Here’s a map showing an large-scale overview of the area where the adventure will take place. There’s a version you can download and zoom in on available in the Media Library on the left side of the page.
I’m going to steal from WotC to give you a brief into to The Forgotten Realms/Faerun/The Sword Coast:
“In the world of Toril, between the windswept Sea of Swords to the west and the mysterious lands of Kara-Tur to the east, lies the continent of Faerun. A place of varied cultures and races, Faerun is dominated by human lands, be they kingdoms, city-states, or carefully maintained alliances of rural communities. Interspersed among the lands of humans are old dwarven kingdoms and hidden elven enclaves, assimilated populations of gnomes and halflings, and more exotic folk.
A great deal of adventure is to be had in the Realms, for those willing to seek it out. The routes between cities and nations often cross into the territory of brigands or marauding humanoids. Every forest, swamp, and mountain range has its own perils, whether lurking bandits, savage orcs and goblinoids, or mighty creatures such as giants and dragons. Ruins dot the landscape and the caverns that wind beneath the surface. In these places, treasures of every living race – and a number of dead ones – wait for adventurers intrepid enough to come and claim them.
Faerun is filled with rich history and wondrous tales of adventure and magic, but the lifeblood of its common people is agriculture and trade. Most rural folk depend on farming to eat, and Faerunians who live in cities ply skilled trades or use brawn to earn their keep, so they can purchase the goods and food provided by others. News and gossip are carried between populations centers by caravans and ships that bring in supplies for trade and by traveling bards and minstrels who recount (or invent) stories to inform and entertain people in taverns, inns, and castles. Adventurers also spread news – while also creating it!
The common folk of Faerun look on adventurers with a mixture of admiration, envy, and mistrust. Folk believe that any stalwarts willing to risk their lives on behalf of complete strangers should be lauded and rewarded. But such adventurers, if they become successful, amass wealth and personal status at a rate that some people find alarming. Even people who admire these adventurers for their energy and their acts of valor might have misgivings: what horrors will be unleashed if adventurers, heedless of unknowing of the danger, unlock a ruin or tomb and release an ancient evil into the world?
Most of the people who populate the continent have little or no knowledge of lands outside Faerun. The most educated among the populace agree that Faerun is but one continent and that Toril is the whole of the world, but for the majority of the people, who don’t experience intercontinental travel or extraplanar exploration, “Faerun” is more than large enough of a concept for them to comprehend.
Except in the most remote or insular places, Faerunians are accustomed to seeing people of difference cultures, ethnicities, and races. Only in the most cosmopolitan areas does such casual acceptance extend to evil humanoid races – such as goblinoids, orcs, and drow – to say nothing of even more dangerous creatures. Adventurers tend to be more tolerant, accepting exiles, misfits, and redeemed folk from strange lands and with unusual shapes."
Now an overview of some of the main factions at work in the region:
The Harpers are spellcasters and spies who covertly oppose the abuse of power, magical or otherwise. Working alone or in small cells, they gather information throughout Faerun, discern the political dynamics within each region, and help the weak, the poor, and the oppressed, acting openly only as a last resort.
The Lords’ Alliance:
Various settlements of the North have banded together to form the Lords’ Alliance, a shaky coalition that proactively eliminates threats to their mutual safety and prosperity. Alliance leaders are often contentious, while their operatives seek honor and glory for themselves and their respective lords. Key representatives of the Lords’ Alliance include the canny Lord Dagult Neverember of Neverwinter, the resplendent Lady Laeral Silverhand of Waterdeep, the grave Lord Taern Hornblade of Silverymoon, and the willful Queen Dagnabbet of Mithral Hall.
The Emerald Enclave:
The Emerald Enclave is a group of wilderness survivalists who preserve the natural order by rooting out unnatural threats. They struggle to keep civilization and the wilderness from destroying each other, and they help others survive the natural perils of the Savage Frontier.
The Order of the Gauntlet:
Members of the Order of the Gauntlet seek to protect others from the depredations of evildoers. Placing their faith in deities such as Torm, Helm, and Tyr, they bring the strength of their faith, their hearts, and their weapons to bear against villainy. Knights of the order and their loyal squires can be found throughout the North, gathering information on the giants, searching for their lairs, and aiding in the defense of settlements.
The Zhentarim, also known as the Black Network, is an unscrupulous shadow network that seeks to expand its influence and power base throughout the North. Its members crave wealth and personal power, though the public face of the organization appears much more benign, offering the best mercenaries money can buy.
The Kraken Society:
A mysterious group of spies, smugglers, slavers, and assassins.
One thing to think about, and that we can talk about tomorrow, is how all of your characters could have come to the point where the adventure will begin. We’ll pick up with everybody already grouped up, heading along the “High Road” (a major roadway following near the coast around Waterdeep) towards a town called Nightstone. Most likely you all ended up bumping into each other at an inn in Waterdeep, and since you were all headed to the same place decided to head towards Nightstone together for “safety in numbers” and efficiency purposes. Depending on your characters background and motivations, you could have any number of reasons to be heading to the region, and Nightstone in particular. A few potential idea starters:
– You may have heard rumors of goblins terrorizing the settlement. The High Steward of Nightstone is a Waterdhavian noble, and she is reportedly offering rewards to anyone willing to help.
– The area is a popular retreat for wealthy nobility who enjoy hunting in the surrounding forests, and they’ll often pay good money for adventurers who are willing to serve as guards on these hunts.
– The residents of the town have a longstanding conflict with their elven neighbors in the forest, and Lady Nandar (the High Steward of Nightstone) has been searching for mediators who could help resolve the disputes.
– The inn in Nightstone is renowned for excellent food and nice accommodations, and the dwarf who runs the inn has a knack for hearing of lucrative adventuring opportunities.
– Or anything else that could have drawn you to the region, feel free to get creative!
Looking forward to getting started tomorrow!