2. The Godborn by Paul Kemp - Vasen Cale - half-shade, half-man - seeks to inherit the legacy of his father, Erevis *cue interference from Sharrans and Netherese*
3. The Adversary by Erin M. Evans - Tiefling warlock Farideh finds herself in a pinch when sudden danger - said to be infernal in nature - threatens to knock her life off-course*
4. The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers - A ruthless Turmashi pirate/swordsman - sounds like "Anton Marivaldi" - finds his prospects threatened by an unknown enemy in the Sea of Fallen Stars
5. The Sentinel by Troy Denning - A family, including main character "Clief Kendrick" (sp?), loyal to the worship of Helm, maintains their/his service despite the Watcher's death
6. The Herald by Ed Greenwood - Elminster does what he does best - risks his life to ensure magic is not used to spread chaos and destruction; It also seems Elminster is still "world-weary" and having trouble keeping up with the ever-changing Realms
Seems the emphasis is on normal people struggling with a war that sweeps across Faerun. Multiple areas are going to be visited; doesn't seem like the spotlight is focused on any one place in particular. In the process, iconic faces turn up and have to deal with the threats immediately befalling whatever respective areas the heroes find themselves in.
Mike Mearls said their priorities for campaign settings are concentrated on FR for now, and that they really want to focus on it before moving on to other settings. However, he did not say that this means FR is going to be the default setting for 5E.
Ed insists this will not be a Time of Troubles or Spellplague-like event. He seemed to slightly emphasize the fact that the Sundering is not going to resemble the Spellplague, but that could be me hearing things in his tone.
Ed promises that long-term fans of RAS are definitely going to enjoy what he has in store for the first novel.
Some of the characters from Paul Kemp's previous works are going to reappear in The Godborn - both friendly faces and foes. Such is also the case with Erin M. Evans's book.
The Reaver sounds like it will be the novel that most emphasizes new characters and faces. The Sentinel, on the other hand, is said to have "new threats in a familiar place".
Ed says some old favorites are going to appear in his novel, The Herald. Not sure what to expect here.
Ed confirms that the gods and their Chosen will take part in the Sundering to some extent, but they won't overshadow the plain folk who struggle to defend what they hold dear in life.
Promo video - The authors are working closely together to coordinate the Sundering. They are bouncing ideas back and forth. RAS has said he's already outlined his next two books based on these meetings. Rich Baker and James Wyatt are also attending these meetings, with Wyatt being interviewed at one point.
Mike Mearls is asked spot-on about the presence of powerful NPCs in FR and how they draw the most attention. It has been said players don't really "own" the Realms. Mearls replies by saying that novels are going to focus on personal challenges and stories about individuals who face threats; emphasis on the personal level. Mike goes on to say that following the conclusion of the Sundering, it will be the end of an era. The iconic characters participating in the RSE are going to be sidelined (to an extent). Mearls says Elminster, Drizzt, and the gang will continue to have adventures, but they aren't going to be emphasized to as great an extent as they have in the past.
Two adventures are coming out for FR next year, in which parties engage the unified threats that make up the Sundering. R&D has contacted both Ed Greenwood and RAS to help them develop the adventures. Players will be able to send feedback to the designers after they complete the adventure(s). The reports are going to be collectively studied and the canonical history of FR will be influenced by these decisions and miniature storylines. Mearls gives examples like toppling a kingdom, unleashing a horde of demons, or razing Zhentil Keep again as being hypothetical possibilites; they will look at the aggregate, then use that to establish new material in FR's canonical history.
Ed suggests this new adventure-compilation method of laying out canon is meant to put the power in the hands of the players, in accordance with the idea that any story can arise in the Realms and that anyone can have an adventure in FR.
The Sundering: Lore
(Note that the following lore/explanation is the work of many designers and authors. Much of it comes from Eric Boyd and Ed Greenwood in conjunction with James Wyatt, but the efforts of Brian James, Brian Cortijo, George Krashos, and myself are all included herein.)
