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I will soon be starting a new 5e campaign. I am in need of a small to mid-size town to use as the hub for the entire campaign. My current plans are to use the Forgotten Realms setting. I would love to have a town where the general population and map are pretty well mapped out in a sourcebook. I can then run side quests throughout the surrounding region. The nature of the campaign is such that the characters will be unable to ever travel more than a day's journey away from the town, so it needs to be appropriate for low to high level play.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a good campaign-hub town and the FR sourcebook that would contain the necessary information on that town?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Reopened. This isn't more general than any well scoped game-rec, for example. There's not only one objectively correct answer, but FR towns, well detailed, usable for an entire campaign hub from low to high level, is a very clearly supportable premise for an answer. Open a meta Q if more explanation's needed. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 7 '15 at 23:02
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There are no published 5e Forgotten Realms supplements as of yet, and they have changed the Realms a good bit with each new edition. If you don't care about "keeping up with the new timeline," the most supported classic starting location is far and away:

Shadowdale

Sourcebook and Adventure Coverage

This town in the Dalelands is given some detail in the AD&D 1e "grey box" Forgotten Realms boxed set; in the revised boxed set this is expanded to a 96-page book specifically about that town with an intro adventure, it is the default FR starting town for that edition. Greenwood's own home campaign clearly spent a lot of time in the Heartlands (Dalelands, Cormyr).

Shadowdale just got normal coverage in the 2e Forgotten Realms Adventures hardback but still a lot of adventures from this period (FRQ series, the Sword of the Dales trilogy, Four from Cormyr, the Godawful FRE series, etc.) were set in and around Dalelands and Cormyr, and eventually Volo's Guide to the Dalelands gave all the background again for 2e. Daggerdale gets a lot of treatment too. But from a general point of view of 1e and 2e Realms content, this is the area that is by far the most detailed and most supported with adventures and other products.

3e FR content doesn't really hit on any area specifically more than another; Shadowdale does get blown up for a bit in a sourcebook/adventure (Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land).

In 4e, they focused instead on the "Neverwinter Campaign Setting" and Neverwinter as a starting city with setting and adventure support - Neverwinter and Baldur's Gate got a lot of attention over time because of the computer RPGs set there of course. This involved a bunch of changes ("The Sundering"), but they reset the Realms in 5e using standard comic-book parallel worlds stuff to the 3rd edition geography, so ironically you may find these newer products less useful. Though Cormyr and the North were actually some of the least-touched parts of the 4e changes, so you may be able to port stuff.

Campaign Hub Appropriateness

Shadowdale is suitable for starter parties (and was specifically tooled for it in its sourcebooks) but because Elminster and other high level folks live there, it is also suitable for high level play. In most campaigns you'd end up going to a big city to get bigger magic, meet more important people, etc., but in your campaign they'll never leave. Shadowdale is optimal from that point of view - the adventure support in the Dalelands goes from low to high level, and the high level mover-and-shaker NPCs allow even high level parties to have meaningful interactions there.

Downsides

The only downside is really that Shadowdale is VERY well detailed... In the 2e boxed set every farm in the area is detailed - and having high level NPCs like Elminster around may crimp your style if your campaign doesn't account for them running to him trying to get help every time they get out of their depth.

Summary

So if you are looking for a well mapped and supported starting town, there is no better answer than Shadowdale in the history of FR products... There's a lot of other choices, but this one is easily covered with 5x the detail of the next comer, especially if you're excluding big cities like Waterdeep that have sourcebooks in a couple editions.

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As far as 5E published material goes, there are really only three - Lost Mine of Phandelver (in the STarter Set), Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat, and Princes of lemental Evil.

Lost Mine of Phandelver has a well-described village, Phandelin, that will make a good base of operations. Phandelin is a frontier town at the beginning of a gold rush, which means there is enormous scope for campaign development. If Wave Echo Cave, and others, start producing lots of metal then the area will grow fast. Like all frontiers, it will atract all sorts of shady characters (otherwise known as "PCs" and "those PCs do business with" :-)

Same goes for Princes of Elemental Evil and the town of Red Larch. I am less read on that adventure, so I can't comment as much. I haven't read Hoard of the Dragon Queen or Rise of Tiamat, so I don't know how well those cover your requirements.

As mxyzplk states above, Lesser Mine of Phandelver module doesn't have enough information for an entire campaign, it only takes the PCs to level 4 or 5.

The two adventure paths take characters from low level up to maybe level 15, so are a source for an entire campaign. PoEE has some hooks and ideas for side adventures, but you would still have to do some work to provide an entire campaign.

The books have regional maps which show what is around the towns for several days travel, which fits in with your "unable to ever travel more than a day's journey" requirement.

Both adventures are set on the Sword Coast, an area that has been written about extremely extensively over the last couple of decades. High-level protagonists have been wandering all over the Silver Marches, so there is scope for all levels of play, from village hero adventures all the way to world-shaking epics. In addition, the Drow city of Menzoberranzan is under this region, opening up another world of places to adventure within a few days of your starting village.

Maps for the adventures can be purchased from the artists: Sean Macdonald and Mike Schley produced maps for PoEE, Mike Schley produced maps for LMoP.

Jared Blando sells a larger scale map of the Sword Coast which shows the area covered in LMoP, PoEE, and other published aventures (including the Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights series of computer games). I have purchased this. I plan to print it on board and hang it on the wall during game sessions.

For reference, I am starting a campaign this week. I am using the Lost Mine of Phandelver, but I have set it on the border between Aglarond and Thay, in a part of the Forgotten Realms called The Unapproachable East. This sets me up to send the characters through the Desert of Desolation modules, which are set in the desert of Raurin, to the east of Aglarond. The main reference book I am using is the D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. There is a lot of work in converting what is in that book to 5E, especially toning down the monsters and NPCs to fit bounded accuracy.

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