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Vast Swamp

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The Vast Swamp was an area of swampland in interior Faerûn that lay between Cormyr to its west and Sembia to its east. It was widely thought of as the most dangerous stretch of wilderness in the land.[1][4][2][3] Ignored by surrounding nations, it had no proper name; "vast swamp" appears to be a nickname that stuck.[4]


It was flanked to the north and east by the Thunder Peaks mountains, to the west by the Eastern Plains of Cormyr, and to the south by the Dragonmere, a body of water that poured into the Sea of Fallen Stars. Between the swamp and the coast ran the Way of the Manticore, the only overland route between Cormyr and Sembia.[3]

The Vast Swamp was largely marshland covered with forest of middling density, making it appear more like a flooded forest than an actual swamp. One could rarely see far for the forest. The terrain was dominated by undergrowth and bogs with precious little clear, dry land to be found anywhere within its borders. The ground underfoot was soft and spongy, largely comprising thick peat. What paths there were to be found winding through the swamp were little more than muddy trails.[3]

The many deadly natural hazards of the swamp included insects that transmitted diseases, noxious clouds of gases, dense fogs that were utterly impenetrable, patches of quicksand and bogs that would suck the unwary down to their doom, and the freezing rain that fell thereabouts.[3]

The borders of the swamp were forever expanding towards the Way of the Manticore, slowly but inexorably. When it finally reached the road, it might halt all overland travel between Sembia and Cormyr.[3]


Whether in the depths of winter or the height of summer, the marsh and forest were forever shrouded with a murky fog. Even in bright sun, the entire swamp was coated with a thin and persistent mist, making it hard to see more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) in any direction, even if one could see over or past the trees. Even fog from the Dragonmere coast constantly rolled inland towards the swamp.

Geographical featuresEdit

The Vast Swamp was the source of the Darkflow, a river that flowed from the center of the marsh and south into the Lake of Dragons.[3][5] As the name suggested, the water was so dark that it was described as "inky".[6] The river also formed part of the border between Cormyr and Sembia.[7]


Around the fringes of the swamp grew blueleafs and oak, typically gnarled and stunted. As one ventured further in, copses of more tangled trees grew more common and finally became predominant. A variety of trees grew in the heart of the flooded forest: black gum, cypress, water ash, water birch, and willow and weeping willow. These invariably choked the region and were draped in moss. Meanwhile, duckweed floated on the waters.[3]


Cormyr - 1479 DR copy

Cormyr in 1479 DR.

The Vast Swamp and the Darkflow served as the de facto border between the realms of Cormyr and Sembia, largely because neither Cormyr nor Sembia had any interest in laying claim to the land, nor anything beyond. The myriad of monsters and other hazards made the Vast Swamp the most dangerous place in either land, people had no cause or desire to go in, and clearing it and draining it would be an epic undertaking, so both nations were happy to ignore it—at least until some raider or monster crept out and into their lands.[1][4][2][3][8][5]

Thankfully, the savage denizens of the Vast Swamp usually stayed in its confines, content to war between themselves rather than raid the neighboring lands.[1][2][3] Nevertheless, lizardmen dwelling in the Vast Swamp sometimes ventured down the Darkflow to raid villages. The village of Battlerise, which stood on the west bank of the Darkflow River, was once beset by lizardmen from the river and monsters emerging from the Vast Swamp. Long before the 1360s DR, its population had plummeted.[6] The lizardmen also raided the monastic settlement of Monksblade further up the Way of the Manticore, contributing to its depopulation over centuries.[9] By the 1360s DR, Ghars also lay within reach of Vast Swamp raiders, but was well defended.[10] The town of Thunderstone was also well protected against the dangers of the swamp.[11]

Nevertheless, the Vast Swamp enticed explorers who would brave the dangers and endure the difficult environment.[12] However, neither Cormyr nor Sembia themselves had attempted any major expeditions into the Vast Swamp before the late 14th century DR. Hence few people knew for sure what lurked in the darkest, dankest depths of the swamp.[4]


In the Year of the Thirsty Sword, 900 DR, King Galaghard III's army, the Glory of Cormyr, drove the Witch Lords and their undead forces toward the Vast Swamp. They caught and trapped them there against the swamp's western shore and finally defeated them. [13][14][15]

In the Year of the Dragon, 1352 DR, the Lost King Gondegal, who attempted to carve his own kingdom out of Cormyr, extended his reach as far east as the Vast Swamp.[16]

Notable locationsEdit

The Skull StaffEdit

Skull Staff

The Skull Staff, a territorial marker on the western fringe.