When the Elves carried out their Sundering thousands of years ago, it frayed time in both directions and allowed some fortunate (or cursed few) to glimpse the past and present of Realmspace. One of the mages who witnessed the event had a vision of two other Sunderings, massive in scope and far mightier than what the Elves accomplished. One stretched far into the past, while another waited in the future.
Far back in ancient history, the creator races of Faerun were engaged in great battle that threatened to destroy all of Abeir-Toril. Powerful creatures called Primordials rose, each attempting to conquer the fledgling world for themselves, and the gods met their challenge. The battle became so fierce and the consequences so destructive that it got to the point that the Primordial Asgoroth the World Shaper threw an ice moon at the world, claiming that if he could not rule it, then no one could. This cataclysm (known as the Tearfall) caused massive damage to Abeir-Toril and is recorded in history to this day.
At this point, AO stepped in and worked a great Sundering, the first of its kind. He twinned the world and split it into two: Abeir for the Primordials, and Toril for the gods. Each world would hold onto the vestigial name of the other, but it was primarily a point of sagely academic research. Part of this Sundering was the creation of the Tablets of Fate, wherein AO inscribed divine reality as it existed in both worlds: in Toril, the tablets list the names and purposes of the Gods in Toril as well as the Primordials in Abeir.
For all intents and purposes, the worlds were separate, and allowed to evolve on their own. Under the aegis of the Gods, Toril saw the fall of the batrachi and the sarrukh, the rise and fall of the dragons, elves, Netherese, and finally the spread of human and demihuman kingdoms. Abeir saw a far more chaotic history involving unpredictable elemental magic, rule by the powerful and destructive Primordials, and the emergence of potent races of beings such as the genasi and dragonborn. These creatures existed in limited quantities in Toril (the consequence of planar travel or the occasional cross of genies and dragons respectively with humans), but in Abeir they flourished and built kingdoms all their own.
Then came to pass an event in Toril known alternately as the Avatar Crisis, Godswar, or the Time of Troubles. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul (three of the younger gods who had not ascended when AO sundered the worlds) stole the Tablets of Fate, thinking them key to great power, perhaps even control over the Overgod himself. Their schemes were eventually thwarted, all three slain, and the Tablets returned to AO. The Overgod decreed that the Tablets clearly meant nothing to the gods, and so he destroyed them and left the deities to their own devices in the chaos that would soon ensue. This began the unraveling of AO’s great Sundering through the time called the Era of Upheaval.
This era (lasting from 1357 through 1486) was marked by extreme turbulence, from the invasion of the Great Kahan to the fall of Cormyr’s King Azoun IV, from the rise of Cyric and the rebirth of Bane to the silence and empowerment of Lolth, to the Rage of Dragons and the Reclamation of Myth Drannor, and finally to the death and merging of gods and the unraveling of the Weave of Magic. This last event touched off a great mystical curse upon the world called the Spellplague, which would reshape the world. The Sundering fell apart with the Weave, and pieces of Abeir merged with pieces of Toril and vice versa. The world was truly in peril and in need of great heroes to save it.
Then, as the 15th century came to a close, the third and final Sundering envisioned by the elven prophet so many years ago would come to pass. AO would once again forge the Tablets of Fate, inscribing the names and purposes of the gods he chose to serve in a new, inclusive divine reality, free of the petty schemes of unchecked gods. The worlds Abeir and Toril would be split from one another once more, though both would carry echoes and marks of the experience. Many of the gods lost to the ravages of time would return, reawakened to fulfill their inscribed purpose. AO would end the Era of Upheaval and reforge Toril as it had existed before the series of cataclysms brought on by the actions of the Gods. A new world, true to the old and moving ever forward, would dawn, and heroes would once more be called to prevent such a cataclysm from occurring ever again.
The Sundering: Six Novel Series
The Sundering is an event in which AO is reforging the Tablets of Fate to once again break apart the worlds Abeir and Toril, this time hopefully for good. It is a RSE, yes, and at the end of it we should see the Realms stitched back together into the setting they have always been, free of continuing shake-ups. After that, we shouldn’t see RSEs in novels for a good long time.
