Forgotten Realms

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Forgotten Realms is an official Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting created by Ed Greenwood circa 1967 for his little stories, but was not part of the official TSR Games/Wizards of the Coast lineup until 1987 and has since been supported by TSR/WotC through all five editions of the game. The setting is supported by hundreds of novels' worth of lore by dozens of authors (R.A. Salvatore being a standout), and is notable for prominently featuring the Planetouched.


Deja vu, I've been in this place before..

Set on the planet Abeir-Toril, most of the Forgotten Realms source material focuses on the continent Faerûn. Faerûn is pretty similar to pre-industrial Europe, with the exception of all of the crazy fantasy stuff. At the low end, Wizards and Sorcerers make up 1% of the typical human population, and half of them are actually good at it. It seems to think that's a small number, despite being substantially more than MDs in the modern world (0.29%), most of whom are in very niche specialties. Multiple Clerics, "often" mid-level, can be found "in virtually every thorp and hamlet", and are common enough that people tend to die of old age, rather than injury their body can't heal naturally or disease. Despite a serious percentage of the population being casters, many of some skill, outside of Thay none of them do anything but maintain the status quo, try to violently conquer the world, or violently put an end to those trying to conquer the world. (That's the players' and villains' job)

Here are a plethora of nations, kingdoms, organizations, deities, and fully fleshed-out NPCs who are ripe with political intrigue and conflict.

As You Know Who tightened her grip on TSR, and pushed Greyhawk and The Known World into the margins, Forgotten Realms annexed some other authors' work. Douglas Niles' Bloodstone Pass and R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale both got retconned in. And then Niles did Maztica. Each time this happened, that pushed the boundaries of others' creativity that much further away. You know. Those others, who don't have contracts with bigshot publishers. Us.

By the end of 2e little left on Toril was left worth a DM's time to flesh out that had not been fleshed out. There was very, very little room for an incomer's own stuff.

Even WoTC thought that this had gotten really out of hand: when 4th edition rolled along, they decided to give the place a reboot. Hey, the Time of Troubles worked for the 1e-to-2e shift, right? They came up with the idea of "the Spellplague": killing Mystra off through the machinations of her long-time enemy Cyric and triggering another massive magical upheaval, similar to the one that had ended the Age of Magic when Mystryl had been killed off. They then skipped time forward a century, to add icing to the cake, presenting a rebuilding world and retconning Abeir-Toril from being the planet's almost never used full name (so it'd be first in the setting encyclopedia) to being twin planets, with Abeir, under the dominion of the Primordials, serving as an origin for 4th edition races.

Unfortunately... the result was an absolute PR nightmare. The dramatic changes in everything from geology to cosmology, with the World Tree replaced by the World Axis, just infuriated the setting's fandom, who have something of a reputation as obsessive-compulsive grognards even by the standards of the D&D fandom.

Not surprisingly, when the edition change rolled out, a new apocalyptic makeover, the Sundering, was used alongside a 10 year skip to change things more back to the way they were. Although, on the plus side, a lot of the uber-NPCs who didn't have huge fanbases actually stayed dead - they even killed off some more of Mystra's Chosen during the Sundering.

All in all, Forgotten Realms is the ultimate skub setting of D&D, with people still bitching over every little change from 1st edition onwards. Yes, even more than 2e/3e Greyhawk: at least there, the grognards enjoy a consensus, that what From The Ashes did was a blip, a Late Unpleasantness in the past. Ironically, 5e's attempt at focusing attention on the Realms has begun making it even less popular, as by this point most of the fandom is getting well and truly sick that one setting is getting all the 5e love.

You'll notice going down that a lot of the sub-settings, in particular, seem to rip-off of real-world places and people. Well, that's intentional: Forgotten Realms was designed with the idea that it has long had secret portals to our real-world throughout history - which may or may not have anything to do with the D&D cartoon from the 1980s. So, a lot of shit in Forgotten Realms is literally supposed to have either been brought there from Earth, or inspired Earth by slipping through the portals. Mulhorand, for example, is not only "Ancient Egypt in D&D with the Egyptian Gods ruling it", but is by its fluff actually populated by the descendants of Ancient Egyptians who were sucked through portals into the Realms and enslaved by evil wizards.


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Medieval/Renaissance Europe/Near East/Africa. The setting of the vast majority of D&D stories, including those of a certain dark elf, and is the center of attention in pretty much all D&D videogames to boot. If you somehow don't know about it, there's a guide to it. This setting provided inspiration for most of the 3e splatbooks. Most of the attention Faerûn gets is centered on its west coast, the Sword Coast, and the Dalelands.

A common theme of the continent, (as the others like Kara-Tur and Zakhara were original and currently treated as separate D&D worlds), is that the region is just lousy with the remains of long-dead temples, towns, cities, and civilizations whose existence has mostly been washed from memory with the passing of time (Forgotten Realms TM). Rarely does this happen by mundane real-life means like profits drying up or being conquered by a neighbor. It always has to be the fault of some fiend, power-hungry mage(s), and/or adventuring party, with a notable percentage of the previous occupants dying in some horrific manner, often with a horde of orcs being somehow involved that has come to raid and raze the place before, during or after the incident. So remember that when you're exploring some ruins, the original inhabitants didn't abandon the place willingly and their dusty dried blood must still stain the walls.

Sword Coast[edit]

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As a continent is still a dizzyingly vast place, the Sword Coast is the main location for adventures in the Forgotten Realms, or at least where they get their start, with the majority of 5e modules operating on this assumption. The Sword Coast is the areas surrounding the cities that are part of the Lords' Alliance. This is your standard-issue sandbox fantasy location, with city-states overlooking smaller towns, instead of classical kingdoms. Still tons of monsters and ruins of past civilizations for parties to mess around in.

This is where you will find your Waterdeep, Neverwinter and, if you stretch a bit, Luskan and Baldur's Gate. To ensure that the Sword Coast never has its shit together enough to send armies out to repossess all the long-abandoned real estate surrounding these cities, there is no unified nation; the major powers in the region are city-states with a few satellite towns and hamlets under their wings - you know, so us hero-types can get into loads of adventures and be needed to do generally hero-like stuff and get paid for it.

The Sword Coast is also where many of the Forgotten Realms' major factions are centered, such as the Zhentarim, the Lord's Alliance and so on. Whether that really means something is up to you, but if you ask sourcebooks and adventures set in this place, it's damn near the most important thing in the world.

