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The Forgotten Realms (5th Ed.) Campaign Setting

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The following is a brief summary of the campaign setting for the Dungeons and Dragons game I am currently running. The campaign uses the official Forgotten Realms setting from Wizards of the Coast. In 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons the setting is a little different to earlier incarnations, so I have prepared a summary for my players below.

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The Forgotten Realms

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The focus of the Forgotten Realms setting is the continent of Faerûn, part of the world of Abeir-Toril (usually simply called Toril), and Earth-like planet.

The Land of Faerûn


From the bitter, windswept steppes of the Endless Waste to the storm-lashed cliffs of the Sword Coast stretches a wide, wild land of shining kingdoms and primal wilderness, Faerûn is only one continent of the world known as Toril. Other lands lie in distant corners of the world, but Faerun is the centre of it all, the crossroads and crux upon which all else turns. Dozens of nations, hundreds of city-states, and countless tribes, villages, and settlements dot its expanse.

The continent of Faerûn is a landmass of approximately nine and a half million square miles, located mainly in the northern hemisphere of the world of Toril. Sub-arctic extremes chill its northern reaches, where ice sheets like the Great Glacier dominate the landscape in blinding white. To the south are the equatorial jungles of Chult and the tropical coasts of Halruaa. It’s bordered on the west by the Trackless Sea and on the east by the Endless Wastes and the Hordelands that separate it from Kara-Tur.

Faerûn is an open land full of kingdoms and empires, large and small, and scattered city-states and villages struggling to make their way in a landscape that can be unforgiving wilderness one mile and cosmopolitan city the next.

Countless millions of humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, and other sentient beings call Faerûn home. It is a land of magic and intrigue, cruel violence and divine compassion, where gods have ascended and died, and millennia of warfare and conquests have shaped dozens of unique cultures.

The Sword Coast and the City of Neverwinter

The Northern Sword Coast
Once famous as the Jewel of the North, Neverwinter rivalled Waterdeep in splendour. Then Mount Hotenow erupted, rocking the city’s foundations and scouring its streets with flame. Nearly five decades later, Neverwinter is within sight of reclaiming its former glory. People have returned, great buildings have been restored to beauty, and a strong ruler reigns - Lord Neverember, a kingly man from Waterdeep.

Despite these advances, Neverwinter faces many challenges. Rivalry between power groups threatens its recovery. Sections of the city lie in ruins, serving as the lair for bandits and monsters. And dangers abound in neighbouring lands: Mount Hotenow still rumbles, undead and dark fey stalk Neverwinter Wood, and giants have been seen descending the slopes of the Sword Mountains to the south.

Neverwinter is a city that needs heroes.

Factions and Organisations

The known player factions of the Sword Coast are organizations that have risen, been shattered, and risen again several times. Their longevity and resilience are largely due to their grassroots, secretive nature, and the near-autonomy of many of its members. The Harpers, for instance, have “cells” and lone operatives throughout Faerûn, although they interact and share information with one another from time to time as needs warrant. With the Zhentarim, their public face appears more benign than their otherwise power-hungry natures, offering the best mercenaries that money can buy. Whether noble warriors, rugged survivalists, or deceptive agents, your choice to join a player faction will help shape your involvement in the game's ongoing story.

The Harpers

The Harpers is an old organization that has risen, been shattered, and risen again several times. Its longevity and resilience are largely due to its decentralized, grassroots, secretive nature, and the near-autonomy of many of its members. The Harpers have “cells” and lone operatives throughout Faerûn, although they interact and share information with one another from time to time as needs warrant. The Harpers' ideology is noble, and its members pride themselves on their integrity and incorruptibility. Harpers do not seek power or glory, only fair and equal treatment for all.

Harper agents are trained to act alone and depend on their own resources. When they get into scrapes, they don’t count on their fellow Harpers to rescue them. Nevertheless, Harpers are dedicated to helping one another in times of need, and friendships between Harpers are nigh unbreakable. Masterful spies and infiltrators, they use various guises and secret identities to form relationships, cultivate their information networks, and manipulate others into doing what needs to be done. Although most Harpers prefer to operate in the shadows, there are exceptions.

