Q&A with Ed Greenwood
below are selected parts of a Q&A thread with Ed Greenwood, creator of
the Forgotten Realms. This Q&A is taken from an ongoing thread on the Candlekeep
Forum. The actual forum thread can be viewed here in
its entirety. The points contained below cover varied topics on the Forgotten
Realms and Ed's other works, therefore product\novel spoilers appear. Some
replies are those of "The Hooded One" reflecting Ed's views and who speaks
on his behalf.
This material cannot be reproduced without permission.
Q&A Sessions with Ed Greenwood
Q: Could you ask Ed Greenwood if the Elminster's pipe is still named Fred?
A: Yes, that's the pipe's public name. It is sentient, and retains a proper name from its existence before pipe-dom. The Simbul's name for it is rather less flattering.
Q: What is your favorite version of D&D?
A: AD&D 2nd, if I have to choose one, but I don't have strong feelings about the matter. For me, roleplaying and story always trumps rules systems.
Q: You are currently working on a Waterdeep novel with the wonderful Elaine Cunningham. Can you offer fans of the City of Splendors any details about what to expect with this novel? As a fan of "The Serpent" can we expect to see a bit, a lot, of Elaith Craulnober? Thanks and I hope you are enjoying working with Mrs. Cunningham.
A: Elaine and I have been phone friends for years, have dinner together when we can, and I have a lot of respect for her as a writer (watch for news of her forthcoming new book from TOR). YES, it's wonderful to be working with her. Waterdeep is consuming both of our lives for the moment, and I can safely reveal this much: you will see Elaith, almost all of the novel takes place in Waterdeep post-Threat from the Sea, and you will meet a lot of new characters. The story is so packed that it's hard to stop and bolt on as much Realmslore details as I'd like to, but we do want to give you some of the sights and smells of the city.
Q: When are you gonna stop blowing smoke up your own arse and escape the halcyon days of the FR and start work on some real fiction again?
A: Stop blowing smoke . . . ? Up here, 'tis the only way to keep warm in winter, goodsir!
Right now, I've got so much "real fiction" on my plate that the table underneath is starting to groan. Just a few things: three Castlemorn short stories (to be inserted one to a game product), three for-charity short stories from Pentacon, a novelette entitled "Stormsong" that will appear this fall in SUMMONED BY DESTINY, edited by sf author Julie Czerneda (it's the first volume of the REALMS OF WONDER series from Trifolium, an imprint of Fitzhenry & Whiteside), a short story in the CHILDREN OF THE RUNE anthology edited by Sue Weinlein-Cook (set in Monte's Diamond Throne setting for ARCANA UNEARTHED), THE SILENT HOUSE and planned future books in my Aglirta series from TOR (SH is the fifth book, and wraps around the four Band of Four novels), no less than FOUR stop secret projects that I can't tell you about until the bell rings and my agent staggers back out of the ring, and . . . well, that'll do for now. Suffice it to say that I'm no stranger to "real fiction."
Q: Elminster bears a strong resemblance to Gandalf, whether gray or white, both in appearance and behavior (helping young adventurers become heroes in their own right). Was Gandalf a chief source of inspiration for Elminster?
Also, do you see other incarnations of Gandalf in other pieces of literature, such as Obi-Wan, Dumbledore, and Fizban, or do the characteristics of Gandalf/Elminster/Merlin (the wise old wizard) date back further than I can imagine? Is the wise old wizard something that has always existed?
A: As I blathered on regarding, on the radio show, Merlin is the real inspiration for Elminster, not Gandalf. I originally needed Elminster as an "unreliable narrator" for DRAGON Realms articles, and an "unreliable sage" for PCs to consult in my original Realms campaign. He's far more of a rogue than Gandalf, and far less sane, though it's true some of the illustrations of him over the years have looked very similar to some of the illustrations of Gandalf (but then, I recall hearing Tolkien say that he didn't much like a lot of said illustrations, either). I think the "wise old wizard" figure has always existed, and as I've said before, if "I was running TSR" I'd never have featured El as a main character in a novel, only as a supporting character. Taking him center stage makes comparisons with Gandalf inevitable.
Q: Are your Band of Four novels for Tor Books ever likely to become a d20 publication?
A: Yes, when I have the time to get to it. I did have a deal with a major d20 company for such a product, but my agent squashed it during other negotiations. The lore that would go in to such a book does exist, though not in pristine, ready-for-print form, and the verdant river valley full of warring baronies that makes up Aglirta would make a great d20 campaign setting.
Q: Will you ever do a novel in your style of writing and not the one your editor prefers?
A: I've written or co-written over a hundred books in twenty-five years largely because I can write quickly, and "to order" (in a requested style). I'm used to filling an editorial need under editorial restrictions (this length, handed in at that time, and so on), and under my own restrictions (I'm writing for this audience, so I want to use THIS style). With each bestselling book I do, I win a little more leeway or power to "do things my way," and as ELMINSTER IN HELL demonstrates, I certainly try to push the boundaries a little with each book, and am allowed to do so.
However, I grew up reading voraciously, writing pastiches of Woodhouse and Dunsany and others, and doing journalism. I'm not sure there is a single "Ed Greenwood style" of writing. I know that if I had complete freedom, my Realms novels might read like a cross between Guy Gavriel Kay and the Anthony Villiers novels of Alexei Panshin.
Yet to some extent only self-publishing is free of editorial influence, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Writers are too close to their own work to always be able to stand back and clearly see its flaws, pacing problems, and gaps. A good editor (and I've had many) DOESN'T try to change a book to what he or she would have written.
I guess we'll have to wait and see. I think writers who can only tell stories one way, in one "voice," are as limited as readers who are foolish enough to think that words said by a character reflect the personal views of the writer who created that character.
Q: When will you be doing a Forgotten Realms gaming product?
A: I was one of three principal writers for SERPENT KINGDOMS (Darrin Drader and my friend and superb master of Realmslore Eric Boyd were the others). It should be coming out soon.
Q: Why the long absence from Forgotten Realms gaming products (the last was I believe was Silver Marches in 2002)?
A: As Wizards of the Coast cut back on the number of Realms releases and at the same time the number of staff members, it only makes economic sense to give most of the design work that's left to the folks Wizards is paying to be staff designers. I have been involved as a behind-the-scenes consultant or a contributor (I wrote a handful of drugs and poisons for LORDS OF DARKNESS, for example) on almost all of the 3rd Edition Realms sourcebooks, and hope to do more Realms design work in the future. I draw your attention to the tidbits of Realmslore I'm sneaking onto the Wizards website (and, when I have time again, hopefully in the pages of DRAGON, too).
Q: Could you talk a little about your work on Geanavue: The Stones of Peace (Kingdoms of Kalamar) (2002)?
A: Sure. GEANAVUE: THE STONES OF PEACE was a blast, though I STILL have trouble with Reanaarian names and spellings. A sequel of sorts, LOONA: PORT OF INTRIGUE, has just been released, and I urge you all to rush out and buy it (and Geanavue, too, if you haven't yet). For those who don't want to use Kalamar as a setting, here's what you get: a small, lawless, near-pirate-ruled port, with a thin strip of thinly-detailed countryside connecting it to a city that is detailed up, down, and sideways, from sewers to self-styled nobles to guilds. Think of it as a "second Waterdeep" in terms of setting detail. It's a low-magic setting, and I love it. Working on it was less fun just because I could never find enough time to fit it in around the novels that buy my food and pay my taxes (a problem that became chronic with Loona), but I jumped at the chance to do these because they were the sort of design that I wanted to do more of in the Realms: setting background. (Let me do Volo's Guides every six months for the rest of my life, and I'd be very happy. People who dislike Volo, of course, less so :}).
Q: Could you talk a little about your work on Castlemorn setting?
A: Jim Ward, who used to be the creative head of TSR back in the early days of the Realms (and was a player in the original Greyhawk campaign and a game designer of note with a string of classics to his name) asked me if I'd be interested in doing a new setting, and I was delighted to leap in and have a chance to do something that might easily grow into board games, novels, and more, and to "get back to my roots" by providing gamers with a new sandbox to play in. Picture a land (call it Mornra) hemmed in on three sides by apparently-impassable mountain ranges, and on the fourth by the ocean (or rather, a bay outlined by a semi-circular arc of islands that curves out from the mainland and then back in again, enclosing a fabled "haunted island" of crumbling castle ruins. The seas to either side of the bay are teacherous, always shrouded in mists, and contain pirates, a mysterious city of sorcerers, and any d20 adventure module a DM wants to plonk therein. The land of Mornra consists of about a dozen as-colorful-as-I-could-make-them countries, with feuds and trading relationships and underlying mysteries from a glorious past when there was more magic, an easier life for all, a dragon in every baske--ahem. Enough. I guess you'll just have to buy it and see.
