The Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide is one of the two primary source books covering the Forgotten Realms setting. It is written by Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, and Chris Sims and published by Wizards of the Coast for use with the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition role-playing game.
It is worth noting that I am not a huge fan of the Forgotten Realms and my previous experience with the setting is only from the third edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book. This review isn’t particularly concerned with the changes to story elements between the editions, but rather with how useful this book is in isolation from previously published material both for a game set in the Forgotten Realms and for tidbits that can be stolen for use in other settings.
The first chapter covers the town of Loudwater as a sample starting point for a campaign. The town itself is described in detail including businesses and important personalities. Nothing about Loudwater stands out as especially interesting or unique, but it does seem like a good home base for a campaign. In addition to the town itself, the chapter describes several adventure sites in various amounts of detail.
The second chapter, which covers history and fluff elements of the setting, seems too short. The timeline and calendar information in particular is brief compared to what is provided in many other campaign books. The glossary section is a nice addition that allows dungeon masters to sprinkle terms from the setting into their games. It’s likely that most of the material that seems to be missing from this chapter will instead be located in the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide which will be released later this month.
Magic, the third chapter, describes the Spellplague, supernatural locations, magical items, and rituals. The detail here gives enough to let dungeon masters use these elements in their campaigns, but like the previous chapter it feels as if the Player’s Guide is a necessary companion book.
The fourth and fifth chapters, Cosmology and Pantheon, provide an overview of the planes of existence and the gods, primordials, and demons of the Forgotten Realms. The coverage is rather brief offering only short summaries of the planar locations and greater gods. One of the more interesting bits is the division of deities into the 18 greater gods and numerous other gods and exarchs. This allows most of the deities from the setting’s earlier versions to continue to exist but places the emphasis on a handful of gods that both the players and dungeon masters can focus on in greater detail. One weakness is that only the greater gods have any real descriptive text in the chapter and the other deities are restricted to only a name, alignment, gender, sphere, and dominion.
Faerun and Beyond, the sixth chapter, is the true description of the Forgotten Realms setting. It is the longest section of the book running from page 82 to 235. Each region is given a few pages of description covering its history and geography. The descriptions generally contain locations and people that can be used as adventure hooks or campaign goals.
The final chapter, Threats, contains organizations and monsters that a dungeon master can use as villains in adventures and campaigns. This section has a good mix of campaign-end villains like Fzoul Chembryl, an exarch of Bane, or Blazing Rorn the Fury, an ancient primordial, and low-level monsters like gibberlings and zairtails. This chapter is probably the most useful for dungeon masters seeking to just grab ideas for their own campaign worlds and adventures. The monsters and villains provided, while tied to the Forgotten Realms, can easily be dropped into other settings with only a few changes to their names and lore.
Overall, the campaign guide is a good introduction to the Forgotten Realms and a useful source of ideas and inspiration for dungeon masters. It feels somewhat incomplete without the accompanying Player’s Guide, but that should be remedied later this month.