Sunday, September 30, 2012

I wish I could forget the Forgotten Realms (Part 2)

In 1989, when I finally got to play D&D, I was oblivious of the politicking at TSR that forced Gygax out of the company in 1985. I believe that  I hadn't even heard of the Forgotten Realms until about two years later when I saw advertisement in Dragon Magazine.

I remember thinking: Why would I need another campaign setting? I already have Greyhawk. I had access to my brother's World of Greyhawk boxed set. In 1992, I picked up Greyhawk: From the Ashes. While even I disagree with some of the aspects of From the Ashes, I still think Greyhawk is a perfect campaign setting--until maybe 3rd Edition when Erik Mona got a hold if it, even so, he was more faithful to the original source material than was expected.

Still, Greyhawk remains a generic campaign setting with a history of it's own, but not as obtrusive as the Forgotten Realms at the gaming table. In the original boxed set, TSR gave DMs a bare bones setting, meant to be tailored by the DM.

The Forgotten Realms, however, is very obtrusive and guided by novel sales, TSR and later WotC's sales plans. If you've ever encountered a Realms Lawyer, you'll understand what I'm talking about. People obviously must have enjoyed the Realms, and still do.

But as somebody firmly in the Greyhawk camp, I didn't (and still don't) completely understand the Realms phenomenon, and why people continue to buy the material, especially the 2e stuff. The Realms seemed to cater to the power gamers and rules lawyers. In the 2e boxed set, I recall that the introductory adventure pitting the 1st level player-characters against several 5th Level Drow. They also needed magical weapons to defeat a couple creatures, like an aballin.

Furthermore, the material seemed everywhere and it was sub-par. When I'd read Dragon or Dungeon magazines, the moment I saw the Realms I thought my money was just being wasted. If the material was Realms specific, I didn't want to bother trying to convert it to Greyhawk or Domikka (my homebrew setting). The Ruins of Undermountain was supposed to be a gigantic dungeon filled with monsters, traps, and puzzles galore. It does, in a way, the DM has to fill in a lot blanks--most of the dungeon isn't keyed at all. (Perhaps, as a Greyhawk fan, I should like the "bare bones" of Undermountain, but I don't, because that's not how it was advertised.) I also recall that a lot of supplements, if used, made characters really powerful.

Well, that's enough ranting for now. Next up, I do a book review...

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