Seriously, visit the Fast Forward Entertainment, Inc. site and you can see a few more glimpses of Castlemorn. I can promise that the launch product will be good old-fashioned value for your gaming dollar.
Q: Could you tell us about how you came to do a story for Children of the Rune?
A: Sure. Sue Weinlein-Cook asked me to, and for me gaming is all about friends. Like Jim Ward did for Castlemorn, she asked, so I answered the call, and consider it an honor to be invited to play in the Diamond Throne setting (and wait until you see the star-studded lineup of contributors to CHILDREN OF THE RUNE!). I love writing challenges, and had a ball writing the tale. I'd like to revisit my Lord Shield character someday, too, somehow, because he intrigues me.
Q: Could you talk about your work with the various computer games you have been a part of (including your short story "Moonrise Over Myth Drannor" in the Myth DrannorT Forgotten Realms computer game from SSI, Inc., and your short story "Living Forever" in the Pools of Radiance II: Ruins of Myth Drannor computer game from Mattel Interactive/The Learning Company/Broderbund). You were also involved with Interplay's The Two Towers, and how you felt your lore was handled by the Baldur's Gate series of computer games.
A: I did the Two Towers because I was honored to be able to work on even a tiny echo of Middle-Earth, and I love computer games. What I haven't loved (until the recent "real-time-walkthrough" version of Myst) is their frustrating technological limitations. They can never replace the versatility of a good live Dungeon Master. However, for the solo gamer, a game with good graphics, "atmosphere," and a variety of subplots (so as to avoid the two longtime problems: "You can't go on because you neglected to get the old man in the third room to vomit up the key, so you can't open the door to the next level and now he's vanished nyah nyah." and: "We yell, 'Thursday!' and the click-clicks fall over dead"/"How did you know how to do that?"/"We bought the hint book, dummy.").
However, as the platforms they run on improve, computer games are beginning to become graphically beautiful and adventures of lasting interest. I'm still going to be annoyed if computer designers change Realmslore details "because they can," but otherwise, I'm quite happy to see this form of gaming get better and better in the Realms. I recall Steve Schend asking me for a huge list of book titles so gamers exploring Candlekeep in a computer game could see what was on the shelves. I also recall telling him that the company should burn a "bonus" CD-ROM so I could write some sample pages for each book, and make the game a Realmslore must-buy for all gamers, but no one listens to me sob choke :}
Q: What would you like to see from your fans?
A: Keep on gaming in, reading about, and enjoying the Realms. Don't let it die, and (naming no names) try not to be nasty to other fans of the Realms in chat rooms, online forums, and the like. Life's too short for such unpleasantness, and this is supposed to be FUN for all of us. I also think that online discussion works best when posters confine themselves to discussing what an author has written, and not what they think the author wrote or meant-- especially when they haven't read what they're delivering an opinion on. As with other things in life (like judging politicians, or behaving in school or the workplace), the Golden Rule applies: always mentally put yourself in the other person's place, and think about how YOU'D feel if you were treated as you're treating that person.
Q: Looking back over your work, what, if anything, would you have done different?
A: I would have been born as a fantastically-rich, incredibly brilliant human female of breathtaking beauty, with the supernatural powers of flight, silence, and invisibility (all usable at will), and I wou--
Oh. Ahem. Heh-heh. My work, eh?
Well, now. SPELLFIRE would have been its original length and prose, which would give many of its critics the book I really wrote to sneer at. :}
All Realmslore would have been published without gaming stats or rules details, in leatherbound volumes with little sewn-in cloth-ribbon bookmarks (at least three per book). Simple plain-paper black-and-white pamphlets would have been released with the gaming stats for places, so game edition updates would have no effect on the Realmslore. Table- and wall-sized maps as beautiful as the mappers could make them would be available in VERY sturdy storage tubes. Realms products would set out to detail the entire surface of the globe. People, places, and things of the greatest fan interest would receive their own regular update products, online newspapers, and television shows. Peter Jackson would set to work on twelve full-length feature fil--
Oh. Aha. I'm doing it again, aren't I?
Okay, my dream job would be as a stunt man in porno movies, and--
Seriously: I would have negotiated a royalty on all Realms products, with a proviso that I could trade it away, product by product, in return for absolute artistic control over that particular product. That way, I'd now be VERY wealthy and/or have the Realms I personally wanted. But 'what if' questions are always, to some extent, futile. One big regret: It was intended from the outset that I write a novel a year for the Realms, and I regret that early seven-year gap in which I did game products only, because I didn't get the chance to properly introduce Mirt and some of the other Realms characters who are little more than names but should be part of the 'stock stable' of every Realms player, DM, and novelist.
Q: Do you still play D&D and if so who with and how often?
A: Yes, I still play and DM, usually at conventions, but (I'm afraid) not very often, these days, and 2nd Edition only (because I'm still not comfortable using a lot of the 3e rules). Up in Canada, the first weekend in August is bracketed by a holiday (known, imaginatively enough, as Civic Holiday), and the traditional gathering-times for the original Realms players are that weekend, up at my cottage, and on New Years Day (hangovers and all), for glorious sessions in the Realms.
Q: What are your plans for the far future?
A: Grow old and die.
Hopefully several centuries from now.
Oops. Well, you asked. Seriously? I've retired from a full-time day job with a two hundred miles a day round-trip commute to a part time job with an eighty mile round trip, so I'd like to eventually retire completely, pay off my house, travel a little bit (gaming has taken me all over the world, but usually at breakneck pace and through a lot of airports that I've hated), and write novels. More novels, big gloriously fat novels, little silly novels, and shapely novels in between. Then I can visit all my gaming friends, shoot the breeze, play fun beer-n-pretzels games, buy glorious fantasy art, and talk about how much greater things were in the old days. Hmm, sorta like non-gamers do.
Q: Any chance for an Ed Greenwood webpage?
A: Yes, as I explained on the radio show. Time to provide a steady flow of content is the problem. I'd much rather have no website at all than a bad one. And given a choice between writing six books a year and having no website, or two books and puttering weekly on web work, the six books wins every time.
Q: What is your opinion of places like candlekeep.com?
A: Great gathering-places for fans of the Realms, if they can be kept free of the trolling, flaming, and gratuitous trashing that so infected the WotC novel board and some others. I've yet to figure out why folks who don't like the Realms derive any enjoyment at all from crashing the party of those who do, or in doing hatchet-jobs on particular Realms authors, books, computer games, or WotC business practises they don't like. Yet none of these troubles should ever be allowed to triumph over the great sense of community and opportunities to exchange information that Candlekeep and similar sites provide. Please keep this place going.
Q: What is the true red-letter day that the Forgotten Realms came into existence? How old were you at the time of its Birth? How is your new campaign setting coming along?
A: I'd been writing about the Realms throughout 1967 without consciously naming it or thinking of it as a unified world until late summer of that year, when I was eight (I was born in 1959, but don't remember much about it because I was rather young at the time :}). So it predates D&D by seven years.
As for my new campaign setting, which one? I've several up my sleeves, not just Castlemorn.
Q: Mr. Greenwood, when you create a setting, do you start with a specific location or create the entire world first, then work downward?
Also, how do you determine how many deities are needed for a campaign setting?
A: Again, see Part 1. The short answers are I start both ways and work until they meet, and as many as fits the needs of the DM or novelist.
Q: Is the realms of today what you envisaged when you handed the license over to TSR?
A: More or less, yes. It is readily recognizable as the world I created. I think the too-close-to-our-real-world additions like Maztica, the Hordelands, and Kara-Tur were a mistake in style (pulls gamers out of roleplaying into disputes about historical details, for one thing), but if the Realms was to be the home for 2nd Edition AD&D, it had to have room for all styles of gaming (pirates, jungle, Hollywood Arabian and Oriental, etc.). I knew I'd built a world detailed enough to last thirty or more years, and it's done that. In my "mind's eye" I can walk around the Realms, and then look at the published Realms, and they're not really much farther apart than the different "takes" on a real-world place that, say, six different visiting tourists might have.
Q: If you had your way what would you keep about the current history/plots around the realms and what would you put in yourself?
A: I'm not sure what's being asked, here. If it's keep secret versus revelation, I always prefer the "confused rumor and bad local communications" situation because it's more realistic and gives the DM more elbow room to change things. If it's what do I like and would use of current Realms novel plots/major events, and what do I dislike and would omit, my views on leaving the gods personally out of things, as much as possible, and telling "small-compass stories" rather than world-shaking epics are well known. Yet although most humans hate change unless they can see that it's swiftly and clearly for the better, for the Realms to be 'alive' it must have change. Things Must Happen.
