From Waterdeep to Thay, from the Great Glacier to Calimshan, wizards and rogues dress, think, and behave in ways that tell the learned observer just where they hail from. Sometimes the differences are obvious—anyone can distinguish a seafaring mage from a turban-crowned spellcaster, or a thief of Lantan from a burglar of Amn. But often, appearance gives no clue: even wizards and rogues of the Dalelands vary from Dale to Dale, though one may look the same as another. Faerûnians are fiercely proud of their heritage, and they carry their native traits with them wherever they go.
Within these pages are dozens of kits designed to help players in a Forgotten Realms campaign discover their characters' roots and reflect them in role-playing. Special benefits and disadvantages related to each particular home town or territory allow players to create unique kits that can be applied to mages, specialist wizards, and rogues, and they can even be layered over other kits. As a bonus, two new player character subclasses have been included: the intriguing spellsinger and the stealthy shadow walker.
FOR9: Wizards and Rogues of the Realms, by William W. Connors, is a prestige-format Forgotten Realms sourcebook. It was released in December 1995.
Continuing the FOR Series (sort of...). In 1995, TSR started to vary the format and content of its long-running “FOR” series with the release of FOR8: Pages from the Mages (1995). Wizards and Rogues continued this trend. It moved away from the black-bordered, gloss-on-matte covers traditionally used by the FOR series and instead adopted the gold-foil on brown-leatherette cover treatment used by the PHBR-series Player’s Handbook References (1989-95). Wizards and Rogues matches the trade dress of the PHBR series because it mirrors the content found in those books through the inclusion of about 100 pages of character class kits—which had been the core of PHBR books for the previous 6+ years.
As with all TSR products from 1994 onward, there’s no actual module code printed on Wizards and Rogues; its ordering as “FOR9” was later acknowledged in other marketing material from TSR.
Continuing the PHBRs or the CGRs (kind of). The PHBR books always had one deficit: They provided generic kits that weren’t tied to any setting. In those years of publication, TSR was focusing very heavily on campaign settings, so this resulted in somewhat of a disconnect. TSR set out to address this problem in 1992 with the release of CGR1: The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook (1992), which was essentially a PHBR-style release for the world of Spelljammer. Over the next two years, they also released CGR-series books for Dark Sun and for Al-Qadim, but then the series came to an abrupt end.
Enter Wizards and Rogues. It was the first of three setting-specific kit books for the Forgotten Realms. FOR10: Warriors and Priests of the Realms (1996) was released a few months later and was a clear companion, while FOR12: Demihumans of the Realms (1998) didn’t appear for a few years. Together, these three books are as much a continuation of the CGR series (or the PHBR series) as anything else.
Introducing the Crunch! However, the "correct" module code is a small matter for bibliophiles and scholars. The three Realms kit books were more important for what they did: Wizards and Rogues, Warriors and Priests, and Demihumans all added considerable crunch to the reams of fluff already published for the Realms. Wizards and Rogues did so by linking up new character kits with specific locales of the Realms, while the later books also linked Realms gods and races to crunchy kits. The result was something of a turning point for the Realms. A few other late 2e Realms books were similarly crunchy, while the line would shift even further in that direction in the dense books of the 3e era.
Besides its character kits, Wizards and Rogues also introduced two new subclasses, another nice bit of crunch.
About Spellsingers. The spellsinger was one of those new subclasses, based on very old concepts from Ed Greenwood’s original Realms games. When Greenwood originally created the Realms, he intended it to explain many myths and folklore from the real world. Spellsingers were introduced to explain the origins of witches who danced naked around fires. Thus they were female half-elves and humans who were born with an innate spellcasting talent. (It didn’t work as well if they were clothed, so they danced naked … or at the very least, barefoot.) Spellsingers also had to dance and sing together with their fellows in order to cast the most powerful spells—creating an explanation for "witchy" covens.
There was another reason for the creation of the spellsingers that grew out of the needs of the gameworld itself: they introduced folk magic that could be used to protect villages from wandering menaces, but simultaneously the requirements for people to work together ensured that spellsinging wouldn’t be used proactively by those villages.
Greenwood wrote up a spellsinger class for TSR during the late 80s, but the company opted not to publish it at the time. Greenwood suggests that this was due to TSR’s increasing fear of the moral minority who protested again D&D in the 80s and early 90s. Nonetheless, you can find mentions of spellsingers here and there in early Realms books, particularly those written by Ed Greenwood such as Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990) and FR11: “Dwarves Deep” (1990). The most extensive discussion of spellsingers prior to Wizards and Rogues was in FOR4: The Code of the Harpers (1993):
A rare few Harpers, down the ages, have been ‘spellsingers’—folk with the ability to cast spells entirely through dance or song (without material components). This ability is very rare today; no known Harpers have or will admit to possessing it, so it is not detailed here.
Connors created his spellsinger class partially based on Greenwood’s original writeup, though there are differences, as evidenced by the fact that it doesn’t entirely match the description from Code of the Harpers.
In the broader world of fantasy writing, the idea of singing magicians was popular in the 80s, thanks in large part to a series of books by Alan Dean Foster, the first of which was, you guessed it... Spellsinger (1983).
About Shadow Walkers. The other subclass found in Wizards and Rogues is the shadow walker, a rogue character class with some magical powers. Unlike the spellsingers, they don’t have a long and storied history in the Realms. In fact, not much information is given on them here, either, other than the fact that they are (probably) linked to the Demiplane of Shadows. Some sources have since linked them to the god Mask.
It should perhaps be noted that the magic of the Demiplane of Shadow has been specifically stated to be different from the magic of the Shadow Weave of Faerûn.
Expanding the Realms Wizards and Rogues offers 100 pages of character kits, each of which is specifically linked to some region of the Forgotten Realms. The lands that are referenced herein are drawn from the “Grand Tour of the Realms” found in the revised Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1993). These lands include Anauroch, Cold Lands, Cormyr, Dales, Dragon Coast, Elven Wood, Empires of the Sands, Evermeet, Island Kingdoms, Moonsea, Old Empires, Savage North, Sembia, Unapproachable East, Vast, Vihon Reach, Waterdeep, and Western Heartlands.
Some of these locales are a bit overly broad for kits—such as the "Island Kingdoms," which covers Evermeet and the Moonshae Islands alike. Nonetheless, Wizards and Rogues offers an interesting "crunchy" expansion for the entirety of the central Realms as it existed in the mid-90s.
Future History. Spellsingers reappeared in D&D 3e with a more appropriate name—"spelldancers." They were detailed in Magic of Faerûn (2001).
Shadow Walkers have disappeared since the advent of 3e. However, there have been plenty of other shadow-related classes in recent years. The shadowdancer, a rogue-like prestige class, appeared in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (2000, 2003) for 3e. The powers of shadow got even more attention in Tome of Magic: Pact, Shadow, and Truename Magic (2006) for 3e and Heroes of Shadow (2011) for 4e.
About the Creators. Connors wrote a constant stream of books for TSR throughout the 90s. He’s best known for his work on the Ravenloft lines; his two other books in 1995 were both connected with that setting.
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.