So I have the upcoming D&D 5E Game and the players requested that I run it in the Realms. Now, I know the two adult players have read realms related stuff but none of them have ever played in it, and while I own the AD&D boxed set, some 2E guidebooks, the Ruins of Undermountain, the 3E hardcover and Larry Elmore’s Forgotten Realms book I’ve never actually run anything explicitly in the Realms, nor had much desire to do so. (I do at least have the advantage of having played in a couple of Realms based games run by the illustrious Chris Mansfield back in the 80’s and 90’s, so that’s something.)
Part of my concern is that the Realms are just so damn big – it’s like saying “I’m running my game set in Eurasia and Northern Africa”. The landscape is huge. It’s also filled with not just history but fast moving recent history – from that AD&D boxed set to the current 5E discussions of the Realms we have had 25+ years of continuous play full of huge upheavals around every new edition, so I don’t know what’s canon now and what’s not, and I’m not sure I should care. In my normal way of doing things I’d just define my own campaign setting (probably something more science fantasy/pulpy than the Realms high fantasy adventure based on my Old School Renaissance readings of late) and then I know I’d be comfortable with everything in it.
Our campaign frame is that the PCs are escaped cargo from a slaver ship operating in the Sea of Fallen Stars, which gives the PCs an excuse to be from nearly anywhere while giving them a reason to trust one another and work together. Especially since in the first session everyone is going to define one or two awesome things their characters did to facilitate their escape and then they’ll be washing up on an abandoned shore and having to survive. Here we immediately run into some problems because both Zhentiel Keep and Thay, the two big slavery powers in the area, are on downward trajectories due to heroic action in the Living Forgotten Realms setting. I’ll be ignoring that, or at least setting it before that. I don’t know if it will matter, if the campaign will last anywhere near long enough for the PCs to interact on that scale, but it’s that sort of thing that worries me.