Q: Do you read any of the other FR authors to see what they are doing, or do you keep those novels at arm's length?
A: I enthusiastically read them all (and am often asked to, before publication, for comments or to check Realmslore). I consider this my reward for sharing the Realms: getting to read new tales of the Realms that I didn't have to write, myself, so I can get surprised. And, yes, I HAVE to know what's going on, and TSR/WotC contractually has to keep me informed, so that I don't write something that contradicts something I didn't know about.
Q: When is the next Elminster book due out? What can we expect briefly about it without giving away too much detail?
A: The next Realms novel with El in it is ELMINSTER'S DAUGHTER, which is to be released, I believe, in May (it was finished and handed in some months ago, and proofed before this year began). It's set in present Realms time, is linear storytelling rather than jumping around chronologically like ELMINSTER IN HELL or moving through the generations like CORMYR: A NOVEL, and aside from Elminster, I can say that there are (sometimes very) brief appearances by Alusair, Vangerdahast, The Simbul, Mirt, Myrmeen Lhal, Glarasteer Rhauligan, and . . . others. Not all of them human. :}
Q: Do you still roleplay? If so, do you use the Realms as your setting? What edition do you use? What do you prefer more - DMing or playing?
A: Yes, usually, 2nd Edition AD&D mostly, and DMing if it's the Realms.
Q: What is your opinion on the other campaign settings TSR/WOTC brought out after the Realms? Were they good/bad/indifferent?
A: All of them have been interesting, and as a gamer and game designer I've devoured them all, just as I'll eagerly look at Eberron when it appears. I disliked Dark Sun when it first appeared because there didn't at first appear to be any logical way all these harsh-desert-planet creatures could produce enough food or get enough water to survive, but the answers to that were revealed soon enough. I think Birthright and Ravenloft are both fascinating approaches, and I want to make it clear that I've never viewed other campaign settings as rivals, only as other neat things to check out. I'm a gamer and a fantasy writer: anyone who gives me new toys to play with is golden in my book. When my friends at Pentacon gave me a copy of the Darkus Thel rules, I was delighted. When Kalamar started to come out I snapped up each product, and did the same when Monte started rolling out Arcana Unearthed and the Diamond Throne setting. I'll never have time to play in all of these worlds, but I love reading about them.
Q: What is your opinion on some of the other campaign settings floating around know with the advent of d20? By this I mean the flavour and also how much the publishers give information-wise about the setting?
A: See my preceding answer for my interest in such things. As I said on the show, most of my local gaming stores vanished just before the d20 explosion, so I cruise the exhibit hall at GenCon trying to make sure I don't miss anything. I know I have missed a lot of stuff (I only have one or two Scarred Lands releases, for example). Without seeing the contents of an unfolding product line, I can't fairly judge flavour and depth of detail, but I can say that my preferences are always for roleplaying, story, and color, not stat blocks. If you've bought the rules, you've already paid for stat blocks galore, right? I'd use that space for more background, so an adventure can be played several ways, or a DM can readily improvise rematches with the villains or sequels to the main adventure.
Q: Is there a particular setting that you like? What are the reasons for this?
A: The Realms, of course. Not to mention Castlemorn. :}
Seriously, I like any setting that inspires me to get playing, or work out some subplots, or put on funny voices and get playing those NPCs.
Q: Do you have your own website that you or someone else regularly updates? What content does it contain?
A: No, I'm afraid not, as explained above. At least, not yet. Time, time, time. Folks, I still need to sleep at least three hours a night, I do have a family and a day job and have to go shopping for food and suchlike, and I am a novelist and a librarian: both for work and for pleasure I read at least a novel a day, plus spend time writing my own. And then, of course, there's the time I spend shopping for books. :} And attending conventions to do so.
I'd love to have a website, but...
Q: Do you prefer the northern area of Faerun as compared to the rest of the world? (Silver Marches, Savage North, Waterdeep etc.)
A: The most developed parts of the original Realms were what Jeff Grubb dubbed "the Heartlands" (Waterdeep and its immediate surroundings, Eveningstar and Cormyr around it, and Shadowdale and the rest of the Dales around it). These were places where longterm PC adventuring parties were based and did their things. (There were many short-term campaigns and adventuring companies, too, in library programs I've run over the years. In fact, I came up with the idea of chartering adventuring companies so as to give such short-term players specific goals and boundaries.)
I think all of the Realms needs far more detail than we've been able to give it, thus far (for instance, I've never had the chance to REALLY detail the feuds, histories, and intrigues of the nobles of either Waterdeep or Cormyr, or properly map and describe Silverymoon or Everlund or Neverwinter, and yet I hear some folks complaining that we've covered Waterdeep and Cormyr "over and over again"). As a result, I'd love to go back and 'do' all of those places again.
Yet I also want to properly describe Scardale and Sembia and the Border Kingdoms and lots of other neat places that we've barely touched on, thus far. In the pages of POLYHEDRON, for years, I tried to fill in details of this place and that, but, well, my excess detailing-the-Realms time vanished at about the same time as that venue. Perhaps next year, in DRAGON, and slowly, on the Wizards website . . . I do know of some still-secret Realms products in the pipeline, however. We'll have to see what the future holds.
Q: Are you planning on writing anything with Mirt as the main character?
A: As THE main character, no. I fully intend to give him larger and larger supporting roles, but I can't see a chance to really let him rip, alone. He works best with Asper as a foil, and (especially in his younger days) with Durnan (the close-mouthed "thinking man's Conan") at his side. For an example of the latter partnership, have a glance at REALMS OF DRAGONS when it comes out.
Q: I can't wait for the Knight of Myth Drannor trilogy to come out. Who will be involved in the book, which knights will be the main focus I guess?
A: I have some long-term plans for the Rangers Three but nothing definite. You'll probably see Sharantyr before the end of the Knights trilogy.
None of the Knights books are finished yet, but I can say the first one begins just before the Knights are actually formed, when Florin Falconhand agrees to undertake a certain task, and gets more than he bargained for.
Q: have seen people who were in your earlier games talk about the rich detail in the world that you created. How many gods did you start with and how much detail did you put in their history? Besides the different cultures and societies in the world the way different religions interact with one another, 'what region favors which god' is one of the toughest aspects I have come across to create and make it seem real not just a plastic coating.
Also how much detail did you start with in the world and did you start writing in the realms before you finished creating it, or waited till you filled in the general details and then write?
A: I've designed or co-designed five major settings now (from a gamer's view, CASTLEMORN from Fast Forward Entertainment, Inc. will be the next to appear), and doing it more than once has hammered home one thing: for me, it always starts with some vividly-imagined scenes of places. Whether we're talking crumbling ruins or soaring castles or deep forest glades lit by glowing mists, these will be places that intrigue me, that I want to know more about. So, in my mind's eye, I walk around them, seeing and smelling and looking behind things.
And then I see people, characters that intrigue me. Why is this woman laughing, and why is there a sword sticking right through her that doesn't seem to bother her in the slightest? Why is yonder man acting so sly, and chuckling to himself all the time as if he knows something devilishly delightful that the rest of us don't? What are their secrets, and what are they up to? On a larger scale, what are the conflicts that dominate this land, or region, or world?
My original visions of places largely determine the overall landscape character of that part of the setting, of course (lush green forests, or seacoasts, or deserts, or mountains, or something weirder like floating, moving Roger Dean-style midair "islands" of rock). From that point, there are many ways to world-build, and the published Realms (just because areas have been bolted onto it by others besides myself, and many different folks have stirred their own characters and people into the mix) aren't necessarily the best example of how to do it. Your questions center on how I started, however, so let's go back there.
Picture a very young nerd (six and then seven) voraciously reading everything in his father's den full of books. The shelves in that den hold everything from cutting-edge physics and radar science (my father's academic pursuits) to lurid "naughty" paperbacks (or what passed for them in the 1930s and 40s). I'm the young reader, and find the fantasy stuff most to my taste. More than that, most of the authors are dead, and even those still alive at the time (such as Tolkien, Moorcock, Leiber, Zelazny, Pratchett, and Bellairs, just to name a few) either haven't yet published the works that will really make them shine, in my eyes, or aren't writing fast enough to feed my appetite for "What Happened Next?" to favourite characters. So I start to scribble my own sequels. Most of these, of course, are both horrible and unfinished little pastiches, but that hunger is the root from which the Realms grew.
Eventually, I hit upon the idea of doing what Fritz Leiber was doing with Fafhrd and the Mouser in the pages of FANTASTIC at the time (a magazine later merged with its sister sf publication AMAZING, which TSR acquired and published about two decades later): telling self-contained stories about his main characters that just happen to be episodes in the ongoing lives of these wandering heroes (occasionally featuring old friends or foes they've met before), and also just happen to be set in the same world, and add little details of that world, story by story, that a reader who knows about the other stories in the series can pounce on, and fit together with what's already known, and build into a deeper understanding of the world.
