’d expect in a fantasy world (and many you might not).
Much of the popularity of the Forgotten Realms can be traced back to the supporting media published decades ago such as the novels penned by R. A. Salvatore (infamous for writing the books of Drizzt Do’Urden) as well as video games such as Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights and Pool of Radiance. This, alongside the fact that the Forgotten Realms is the primary setting of D&D 5e which has seen D&D explode in popularity.
Geography of the Forgotten Realms
While Faerun is the primary location of adventures in the Forgotten Realms, there are other continents on Abeir-Toril. These include:
Kara-Tur did receive its own campaign setting back in 1988 known as Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms. This continent hasn’t featured in any campaign books since.
The cotinent of Faerun is a varied land in terms of environment, the creatures that can be found upon (and below) its surface and the geo-political nations that make up its borders. In the north is the frozen spire of the world and the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale. Along the west is the Sword Coast, a coastline littered with some of the great nations of Faerun such as Baldur’s Gate, Waterdeep and Neverwinter. To the south are the reptilian dwelling jungles of Chult, To the east is the magocratic nation of Thay. Beneath all of this is the underdark; a vast cavernous landscape home to the city nations of the drow, duergar and svirfneblin among the many other creatures that lurk in those depths.
Areas of Faerun
- Amn – A huge, prosperous, human city found in western Faerun
- Baldur’s Gate – A trading hub city founded by the famous explorer, Balduran. Also the namesake of a popular series of video games
- Calimshan – An extremely wealthy kingdom founded by genies
- Candlekeep – A small, walled town containing one of the greatest libraries known to man
- Chult – A hot land of wealth and disease home to many reptilian species
- Cormyr – A feudal nation that exists on former elven and dragon lands
- Dalelands – An area of rich farmland and home to the famous Elminster
- Evermeet – An island that is home to many of the elves of Faerun
- Frozen Far – A frozen land to the north where you can find the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale, the Spine of the World and the Sea of Moving Ice
- Halruaa – A nation of wizards filled with unique magic
- High Forest – A northern forest home to a civilisation of elves
- Hlondeth – A city ruled by yuan-ti halfbloods
- Luskan – A predominantly pirate town along the northern portion of the Sword Coast
- Moonsea – A sea to the north of the continent bordering many politically unstable nations
- Moonshae Isles – A group of rugged islands off the western coast of Faerun
- Nelanther Isles – An island of mainly non-human pirates
- Rasheman – A cold nation known for its berserker clans and powerful sorceresses. It’s also the home of Minsc and his witch, Dynaheir
- Sembia – A young nation of merchants
- Silver Marches – A civilisation of humans, dwarves and elves where the city of Silverymoon can be found
- Sword Coast – A dangerous coastal region on the West of Faerun comprising cities like Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep
- Tethyr – A land that had contained a nation in perpetual war as well as a heavy elven population within its forests
- Thay – A magocracy and home of the notorious Red Wizards. Thay is a kingdom built upon slavery
- Tymanther – A kingdom of dragonborn known for their militant nature
- Underdark – An immense, underground region home to cavern dwelling races such as drow and duergar
- Waterdeep – A large, coastal city-state filled with political intrigue
Inhabitants of Faerun
The races of Faerun are hugely varied though some races have certainly dominated the landscape more than others. Anciently, dragons and giants ruled the lands of Faerun but both have dwindled in numbers leaving them with few members of their race on Faerun. Dragons tend to take up lairs, gathering followings of minions but rarely mixing themselves up in the affairs of other races. Elves were the next race to come to dominance throughout Faerun and though some of their influence has diminished, they can still be found commonly throughout Faerun, particularly in their forested cities.
Humans now dominate Faerun’s civilisations, in some cases, living in relative peace with the other races of Faerun, in others, in a state of near constant fighting with their neighbours. In most cases, nations will have a wide mix of races within their region that co-operate together. Dwarves, gnomes, and halflings can also be found commonly upon Faerun. To a lesser extent, other races have found a foothold here too such as the serpentine yuan-ti, the dragon-like kobolds and the barbaric orcs.
Faerun is also home to a wide-array of monsters and creatures, some coming from over realms of existence entirely. From relatively mundane creatures like horses, dogs and snakes to terrifying creatures such as beholders, mind flayers and vampires, Faerun is a hugely diverse land.
History of Faerun
Faerun is a large continent filled with many nations and races so its history is vast and varied. Some of the main events in its history include:
The First Flowering
from -24,000 to -9,000 was the period of the First Flowering when the original nations that still persist now in Faerun were formed. These emerged primarily from the elves and the dwarves.
The elves settled along the Sword Coast as far as the Spine of the World with their capital, Aelinthaldaar being built along the edges of Mount Waterdeep. The nations of Aryvandaar, Ardeep and Ilythir were built with wood and moon elves founding the Kingdom of Eaerlann.
