More than halfway done with Sphere of Influence now.
“Kelemvor should send more missionaries. Everyone here has resigned their entire race to the inevitability of oblivion. They are convinced that accepting their fate absolves them of responsibility for it.”
One of the weaker spheres of influence in the Sword Coast region, the Misty Forest is the heart of the region’s elven community, which is a mish-mash of the Misty Forest’s sphere of influence with several remote elven communities in other spheres of influence, most notably the Moonwood elves and the Neverwinter Wood elves. These elven communities in other regions are arguably a part of the Misty Forest’s sphere of influence, not Neverwinter or Silverymoon’s, because if it came to a fight between one of them and Misty Forest, the elven communities would likely defect to Misty Forest’s side, or at least declare neutrality. Since all three are members of the Lord’s Alliance and have not engaged in even minor skirmishes with one another within living memory, this has not yet come up.
The Misty Forest itself is a small but powerful wood elf kingdom that is perpetually at war with the orcs, goblinoids, and other monsters of the High Moor to their immediate east. The edges of the forest are only loosely controlled by the elves of the Misty Forest, and monsters regularly pass through to raid the Trade Way. Sometimes the Misty Forest elves intercept them, and sometimes they don’t. Only the interior of the forest, where the elves make their home, is reliably clear of orcs and goblinoids.
To declare war on Misty Forest is to declare war on every elf nation in the Sword Coast. This is true whether you declare war directly or more prudently use the High Moor as your local proxy, although if the connection between you and your proxy is not discovered, it will at the very least only be your proxy who is at odds with all elves in the region. This is, in any case, not the same deterrent that such alliances usually present. The primary members of the Misty Forest sphere of influence are the Moonwood and Neverwinter Wood elves, both too distant and with too many hostile wildernesses or unfriendly nations in the way to provide significant help, the High Forest, which is too disorganized to project force even though they have great numbers, and Evereska, which shares the Moonwood and Neverwinter Wood’s distance problem even before getting into the fact that they’re isolationists who want no part in the world beyond their borders.
Thus, although an attack on the Misty Forest immediately makes many nations unfriendly, they aren’t very likely to send reinforcements. The Misty Forest is a member of the Lord’s Alliance and nearby Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate will send extremely capable armies (in the latter case, quite possibly the most powerful land army in all the Sword Coast) to relieve any siege on their ally. The Misty Forest is quite homogenous and stable making an internal coup unlikely and they have neither trade dependencies nor immediate threats that can be exploited to force the current government into signing treaties or otherwise joining a sphere of influence.
This leaves two routes to gaining power of them. First, dismantle the Lord’s Alliance (at the very least get Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate to back out of it or be too reduced in strength to meaningfully supply reinforcements as part of it) and then attack Misty Forest directly or using the High Moor as proxy. Second, gain control of the Lord’s Alliance without causing it to disintegrate (by gaining control of Baldur’s Gate, Waterdeep, or preferably both without conquering/razing any members of the Alliance), thus automatically gaining control of a sphere of influence which already includes the Misty Forest. In the latter case, it would be wise to then expand into the High Moor in order to secure it against the possibility of enemies using the monsters therein as a proxy.
Rise of Tiamat pays a visit to the Misty Forest in one of its adventures, and in addition they are represented on the council that meets multiple times throughout the entire Rise of Tiamat campaign. This gives some look into both what an average patch of the forest is like (both a wood elf village (albeit raided) and a wilderness hideout of evil doers are depicted) as well as their political relations with the rest of the Lord’s Alliance, relations which may well be shaped by player involvement.
The High Forest
The High Forest was formerly the capital of the grand elven empire of Aryvandaar. After the Crown Wars, largely caused by Aryvandaar, resulted in the empire’s destruction, the entire forest collapsed into anarchy. Thousands of years later, it remains in much the same state, although the initial bloodbath of civilization’s collapse has given way to the intermittent violence of tribal societies. The forest is post-post-apocalyptic, with the ancient ruins of Aryvandaar (and its successor states) still scattered around the forest where tribes long past the point of caring about the faded empire live. Although Aryvandaar was a high elf kingdom (and later empire), the majority of the tribes in the High Forest are wood elf tribes, although even a few small dark elf tribes (mostly followers of Eilistraee) exist in the wood. Aryvandaar remains in the occasional ruin, but the wilderness has swallowed up most of its works and the culture has evaporated entirely.
