Chapter 1: Welcome to the Realms

In the world of Toril, between the windswept Sea of Swords to the west and the mysterious lands of Kara-Tur to the east, lies the continent of Faerûn. A place of varied cultures and races, Faerûn is dominated by human lands, be they kingdoms, city-states, or carefully maintained alliances of rural communities. Interspersed among the lands of humans are old dwarven kingdoms and hidden elven enclaves, assimilated populations of gnomes and halflings, and more exotic folk.

A great deal of adventure is to be had in the Realms, for those willing to seek it out. The routes between cities and nations often cross into the territory of brigands or marauding humanoids. Every forest, swamp, and mountain range has its own perils, whether lurking bandits, savage orcs and goblinoids, or mighty creatures such as giants and dragons. Ruins dot the landscape and the caverns that wind beneath the surface. In these places, treasures of every living race — and a number of dead ones — wait for adventurers intrepid enough to come and claim them.

Faerûn is filled with rich history and wondrous tales of adventure and magic, but the lifeblood of its common people is agriculture and trade. Most rural folk depend on farming to eat, and Faerûnians who live in cities ply skilled trades or use brawn to earn their keep, so they can purchase the goods and food provided by others. News and gossip are carried between population centers by caravans and ships that bring in supplies for trade and by traveling bards and minstrels who recount (or invent) stories to inform and entertain people in taverns, inns, and castles. Adventurers also spread news — while also creating it!

The common folk of Faerûn look on adventurers with a mixture of admiration, envy, and mistrust. Folk believe that any stalwarts willing to risk their lives on behalf of complete strangers should be lauded and rewarded. But such adventurers, if they become successful, amass wealth and personal status at a rate that some people find alarming. Even people who admire these adventurers for their energy and their acts of valor might have misgivings: what horrors will be unleashed if adventurers, heedless or unknowing of the danger, unlock a ruin or a tomb and release an ancient evil into the world?

Most of the people who populate the continent have little or no knowledge of lands outside Faerûn. The most educated among the populace agree that Faerûn is but one continent and that Toril is the whole of the world, but for the majority of people, who don’t experience intercontinental travel or extraplanar exploration, “Faerûn” is more than large enough of a concept for them to comprehend.

Except in the most remote or insular places, Faerûnians are accustomed to seeing people of different cultures, ethnicities, and races. Only in the most cosmopolitan areas does such casual acceptance extend to evil humanoid races — such as goblinoids, orcs, and drow — to say nothing of even more dangerous creatures. Adventurers tend to be more tolerant, accepting exiles, misfits, and redeemed folk from strange lands and with unusual shapes.

The Sword Coast and the North

Running along the Sea of Swords from north of Amn to the Sea of Moving Ice, the Sword Coast is a narrow band of territory dominated by the city-states of the area that use the sea for trade. For most who care about such things, the area is delimited by Neverwinter in the north and Baldur’s Gate in the south, but territory farther to the north and south that isn’t under the sway of a more influential power is usually also included in maps of the Sword Coast.

More broadly, the North refers to all the territory north of Amn, split into two general regions: the Western Heartlands and the Savage Frontier. The Western Heartlands encompasses a narrow strip of civilization running from the Sunset Mountains to the Sea of Swords, and northward from the band of territory marked by the Cloud Peaks and the Troll Mountains to the Trade Way. The Savage Frontier is the name given to the rest of the unsettled or sparsely settled territory in the North, not including the major cities and towns and any settlements in their immediate spheres of influence.

Most of the communities, nations, and governments of the North can be grouped into five categories: the cities and towns that are members of the Lords’ Alliance, the dwarfholds that have been built throughout the area, the island kingdoms off the coast, the independent realms scattered up and down the coast, and the subterranean environs of the Underdark. Each category is discussed briefly here; more details can be found in chapter 2.

The Lords’ Alliance

The Lords’ Alliance is a confederation among the rulers of various northern settlements. The number of members on the Council of Lords, the group’s governing body, shifts depending on the changing status of member cities and political tensions in the region. Currently, the Lords’ Alliance counts these individuals as council members:

  • Laeral Silverhand, the Open Lord of Waterdeep
  • Dagult Neverember, Lord Protector of Neverwinter
  • Taern Hornblade, High Mage of Silverymoon
  • Ulder Ravengard, Grand Duke of Baldur’s Gate and Marshal of the Flaming Fist
  • Morwen Daggerford, Duchess of Daggerford
  • Selin Ramur, Marchion of Mirabar
  • Dowell Harpell of Longsaddle
  • Dagnabbet Waybeard, Queen of Mithral Hall
  • Lord Dauner Ilzimmer of Amphail
  • Nestra Ruthiol, Waterbaron of Yartar

The Lords’ Alliance includes the strongest mercantile powers of the North. In addition to providing military support and a forum for the peaceful airing of differences, the Alliance has always acted under the principle that communities with common cause that engage in trade are less likely to go to war with one another. By maintaining strong trade ties within the alliance as well as outside it, the Lords’ Alliance helps to keep the peace.

Dwarfholds of the North

The various dwarven communities of the North are the heirs and survivors of Delzoun, the great Northkingdom of long ago. Despite continually warring over the centuries with the orcs and goblinoids of the region, and having to fight off assaults from below by duergar and drow, the shield dwarves have stood fast, determined to hold their halls against all threats — and, when necessary, reclaim them.

Holds that survive from the days of Delzoun include Mithral Hall, Citadel Adbar, and Citadel Felbarr. The fabled city of Gauntlgrym, built by the Delzoun dwarves and recently taken back from the drow, stands as a beacon of resurgent dwarven strength in the North. Stoneshaft Hold and Ironmaster are lonely settlements continually girding themselves for threats real and imagined. Sundabar and Mirabar are also generally considered dwarfholds, despite their substantial human populations.

Until recently, many of the dwarfholds were members of the Silver Marches (also known as Luruar), an alliance of cities that provided mutual protection across the North. Disagreements and failed obligations during a war with the orc kingdom of Many-Arrows destroyed the remaining trust between members of the Marches, and that pact is no more. The dwarfholds still ally with one another, and individually with nearby human realms, but no longer pledge to stand unified with all their neighbors.

Island Kingdoms

Off the western coast of Faerûn are a number of island realms of varying size. The most distant, and yet perhaps the most symbolically important to the mainland, is Evermeet, the island paradise of the elves, reputed to be a part of the divine realm of Arvandor. Much closer to Faerûn are the Whalebones and Ruathym, ancient homes of the ancestors of the Illuskan people, and the Moonshaes, where many of those same people now share the islands with the Ffolk and an elf offshoot known as the Llewyr. The free port of Mintarn lies nearby, a neutral site for meetings between enemies and a recruitment spot that offers abundant jobs for sailors. Despite its size, the tiny island of Orlumbor, with its treacherous harbor and its skilled, in-demand shipwrights, is an independent and influential nation unto itself.

In the seas to the south, pirates of many races and predilections sail from the Nelanther Isles, preying on trade running north and south along the coasts. Since the beginning of the Sundering, fabled Lantan and Nimbral have returned. Both the center of invention and the isle of Leira-worshiping illusionists are even more secretive and less welcoming of strangers than before their disappearance.

Independent Realms

Interspersed among the fortresses of the dwarves and the settlements protected by the Lord’s Alliance are significant sites that have no collective character, except that they exist largely outside the protection or purview of the great powers of the region. Even the civilized locales among these places, such as Elturgard, exist, at best, in an uneasy tension with the denizens of the wilder lands within and just outside their borders, and survive only through constant vigilance and the steady recruitment of new defenders.

A great variety of independent nations and notable locations is encompassed within the wild lands of the North. Among them are the great library of Candlekeep, home of the greatest collection of written lore in Faerûn; the imposing, giant-scale castle of Darkhold; the fortified abbey of Helm’s Hold; sites of great battles such as Boareskyr Bridge and the Fields of the Dead; realms of some security, such as Elturgard and Hartsvale; and the yuan-ti realm of Najara. The lands of the Uthgardt, the towns of frigid Icewind Dale, the quiet Trielta Hills, the cutthroat city of Luskan, and the legendary Warlock’s Crypt, dominion of the great lich Larloch, are all independent realms, as are the High Moor, the Trollclaws, and the High Forest.

There is much danger and adventure to be had in the free places of the North, and a great deal of wealth and treasure as well. The ruins of ancient kingdoms and countless smaller settlements litter the countryside, waiting for the right explorers to happen upon them.

The Underdark

Extending miles downward and outward beneath the surface of Faerûn, and reaching to other continents as well, the great network of subterranean caverns known as the Underdark is home to all manner of strange and deadly creatures. Duergar and drow — dark reflections of dwarves and elves — live in these sunless lands, as do the svirfneblin, or deep gnomes. Most surface-dwelling folk aren’t threatened or even disturbed by denizens of the deep places, but the creatures occasionally emerge to raid or to seek some kind of goal in the surface world.

Among the lands of the Underdark beneath the North are the svirfneblin city of Blingdenstone, the duergar city of Gracklstugh, and the infamous drow city of Menzoberranzan. Also prominent is Mantol-Derith, a trading post for Underdark merchants.

Toril and Its Lands

Toril is a vast and wondrous world, filled with an immense diversity of peoples and a rich, full history. For most folk of the Sword Coast, however, knowledge doesn’t extend much beyond the confines of the North, and anything “known” outside of Faerûn proper is based more in rumor than in fact.