Icewind Dale[edit]

Your Grim Up North Arctic setting is just north of the Sword Coast. Here be frostbite, frost giants, blizzards, isolation, and eldritch horrors.

Western Heartlands[edit]

Here be Baldur's Gate and every other existential threat the city (more accurately the main character of the video games) has to deal with.

You have Warlock's Crypt, home to the powerful Netherese lich Larloch, who hates it when you mispronounce his name as Warlock.

To the east is the Grand Protectorate of Elturel, a theocracy of goodness that attracts a lot of paladin types. The highest honor of the nation is being a Hellrider, named after the brave army that rode with Zariel into Hell (at least until they bravely noped back out and shut the portal on Zariel, causing her to fall and become an Archdevil). Zariel now hates Elturel for some reason. Depending on what time period you play, the holy city is either secretly ruled by a vampire lord, has a second sun over the city, and is controlled by a seemingly benevolent man who secretly sold the city to Zariel, Zariel has come collecting and dragged the city into Avernus, or some other ending for Descent into Avernus you and your friends made up.

Here you will also find the Trielta Hills, where the Gnomes and Halflings live like the footnotes they like to be.

Najara is the evil nation that is openly-not-secretly ruled by snake people.

Evereska in the Greycloak Hills is another secluded place where the dying elven race lives, especially with a recent influx of refugees from Cormanther.

South of Baldur's Gate is Candlekeep where all the nerds live. You can't enter the library fortress unless you give them a scribble of paper they don't already own.

And then finally we have the Far Hills way the hell down in the southeast, the base of the military arm of the Zhentarim and its main headquarters as of 5e.

Eastern Heartlands[edit]

Although the Sword Coast gets the most focus, the Western Heartlands is host to many of Ed Greenwood's babies and where he and his players spend most of their own time.

We have The Dalelands, a loose confederation of independent small towns that were given this land by the elves of Cormanthor as a pact in hopes that these common farming folk will act as a buffer against approaching evils. Ed's OC Elminster's hometown, Shadowdale, is here. The Dalelands is always the target of sinister plots by its more nationalized neighbors to break up these close-knit rural communities and annex their lands, in addition to whatever the other D&D baddies might be cooking up.

To the southeast is Cormyr, one of the very few classical fantasy kingdoms that exist in the Forgotten Realms. Nobility is important, and the only way to really get in is through political marriages. Commoners and adventures with remarkable skills that want to get their family's foot in the door could join the Purple Dragon Knights or the War Wizards; though not a hereditary title, it's still your best way to start schmoozing with the Cormyrian nobility and maybe make a political match.

Sembia is your conglomeration of capitalist port towns, where you can get trade goods without the taxation (or quality control) of Cormyr's ports. There are always merchants here willing to sell or searching for a new source of revenue to milk.

Westgate is somehow an even seedier cesspool of crime and villainy that makes Amn and Sembia look like ethical and orderly governments by comparison. Bribery and profits are the only things that matter.

The Moonsea is a region filled with independent cities that are constantly waxing and waning in power and importance. This is where Zhentill Keep is found, the birthplace of the Zhentarim. With the founder, the now ancient archmage Manshoom, falling out of favor, and an ill-advised alliance with the phaerimm causing a devastating shadow war with the returned Netherese, the Zhentarim's current main base of operations is now in the West, though they're still looking to reclaim their birthplace.

Cormanthor is your classic big-ass forest containing the remains of an ancient elven empire. The main city was Myth Drannor, a relatively recent city by eleven standards; here they attempted to preserve the few vestiges of elven civilization by opening up to other races and giving way to the Dalelands. However, as with most things Elven, haters gonna hate and demons gonna demon, and after several incursions, the straw that broke the elves' back was an idiot elf High Mage named Khyssoun Ammath who created and reared a red dragon that never knew evil. Apparently the ruling council forgot or lacked the heart tell poor Ammath that taking this red dragon on joyrides was the impossibility required to destroy the city's protective wards, and so released three imprisoned yugoloths that proceeded to build an army of darkness and raze Myth Drannor, one of the last real elven cities. Around the transition to 4e, some ancient Elf Cambions finally conquered the ruin of Myth Drannor, only for a crusade to take it back and decide to seriously try to rebuild the city this time.

Myth Drannor was returning to power until the Second Sundering, where Sembia invaded the Dalelands. Calling on allies, it was a war between the alliance of the Dalelands, Cormyr, and Myth Drannor vs the Netherese and their puppets, ending with the last Netherese flying capital city crashing into Myth Drannor, once again destroying the remains of two once grand empires.

This war started about 6 to 16 years ago between 4e and 5e, with the status quo ultimately returning to how it was before in 3e.

The Lands of Intrigue[edit]

South of the Sword Coast and Baldur's Gate is basically Faerûn's slice of Zakhara. Long ago the Genie lord Calim swept into the area with his lackeys and created a slavocratic empire. Eventually, his Genie generals tried to take a slice of Calim's pie for themselves, resulting in a brief war that absolutely ended with the local angry tree-hugging elf high mages fusing most of the genies into a giant floating crystal, taking care to also shatter Calim's and his former head right hand, Memnon, minds across the land, but transforming the surrounding area into a desert as a byproduct. and then the elves patted themselves on the back and called it a day instead of finishing the job like they usually do.

After their master was imprisoned, the human ex-slaves created their own empire of Calimshan. The land of Tethyr eventually rebelled and gained independence, resulting in the merchant nation of Amn also getting some breathing room.

Amn is located in the northern part of the region. It's a plutocratic nation of trade, ruled by a council of 6 5 wealthy families. Ships from every land on Toril make port in Athkatla, the city of coin whose marketplace is twice the size of Waterdeep's. From spices to silks to rare magic items to your kidnapped grandma this is the best place to find, buy and sell those kinds of things. Wealth is expected to be flaunted and the only punishment for committing most crimes is paying a fine if you get caught. The only death penalty is being an arcane caster who has not paid the secretive Cowled Wizards' steep membership fee.

In the south, Calimshan receives about as much trade as Amn, though they're not as obsessed with acquiring coin as their neighbors. Like Amn, wealth determines power in Calimshan's hierarchies. The Syl-pasha, the "chief guildmaster" of the city of Calimport, is usually one of the most important people in the city as a result. Calimshan is defined by how prevalent magic is in everyday life. The people of Calimsham see themselves as the greatest of nations as they accept and are willing to evoke any and all gods in the Faerûn pantheon and have at least one still working temple dedicated to each one. Nothing can go wrong when a public temple to Tyr, Bhaal, and Cyric are in the same city.