Beliefs:
  1. One can never have too much information.
  2. Too much power leads to corruption.
  3. No one should be powerless.
Goals: To gather information throughout Faerûn, discern the political dynamics within each region or realm, and promote fairness and equality by covert means. Act openly as a last resort. Thwart tyrants and any leader, government, or group that grows too powerful, and aid the weak, the poor, and the oppressed.

The Order of the Gauntlet

Many paladins and clerics of Tyr, Helm, Torm, and Hoar have joined the organization, seeing it as - finally! - a way of making common cause against the evils abroad in the world. The Order of the Gauntlet is ready to lash out the moment evil acts, and not a moment before. When evil breaks laws, agreements, or commonly accepted codes of conduct, the Gauntlet strikes hard and fast, without waiting for the blessings of distant temples or the permission of rulers. Evil must be met in the field and smashed, or it will swiftly overcome all.

The Order of the Gauntlet is a dedicated, tightly knit group of like-minded individuals driven by religious zeal or a finely honed sense of justice. Friendship and camaraderie are important to members of the Order of the Gauntlet, and they share a trust and a bond normally reserved for siblings. Like highly motivated soldiers, members of the Order of the Gauntlet seek to become the best at what they do and look forward to testing their mettle. There are few, if any, “lone wolves” in this organization.

Beliefs:
  1. Faith is the greatest weapon against evil - faith in one’s god, one’s friends, and one’s self.
  2. Battling evil is an extraordinary task that requires extraordinary strength and bravery.
  3. Punishing an evil act is just. Punishing an evil thought is not.
Goals: To be armed, vigilant, and ready to smite evil, enforce justice, and enact retribution. This means identifying evil threats such as secretive power groups and inherently evil creatures, watching over them, and being ready to attack the moment they misbehave. (These are always retributive strikes, never pre-emptive.)

The Emerald Enclave

The Emerald Enclave is a far-ranging group that opposes threats to the natural world and helps others survive the many perils of the wild. A ranger might be hired to lead a caravan through a treacherous mountain pass or the frozen tundra of Icewind Dale. A druid might volunteer to help a small village prepare for a long, brutal winter. Barbarians and witches who live like hermits most of the year might defend a town against marauding orcs or barbarians. Members of the Emerald Enclave know how to survive, and more importantly, they want to help others do the same. They are not opposed to civilization or progress, but they strive to prevent civilization and the wilderness from destroying one another.

Members of the Emerald Enclave are spread far and wide, and usually operate in isolation. They learn to depend on themselves more than others. Survival in a harsh world also demands great fortitude and mastery of certain fighting and survival skills. Members of the Enclave who dedicate themselves to helping others survive the perils of the wilderness are more social than others who are charged with defending sacred glades and preserving the natural balance.

Beliefs:
  1. The natural order must be respected and preserved.
  2. Forces that seek to upset the natural balance must be destroyed.
  3. The wilderness can be harsh. Not everyone can survive in it without assistance.
Goals: To restore and preserve the natural order, keep the elemental forces of the world in check, keep civilization and the wilderness from destroying one another, and help others survive the perils of the wilderness.

The Lords' Alliance

The Lords’ Alliance is a coalition of rulers from cities and towns across Faerûn (primarily in the North), who collectively agree that some solidarity is needed to keep evil at bay. The rulers of Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Neverwinter, and other free cities in the region dominate the Alliance, and every lord in the Alliance works for the fate and fortune of his or her own settlement above all others. The agents of the Alliance include sophisticated bards, zealous paladins, talented mages, and grizzled warriors. They are chosen primarily for their loyalty, and are trained in observation, stealth, innuendo, and combat. Backed by the wealthy and the privileged, they carry quality equipment (often disguised to appear common), and spellcasters tend to have a large number of scrolls with communication spells.

To seek out and destroy threats to their homelands, agents of the Lords’ Alliance must be highly trained at what they do. Few can compare to their skills in the field. They fight for the glory and the security of their people and for the lords who rule over them, and they do so with pride. However, the Lords’ Alliance can only survive if its members “play nice” with one another, which requires a certain measure of diplomacy. Rogue agents within the Lords’ Alliance are rare, but defections have been known to occur.