Faerûn

The vast central continent of Toril, Faerûn is a land mass divided by a great sea known as the Inner Sea, or the Sea of Fallen Stars. The lands beyond the North can be roughly divided into those to the south and those to the east, becoming more foreign to the folk of the Sword Coast and the North the farther away they are.

Lands to the South

To the south of the Sword Coast lie ancient nations, a tremendous, forbidding jungle, and all manner of lands destroyed or transformed by magical cataclysms and upheavals. Amid the ruin and the distress in these realms are signs of renewal and hope, as tenacious civilizations and peoples rebuild, reclaim, and create anew.

Amn. A nation led by the representatives of five noble families, Amn is a place where the wealthy rule, openly and without pretense. Shrewd traders and ruthless in business, Amnians believe that the end of a successful transaction is justified by any means, ethical or otherwise. Although the nation is richer by far than even the northern metropolises of Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep, its influence is curtailed by the unwillingness of its rulers to work together in the nation’s best interest. The members of the Council of Five are fairly unified and tight-fisted in their control of Amn, but their ability to affect events outside their own borders is limited because they can’t agree enough on major matters of foreign policy. The oligarchs utterly control their nation, but beyond the areas that each rules, their families and businesses compete with one another and with the locals of far-flung places.

The use of arcane magic is illegal in Amn, meaning that the only authorized spellcasters in the nation are wielders of divine magic who enjoy the support and patronage of a temple, and users of arcane magic who have been given special dispensation by one of the oligarchs. So pervasive is the sway of Amn’s oligarchy that few crimes merit physical punishment but those that involve the use of arcane magic or an offense against one of the council’s merchant houses. Other infractions are forgiven after the miscreant makes payment of an appropriate fine.

Calimshan. This southern land has long been the battleground for warring genies. After years of struggling beneath their genasi masters, human slaves arose to follow a Chosen of Ilmater, at first using nonviolent resistance, and then erupting in full rebellion following his disappearance. They overthrew the genie lords of Calimport and Memnon, casting the remaining genies out of the cities and back to their elemental homes or into the depths of the deserts.

Much of Calimshan is a chaotic place dominated by wealth, political influence, and personal power. Many pray for the return of the Chosen and the completion of his work. Others are learning to live together without genie masters, and to grudgingly accept the remaining genasi among them.

Chult. The vast, choking jungles of Chult hide what many believe to be great mineral wealth, including large gemstones and veins of ore. Poisonous flora and fauna riddle the jungles, but some still brave the dangers to seek their fortunes. Some of the exotic plants that grow only in Chult fetch high prices in mainland markets. Ruined Mezro stands across the sea from Calimshan, waiting for explorers and its displaced people to cleanse the city of its undead inhabitants and uncover the treasures that lie hidden there.

Eastward along the Chultan peninsula lie the remains of Thindol and Samarach. Despite the apparent fall of both civilizations, Thindol remains infested with yuan-ti, while the illusions cloaking Samarach’s mountain passes conceal the activities in that nation.

Dambrath. Situated on a warm plain on the shore of the Great Sea, Dambrath is ruled by nomadic clans of human horse riders who revere Silvanus, Malar, and occasionally Selûne. Given the Dambrathans’ history of domination by the Crinti, a ruling caste of half-drow, it is no surprise that they reserve their greatest hatred for the drow.

The clans meet twice a year at a sacred site known as the Hills of the Kings, where dozens of totem sculptures are preserved. At these gatherings, each clan updates its totem with an account of its exploits over the previous seasons. Many Dambrathans seek out lycanthropy as a means of showing reverence for their favored deity and honoring their heritage.

Elfharrow. A blasted near-desert north and east of the North Wall mountains bordering Halruaa, Elfharrow isn’t a name bestowed by its residents, but rather the sobriquet that travelers use for this violent region. The tribes of xenophobic elves that claim this area don’t hesitate to discourage uninvited guests by any means necessary. A simple group of pilgrims might be scared off with some arrows, while a band of hunters or explorers is likely to be killed outright.

Food is sparse in this region, with the forests long since vanished, and as a result the elves of Elfharrow fiercely protect the herds of animals they have cultivated. The elves have no interest in looting the cities of fallen Lapaliiya, but neither are they willing to allow “adventurers” free access to those lands through their territory.

Halruaa. Once believed destroyed in the conflagration of the Spellplague, Halruaa has largely been restored to the insular, magic-mighty nation it once was. Because of the foresight of their divinations, Halruaan wizards were able to use the raging blue fire that followed Mystra’s death to propel their nation safely into the realm of Toril’s twin, Abeir (displacing part of that world into the Plane of Shadow).

Now that the events of those times have mostly been undone, the famed Halruaan skyships and waterborne vessels have spread out from their home once again, seeking to establish trading routes and political connections, as well as to learn what has changed of the world in their century of absence.

The Lake of Steam. Far to the south and east of the Sword Coast, the Lake of Steam is more accurately an inland sea, its waters tainted by volcanism and undrinkable. Around its perimeter is a conglomeration of city-states and minor baronies typified by the shifting domains known as the Border Kingdoms. Here, along the southern shore of the lake, explorers and fortune seekers squander their amassed wealth building castles, founding communities, and drawing loyal vassals to them — only to have all those good works disappear within a generation or two. In some cases, one of these realms is fortunate to be saved from its inevitable decline by another group of successful adventurers, who inject enough wealth and wisdom to keep the enterprise going a few more decades.

Luiren. Long the homeland of halflings and thought to be the place where their race had its genesis, Luiren was lost during the Spellplague to a great inundation of the sea. In the century since that great disaster, the waters receded, and now stories told by travelers from the south tell of halfling communities that survived as island redoubts.

Tethyr. Tethyr is a feudal realm ruled by Queen Anais from its capital of Darromar. The queen commands her dukes, who in turn receive homage from the counts and countesses of the realm, appoint sheriffs over their counties, and generally maintain order. The farmlands of Tethyr are abundant, and its markets flow freely with trade from the Western Heartlands.

Tethyr has seen more than its share of noble intrigue and royal murder, and adventurers who are native to Tethyr or merely passing through that land are often drawn into such plots, either as unwitting accomplices or as easy scapegoats.

Lands to the East

To the east lie many of the older nations of the Realms, including the Western Heartlands of Faerûn — those civilizations centrally located on the continent, and thereby best able to take advantage of trade routes and access to the Sea of Fallen Stars. As in the North, there are cold lands to the east, as well as more temperate regions. As one travels farther from the Sword Coast, one moves from lands not so different from one’s own to places so foreign they might as well exist on other continents or worlds — which a few of them actually have done.

Aglarond. The great peninsula of Aglarond juts out into the Inner Sea, and that body of water and the forests of the Yuirwood define much of the nation’s character. A realm of humans living in harmony with their elf and half-elf neighbors, Aglarond has been a foe of Thay for centuries, in part due to the temperament of its former ruler, the Simbul. The nation is now ruled by a Simbarch Council, which has backed away from open hostilities with Thay. With the restoration of the Weave, the ongoing changes to the political landscape, and calls for elven independence within the nation, it is unclear what sort of place Aglarond will be in a generation’s time, except that its potential for great change will be realized.

REGIONS OF THE REALMS

Just as “the North” describes an area that includes a number of nations and governments, a number of collective terms exist for other regions across Faerûn. Not all such names are used universally, and opinions vary as to which lands qualify in which groups. Here are some currently recognized regional groupings:

The Cold Lands: Damara, Narfell, Sossal, and Vaasa

The Heartlands: Cormyr, the Dalelands, the Moonsea, and Sembia

The Lands of Intrigue: Amn, Calimshan, and Tethyr, also known as the Empires of the Sands

The Old Empires: Chessenta, Mulhorand, and Unther

Chessenta. A collection of city-states bound by common culture and mutual defense, Chessenta isn’t truly a nation. Each city boasts its own heroes, worships its own gladiatorial champions, and spends as much time insulting and competing with the other cities as it does on any other activity. The city of Luthcheq is dominated by worship of the bizarre deity known as Entropy, while Erebos is ruled by the latest incarnation of the red dragon known as Tchazzar the Undying. Heptios contains the largest library in Chessenta, a center of learning where all nobles aspire to send their children for tutoring. That city is looked on with disdain by the people of Akanax, whose militant contempt for the “fat philosophers” of Heptios is widely known. Toreus welcomes all visitors, even those from lands that are despised or mistrusted, and foreign coin can buy nearly anything there. The floating city of Airspur still flies somehow, its earthmotes unaffected by the fall of its fellows when the Sundering came to a close.

Cormyr. For most folk in central Faerûn, the notion of a human kingdom is inextricably linked to Cormyr. A strong realm bolstered by its loyal army (the Purple Dragons), a cadre of magical defenders and investigators (the War Wizards), and numerous wealthy and influential nobles, Cormyr is recovering from its war with Sembia and Netheril — a conflict that cost the nation much, but left the kingdom standing, and which, in the end, Netheril didn’t survive. The pride of that victory remains strong in Cormyr’s collective consciousness, even as Queen Raedra draws back from plans to permanently welcome into the realm towns that lie beyond Cormyr’s traditional borders.

Cormyreans are justly proud of their homeland, and go to great lengths to guard it and its honor. Still, there is no shortage of danger in the Forest Kingdom, whether from scheming, treacherous nobles, monsters out of the Hullack Forest or the Stonelands, or some ancient, hidden magic. Cormyr is many things, but dull isn’t one of them.

