Faerûn and the Sword Coast
Faerûn is the focus of most Forgotten Realms material. It is a large contient on the world of Toril. More or less, it’s a pretty standard fantasy setting. One of it’s most well known features is the existence of a massive sub-terrianian realm known as the Underdark, home to the Drow, and lovecraftian type horrors such as the mind-flayers and aboleths.
Faerûn is also notable for the detail of it’s politics, it’s home to many powerful nations that are always warring and scheming. A handful notable nations are
- Cormyr – A strong human nation located somewhat centrally in the continent, on the Sea of Fallen Stars (an inland sea that allows for a lot of trading and such)
- Silver Marches – A confederation of cities in the north bound together for protection from orcs and such. Happy elves, dwarves and humans living together.
- Thay – A very strong nation in the east that is normally ruled by a group of Wizards (The Red Wizards). Thay is a pretty typical antagonist of Forgotten Realms campaigns. In the current 4th edition timeline Thay is ruled by a powerful lich, and has hordes of undead as it’s armies.
- Netheril – Another nation ruled by mages similar to Thay. This is the oldest human empire, a long time ago it’s capital city and ruling class were pulled into the plane of shadow, they’ve since returned and the shades of Netheril have their eyes on conquest.
- Amn – Very rich trading nation on the southern sword coast.
The Spellplague was an event that took place to mark the transition to 4th edition D&D in the Realms. Like comic book writers, the D&D guys love to try and shake things up with big catastrophes (like the Time of Troubles back in 2nd ed). The spellplague is much more controversial though.
Basically what went down was the goddess of magic, Mystra was killed by two other gods, Cryic and Shar. The result was that the structure of magic collapsed and the world was wracked by huge magical storms, tons of people died, the landscape changed, and so on. When touched by the characteristic blue flames of the spellplague creatures would mutate. Just all sorts of bad crap.
The current campaign timeline is about 100 years after the spellplague, and for the most part it has largely come to end a long time ago. The use of magic has gone back to normal. However here and there there are groups of “plague-touched” creatures and even races such as humans and elves can still carry traces of the spellplague (known as spellscar).
The Sword Coast
The Sword Coast is the far western region of Faerûn, named because of the Sea of Swords. Usually it’s broken up into the Sword Coast proper, and the Northern Sword Coast. It’s a pretty interesting area mostly because a majority of the fiction takes place here. Generally the sword coast wasn’t impacted greatly by the spellplague as well.
Notable sword coast nations are
- Baldur’s Gate – Probably the largest and safest city in the realms currently. Baldur’s Gate was unscathed by the spellplague and has prospered greatly.
- Waterdeep- Only recently overshadowed by Baldur’s Gate since the spellplague, Waterdeep is still a hugely powerful and influential force. Very safe and stable city. The city is ruled by a council of anonymous nobles, with one public member (the Open Lord). The current Open Lord of Waterdeep is Dagult Neverember.
- Neverwinter- Known as the “Jewel of the North”, Neverwinter was once described by Volo as “the most cosmopolitan and the most civilized city in all of Faerûn”. Recent events haven’t been so kind to Neverwinter however…
- Luskan – A hive of scum and villiany, the northernmost city on the coast. Historically Luskan was the main rival to Neverwinter, and the two cities would occasionally war. Since the spellplague, Luskan has fell into ruin and is now a den of pirates and thieves. Even goblins and kobolds walk the streets.