So I start to write stories all set along the same coast (what you now know as the Sword Coast of the Realms), that share the same background. Most of them star the same main character: the fat, wheezing, sly Mirt the Moneylender (take Shakespeare's Falstaff, and add a dash of Poul Anderson's Nicolas van Rijn and a handful of Glencannon), who's crafty as they come but too old and slow for great heroics. In some of the tales, he teams up with Durnan, a "thinking-man's Conan" (strong silent type who isn't a barbarian ignorant of the lands he's journeying through, but who, although sensitive, believes laws and authority are usually oppressive, and to be ignored whenever they get in the way).
The first Realms tale is "One Comes, Unheralded, to Zirta" (Zirta is a city now part of Scornubel), and in it we see Elminster and a lady or two who will later become famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) as members of the Seven Sisters. This tale is written in 1967, and D&D isn't released until 1974 (1975 to me and most of the wider world), so my fiction writing in the Realms predates the game.
As a result, I was piling details up far more deeply than most published game settings ever acquire, long before there WAS a D&D game (can't do registered trademark symbols in this primitive e-mail, but please take it as written that they're here, okay?).
I so admired the release of AD&D (specifically the Players Handbook, which put a Vancian magic system into specific game terms, just as the Monster Manual had already quantified monster specifics) that I turned the Realms into a matching-the-game setting. Regular Realmsplay started in 1978, and longtime Realms fans will notice that the greatest detail in the published Realms is found in places (Waterdeep, Cormyr, the Dales) where longtime adventuring companies (Player Characters) were based.
My players were and are superb actors/roleplayers, and demanded a world that felt real. They always wanted to know what was inside that caravan wagon passing by, and why (which of course forces some world design decisions on the DM, because the cargoes obviously mean that Place X produces an excess of cloth, but needs metals, and Place Y needs that cloth, and so on). As a result, the Realms got literally days (uh, when I was going to school, which would be my "study time") of me puzzling out economics, trade routes, currents, prevailing winds, floods and droughts, mineral wealth locations, and so on. Again, others have worked in the Realms, so not all of this survives in a coherent manner, and of course it's never been set forth in a "Trading & Traders" or "Merchants & Money" product, because many gamers would avoid such a product in droves. :}
So that's the way I did it. DRAGON issue 54 contains my work-in-progress unfolding of a pantheon of gods, and a glance at that article will show you three things at work: like all D&D gamers at the time, I was trying to stay official, matching deities with what Gary Gygax had revealed of his (the Greyhawk setting); I wanted lots of gods (one aspect of the Realms that's thus far been neglected is the extent to which Jonthun the baker next door worships Chauntea for a good harvest, Tymora for good luck in the baking, Talos for good weather so the grain crops won't be ruined, and so on, all in the same day); and I wanted lots of small, evil cults so PCs would have lots of evil rituals to disrupt and maidens to rescue off of sinister altars. :} (Another element we haven't yet properly addressed in print is clergy: exactly what prayers do they prey, what do they wear, what are their taboos, aims in life, and what are the hidden agendas or personal pursuits of the controlling clergy; all of that. We know entirely too much about the gods, and not enough about their churches.)
And yes, it takes time. Oodles and oodles of time. More than 35 years for me, thus far; the Realms has become my life, taken me all over the world, and changed everything for me.
However, it doesn't have to start with the planet cooling. Most designers will run out of gas long before they get half the canvas filled in, if they start macro and then zero in. Start small, with a place that grabs you, and build outwards. When you get as far outwards as a cluster of adjacent lands, then step back and look at trade and wars and alliances and power groups. Depending on your purposes (writing a long line of novels or just getting together one night a week to run friends through the latest adventure that's caught your eye in the pages of DUNGEON, or something in between), that far may be as far as you need to go. Until, of course, your players start demanding all that detail; any good DM will spend about 4 hours of design time for every 1 hour of playing time.
I world-build because I love doing it. Anyone who's tried to make a living from writing will tell you straight that it isn't because of money, and I matured enough not to want adulation years ago. But to be in the middle of acting the part of a king and to look across the gaming table and see people excited to the point of tears by what the king is saying and doing to their characters, THAT's wonderful.
Q: Why were the Malaugrym were cut from the first editions of the Spellfire book? Surely an arch-enemy of the Realms as epic as these guys would have given plenty of hooks for other Realms novel writers?
A: Mr. Lowder has summarized the whole comedy of errors surrounding SPELLFIRE very well, so I won't go into it again here. Let's just say that editors (not Ed) did the final cutting of both the original and the newer version of Spellfire (which despite what it says on the cover, is SHORTER than the first published version). Over a third of the original book was dropped, and the easiest way to do that quickly was to remove an entire layer of villains throughout. This had many unfortunate consequences, but the two Ed hates the most are these:
1. With the Malaugrym impersonations and manipulations gone, the actions of the Zhentarim become foolish "Keystone Kops" farce, and not the struggles of dupes being pushed into things. How many times down the years have you heard criticism of the Zhents as being bumbling cardboard figures? Not in Ed's original.
2. With the Malaugrym impersonations and manipulations and a key Knights of Myth Drannor "war council" scene gone, the Knights (with the half-hearted exceptions of Torm and Rathan, and over the anger of Sharantyr) seem to heartlessly abandon Narm and Shandril part way through the book, and even more importantly, so do Elminster and The Simbul. In Ed's original, El and the Witch-Bitch (sorry, our players' name for her) ordered the Knights to get back to their neglected other tasks, knowing full well that Torm and Rathan would disobey, and El and The Simbul fought the Malaugrym continuously "over the heads of" the unwitting Narm and Shandril. This was a key part of Ed's intended message in the book: in the Realms, things are never quite as simple as they seem, and there are plots and surveillance and subplots behind everything and always on the go. Reading many TSR Realms books over the years, it's my personal opinion that they're aimed at a young male audience, and there's a deliberate editorial preference for simple, linear "lots of action" storytelling. Whether that's "better" or not than other styles and forms of stories is another debate, but I do know that it is at odds with what Ed was originally told by TSR, which was: "Show us your Realms. We're thinking a book a year at least, showcasing all of your main characters and power groups. Take us through those forests, down those alleys, into those magic user's towers. You've got a world here that's broader than deeper than any we've ever seen; show it to us!"
I KNOW those words were said, because I stood there at an early GenCon and listened to them (coming from Jim Ward and Mike Dobson). That was the GenCon where Ed and Jeff Grubb walked past each other, each wondering if the other was the other, because they'd talked on the phone for a year but never met face-to-face. :}
The 'why' of the SPELLFIRE debacle had a lot to do, I believe, with a change in personnel at the Book Department, and a different idea of what Ed's book should be than the above-quoted words. Which was fine, except that nobody got around to telling Ed this until it was all too late to fix EXCEPT by drastic editing and rewriting. If I recall correctly, one of Mr. Lowder's first tasks when hired by TSR was to rewrite Ed's character dialogue throughout the book.
However, over the years, Ed has slowly drifted to the view that trimming the Malaugrym may have been bad for SPELLFIRE, but was good for the Realms, because they are plane-hopping powerhouses (something like the royal family of Amber, in Roger Zelazny's classic Amber novels), and if fans had concentrated on them like they do the gods (Ed calls it "chasing the power"), we might never have had products like the Volo's Guides, grounded in the details of everyday life in the Realms.
So, yes, I wince almost as badly as Ed when I read the published version of SPELLFIRE (I got to read the original manuscript because Ed was also told, as he started writing it and we signed our release forms, "Make sure your players are happy with it"). But we've all moved on. As Ed put it, "I've got SO many other stories I want to tell. Shandril was invented for that novel, and this mania for 'signature characters' means I've never been able to do a Mirt novel, or a Simbul novel, or an Alustriel book, or--get the idea?"
Q: Does any of the Seven know that their real father is still "alive"? Has any of them ever met him or vice versa? What does he think of his offspring if so...and they him?
What does Dornal think of the new Mystra? And is he still a Watcher for her? Or what does he do for Midnight/Mystra, if he no longers seeks new Chosen for her?
A: Dornal has met all of his daughters except Qilue (sorry, can't do accent marks through this primitive e-mail [Hooded One note: Sorry, neither can I.]), because Mystra thought this might be too painful/mentally damaging to him, but she did carefully and covertly manipulate the other six of the Seven into meetings with him. Most of them know he's still alive but have been privately, one-on-one, been mind-told by Mystra not to go looking for him because doing so will doom him to torment and death at the hands of evil beings seeking to force Mystra to do certain things (which she will have to refuse), and because it will harm his delicate mental state.
