Monday, February 21, 2011

Grey Box Celebration Continues!

Now that I've made peace with the fact that I'm not going to be able to update daily, I feel much better.  Continuing with my examination of the original Forgotten Realms Gray Box set, let's turn our attention to the second volume, "Cyclopedia of the Realms."  This one is, more or less, meant for the players, or at least not just for the DM.  The first half of the book provides more scattershot overviews of general topics, and I do mean scattershot: in the course of four pages, we get the calendar, the "Roll of Years" (a naming convention based on prophecy), naming conventions based on race and class (actually, human names based on class, and all others just based on race), languages, and currency.  Also a sidebar on greetings and farewells I particularly like, even if they are almost to a word rather stiff and formal in tone.

This is followed by nine pages on religion, and a listing of the deities and demigods of the Forgotten Realms.  In keeping with the tone that seems inherent to 1st edition AD&D products, the deities largely line up along Human/Non-Human lines.  This always struck me as a bit odd, but 1st ed was quite human-centric.  All of the big names are here: Bane, Helm, Lathander, Mystra, Sune, and the others.  A number are mentioned as being the same gods/goddesses from Earthly mythologies and refer the reader to Legends & Lore for details.  No explanation is given for these imports, other than to fill a niche in the roster.  Each deity is given a couple of paragraphs description, along with a symbol and the inevitable alignment guidelines.

Non-Human deities on the other hand, are simply lifted straight out of Unearthed Arcana and Legends & Lore, and listed with no additional information.  At the time, this didn't bug me, but now it seems lazy.  But, again, I note that most of the NPCs of the Realms listed were human, and that back in 1st ed, humans still dominated the scene, thanks to class and level restrictions.  Still, it grates slightly.

The religion section closes out with a listing of "Forgotten Gods" a brief overview of deific alliances.  Interestingly enough, it's in this section where "foreign" gods are discussed.  The official explanation is portals or gates are responsible.

Finally, we get a listing of classes and professions lined up with the gods a practitioner is likely to worship based on alignment.  Interestingly enough, in the original Realms, pretty much all paladins followed Tyr and all Rangers Mielikki.  Since my favorite Faerunian PC was a Sunite paladin, I'm glad such restrictions were eased in later iterations of the setting.

Next up, I'll tackle the actual Cyclopedia, an alphabetic listing of places and things (mostly places).

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