Review: Wizards of the Coast – Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms (Dungeons & Dragons)


Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms
Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is an epic fantasy supplement for Dungeons & Dragons written by Ed Greenwood and published by Wizards of the Coast.
By Aaron T. Huss

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Before I begin, it should be noted that the title of this book is a little misleading if taken in the wrong context. This is not a sourcebook describing the Forgotten Realms as a whole. Rather, this is a sourcebook describing the life in the Forgotten Realms, and primarily in Faerûn. The title is a reference to Ed Greenwoods previous sourcebooks in the same guise, this time through the eyes of his famous character Elminster. It is a look at the people and the lives of those living primarily in Faerûn, and if you consider that detail, the content will make that much more sense and achieve a much higher level of value.

Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is the ultimate guide for adventurers traveling through the realms and more specifically Faerûn. It’s not a series of maps or a guide to its various beasts, rather it’s a massive gazetteer about what the people are like in every way, shape, and form (virtually every). This is the guide a GM pulls out when interacting with NPCs outside of combat. This is also the guide that presents the players with a number of role-playing options to further enhance what makes their character’s unique (such as which school they trained at). Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is a sourcebook about the people, for the people!

CONTENT

Life in the Realms takes a very personal look at the people living in the Forgotten Realms, primarily Faerûn. This is the mundane, day to day things you wouldn’t normally find in a sourcebook, but can be used to enhance your interaction experiences between characters and the locations they visit. Here you get a taste of the culture’s language including slang, stereotypes, everyday terms, and more. To further enhance a character’s experience in a given locale is a list of things to be found such as drugs, poison, and medicine. Finally, get a taste of everyday life with a look at festivals, entertainment, and how to get around without looking awkward.

Laws and Orders is all about how laws are enforced, who enforces them, the consequences of not following them, and bits and pieces about different laws. If you plan to visit a location, you should brush up on your local laws first to avoid the watchful eye of justice.

Hearth and Home is kind of a like a visitors guide in terms of where one stays and eats. Here you find notes on how townsfolk dine on and what you’ll find throughout the Forgotten Realms.

Money Matters – you need a job between adventures or maybe you need to hire someone, or maybe you’re just witnessing the general labor (voluntary or not). Here is where you go to find out what types of jobs there are, who those jobs are associated with (such as guilds), the trade market, and even the less-than-desirable aspects of working.

Gods and Followers is not a description of the pantheons. It is a section dedicated to those who worship the pantheons and how they worship. A very large listing of priesthoods is found here, giving anyone a place to worship whatever god or goddess they are dedicated to.

The Art refers to magic in the Forgotten Realms. This is a general look at how magic is addressed and viewed within the Forgotten Realms and some notes on different types.

OVERALL

Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is the ultimate sourcebook for adding detail and role-playing opportunities to your Forgotten Realms campaigns. There is most likely too much information here for one-shot adventures or simple games that get bogged down in detail. Additionally, this book is not for those looking to dungeon delve as it truly shines when the adventuring party spans the globe and travels throughout the Forgotten Realms, coming across the most unique humanoids they can find. This is the book that makes that role-playing time in-between major plot points a lot more fun with a lot more opportunities for social interaction and giving your character something to do during his or her downtime.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
I hate to say this, but Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is possibly the best-looking book published for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. Wizards of the Coast abandons the rather standard template found on previous books and goes with a much more visually interesting layout. Combine this with the “attached” notes of old from Ed Greenwood’s archives and this book just looks awesome. There is some beautiful artwork placed in favorable areas and an excellent management of white space. Wizards of the Coast really spent a lot of time with this book, giving it a lot of TLC and making it really stand-out from previous books.

Mechanics: N/A
There are no mechanics in Elminster’s Forgotten Realms and thus this rating is ignored. Although much of the content can easily be translated into in-game mechanics, there are no actual in-game mechanics included in the book and thus no rating is valid.

Value Add: 7 out of 10
I have one HUGE issue with this book: the price tag. It is a purely source content book with an extremely niche use and really only valuable for those running long-term campaigns in the Forgotten Realms. Yes it does what it’s designed for extremely well, but those running adventures or really short campaigns most likely won’t actually come across this much detail. With that said, the book is $40 – a bit hard to swallow to add possible role-playing material or hooks to your campaign. Yes this is opinion but if the book were published as a softcover book, that cost would definitely come down. To better motivate purchases at the given purchase price, a map of the region would be a great added value like they did with Menzobarranzan.

Additionally, I think some of the subjects could have been skipped in favor of something that can provide character’s with some options (such as the lengthy listing of priesthoods). Do we really need to know about the fashion of the Forgotten Realms? Nevertheless, there is still a lot of great material here for role-playing use such as a listing of centers for training and a list of medicine (along with several others)

Overall: 8 out of 10
Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is a good book. It’s an extremely niche sourcebook and only applies to non-combat interactions between the characters and the world around them. There is no shortage of interesting facts and unique information discussing the people of  the Realms  from a personal standpoint. It can definitely offer a lot of value to campaigns run in the Forgotten Realms and even more value for players who wish for their characters to interact considerably more with the world around them. It’s a sourcebook that truly embraces aspects of role-playing instead of roll-playing.

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