If you haven’t heard yet, Rich Baker revealed that the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons will advance the Forgotten Realms timeline to 1479. That’s more than 100 years from the current setting. (I’m basing this on the year listed in recently released FR novels.)
The Spellplague alluded to in the Grand History of the Realms is being used to bring the campaign setting inline with the mechanical changes to the rules. While some of the more “popular” regions remain relatively unscathed, the FR landscape certainly looks quite different.
I was shocked by the changes. But I’m certainly not as upset as some fans seem to be. I’ve yet to play in or run any sort of extended campaign set in the Realms; most of my exposure has been through video games and books.
I am curious about the impact of this jump on the fiction line. Except for anthologies, WotC is pretty strict about fiction being contemporary. Even the Drizzt novels were brought up to the present during 3E. 100 years is a lot of time, and a lot of fertile ground for storytelling. I know that new editions present opportunities to eliminate baggage that might hinder new players from picking up the game, and the changes made to FR were certainly motivated by this factor:
As I got deeper into my FR work, I realized that the changes by no means leave Realmsperts behind or throw them out. The history and lore are still there if you want them, because we worked very hard to have a “no retcon” situation. Everything has an explanation, even if that explanation isn’t spelled out in the books. On the other hand, the changes in the Realms meet our goal of providing a fresh opening for non-Realmsperts. – Chris Sims, FRCS designer on his Gleemax blog
The fiction line now has a similar opportunity. The recent stand-alone series (the four “Classes”, Dungeons, and Citadels) are examples of an editorial desire to draw in new readers without requiring previous knowledge of the setting. I imagine such popular characters as Drizzt, Elminster and Erevis Cale will have a continued presence, but the proverbial slate has otherwise been wiped clean.