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D&D Burgoo (4.0): Remake the Realms

If you love the Forgotten Realms – or should I say, if you love to tinker with the Forgotten Realms – then Fourth Edition presents a rare opportunity.

I recommend that DM’s running 4E games take a crack at revising their Realms before the official update, which presumably will advance the timeline and explain the evolution from 3E to 4E magic systems, is published in August. 

Why? Here’s a chance to put your own stamp on this storied world. 

Even if you are a DM who relies the Realms and its innumerable supplements for its completeness and continuity – which is an admirable approach to gaming in itself – there’s something to be said for not waiting. 

Here’s why:

Advance the Roll of Years on your own terms 

Potentially, the artificial timeline Wizards of the Coast may impose on the Realms could be a game-breaker for your gaming group’s sense of continuity. Why take that chance? By choosing the passage of time yourself, you can better gauge how 4E Realms should fit with the story you and your players have created. 

The AD&D and 3E adventures your group has had is now part of the “past” of your 4E game – an official product can’t account for that. Established home games have such an advantage in this regard. I guarantee, your own history of great deeds is every bit as rich and varied as anything the professional designers will envision.

Dragnet approach: Only the names have been changed

Less about protecting the innocent, but more to reflect how time changes all things – even names. Just as Londoninium becomes London or St. Petersburg becomes Petrograd and Leningrad (and back to St. Petersburg, again), so to can changing or altering a few names to reflect corrupted pronounciation or political whims drive home the point that time has elapsed. Perhaps Silverymoon has become Fortress Silvenmon or Sembia is now the Semben Republic. Have some fun stirring things up, then come up with interesting backstories for how those place names became altered.

Keep what you love – discard the rest

Anything about the published Realms bothers you, cause problems in your campaign’s structure, or possibly comes across as offensive? There’s never been a better chance to excise those little nuisances than right now. 

What about the Harpers? We don’t have any more bards

No one laments the loss of bards as a core playing class more than me. In the interim, I’d say use the Warlord or Wizard classes to represent bards, and whenever the PC or NPC of that class uses any of their powers, say she’s playing an instrument or singing (instead of barking orders or casting a spell). It’s not perfect, but … if you love the Harpers, it might be the only way.

The key thing is to take advantage of this opportunity. Just about every Forgotten Realms product I’ve ever seen extols DMs to make the setting their own – by adding or deleting as they see fit. Well, any DM who’s been reticent to take that plunge has the perfect reason now to go for it.

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "D&D Burgoo (4.0): Remake the Realms"

#1 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On July 7, 2008 @ 6:42 am

I’ve never really tinkered with the Realms, but I’ve written up descriptions for things barely described in early sources, that have since been fully detailed by WotC (the Night Masks, the Knights of the Shield).

I’ve always -wanted- to, though, and this seems like as good an opportunity as any.

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On July 7, 2008 @ 8:58 am

Great article, Troy! I hadn’t thought about the calm before the release of an updated major setting product as a good time to fiddle with that setting, but it makes a lot of sense.

I’ve always made the Realms my own. Its depth and mutability are two of the things I love about the setting — it’s just so damn big that you can change stuff without worrying too much about other parts breaking.

The original grey box did two things to encourage that which I really loved: left Sembia entirely blank, except to say that it was a trading nation (it really bugged me that they later published Sembia products, but so be it), and indicated which of the Current Clack (rumors) items would not be followed up on in published material.

#3 Comment By Sarlax On July 7, 2008 @ 11:13 am

Another reason to remake the setting now is that WoTC seems committed to making D&D worlds places with big, uncivilized areas. In other words, most maps should have huge areas that are undefined. You’ll be able to invent anything for those spots, with the great benefit that it won’t conflict with the new material that comes out.

#4 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 7, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

A great (and humorous) example of reinventing a setting is taking place over at [1].

They’ve done such a good job of recreating that piece of crap The Phantom Menace that the phrase, “Jar Jar, you’re a genius” appears. Oh, and the ecology and government of Naboo and the origin of Jar Jar actually makes sense.

Now that’s genius.

#5 Comment By Kavonde On July 7, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

There’s actually a pretty good fan-made Bard, with powers and paragon paths and what have you, over at the ENWorld forums. I was hoping to test it out, but sadly, none of my players wanted to try it.

Anyway, I think it’s nifty, and encourage ya to check it out:

#6 Comment By Scott Martin On July 7, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

While I enjoy the realms at times, I’ve never kept up on all of the many many supplements. A reboot like this is a great way to wipe out the stuff you never learned too– that character that’s beloved by someone in the group, but you’ve never heard of him? He was tragically killed in a hopeless defense of X.

#7 Comment By Omnus On July 9, 2008 @ 5:22 am

I make my own campaigns, and never had much interaction with the Forgotten Realms except for the video games (Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights 1, 2, and all the expansions). For game worlds, I’ve always preferred Greyhawk. However, I like the hopeful tone of this article, and I agree…putting your own stamp on the world is never a bad thing, and being proactive is fine in terms of adapting it to suit your tastes. A huge advantage is that your changes can surprise players who may know the world as well as you.

I don’t worry about the loss of bards because you can make ANY class with about a half-hour’s worth of work and a few hours for the write-up. The classes are formulaic, so creating a new one is only an exercise in coming up with names for the powers, figuring which attribute to use for each ability, and porting over abilities that fall in line with the other classes’ powers. What I’d savor with the bard would be the opportunity to come up with names. I’d go with classic rock song titles. An encounter attack power, for example, might be Rock You Like a Hurricane, Another One Bites the Dust, or Welcome to My Nightmare. Mwahahahahahahahahahahaah!

So singeth Omnus.