Thursday, September 1, 2011
I have both the 1987 Grey Box realms and the 1993 Forgotten Realms boxed set redone for 2nd edition rules. I have studied both of these boxed sets in detail and I have to say that the 1993 version by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb is the better of the two. I think it is really the Cyclopedia of the Realms from the grey box that I have the most issues with.
The 2nd edition boxed set presents the same gameworld that folks learned to love through the original modules and the grey box but it is represented in a more organized format. In the "Grand tour of the Realms" the entirety of Faerun is covered along with hints of what lies "off the maps" and it is presented in a way that provides for tons of adventuring hooks. The art is minimal, black and white, and provided from a bunch of different artists with rough wood cut and charcoal drawings that really hooked me as a kid.
I LOVED that they separated the prominent NPC's from the geography in this version of the realms. I pretty much never use an NPC that has ever been in a realms novel in my games of the realms. Each time I run the realms I like to try to put a slightly different spin on it. The characters are not just going to wander into Florin Falconhand, or Elminster, or Khelben Arunsun. I don't use these characters in my games at all. Most of my players have read more realms novels than I have so I like to draw inspiration from the novels but exclude all specifics.
The fact that all the NPC's are tucked into a small section of the Running the Realms book in the 2nd edition printing of the game means that they are easily bypassed when looking for something out of these books. The dieties are all organized well and all of the 1st edition gods are present in case you just want to play a "historical" realms campaign before the ToT.
Speaking of the fact that all the gods from the original edition are still there, I think that Jeff and Ed tried hard to keep cross compatibility between the two versions of the game. There are almost no actual game statistics for anything in this boxed set. All NPC's are listed as N hm T7 and then a couple of paragraphs of description, this is easily converted into any game system you would like Original, Basic, 1e, 2e, 3e, etc... play this gameworld with any of these, do it yourself, make up your own rules. Here is a world to play in, period.
While I love almost everything about the 2nd edition realms, there is one piece in particular that I took offense against:
I hated the "time of troubles". While it wasn't half as bad as the "coming of the Shade" and all the massive world altering changes that occurred with that, I didn't appreciate TSR at the time telling me that I "had" to take the realms in a certain direction. I liked Bhaal and Bane and didn't want to let them leave my campaign. They were far better evil gods for my clerics than Cyric. The wild magic zones and dead magic zones I could take or leave, they really didn't add much for my game etc... However, this is easily changed. I just continued to begin my realms adventures between 1344 and 1358DR. I typically stole all the plot hooks from the "News of the Realms" section and changed the specifics to meet the situation that I was in and started a game. The actions of the PC's would begin to craft a story that would take the realms in any direction that I saw fit.
I had realms games where the time of trouble happened and those that didn't. I played games where Amn and Calisham had massive wars that embroiled the rest of Faerun in small scale battles for trade and land. The thing I loved about the running games in FR was that all my players had a common understand of the dieties, the races, and the major organizations. I could get right to playing the games without explaining all about my new game world of the day. The forgotten realms were always flexible enough for me to play the games that I wanted to play in them, but at the same time familiar enough to my players to have a common understanding of the game world.
If you have never checked out the second edition version of the realms, I would recommend you do.