The Cold Lands. The nations of Damara, Narfell, Sossal, and Vaasa, known collectively to most Faerûnians as the Cold Lands, rest near the Great Glacier in the cold, dry environs of the northeast. Few outside the region have much interest in what goes on here, except for those in the immediately surrounding lands, who fear a resurgence of the ancient evils of the region — though they aren’t fearful enough to do more than send an adventuring party or two into the area to investigate.

In Damara, the usurper King Yarin Frostmantle sits on the throne of the Dragonbane dynasty, while his people complain about his tyranny and the growing threat from demons across the country. In Narfell, skilled riders and archers hunt, raid, and are gradually reclaiming their heritage as a great nation of mages who treated with devils. The Warlock Knights of Vaasa threaten to break the bounds of their nation and invade Damara, the Moonsea, or both, while some of its members suspiciously eye the ominously silent Castle Perilous, perhaps planning another excursion to the place. The tiny nation of Sossal trades with its neighbors, but shares little of itself with the wider world.

The Dalelands. The humans who call the Dalelands home want nothing more than lives untroubled by the concerns of larger nations. They take great pride in their peaceful coexistence with the elves of Cormanthor, and in their ability to remain largely self-sufficient and autonomous even when their homeland was used as a battlefield by Cormyr, Netheril, Sembia, and Myth Drannor in the recent conflicts. Featherdale and Tasseldale have reasserted their independence since the end of the war, and rejoined Archendale, Battledale, Daggerdale, Deepingdale, Harrowdale, Mistledale, Scardale, and Shadowdale on the Dales Council. The High Dale did the same shortly afterward.

Dalesfolk are mistrustful of anyone unwilling to sacrifice for the common good, but those who put in good work — whether in defense or labor — are accepted as equals, entitled to share in the rewards from their toil.

The Hordelands. Formerly known as the Endless Wastes, this land has gained a new name among Faerûnians, styled after the vast Tuigan horde that roared out of the east and rode against Faerûn more than a century ago. After these tribesfolk were defeated, some of the fierce, mounted warriors who survived the conflict gathered to form the small nation of Yaïmunnahar. Some others cling to the old ways, mastering the sword and the bow and riding across the steppes on their short-legged horses. Brave merchants still traverse the Golden Way to and from Kara-Tur, but those who return from such a voyage are fewer than they once were.

Impiltur. With the rising of the waters of the Sea of Fallen Stars, some of Impiltur’s wealth and influence is returning, leading to whispers among the populace that a lost king of the line of old will rise up to lift Impiltur out of its woes and back to the great nation it once was.

Impiltur is a nation of humans with pockets of dwarves and halflings among its populace. Where once a long royal line sat its throne and ruled over a unified kingdom, now a Grand Council sits around a table and struggles to combat the presence of demons, and demon worship, within the nation’s borders.

The Moonsea. The shores of the Moonsea have long been home to cities that rise swiftly, relying on vigorous trade and gathering powerful mercenaries to their banners, only to overextend themselves and fall — sometimes crumbling over time, and sometimes dropping like stones from the sky.

Now that Netheril and Myth Drannor have fallen, those two great powers can no longer exert their influence over the Moonsea, allowing the city of Hillsfar to spread its wings and eye southward expansion, and Mulmaster to once again further the worship of Bane. Phlan, Teshwave, Thentia, and Voonlar — all Moonsea cities where greater powers jockeyed for influence — now work to find their own identities before an unchecked or malevolent realm swallows them, one by one.

This region is also home to the ruins of the Citadel of the Raven and Zhentil Keep, former strongholds of the Zhentarim, which the Black Network shows occasional interest in restoring.

Mulhorand. Since the Chosen of the gods began to appear in the last few years, Mulhorand has become a land transformed. Its deities manifested fully in the forms of some of their descendants, and swiftly rallied the Mulan to overthrow the Imaskari. Aided by the mighty wizard Nezram, known as the World-Walker, the Mulhorandi overthrew the rulers of High Imaskar, who fled into the Plains of Purple Dust or to extraplanar safeholds.

When the upheaval ended and the Chosen began to disappear, the gods of Mulhorand remained to rule their people, focusing their attention on defending their restored homeland to keep the war in Unther and Tymanther from spilling over its borders. For the first time in centuries, the people in Mulhorand are free, with the gods declaring that slavery shall no longer be practiced among the Mulan since their return.

Rashemen. A harsh, cold land filled with hardy folk, Rashemen is a fiercely traditional nation. It is ruled by its Iron Lord, Mangan Uruk, who speaks for the power behind the throne: the Wychlaran, the society of masked witches that determine Rashemen’s course. These witches wield great powers tied to the land and its magic and guard against evil fey and vengeful spirits. A small number of male spellcasters, known as the Old Ones, create magic items and weave arcane rituals for the witches. Rashemi witches revere the Three, a triumvirate of goddesses they call Bhalla (the Den Mother), Khelliara (the Forest Maiden), and the Hidden One. Over the centuries, scholars in other lands have speculated that these deities might be faces of Chauntea, Mielikki, and Mystra, respectively.

The nation’s warriors are a fierce, stoic lot, famed for their strength, endurance, and stubbornness in battle. Rashemen is a long-standing enemy of Thay, and has often thwarted that nation’s ambitions to rule Faerûn. Little pleases a Rashemi warrior more than the chance to strike down a Red Wizard in battle.

Sembia. Following a period of subjugation at the hands of Netheril, Sembia is already on its way to becoming the economic power it was in prior years. Although relations are cool with the Dales and Cormyr following the most recent war, Sembian merchants are quick to dismiss previous conflicts as the work of the Netherese, and remind their former trading partners of the long and mutually profitable relationships they previously enjoyed. To prove its good intentions, Sembia has “allowed” Featherdale and Tasseldale to regain their independence, even though Sembian investors had owned much of Featherdale for nearly seventy years when the war came to an end.

Before Netheril claimed Sembia as a vassal state, mercenary work and adventuring were popular livelihoods among Sembians who didn’t have local families to feed. Those endeavors are even more popular now among veterans of the war, who are better trained than their predecessors were. A few of Sembia’s less scrupulous former soldiers have taken to banditry, which offers other Sembians more opportunities for guard work.

Thay. For centuries one of the greatest concentrations of magical might in Faerûn, Thay is ruled by the ancient lich, Szass Tam, and the nation’s Council of Zulkirs in a ruthless magocracy. The council’s will is enacted by regional tharchions and bureaucrats, leaving the ruling Red Wizards to focus on magical study and more important arcane matters.

For a time, living mages couldn’t hope to advance to prominence in Thay: Szass Tam promoted undeath as a means of existence with boundless possibilities, and held back those who didn’t agree with this philosophy. The recent battles with the demon Eltab, however, have prompted Szass Tam to loosen this stricture — the living now have hope of ascending within the Red Wizards, even if that hope is merely to advance to a high station within the cadre of Tam’s servants.

Thesk. Reminders of the century-old war with the Tuigan horde remain throughout Thesk, in the many and varied features of its present-day inhabitants, particularly the half-orc descendants of the mercenaries who fought in that great conflict.

Thesk is known to many as the Gateway to the East because it is the western terminus of the Golden Way, which runs through the Hordelands and into Kara-Tur. Because their city is a crossroads of sorts between Faerûn and the east, it should come as no surprise that Theskians don’t judge outsiders quickly, and don’t bristle at visitors who demonstrate strange quirks in speech or behavior. The people of Thesk trade readily with any folk, even nearby orcs and goblins that are willing to treat with them peacefully. They aren’t fools, however, and have no patience for violent or raiding humanoids of all sorts.

Turmish. On the southern shore of the Sea of Fallen Stars, Turmish is a nation of mercantile cities ruled by its Assembly of Stars, representatives of each of its cities in a parliamentary democracy. After being much diminished by the devastation wrought in this area a century ago, Turmish is currently enjoying a revival of its fortunes, as the rising of the waters of the Inner Sea has returned some of the trade that was lost in the cataclysm. Turmish is the birthplace of the Emerald Enclave, which has proudly taken credit for the rebirth of Turmishan agriculture, the cessation of the great rains that plagued the region a few years ago, and the restoration of the god Lathander.

Tymanther. In decades past, the land of the dragonborn claimed as its territory part of what had been the vanished nation of Unther. Then Unther suddenly returned to Faerûn a few years ago and promptly went to war against Tymanther. The realm has since been reduced to small tracts mainly along the coast of the Alamber Sea and Ash Lake. The dragonborn that have withdrawn to those areas have lost none of their military tradition, and their ability to hold this smaller amount of territory makes it unlikely that Unther will push farther any time soon — particularly since the Untherite navy has been unable to overcome the great beast that guards the harbor of Djerad Kethendi and the nearby waters of the Alamber.

Some of Tymanther’s dragonborn have spread across Faerûn and gained reputations as competent, highly sought-after mercenaries.

COIN OF THE REALMS

Nearly every major power of Faerûn has its own currency: coins minted within its borders that represent both its influence and material wealth. Most coins of pure composition and standard weight are accepted at face value across the continent, though not every city-state or nation bothers to mint every sort of coin.

Some of the most commonly found, and widely accepted, currency in the Realms is summarized below. Each grouping is arranged in order of value: copper, silver, electrum, gold, and (when present) platinum. Most people across Faerûn refer to coins by whatever name the issuing government uses, regardless of origin, except for Zhentil Keep — for some reason, all Zhent coins have unflattering epithets associated with them.