Just within the swamp on its south-western border was the Skull Staff, a 30-feet-high (9 meter) log jutting out of the ground, surrounded by many kinds skulls, with more mounted on spikes and stakes. Built by orcs, it was a territorial marker for them and other tribes who held the area.[17]

The Lost RefugeEdit

Lost Refuge

The Lost Refuge.

The Lost Refuge was a Cormyrean keep placed near the border of the Vast Swamp. It supported a town as well but nearly a hundred years ago the combination of the expanding swamp and an orc attack killed the garrison and Cormyreans subsequently forgot all about the place.[3] It was shortly thereafter conquered by hobgoblins but more recently fell into the hands of Sharran cultists. Legend has it that the Dusk Lord of Sessrendale opened up a planar rift to the Plane of Shadow in this keep after fleeing from his former homeland.[18]

Orvaskyte KeepEdit

Sages agreed that Orvaskyte Keep, discovered in the 1360s DR by adventurers seeking missing comrades in the swamp, was built by members of the kingdom of Orva. The keep was believed to have been built around the 7th century before Dalereckoning, but was reported to be (in 1374 DR) occupied by fiends and other monsters, which abruptly ended all considerations of exploring the place further.[3]

Elven ruinsEdit

Many years before 1374 DR, an adventuring group called Moon's Twelve went into the Vast Swamp looking to find their fortune. The last surviving member, Sylara, returned to civilized lands ranting and delirious about an elven ruin as extensive as Myth Drannor but her group was run off by mind flayers and beholders. She died of a swamp fever before she could elaborate further and no one knew if what she saw actually existed.[3]


Tearing of the Weave cover art

Adventurers battling Shadowscale lizardfolk and will-o'-wisps in the Vast Swamp.

The Vast Swamp was known to be heavily populated by tribes of lizardfolk, hobgoblins and other goblinoids, orcs, gnolls, and trolls.[1][2][3][4] There were also reports of catoblepas, a few black dragons (mostly small), one or two insane beholders,[1][2][4] occasionally hydras, and even grell,[3] as well as stories of even stranger monsters.[2]

Will-o'-wisps were also found there, and were often sighted from the Way of the Manticore.[1][2]

Meazels were widespread in the Vast Swamp. They regularly preyed upon kobolds and goblins they could catch alone.[19]

Rumors and legendsEdit

According to one legend, the notorious Dusk Lord of Sessrendale was not killed as history recorded, but instead escaped into the Vast Swamp. There, the story said, he plotted vengeance against all living beings in the Dalelands. The Dusk Lord was the most well known of the villains said to inhabit this land.[1][4]

There were rumors of mind flayers, beholders, and lichs lurking in an ancient ruin close to the center of the marsh.[3] Necromancers were also reputed to make their homes in the Vast Swamp.[1] Evil magic was said to lay about the swamp, and the dead were restless.[3]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 57. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 112. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 38–39, 151, 152. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 84. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 77. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  7. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 84. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  8. Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 34. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  9. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 99. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  10. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 182. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  11. Ed Greenwood (July 1995). Volo's Guide to Cormyr. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 194. ISBN 0-7869-0151-9.
  12. Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 63. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  13. Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 148. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
  14. Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb (July 1996). Cormyr: A Novel (Hardcover). (Wizards of the Coast), chap. 20, pp. 266–281. ISBN 0-7869-0503-4.
  15. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  16. Eric Haddock (1994). Cormyr. (TSR, Inc), p. 32. ISBN 1-56076-818-5.
  17. Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 39–40, 46–47. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
  18. Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 50–70. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
  19. James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 66. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.

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