The Sundering will take place over six novels (The Companions by Salvatore, The Godborn by Kemp, The Adversary by Evans, The Reaver by Byers, The Sentinel by Denning, and The Herald by Greenwood), by the end of which we will see the end of the Era of Upheaval that has gripped the Realms since the Time of Troubles. The six authors had a story planning summit in November at which they hammered out their plans, and we will see an awesome series. The release dates (subject to a little fudging if necessary) are planned for August 2013, then one novel every two months thereafter through July 2014.
I don’t want to spoil any of the novels, but I’ll include a little about each one (what was announced) to tease you:
The Companions will feature Bob’s classic heroes, Drizzt and his companions. Who exactly do I mean? You’ll have to read it and see. It is the book Bob was planning to write before the discussion of the Sundering happened, and so he could just stand up and say “this is what I’m doing,” and WotC gave the thumb’s up.
The Godborn is Paul’s long-awaited novel about Vasen, the son of Erevis Cale, forging his way in a new, rapidly-changing world. The events of the Sundering only make Paul’s planned novel cooler, and he’s so stoked about the book.
The Adversary continues Erin’s series about the Brimstone Angels sisters, and particularly deals with her tiefling warlock Farideh, one of the best female characters in the Realms (coming from someone who loves writing female characters!).
The Reaver picks up the story of Anton Marivaldi, a pirate turned adventurer. If he bears any connection to Richard’s Brotherhood of the Griffon series is unknown at this time. (Perhaps Richard will comment on that at some point!)
The Sentinel tells the story of a knight whose family worships the dead god Helm. No, he’s not Shadowbane—Troy and I sat down a long time ago and made sure our characters don’t cross. There may be a reference to Shadowbane, however, seeing as he’d be pretty famous by 1486.
And finally, Ed will wrap up everything with The Herald, a tale about Elminster furiously training his replacements so that he can finally lay down his burden and rest.
The Sundering will take us into a new era of the Realms that will bring together all the best things we know and love about the setting, bring back slain deities, and re-build what has been broken.
Forgotten Realms: Novels
Going forward, the Realms will focus on smaller, character-driven stories that don’t reshape the world every six months. We need to break the “bigger = more exciting” bias that we have. There will be stories about iconic characters–you better believe Drizzt is alive and well–they just won’t be saving the world every book.
The Harpers series analogy (brought up by Jim Lowder) is a really good one. That’s where WotC is aiming as we move forward: small-scale, exciting, personal, character-driven novels. We don’t have to blow up the world every few months to sell novels and tell good stories. (Or, at least, we shouldn’t.)
This prompted some discussion. The opinion was advanced (not mine) that the cycle of ever-escalating RSEs seems to have been sales-motivated, the thought being that everyone who participated in the Realms HAD to read these novels, to know what was going on. Another perspective cast it as a kind of one-upmanship, where each series tried to blow the Realms up more completely than what had come before. And of course the problem with the cycle of RSEs is that you’re constantly rewriting your setting after every book, and it gets wearisome for the fans. (This is not to suggest that we won’t see novels about powerful characters or movers and shakers—we will. We just won’t see them take things apart and reshape the Realms, so you have to scramble to adapt if you want to “keep up” with the canon.)
Novels will also (presumably) still be canon, but they will be way, WAY less intrusive. They will have little bearing on the course of world-wide events, but rather merely concern that small group of people in that small area. You won’t be faced with the option to ignore them or not, but rather the option to incorporate them or not. This small-scale focus draws inspiration from the Harpers line, the stand-alone novels like the Fighters, Wizards, Dungeons in 3e, and many of the novels released in 4e, particularly the Ed Greenwood Presents series.
We want to put the fate of the Realms in your hands: the players, running through campaigns. WotC is going to the plan of “collect feedback from DMs about what happened in a set of *specific* campaigns, and incorporate that going forward.” Did the majority of people playing this adventure in Sundabar assassinate the king? Then it happened. Did such-and-such thieves’ guild get destroyed in the course of an adventure in Baldur’s Gate? Then it happened in the lore. Shared-experience events will be canonized.