Amn: fander, taran, centaur, danter, roldon

Cormyr: thumb, falcon, blue eye, golden lion, tricrown

Sembia: steelpence (an iron coin), hawk, blue eye, noble

Silverymoon: glint, shield, sword, dragon, unicorn

Waterdeep: nib, shard, sambar, dragon, sun

Zhentil Keep: fang (“dung-piece”), talon/naal (“flea-bit”), tarenth (“hardhammer”), glory (“weeping wolf”), platinum glory (“flat metal gem”)

Silverymoon also mints two special coins: the moon and the eclipsed moon. The moon is a crescent-shaped, shining blue coin of electrum, valued at 2 unicorns in Silverymoon and nearby settlements, and 1 unicorn everywhere else. The eclipsed moon stamps an electrum moon with a darker silver wedge to complete a round coin. It is worth 5 unicorns within the city, but only 2 unicorns elsewhere.

Waterdeep has its own coins. The taol is a square piece of brass, worth 2 dragons in the city — and virtually worthless to anyone not trading with Waterdeep. Most traders exchange their taols for standard coins before traveling. The “harbor moon” is a palm-sized crescent of platinum inset with electrum, and is worth 50 dragons in the city, 30 dragons elsewhere. Its name comes from its common use in buying large amounts of cargo. Both taols and harbor moons are pierced to enable the bearer to string multiple coins together.

Baldur’s Gate sets the standard for minting trade bars — ingots of metal (usually silver) of an accepted size and weight used in lieu of great piles of coins or gems for larger transactions. The most common such trade bar is a 5-pound bar 6 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick, valued at 25 gp.

Unther. Trapped in another world, the people of Unther had succumbed to domination by others. Then among them arose one who called himself Gilgeam, and he reminded them of their former greatness. Under the leadership of this reincarnated god, the people of Unther rose up as an army to face their masters. On the eve of a great battle, the people of Unther were miraculously returned to their home, and Gilgeam wasted no time in leading them against the dragonborn occupying their ancestral lands. The Untherites have retaken much of the land they formerly held, while seeking to wipe out the “godless lizards” they blame for their time of oppression in Abeir.

Gilgeam wants nothing short of a complete return to Unther’s former glory. This achievement will require utterly destroying Tymanther, of course, and eventual war with Mulhorand to reclaim lands lost centuries ago, but as every Untherite knows, the great God-King is patient, for he is eternal.

Westgate. The dismal city of Westgate isn’t a romantic place, but someone seeking employment for shady work, or looking to hire someone for the same, will find few places better suited in all of Faerûn.

Westgate is considered by some Faerûnians as a harbinger of the eventual fate of places like Amn and Sembia, where coin rules over all other considerations. As in many such places, one’s moral outlook is less important in Westgate than one’s attitude toward bribery. The city’s proximity to Cormyr makes it a breeding ground for that nation’s enemies, including the Fire Knives, a guild of thieves and assassins that the naive pretend doesn’t exist.

Kara-Tur

Far to the east, past the wastes of the Hordelands, lie the empires of Shou Lung, Kozakura, Wa, and the other lands of the vast continent of Kara-Tur. To most people of Faerûn, Kara-Tur is like another world, and the tales told by travelers from its nations seem to confirm it. The gods that humans worship in Faerûn are unknown there, as are common peoples such as gnomes and orcs. Other dragons, neither chromatic nor metallic, dwell in its lands and fly its skies. And its mages practice forms of magic mysterious even to archwizards of Faerûn.

Stories of Kara-Tur tell of gold and jade in great abundance, rich spices, silks, and other goods rare or unknown in western lands — alongside tales of shapechanging spirit-people, horned giants, and nightmare monsters absent in Faerûn.

Zakhara

Far to the south of Faerûn, beyond Calimshan and even the jungles of Chult, are the Lands of Fate. Surrounded by waters thick with pirates and corsairs, Zakhara is a place less hospitable than most, but still braved by travelers who hope to profit from its exotic goods and strange magics. Like Kara-Tur, Zakhara seems a world away to Faerûnians. It is thought of as a vast desert, sprinkled with glittering cities like scattered gems. Romantic tales abound of scimitar-wielding rogues riding flying carpets and of genies bound in service to humans. Their mages, called sha’ir, practice their magic with the aid of genies and, it is said, might carry the lineage of these elemental beings in their blood.

Beyond the Trackless Sea

Farther to the west, past even Evermeet, are untold, unknown lands beyond the Trackless Sea. Many explorers have visited such lands, and some have even returned, bearing tales that change from generation to generation about exotic locales, from island chains that are the sites of countless shipwrecks, to fearsome feather-clad warriors, and vast continents that suddenly appeared where nothing — or something very much different — had rested only seasons prior.

Time in the Realms

Although a number of means exist for marking the days and the passage of time during a year, nearly all folk in Faerûn have adopted the Calendar of Harptos. Even the cultures and races that don’t favor this method of marking time are aware of it, with the result that it is recognized across nearly all races, languages, and cultures.

A year on Toril consists of 365 days. In the Calendar of Harptos, the year is divided into twelve months of thirty days, loosely following the synodic cycle of Selûne, the moon. A month is made up of three tendays, also known as rides. Five annual holidays, falling between the months, complete the 365-day calendar. Once every four years, the Calendar of Harptos includes Shieldmeet as a “leap day” following Midsummer.

Individual days of a tenday have no special names. Instead, they are denoted by counting from the beginning of the period (“first day,” “second day,” and so on). Days of the month are designated by a number and the month name. For example, sages would record an event as occurring on “1 Mirtul” or “27 Uktar.” People might also refer to a given day by its relationship to the current date (“two tendays from today”) or the nearest holiday (“three days past Greengrass”).

Special Calendar Days

Every nation, faith, and culture across Faerûn has its own special festivals and holidays, the observances of which are governed by the cycles of the sun, the moon, the stars, or some other event. In addition, the Calendar of Harptos specifies five annual festivals keyed to the changing of the seasons and one quadrennial festival that are observed in almost every land, with particular celebrations varying based on local traditions and popular faiths.

Midwinter. The first festival day of the year is known generally as Midwinter, though some people name it differently. Nobles and monarchs of the Heartlands look to the High Festival of Winter as a day to commemorate or renew alliances. Commoners in the North, the Moonsea, and other, colder climes celebrate Deadwinter Day as a marking of the midpoint of the cold season, with hard times still ahead, but some of the worst days now past.

Greengrass. The traditional beginning of spring, Greengrass is celebrated by the display of freshly cut flowers (grown in special hothouses wherever the climate doesn’t permit flowers so early) that are given as gifts to the gods or spread among the fields in hopes of a bountiful and speedy growing season.

Midsummer. The midpoint of summer is a day of feasting, carousing, betrothals, and basking in the pleasant weather. Storms on Midsummer night are seen as bad omens and signs of ill fortune, and sometimes interpreted as divine disapproval of the romances or marriages sparked by the day’s events.

Shieldmeet. The great holiday of the Calendar of Harptos, Shieldmeet occurs once every four years immediately after Midsummer. It is a day for plain speaking and open council between rulers and their subjects, for the renewal of pacts and contracts, and for treaty making between peoples. Many tournaments and contests of skill are held on Shieldmeet, and most faiths mark the holiday by emphasizing one of their key tenets.

The next Shieldmeet will be observed in 1492 DR.

Highharvestide. A day of feasting and thanks, Highharvestide marks the fall harvest. Most humans give thanks to Chauntea on this day for a plentiful bounty before winter approaches. Many who make their living by traveling road or sea set out immediately following the holiday, before winter comes on in full force and blocks mountain passes and harbors.

The Feast of the Moon. As nights lengthen and winter winds begin to approach, the Feast of the Moon is the time when people celebrate their ancestors and their honored dead. During festivals on this day, people gather to share stories and legends, offer prayers for the fallen, and prepare for the coming cold.

The Calendar of Harptos

MonthNameCommon Name
1HammerDeepwinter
Annual Holiday: Midwinter
2AlturiakThe Claw of Winter
3ChesThe Claw of the Sunsets
4TarsakhThe Claw of the Storms
Annual Holiday: Greengrass
5MirtulThe Melting
6KythornThe Time of Flowers
7FlameruleSummertide
Annual Holiday: Midsummer
Quadrennial Holiday: Shieldmeet
8EleasiasHighsun
9EleintThe Fading
Annual Holiday: Highharvesttide
10MarpenothLeaffall
11UktarThe Rotting
Annual Holiday: The Feast of the Moon
12NightalThe Drawing Down

Keeping Time from Day to Day

Most people don’t keep track of the time of day beyond notions such as “mid-morning” or “nigh sunset.” If people plan to meet at a particular time, they tend to base their arrangements around such expressions.

The concept of hours and minutes exists mainly where wealthy people use clocks, but mechanical clocks are often unreliable, and rarely are two set to the same time. If a local temple or civic structure has a clock that tolls out the passing of the hours, people refer to hours as “bells,” as in “I’ll meet you at seven bells.”

The Shifting of the Seasons

The worlds of Abeir and Toril drifted apart in 1487 and 1488 DR. In some places this change was accompanied by cataclysm, while in others the shift went without notice. Astronomers and navigators who closely watched the stars couldn’t fail to see that there were nights when they seemed to hang in the sky. The winter of 1487–1488 lasted longer than normal. It was then noted that the solstices and equinoxes had somehow shifted, beginning with the spring equinox falling on Greengrass of 1488 DR. The seasons followed suit, with each starting later and ending later.