Some of the six Sisters realized who Dornal must be, during or after their encounters, but kept this knowledge from him. The Simbul did once openly rescue him from destruction (with a spell cast from afar, accompanied by a verbal message: "Father, I honour you!") years after they met.
Dornal is bitter, but not as mentally fragile as all that, and is slowly "forgiving" Mystra (who went so far as to create a mortal avatar of herself whom he could physically punish and lash out at, to get back at her; he did so, and of course felt even worse). Mystra herself felt guilt over what happened to Dornal, and not only kept him alive far beyond his normal lifespan in an effort to bring him to "peace" before he died, but brought about these manipulated meetings (in each of which Dornal was made aware who his daughters were immediately after parting from them) in an attempt to heal his mental hurts.
In this, she largely succeeded, but Dornal is now suffering the same mental degeneration/utter exhaustion that most long-lived humans (such as Elminster and Khelben) do: the cumulative effects of repeatedly outliving friends, relations, and loved ones and seeing beloved places swept away or changed beyond recognition.
Dornal is still bitter over Mystra "using" him and his wife, and even feels bitterness about her obvious role in the manipulated meetings with the eldest six of the Seven, but knowing he has grandsons (some of whom he's met), the passage of time, and Mystra's clear sorrow and humbleness towards him have made these "old hurts" that are growing easier to live with. And there may even be some small satisfaction in knowing that he outlived the goddess that did this to him.
He remains a Watcher for the new Mystra, and even has some other "secret agent" duties for her (after all, a VERY experienced adventurer who really doesn't care what happens to himself can be quite useful for certain tasks). It will probably come as no surprise to you to hear me say: "I'd love to do a novel about Dornal Silverhand's doings in the Realms of today." It probably also wouldn't surprise you to hear that the long-suffering folks of WotC's Book Publishing division are almost certainly heartily weary of hearing me utter that sentence, with various characters attached to it. :}
If you met Dornal Silverhand in the present-day Realms, you'd be seeing a tall, gaunt, cavern-eyed man of grim manner and utterly silent movements, who seldom speaks. He sees all (even tiny details, glimpsed momentarily), forgets nothing, and can reason very quickly (interpreting what he sees). He carries an astonishing variety of concealed weapons, knows the back trails, ruins, nearby caves, and other "quick getaway" features of locales across the Sword Coast North and the Heartlands of the Faerun better than most beings, and is utterly fearless (not bold or reckless; he simply doesn't care what happens to himself).
He often tried to poison himself when it first became clear to him that Mystra wasn't going to allow him to suicide, and she kept him alive by magically neutralizing lethal dose (or even combination 'cocktail') after dose, with the result that he's now immune to all effects of most poisons, and suffers only minor harm from the known remainder.
Dornal's hobby, as a onetime noble, has been to learn and keep straight the genealogies and family histories of divers nobility and self-styled nobility of Waterdeep, Sembia, and Cormyr, plus their exiled offshoots; as a result, he can smilingly deflate a noble dandy by revealing that their great-grandfather took the name and titles of a dead battle-comrade, and so the dandy and his kin really don't deserve to be treated as nobles at all . . . or shock sworn enemies or lovers by revealing their true blood relationships to each other. He doesn't go around doing so, of course, but he's not above "taking care of" cruel or over-ambitious nobles by letting rivals or family members know some truths about skeletons in family closets.
His favourite daughters are Dove and Storm, the former because she's the closest to him in manner and (in his eyes) the least "tainted" by her own spellcasting, and the latter because he's watched Storm comfort folk, aid in childbirths, entertain with songs, and pitch in and help strangers fight fires, hunt down missing children, and the like, and has come to love and admire her as many folk in the Realms do. He also sees something of his own "don't care what happens to my own skin" thinking in her deeds and behaviour, yet admires the way she couples it with empathy for others, and complete lack of personal pride.
He once gave all of his clothing to shivering beggars on the road near Neverwinter and walked naked into a blizzard, hoping to die numbed and unaided (Mystra, of course, has other ideas), and was awed when he once witnessed Storm disrobed completely to give all of her clothing to freezing folk who'd been driven out of their (wooden) home by fire, and then lead them for miles to shelter (striding naked through the snow to her farmhouse). A sort of: "That's my girl!" admiration. (Storm's casual attitude regarding nudity should of course be well-known to Realms fans and detractors by now. :})
Sembia is a place where wealth and boredom have reached sufficient levels that young nobles and inheritors are doing all sorts of crazy things, just now, and magically-gifted individuals often manage to indulge themselves (and yet survive) long enough to develop some of their potential. Silverymoon has long been such a place, too, and Everlund increasingly so. As a result, Dornal has been spending a lot of time quietly and covertly observing magic-related activities in these three places, walking everywhere and working alone. He has acquired some minor magic items that aid in healing and in disguise, and "the new Mystra" (who seems to admire him) has been covertly recharging these items, 'beefing them up' on occasion, and even surprising Dornal (and sometimes, pursuers) with casting feather fall or teleport spells on him that he wasn't expecting, and isn't quite sure of the origins of. On the other hand, she doesn't watch over him closely, and he's spent some agony-filled days crawling with broken limbs and ribs, or lying almost bloodless, waiting for wounds to heal under the slow benison of his healing magics. Yet he seems to have found reasons, at least for now, to keep going and to serve the new Mystra as capably as he knows how.
Yes, Dornal is one of two or three dozen fascinating 'loose end' characters of the Realms who could be very 'deployable' in Realms fiction or campaign play (Elaith the Serpent is a perfect example of another 'loose end' character that an author [Elaine Cunningham, of course] picked up and used with spectacular success). I won't start listing and describing them, because I'm sure you could compile such a list just as well, and I DO have a novel to finish. Er, several novels to finish. Umm, more than several, even. As one editor told me not so long ago: "Just don't go and die on us, Ed . . . or we'll be forced to kill you!" :}
Q: Other than citizens of Shade enclave how many other Netherese Survivors are around?
There seems to be a couple, the most notable being Larloch but Ive also found another one in the original Lords of Darkness, a Moresha the Netherese Necromancer. Are there any other named Netherese survivors in FR material?
A: I know of at least a dozen Netherese who are still active in the Realms of today, albeit some of them in greatly changed forms. Hint: a LOT of Netherese bound themselves into magic items (especially swords), to 'live on' telepathically. If your blade seems able to see what's around it without having visible eyes, hear thoughts of nearby creatures, and mend/heal itself in limited ways, it just might contain the sentience of a Netherese.
The pages of ELMINSTER: THE MAKING OF A MAGE and SHADOWS OF DOOM both contain Netherese survivors (one each), and I can reveal here that I know of at least two who reside quietly (pretending to be "just plain folks") in Waterdeep and Suzail, respectively. No, I'm not going to give names, because for a DM it's far more useful to have them as 'handy tools.'
The Waterdhavian one founded a successful mercantile family now regarded as noble, and then (having prepared for this with covert investments, coin caches, and property purchases) faked his own death, to reappear as a retired merchant, a role he's played several times since. Like Elminster, he meddles covertly in city politics and society, spreading rumors and 'turning' particular individuals to hold more cosmopolitan world-views (investing in other lands, and taking an interest in folk from those places). He does this because he very much wants to avoid Waterdhavian haughtiness from growing any greater than it is already.
The Suzailan one is a female who firmly believes that Netheril fell because of overweening pride and overarching mastery of magic. She enjoys life in Cormyr (when it isn't imperiled by war, of course), has hidden coins and gold in plenty for her needs, and covertly works to do two things: confuse and confound War Wizard investigations, and to make both War Wizards and others think that there are secret personal dangers involved in too much spellcasting, and in casting specific, over-powerful spells. She is VERY good at keeping hidden, spreading such rumors through the mouths of passing strangers by means of suggestion magics, and never doing anything openly herself. She's no enemy of the Crown; she just doesn't think allowing the War Wizards to reach the status of 'extremely effective secret police' is a good idea. She's dwelt in Suzail for almost forty years, and knows it will soon be time to "disappear" or be noticed as something other than the well-to-do widow she's pretending to be, but is tarrying because she enjoys the city and its folk so much (she perceives a rising danger in wealthy, ever-restless Sembia of sorcerers and wizards becoming overproud and reckless in their use of magic, but has such a distaste for what she's seen of Sembian society that she just doesn't want to go there, while also seeing that it would be a very good place to take a new face and name).