These won’t just be your campaigns—they will be specific set campaigns that WotC puts out. There are currently plans for two such adventures (one by Bob Salvatore, one by Ed Greenwood), and after those come out, DMs will be able to submit “what happened” in their games, which will be reflected in the changing Realms. The designers will allow a certain margin for changes and won’t be bound by any particular campaign—the idea is just to give you a say in how things happen in the world. This is similar to how LFR was set up back in the day, with actual player actions sculpting actual canon.
Don’t worry about “a bunch of people destroying popular places.” If such places are popular, odds are they aren’t being destroyed in campaigns. And as I implied before, the designers are going to control what is open for change. The days of blowing up and rebuilding the Realms are over.
Forgotten Realms: The Big Idea
There is no retcon. No reboot. No restructuring. The Realms is the Realms. WotC is not going to invalidate the work of any designer working in any era, but is going to respect and honor it.
This is not to say things aren’t happening. The Spellplague, for instance, is being addressed—ended, for lack of a better term. No doubt there will remain pockets of Spellplague, but at that point it will join Wild Magic, Dead Magic, Spellfire, etc., as just another magical quirk that can be used in your campaign at your will, or safely ignored if you don’t like it. The world is no longer defined (seemingly or in actuality) by the Spellplague.
But there’s a difference between undoing the effects of an event that has gone before, and pretending the event never happened. WotC isn’t pulling a Dragonlance and going back in time to revise who becomes a god, whether a certain cataclysm happens, etc. No. The Realms is the Realms is the Realms, and it all exists, it all happened, warts and scars and beauty marks and all.
Forgotten Realms: Eras of Play
Moving forward from the Sundering, we’re looking at a new dawn of the Realms. The Era of Upheaval has ended. The Realms can finally return to the way it was before the Time of Troubles, a land of infinite impossibility and buried secrets and ancient evils awaiting heroes to counter them. If you play in the 1480s world, you should be finding yourself in a land not unlike that of the original OGB, without all kinds of crazy world-shaking events happening. The Realms is yours to sculpt.
But this isn’t to suggest you should be playing in the 1480s Realms. WotC’s current slate of products (Menzoberranzan, Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms) are era-neutral—they contain information that applies to all manner of eras and is useful regardless of where/when you choose to set your game.
WotC is reprinting all of its old material (1e, 2e, 3/3.5e, etc), some of which (probably) will be updated into “director’s cut” versions. Ed Greenwood called down an example of adding some 30-40 pages back into the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. Eric Boyd recently took the classic Under Illefarn and adapted it into a 300-page (3.5) campaign setting to run for his kids—that’s the sort of thing WotC is hoping to release, probably with lore adaptations for multiple editions.
Basically, if you want to play OGB games, there is product support for that. If you want to play in the Time of Troubles or the era after (2e), there is support for that. Same goes for 3e or 4e. DnD-Next is going to be a game that supports play with all different edition styles, from throughout the history of D&D, but you don’t have to use 5e for your games. Break out your favorite mechanical system, your favorite Realms product, and go nuts. What WotC cares about is that you’re playing in the Realms, not what edition of the game you’re playing.
Also, and this is key: you are ENCOURAGED to prevent/ignore/retcon events that you don’t like. You should have plenty of material to run a game where the Time of Troubles never happened or the Spellplague happened in a different way (or not at all).
Forgotten Realms: Gods
After the Sundering, Gods are coming back. Which ones? Whichever ones you want. Some of them. All of them.
The Gods are going to take on a much less surface role in FR Next. They will recede into the background, continuing to grant spells but interfering far less in the affairs of mortals. At that point, who’s to say if you’re getting spells from Helm or Torm or Tyr? You might be praying specifically to Helm, but one of the other gods receives your devotion and grants you the spells. It’s up to your DM what gods are actually there, however powerful they are, and what they do.
