So here we stand. After two weeks of looking back on the Forgotten Realms as it was way back when, we now prepare to leave the land behind us, much like elves readying to depart for Evermeet. And like those elves, our leaving might be for good or it may be merely the start of a long absence from a place we once knew well but no longer recognize.
On this night as I write these words, I cannot recall what spurred me to write what I believed would be but a single entry about the Realms. Regardless of the original purpose, the result was a much longer and detailed retrospective than I had in mind; one that I’m not sorry to have done. It gave me the opportunity to tread lands I’ve not look at for almost two decades. The chance to think about friends long-absent and to smile at the time we had together. I opened the grey-bound books that first introduced me to the Forgotten Realms and could still taste foods I ate while reading them or smell the scents that filled the rooms in which I sat with them open in my lap before me. While this movement in which we wrap ourselves, no matter what term by which we refer to it, is not about nostalgia (much), these posts certainly were and I thank you for allowing me to revel in it.
In a comment to one of the earliest posts in this series, I stated that I didn’t embark upon this retrospective will the intent to apologize for my love of the Realms. I realize now that that was untrue. Perhaps I did feel ashamed on some level for the enjoyment that I received from romping in the Dalelands or wandering down the streets of Waterdeep. I certainly do recall that even back in the late 1980s, I’d sometimes get looks of distain from fellow gamers when I informed them that I was running a Realms campaign. Maybe those responses struck deeper than I was aware and I’ve shouldered some guilt in thinking I was a subpar Dungeon Master or an uncreative individual - or so I believed. Certainly as a student of the Old School, I’ve felt the odd man out on occasions when people recall fondly Greyhawk or the Wilderlands, places I’ve never been a resident of. So yes, I guess there were some apologies to all this after all.
That’s ended, however. I realize that there’s nothing to apologize for. The Realms came to me at a time when I needed them and helped me develop my craft to the point where it stands tonight. While my future endeavors may never reach the heights of Old Mage himself, I believe I’ve demonstrated that the spark of creativity does indeed burn hot in my breast. My road to this place might be different from my contemporaries, but it is no less valid because of the lands through which it travelled.
I look upon the Realms now as I do upon the neighborhood in which I played as a youth. The landscape has been altered by the passage of time and the wooded scrap lots in which I played may no longer stand, but the memories remain. I can look past the housing developments that now occupy the spaces where the copses and bogs once lay and remember the joy that I wrought from those places. And that joy and those memories helped define the man I am today. By the same token, I cannot disparage the youths who now play in the places I once did despite the dissimilarity of the environment. Their own memories, years from now, will be just as precious and important to them and will play their own role in forging their adulthood.
This all begs the question of whether or not I would return to the Realms as more than a casual tourist. Would I again set my own adventures in the Realms or play with those who do? I can only surmise that my time for running adventures in Faerun has long-passed. Not that I’ve outgrown them, but my desires certainly lay in other directions now and are best fulfilled by my current efforts. As to playing in the Realms again, that certainly depends on whose Realms they might be. The canonical Realms as decreed by WotC have no interest to me, so I would decline an invitation to visit that version. But someone’s homebrewed, grey-green boxed set version, one that’s stripped to the bone and filled with the efforts of the players and DM? In a heartbeat, if only to see how they see the Realms through their own eyes.
And an offer to sit, even for an hour, at Ed’s table? “Well met, good sir. Let me grab my dice.”