Sandwiched between the two nations is the kingdom of Tethyr. This is the Spanish-style constitutional monarchy, where landholding is the major measure of wealth and the gods that enrich it the most important deities to its people. Tethyr's history has long been defined by many secret coups and the peasants' frequent viva la revolutions.

Muranndin is a nation of monsters and bandits that carved out a spot for itself between Tethyr and Amn, just south of the Small Teeth mountain range in 1371 DR. The Great Mur has only nominal control over the chieftains and bandit lords, who spend their time raiding the neighbouring contries and each other.

Cape Velen used to be a duchy of Tethyr, but declared independence after getting cut off from them by Muranndin several years prior. Ghost sightings are super common here, to the point that the locals just ignore them entirely.

The Old Empires[edit]

South of the Sea of Falling Stars you'll find the setting's pre-Islamic Middle Eastern nations. Long ago some human tribes discovered the portal network of a creator race and used it to conquer a massive portion of eastern Faerûn, with outposts even in the Endless Wastes. The Imaskar Empire became master artificer-wizards and relied on magic items for day-to-day life. They still needed slave labor, though, so they went to the actual planet Earth and kidnapped pre-Bronze Age humans near the Fertile Crescent and Nile River. This went bad for the Imaskari, as despite being anti-theists and taking precautions to create a barrier to block divine magic, they didn't expect the slaves' pantheons to bypass it with a host of Avatars.

The Imaskar wizards were not immediately wiped out, but the Mesopotamian Mulhorand and Egyptian Unther people were freed and established their own empires ruled by god-kings that battled the remains of Imaskar artificers for years until they were mostly driven off-world or underground.

The new empire ran smoothly, but Imaskar prejudices placed harsh restrictions on arcane magic. A bunch of wizards, having no sense of right or wrong, rebelled against these strictures and formed their own magocracy they named Thay, and they have been a nuisance to everyone ever since. Their first order of business was to open a portal to an orc dominated planet (which the leader of the revolution was executed before he could do something), causing the world to be overrun with orcs while Gruumsh probably massacred all of Mulhorand's pantheon that didn't peace out. After that was resolved nothing much happened until 4e.



Chessenta is a bunch of city-states that broke away from Mulhorand under the leadership of a red dragon and god-king of Tiamat named Tchazzar.

Tymanther: During 4e, the chunk that replaced Mulhorand was filled with dragonborn that were really sick of being ruled by dragons. They were on peaceful terms with the returned Imaskar, but when Mulhorand came back between 4e and 5e, they were also sick of dragons (including dragonborn). Wanting to reclaim all their lost lands, Gilgeam had declared two wars on the new nation, which has only been halted for now by his father Enlil making the dragonborn his new chosen people.

Shining South[edit]

Pseudo-Africa and Pseudo-India, in that it's mostly covered in tropical jungles and swamps, with one huge-ass desert. Notable regions include Halruaa, an isolationist magocracy, Dambrath, a nation of horse-riding, Loviatar-worshipping black amazons (of the "women run things, men obey" variety) ruled over the by Crinti (a matriarchal mixture of half-elves, drow, and half-drow), and the halfling homeland of Luiren. Is home to Faerun's native population of thri-kreen, as well as a race of alien elephant people called Loxos.

Despite the Shining South's lack of any major influence on or pronounced interaction with the rest of the Forgotten Realms, the damage this region suffered as a result of the 4E Spellplague - which, amongst other things, saw Halruaa blow up, Luiren sink underwater, and Dambrath's Crinti rulers be deposed by a human uprising that brought about a restoration of their pre-Crinti culture - was hugely unpopular. Some of that is inexplicable - Halruaa blowing up makes perfect sense, since the place was literally as magical as Eberron and the Spellplague's whole thing was making magic dangerously unstable - but other complaints are more reasonable; if such an "old ways" movement against the Crinti had ever been explicitly mentioned in 3e or 2e lore, Dambrath's civil uprising would have made sense - especially in light of the baked-in drow tendency towards slave raids - but with no explicit pretext, it seemingly comes out of nowhere.

5E brought Halruaa back from death. Having foreseen the all-consuming blue fire that followed Mystra’s death, the mages used it to displace themselves into Abeir (while displacing part of that world into the Plane of Shadow). Now they're back to spread the joys of airships.

Because halflings just don't give a shit, they treated their entire nation being underwater like their basement was flooded. After calling a plumber off-screen, Luiren has now returned to being the land of hobbits everyone forgets about.

Dambrath are still horse-riding nomads and hate the Crinti. They see lycanthropy as showing reverence to their favored deity and honoring their heritage.


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Southwest of Chult is a mysterious island nation populated by mostly half-elves, supposedly once ruled by the church of Leira, goddess of illusions and lies, before being taken over by a group of also super-secretive illusionist archmages during the Time of Troubles. By the nation's very nature this is all we know about them, and this may also be a very elaborate lie.

You can't teleport to the island and they have invisible hippogriff knights that will sink uninvited ships.

This secrecy probably also hides the fact that Nimbral also has Spelljammer ports; in 2e there was a secret "resort" where spelljammer crews went for vacation. The second time Nimbral did anything was in 5e, where it became home to the Spelljammer Academy, an also secret place where recruits from across the Forgotten Realms learn how to Spelljam.

Unapproachable East[edit]

Eastern Asia, a blend of Mongolian, Russian, Indian, and Chinese traits. Most famous for being the lands covering Thay, the biggest civilization of evil wizards in the setting, and the more obscure land of Rashemen, which is a sort of Russian berserker country ruled by masked witches but which everyone knows because it's the homeland of Minsc. It's the setting for Mask of the Betrayer, the first expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights 2, since Obsidian decided to set a Forgotten Realms video game somewhere interesting for once.

Cold Lands[edit]

Your other Russian/Slavic nations sandwich betweened the Anauroch, Unapproachable East, and the Great Glacier; this is as far north you can go before getting into Icewind Dale territory, but somehow the Great Glacier is even colder and more dangerous.