You can, of course, create many more Netherese, though I'd suggest that they all conceal their origins and that they NOT (or try not) to know of each other, rather than forming any sort of shadowy secret society or power group. That would be why, even for the two examples from my novels, clearly identified Netherese should be very scarce. After all, if Netheril is most remembered as a "land of awesome magic," then anyone identified as Netherese can expect wizards and sorcerers to launch surprise attacks, mind-invasions, and attempts to capture or financially control them, to get all the magic that's "surely" waiting in their minds, or in the case of items, hidden in places they know.
Q: Is Qilue both a Chosen of Mystra and Eilistraee or is her title of Chosen of Eilistraee just that, a title? The 3 designers have said she is both but in the old rules it wasn't really any thing more then a title.....
A: Qilue is a Chosen of Mystra with all the powers and special status other Chosen of the Mother Of All Magic possess.
Eilistraee wanted a "claim" on her, too, hence her Chosen of Eilistraee title. It means two things: she's as loyal to Eilistraee as to Mystra (in daily practise, as shown in SILVERFALL, more so), and Eilistraee foresees using her in some great task (i.e. a not-yet-revealed destiny).
Being as this is Candlekeep, I can do no more than point you to what a Harper PC (not one of the Knights) uncovered when asking a monk of Candlekeep to research Qilue's destiny. The monk was of course limited to finding prophecies and other written histories, and reported thus: one seer saw a dream wherein Qilue wielded a sword forged of her own blood, and was hailed by knights as "the Godslayer."
However, another seer (the monk declined to identify either of his sources, BTW) said "the dark one who serves two goddesses but leads the dance for only one shall be mother to a new race, and change the face of the Realms forever."
Either way, it seems Qilue's future bids fair to be interesting.
Q: I recently read Stormlight (which was great!! ) Is anymore information available for Firefall Vale\Keep as I fell in love with the place?
A: You would know where in easternmost Cormyr Firefall Vale is, in the district of Northtrees March, hard against the Thunder Peaks and the northern edge of Hullack Forest, and that it has traditionally been ruled by Lord Summerstar from his castle at its western end, Firefall Keep.
In the early days of Cormyr, Glothgam Summerstar (the founder of House Summerstar and its first Lord) used the magical Sword of Summer Winds to slay and drive away red dragons after they attacked Glothgam's encampment with a mighty spell that turned the waters of the Brook to flame (giving the Vale its name), and so claimed the valley as his own.
I'm going to pull some SPOILERS here, though they shouldn't really ruin your enjoyment (or if you hate it, lack of same :}) of STORMLIGHT if you just read on. (By the way, if anyone reading this wants the true measure of Storm's character, read pages 114 through 121, and page 192, of the novel.)
Generations later, Glothgam's descendant Rauvor was the Lord of Firefall Vale. After Lord Rauvor Summerstar's death, of a wasting fever decades before the events of STORMLIGHT, his bride became the Dowager Lady Pheirauze Summerstar, and -- as an haughty, imperious and coldly beautiful noblewoman widely known (though not to her face) as "Dowager Lady Daggertongue"-- outlived her son (Pyramus) and her grandson, being in her sixties at the time of STORMLIGHT. She became romantically involved with no less than three generations of the Illance noble family (one after another, not all at once!) but never remarried. Pheirauze was very intelligent, very strong-willed, and very used to getting her own way in everything: spreading and using her personal influence to govern others is what she does.
Rauvor had one brother, Hergrest, who predeceased him. Hergrest married a quiet, strong-willed sorceress, Harper, and adventurer, Maerla Downhand, but it was a true (though childless) love-match, and she survived him only by four summers.
Lord Pyramus Summerstar was the eldest of five sons of Rauvor and Pheirauze. Eldest to youngest, the brothers of Pyramus were the mage Orm Hlannan Summerstar, the warriors Darandar and Brezm, and the womanizer and rogue Lord Erlandar Summerstar (the only one still alive when STORMLIGHT begins). After birthing sons, Pheirauze gave Rauvor three daughters: Dalestra, Margort and Nalanna, and the latter two (both 'maiden aunts') are still alive at the time of STORMLIGHT.
Pyramus wed the timid and mostly silent Zarova Battlestar (of House Battlestar of West Shore not far along the coast west from Suzail, who became the second Dowager Lady Summerstar, and -- like Pheiauze --outlived both Pyramus and Athlan).
Lord Pyramus married Zarova only after his secret marriage to Princess Sulesta (daughter of King Rhigaerd) was annulled by mutual agreement (and furious pressure from the War Wizards to undo the match and never to speak of it) after their love cooled. Thanks to War Wizard precautions, Pyramus did not sire any children with Sulesta.
Lord Pyramus was succeeded by his son Lord Athlan Summerstar (a Harper), who perishes in the first few pages of STORMLIGHT, leaving his stunningly beautiful, wanton younger sister Shayna as heir. Their cousin is the womanizing fop Sir Thalance Summerstar, the bastard son of Baelangar Harth (a local forester -- ranger -- of common birth), and Lady Dalestra Summerstar. Baelangar was killed by wolves whilst defending his lady when they were caught in a fierce winter storm while travelling overland during a very hard winter, a decade before STORMLIGHT. As STORMLIGHT begins, Shayna, Thalance, Erlandar, Zarova, Pheirauze, and two daughters of Darandar not named in the novel but present at the feasts, Myara and Calaumdra, are still alive and dwelling in the Keep.
Firefall Vale is the long, lushly green valley (prone to spring flooding) carved by Turnwyrm Brook on its descent from the Thunder Peaks to join the River Immerflow. It runs for some five miles east to west, being about a mile wide at its midpoint and much narrower at both ends. At its eastern end, the Vale hooks to the southeast, and ends at the Cascades, a series of falls that brings the Brook down into it from a higher, narrower 'upper Vale' that runs for another two miles southeast back into the mountains.
Vale folk keep many small flocks of sheep and goats are kept in the upper Vale and in the many small, nameless valleys around the Vale itself. The Vale is bordered and surrounded by knife-sharp rocky ridges, and there are rumored to be 'ghost dragons' lurking in the nearby peaks, one of which is Mount Glendaborr.
The nearest neighboring noble holdings are Hawkhar to the northwest (high rolling hills where fine horses are bred and reared for sale) held by House Indesm, and Galdyn's Gorge, south along the Immerflow (known for its gorge-side caverns where mushrooms are grown, gems mined, and vralo, a VERY strong-flavored mushroom wine, is made), home of House Yellander. (Vralo, pronounced "vrAL-oh," is an amber-hued drink made by adding fermented mushroom essence, the juice produced when certain smoky-tasting small, brown, and wrinkled cavern mushrooms are crushed, to an undistinguised sour white wine made locally from grapes and known to most as "horsepiss." It's very much an acquired taste, but many Vale folk seem to have done the necessary acquiring.)
Firefall Keep is a much smaller small stone fortress since the events of STORMLIGHT. Its formerly predominant Haunted Tower, Twilight Turret, Hall of Honor, and Gargoyle Stair are all gone, leaving it much changed.
Today, the oldest and tallest part of the castle is the West Front of three original towers (Darkwind, Nalvor's, and Scorchedshields), with their tall, north-south linking wall. Darkwind, the northernmost of the three, is linked by a battlement running east to the North Room (a semi-circular dining hall raised atop the rebuilt kitchens and pantries). From the North Room, the outer walls run southeast to a new, smaller tower, Ladytower, where the walls turn south for a short run to the matching new tower of Braceguilt.
Ladytower is the living quarters of the current Lord and Lady Summerstar, and Braceguilt contains guest apartments (with the quarters of the seneschal and guards at ground level, beneath them).
The original gate between Nalvor's and Scorchedshields opens west onto the end of the coach road linking Firefall with the rest of Cormyr, as it always did, and a second gate, between Ladytower and Braceguilt, now opens east into the rest of the Vale.
A modest battlement wall runs east from Scorchedshields to a large, misshapen new tower known as the Armory. From there the wall turns northeast for a short run to Braceguilt, completing the outside edge of the Keep and enclosing a large courtyard now largely given over to gardens. The stables and granary cellars run along the inside of this south wall, and there are known to be underground passages beneath the courtyard and the ring of battlement walls linking all of the Keep towers to each other and to the (original) Summerstars crypt and dungeons.
It's not necessary to pass through the Keep to enter and leave the Vale: a wide wooden bridge arches over Turnwyrm Brook just west of the castle, and carries the main cart-road over to the south bank of the Brook and along it east into the Vale proper. For most of the length of the Vale, cart-tracks run along both banks of the Brook, and are linked by cross-bridges at Dunstone Farm, Marthtree, and Bottomstones (at the base of the Cascades). Only agile hikers can ascend beyond Bottomstones, but there are rope-anchors (huge rings hammered into the rocks) to allow heavy goods to be raised or lowered from one Vale to another. At least one person took a cart up into the upper Vale in this manner, but carts can't pass freely from one Vale to another except in a spectacularly crashing descent.