In addition to the elves, various fey live in the forest, most notably centaurs, whose tribe has grown so great that it may soon split into several. In addition to this are several small packs of satyrs, treants, unicorns, pegasi, and other generally good magical creatures and races. The ghosttree tribe of the Uthgardt barbarians also makes their home in the wood. The Star Mounts within the forest are the ancestral home of the aaracockra, and magic winds prevent any but they (and those strong enough to fly against a storm) from landing there.
None of these races are especially warlike or violent, but nevertheless there is sporadic conflict between them at times. Morgwais, an elf of the High Forest, is seeking to unite the elf tribes into a unified entity. While she has united a handful of the tribes at the eastern end of the wood, the vast majority of the forest remains committed to isolationism. Were Morgwais to succeed, she would command a kingdom that would rival Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate for influence on the merit of its vast size, the potential bounty of the woodland if cultivated, and the mineral wealth inside the Star Mounts, yet to take full advantage of these natural resources would require convincing the native elves to completely reverse their attitude towards the forest, and even Morgwais herself is unlikely to endorse such exploitation, to say nothing of the fact that it would make the other tribes even more hostile to unifying with hers.
The easiest way (though it is undeniably still difficult) to bring the forest into a sphere of influence would be to help Morgwais unite the elves in exchange for an alliance with the newly formed state. Convincing the elves to unite would then require providing them with enough support against whatever troubles they face (most of which probably lurk in ruins of Aryvandaar or perhaps Netheril) to demonstrate the value of ongoing outside support.
Conquering the High Forest from the outside would be an enormous undertaking. There are at least a dozen major tribes in the forest, including the Uthgardt and centaurs, and they are mostly spread out and nomadic. There are a few locations that can be used as strongholds to patrol a region, but most strongholds would have to be constructed from scratch while in hostile territory. It would be an enormous investment of military resources, and would also immediately earn the ire of every other elven nation in the Sword Coast. If Neverwinter Wood and the Moonwood remain a part of the spheres of influence of Neverwinter and Silverymoon (respectively), they may be able to convince their allies to intervene on the High Forest’s behalf, especially Silverymoon, which is located not far from the forest. Although significantly harder, this path also has the benefit of putting the entire resources of the forest’s great bounty at the disposal of the victor. The High Moor’s monstrous inhabitants might make for a good proxy army if given the training and discipline needed for a campaign of this scale, one which requires so much more guarding of castles than storming them, but the best option would be to claim another sphere of influence (Silverymoon is quite close) and use their army as the garrison, perhaps while using the High Moor’s forces as cannon fodder to strike and scatter tribes before moving in the main force to build (or rebuild) a fortress to garrison the area.
The High Forest has changed little from the 14th century to the 15th. Volo’s Guide to the North, the Savage Frontier source book, and the 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting source book are all good sources of information. The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide also gives the region a respectable write-up.
The High Moor
The High Moor is a dark reflection of the High Forest. Filled with savage orcs, goblinoids, and trolls who fight constantly with one another and regularly raid the area nearby, especially the Trade Way between Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate, and the site of an ancient evil when the elven empire of Aryvandaar wiped out their rivals Miyeritar with such extreme prejudice that the forest was reduced to a swamp that eventually regrew into equal parts peat bog and grazing land.
The easiest place to ambush caravans on the Trade Way is while they pass through the edges of the Misty Forest, where the trees can disguise the approach of the bandits. This lucrative raiding territory is controlled, of course, by the elves of the Misty Forest, so the High Moor and the Misty Forest are in perpetual low-grade warfare for control of the Misty Forest’s periphery, with occasional retaliatory strikes by the elves into the Moor in order to disrupt the monsters.
