Thursday, September 4, 2008

When the hurlyburly's done - A Forgotten Realms CS review

I) I'm a Grognard. I don't like 4E. I never will. I won't support this edition. I'm a battleworn paladin in the Edition Wars. I'll smite 4E whenever I can!

II) I'm a huge Forgotten Realms fan for almost twenty years now. I had my best times at the gaming table in the Forgotten Realms. I love all stuff from Ed Greenwood.

III) It seems I have a problem! What should I think of the new FRCS?

Finally I decided to get a copy of the new FRCS. Mainly out of curiosity. Full stop. Here is my review:

The good news:
There is not much crunch in the new FRCS, but mostly fluff. Thus you can easily convert what 4E stats you find to your favorite system (like Pathfinder RPG). Most npcs even don't have a level given. So you are fairly free to play the setting with the rules you want.

The bad news:
The new Realms (or the Shattered Realms by some) feel very different for experienced FR gamers. You might feel alienated with some of the changes, like [spoiler] that the concept of magic with Mystra and the weave was never true, or what will happen to your favorite npcs, places, or organizations, or the sudden appearance of new empires, or the drastic changes in the FR cosmology[/spoiler]
The book also reads at some points, as if it was put together in a hurry. It lacks many explanations about what has happend during the time jump, which may annoy you if it comes to some of the major changes to the Realms, as well as these little lovely details you find in other FR books.

The new FRCS really looks and feels like it has been designed like a completly new campaign setting with only as much information provided as needed to get things running. Which is basically what was WotC's idea for the Realms - to make them playable for new gamers who might feel overwhelmed by the tons of realmslore available.
The Realms feel flat and colorless, which is already announced on the back cover "lands of dark peril await" - Indeed, but IMO WotC has gone one step to far.

Here are my suggestions:
Don't buy the book...
... if you can't live with major changes to the realms. Don't buy it even if you are curious, because the new FRCS will even affect how you see the old Realms when you read it.
... if you like to find plausible explanations for the major changes
... if you are interessted what has happend during the time jump
... if you are an old school FR fan.

Remeber to tell WotC why you did not buy the book.

Buy the book...
... if you think that the old Realms are overloaded with too much Realmslore, but if you still like some of the elements of FR.

... if you are a new gamer
... if you don't care about anything at all

consider to play it not with 4E but with Pathfinder RPG.

As an alternative try the new Pathfinder Campaign Setting or Motherland Campaign Setting at, which is strongly influenced by the old Realms.


Donny_the_Dm said...

I was a 4E hater once. Then after seeing the changes first hand, I became more and more frustrated with 3rd edition. Prep work was what finally did me in.

I LOVED 3rd edition, for me it was when the training wheels finally came off. Unfortunately, I just don't have the free time I used to anymore.

As to the FRCS, I hated the 3rd edition realms. Contrary to the popular refrain, I felt boxed in by canon and splat. I tried making stuff up, but make the mistake of campaigning in an area that has "events" of some kind going on, and you find yourself at odds with continuity in a hurry.

It was a great place, but I am enjoying the new openness much more. Approaching it as a completely new game with a familiar name (4E anyone?) has made all the difference.

While I may disagree with your aversion to 4E, I respect your opinion. Thank you for giving it a chance :)

GrayPumpkin said...

Bit of grognard myself, been playing since 79. But I like 4e pretty well, who am I kidding, I'm a convert. So perhaps it's not too surprising that this is the first version of Forgotten Realms that I've liked since the 1st edition releases.
The Realms were too bloated for me, I much prefer this leaner and meaner version

Questing GM said...

Though I may have different reasons of hating and liking this book. I agree with your suggestions wholeheartedly.

Markus Brixius said...

Thanks for your feedback

@donny. Of course it's sometimes difficult to your synchronize ideas with with canon. But you don't need to. As Ed Greenwood put it "It's yout world". I also think that you can put you ideas in even if there are local things going on, as there is enough space available. On the other hand you are right, because the Realms are now much more empty, giving DMs the freedom to do things more easily and faster.
But for me part of the fun was the complex realmslore and to put things in context. If I had a campaign idea I did a little research to see how my idea would interact with the stuff available. This often took me in a different but exciting new direction. I think many people think this way - just look at the scribes at Of course there are people who don't think so. And that's exactly where we have our friction.

@ graypumpkin
I agree with you partly. I felt some excitement, too when I turned the first pages of the new book.
As there is a new continent to explore and many things have happened in 100 years. A faint Realms feeling remains, but it's very different now.
But again, I think that some changes would not have been needed, like the killing of Mystra and the wave. These things were signature to the realms. And everything feels not grown naturally, but designed by someone who obviously had no respect for the original work of Ed Greenwood and the key concepts of his world that made it so popular for many gamers.

Thanks for the disussion. It's nice to talk to people away from the heated discussions in some message boards.