Roughly a hundred years have passed in the world since the previous edition of the campaign setting. The current year is 1479 DR, the Year of the Ageless One.
The Spellplague has drastically altered the cosmos. The Spellplague broke out in 1385 DR (the Year of the Blue Fire), the result of unfettered wild magic upon the death of the goddess Mystra. Whole countries are gone, especially in regions south of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Even familiar lands have become magical and fantastic in appearance. Islands of rock called earthmotes drift through the sky. Weird towers and spires of stone jut from the landscape. Spectacular chasms and waterfalls abound. All things were sustenance for the Spellplague’s insatiable hunger – it assailed and transformed flesh, stone, magic, space, and dimensional walls. Even the cosmos beyond Toril was affected. Some ancient realms returned that had been thought gone forever (such as the Feywild), and entire planes (such as the Abyss) shifted to a new cosmic structure.
Portions of Abeir have fused with Toril. The Spellplague raged even beyond planar boundaries, and Toril’s long-lost twin world, cut off for tens of millennia, was also caught up in the maelstrom. Large parts of Faerun exchanged places with equivalent land masses on Abeir, bringing their populations with them. Across the Trackless Sea, an entire continent of the lost realm reappeared, now called Returned Abeir.
The number of gods has dropped markedly. During the last century, even deities succumbed to divine and diabolical plots or to the chaos of the Spellplague. Of those now absent, many died, some left, and a few were revealed to be aspects of already extant gods. Others lost so much power that they became exarchs, lesser divinities who serve the other gods.
The Spellplague left its mark on creatures. Some effects of the Spellplague persist to this day, espically in the so-called Plaguelands where wild magic yet rages unrestrained. After exposure to the Plaguelands, some creatures exhibit physical marks called spellscars. These spellscarred individuals develop unique abilities, but not without a price. Victims of the original Spellplague were horribly changes, not simply scarred, their flesh warped in unimaginable ways. The abilities of the spellscarred, though unique, are never as monstrous and powerful as those of the plaguechanged creatures. Luckily, such monsters are few, and of those, only a handful are free-willed, mobile threats.
Huge Underdark collapses have changed the surface of Faerun. As the earth fell away, the level and position of the Sea of Fallen Stars shifted drastically. An enormous opening into the Underdark has formed south of the Chondalwood. In addition to this country-sized hole in the earth, underground shifting has made the Underdark much more accessible to the surface world.
Thay has become a terrible undead threat. The former land of the Red Wizards is now under the control of a single power-mad regent: Szass Tam. He nearly succeeded in performing a ritual that would have made him an immortal being. Szass Tam failed, but in doing so he transformed Thay into a nightmare land of death. Now the regent is intent on expanding Thay’s borders so that he can attempt the ritual again.
The ancient empire of Netheril has been restored. The Twelve Princes of Shade rule from their capital city, Shade Enclave, in a land newly reclaimed from the Anauroch Desert. Netheril is once again a major player and a threat to all the northern realms.
Ancient elven lineages have returned to Faerun. With the reappearance of the Feywild, its natives have begun exploring the world again. These fey folk collectively call themselves Eladrin, and many Faerunian elves have also adopted this name for their lineage, though they have not forgotten their traditional cultural distinctions and names. In casual speech, the word ‘elven’ collectively refers to the two branches of this fey people: Elves and Eladrin.
Most portals no longer work. The breaking of the Weave destroyed most of the portals that crisscrossed Toril, because it destroyed the hard-won knowledge of arcane casters. Although arcanists have relearned their craft since the Spellplague raged, most portals remain nonfunctional or dangerously malfunctioning, broken relics of a legendary past.