At the northwestern edge of the Moor is the town of Secomber. This town is the eastern edge of the Waterdeep sphere of influence and lies along the trade route between Waterdeep and the Moonsea running through the Anauroch Desert, and the proximity of the High Moor to Secomber is only the start of that route’s dangers. Secomber is often used as a base for forays into the Moor, and is often raided in return by the Moor’s inhabitants.
Just like the High Forest, the High Moor has its fair share of ruins, although these ones favor the Netherese over those of Miyeritar, mostly because of just how thoroughly Miyeritar was obliterated. One such ruin is Orogoth, a Netherese family villa home to a noble family that attempted to capture dragons and somehow steal their power. Unsurprisingly, the stone walls of the estate are partly melted by dragon fire and are still home to a malevolent dracolich. This dracolich is thankfully quite content to keep to himself in Orogoth rather than laying waste to the countryside, but it would nevertheless be wise to remove him at soonest convenience, lest he decide to take action against anyone operating in the area.
The most famous ruin of the High Moor is Dragonspear Castle, which has changed hands innumerable times and thus has remnants of undead, fiends, and evil elementals lurking about its halls currently. Both a necromancer and a Red Wizard (possibly a necromancer Red Wizard) have been rumored to have taken up residence in the castle currently.
As with most places infested with orcs or similar, the easiest path to power in the High Moor is to align with one orc tribe and then beat the others into submission. After the infighting required to unite the monsters of the region, the resulting military is usually too weak to be a huge threat to much of anything on its own, but the High Moor is different. Its sheer size means that even a weakened force of its inhabitants could be a serious threat to neighbors, particularly Misty Forest. While the forces of the Moor couldn’t threaten Waterdeep or Baldur’s Gate on their own, they could certainly do serious damage to these mighty cities’ hinterland before being caught and destroyed by their army, and if supplemented with forces from other regions could also form the foundation for an army that could challenge even titans like Baldur’s Gate and Silverymoon.
Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle deals primarily with Daggerford and its surrounding areas, but the final adventure of that book does take place in the eponymous Dragonspear Castle at the Moor’s edge. The Moor is also fairly unchanged since the 14th century, so the 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting still applies, and as usual the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide does go over the Moor in some detail.
Ardeep Forest was once a part of Phalorm before that nation was overrun by orcs from the Sword Mountains and subsequently destroyed when its last remnant was swept out to see by the formation of the Mere of Dead Men. The last of the elves retreated from the forest out to the sea some time ago, leaving behind only construct guardians made of tree and vines as well as a powerful mythal that prevents any creature who intends ill to the forest from entering (though creatures of sufficient willpower can muscle through, and the mythal can be overwhelmed if too many ill-intentioned creatures attempt to enter at once). A small elf colony has resettled the forest during the recent resurgence of the elves on the mainland. Ardeep is a close ally of the Misty Forest.
Cells of the Eldreth Veluuthra, elven supremacists who despise all other races, are active in Ardeep Forest. They resent the forest’s participation in the multi-racial kingdom of Phalorm and have vowed to keep Ardeep for elves and elves only. They also actively hunt down dark elves of Eilistraee who seek to help resettle the wood.
The Eldreth Veluuthra present an obvious problem for any sphere of influence that includes any non-elves (especially in the party itself). Thus, getting rid of them is probably going to be necessary. However, it may be better to first feed them until they grow large enough to pose a serious threat, especially to the Eilistraee dark elves of Ardeep. Under this kind of pressure, the dark elves might be convinced to formally secede from Ardeep’s main government or even stage a coup, and to join the new state with a helpful sphere of influence in doing so. Because this is all resulting from an internal conflict, this would not even provoke retaliation from the rest of the Misty Forest’s sphere of influence (including Neverwinter Wood and the Moonwood).
