Go Forth to the Fifth!


Last Friday, my Meetup gaming group got together for what was presumably our last New Member Meet-n-Greet and our first get-together as a group of friends. The Meetup group’s organizers keep cancelling meetings and not responding to inquiries, so the five of us who have been meeting independently of these canceled sessions have just decided to go our own way. And what we’ve decided to do is play Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s probably not the wisest thing I’ve ever done to admit that I’m taking a break from running Savage Worlds to play D&D right before Chupacabracon and my chance to meet Shane Hensley, but it’s not that I’m giving up Savage Worlds. I’ll still be writing Savage Worlds material; in fact, by falling back on familiar tropes and settings for the ongoing campaign, I should be able to free up my time to write more than I have in months.

We’ve been playing a couple of really dark games – my The King is Dead setting and a Ravenloft/World of Darkness mashup – and meeting pretty infrequently and everybody’s been having a hard time with work and life and crap. When I pulled out my shiny new 5e Player’s Handbook to share, we all realized that a nice, classic D&D campaign would really cheer us all up. Let’s face it: Savage Worlds is really unpredictable. It’s a game where your Legendary barbarian can still get shanked by a lowly goblin who rolls a lot of exploding dice. D&D – and 5e especially – is built so that doesn’t happen. Sometimes the incremental, point-buy character growth and unpredictability of Savage Worlds is what you want, and sometimes the progressive, level-based predictability of Dungeons & Dragons is what you want instead.

And sometimes – sometimes – what you also want is the Forgotten Realms. Let’s face it: if you want a pastiche-laden high fantasy setting (because maybe one of your players reads a lot of fantasy but hasn’t roleplayed much) then the home of fake-Lankhmar (Waterdeep), fake-Rivendell (Silverymoon), fake-Merlin (Elminster and several other mages), and fake Nasir-from-“Robin of Sherwood” (Drizzt) is pretty much the setting to use.

Of course, I’m sure this prompts cries of horror from many readers. How can I possibly like using this setting with all of these obnoxiously-overpowered super-NPCs? My answers are:
  1. I haven’t read any Forgotten Realms fiction since Sojourn; I’m a fan of the game setting, not the EU fiction.
  2. Who cares if there are powerful NPCs anyway? They’re just figures the PCs can aspire to emulate, befriend, or defeat.
  3. As the 5e DMG takes pains to point out, every DM’s Realms campaign is an “alternate universe” anyway, so do what you want. Sheesh…
A swift bout of brainstorming led to the decision to set the game in Silverymoon, the shining gem of beauty and learning deep in the savage North. Waterdeep was considered, but the players preferred Silverymoon; from this, I infer that they are more interested in high fantasy (like battling the orc-king Obould), wilderness exploration (rather than Waterdeep’s multiple dungeons), and sexing up Alustriel (oh wait, that’s just me). Those elements were part of my first major AD&D 2e campaign way back in the day, so I’m happy to return to them.

Oh wait, did I mention Alustriel and Obould – characters from the pre-5e, pre-Spellplague continuity? Yes, I did – because it’s my alternate universe Forgotten Realms and if I want to set it in a 2e/3e mashup continuity, then it is my right as the DM to do just that. “Make the setting your own” is not a difficult concept, people!

In fact, I’d like to mix things up quite a bit. Silverymoon itself is sometimes a bit too safe, a bit too nice. I plan on introducing a bit of a criminal underworld to liven things up. It's a college town (for wizards!) so there's got to be a drug scene, a club scene, sports -- but it's also a frontier town on the edge of a dangerous wilderness. It's Oxford AND Tombstone; it's got to be a pretty exciting place to live!

The first thing it needs is some festhalls...


  1. I love the North, its my favorite part of the Realms. So much to do, if you just wander even a mile in one direction. And blank canvas too, if you need it.

    1. I was actually kind of shocked to see how crowded the map got in the 3e era! Oh well, I can always ditch what I don't like.

  2. Funny timing. My online group (which is me and my old high school/college chums) just settled on giving 5e a shot in the Realms, and I too will be setting the campaign in the "classic" Realms. (In my case, Gray Box era, as is my wont.)

    After some email brainstorming with the players, I'll be using the 1999 generic AD&D supplement "Carnival" as the lynchpin, with the PCs part of the traveling show as it tours my go-to areas of Cormyr and the Dales.

    It's been fun. This is sort of the RPG equivalent of comfort food for me. The old magic comes back pretty easily.

    1. If my players hadn't specifically expressed interest in some 3e plot developments, I would have just gone back to the Gray Box too. :)


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