Join adventurers renowned as they trek across Toril in this detailed, beautifully illustrated atlas. Ride with the Ffolk in the magical Moonshae Isles. Brave the brutal elements of Icewind Dale. Follow the gods as they wreak destruction from the Dales to Waterdeep. Watch as empires of East and West collide.
The Forgotten Realms Atlas, by Karen Wynn Fonstad, provides a unique geographic look at the early Realms. It was published in August 1990.
Continuing the Atlas Series. Fonstad authored a total of five Atlas projects in the 80s: The Atlas of Middle-earth (1981), The Atlas of Pern (1984), The Atlas of The Land (1985), The Atlas of the Dragonlance World (1987), and The Forgotten Realms Atlas (1990). The maps were all hand-drawn and tended to be printed in two or three colors.
All five of these atlases followed the same style: though they included some large-scale maps, their intent was not to create an all-inclusive picture of the world. Instead, they mapped each world largely through its stories, focusing on the precise locations detailed in the novels for each setting, be they individual towns, villages, houses, caves, or even treks across the wilderness.
The original Atlas of Middle-earth thus focused on The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), The Hobbit (1937), and The Silmarillion (1977). Similarly, The Atlas of Pern concentrated on the first seven Pern novels.
Continuing the Maps of the Realms. Maps had been an important part of D&D ever since Darlene Pekul drew the beautiful map of Oerth that appeared in The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (1980). If anything, the Realms concentrated even more on maps. A large-scale continental map (1" = 90 miles) was included in Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987); smaller maps (1" = 30 miles) that could be tiled together were included in most of the "FR" series of setting books.
At the time of The Forgotten Realms Atlas, TSR was also releasing a "TM" (Trail Maps) series that included two maps for the Realms, TM4: "The City of Waterdeep Trail Map" (1989) and TM5: "Kara-Tur Trail Map" (1990). (Though these Trail Maps claimed a 1" = 90 mile scale, Dragon magazine acknowledged that they were actually about 1" = 142 miles).
A Story of 13 Novels (and Some Roleplaying Games). The many maps that had already detailed the Realms formed the foundation of Fonstad's Forgotten Realms Atlas. Ed Greenwood's original map of the Realms—which had been sent to Jeff Grubb as twenty-four 8.5x11" sheets of paper—is updated in Fonstad's hand to lead off the book. The eastern part of that large-scale map comes courtesy of David "Zeb" Cook and his eastern supplement, Kara-tur: The Eastern Realms (1988).
However, those large-scale maps are just the first part of the Atlas. Much of the book is instead dedicated to detailing the places revealed in the novels of the setting, as was the case with Fonstad’s earlier Atlases. In all, the first thirteen novels of the Realms are given attention: Darkwalker on Moonshae (1987) by Douglas Niles, The Crystal Shard (1988) by R.A. Salvatore, Black Wizards (1988) by Douglas Niles, Spellfire (1988) by Ed Greenwood, Azure Bonds (1988) by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb, Streams of Silver (1989) by R.A. Salvatore, Darkwell (1989) by Douglas Niles, Shadowdale (1989) by Scott Ciencin, Tantas (1989) by Scott Ciencin, Waterdeep (1989) by Troy Denning, Pool of Radiance (1989) by James Ward and Jane Hong, The Halfling's Gem (1990) by R.A. Salvatore, and The Wyvern's Spur (1990) by Kate Novak and Jeff Grub. A cut-off date of February 1990 sadly kept Fonstad from detailing the following areas: Maztica, which appeared in Ironhelm (1990) by Douglas Niles; the Hordelands, which appeared in Horselords (1990) by Zeb Cook; and Menzoberranzan, which appeared in Homeland (1990) by R.A. Salvatore.
The Atlas is particularly intriguing because it shows how much the Forgotten Realms was a cooperatively created setting even just three years after Greenwood brought it to TSR. Though Ed Greenwood (and Jeff Grubb) had detailed the overall shape of the Realms and the Heartlands in particular, we've already seen that Zeb Cook created Kara-Tur. Meanwhile, Douglas Niles reshaped the Moonshae Isles in his Moonshae trilogy, and R.A. Salvatore added tons of details to the northern Savage Frontier in his Icewind Dale Trilogy. Many more creators would follow.
Future History. Almost 25 years later, The Forgotten Realms Atlas remains one of the best geographic looks at the Forgotten Realms. However, some of its large-scale maps are no longer accurate due to the "shrinking" of the Realms that occurred with the release of Dungeons & Dragons 3e (2000).
About the Creators. Fonstad earned a M.A. in Geography, specialized in cartography, from the University of Oklahoma, and her husband was a professor of geography. Thus, she was uniquely qualified and situated to created atlases of this sort. Unfortunately, The Forgotten Realms Atlas was her last fully original work. She updated her Atlas of Middle-Earth (1991) a year later, to account for the first eight books in Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle-earth (1983-96), but that was the end of her atlas creativity. Karen Fonstad passed away in March 2005.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.