Welcome to Faerûn. A land of high magic, terrifying monsters, ancient ruins, and hidden wonders. From the forbidding forests of the Silver Marches to the teeming cities of the Inner Sea, Faerûn encompasses shining kingdoms, monster-infested wastes, endless caverns, and sinister citadels.
In the words of Elminster, Sage of Shadowdale: I've walked these realms for over a thousand years. Yet, I am far from the oldest, wisest, or mightiest being to walk the ground of Faerûn with my well-worn boots - and that is truth. But if ye learn the long history of my deeds, ye'll know precisely what I stand for and what I am. And that's a rare and precious thing, knowing yourself. Do ye know exactly what ye stand for?
Think on that while I let my tongue loose for a bit and roll the splendid sights of these lands over ye like the great green waves that crash on the rocks below where Mount Waterdeep rises up out of the cold and mighty Sea of Swords. Let me speak of the wonders bards sing of under the starry night sky all over these fair lands. Let me tell ye of soft blue moonlight and spell stars in the hair of elven women, their bare shoulders all silver, dancing under the trees of the High Forest - just as the ghosts of their fair vanished kin still dance under the moon in ruined, fiend-roamed Myth Drannor. Let me speak of brawling, bustling Waterdeep, the beautiful towers of Silverymoon, and of a hundred other proud cities with their lanterns and rumbling carts and shadowed alleys and dripping sewers, their intrigues and strivings and riches. Let me whisper of the realms below, the Underdark, a world of sunless caverns where cruel elves with obsidian skin, purple-hued mind flayers, and things far worse battle in the depths beneath your feet, and gems are born in the hottest deeps where rock flows like water.
Heed my tales of old magic in forgotten tombs or marked by standing stones and portals that with a single stride span half of Faerûn. Beware cold claws that reach from the shadows and proudly sneering courtiers in gleaming finery whose honeyed tongues and sly plots are colder and more perilous still than steely talons. Hear tell of wild places where dragons battle each other in the sky and ruins only adventurers - like ye - have seen that are haunted by fearsome beholders, shapechanging horrors, and oozing things made of eyes and tentacles that lurk ... and hunger.
Hold, and listen well! If ye heed not a word of mine in all your days, remember this: Faerûn needs its heroes.
I'm one such to some, though I am old and battered and have left a heap of bloody, bitter mistakes behind me high enough to bury empires. Your sword must flash beside my faltering spells, for Faerûn faces new, rising dooms that I cannot face alone. Our homelands stand in worse peril now than ever before. Old evils stir, or return unlooked-for, looming like storm clouds over the darkened hills. Strife and change tear asunder nations and cities. Who can see who shall rise over all? Even the monks of far Candlekeep, who guard well the words of the prophet Alaundo who is never wrong, cannot know.
It might just be ye, if your swords and spells are ready and your heart bold. Faerûn needs ye, let we fall unguarded to the dangers all around.
Adventurer, I am Elminster, and I say to ye that these forgotten realms are yours to discover, reforge, and defend, yours to make anew in winning your own crown. Go forth and take up arms against the perils that beset us!
Faerûn introduces several new races for players to choose from.
There are three major subraces of dwarves, and two less common subraces. Long thought to have been in decline, they have been enjoying a recent upsurge in birth rates and power, led by a vigorous new generation known as the Thunder Children. Gold Dwarves hail from a great kingdom far to the south in and around the Great Rift. Shield Dwarves live under the northern mountain ranges in magnificent halls that claim only a fraction of the territory they used to control. The less common Gray Dwarf outcasts form evil enclaves deep beneath the surface of Faerûn - a region known as the Underdark. Wild Dwarves live in the primitive jungles of Chult far to the south. Arctic Dwarves were long confined to one remote area of the far north, but are now starting to establish settlements in new areas.