The dwarf clans formed the nation of Delzoun with settlements ranging from the ice mountains to the Nether mountains.
This period was typified by invasions from orc hordes attacking and pillaging southwards from the Spine of the World.
The First Sundering
About -17,600, the Elven nations decided they wanted to create a glorious homeland for their race. They gathered hundreds of high elven mages to cast a spell that would accomplish this. The spell worked but also sundered the land causing the world to change with land masses separating into continents such as Faerun. The First Sundering is what turned Toril into the world it is now.
The Crown Wars
Between the years -12,000 and -9,200, the elven nations of Aryvandaar and Miyeritar declared war on one another. A series of conflicts lasting about 3,000 years ensued. These conflicts culminated in the Dark Disaster which turned Miyeritar into a wasteland covered in terrifying storms. Responsibility for this destruction is placed upon the high mages of Aryvandaar, though there is no proof that they are responsible.
It’s during this time that the dark elves of Ilythiir turned to demonic powers so as to unleash vengeance on the elves of Aryvandaar.
The Descent of the Drow
About -9,200, the elven god Corellon cursed the dark elves of Ilythiir making the sunlight uncomfortable for them to live under. It took only 2 months for the dark elves to hide from the sunlit surface and abandon their cities for the dark, but more comfortable Underdark. It’s at this time that the dark elves became the drow, abandoning the elven pantheon that had abandoned them and turning to Lolth, the Spider Queen. It was no long before the drow began competing for the space in the Underdark that had once been exclusively inhabited by the dwarves with many wars ensuing.
The Age of Humanity
Following the Crown Wars, from -9,000 to 1358, the elvish and dwarven kingdoms stagnated and humans began to settle throughout Faerun becoming the dominant race. Much of the elven and dwarvish decline is due to the many wars ensuing between he races and among each other allowing humanity a strong foothold on Faerun.
The Rise and Fall of Netheril
About 5,000 years ago, a group of human fishing villages around the Narrow Sea were united by the shaman-king Nether. These villages grew into and empire known as Netheril.
The humans of the empire were taught magic by the Eaerlanni elves becoming renowned wizards but they were power-hungry and desired great arcane abilities. Centuries later, the Netherese discovered the Nether Scrolls in the ruins of the abandoned elven city of Aryvandaar, using these scrolls to enhance their magic and their power.
The Netherese grew in power, creating a near invincible nation of great magical power and floating cities, dominating Northern Faerun for 3,000 years. Netheril’s dominance continued until Karsus, a power-mad, Netherese mage attempted to take the role of god of magic. This event led to the disruption of the magic maintaining the Netheril kingdom sending the floating cities crashing to the ground bringing about the end of the great empire.
The Great Cities
Following the destruction of the Netheril Empire in the year -339 came a great separating of the Netherese people migrating to other sttlements and building up new city nations. This was particularly the case along the Sword Coast where cities like Illusk (later to be known as Luskan) and Citadel Sundbarr took in many refugees.
The nations of Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter were established during this time period and agreements and treaties between humans and elves allowed peaceful co-existence and the ability for these city nations to rise in power.
It was during this time period that humans of the Dalelands and the elves of Cormanthor agreed a pact. Part of this pact involved erecting a stone monument marking the advent of Dalereckoning (DR) which marks the passage of years with the year of that monument’s erection being 1 DR and is now the universally accepted method of counting the years throughout Toril.
The Time of Troubles
In the year 1358 DR, the gods were exiled from their domains and forced onto the mortal plane as mortals themselves. The former gods sought to regain their divinity, warring among themselves and causing chaos as magic went awry and prayers of were left unanswered by the no longer divine gods. Many of the former gods were killed during this time and mortals ascended to take their place. Other gods survived this period and were able to ascend back to their positions of godhood.
The Present Age
This is the age in which the inhabitants of Faerun are currently living through and in which official D&D material is set, spanning from 1358 DR to 1489 DR.
The Return of the Netheril
in 1374 DR, the Netherese city of Thultanthar appeared above the Anauroch desert, having been trapped in the Shadowfell for 2,000 years, waiting to return. On their return, the shadow-touched nobles of the city immediately began preparing for the restoration of the Netherese Empire by hunting for ancient, Netherese artefacts from the ruins of the once-great empire.
In 1385 DR, Cyric, god of the dead, and Shar, Goddess of darkness, plotted to kill the goddess of magic, Mystra. Her death in her domain of Dweomerheart caused catastrophic effects throughout the realms with mages and other magic wielders struck by the raw power that was released. Many were killed, others were driven mad and magical effects went awry. The face of the land itself was transformed with mystic blue fire spreading across the lands causing locations and cities to be displaced or to exchange locations. Other parts of the realms were literally torn from the land and came to float in the air. With magic acting so unpredictably, the Spellplague was a challenging time for many.
