I finished reading through the 4E Player’s Handbook last week. 4E introduced some significant changes in mechanics from the previous edition of Dungeons and Dragons. There are a lot of good reviews of the core rules, but seeing as this is a blog about writing fantasy fiction, I wanted to take a different tack.
D&D fantasy fiction is influenced by the rules of the game. Fans appreciate when authors ground their stories in the setting by referencing classes, spells and other game features–descriptively, if not literally–along with established world lore. I remember reading Dragons of Autumn Twilight as Raistlin tossed out a handful of sand, uttered his magic words and watched their pursuers drop to the ground, and thinking to myself, he just cast sleep. It’s a fine line for writers to tread; it’s supposed to be a novel, not a campaign log.
I didn’t fill out character record sheets as part of my process for writing Maiden of Pain or my short story in Realms of the Dragons II. My process for incorporating game mechanics involved Read more
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.