You have Damara, a kingdom that makes its money off Bloodstone mining but is run by incompetent nobles that are starting to have a demon infestation problem. This is the best setting for running a game in feudal Russia or Kislev. They used to own Vaasa before a lich destroyed it long ago.

To its east is Narfell, the remains of a demon-worshiping empire that conquered much of the Cold Lands and the east before being destroyed in a protracted war with the predecessors of Rashemi. (Says devils in the 5e Sword Coast Adventure Guide, although it was demons in older sources and under the Nar peoples' description, so this seems like a typo). Now inhabited by nomadic tribs that have sworn off the sins of thier ancesters, but with the threat of a warlord uniter to return lost glory is always present.

To the west is Vaasa, a place once destroyed by a lich before being defeated by Damara, that is now watched over by the iron-fisted Warlock Knights that "worship"/mine the iron comatose body of the primordial Telos, who are currently debating if they should break from their charge and invade their neighbors again.

Finally, there is Sossal, founded by a group from Rasheman who believed they could create a kingdom in the Great Glacier near the Sea of Ice (different from the Sea of Moving Ice), the equivalent of medieval Russians following a river north and settling down in fantasy Siberia. (This is still speculation as we know very little about the place).


The Eurasian Steppes with Tibet thrown in as well. Yes, they had their own version of Genghis motherfucking Khan and Mongol invasions. Dragon Magazine #349 and its web supplement pgs. 46-64 updated parts to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, v.3.5 revision.


Ancient China/Japan/Korea. Updated for 3e with the Book of Weeaboo Fightan Magic and Oriental Adventures, but never updated for 4e as a setting. Little bits of it were included in Dragon for 4e, covering Samurai and Ninja and horde themes as well as new monk stuff and Hengeyokai as a race.


Ancient India/Southeast Asia. Got its own living campaign at the end of 2e and the beginning of 3e, and was soon forgotten afterward.


Pre-Columbian South/Central America, the subject of the eponymous splatbook for AD&D. Was not updated for 3rd Edition, but skipped a generation and got an update for 4th Edition, in the form of being replaced by the continent of Abeir and having everything about it shunted into another universe. Wasn't in 3e either so fuck them. Manages to be the skubbiest aspect of the setting; some adore it for being South American fantasy, a rare thing, others hate it for being so transparently "the Aztec world shunted into the Forgotten Realms". Some madlads at the DM's Guild went and wrote a full translation to 5th Edition with a "the Aztec world shunted into the Forgotten Realms, but this time the Aztecs won and gave Lolth and to a lesser extent Helm the finger before integrating the surviving colonists" feeling. Also, they're back where Abeir used to be because why the fuck not.


Pre-Columbian North America. What's written about is based on the culture of Native Americans of the Four Corners.


Despite being located south of not!Central America, it's supposed to be based on Pre-Colonial Africa, and that is literally all that is known about the place.


Pre-Colonial Australia. Outside the pun, that's largely all that's known.


Medieval Middle East/Hollywood Arabia. Left to hang in the wind after 2e ended, save some 3e articles in Dragon Magazine, and probably not likely to come back any time soon. But 5e did bring back the yakmen.


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Because Spelljammer, Toril is part of a solar system with planets you can fly to.

The Crystal Sphere[edit]

Back in 2e, when the Phlogiston was a thing and every wildspace system was enclosed by a Crystal sphere, the inside of Realmspace's crystal sphere was covered in colossal spell Glyph, which the occasional wizard will get Nuked by a spell upcasted to 10th level+ as they foolishly try to decipher them. Portals into and out of the sphere open and close randomly, with an estimated 3,200 portals existing at a time. Also, the stars in Realmspace are portals of versus sizes to the Quasielemental of Radiance.

Another unique feature inside the Realmspace Crystal Sphere is the hundreds of thousands of humanoids from a mix of races, marching in a line around the sphere's meridian; all have the mark of Torm on their palms, silent chant, and wave hands like they are casting spells. Legends say that they are the evilest souls that die each quinquennial, so they are punished by gods to eternally open portals so spelljammers can get in and out. This duty/curse doesn't stop them from falling into the Phlogiston when a portal opens on the meridian.

With 5e Officially abolishing the Phlogiston and Crystal Spheres, consider all of this to have been retconned away.

The Sun[edit]

The hottest place in the system, which may be the result or a byproduct of the sun having many portals to the Plane of Fire, so fire elementals, efreeti, Helians, firenewts, salamanders, Giant Lavaworms, and other creatures of flame like it here (many scholars think they are here because they like the smell of nuclear fusion). As you would expect, the surface is covered with lakes of molten earth and liquid flame, with fire pillars erupting millions of miles up - Helians like to ride them, bronco rider style. This may be the most obvious way to get into the plane of fire, but there are many dangers as we are talking about 2e's plane of fire. You're basically trying to get close to a plasma-filled star, and the best you have is old-school fire immunity which will not only not protect your clothes from turning into ash, but also that ring of fire immunity also has limits as it will melt in your hands with you along with it. Another problem is making sure to avoid the 12 100,000-mile diameter dead magic zones orbiting the sun, called sargassos. They also have to contend with the Helians, who will shoot down any ship that gets close enough to prevent other races from exploiting their home planet.


The closest planet to the sun, so 70% of the planet is a barren wasteland filled with the biggest canyons in Realmspace and predators that would feel at home in Dark Sun. The exception to this are the poles, where massive glaciers produce rivers of meltwater that nourish fertile hill-country.

Also as a alternative dark sun were the world started as a desert, The dominant race of Andia is an unnamed halfling subrace, distinguished by their dark skin, smaller eyes and ears, and visual adaptation to a naturally brighter world - these guys basically have the opposite of darkvision, having a hard time seeing when it's not lit up like a neon Christmas tree. They also are noted for being very emotionally extreme, though it's unclear if this is a personality trait or a cultural trait; if they like something, then they love it, but when they don't like it, they abhor it.

The Northern Polearate is a constitutional democracy made up of 13 counties, of which only four are safe to visit for outsiders on spelljammers, as the other nine violently discourage visitors with primed anti-air batteries. Well, for a given value of being "safe". See, the Northern Polearates are not only violently paranoid about outsiders stealing their precious water reserves, but also militant halfling supremacists; they believe halflings are the intellectually dominant race of Wildspace, and other races should be shepherded into reserves under their control "for their own wellbeing". Doesn't mean they won’t accept business with outsiders, just stay outside the segregated inside the visitor-allowed zone and don't get left behind by your vessel.