The Second Sundering
The Second Sundering appeared to be a time in which the effects of the Spellplague were being reversed. It was also a time of great war and upheaval between the nations of Faerun.
The first signs of this turmoil came when Bhaal, the dead god of murder, rose again in Baldur’s Gate having fathered many children during the Time of Troubles in order to create a huge bloodshed so that when the prophesied time of his death came, he could be reborn.
Wars spread across the lands as Sembia invaded the Dalelands and Cormyr came to their aid. The Bedine people of the Anauroch desert rose up against their Netherese masters. Orcs besieged the dwarves of the north before marching on Silverymoon. Even the legendary city of Myth Drannor was attacked by Netheril leading to the Netherese capital crashing from the sky, onto Myth Drannor and destroying both cities in a cataclysm.
The Second Sundering was also marked by great storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Many also noticed that places seemed to be shifting with many believing that the effects of the Spellplague were being reversed.
By 1489 DR, most conflicts had ended and so had the natural disasters that had marked this time period, but it did create greater uncertainty among the nations of Faerun that the laws of nature and the gods were much more transient and unpreditable than many had once believed.
Forgotten Realms Books
The Forgotten Realms have spawned a huge amount of books with over 300 novels now written including R A Salvatore’s Drizzt books that spawned greater interest and popularity in the Forgotten Realms. Having been featured as a setting in every edition of D&D, the Forgotten Realms is the main setting of D&D 5e, spawning many stories.
The following series of novels are set in the Forgotten Realms:
- Abolethic Sovereignty
- Abyssal Plague
- The Avatar Series
- The Baldur’s Gate Series
- Blades of the Moonsea
- Brimstone Angels
- Brotherhood of the Griffon
- Chosen of Nendawen
- The Citadels
- The Cities
- The Cleric Quintet
- Cold Steel And Secrets
- Companions Codex
- The Cormyr Saga
- Counselors & Kings
- The Dark Elf Trilogy
- Double Diamond Triangle Saga
- The Druidhome Trilogy
- The Dungeons
- The Elminster Series
- The Empires Trilogy
- The Empyrean Odyssey
- The Erevis Cale Trilogy
- The Fighters
- The Finder’s Stone Trilogy
- The Harpers
- The Haunted Lands
- House of Serpents
- The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy
- The Icewind Dale Trilogy
- The Knights of Myth Drannor
- The Lady Penitent
- The Last Mythal
- Legacy of the Drow
- The Legend of Drizzt
- Lost Empires
- The Lost Gods
- The Maztica Trilogy
- The Moonshae Trilogy
- Netheril Trilogy
- Neverwinter Saga
- The Nobles
- Paths of Darkness
- The Pools
- The Priests
- Return of the Archwizards
- The Rogues
- The Sage Of Shadowdale
- The Scions of Arrabar Trilogy
- The Sellswords
- Sembia: Gateway To The Realms
- The Shadow of the Avatar Trilogy
- Shandril’s Saga
- Shadowbane Series
- Songs & Swords
- Starlight & Shadows
- The Stone of Tymora
- The Sundering
- Sword Of The Gods
- The Threat from the Sea
- The Twilight Giants
- The Twilight War
- Unbroken Chain
- War of the Spider Queen
- The Watercourse Trilogy
- Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep
- The Wilds
- The Wizards
- The Year of Rogue Dragons
Are they still making Forgotten Realms Books?
The last Forgotten Realms series of books was the Generations trilogy by R A Salvatorepublished between 2018 and 2020. Salvatore has published another Forgotten Realms novel since then called Starlight Enclave published in August 2021. The next book in the series will be Glacier’s Edge, due to be published on 9th August 2022 with a 3rd book in the trilogy yet to have its title announced.
Adventures set in the Forgotten Realms
With the Forgotten Realms being the primary setting for D&D 5e, the majority of the adventures published by Wizards of the Coast are set there (though we are starting to see them branching out into other settings too like the Feywilds, Ravenloft, Eberron, Spelljammer and Dragonlance). The officially published adventures set in the Forgotten Realms include:
- Lost Mines of Phandelver (in the Starter Set)
- Hoard of the Dragon Queen
- The rise of Tamat
- Princes of the Apocalypse
- Out of the Abyss
- Storm King’s Thunder
- Tomb of Annihilation
- Waterdeep Dragon Heist
- Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
- Ghosts of Saltmarsh
- Dragon of Icespire Peak (Essentials Kit)
- Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus
- Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden
In addition to these adventures are the single session collections that WOTC have been publishing including; Tales from the Yawning Portal, Candlekeep Mysteries and the soon to be published, Journey’s Through the Radiant Citadel (though the setting for this book is currently unknown).