Beliefs:
  1. If civilization is to survive, all must unite against the dark forces that threaten it.
  2. Glory comes from protecting one’s home and honoring its leaders.
  3. The best defense is a strong offense.
Goals: To ensure the safety and prosperity of the cities and other settlements of Faerûn by forming a strong coalition against the forces that threaten all, eliminate such threats by any means necessary whenever and wherever they arise, and be champions of the people.

The Zhentarim

The Zhentarim seeks to become omnipresent and inescapable, more wealthy and powerful, and most importantly, untouchable. The public face of the organization appears much more benign, offering the best mercenaries money can buy. When a merchant needs an escort for his caravan, when a noble needs bodyguards to protect her holdings, or when a city needs trained soldiers to defend its honor, the Zhentarim provides the best-trained fighting men and women money can buy. However, the cost of doing business with the Black Network can be high.

The Black Network wants to make it necessary—and preferable, even—to deal with its members. It wants to secure, over time, an iron-fisted monopoly. Members must be the best—the cheapest, the fastest, and the most secure—at providing services and goods both legal and illicit, willing to lose coin if it means destroying a competitor, and securing profits from everyone they deal with, except when to do so would work against the Black Network's ultimate goal: to make everyone dependent on it.

A member of the Zhentarim thinks of himself or herself as a member of a very large family and relies on the Black Network for resources and security. However, members are granted enough autonomy to pursue their own interests and gain some measure of personal power or influence.

Beliefs:
  1. The Zhentarim is your family. You watch out for it, and it watches out for you.
  2. You are the master of your own destiny. Never be less than what you deserve to be.
  3. Everything - and everyone - has a price.
Goals: To amass wealth, power, and influence.

Gods and Deities

The most commonly worshipped Gods on the Sword Coast are:

Auril: Winter, Neutral Evil, Nature / Tempest
Deneir: Writing, Neutral Good, Life
Moradin: Dwarf / Creation, Lawful Good, Knowledge
Eldath: Peace, Neutral Good, Life / Nature
Lurue: Talking Beasts, Chaotic Good, Nature
Mielikki: Forests, Neutral Good, Nature
Milil: Poetry / Song, Neutral Good, Light
Mystra: Magic, Neutral Good, Knowledge
Oghma: Knowledge, Neutral, Knowledge
Shar: Darkness / Loss, Neutral Evil, Death / Trickery
Tempus: War, Neutral, War
Talos: Storms, Chaotic Evil, Tempest
Silvanus: Wild Nature, Neutral, Nature
Shiallia: Fertility, Neutral Good, Nature
Uthgar: Totem Spirits, Varies, Varies
Tymora: Luck, Chaotic Good, Trickery

Recent History

The most important event of the past 30 years along the Sword Coast was the eruption of the volcano, Mount Hotenow.

In the Year of Knowledge Unearthed (1451 DR), a small adventuring party rediscovered the ancient dwarven city of Gauntlgrym beneath the volcano. The party made it all the way to the legendary forges. There, they were betrayed by their Thayan allies and hypnotically forced to activate the forge. This briefly awoke the primordial Maegera, who, in a fit of rage, released a burst of energy so powerful that it forced the eruption of the volcano.

The resultant earthquake and combination of smoke and lava destroyed much of Neverwinter, killing thousands.

Current State of Events

The current date is 1481 DR (Dale Reckoning).

The Eruption of Mount Hotenow, fifty years ago, is probably the one event that still effects the region of The Sword Coast the most.
  • Neverwinter is a ruin, struggling being put back together by a Waterdeep noble, Lord Neverember.
  • Neverwinter is under siege by Zombies and Aboleths and Ashmadai demons and Theyans and the returned Netherese.
  • Thundertree, a "logging" community that collected fallen timber and shipped it downriver to Neverwinter, is a ruin.
  • Luskan in the north, once a pirate city, is now in ruins and run by gangs in a state of total anarchy.
  • Conyberry has been sacked by barbarians and is nothing but ruins.
  • Old Owl Well and the surrounding area is overrun by orcs from the Many-Arrows tribe scouting hundreds of miles from their territory.
  • Neverwinter Wood was mostly unaffected by the mountain's eruption, though only druids and Uthgardt barbarians live there.

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