The Southern Polearate, in contrast, is a parody of the violently warring Italian city-states from the age of Shakespeare. Seriously, these guys are ridiculously aggro compared to your regular laid-back pipeweed-smoking halfling; most halflings here die around age 25 due to being murdered in some clan-feud or other. It doesn't help that A. the pole's cultural motto is literally "Anything worth fighting over is worth dying for", and B. social standing is determined by how valuable the stuff you own is. Even minor details of one's personal properties, such as the size of your land in inches or the kind of fences you use to mark your borders, is stuff that these halflings will stab each other for. Spelljammers wisely stay the fuck away from these bumblefucks, lest they be swarmed by loot-crazed blood-vendetta-swearing halflings. Even orcs or goblins would probably be more hospitable.

In the wasteland areas, the dominant sapient race (because, remember, they technically are sapient) are the Umber Hulks, the feral descendants of Neogi fighting slaves abandoned here when the neogi tried to invade, only to get so sick of getting their shit kicked in that they cut their losses and left. The local halflings like to credit this to their racial luck and ingenuity. Outsiders suspect the real reason has to lie with two of Anadia's dominant predators; the gremlin-like Painsjan, which are voracious carnivores that swarm the wastes in huge hordes, and the Anadjiin, a race of large, humanoid dino-bugs with genius-level intellects who have taken on the personal responsibility of balancing Anadia's ecosystem. Evidently, they've decided that crazy halflings and burrowing beetle-apes are a decent choice for dominant sapient lifeforms, so their tastes are obviously quite questionable, though they do eat a lot of them.


A warm gas giants filled with hundreds of earth and water islands orbiting inside the planet at various altitudes.

The planet is primarily inhabited by Lizardfolk, aarakocra, and dragons.

Thunderstorms happen a lot near the top, so the aarakocra prefer living on the lower islands. The aarakocra here have 100 separate democratic governments, which happened to be all matriarchal for the last 1,200 years by popular vote. They often trade spelljammer crews the gems they mine for guns to deal with Lizardfolk expansion.

The Lizardfolk are communists, making sure everything is shared equally amongst themselves. At their ports, they sell aarakocra meat and feathers, overpriced water, and include the air tax as a docking fee. They have an interest in spelljammers, specifically buying or renting them so they (and some dragons) can get their eggs as close as possible to the sun to produce superior children. The section on the Sun explains the inherent dangers of getting so close to that ball of fire, but the lizards don't seem to mind.

Finally, acting as a neutral party are the dragons. The dragons here tend to be more neutral than the chromatic and metallic dragons on most other worlds; they rarely engage in open conflict with each other and and are more willing to interbreed. Being more cooperative, they scheme together to increase their hoards. Acting as a neutral party between lizardfolk and aarakocra, they will lean towards whichever side they can profit from more but will come to the aid of either side if they notice them being attacked by outsiders. Some shadier folk take advantage of this to destroy vessels that flee their ports without getting all their money wrung out paying all the dock fees). All dragons also have an agreement with the two races to be able to use any spelljamming at any time.


See top of page


From Toril, Selune looks like a glowing, tidally-locked wheel of cheese, and that is what moon people want the people of Toril to think. Despite being named after the goddess of the moon, the native pale-skinned humans and elves who inhabit the place actually worship Leira, the goddess of illusions and trickery, and have named the moon after her. Selune is very earth-like; the moon people have a culture that values aesthetics and intense passions, with the average citizen buying art, fine foods, and fancy furniture. The moon people import silk and pay fine gold for the safe travel of foreign artists (who tend to survive only for a few days or weeks on Selune before getting stabbed by another artist). They also buy deadly magical items...

The people of Selune are mostly open with everyone except the people of Toril. The reason for this is that they are deeply paranoid that Toril will invade them (a not unreasonable conclusion given how many clandestine empire-builders, expansionist nutjobs, power-hungry mages, and world-ending threats exist on Toril and are only kept in check by the aimless bumbling bravery and derring-do of exceptional samaritans. Because of this paranoia, the Toril-facing side of the moon is shrouded in an illusion to keep the moon's cities hidden from prying eyes. All of its citizens are trained from a young age in guerrilla warfare, and the entire moon is riddled with hundreds of secret underground bunkers. All spelljammers must dock on the dark side of the moon to hide geographical and trade information from most Toril onlookers. Visitors from Toril are allowed on Selune, but are treated as potential spies from the moment they arrive, with the executioner's axe as soon as they stumble on a military or trade secret.

Tears of Selune[edit]

Circa −3500 DR, this asteroid field trailing behind the moon of Selune suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Many groundlings have their own self-centered interpretations, but many space people point to the mysterious castle at the center of the cluster as the main puzzle piece, though nobody has yet to return from that Brown Pudding-filled castle.

Many of these asteroids have been converted into spelljammer ports like the Dragon Rock. Others have become pirate hideouts where mind flayers, neogi, and githyanki hide out and plan their future raids on Toril. Also, the Citadel is a fortress where groundling dwarfs in the system find their space-legs before becoming entrepreneurial space dwarves. The Rock of Bral is heavily hinted at being canonically here until outright stated in the 5e release.


A planet covered only by water, a water world if you may, but you are not invited. It doesn't even have a solid planetary core. The world is divided into three sections; each one is hostile to spelljammers in different ways.

The warmest it will ever be at the Poles get is -10 degrees during the hottest summer days. Your are losing your landing gear at best if you make the mistake of letting your ship touch the ice. You will find any creature that would be at home in the Frostfell like polar bears, Homunculus (beats me why they're here), cryohydras, white puddings, remorhazes, ice toads, winter wolves, and yetis. There's also a group of marooned gnomes on the southern pole.

The equator sargasso is covered in a massive seaweed forest. There are leaves large enough to support a landing spelljammer, but the giant hungry insects mean the only reason to land here is for quick emergency repairs (or have heavy-duty bug repellent).

In between the two is only open water with telepathic dolphins and xenophobic sea elves that immigrated from Toril. They hate whalers, and as far as they're concerned all foreigners are whalers.

Orbiting the planet is a haunted military space station made of seven archaic man-o-war ships. it was placed there by the Elven Imperial Navy to oversee the relocation of the sea elves, but it was overrun by an invasion of mind flayers. It is now a derelict, inhabited only by the ghosts of its elven crew.


