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|8 JUN 2008 at 5:36am|
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In the Beginning Brian James said, ?Let there be a .pdf.?
One of the last books to be published with the 3.5 rules set for Dungeons & Dragons (D&) was The Grand History of the Realms. For readers less than familiar with D&, several company-published campaign settings have been released. The earliest was Gary Gygax?s Greyhawk, but others have followed including Eberron and Forgotten Realms. Of these, Forgotten Realms is easily the most well-recognized and popular. (Readers may recognize two of the most popular characters to emerge from that world ? Elminster and Drizzt Do?Urden.) Each of these campaign settings creates a world, background, and atmosphere that is unique and is intended to create an adventure setting in which to entertain players as they crusade through various adventures.
One of the more interesting ? and confusing ? aspects of Forgotten Realms is that of its timeline. Anyone who has spent much time either reading about or playing in the Forgotten Realms world knows that there are various conventions for counting years in the game. Commonly there is something called Dalereckoning, which is something of the default calendar, and is based on how Humans count time in the world. But there are others: Northreckoning used by the city of Waterdeep, the Silver Marches and the Northern lands. There are also the Netheril Year, the Shou Calendar, the Aryselmalyr Calandar and Present Reckoning, amongst several others. But perhaps most interesting is the Roll of Years. This system is derived from two different seers who prophesied the future and gave names to most, but not all, of the years to come.
What?s great about the Roll of Years is that broad story arcs can be woven into a campaign with just the naming of the year. The Year of Rogue Dragons prompted a fine three volume story written by Richard Lee Byers (ISBN: The Rage - 0786931876, The Rite ? 0786935812, and The Ruin - 0786940034). But there are hundreds of others from which a Dungeon Master (DM) can choose: Year of the Zombie Lords, Year of the Winding Road, Year of the Rose Pearls?the list is almost endless.
The Grand History of the Realms is a book that has long been needed by any DM serious about trying to remain faithful to the history of the Forgotten Realms. The story of its creation is equally interesting. In 2006 Brian James, co-author of The Grand History of the Realms, posted a link on one of the Forgotten Realms message boards to a 120 page .pdf. In that document he had compiled the timeline of every Forgotten Realms publication (such as Richard Lee Byers? Year of Rogue Dragons). The document quickly made its way through Wizards of the Coast?s hallways and, in short, it became the first non-solicited fan-created document to ever be published. You see, Wizards had several fragmented timelines that were based on previously created sourcebooks, but no one had ever attempted to integrate them into a single, continuous history. Of that effort was born The Grand History of the Realms.
Let Us Turn A Page
Opening the pages of The Grand History of the Realms, the reader is immediately struck by the professional polish that marks Wizards of the Coast?s publication. Each page features a full color background that makes the entire book appear to have been printed on old parchment. The organization of the book is simple. A short Foreword, a brief Introduction explaining the format and calendar conversions, then History begins to unfold with The Days of Thunder. Years are conveniently listed in Dalereckoning format, and each year listed has a brief description which usually, though not always, links to the naming of the year. For instance -4 DR (Dalereckoning) is the Year of Pacts. The description reads:
The notation [-10, 95] are references to the next chronological mention of Illusk in the timeline. That convention is almost universal, except when vast swaths of history, such as that of Cormyr, as so prevalent as to make such references obnoxiously frequent, in which case they are entirely absent, and the reader is good-naturedly scolded to ?read the book? to get through these passages.
From time to time sidebars will appear with more background on a particular event. For instance, 657: Scouring of the Utter East has a full page devoted to a treatise along with a bit of background on the author, describing the event from a first-hand perspective. Such flavor pieces lend a wonderful flow to the rush of years, and I enjoy just picking up the book and leafing through a entries to read the years, their descriptions, and daydream of how I might construct an adventure around them.
That pretty much sums up The Grand History of the Realms. It is a wonderful addition to any fan of Forgotten Realms campaigns or literature. Although it was released about the time of some of the last of the 3.5 rules publications, it is pure history, and nothing in it limits the reader to any particular rule version.
Typically this is the part in the review where I would express any negative comments about anything I found, but frankly, I have found nothing to grouse about. The Grand History of the Realms is a fun, useful, and enjoyable supplement to the Forgotten Realms world. Simply put, if you enjoy Forgotten Realms, this is a Must Have.
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