The Forgotten Realms had been hinted at for years in Dragon magazine articles by Ed Greenwood, but it was in 1987 that TSR officially adopted his long-running home campaign. All these years later, the Realms has been developed in exhaustive detail, but in ’87 all we really had was the Gray Box Forgotten Realms Campaign Set.
Greyhawk was adrift at this time, and Dragonlance had mostly run its course, so TSR chose the Realms as its default setting. The Gray Box reminds me a lot of the Greyhawk set: A pair of books with just enough information to get your imagination running, and a set of beautiful poster maps.
The Campaign Set saw a respectable 6-year print run. Even after the arrival of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd edition, the Gray Box soldiered on. Today we’ll take a look inside the set, and recognize the different printings and graphical changes.
Forgotten Realms Campaign Set [BOX SET]
1987 … Ed Greenwood & Jeff Grubb & Karen S. Martin … TSR 1031 … ISBN 0880384727
Contains: Cyclopedia of the Realms and DM’s Sourcebook of the Realms, both 96 pages. 4 regional maps.
The DTRPG PDF is only $10 and whether or not you buy it, that page has a detailed history of the Gray Box by Shannon Appelcline. Very interesting.
“… Greenwood was becoming won over by the more extensive descriptions of the Monster Manual (1977) and the clearer limitations and descriptions for classes and spells found in the Players Handbook (1978).
Enter: September. She was a fan of AD&D who easily convinced Greenwood and his nerd friends to play with her. She was also the “greatest Dungeon Master” Greenwood had “ever known, before or since”. She made them love D&D, and though she tragically died from cancer within a year, it was her influence that led Greenwood to turn his Realms into an AD&D world, so that he could run games of his own.”
Before the Gray Box
Greenwood had been writing articles in Dragon Magazine for years. The first time I took notice of the Realms was in “Six very special shields” (Dragon 89, Sept 1984).
The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set spanned the changeover of TSR logos, from the angular block logo to the gold badge.
TSR gets a “D” grade average from me w/r/t noting printings, but we’re fortunate here that the boxes themselves were often stamped with dates.
Earliest box date code I’ve seen is 7/87.
Box date codes 2/89, 10/89, 1/90 & 3/91 were transitional sets, old TSR logo, but with new maps. The maps’ colors were altered; from the original turquoise ocean color to a more deep blue, and land shifting to a more orange-ish tone.
Later print runs, box date codes 11/91, 8/92, can be distinguished by the switch to the TSR “gold badge” style logo and a modernized barcode on the back. They continued to have the updated maps.
Inside the Box
Cyclopedia of the Realms
TSR went with a parchment tone paper in the books, and would continue that format in the FR Series of modules. It’s a bit tough on my old eyes, but it’s still readable.
DM’s Sourcebook of the Realms
The first two maps are scaled 1 inch = 30 miles.
1031XXX0701 Sword Coast: Daggerford, south to Beregost, east to Anauroch.
1031XXX0702 Thar in the north, south to the Sea of Fallen Stars, Anauroch in the west, east to Impiltur.
The second pair are scaled 1 inch = 90 miles. They encompass the entire traditional Forgotten Realms at large scale.
Instead of printing a hex grid on the maps, TSR went with a clear mylar overlay (1031XXX0705)