In contrast to Karpri, Chandos is covered with islands but just as unfriendly to Spelljammers.

Chandos is described to be comprised of earth motes that shift and move like a marble in a jar. About every 48 hours, everything moves, with mountains and landmasses suddenly rising or sinking back under the water. Landing something as heavy as a spelljammer always has a chance of the island suddenly shifting.

There are tribes of humans, dwarves, and orcs that eke out a nomadic lifestyle, searching for food while betting on which land mass will be safe to stay when the islands start changing. They are the survivors of a spelljammer that crashed on Chandos generations ago. The orcs are the friendliest and most civilized, while the humans and dwarves have become very debased from their time surviving on Chandos.

Basically it's Fenris but without Papa Viking to whip it into shape.


A ringed, seemingly barren, Far Realms-touched, inhospitable planet, which actually houses a thriving community of Mind Flayers and their 'skull cattle' farms.

To prevent the cattle from hiding on the surface, the Mind Flayers periodically burn down their own forests which causes the atmosphere to smell like a charnel house and rain acid. There is a drinkable gelatin ocean which is kept clean by slurping everything from the surface down to the sea floor.

Underground are the Mind Flayer cities, raising Oortlings and other varieties of humanoids as child geniuses for culinary brains, while any offworlders or slaves bred for muscle are put to hard labor. Still, several slaves escaped and rebelled on Glyth, with the Free Thinkers Union hiding deeper underground (an Under-Underdark, if you will) being the largest group the Mind Flayers are desperate to find.

Most Realm spacers (except most of Toril) are aware, just like the Neogi, that you shouldn’t trust or deal with Mind Flayers directly. Rational people avoid Glyth, but they still keep seminally active Spelljammer ports just so they can trade with off-world Mind Flayers and other aberrations, or occasionally trick the odd foreign Spelljammer into delivering its crew as new slaves.

Glyth has three moons: Haven is the only neutral ground between rival cities and the base of the Glyth Security and raiding fleet; the frozen moon Mingabwe is one of the only friendly ports in the region to land and plan raids against the Mind Flayers; its still living founder, the pirate turned paladin, Justin "Do Good" Demonslayer, went to the third moon Polluter to hide two evil magic items but settled on Mingabwe to found one of the few sanctuaries on Glyth.

Given how optional the lore of the Spelljammer and Elder Evil Books were, it is questionable if The Elder Evil Atropus, the World Born Dead, ever destroyed all life on Glyth with its necromantic presence. As of 5e we do know the Mind Flayers are still doing fine. By the late 15th century DR, Captain N'ghathrod in Dungeon of the Mad Mage had left his underground city to be a space pirate. So the bulk of the Illithid cities were fine, assuming the Atropus scenario is canon. Some also have the headcanon that the reason why the Realms Space stopped being a major center of Spelljamming (outside Spelljammer was never meant to be part of the main continuity) was that this is an alternate timeline where everyone else except the protagonists (PCs) drove off Atropus at the last minute, thus destroying the space economy in the process and why until recently there was a secret academy to train Spelljammers.


Is an A-class-sized cluster of Asteroids held together by the roots of an ancient and massive sentient Clonal tree known as Yggdrasil's Child, a relationship to the one in Ysgard is undetermined as the "plant" speaks to no one. Its main trunk is a twisting of many smaller 100 feet in diameter trunks all covered in thick foliage, and it is practically immortal as it's immune to cold, heat, and electrical damage and regenerates faster than a stubborn troll. The rest of the planet is a labyrinth of rock and root systems with a passageway between 33 to 100 yards, just large enough to navigate a spelljammer through the maze. This is a popular spot for tree huggers, but also a population of small ferry animals, making it a common pit stop for spelljammers, and also hidden smuggler and pirate coves; you could fly within 10 yards of a pirate ambush, and neither side knows it because of how thick the root walls are.


Looking like a cartwheel being gravitationally locked with the sun, the planet is a disk world with a 1,000 miles tall spindle-shaped mountain at the center surrounded by an ocean in its outer circumference and its underside (you also find one of three crashed ships on the underside as a relic of H'catha's previous civilization's Round H'catha Society).

H'catha is inhabited by several hives of beholders, doing what they do best. What they are also fighting over, in addition to the typical beholder-on-beholder race wars, is over the hundreds of hundreds of hidden mind-readying stations supposedly created by the beholder gods and tasked to the original hive before the civil war to use H'catha to gather all knowledge in existence and impart it into a living mind. You do need to be big-brained not to go crazy if you do gain ultimate knowledge. The Bartender, Large Luigi, is the only beholder to ever "gain complete knowledge of everything", and that made him a pretty chill guy living on the Rock of Bral.


The counter-Toril is a parallel planet no one knew about before because it occurred in the same dimensional space until the Spellplague screwed with reality. Home to the Dragonborn and primordial elementals, as well as all the new sub-giant races and whatever else was introduced in 4e. Ruled over by evil draconic overlords, barring a few kingdoms founded by rebellious giants and humans. Oh, and some weird undead empire that has magical undead-only portals connecting to all graveyards and mausoleums and crypts on Toril, which they claim as their territory.

Abridged History[edit]


Ao creates the twin sister deities Shar and Selûne. Shar is darkity darkness levels of evil and Selûne isn't. So naturally, they hate each other. They swirl around in the void that is Realmspace for gods know how long until via catfighting, they accidentally create Toril and create a couple of gods, mainly Chauntea and Mystryl. The latter going on to die several times and become Mystra because she couldn't fucking balance the byproduct of her creation, the Weave, which is the source of all magic, both Arcane and Divine. Things just got out of hand after that and next thing you know, you've got your campaign setting.

Karsus's Folly[edit]

Netheril, the Empire of Magic, ruled most of Faerûn long before Dale Reckoning. Netherese archmages were capable of obscene displays of magical power, such as the mythallar magic engines that enabled their signature floating cities to exist. The innately magical phaerimm opposed Netheril's heavy use of magic and retaliated, starting a war for the control of magic that created the Anauroch Desert.

In -339 DR, the archwizard Karsus attempted to save the empire by becoming a god. He created what is likely the only 12th-level spell in existence, Karsus's avatar, and used it to steal the power of Mystryl, goddess of the Weave. His last thought before the spell turned him to stone was probably "I have made a huge mistake." The Weave, damaged by the Netheril-phaerimm war, finally collapsed without Mystryl's constant intervention, causing all magic to fail. That included the mythallars. The majestic floating cities of Netheril plummeted to the ground.