After the events of STORMLIGHT, the war wizard Sir Broglan Sarmyn wed Lady Shayna Summerstar, and was created Lord Summerstar in his own right. Broglan and Shayna have three children. In order of birth, they are Ileira (daughter, now four years of age), Storm (daughter, now two, and yes, named for Storm Silverhand, a naming that some say caused Lady Margort Summerstar to die of mortification), and Rauvoril (son, just approaching his first birthday).
The battles in STORMLIGHT took a heavy toll; the only other Summerstars still living are Thalance and Erlandar. Thalance spends most of his time in Suzail these days, making friends and seducing ladies with energy enough to have some chance at catching up to the exploits and reputation of his Uncle Erlandar, who has settled into being the Lord Warden (captain of the guard and police) of the Vale, and slowed his seductions to one or two per season.
Broglan and Shayna are a happy couple, and their kindnesses and sharings of food and shelter in winter have made them much loved by the several hundred folk who call the Vale home. They are widely regarded as "good" and "just" by the locals, whose loyalty is strong-and bolstered by the fact that Cormyr often seems to reach out with cordial interest to Firefall Vale. Part of that is due to Ergluth Rowanmantle, still Boldshield of Northtrees March, part to Broglan's rank as a War Wizard, and part to Storm Silverhand's deeds in STORMLIGHT.
Harpers and War Wizards are now most welcome in Firefall Keep, and the place has become something of a retirement destination for folk of Cormyr whose colourful pasts or careers lead them to seek seclusion. These retirees have considerable coin to invest, and are sponsoring the transport of the goods of local artisans who craft pretty (and inexpensive) jewelry by cutting and polishing tiny sections of certain local stones and stringing them into bracelets, pectorals, and necklaces to markets in Arabel and Suzail, where these affordable adornments are gaining great popularity among the merchant classes.
The Vale proper has many spreading blueleaf trees (and in the upper Vale, even a few weirwoods), but is dominated by small farm fields bounded by rubble-stone walls. Most Vale farmers dwell in single-story cottages built of fieldstone where two or more field-walls meet, and roofed in wooden shingles or slates, sealed with pitch. The homes have storage cellars beneath, because long, harsh winters force prudent folk to preserve and store a lot of food and drink. Bitter-root beer and goat cheeses thickly sealed in wax are staples of such larders, and mint and "rock fur" (lichen) jellies are popular homemade condiments.
Vale farms produce local food crops (radishes, cabbages, apples, nuts, and potatoes), chickens, and hogs. The morning and evening mists coupled with bright hours of sunlight have always made this tiny area a verdant, prosperous slice of paradise, and young sons of the Vale seeking work have always been able to find it as foresters working the verges of the Hullack, or in Purple Dragon service, just as daughters have traditionally traveled to larger cities in Suzail and sought service in the households of nobles, proudly proclaiming their Summerstar training.
Storm visits the Vale seldom, usually arriving by night and teleport, to a room in the Keep that's been set aside for her. When upset, Lord Broglan has been known to go alone to this room to think or pray-and it's a measure of the deep love between Shayna and Broglan, and her regard for Storm, that this has never caused friction between them (indeed, certain Keep folk say that on the occasion of a great fight between the Lord and Lady, and when Rauvoril's birth turned difficult, the two magically called to the Bard of Shadowdale for aid, and she came).
This is not to say that all is sweetness and light in Firefall. Fell beasts have begun to prowl out of the Hullack Forest, and there are rumors that some folk among the wealthy arrivals who've built mansions along the coach road just west of the Keep are engaged in illicit practises and trade. Rumors have a tendency to paint darker portraits than truth, but local whispers include suspicions of agents and trade in drugs and poisons involving Zhentarim, Red Wizards, and a wide variety of Sembian interests who lack all respect for Cormyrean law. The whispers inevitably continue on to speak of all manner of plots against the Crown, trading (smuggling and slaving) cabals among various nobles, and so on -- and there's even talk that the Harpers are hiding something (or someone) very important in the Vale.
"Well, now," as Elminster would say. With a chuckle. "Well, now . . ."
Q: Have you ever made up a menu of names for drinks and what are there real world equivelants? (For example what does Elverquisst taste like) Ive had to make up a few names myself an Orcish slaughter is a Bloody Mary and a Black Dragons Breath is Guinness.
A: I've created extensive lists of drinkables, recipes, and suchlike for inns, but always avoided doing direct real-world equivalents, especially for "mixed drinks" or "cocktails." However, you will find many notations in my published writings along the lines of 'firewine tastes somewhat like a cross between RealWorldA and RealWorldB.'
To help you with this specific query, however, here are the general guidelines: in the warmer climes (ending, as one goes northwards, at about Amn), drinks may sometimes be blended for taste reasons (or mixed with fresh fruit juices), but are almost never deliberately made stronger by combining one alcoholic drinkable with another.
However, from Westgate northwards, and Beregost northwards on the Sword Coast, most inns and taverns serve fortified drinkables. These are of two sorts: the booze that 'the house' adulterates habitually and 'everybody knows about,' and mixed drinks that are done on the spot, at the request of a patron or upon a patron accepting a clear offer of "warming" a drink.
The first sort of "warmed" drinks include zzar and what's called "deep ale" or "fire ale" (beer to which a grain-based spirit has been added). These may be watered to make them go farther if the taste is harsh (and of course to save the establishment some coins), and also often fortified with distilled spirits (usually potato-based, in other words close to what we'd call vodka: essentially clear, colorless, and tasteless).
The second sort of "warmed" drinks only approach the elaborate recipes of our real-world cocktails in places like Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Luskan, Neverwinter, Sembia, Westgate, and the coastal ports of the Dragonreach. Usually they're simple "warm your wine by stirring in a little throatslake, goodsir?" concoctions ("throatslake" being the generic term for a distilled spirit such as gin, bourbon, vodka, whiskey, et al). If the throatslake has a strong taste that clashes with the wine, the result can be, well, horrible. :}
Years back, one of my players spent a gaming weekend at our cottage serving us all various cocktails and giving them Realms names, so I can give you here what I can remember of her admittedly short list (of course, you'd have to rename all the ingredients to make them fit the Realms, too, and I've never bothered):
Angel's Kiss: Tansar's Dance
Buck's Fizz: Marthoun's Flagon
Cherry Sling: Dragondown
Gimlet: Bright Blade
Margarita (Strawberry): Wyvernblood
Mint Julep: Sea Ward Slake
Pina Colada: Snowfire
Port and Starboard: Nightfire
Rickey (Gin): Lightning Bolt
Rob Roy: Battle Banner
Rusty Nail: Merchants' Tears
Rum Eggnog: Harbour Foam
Stone Fence: Stag At Bay
Tequila Sunrise: Caravan Lantern
I accept NO responsibility for what happens if these are used in play sessions. * My * players are more than crazed enough without alcoholic aid.
Q: What where the events that lead up to Maxers death while fighting the Marilith? As I recall from Stormlight it involved a Serpent cult, Bane and of cause the Marilith
A: Storm's longtime consort and adventuring companion, Maxan Maxer, died in the Year of the Broken Blade in Dloemen, a ruined, long-uninhabited city north of Escalant (that is now, with the magic of the demons gone, flooded by the waters of the Umber Marshes). At the time, the marilith Araunrhee was using it as a base, and from it commanding a sizeable force of tanar'ri to raid the surrounding lands. Her servitors were allowed to devour all animals they found, but were under orders to seize all humans and bring them to a "temple" at the heart of Dloemen. There the marilith sacrificed them in a ritual designed to gain their life-force for her own, so she could increase her personal powers and rise to dominance over all mariliths. Araunrhee had been performing the ritual for some years with apparent success; it's not known if she was manipulated into this (or given knowledge of the ritual by) a deity or a more powerful demon. Maxer fought his way to Araunrhee and wounded her gravely, whereupon she beheaded him and then teleported herself away-taking his body and head with her.
The destruction of Araunrhee's tanar'ri force, temple, and magically-charged altar led to destructive "spell storms" in southern Thay for more than a year, as the violently-released magic surged across the land like ripples in water.
A SPOILER for STORMLIGHT follows: Maxer returned to Storm, alive and whole, at the end of the novel, and from then until now, has remained her consort.
