Faerûn is a name of the continent, which is the primary setting of the Forgotten Realms world. It is the western part of an unnamed supercontinent quite similar to real-world Eurafrasia. It is set on the planet Toril (more formally, "Abeir-Toril"). Other parts of this supercontinenent include Kara-Tur (original setting of the D&D Oriental Adventures campaign setting), and Zakhara, home to the Arabian Nights setting Al-Qadim. Maztica, home of a tribal, Aztec-like civilization is far to the west, across the Trackless Sea. The subterranean regions underneath Faerûn are the Underdark.
Economically and technologically, Faerûn is comparable to Western Europe during the late Middle Ages. Gunpowder (here called smoke powder and different in its composition from historical gunpowder) is starting to make an appearance, but much of the armament is still dominated by swords, spears, bows, and the like. Most of the population consists of farmers, organized somewhat loosely in a semi-feudal system. There are also a number of notable cities, and trade between nations is common, comparable to the Renaissance era. Likewise, there are regions where more barbaric tribes and customs persist.
The great equalizer in this setting is the presence of magic. This is subdivided into divine and arcane, with the former empowered by a god in one of the Pantheons, and the latter by peculiar rituals or innate abilities which manipulate the Weave, the source of magical energies. There are many shades of grey in this mixture, with the societies containing both good-natured magic practitioners and those with a decidedly evil bent. Psionics are transparent to magic (which means that everything that affects magic will affect psionics and vice-versa). Arcane magic is called The Art and Psionics are called The Invisible Art. The only advantage of smoke powder seems to be that it can be used by non magic-users, which represent the vast majority of the population.
Faerûn is also home to a number of non-human creatures of varying degrees of civilization or barbarism. Among these are several different races of dwarves, gnomes, halflings and elves, as well as goblins, orcs, lizardmen, ogres, various giants, and even dragons.
- See also Geographical index of Toril
The continent includes terrain that is as varied as Europe, western Asia, and much of Africa is on Earth; it also is significantly bigger than the United States (as shown in a first-edition comparison map). Besides the exterior coastline to the west and south, the most dominant feature on the continent is the Sea of Fallen Stars. This is an irregular inland sea that keeps the interior lands fertile and serves as a major trade route for many of the bordering nations.
Next in significance is the Shaar, a broad region of grasslands in the south that, together with the Lake of Steam, separates the area around the inland sea from the coastal nations at the southern edge of the continent. To the east, Faerûn is bordered by a vast regions of steppe from Kara-Tur, and in the north are massive glaciers (Pelvuria and Reghed) and tundra. South of the continent, separated by the Great Sea, is the sub-tropical land of Zakhara.
The continent includes the following geographic and political regions:
- Northwest — A region of wilderness, difficult winter weather, orc hordes, and barbarian tribes, this region is generally referred to as "The North". It is a mostly-untamed region that lies between the large Anauroch desert in the east and the expansive Sea of Swords to the west. This area contains the High Forest, Icewind Dale, Savage Frontier, Silver Marches (Luruar), Sword Coast, Neverwinter, Mithral Hall, and the port city of Waterdeep. This area is one of the most popular regions for role-playing campaigns set in Faerûn, and has been the setting for a number of popular computer role-playing games.
- North — This region stretches from the wide Anauroch desert in the west to the eastern edge of the inland Moonsea, in the northern region of the continent. It is a region of contrasts, with the forested Dalelands, the wastes of Anauroch, the coastline of the Moonsea, The Vast, and the bitterly cold steppes of The Ride.
- Northeast — This remote area begins in the cold, forbidding lands along the great ice sheets and continues south toward the northeastern shores of the Sea of Fallen Stars. It is bordered on the west by the mountain-hemmed land of Vaasa and stretches east to the vast steppes of the Hordelands. This region also contains Damara, the Great Dale, Impiltur, Narfell, Rashemen, and Thesk.
- West — This region includes the nations south of Waterdeep and north of the Shining Sea, that border along the Sea of Swords. The west includes Baldur's Gate, Amn, Tethyr and Calimshan (the "Lands of Intrigue"), Evereska, Lantan, the Moonshae Isles, Nimbral, and the Western Heartlands. It also includes the multitude of islands that lie to the west in the vast ocean called the Trackless Sea, collectively named the Nelanther Isles.
- Interior — With the exception of the Shining Plains, these lands lie along the irregular coastline of the western Sea of Fallen Stars. In the north the Dragonmere arm of the sea extends far to the west, ending close to the Western Heartlands. To the south, the Vilhon Reach forms a second arm leading to the southwest. The notable areas within this region include Chondath, Cormyr, the Dragon Coast, Hlondeth, the Pirate Isles, Sembia, Sespech, Turmish, and the Shining Plains.
- East — Most of the nations in this region border the eastern expanses of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Here the sea forms a long arm that travels to the east before turning south to become the Alamber Sea. The northern nations of this mysterious area are termed the "Unapproachable East" and the southern nations the "Old Empires" in campaign setting publications. This region includes Aglarond, Altumbel, Chessenta, Chondalwood, Mulhorand, Murghôm, Thay, and Unther. Many of these nations allow slavery, and depend on slaves for much of their economy.
- Southwest — This region lies along the great Chultan peninsula that juts out toward the west. The waters to the north are named the Shining Sea, a body bounded by Calisham to the north and joined to the Lake of Steam through the Straits of Storm. To the south of the land is the Great Sea. Located in this area are Chult, Lapaliiya, Samarach, Tashalar, and Thindol.
- South — This land lies to the south of the regions around the Sea of Fallen Stars, being somewhat isolated by the Lake of Steam in the west, and the vast length of the Shaar. It is bordered along the south by the Great Sea; to the west by the Chultan peninsula region, and in the east by Luiren. The south includes the Border Kingdoms, Dambrath, the Great Rift, Halruaa, the Lake of Steam, and The Shaar.
- Southeast — These lands lie to the south and east of the grassy plains known as the Shaar, along the shores of the Great Sea opposite the land of Zakhara. The region includes the lands of Durpar, Estagund and Var the Golden (collectively called the Shining Lands), Luiren, the land of Halflings, Ulgarth, the Eastermost extent of Faerûn, and Veldorn, the land of monsters.
- Underdark — The immense complex of caverns and passages that lie beneath many parts of the continent of Faerûn — it contains cities of drow including the infamous Menzoberranzan and the ruins of Ched Nasad, as well as Maerdrimydra, Llurth Dreir and Sshamath; cities of duergar such as Gracklstugh and Dunnspeirrin; and almost unpronounceable cities of kuo-toa, illithids, and beholders.
The following individuals figure prominently in the lore of Faerûn, particularly in Forgotten Realms novels and RPG.
- Artemis Entreri
- Arilyn Moonblade
- Bruenor Battlehammer
- Danilo Thann
- Drizzt Do'Urden
- Gareth Dragonsbane
- Guenhwyvar (big cat)
- Jarlaxle Baenre
- Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun
- Regis the halfling
- Taegan Nightwind