This shift in seasons has caused some sages, and the priests of Chauntea, to consider changing the marking of some of the annual feast days, but most folk counsel patience, believing that the seasons will fall back to their previous cycle over the coming years.

A Brief History

The known history of the Sword Coast region spans thousands of years, extending back into the misty epochs of the creator races and the ages of the first nations of the elves and dwarves. Comparatively recent history is the story of the rise and deeds of humans and other younger races.

Much of what follows in this section is known mainly by sages, some of whom have been alive for the last few centuries of Faerûn’s history. The common folk across the continent have little knowledge of, and little use for, events that have transpired far away in time and space. News does travel, of course, so even people who live in a village along the Sword Coast might get wind of happenings in distant lands.

The Days of Thunder

Tens of thousands of years ago, empires of reptilian, amphibian, and avian peoples — known in Elvish as Iqua’Tel’Quessir, the creator races — dominated the world. They built great cities of stone and glass, carved paths through the wilderness, tamed the great lizards, worked mighty magics, shaped the world around them, and warred upon each other. Those were the Days of Thunder.

The age of the creator races came to a sudden end some thirty thousand years ago. Perhaps their wars reached a terrible and inevitable crescendo, or they tampered with forbidden forces. For whatever reason, the world changed, and their vast empires vanished. All that remains of them are ruins and the scattered lizardfolk, bullywug, and aarakocra tribes, barbaric descendants of those who once ruled the world.

The First Flowering

From the ruins of the Days of Thunder arose the first nations of the Proud People — the elves and dwarves — in the region.

The elves raised up the nations of Aryvandaar, Ardeep, and Ilythiir. They settled Illefarn along the Sword Coast, from the Spine of the World to the River Delimbiyr — its capitol Aelinthaldaar in the shadow of what is now Mount Waterdeep. Wood elves and moon elves founded the kingdom of Eaerlann in the Delimbiyr Valley and the High Forest, and separatists from Aryvandaar settled Miyeritar in the lands of the present-day High Moor and Misty Forest.

The dwarf clans united as the nation of Delzoun, named for its forge-founder, with dwarfholds built on sites ranging from the Ice Mountains to the Nether Mountains and the Narrow Sea, and settlements and halls westward to the Crags and the Sword Mountains.

The Proud People regularly defended their homelands against orc hordes that arose from the mountains of the Spine of the World and surged southward to attack and pillage.

The First Sundering

Thousands of years after the rise of the great elven nations, hundreds of elf high mages united to cast a spell intended to create a glorious homeland for their race. The spell succeeded, but it rippled backward and forward in time, and the land was sundered, changing the face of the world. The largest continent of this new world is now called Faerûn. Far from its western shores rose the isle of Evermeet, considered a part of Arvandor, the home of the elven gods on the plane of Arborea, and a bridge between worlds.

The Crown Wars

Some thirteen thousand years ago, war broke out between the elven nations of Aryvandaar and Miyeritar, beginning a series of conflicts known as the Crown Wars. Lasting some three thousand years, these conflicts culminated in the Dark Disaster, in which terrible storms engulfed Miyeritar, turning it into a wasteland within a single season, leaving behind the area now known as the High Moor. The high mages of Aryvandaar are blamed for the destruction, although no proof was ever produced.

The vengeful dark elves of Ilythiir turned to corrupt and demonic powers, unleashing them against Aryvandaar. In the centuries of destruction that followed, elf priests and high mages fervently prayed to Corellon Larethian and the gods of the elven pantheon for salvation.

The Descent of the Drow

Corellon interceded in the Crown Wars and cursed the dark elves so that they might never dwell comfortably under the sun. Now finding themselves pained by exposure to daylight, the drow — in a mere two months’ time — retreated from the sunlit lands of the World Above into the Underdark. They abandoned all loyalty to the elven gods who betrayed and banished them, turning instead to Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, as their patron. Wars soon began between the drow and the underground cities of the dwarves.

The Age of Humanity

For millennia following the end of the Crown Wars, humans spread and settled throughout Faerûn as the elven and dwarven nations stagnated and then began a long, slow decline. Deep in the Underdark, the drow fought wars of survival and conquest in their new domain.

The Rise and Fall of Netheril

More than five thousand years ago, a group of human fishing villages on the shores of the Narrow Sea joined under the rule of the shaman-king Nether, becoming known as the empire of Netheril. The Netherese learned the use of magic from the Eaerlanni elves and became renowned wizards. Centuries later, they discovered the arcane texts known as the Nether Scrolls in the ruins of Aryvandaar and subsequently abandoned the practices of the Eaerlanni in order to procure even greater magical power.

Netheril grew to become an invincible nation of magic and wonders, dominating much of the North for three thousand years. Then the power-mad Netherese arcanist Karsus attempted to usurp the role of the goddess of magic. The resulting disruption in the fabric of magic sent Netheril’s floating cities crashing to the ground, destroyed a host of other wards and enchantments, and brought about the end of the great empire.

The Great Cities

In the decades and centuries following the collapse of Netheril, many cities of the Sword Coast and the North, such as Illusk and Citadel Sundbarr, took in refugees from the fallen empire, and new settlements made up entirely or primarily of human survivors from Netheril and their descendants were established throughout the North and in the Western Heartlands.

Nearly fifteen hundred years ago, the human settlers of the Dalelands and the elves of Cormanthor pledged their alliance in an agreement known as the Dales Compact. A monument called the Standing Stone was erected to mark the occasion, and the advent of Dalereckoning was decreed, beginning with the year 1 DR. This method of numbering the years in Toril’s history has spread across Faerûn and is commonly understood (if not universally accepted).

The city of Neverwinter — called Eigersstor when it was a mere settlement — was founded in 87 DR. On the banks of the River Raurin, the humble community of Silverymoon Ford came into being in 384 DR, and less than two centuries later it had grown to become the city of Silverymoon.

In 882 DR, a village and trading post on the shore of a deep bay in the shadow of a great mountain was named Nimoar’s Hold, after the Uthgardt chieftain who claimed the area and fortified it. The place became known to sea captains as “Waterdeep,” a name that displaced the original within a few generations. In 1032 DR, Ahghairon, heir to the arts of Netheril, saved the city from itself by unseating Waterdeep’s warlord and would-be emperor, Raurlor. Ahghairon declared that wisdom, not strength of arms, would rule in the city from now on, and created the Lords of Waterdeep.

These and other nations and great city-states rose to prominence along the Sword Coast, forming a chain along the Trade Way from Illusk in the far north to Baldur’s Gate in the south, near the borders of Amn. Like their elven and dwarven predecessors, they fought off attacks by savage humanoids, including orc hordes from the Spine of the World. Waterdeep, guided by its mysterious Lords, became a rising power, while old Illusk fell to the orcs for decades, until it was eventually reclaimed and the city of Luskan built upon its ruins.

The Present Age

The four and a half centuries since the establishment of the Lords of Waterdeep have been tumultuous times for the Sword Coast and the world. Throughout this period, civilization struggles against the savage forces of chaos, and life attempts to persevere against the agents of death and strife, sometimes in places where even the gods themselves have not been exempt from destruction.

The last one hundred fifty years have comprised one of the most cataclysmic periods in Faerûn’s history. On no fewer than three occasions, Toril has been shaken to its core by forces that have repeatedly rewritten the laws of reality.

The Time of Troubles

In 1358 DR, the gods were cast out of their otherworldly domain and made to wander the land incarnated as mortals. In seeking to recover their divinity, they warred among themselves. Magic became unpredictable, and the prayers of the faithful went unanswered. Some of the gods-turned-mortal were slain, while a handful of mortals ascended to godhood, assuming the responsibilities of the dead deities.

The Return of Netheril

In 1374 DR, the Empire of Netheril rose again when the floating city of Thultanthar, commonly known as Shade, returned from a nearly two-thousand-year-long excursion in the Shadowfell, to hover above the Anauroch desert. The shadow-touched nobles of the city almost immediately began hunting for ancient Netherese ruins and artifacts and preparing for a restoration of their once-great empire.

The Spellplague

In 1385 DR, the ascended deity Cyric, aided by Shar, murdered Mystra, the goddess of magic, in her domain of Dweomerheart. This act ripped asunder the fabric of magic in the world, unleashing its raw power in a catastrophe called the Spellplague. Thousands of practitioners of the Art were driven mad or killed, while the face of Faerûn was reshaped by waves and veils of mystic blue fire. Entire nations were displaced or exchanged with realms from other worlds, and parts of the earth were torn free to float in the air.

The Second Sundering

A century after the Spellplague, the lands and peoples of Faerûn had become accustomed to the state of things — just in time for everything to change again.

The first indication of new turmoil came in 1482 DR, when Bhaal, the long-dead god of murder, was reborn in Baldur’s Gate amid chaos and bloodshed, leaving two of the city’s dukes and many of its citizens dead. The return of Bhaal and his apparent reclamation of the domain of murder from Cyric led some scholars and sages to believe that the rules by which all deities must abide were in flux.

In 1484, strange calamities began to occur throughout Faerûn. An earthquake struck Iriaebor. A plague of locusts afflicted Amn. Droughts gripped the southern lands as the sea steadily receded in places. Amid this tumult, conflict broke out in many regions of the continent. The orcs of Many-Arrows warred against the dwarfholds of the North and their allies. Sembia invaded the Dalelands, and Cormyr raised an army to come to the aid of the Dalesfolk. Netheril brought forces to Cormyr’s border, and Cormyr was drawn into a war on both fronts.

