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I am researching the Forgotten Realms universe to improve my GM skill in the 5th edition and came across a fact that upset me: there is not a single source in 5e that would fully describe the state of the world of the forgotten kingdoms at the moment.

For this reason, I was forced to turn to older sources, and discovered the book Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms.

This book was released in 2015, when 5e already existed. But still it belongs to 4e.

As we know, a lot of things from 4e have been changed or removed.

And here is the question itself:

Is Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms a reliable source from which to take information for games in the 5th edition? Maybe this is a very good book, but there are things in it that should be ignored? Then what are these things?

P.S. I know that there is a Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, but its volume and quality do not suit me at all, and I am looking for a more comprehensive source. Maybe you can think of other books that are more suitable for the 5th edition.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I smell an X-Y problem. Why does a source need to be “reliable” to “improve your GM skill”? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Feb 15, 2023 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM This is important first of all for me, and then for the players \$\endgroup\$
    – Kasoda
    Feb 16, 2023 at 3:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kasoda sure. But why? How does it improve your GM skill whether it’s widely accepted or not? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Feb 16, 2023 at 6:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM I want to better understand the world in which my players live. When a player asks something, I can easily come up with an answer, but I want to answer with a fact that really exists in the world of Forgotten Realms, at least because I like this universe and at most because I want it that way \$\endgroup\$
    – Kasoda
    Feb 16, 2023 at 8:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think most people would consider "GM skill" to be things that are transferable to other settings or even other TTRPGs, like ability to improvise, ability to keep your players engaged, to build encounters, to make rulings on tricky rules cases, etc. Having more lore knowledge about your campaign setting is a good thing, but I don't think most people would consider that a "GM skill". Ability to reveal lore to players in ways that are interesting is a GM skill (IMO), but knowing / having it in the first place is not so much. So that's why there was a debate over semantics of what you meant. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16, 2023 at 20:55

2 Answers 2

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It's a reliable source, though missing some later details.

Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms was originally released in 2012, pre-5e (2015 was the release date of the PDF), intended as an edition-neutral sourcebook which would still be valid when 5e was released.

Elminster's primarily describes the history of the Realms pre-4e, covering the 1300s and 1400s up to around the year 1480 DR. For comparison, the D&D 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting was set in 1372 DR, and the D&D 4e Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide was set in 1479 DR. Elminster's therefore mostly fills in the gap between 3e and 4e.

What Elminster's is primarily missing is the post-4e Second Sundering, 1482 to 1487 DR, which explained the transition from 4e to 5e. However, a lot of the 4e to 5e changes were just restoring the world to the way it had been in the 3e era; e.g. bringing back gods who had been killed off. Most of Elminster's is therefore still relevant to the 5e era.

For comparison, the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is set no earlier than 1489 DR, two years post-Sundering and about than a decade since Elminster's. However, it contains additional information which isn't in Elminster's, especially game rule information that may be useful to players, so it's valuable in its own right.

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This is a reliable source for Forgotten Realms Lore, but it predates current events

As stated in the linked product description of Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms: "It's largely focused on life in the 1350s, before any of the changes brought on by the D&D game." From my reading of this book, it less focuses on specific places and events and is more of a culture or style guide that explain the vibe of Forgotten Realms media. For context, Ed Greenwood is the original creator of the Forgotten Realms setting.

Various 5e Forgotten Realms adventures place the current timeline in roughly the 1490's. Princes of the Apocalypse explicitly sets itself in 1491. That being said, the exact dates of most adventures are (intentionally) nebulous, using language like "This adventure takes place in the winter of 1489 Dr or later" in Rime of the Frostmaiden to give DMs the flexibility in their own campaign timelines.

As far as "comprehensive" books, I believe The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is the most complete for this edition. There aren't very many novels that take place during this time period so I think it is the best snapshot of the state of the Realms currently published. Some adventures offer lore tidbits written from in-universe character perspectives. Chapter 9 of Dragon Heist is written as "Volo's Waterdeep Enchiridion" and details a lot of the culture of Waterdeep.

From my understanding of your question and comments, I think this is the best I can do for 5e-specific material. I will note, that while a lot of the effects of what was going on in 3rd and 4th edition were undone through the Second Sundering, they weren't erased and are still part of the lore of The Forgotten Realms.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the events of LMoP are 30 years after Mount Hotenow that would place it in 1481, not 1491? Is it maybe "40 years ago"? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16, 2023 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looking into it, LMoP does say "30 years ago" in the entry about Thundertree but other adventures also conflict with this. Dragons of Icespire Peak has it "50 years ago" despite starring NPCs that have the same stated age as in LMoP. Acquisitions Inc. references LMoP and PotA as happening 5 years prior to it's 1496 date. I've removed the LMoP example for clarity since other adventures appear to have tighter timeline placement. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16, 2023 at 19:27

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