By - January 27, 2009 - 9 Comments

Dungeon Mastering Reviews: Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide

The Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide is one half of update of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting to 4th edition. Let us not waste any time, when you pick up the thin book off the shelf of your local gamestore you have to ask the big question, “is this worth my money?” Well, the answer really depends on who you are and why you might want the book. The way I see it there are three broad categories who are looking at this book, find the section that applies to you and let me help you decide.

I love Forgotten Realms and really want my group to play!

I should tell you this up front. I have never played a Forgotten Realms campaign. I have never read a Forgotten Realms novel. In fact, the only experience I have in the world of Toril are digital adventurers developed by Bioware. The reason I mention this is to let you know that I am completely unable to judge the lack of something that should be there. If there is an intelligent and malevolent race of crustaceans in Forgotten Realms they have been entirely excluded I wouldn’t know enough to tell you that. Likewise I cannot judge the accuracy of something. It may be, for example, that the genasi in this book don’t match up well with their capabilities in the novels. I have no idea, I can only judge what is written on the page.

Fortunately, what is written on the books holds up very well. You’re likely interested in how the additions to the book invoke the feel of Faerun. In addition to the new races there is a guide about how the old races behave differently in Forgotten Realms. There is a guide to the locations of Faerun and minor benefits that a character’s home region can confer upon them. There are new paragon paths specific to locations and orders of Faerun, for instance the sword coast corsair or purple dragon knights. There is also an interesting new system for dealing with those scarred by the spell plague. It works similar to multiclassing but there is no base class, you just swap powers for special powers gained by the manifestation of your spellscar.

Bottom Line: If you love Forgotten Realms and play 4th edition you probably already have this book. If you don’t you should. It is mechanically solid and invokes the feel of the world well, at least to my admittedly limited knowledge.

I don’t know much about Forgotten Realms but I’m interested!

Unfortunately you are the least served by this book. The content is a good as it is for any other group but you are going to need more. The book contains a sizable section that describes all the different regions of Faerun. It contains a brief overview of the area both culturally and geographically as well as offering some ideas for what an adventurer from that area might be like and be interested in. Additionally there is a small section that introduces the gods of Faerun and gives very brief introductions to the society and cosmology you will encounter. This is all solid information, however it simply isn’t enough for the Forgotten Realms newbie. As someone unfamiliar with the world of Toril, after reading this book I still didn’t feel like I had enough of the big picture to run a FR game.

Bottom Line: The Player’s Guide is still a great book but if you don’t know about Toril already it is essential that you pick up other books, such as the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, to supplement the information found in it.

I don’t care about Forgotten Realms in the slightest but I’d like to harvest new things from this book!

You’re quite in luck, this book is perfect for you. The division into two books works well for this group, it gives you all the stuff you care about without getting bogged down in too many details about the campaign setting. This book contains an entirely new race, the genasi, a race of elemental creatures. Genasi can manifest one of five elemental forms or take feats that allow them to swap between multiple elemental incarnations. Genasi make fine warlords and swordmages, the new class found in this book. Additionally, drow have been upgraded out of the monster manual to full race status.

As I mentioned earlier there is a new class to play with. The swordmages are arcane defenders who enchant their blades to defend their allies and strike down their foes at melee and short range. There is also a new pact available for warlocks. The dark pact is a specialty of the drow. The pact’s powers often spread from enemy to enemy, cause ongoing damage or draw strength from hurting the warlocks allies. The pact boon charges up as you kill enemies under your curse. When you get attacked you can unleash that storehouse of power to a devastating effect.

There are also 25 new paragon paths, mostly involving the new races and classes. Some of the paths are tied to locations, religions and organizations specific to Forgotten Realms but could easily be adopted into most campaigns. The book includes a single epic destiny, which is to become the chosen champion of a deity. It offers a different utility power for each deity in Forgotten Realms, which makes for good flavor but requires some extra work to convert to a non-FR campaign.

<imThe book also contains a selection of feats tied to the new races, class and warlock pact. There are also channel divinity feats for each of the new gods. Finally there are about 25 new rituals, nearly all of which are fit for use in any campaign.