Throughout this period, tales began to spread of individuals who had been touched by the gods and granted strange powers. Some of these so-called Chosen were at the root of the conflicts that grip the land. Some seemed driven by divine purpose, while others claimed to be mystified as to why they would be singled out.

In 1485, in Icewind Dale, the Chosen of Auril foments war with Ten-Towns and was defeated. In Anauroch, seeing that Netherese forces were spread thin, the long-subjugated Bedine people rebelled. Having defeated or besieged the dwarfholds of the North, orcs march on Silverymoon. In Cormyr and Sembia, the Netherese and the Cormyreans traded ground, while the Dalelands became a war zone. As if to offset the drought in the south, in the autumn of 1485 the Great Rain began to fall around the Sea of Fallen Stars and continued unceasingly.

While the waters rose to the east in early 1486, the tide turned against the orcs in the North, and by the end of the year their armies were broken and scattered. Also during that year, the elves of Myth Drannor came to the aid of the Dalelands and helped push back Sembian forces. On the Sword Coast, the Hosttower of the Arcane rose again in Luskan, along with the Arcane Brotherhood. In Waterdeep and Neverwinter, efforts were made to clear those cities of century-old rubble and neglect. Cormyr repulsed the last of the Sembian and Netherese forces from the nation, reclaiming its territory, and recalled its forces, turning inward to address issues of rebuilding.

Late in 1486, the Great Rain finally abated, but this event didn’t signify an end to the chaos. The Sea of Fallen Stars had grown, submerging great swaths of land beneath its waves.

Early in 1487, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions abounded for months, as if the whole world was convulsing. Rumors spread of chasms caused by the Spellplague suddenly vanishing, and stories circulated of known destinations being farther away from one another, as if the world had quietly added miles of wilderness to the distance between them. Word began to spread of places and peoples not heard from since the Spellplague. It became apparent that some of the effects of that terrible time had been reversed. During the year, ships claiming to be from Evermeet, Lantan, and Nimbral — nations thought vanished or destroyed — sailed into ports on the Sword Coast and in the Shining South. Tales spread of the legendary skyships of Halruaa being spotted in southern skies. No longer engaged in Cormyr, Netheril attacked Myth Drannor by floating the City of Shade over it. In a struggle for control of Myth Drannor’s mythal and the Weave itself, the flying capital of Netheril was brought crashing down on Myth Drannor, resulting in the cataclysmic destruction of both.

As the year drew to a close, there were nights when the heavens seemed to hang motionless. Throughout much of Faerûn, the winter of 1487 and 1488 lasted longer than any on record. The solstices and equinoxes had somehow drifted. Later seasons followed suit, with each starting and ending later than expected. Prayers to the gods for knowledge and mercy seemed to go unacknowledged, apart from the presence of their Chosen.

Although the orcs were defeated in the North, the League of Silver Marches was disbanded in 1488, as former allies blamed one another for failures in the war. Sembia divided into separate city-states only nominally allied with one another. While a handful of settlements survived, the Netherese Empire was no more. The remainder of the Netherese forces battle with the Bedine over control of the Memory Spire, thought to be a tomb of the phaerimm, Netheril’s ancient enemies. The battle awakens what turns out to be a hive of the creatures, and they use the life and magic-draining power of the spire against the lands below.

By 1489, many of the wars that began during the Sundering had ground to a close. Other conflicts arose, and mighty threats still imperiled the world, but the deities ceased interfering with the world through their Chosen. The gods were no longer silent but quiet, and in many places new priesthoods arose to interpret the gods’ now subtle signs.

The world today seems a place filled with new lands and opportunities, where those who dare can leave their mark. Students of history and those elves and dwarves who recall the past that short-lived humans see as distant perceive a world much like it was over a century ago. For most folk, wild tales of people empowered by the gods, and of far-off lands returned to the world, are the subjects of fireside chatter. Daily concerns and the dangers and opportunities just beyond their doors take precedence, and plenty of both remain on the Sword Coast and in the North.

Magic in the Realms

From the simplest cantrip to the mightiest workings of High Magic, from the blessings of healing mercy to the raising of mighty heroes from the dead, magic permeates the Realms. Any understanding of magic begins, and ends, with an understanding of the Weave.

The Weave

he Weave is an essential element of the universe, running through everything in unseen threads. Some creatures, objects, and locations have deep, intrinsic ties to the Weave and can perform extraordinary feats that come naturally to them (a beholder’s flight, a vampire’s charming gaze, a dragon’s breath weapon, and so forth). Creatures with the necessary talent and skill can also manipulate the Weave to perform magic by casting spells.

The Weave isn’t normally visible or detectable, even through the use of spells. Detect magic doesn’t let you perceive the Weave, for instance. The Weave isn’t magic, precisely, any more than a collection of threads is a garment; it’s the raw material from which the tapestry of magic is woven.

In two senses, both the metaphorical and the real, the goddess Mystra is the Weave. She is its keeper and tender, but all three times the goddess of magic has died or been separated from her divinity (twice as Mystra, and once as her predecessor, Mystryl), magic has been twisted or has failed entirely. With Mystra’s last death and the coming of the Spellplague, the Weave was thought destroyed, and the term lost its significance. Since the end of the most recent Sundering, both Mystra and the Weave have returned to their roles of centuries past, and spells and magic items are more reliable than they had been while the Spellplague raged.

Supernatural Powers and Psionics

The inborn magical abilities of certain creatures, the acquired supernatural powers of people such as monks, and psionic abilities are similar in that their users don’t manipulate the Weave in the customary way that spellcasters do. The mental state of the user is vitally important: monks and some psionics-users train long and hard to attain the right frame of mind, while creatures with supernatural powers have that mind-set in their nature. How these abilities are related to the Weave remains a matter of debate; many students of the arcane believe that the use of the so-called Unseen Art is an aspect of magical talent that can’t be directly studied or taught.

Magic Items

Where a spell effect is brought to life by manipulating the threads of the Weave, the creation of a magic item ties some of those threads together in a specific way, to produce the desired effect for as long as the item lasts. The Weave provides immediately available energy for spells and also enables those who know the craft to harness that energy inside an object until it is called forth by its user (who, of course, need not be a spellcaster).

In some cases, the magic of an item must be tied to its wielder, representing an entwining of the threads of the Weave between wielder and object known as attunement. As with all matters related to magic, the number of items to which a single being can be attuned is limited, but the benefits of such a relationship can be considerable.

Mythals

Mythals are some of the most powerful magic in the world of Toril, constructs that bind and shape the Weave in a particular location, sometimes so powerfully that the rules of magic or even reality can be bent or rewritten.

A mythal is a permanent field of overlapping magical wards and effects tied to a specific location. In its original usage, this term applied to the works of High Magic that protected ancient elven cities. It has since been expanded to cover all manner of similar protections, from the immense floating cities of fallen Netheril to the wards of Silverymoon to the smaller — but no less effective — workings of magic that keep safe important locations like Candlekeep. Even the many-layered wards and effects of Undermountain, beneath Waterdeep, are considered a mythal by some.

Most mythals are defensive in nature, designed to restrict the kinds of magic that can be employed in the area they govern, and the most common restrictions are concerned with teleportation and conjuration magic. Evereska’s mythal influences the weather of the area and wards its inhabitants against disease, while the mythal of undersea Myth Nantar makes its waters breathable and more comfortable for creatures not suited to underwater life.

In many ways, a mythal is less like a spell or a magic item than a living creation of magic, capable of growing stronger or weaker, absorbing damage, or dying. Mythals can also sometimes heal themselves, as did the mythal of Silverymoon, blossoming out of the Moonbridge following Mystra’s most recent return. Each active mythal has one or more beings attuned to its effects, who can ignore any restrictions on spellcasting, can direct targetable effects of the mythal, and can teach others of appropriate skill how to access its secrets.

Except in cities such as Silverymoon and Evereska, adventurers are most likely to encounter damaged or failing mythals in ruined locations where magic once had great influence. Although an identify spell might reveal some of the simplest effects of a mythal, active restrictions on spellcasting can be discovered only by trying (and failing) to cast a prohibited spell. A powerful spellcaster might learn how to access or repair a mythal without assistance, but such feats are legendary, and rarely attempted by even the most renowned of mages. Any elven city with Myth in its title (Myth Drannor, Myth Glaurach, Myth Nantar, and others) has, or had, a mythal protecting it. The ruins of such places are certain to have unpredictable effects related to their damaged or destroyed mythals.

WEAVE-AFFECTING MAGIC

Certain spells allow casters to perceive or manipulate the effects of the Weave in particular ways. The Weave itself also has irregularities that affect spells.

Detect Magic. Detect magic reveals threads of the Weave woven together through spellcasting, or the “knots” of the Weave in a magic item. A magic item appears enmeshed in the silvery-blue threads of the Weave, and the way the threads are arranged reveals what type of magic is used (necromancy, abjuration, and so on). Similarly, active spells and areas imbued with magic are limned in a silvery network of threads, which might twist and reknit themselves depending on the magic involved.

Dispel Magic. Dispel magic unwinds and prematurely ends magic, unraveling whatever construct of the Weave was put in place.

Antimagic. Antimagic effects can dispel existing spells and unravel any magic woven from the Weave. Permanent effects, such as those from magic items, are usually suppressed by antimagic: while the effect is within an area of antimagic, the construct of the Weave unravels, but the threads snap back into place once the magic is outside the area.