Ardeep is a bottomless pit of realmslore. I don’t even know if my summary here is even the most up-to-date lore, because it gets tons of lore, but it’s all a few paragraphs here and there and usually at least a little bit different from every other source. It’s not always clear whether this is an intentional difference due to the advance of time, an official retcon, or a mistake. Normally when this happens I rely on the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide as the most recent and reliable source, but Ardeep Forest does not appear in that guide. So what I’m saying here is that you’re on your own with this one.
The Eastern Mountains
The Greypeak Mountains stand at the eastern edge of the High Forest and High Moor, not far from the Anauroch Desert. They are sparsely inhabited primarily by stone giants, although a few humanoid settlements do exist in the area, almost entirely along the trade route from Waterdeep to the Moonsea.
Near the mountains lies the Far Forest, home to Hellgate Keep, a castle given by the native elves to Netherese refugees and eventually taken over by an evil Netherese wizard. Although the Harpers defeated the wizard and gave the castle over to the care of the treant Turlang and his light fey, the Far Forest remains the site of ongoing guerilla war between them and the fiendish creatures and twisted magical creations (most notably owlbears and giant spiders) that spewed forth from Hellgate for centuries.
Turlang and his allies are steadily winning that war, however, pushing the monsters inch-by-inch into the Lonely Moor. The Moor is otherwise inhabited primarily by gnolls, who periodically raid into the nearby forests and along the trade route passing through the Greypeaks.
Turlang is only very distantly allied to the rest of the elven sphere of influence. His primary allegiance is with the Harpers, who have spies everywhere but direct influence almost nowhere, so siding with the Hellgate remnants against him has very few consequences. On the other hand, it would not be too difficult to convince him to join a sphere of influence in exchange for helping him clean up the Hellgate remnants.
The stone giants of the Greypeak Mountains are not defending any particularly valuable resources, nor do they hold any particularly important strategic locations, nor are they especially hostile, so there is very little reason to bother with them at all. The Dragon Cult does control the village of Parnast, which anyone who likes the world undestroyed will probably want to do something about.
The Greypeak Mountains, and particularly the village of Parnast, make an appearance in both Hoard of the Dragon Queen and several Adventurer’s League quests in Season Five: Storm King’s Thunder. The 2e Hellgate Keep adventure also provides information on the keep’s layout (useful for anyone planning to side against Turlang) as well as the creatures that lurked within it.
Evereska is an isolationist elf kingdom intended to be the last refuge of elves on the continent of Faerun. What with the Misty Forest, the High Forest, Ardeep Forest, Neverwinter Wood, the Moonwood, the Quivering Forest, Cormanthor, and others besides, it’s a little bit redundant these days. Even so, Evereska remains committed to its ideals of peace through isolation. It is a well-defended enclave, with helmed horrors and other constructs guarding the town in addition to elite elven warriors whose armor is enchanted with the power of flight. Indeed, Evereska may well be home to the most powerful army of all the elven lands of the Sword Coast, though their willingness to set foot outside their valley home is limited to only the most dire of circumstances.
Evereska stands on the border of the Anauroch Desert and their protective mythal was essentially ruined by an attack from the Netherese when they first returned at the very end of the 14th century. What effects of the mythal remain blanket the kingdom in perpetual mist or light rain and otherwise provide no protection at all. Fortunately for Evereska, their own military was more than capable of fending off Netherese attacks, which happened sporadically throughout the next century until the collapse of Netherese military power after their war with Cormyr and Cormanthor.
Evereska wants nothing to do with the outside world, and disturbing their isolationist peace would be a grave offense to the rest of the elven community of the Sword Coast and the Heartlands alike (as well as any other regions, if word actually gets that far, which would take quite a bit of time). Generally speaking the kingdom is probably not worth bothering with, except that they may prove to have a vital strategic position against the Netherese, given that they are a well-fortified location right on the edge of Anauroch.
Evereska is featured prominently in Richard Baker’s novel Forsaken House, whose protagonist is from Evereska. It is not depicted much in adventures or games. Isolationism has that effect.