Bottom line: This book offers plenty of quality material which can provide new possibilities even to campaigns that have nothing to do with Forgotten Realms. It is well worth having at least one copy among the group.

What do you think of the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide? I would particularly like to here from those more knowledgable about the setting!

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Leave a comment (9 comments so far) »

  1. Viriatha says:

    I love the categories, that’s VERY useful!

  2. Yax says:

    Yeah, that’s what reviews should always be about. Helping people out, not offering a one-sided view of the product.

    That being said, I never played FR myself and would love to hear from hardcore FR fans.

  3. Questing GM says:

    Even as someone who has ran and read alot about the Forgotten Realms during the 3rd edition and dabbled in 2nd edition Realmslore, I can safely say that we’re not on a different boat.

    The pretty drastic revamps (can’t use the word ‘retcon’) of the 4E Realms would make any veteran just as new to the Realms as someone who has heard of the Realms for the first time.

    As far as the players guide is concerned, I can only say that its really a players book. It gives enough information about the setting that players need to know to roleplay their characters depending on the region. It’s more of a crunchy book compared to the Campaign Guide that carry most of the fluff.

  4. Janna says:

    “I have never played a Forgotten Realms campaign. I have never read a Forgotten Realms novel.”
    “I never played FR myself and would love to hear from hardcore FR fans.”

    @ Nicholas, Yax: Are you trying to give me a heart attack?! ;) Seriously, though, I’m a drow freak, so all the Underdark information in the FR Campaign Guide was nice. I think the assassination of Mystra and the ensuing Spell Plague was a really interesting twist, too. And I agree with Questing GM regarding the FR Player’s Guide; it gives the players what they need, and that’s about it. (I still liked it though because I’m a hardcore FR fan.)

    Good review!

  5. Bobby says:

    I was mixed about it when it came out. This has been my go-to setting since the grey box when it came out X many years ago. Ahem…
    The books does what it was designed for. Give a brief overview of the Realms for the players, plus little goodies for particular portions of the realms that you come from. New races, and a new class to choose from. Hard to top the Genasi write up’s. The Drow are nice, in that they’re the same-only different now.

    I mean, its hard for any new player just to come into the 20(or so) years of the Realms and not feel overwhelmed. This helps. It goes along with the new system and although I was against it at first, I like it.

    Sure its thin. Its the Player’s Guide. Not the crunch of the Campaign Setting(which was still abit lacking), which has a lot of usefulness. I think the big thing of this version of the Realms is that it goes back to the original edition with lots of open spaces. There are a few places with details, but the rest is left opened for GM’s and Players to flesh out. It gives you the tools, and helps push you along to do so.

    My only real complaint, is the lack of write-ups for deities and groups. Those would have been nice to have more of for the players to associate and be involved with.

    And as far as your write up, luv the break down of categories. Nice touch.

  6. Nicholas says:

    @Janna: I like crafting my own worlds and adventures when I run games. I don’t read fantasy novels at all, it tends to attract way too much terrible writing (although not as bad as many Star Wars novels). I’m sure there are plenty of good fantasy books out there but I just don’t have the money or reading time to take the chance finding them.

    I’m glad people like the review. I’m actually quite fond of the book, it does an admirable job serving many masters.

  7. Barbican says:

    I really can’t believe that someone who knew nothing about a setting felt confident in reviewing a book about that setting. I appreciate you taking the time to write the article, but it just seems inappropriate. There are lots of people on the web with both a website and a working knowledge of FR.

    I agree that there are a lot of useful little feats and paragon paths that could be used in any kind of campagin. I will surely buy the Eberron book for the character crunch even though I am unlikely to play an Eberron campaign and don’t know that much about the history of the game world. However, I will not review it.

  8. Yax says:

    @Barbican: Feel free to not review whatever you want.

  9. Nicholas says:

    @Barbican: Why is that so absurd? A book like that should be able to serve as an introduction for people who don’t know much about the setting. I was able to evaluate how well it did that without the contamination of outside knowledge. There are a lot of people with websites and knowledge of FR, I’m sure they write great reviews for other people who know about FR. However, in my opinion those are only a portion of those who would be interested in the book. I was upfront about my ignorance and instead tried to cater to the last two categories in my article, who I felt would be under served by the traditional review.

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