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Empires of the Shining Sea (2e)
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Empires of the Shining Sea (2e)

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Calimshan and the Lake of Steam Revealed!

The dusty trails from the North have brought you to the warm and welcoming coasts of the Shining Sea and the Lake of Steam. Here is history spanning millennia, not just centuries; passion, profit and danger; dreams of power and conquest; and wonders mysteries centuries older than any hedge realm north of Dalagar's Road and the Snowflake Mountains.

Empires of the Shining Sea goes farther and deeper into the southern reaches of the FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign setting, providing a breadth of scope and a level of detail never before published.

Product History

Empires of the Shining Sea (1998), by Steven E. Schend and Dale Donovan, is a boxed supplement for the Forgotten Realms. It was published in September 1998.

About the Cover. A blue dragon fights a djinn! It's an evocative cover, but a somewhat strange one as the authors were purposefully playing down the region's Arabic influences. As the book says: "Since the fall of the Calim Empire at the end of the Era of Skyfire, genies of any type have not been common in Calimshan". With that said, it may have been a purposeful reflection of the cover of FR3: "Empires of the Sand" (1988), which also featured a djinn and a dragon, albeit with a friendlier relationship.

Origins (I): The Last of the Boxes. Empires of the Shining Sea (1998) was the fourth and last of the boxed regional supplements for the Forgotten Realms, following on Spellbound (1995), The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (1996), and Lands of Intrigue (1997). It was also somewhat different than its predecessors: where they each tended to include a number of different books covering different realms, Empires of the Shining Sea contains a single 192-page book and a few big maps.

One wonders why Empires of the Shining Sea was published as a box at all, and the answer might lie in TSR's changing priorities after their purchase by Wizards of the Coast. Many have said that the large boxed sets of the '90s were money losers for TSR, so Empires of the Shining Sea might have been a first step to phasing them out, with its simpler (and probably cheaper) contents. It would certainly be the last of the series, with future geographic supplements like Sea of Fallen Stars (1999) and Drizzt Do'urden's Guide to the Underdark (1999) published until as softbound books.

Origins (II): The Last of the Sand. The previous boxed set, Lands of Intrigue, had revisited Amn and Tethyr, two of the realms initially described in FR3: "Empires of the Sand" (1988). Now, Empires of the Shining Sea completed the set by revisiting Calimshan from that primordial Realms supplement. And it visits that land in great detail, revealing a long history of the region over the course of more than 40 pages, then spending 70 pages describing Calimshan itself. It's a pretty notable expansion from the 16 pages in the original supplement — of which less than one page was history! (The rest of this new set covers the city-states around the Lake of Steam, which were mostly ignored in the original.)

Origins (III): The Al-Qadim Conundrum. There was one problem with revisiting Calimshan: in the original supplement, it was clearly a Middle-Eastern realm influenced by genies. Thus it's no surprise that the scattered references to the country in the years that followed were increasingly influenced by the Arabian Nights. But then Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992) came along, a new setting that was explicitly influenced by the Arabian Nights and that was loosely connected to the Realms. This left Calimshan without a niche.

To resolve this, Steven Schend introduced elements from Medieval Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, saying "Turkish history and culture had a lot more play than I expected it would when I was writing up Calimshan in Empires of the Shining Sea. The main reason I layered in more Turkish grace notes was to differentiate Calishites from the Bedine and the Zakharans, both cultures being far more directly Arabic in inspiration."

Eras of the Realms: 1370 DR. The Year of the Tankard.

Exploring the Realms: Calimshan. Empires of the Shining Sea is the best and most extensive source for the country of Calimshan, which had previously been detailed in FR3: "Empires of the Sand". Unlike his work with Amn and Tethyr in the previous boxed supplement, Schend didn't try to link in ever reference to Calimshan that had appeared since, because they were too scattered to be entirely coherent.

Empires of the Shining Sea contains considerable details on the history, society, and geography of Calimshan. That includes wild areas like The Alimir Mountains, The Calim Desert, The Forest of Mir, and The Marching Mountains, as well as all the civilized lands, including the cities of Almraiven, Calimport, Keltar, Manshaka, Memnon, Schamedar, Teshburl, and Volothamp.

The capital city would get even more attention a month later in Calimport (1998).

Exploring the Realms: The Arnaden Region. The Arnaden Region, also covered in this book, was largely a new addition to the Realms. Arnaden, previously called The Lake of Steam, had gotten some brief attention in "Empires of the Sand", but this was the first (and only) in-depth look at the land, its nomadic people, its wilderness, and its city states. The latter includes descriptions of: Ankhapur, Innarlith, Kurrsh, Kzelter, Mintar, Nagarr, Saelmur, Suldolphor , Tulmon, Yeshpek, and Yhep.

Of these Arnaden cities, Suldolphor, Tulmon, and Yeshpek had previously seen overviews in "Empires of the Sand" due to their closeness to Calimshan. However, the last city was called Yeslipek instead of Yeskpek in the original supplement, with the following explanation offered: "A number of northern mapmakers and commentators have misspelled Yeshpek as Yeslipek, due to the blurred nature of their primary source map from the Fifth Age of Calimshan." This is probably a tongue-in-cheek reference to a hard-to-read word on Ed Greenwood's original maps of the Realms.

Organizations of Note. Empires of the Shining Sea continues the trend of calling special attention to the area's power groups. There are a rather extensive number of them including adventuring companies, cloak societies, The Dark Dagger, The Ilmatari Church, The Janessar, The Knights of the Shield, The Nadhari, The Night Parade, several pirate groups, The Red Wizards of Thay, The Rundeen, and The Twisted Rune.

About the Creators. Schend wrote numerous Realms supplements in the late '90s, from City of Splendors (1994) to Skullport (1999). This was one of his most extensive releases for the setting. Donovan was an author and editor at TSR and Wizards in the late '90s and early '00s. He'd previously contributed to Heroes' Lorebook (1996) and Villains' Lorebook (1998).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

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Reviews (1)
Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Greg O November 27, 2017 11:55 pm UTC
While on the whole a good PDF, some glaring typos are scattered about the book (one had me laughing when I read on page 81 "halflings *ATE* the second-most largest population" (Dark Sun halflings? In my FR campaign?) instead of "ARE"

Would like to see WoC do a 5ed update for Calimshan, Amn, and the region like they did for the Sword Coast. One suggestion for such the book is to bring back the Sha'ir from Land of Fate, perhaps as a Genie based warlock with gen familiar and elemental spells
Customer avatar
Greg O November 28, 2017 2:11 pm UTC
my bad it was page 125 the typo was on
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File Last Updated:
August 12, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on August 15, 2017.