Six types of elves live in the lands and seas of Faerûn. Most populous are the Moon Elves, or silver elves, so called because of their fair skin. Sun Elves (gold elves) are much less commonly encountered, probably because most of them live on an island paradise far from the lands of men. Drow Elves (dark elves) have hearts nearly as black as their obsidian-colored skin, though a select few have rejected their evil birthright and fled their deep underground cities for the surface world. Wild Elves (or green elves) are rarely seen by others, because they live in the heart of deep forests and have excellent skills at staying hidden. Wood Elves (copper elves) are reclusive, but less so than their feral cousins. The sixth subrace is the aquatic elves who rarely interact with their land-based cousins.
Rock Gnomes are the only sort that most surface dwellers ever see. Hiding in tunnels far below the surface, the Deep Gnomes (also called Svirfneblin) make their home.
Three subraces of halflings dwell in Faerûn, the result of a terrible racial war long ago. The Ghostwise Halflings are wild, nearly feral creatures that rarely leave the confines of deep forests. Far to the south is the land of Luiren, home to the Strongheart Halflings. The most commonly encountered Lightfoot Halflings have a strong wanderlust that leads them far away from home.
The Forgotten Realms contain many, many portals and gates to other planes - when visitors from another plane come to Faerûn, they sometimes leave behind offspring. Known as the planetouched, they can generally be broken down into three main groups. Aasimar carry the blood of a celestial and are usually good-aligned heroes. Tieflings are descended from evil outsiders and are perceived to be evil and untrustworthy. Not all are, but enough have proven to be that the prejudice tends to cling. The Genasi are descended from elemental-related creatures such as efreet, dao, or djinn. Several types exist, depending on the type of elemental creature they may be related to.
The deities of the Forgotten Realms play an important part in many peoples' lives. The pantheons, for there are more than one, are quite extensive. The pantheon worshipped in the greatest majority of lands is the Faerûnian pantheon, and the major powers are:
Azuth is the deity of arcane spellcasters, rather than of magic itself.
Bane is the ultimate tyrant. He is the thoroughly evil and malicious deity of hatred and fear.
Chauntea is the humble deity of all growing things, especially those sowed by the hand of humankind.
Cyric is a megalomaniacal deity with an immense following. His portfolio encompases murder, lies, and deception.
Gond is a driven and energetic diety who is fascinated with making the theoretical real. He is the patron of artifice and craft.
Helm is the unflinching and dedicated deity of protection.
Ilmater is a generous and self-sacrificing deity. His portfolio is endurance, suffering, and perseverance.
Kelemvor assigns the essences of the dead their proper place in the ongoing cycle of existance. He is the deity in charge of death and the dead.
Lathander is the powerful, exuberant deity of spring, birth, dawn, and youth.
Malar is a savage and bestial deity who reveals in the fear of the hunted. He is the patron of hunters and bloodlust.
Mask is a self-possessed and confident deity fond of complex plans and intricate plots. His portfolio includes thievery and shadows.
Mielikki is a good-humored deity who is quick to smile and confident in her actions. She is the deity of forests and rangers.
Mystra is the busy and devoted deity of magic and the Weave, the manifestation of raw magic, the interface that human spellcasters use to manipulate power.
Oghma is the most powerful deity of knowledge in Faerûn. His portfolio also includes inspiration and bards.
Selune is a caring but quietly mystical deity. Her church concentrates on the moon, wanderers, and navigation.
Shar is the twisted and perverse deity of dark, loss, the Underdark, and forgetfulness.
Silvanus is a beneficient, paternal deity. His portfolio is wild nature and druids.
Sune is the fairest of goddesses, patron of beauty.
Talos personifies the destructive aspects of nature, such as storms, earthquakes, and conflagrations.
Tempus is the capricious deity of war.
Torm is a stern, righteous, and unyielding deity who leads the fight against evil. His portfolio contains duty, loyalty, and paladins.
Tymora is the friendly, graceful, and kind deity of good fortune, skill, and victory.
Tyr is a noble warrior who is strong in spirit and dedicated to justice, his portfolio.
Umberlee is a malicious, mean, and evil deity who is in charge of oceans, currents, and waves.
Waukeen is the relatively young, vibrant deity of trade and wealth.