In short, Karsus ruined everything for everybody on that day. Fortunately, Mystryl reincarnated herself and rose again as Mystra, marking the first in the goddess's long line of deaths and rebirths. She repaired the Weave, managed to save three Netherese enclaves, and restructured the arcane magic of the Realms, cutting off mortal mages from spells above ninth level and requiring them to prepare their spells in advance.

This sparked all the shit that went down in the game Neverwinter Nights 2, and is the reason why magic sort of meets a cap.

Times of Troubles[edit]

The Times of Troubles, also known as the Avatar Crisis, started in 1358 DR when the two deities Bane and Myrkul thought it would be a great idea to steal the Tablets of Fate from the overdeity Ao. As punishment Ao banishes all of the gods to walk on Toril as mortals (except for Helm who was to guard the gateway back into the heavens) until whoever stole them felt bad and returned them. During this time Mystra got some of her power back and thought it would be a brilliant idea to challenge Helm to get back into the heavens. Helm wouldn't have any of it and bitch slapped her down the Celestial Stairway. She hit the bottom and died in an explosion of magic. Eventually, some mortals, Midnight (who went on to be the next Mystra), Kelemvor, Cyric, and Adon of Sune, fixed everything and they got be gods for a reward. Except for Adon of Sune, he really got the short end of the stick on the loot table for that encounter. He lost faith in Mystra, committed suicide, then got his faith back and went on to frolic in the brothel in the sky. This signaled the change from AD&D 1e to the second edition and magic changed in real-time in correspondence to these events, depicted in the canon Forgotten Realms Comic book series, featuring Bruce Campell as an Ex-drug addict halfling, an ex-alcoholic Paladin, an Elf with expressions that would put the Laughing elf to shame, a hot golem, and other goodies.

Keep in mind these are relatively recent events, being about 150 years before 5e modern times, 3 to 4 generations ago, where you could ask an older Dwarf or Elf what it was like during that chaos when gods walked the world.

The Spellplague[edit]

In 1385 DR the goddess Shar had the god Cyric stab the goddess of magic Mystra. This caused giant pillars of blue fire to ravage Toril, killing untold masses and driving most wizards to madness. One of the few wizards to be unaffected by the event is Szass Tam, who continues to be a badass by turning into an uber-powerful lich, seizing control over Thay, and killing off almost everybody there to create a fuck-huge kingdom of the undead. To make matters worse, unlike the previous times Mystra has died she couldn't reincarnate, a stunning development that "changes the rules of magic" which translates as another real-time spell-casting change for 4e rules, just like what happened in the Time of Trouble. Parts of the planet end up either destroyed or switching places with parts of the land from Abeir. Elminster lost his special status and all his powers, and most of his Chosen buddies wound up dead. The Pantheon was reshuffled, Tieflings changed to match the new unified tiefling look, and the World Tree was reshaped into the World Axis. It was a huge upheaval, with insurmountable rage from its critics.

The Sundering[edit]

In 1485, the worlds of Abeir and Toril split apart again, as WoTC tried to desperately bring back the Faerun grognards by retconning the Spellplague. It turns out being stabbed wasn't in fact enough to kill Mystra, she was just hungry and had wandered off to find a cheeseburger made of her own children. Abeir went back to where it belonged and several other dead gods who were originally deemed superfluous suddenly came back to life.

This event was known as the 'Sundering' but the writers didn't want to piss off the fans, so they held off explaining what the fuck happened until the fans could tell them what, in their opinion, should have happened. While waiting to be told how to do their jobs, dragons attacked everyone, trying to rescue Tiamat from Hell where she had in fact NOT been since before the Spellplague but because she was there in every other setting, we're all supposed to pretend that she was, so mighty adventurers can stop her from escaping in a linear story which was easier than the likes of the first time this asspull was pulled with Bloodstone Pass, Fuck you Bahamut.

From there, various other intersecting adventure modules happened at roughly the same time, and since things were mostly back to the pre-4e days everyone was happy. Except for dragonborn fans (and Dragonborn, whatever you think of them, are still a damn core race), as the writers quickly killed almost all of them off, or crammed them into a tiny corner of the world. Nonetheless, many grognards still balk at the return of several 4th edition era elements, such as cramming the Shadowfell and the Feywild in the Great Wheel. But, appeasing the old guard is ridiculously hard anyway. As much as the old guard wants a full reboot back to the Old Gray Box era (or some other era which can't be agreed on), the Sundering made it pretty clear that there is "One Canon, One Story, One Realms". Given the popularity of this new Realms among new players, it's unlikely that any major reboot or alteration will happen any time soon.

The Appeal of the Forgotten Realms[edit]

In 1975 Sony released the Betamax video cassette system as a system of playing recorded TV shows and similar on your TV. A year later, JVC released the first VHS system and there was a competition between these two formats. Both of these systems had their pros and cons comparatively with Betamax having among other benefits higher image quality. But ultimately VHS won the competition, mostly because it was more accessible to consumers and movie studios and as such established itself as the standard. Everyone had a VHS VCR, so everyone was buying VHS tapes and since everyone was buying VHS tapes people bought VHS VCRs and similar until DVDs and Blu Rays showed up.

Similarly, Dungeons and Dragons has become the standard for what people think of when someone brings up a tabletop RPG, and the Forgotten Realms has become that for the DnD setting. People may not have read the lore books 100% through, but nowadays most people can imagine the broad strokes of the setting going in. Parties of human bards and paladins, dwarf warriors, high elven mages, wood elven archers, and halfling rogues and bards wandering the countryside and delving dungeons, dealing with orcs, kobolds, bandits, beholders, skellingtons, necromancers, and various monsters leading up to the many flavors of dragons. When you see someone doing a tabletop campaign in fiction, it's usually based on Forgotten Realms more often than not. For better or worse, Forgotten Realms is the archetype. As it's the thing that most people are familiar with and as such is something that is easy for a tabletop group to get into. You may think the whole Tolkien Knockoff world thing is overdone. You may desire something with fresh ideas in a novel setting built largely from the ground up. Fully valid positions to hold which encourage creativity. But the ability to get into a familiar setting without having to look through a whole bunch of homework is convenient and lets you shake things up if you want to using that common framework.

