North of Waterdeep, the land is cold, vast, and forbidding. The Trackless Sea stretches northward for what seems like forever, interrupted only by the occasional island and, eventually, the ice. On land, towns and villages flourish right up to the Spine of the World Mountains. It takes a special kind of person to live up here, a determined person used to hardship, a survivor—one with a great love for life and a great respect for the forces, both natural and unnatural, that can end it.
The Savage Frontier is now fully detailed for your roleplaying campaign. The cultures, personalities, economies, cities, towns, and wilderness are described for an AD&D campaign of any size or level. From the barbarian tribes of the far north to the Luskan pirates of the Trackless Sea, the Savage Frontier is an exciting land where adventure can be found anywhere. And, of course, its all part of the best-selling Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, home of many other AD&D modules, sourcebooks, and even novels!
FR5: "The Savage Frontier" (1988), by Paul Jaquays, is the fifth book in the "FR" series of sourcebooks for the Forgotten Realms. It was released in August 1988.
Origins. The most obvious origin for "The Savage Frontier" is that TSR wanted to continue detailing the world of the Forgotten Realms. Though "The North" had theoretically gotten some coverage in FR1: "Waterdeep and the North" (1987), Realms creator Ed Greenwood had warned from the start that Waterdeep was going to fill most of that book. As a result, most of "The North" got cut.
Enter freelance Paul Jaquays—best known for his work at Judges Guild, but also an author for Chaosium and (most recently) TSR. Jaquays was given a sheaf of notes from Ed Greenwood, detailing many parts of the North. However, Jaquays would expand that information for "The Savage Frontier," in part using material from several past books.
The first predecessor of "The Savage Frontier" was "The Enchanted Wood" (1981), a wilderness adventure for SPI's DragonQuest (1980). Not many people saw "The Enchanted Wood" because of SPI's demise shortly thereafter, so Jaquays was happy to revise it for DragonQuest's new owner, TSR. However that project changed to eventually become a new adventure for DragonQuest: DQ1: "The Shattered Statue" (1987). It did still feature one element from "The Enchanted Wood," a wizard named Amelior Amanitas. The second predecessor of "Savage Frontier" was Griffin Mountain (1981), a RuneQuest (1978) adventure co-authored by Jaquays that was set in Glorantha's barbaric wilds of Balazar. When the book was being revised by Chaosium as Griffin Island (1986), Jaquays contributed a new set of distinctive barbarian tribes for the setting, but they were returned unused. The third predecessor was I12: Egg of the Phoenix (1987), a set of adventures by Frank Mentzer that Jaquays had developed in the previous year, and which included characters like "Doc" and the demon Grintharke.
So, take the past Realms writing of Ed Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore and add in a melánge of people, places, and things from these three past adventures... and you have the origins of "The Savage Frontier."
- "The Enchanted Wood" contributed encounters, features, and events for The High Forest, including Jingleshod the Iron Axeman (who was based on the Tin Woodsman of Oz). It also was the source of the wizard Amelior Amanitas, who is the narrator of "The Savage Frontier".
- The material originally intended for Griffin Island became the Uthgardt Barbarians tribes.
- Egg of the Phoenix offered two refugees from other lands: Doc and Grintharke. That adventure's strange gate cube also reappears in the ruins of Gate.
Continuing the "FR" Sourcebooks. Though the format of the "FR" books hadn't settled down yet, "The Savage Frontier" was what would be a typical "FR" sourcebook, giving details on a broad geographical area. As such, it matched FR2: "Moonshae" (1987).
Expanding the Realms. When Jaquays was handed the North, it contained the Icewind Dale lands, as detailed in R.A. Salvatore's novel The Crystal Shard (1988); some unrelated barbarians; and a largely featureless forest called the High Forest. Greenwood's notes for the area focused the most on the economies of the towns and villages in the area.
Jaquays filled in the details of the North from there, expanding what would become one of the best-known adventuring areas in the Forgotten Realms: the Sword Coast. Among the notable places touched upon in "The Savage Frontier" are the Dungeon of Death, Hellgate Keep, Longsaddle, Luskan, Mirabar, Mithril Hall, Neverwinter, Silverymoon, the Spine of the World, and Waterdeep.
This cooperative construction of the North shows how much the Forgotten Realms is the work of divers hands, even from its earliest days. Of course those many hands also offered differing views of the setting. Jaquays says that you can often see who invented what part by looking at the character of the people and things therein: Greenwood tended to create larger-than-life characters and settings, while Jaquays' characters were more eccentric and quirky.
NPCs of Note. "The Savage Frontier" contains the first ever stats for Drizzt Do'Urden (and his friends) from The Crystal Shard. It also touches upon the Nine, which was one of Greenwood's player groups in the Realms. Jaquays enjoyed turning them into warring enemies and madmen in "The Savage Frontier."
Future History. The Savage Frontier continues to be a popular corner of the Realms. Two later sourcebooks returned to the area: Volo's Guide to the North (1993) and The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (1996). In addition, three adventures are set in the area: "Hellgate Keep" (1998), "The Accursed Tower" (1999), and "The Dungeon of Death" (2000).
About the Creators. Paul (now Jennell Allyn) Jaquays was freelancing increasingly for TSR from 1986 onward. During 1988, she also contributed to WG7: Castle Greyhawk (1988) and TS3: Orion Rising (1988). Meanwhile, she was simultaneously beginning her well-known Central Casting series (1988-93) for Task Force Games.
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.