Dead Magic. In rare areas of dead magic, the Weave is absent. Not only do spells and magic items cease to function, but even the supernatural abilities of creatures that are innately tied to the Weave might fail as the knot of the Weave they carry with them unravels.

Wild Magic. In an area of wild magic, the Weave becomes “tangled,” spontaneously forming its own constructs and resulting magic. It also tends to twist the constructs of the Weave created by spellcasting, causing unexpected results.

Religion in the Realms

Though wizards work wonders with their Art, and adventurers take their fates into their own hands, it is on the gods that most folk in the Forgotten Realms depend when they have need. The gods play a role in the lives of nearly everyone, from the mightiest lord to the meanest urchin.

The various races of Toril worship their pantheons, which remain largely the same from region to region, with different cultures and societies emphasizing some deities over others. Although exceptions exist — the gods of Mulhorand, for example — all the gods are revered across all of Faerûn.

Forms of Worship

The average person worships different gods in different contexts. Most vocations have a patron deity: farmers make offerings to Chauntea for the prosperity of their crops, clerks sharpen their quills with a prayer to Deneir, while pious merchants remember to set coins aside for Waukeen at the end of the day. Most people worship a deity associated with their livelihood, family, or home, while others feel called to a particular god for a variety of reasons. Individuals often carry or wear a small token of their favored deity: a pendant or a pin in the image of the god’s holy symbol, or some other personal keepsake.

In addition, people regularly venerate gods based on their needs and circumstances: a farmer whose favored deity is Chauntea would pray to Amaunator for a few clear, sunny days, and a Waterdhavian noble who habitually worships Deneir would give thanks to Sune after a successful coming-out party for her son. Even priests of particular gods acknowledge the roles that other deities play in the world and in their lives.

In general, worshipers view their relationships with the gods as practical and reciprocal: they pray and make offerings because that is how one invites the blessings of the gods and turns away their wrath. These prayers and other acts of devotion are generally performed quietly at the shrine in one’s household or community, or occasionally in a temple dedicated to one’s deity, when a worshiper feels the need to “come knocking upon a god’s door” to ask for attention.

Forms of worship are often acts of veneration: giving thanks for favor shown, making requests for future blessings, and offering praise for the deity’s intercessions, large and small. Because most folk in Faerûn don’t want to attract the ire of the cruel or savage gods, beseeching them to keep the peace is also an act of worship. A hunter or a farmer might make offerings to Malar in hopes of keeping predators at bay, and a sailor might pray to Umberlee that she withhold her wrath for the duration of a voyage.

New and Foreign Gods

The Faerûnian pantheon isn’t the only one known on Toril. Nonhuman races honor their own gods, for example, and people in faraway lands are known to worship altogether different gods. Occasionally, foreigners bring the worship of these gods to Faerûn. In addition, on rare occasions a new god comes into being, perhaps a mortal elevated to godhood or a deity whose arrival was foretold by prophets and leaders of new religions. In cosmopolitan places such as Waterdeep and Calimshan, small shrines and temples to strange gods spring up from time to time.

The burgeoning worship of a new deity is rarely a concern to the other gods of the Faerûnian pantheon, and the people who revere those deities, except when the newcomer’s area of concern directly competes with that of an established deity. The methods of resolving such conflicts range from friendly dueling festivals or rites meant to emphasize the glory of one god over another, to campaigns of outright religious bloodshed.

Over generations, a new god might become a settled-in member of the pantheon. Indeed, some scholars posit that Faerûn has many “immigrant” gods, who joined the pantheon’s ranks so long ago that their foreign origins are lost in antiquity.

Dead and Resurrected Gods

Over and over, mourning bells have tolled for some of the deities of the Realms. Gods were struck down during the Time of Troubles, when the Spellplague wrought its destruction, and most recently when Netheril fell. Some deities have even been slain by mortals wielding impossibly powerful magic.

When a god withdraws from a pantheon, divine magic stops flowing to the faithful, and miracles and omens associated with that god cease, that deity’s priesthood loses faith, and holy sites are abandoned or taken over by other faiths. To the deity’s worshipers in the world, it is immaterial whether the god is truly dead or merely dormant — the consequences for them are the same either way. Yet, as recent events have borne out, a god who is gone might not remain absent forever. More than a few supposedly dead gods have returned and amassed a new body of worshipers. Indeed, the legends of some gods speak of a cycle of death and resurrection.

As the Sage of Shadowdale once noted, “If the gods can grant the power to raise mortals from death, why do ye assume they should be laid low by it forever?”

The Afterlife

Most humans believe the souls of the recently deceased are spirited away to the Fugue Plane, where they wander the great City of Judgment, often unaware they are dead. The servants of the gods come to collect such souls and, if they are worthy, they are taken to their awaited afterlife in the deity’s domain. Occasionally, the faithful are sent back to be reborn into the world to finish work that was left undone.

Souls that are unclaimed by the servants of the gods are judged by Kelemvor, who decides the fate of each one. Some are charged with serving as guides for other lost souls, while others are transformed into squirming larvae and cast into the dust. The truly false and faithless are mortared into the Wall of the Faithless, the great barrier that bounds the City of the Dead, where their souls slowly dissolve and begin to become part of the stuff of the Wall itself.

Religious Institutions

Those who serve as priests of a god aren’t necessarily clerics. Indeed, the power invested in clerics and other divine spellcasters by the gods is given out only rarely (see “Divine Magic” below). The work of a priest is to serve one’s deity and that deity’s faithful, a task that doesn’t necessarily require the use of magic.

The kind of person attracted to a deity’s priesthood depends on the tenets of that god: the cunning rogues who venerate Mask have little in common with the upright law-keepers of Tyr, and the delightful revelers who revere Lliira are different from both.

Temples and Shrines

The core religious institutions of Faerûn are temples and shrines. Whether a small, out-of-the-way building, or a complex made up of multiple structures and tracts of land, each temple operates according to the traditions of its faith, although powerful or charismatic figures who rise to prominence within the temple hierarchy might motivate or inspire changes to those traditions.

Temples in Faerûn don’t have regular services as such. Group observances in a temple occur only at specific festival times, and priests also go out into the community to perform rites such as marriages and funerals. Temples are places where worshipers go either to spend personal or family time in a space consecrated to a deity or to seek the aid of the priests for some reason.

Small shrines and private chapels, as distinct from full-fledged temples, are common throughout Faerûn, particularly in areas where a temple doesn’t exist. Shrines tend to be unstaffed, kept up by the locals and visitors who use the place for prayer. A shrine might be as modest as a roadside well, where traveling merchants can drop a coin to request good fortune from Waukeen, or as grand as a statue of Amaunator surrounded by braziers in a pavilion in the middle of a village.

Traveling priests often seek out and visit these sites, and they act as meeting places for the faithful. When word gets around that a traveling priest of Eldath has come into town, the faithful seek her out at the holy spring dedicated to the goddess at the edge of town.

A family or business might maintain a shrine or a chapel to its favored deity, perhaps a set of wind chimes consecrated to Akadi hung from the high branches of a tree in the garden, or a wooden symbol shaped like the hand of Azuth in miniature displayed on a prominent wall with a space nearby to burn a candle or some incense.

Communing with the Gods

Though many tales are told of times past when the gods appeared in physical form and walked the land, occasions of that sort are few and far between. For the most part, the gods communicate with their faithful through signs and omens, appreciated by those able to interpret them. Of course, some signs are more subtle — and thus more open to interpretation — than others.

The most common kind of communion that worshipers and priests find with their deities is in prayer, song, or meditation. Such experiences are intensely personal, and it is common wisdom to keep them that way. After all, “advice” from one’s god that appears during morning prayer and gives one a good turn to the day is worthwhile only for oneself. Let each worshiper commune in their own way, as the saying goes.

Divine magic also provides a means of communing with the gods and can be used to call upon their guidance. Divine pronouncements of this sort are often personal in scope and brief, and those edicts that concern broader matters tend to be open to interpretation or debate.

Priesthood

Priesthood is a vocation like any other, with those who undertake it often honing their abilities through a system of apprenticeship. At a small temple, a novice or an acolyte might study under the only priest available. Larger temples can accommodate groups of acolytes, each learning under the direction of one or more mentors responsible for training them in the duties and skills of the priesthood.

Once acolytes complete their education, they are often ordained in a ritual in which a successful candidate is invested with the responsibilities of the priesthood.

Conflicts and Persecution

The moral and ethical values of the deities in Faerûn run the gamut, representing all the outlooks that their mortal followers demonstrate, from the principled agents of good to the vicious proponents of evil. Most cultures and societies aren’t nearly as cosmopolitan as the population of Faerûn taken as a whole; as a result, religious persecution (from the viewpoint of those who garner the attention) is practiced in places where worship of certain deities is frowned on.

Most governments that engage in persecution limit such restrictions to the establishment of formal temples, priesthoods, and organized festivals. (On a practical level, it’s impossible to prevent individuals from innocuously or secretly worshiping whichever deities they choose.) For instance, although worship of Talona — like that of many evil gods — is forbidden in Waterdeep, this prohibition extends only to the creation of a temple and the presence of her priesthood within the city. Individual citizens or families who revere Talona might be viewed as misguided, but they aren’t taken into custody or punished as long as they obey the laws of the city.