However, Maxer gained a magical means of invisibility when escaping from Araunrhee (during a pitched battle between Araunrhee and a balor, Olorkroth). He grew so comfortable using invisibility as he made his way back to the Realms and his lady that he uses it still, preferring to hide from most folk of Shadowdale and observe. In this way he can spy for Storm, guard her farm when she's away, fetch and carry for her -- and have her to himself when she has privacy and leisure (which is seldom). As a result, very few people in Shadowdale know of his return, though (thanks to the doings of Sylune, Maxer, and some Harpers) word has spread that her farm is "haunted." Maxer is a sensitive, understanding, and kind man who foresees and anticipates very well. In the 2nd Edition shorthand Jeff Grubb and I devised for FRA, he's a CG hm Bard of unknown levels (7+); if twisting that into 3rd Edition terms, he should have fighter- and thief-related prestige classes involving agility, juggling, and/or entertaining. He should not be confused with either the beholder Manxam, or the Cormyrean wizard Maxer.
Sorry, no Serpent cult or Bane involvement in his demise -- and sorry, I can't (yet) provide more information as to how he got his head back and regained life. Heh-heh; pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Q: Im about to run an adventure set in western Mistledale using the old Skeletons adventure you wrote for the origional Lords of Darkness, Im going to use Peldans Helm as the village and replace Kendra with either a Shade Necromancer (given closeness of the Barrowfields and its reputation for being burial mounds for Netherese Warrior wizards its highly likely that the Shades would show up sooner or later) the other option Im considering is using a Drow cleric of Kiaransalee (as the Pc will eventually be doing James Wyatts City of the Spider Queen)
A: I'm glad you like the skeletons adventure in the original, award-winning LORDS OF DARKNESS. So did I, but I'm afraid I had no hand in writing it. I wrote the lich adventure and all of the "framing chapters" of that book (the spells, the wardings and antidotes, the alternative draining rules, and so on).
As to the Barrowfields, however, there I can be of (minor) help. The FRCS, Volo's Guide To the Dalelands (the most extensive entry: you don't need the other two if you have this one), and The Dalelands 2nd Edition accessory all mention the Barrowfields, but let's recap: about thirty miles east of Peldan's Helm is a large, grassy glen (in this case, a broad stream valley or basin whose stream has 'gone under,' leaving no visible surface water) in which "a dozen or more" old mounds stand. Mists from the River Ashaba often cling to them, and (of course) they're said to be haunted.
There are actually sixteen grass-covered mounds, each about two hundred feet long and rising about twenty feet from the surrounding earth with fairly gentle side-slopes and more abrupt end-slopes. They all run in the same north-south direction, parallel to each other, like glacial drumlins.
If adventurers visit the barrows by day, they'll be aware of nothing more than an unpleasant feeling of being watched. If they try 'prying magics,' or sleep near the barrows, their minds will be invaded by disturbing visions of silently menacing robed watchers -- who if confronted will prove to be wraiths with skull-heads that melt away when revealed.
If any of the barrows (all of which lack visible doors, though many have grassed-over pits in their sides from early diggings) are dug into or blasted open, skeletons will be revealed (in 3rd Edition, "Human Warrior Skeleton" undead, about ten percent having odd magical abilities such as: split into two intact skeletons if touched by a spell; able to blink about to attack, able to deliver various touch-attack magics, and so on). These will all attack fearlessly and tirelessly, pursuing all living creatures to the edge of the glen or until destroyed. "Slain" skeletons will crumble into dust. If you introduce a Shade necromancer, of course, these skeletons would become perfectly obedient troops under the necromancer's command.
The main 'monsters' of the barrows are wraith-like undead Netherese who are linked to specific magic items (mainly wands and scepters) buried in the barrows -- if the items are carried off, the wraiths (which can't be turned) go with them. If a wraith is destroyed, it vanishes back into the magic item, only to emerge some days later and attack again. (Adventurers can wield the item and call on its powers, but don't gain any measure of control over the wraiths linked to it.) Items with wraiths "inside" them become more difficult to destroy, but breaking such an item releases the wraiths in a VERY powerful, item-is-ground-zero explosion of withering unlife. In 3rd Edition terms, I'd make these dread wraiths, except that their 'spawn' rise instantly as controlled zombies, not wraithlike creatures, they aren't harmed in any way by sunlight, and they can't be turned, rebuked, commanded, or bolstered (they can be 'destroyed' in battle, but not disrupted -- except by breaking the item they're linked to, which destroys them in the explosion I referred to earlier).
Hidden in the heart of some of the barrows are whatever variants of powerful liches you want to introduce into your campaign. In the 'home' Realms campaign, one of the inadvertently-freed inhabitants of the Barrowfields was a "flying skull" type of lich that lurked unseen, as much as possible, observing the living and manipulating individuals (often wizards of low level) by means of silently-cast spells into doing things it wanted done or even becoming thralls who served it for years. This entity became a long-term behind-the-scenes foe of the Knights just because they were present in the Dales as do-gooders, and it wanted to expand its influence across the Dales, ruler by ruler, without hindrance.
There is a 'dungeon' of sorts linking two of the barrows (a single-level labyrinth of burial chambers and passages), but as the Knights were never foolish enough to delve that far, my notes on it are safely packed up and lost in the infamous Basement Boxes. So have fun putting whatever you want down there. An ancient portal to somewhere interesting in Faerun would be fun.
If you have access to the EPIC LEVEL HANDBOOK, a Worm That Walks can 'stand in' for the unique undead mage I had lurking near the Barrowfields in the 'home' Realms campaign. This fell creature, Halamorthaun, came to be in the battles that laid waste to Cormanthyr (though it lay dormant and unnoticed for centuries) and during the present day lurks near the barrows, observing who visits and revealing itself in attacks only on those it judges weak and isolated enough to destroy without being seen by others.
Q: I just finished reading Elminster in Hell, and i was mezmerised by the whole book, but most of all by Halaster. Will he become an asset or a threat to the goodly folk of the Realms? Is he now a chosen of Mystra? Any plans for a Halaster novel?
A: Halaster has been around for a LONG time, and for almost all of that time he's been an enigma. Steven Schend and I pretty well agreed that he was only insane as long as he was in Undermountain, and it seems that 'the new' Mystra has freed him from the worst magical effects of its thrall, returning him to sanity. She did NOT make him a Chosen, but instead made a 'separate peace' with him, giving him the status of a free-willed agent (from time to time she'll ask him to do something for her, with new spells or augmented powers as his reward or price, but she will do absolutely nothing to coerce him into service, nor look upon him unfavorably if he refuses).
Whether he'll become a threat to the wider Realms, or a 'good guy,' depends on him. Right at the moment, I personally have no plans for a Halaster novel, but it wouldn't surprise me if the good folks at WotC are pondering this topic for some scribe's pen. He is a perfect main character for a pull-out-the-stops spellhurling novel, after all. :}
Q: What is the plan regarding the so-called Realms-shaking events? i`ve heard one each year? Last year it was the Shades, and this year its the reptilian creatures and so on?`
A: I am not now, and have never been, an employee of either TSR or WotC (freelancer, yes, consultant, yes, but not on staff, various magazine editor titles notwithstanding), so although the original Realms agreement means I'm SUPPOSED to be kept fully informed about all forthcoming Realms products, licenses, and plans, in practise it doesn't always reliably happen. I do work with the Realms book team whenever and however possible, on the understanding, of course, that I keep silent about what I know.
I can confirm, because it's already been revealed by WotC, that the Year of Rogue Dragons will be marked by a trilogy of dragon-related novels by Richard Lee Byers, an anthology of Realms short stories entitled Realms of Dragons, and that dragons will appear in ELMINSTER'S DAUGHTER. If you look back over the Roll of Years and the 'real years' in which the Realms has been published, you'll readily see that the year names I devised so long ago (the decades surrounding 'Year Zero' for the Old Gray Box are all on my original yearname-roster) have inspired all sorts of Realms-shaking fun. In fact, we've done GenCon seminars at which panels of Realms experts speculated about what an upcoming year name might mean, in terms of Realms events. So, keep pondering those year names . . .
Wishlist entreaties duly noted. I'll see what I can do through the Realmslore column and other channels, but it will take some time before you see anything, for two reasons: I must make sure I'm not blundering through secret WotC product plans that are already under way, and I have a year or so 'lead time' (between handing in a finished manuscript and seeing it published) on the web columns, novels, and game products.
Q: Do you think the Return of Bane would make a good Avatar novel?
A: SPOILER ALERT! "STORMLIGHT" NOVEL SPOILER ALERT!
Yes, I do think the return of Bane would make an excellent novel, and it's something some fans have been clamouring for, lo these passing years. Unfortunately, I don't decide what novels get written, so I can't 'make it so.' I DID hint for years that Bane had survived within his son Xvim, and even wrote a novel (STORMLIGHT, published back in 1996) that featured an attempt by an avatar of Bane to re-ascend to godhood, but I personally prefer 'smaller stories' about individual mortals who don't have great personal power, and don't get involved with the gods. Looking back over the Realms novels I've published, you can see that my personal preferences don't have all that much to do with what gets published. :}
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