This is not to suggest churches aren’t going to be significant, because they are. The people who serve the gods are just as prevalent and effective as ever, and there might be hundreds of cults to deities you have never heard of in your game. Such deities may exist or not, and it’s not particularly relevant whether they do. The focus falls upon the mortals—their schemes, actions, and choices. That’s where we get the morally significant stories.
Forgotten Realms: Progressive Themes
At the Candlekeep Seminar, it was noted that Realms fiction has a tendency to be masculine, ethnocentric, and hetero-normative; basically, it needs to get past that and open up to exploring gender, diversity, and GLBT issues. We’re no longer writing in an industry that’s all about teenage white men. Female heroes need to be that: female (not men with breasts) and heroes (not feminist stereotypes). We want characters of different skin tones and backgrounds, so that not all our heroes are clearly “white people.” We want actual gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual characters who show up and are treated responsibly, rather than through stereotypes. We don’t want tokenism, of course—we want good writing that is pushing in a progressive direction.
One example of doing it wrong is from the 4e FR guide, re: the Royal Family of Cormyr. We’ve had a long history of powerful women calling the shots there (particularly Filfaeril, Alusair, and Caladnei—who isn’t a white person, either!). Then in 4e, all of a sudden all the women are gone, and all the rulers we have listed in Cormyr are stodgy white guys: Foril, Erzoured, Irvel. Brian Cortijo did a great job with the Cormyr Royale article in bringing back some female power and making it shine (particularly Raedra), and he has a Cormyr novel concept in the works that takes it the next level. (Author’s note: Really hope that gets published!)
Flatteringly, my work was called down as an example of doing it well. My Shadowbane series has already dealt with GLBT stuff in a minor way, but in my next novel I want to have an openly gay male character (no spoilers!). I think ethnic diversity is important too (my heroine Myrin is basically half Egyptian, quarter white human, quarter something else!) The argument was made that we’re at a point (particularly in the much-more-open Realms) where we shouldn’t be pretending that alternative sexualities don’t exist or the only views that matter are those of straight white guys.
We had Candlekeep 2012 pins, free for attendants, to commemorate the historic event.
Thanks to all who attended or have expressed their support and best wishes online. The event was a rousing success, and we plan to do a Candlekeep event next year. 2013 pin designs are already being discussed.
Erik Scott de Bie on Candlekeep (Full credit goes to Irennan for bring this to everyone's attention)
No retcons, no reboots.
Gods are coming back.
The worlds are coming apart again.
The Spellplague is being solved.
Lore support for multiple eras is on the table.
erdana,Arial,Helvetica">erdana,Arial,Helvetica; font-size:small">All indication is that going forward, the Realms is going to focus on smaller, character-driven stories that don't reshape the world every six months. We need to break the "bigger = more exciting" bias that we have. There will be stories about iconic characters--you better believe Drizzt is alive and well--they just won't be saving the world every book.
The Harpers series analogy is a really good one. That's where WotC is aiming going forward: small-scale, exciting, personal, character-driven novels. We don't have to blow up the world every few months to sell novels. (Or, at least, we shouldn't.)
The cycle of ever-escalating RSEs was basically a sales-gimmick, the thought being that everyone who participated in the Realms HAD to read these novels, to know what was going on. But the problem with that is that you're constantly rewriting your setting after every book, and it gets wearisome for the fans.
Realms Shaking Events are going to be left to you, the players, running through campaigns. WotC is going to the plan of "collect feedback from DMs about what happened in a set of campaigns, and incorporate that going forward." Did the majority of people playing this adventure in Sundabar assassinate the king? Then it happened. Did such-and-such thieves' guild get destroyed in the course of an adventure in Baldur's Gate? Then it happened in the lore. Shared-experience events will be canonized.
Novels will also (presumably) still be canon, but they will be way, WAY less intrusive. They will have little bearing on the course of world-wide events, but rather merely concern that small group of people in that small area. You won't be faced with the option to ignore them or not, but rather the option to incorporate them or not.
I will update this as we learn more.