Some places take this form of persecution a step further, for a variety of reasons. A tyrant might outlaw worship of Torm, lest it inspire rebellion, and an otherwise fair-minded mayor of a river-mill community might demand that worshipers of Silvanus find elsewhere to live because of recent problems the timber-cutters have had with local druids.

Pantheons

The Faerûnian Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Akadi, goddess of airNTempestCloud
Amaunator, god of the sunLNLife, LightGolden sun
Asmodeus, god of indulgenceLEKnowledge, TrickeryThree inverted triangles arranged in a long triangle
Auril, goddess of winterNENature, TempestSix-pointed snowflake
Azuth, god of wizardryLNArcana, KnowledgeLeft hand pointing upward, outlined in fire
Bane, god of tyrannyLEWarUpright black hand, thumb and fingers together
Beshaba, goddess of misfortuneCETrickeryBlack antlers
Bhaal, god of murderNEDeathSkull surrounded by ring of bloody droplets
Chauntea, goddess of agricultureNGLifeSheaf of grain or a blooming rose over grain
Cyric, god of liesCETrickeryWhite jawless skull on black or purple sunburst
Deneir, god of writingNGArcana, KnowledgeLit candle above an open eye
Eldath, goddess of peaceNGLife, NatureWaterfall plunging into a still pool
Gond, god of craftNKnowledgeToothed cog with four spokes
Grumbar, god of earthNKnowledgeMountain
Gwaeron Windstrom, god of trackingNGKnowledge, NaturePaw print with a five-pointed star in its center
Helm, god of watchfulnessLNLife, LightStaring eye on upright left gauntlet
Hoar, god of revenge and retributionLNWarA coin with a two-faced head
Ilmater, god of enduranceLGLifeHands bound at the wrist with red cord
Istishia, god of waterNTempestWave
Jergal, scribe of the deadLNKnowledge, DeathA skull biting a scroll
Kelemvor, god of the deadLNDeathUpright skeletal arm holding balanced scales
Kossuth, god of fireNLightFlame
Lathander, god of dawn and renewalNGLife, LightRoad traveling into a sunrise
Leira, goddess of illusionCNTrickeryPoint-down triangle containing a swirl of mist
Lliira, goddess of joyCGLifeTriangle of three six-pointed stars
Loviatar, goddess of painLEDeathNine-tailed barbed scourge
Malar, god of the huntCENatureClawed paw
Mask, god of thievesCNTrickeryBlack mask
Mielikki, goddess of forestsNGNatureUnicorn’s head
Milil, god of poetry and songNGLightFive-stringed harp made of leaves
Myrkul, god of deathNEDeathWhite human skull
Mystra, goddess of magicNGArcana, KnowledgeCircle of seven stars, nine stars encircling a flowing red mist, or a single star
Oghma, god of knowledgeNKnowledgeBlank scroll
The Red Knight, goddess of strategyLNWarRed knight lanceboard piece with stars for eyes
Savras, god of divination and fateLNArcana, KnowledgeCrystal ball containing many kinds of eyes
Selûne, goddess of the moonCGKnowledge, LifePair of eyes surrounded by seven stars
Shar, goddess of darkness and lossNEDeath, TrickeryBlack disk encircled with a purple border
Silvanus, god of wild natureNNatureOak leaf
Sune, goddess of love and beautyCGLife, LightFace of a beautiful red-haired woman
Talona, goddess of poison and diseaseCEDeathThree teardrops in a triangle
Talos, god of stormsCETempestThree lightning bolts radiating from a point
Tempus, god of warNWarUpright flaming sword
Torm, god of courage and self-sacrificeLGWarWhite right gauntlet
Tymora, goddess of good fortuneCGTrickeryFace-up coin
Tyr, god of justiceLGWarBalanced scales resting on a warhammer
Umberlee, goddess of the seaCETempestWave curling left and right
Valkur, Northlander god of sailorsCGTempest, WarA cloud and three lightning bolts
Waukeen, goddess of tradeNKnowledge, TrickeryUpright coin with Waukeen’s profile facing left

The Dwarven Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Abbathor, god of greedNETrickeryJeweled dagger, point-down
Berronar Truesilver, goddess of hearth and homeLGLife, LightIntertwined silver rings
Clangeddin Silverbeard, god of warLGWarCrossed silver battleaxes
Deep Duerra, duergar goddess of conquest and psionicsLEArcana, WarMind flayer skull
Dugmaren Brightmantle, god of discoveryCGKnowledgeOpen book
Dumathoin, god of buried secretsNDeath, KnowledgeMountain silhouette with a central gemstone
Gorm Gulthyn, god of vigilanceLGWarBronze half-mask
Haela Brightaxe, goddess of war-luckCGWarUpright sword whose blade is spiraled in flame
Laduguer, duergar god of magic and slaveryLEArcana, DeathBroken arrow
Marthammor Duin, god of wanderersNGNature, TrickeryUpright mace in front of a tall boot
Moradin, god of creationLGKnowledgeHammer and anvil
Sharindlar, goddess of healingCGLifeBurning needle
Vergadain, god of luck and wealthNTrickeryGold coin with the face of a dwarf

The Elven Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Aerdrie Faenya, goddess of the skyCGTempest, TrickeryBird silhouetted against a cloud
Angharradh, triple goddess of wisdom and protectionCGKnowledge, LifeTriangle with three interlocking circles within
Corellon Larethian, god of art and magicCGArcana, LightCrescent moon
Deep Sashelas, god of the seaCGNature, TempestDolphin
Erevan Ilesere, god of mischiefCNTrickeryAsymmetrical eight-armed star
Fenmarel Mestarine, god of outcastsCNTrickeryTwo peering elven eyes
Hanali Celanil, goddess of love and beautyCGLifeGolden heart
Labelas Enoreth, god of time, history, and philosophyCGArcana, KnowledgeSetting sun
Rillifane Rallathil, god of natureCGNatureOak
Sehanine Moonbow, goddess of divination, dreams, travel, and deathCGKnowledgeFull moon under a moonbow
Shevarash, god of vengeanceCNWarBroken arrow over a tear
Solonor Thelandira, god of archeryCGWarSilver arrow with green fletching

The Drow Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Eilistraee, goddess of song and moonlightCGLight, NatureSword-wielding dancing drow female silhouetted against the full moon
Kiaransalee, goddess of necromancyCEArcanaFemale drow hand wearing many silver rings
Lolth, goddess of spidersCETrickerySpider
Selvetarm, god of warriorsCEWarSpider over crossed sword-and-mace
Vhaeraun, god of thievesCETrickeryBlack mask with blue glass lenses inset over eyes

The Halfling Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Arvoreen, god of vigilance and warLGWarCrossed short swords
Brandobaris, god of thievery and adventureNTrickeryHalfling footprint
Cyrrollalee, goddess of hearth and homeLGLifeAn open door
Sheela Peryroyl, goddess of agriculture and weatherNNature, TempestFlower
Urogalan, god of earth and deathLNDeath, KnowledgeSilhouette of a dog’s head
Yondalla, goddess of fertility and protectionLGLifeCornucopia on a shield

The Gnomish Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Baervan Wildwanderer, god of woodlandsNGNatureFace of a raccoon
Baravar Cloakshadow, god of illusion and deceptionNGArcana, TrickeryDagger against a hooded cloak
Callarduran Smoothhands, god of mining and carving stoneNKnowledge, NatureGolden signet ring with six-pointed star
Flandal Steelskin, god of metalworkNGKnowledgeFlaming hammer
Gaerdal Ironhand, god of protectionLGWarIron band
Garl Glittergold, god of trickery and gemsLGTrickeryGold nugget
Nebelun, god of invention and luckCGKnowledge, TrickeryBellows and a lizard tail
Segojan Earthcaller, god of earth and the deadNGLightGlowing gemstone
Urdlen, god of greed and murderCEDeath, WarWhite clawed mole emerging from ground

The Orc Pantheon

DeityAlignmentDomainsSymbol
Bahgtru, god of strengthLEWarBroken thigh bone
Gruumsh, god of storms and warCETempest, WarUnblinking eye
Ilneval, god of strategy and hordesLEWarUpright blood-spattered sword
Luthic, mother-goddess of fertility and healingLELife, NatureOrcish rune meaning “cave entrance”
Shargaas, god of stealth and darknessNETrickeryRed crescent moon with a skull between the moon’s horns
Yurtrus, god of death and diseaseNEDeathWhite hand, palm outward

Divine Magic

The gods show their favor toward mortals in myriad ways. A chosen few have their minds and souls opened to the power of magic. There is no formula for who does and doesn’t receive this divine insight, as the gods keep their own counsel concerning their selections. Some who are favored seek to ignore or deny their gift, while others embrace it wholeheartedly.

Some who display the potential for divine magic develop and practice their abilities in a temple, a sacred grove, or some other spiritual place, perhaps in the company of other students. Other practitioners of divine magic discover and nurture their gods-given power entirely on their own.

The Gods of Faerûn

The gods that make up the pantheon of Faerûn are much like the population of some of the Realms’ greatest cities: an eclectic blend of individuals from a variety of sources. The makeup of the pantheon has shifted over the ages, as a result of changes in the Realms and its people (or vice versa, depending on which scholars you believe). The following pages describe the most prominent members of the pantheon.

The deities of the Faerûnian pantheon are by no means the only powers worshiped in the Realms. The nonhuman races have pantheons of their own (described in chapter 3), and scattered other cults and local divinities can be found across Faerûn.

VIEW LIST OF GODS