Interesting Side Notes[edit]

  • Drizzt will outlive all of his friends and he cries about this often until they fixed it.
  • There was a time Drizzt was bearable, until all of his adventures amounted to the power of friendship and his magical power of secretly Lolth's blessing empowering him into a murderhobo edgelord that got so broken he BEAT FUCKING DEMOGORGON with the power of an anime power-up one-shot asspull to SAVE THE UNDERDARK
  • The Neverwinter Online scenario of this event had the Demon Prince smack him and his party straight into an abyssal rift, after the generic shounen speech of the power of friendship which is a great way to retcon this entire event for a ranger beating a monster so hard to kill based on how much it can throw at a party in summon-spam alone, nevermind the threat the creature itself actually poses.
  • Elminster has sex with Elvira who is polymorphed into a man. He also was turned into a woman once and he's effectively a massive fucking degenerate that hasn't been killed off because plot Armour and horribly oppressive "good" organization of spies, scouts, and adventurers he tricks into doing his work for him, he also advertises Faerun as anything but a clusterfuck continent so full, it feels more like the description of the endless murderfest an MMORPG provides over an actual living setting.
  • Szass Tam is fucking awesome and basically Ming the Merciless in D&D.
  • Larloch, Feared Master of the Warlock's Crypt, is one of the few statted NPCs representatives of a finalized epic-level minmaxed PC wizard, with so much shit in his arsenal he ranks as a DMPC in his own right. He's also (with a little bit of Szass Tam) the inspiration for the character of Ainz Ooal Gown from Overlord.
  • Tempus, the badass bro-jock god of battle.
  • The world goes to hell in the 4th edition.
  • After apparently being killed by one of his only friends, the god Helm survived the Spellplague in the form of a goat.
  • The first 3-D CRPG was set in FR.
  • Jarlaxle the dashing drow mercenary had a three way with twin copper dragon sisters named Tazmikella and Ilnezhra.
  • Khelben Blackstaff has a fear of lawyers and will do ANYTHING in his power to avoid them, even resorting to elaborate illusions of unwanted marital scenarios to avoid lawsuits from extraplanar entities. I am not making this up.
  • The setting is so high magic that even before the current established era in v.3.5 and onward, even back in Ancient Netheril, there were FUCKING LICHES EVERYWHERE.
  • The God of Vampires does not give a fuck, do not try to make him, he will just try to eat you and fuck with you on his layer of the Abyss.
  • His high priest fucks Lolth, and this is the reason why Drow like vampires so much.
  • The last time a vampire gave a shit in FR, he nearly conquered Baldur's Gate itself solo, but got his ass kicked because he went ahead of a forty-thousand undead strong army with a macguffin that literally made him an Elder Evil, by technicality of demigod level strength which would have been even more broken anyway as he was a base vampire + vampire Lord.
  • Minsc was petrified, turned into stone, and kept preserved until marketing would call upon him again for a lackluster comic book series that is only good for shilling 5th edition products as bad as Neverwinter Online and Siege of Dragonspear.
  • Doomed Forgotten Realms exists.

Forgotten Realms And Sex[edit]

The current Forgotten Realms material is highly sanitized from Ed's original vision. In FR as created by Ed:

  • Bisexuality is normal (and yes, this means the men as well as the women)
  • Transgenderism is encouraged by several deities so that priests can experience life as the other sex
  • "Revels" (some of which involve sex) are normal
  • "Festhalls" (many of which employ prostitutes as staff) are relatively common and visiting them is the normal way to spend an evening.
  • Prostitution is a core industry of the Forgotten Realms; "sex workers" are all over and there are about 40 different names for different kinds of prostitutes.
  • Incest is a normal way for noble families to "indulge feelings of mutual affection" (poor people don't as they can't afford the contraception)
  • Pretty much all of the immortal NPCs in the Realms have come to believe that accepted sexual norms such as temperance are bullshit, so they flout them. Constantly.

All of this is confirmed by Ed Greenwood himself via his responses to fan queries on the Candlekeep forum. So Saith Ed here, here, and here. It's also all completely 100% canon thanks to Ed's ludicrously favorable contract.

Of course, this isn't exactly out of place in certain historical periods and cultures. For example, the Greeks and Etruscans were particularly known for having frequent orgies, Canaanite religion frequently involved cross-dressing (which may be why the Bible forbids it) and the nobility of many cultures from the Ptolemaic Egyptians to Hawaii to the House of Habsburg practiced various forms of incest so as to keep power within the family and avoid muddling their bloodlines with peasant genome; Rome had all of the above at various points. Therefore, some individual cultures or nations with these things going on probably wouldn't be too far off the mark, and notably, the post that included the stuff about incest also included that Ed himself is against incest... but when the whole damn world is into this stuff, it's not treated as a problem, no one questions it, and there's no sign of things changing, then clearly the author has something on his mind.

In short, the Forgotten Realms are Ed Greenwood's magical realm as cleaned up by TSR and later Hasbro for general consumption, and the Romantic Encounters mod for Baldur's Gate is probably canon.

As of 5E, WoTC has decided to embrace the first bullet-point, and there are random bits of homosexuality everywhere. Two men sharing a bed, a married pair of male porters and married pair of homesteaders, a gnome settlement with two kings, and a shopkeeper with nonbinary pronouns all appear in 5e adventures. An attempt to Retcon the massively corrupt and crime-ridden city of Waterdeep into "Seattle during Pride" was actually met with significant backlash.

No regular orgies in every village yet, but Rime of the Frostmaiden does feature a completely inbred town.

Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Settings
Basic D&D Mystara (Blackmoor) • PelinoreRed Sonja
AD&D BirthrightCouncil of WyrmsDark SunDiabloDragonlanceForgotten Realms (Al-QadimThe HordeIcewind DaleKara-TurMalatraMaztica) • GreyhawkJakandorMystara (Hollow WorldRed SteelSavage Coast) • PlanescapeRavenloft (Masque of the Red Death) • SpelljammerThunder Rift
3.X Edition BlackmoorDiabloDragonlanceDragon FistEberronForgotten RealmsGhostwalkGreyhawk (Sundered Empire) • Ravenloft (Masque of the Red Death) • Rokugan
4th Edition BlackmoorDark SunEberronForgotten RealmsNentir Vale
5th Edition DragonlanceEberronExandriaForgotten RealmsGreyhawkRavenloftRavnicaTherosSpelljammerStrixhavenRadiant Citadel