“Lost Empires of Faerûn” is a campaign supplement for the Forgotten Realms Dungeons and Dragons setting. The idea behind the book is that the various dungeons, ruins and lost cities that the players explore weren’t built just so that the players would have someplace to loot thousands of years later, and especially so in the rich history of the Forgotten Realms. Obviously, if you don’t play in the Forgotten Realms, the book will be of limited value, but it does have ideas and elements that can be adapted to any campaign.
The first chapter, dubbed “Ancient Secrets” features feats, prestige classes and spells of “olden times”. The feats focus primarily on magical “techniques” culled from ages past, such as Cormanthyran Moon Magic, an elven method that makes magic stronger under moonlight. There are, however, others such as Multilingual, and Trapmaster, feats that would be fitting for the Indiana Jones-esque adventuring scholar. The prestige classes maintain the theme with classes that take advantage of ancient secrets and old gods to empower themselves, protect ancient secrets from the populace, and protect the populace from ancient secrets. The spells are just spells, and while perfectly useful, I don’t really see how they are specifically “ancient” spells other than because the book says so, but if your players discover them I suppose they would feel pretty special, since nobody else is likely to have ever heard of them. Some of the spells do include a little bit of history in their descriptions though, so that’s good.
The next chapter, Dreams of the Past, explains the basic use of the book and how “dungeons” fit into the history, society and ecology of the forgotten realms. It has a nice list of twenty ancient adventure ideas and a set of “random ruins” tables to help flesh out the details of a dungeon that the players might encounter, offering options for current residents, ruined city features, castle and keep features, tombs, temples, towers and extra-dimensional spaces. Since many ruins are the remnants of ancient temples or other holy places, it is important to know what gods may have been worshipped at the time. This chapter includes a list of ancient deities and their descriptions, alignments, domains and portfolios. Faerûn is also known for the powerful magics of the past. While these powerful spells were banned by Mystra, there exist epic spells that mimic their power, and these are described, as well as information on the powerful magical fields known as “Mythals”. This chapter also has a sidebar regarding and a map depicting the “Year of Oaths Forsaken”, which allows the DM to get a feel of what the political boundaries of the time were, though it seems like these items were just sort of tucked in where they would fit.
Then next several chapters offer more detailed histories of significant time periods and empires of the past such as “The Crown Wars”, “God-Kings of the East”, “The Imperial South” and more. These chapters start with an extensive timeline, followed by places would have historical records of the time, songs and stories of the time, important sites and adventure seeds. This is, in my opinion, the meat of the book, as the details and histories make these fictional places and times real and consistent, which makes the setting the players enjoy in the present that much more so as well.
The next two chapters, “Artifacts of the Past” and “Monsters of the Ancient Lands” are just what they sound like, and provide more crunchy-bits for the DM to throw at and subsequently reward the players with. The artifacts are, of course, tied to the past by their users or creators, while the monsters, though not necessarily “ancient” themselves, are of the sort that one normally finds milling about ancient ruins, and are thus fairly pertinent.
The art in the book is pretty standard for official Dungeons and Dragons material (my favorite here is the image of Netheris Ket, Glorious Servitor (a prestige class) of Sebek) and full color, and the pages themselves have an image around their edges which makes the tome look “weathered”.
I personally don’t play in the Forgotten Realms, so I don’t have the in-depth feel for this book the way I could, but I like the idea in principle and the authors have done an excellent job in practice. If your dungeons are becoming a bit too generic or feel “planted” in the setting without any real ties, this book should engross your players’ characters in the intricate tapestry that is the history of the Forgotten Realms and bring new life to your next dungeon crawl.