The current year is 1479 DR.
The following points describe the biggest changes to the world of Toril since 1374 DR, the Year of Lightning Storms (roughly 100 years after the last incarnation of the campaign setting for D&D 3.5 If you don’t understand what that means, don’t worry about it. It’s just real world nerd stuff..)
The Spellplague has drastically altered the cosmos. The Spellplague broke out in 1385 DR (the Year of Blue Fire), the result of unfettered wild magic on the death of the goddess Mystra. Whole countries are gone, especially in regions south of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Even familiar lands have become magical and fantastic in appearance. Islands of rock called earthmotes drift through the sky. Weird towers and spires of stone jut from the landscape. Spectacular chasms and waterfalls abound.
All things were sustenance for the Spellplague’s insatiable hunger—it assailed and transformed flesh, stone, magic, space, and dimensional walls. Even the cosmos beyond Toril was affected. Some ancient realms returned that had been thought gone forever (such as the Feywild), and entire planes (such as the Abyss) shifted to a new cosmic structure.
Portions of Abeir have fused with Toril. The Spellplague raged even beyond planar boundaries, and Toril’s long-lost twin world, cut off for tens of millennia, was also caught up in the maelstrom. Large parts of Faerûn exchanged places with equivalent land masses on Abeir, bringing their populations with them. Across the Trackless Sea, an entire continent of the lost realm reappeared, now called Returned Abeir.
The number of gods has dropped markedly. During the last century, even deities succumbed to divine and diabolical plots or to the chaos of the Spellplague. Of those now absent, many died, some left, and a few were revealed to be aspects of already extant gods. Others lost so much power that they became exarchs, lesser divinities who serve the other gods.
The Spellplague left its mark on creatures. Some effects of the Spellplague persist to this day, especially in the so-called Plaguelands where wild magic yet rages unrestrained. After exposure to the Plaguelands, some creatures exhibit physical marks called spell scars. These spellscarred individuals develop unique abilities, but not without a price. Victims of the original Spellplague were horribly changed, not simply scarred, their flesh warped in unimaginable ways. The abilities of the spellscarred, though unique, are never as monstrous and powerful as those of plaguechanged creatures. Luckily, such monsters are few, and of those, only a handful are free-willed, mobile threats.
Huge Underdark collapses have changed the surface of Faerûn. As the earth fell away, the level and position of the Sea of Fallen Stars shifted drastically. An enormous opening into the Underdark has formed south of the Chondalwood. In addition to this country-sized hole in the earth, underground shifting has made the Underdark much more accessible to the surface world.
Ancient elven lineages have returned to Faerûn. With the reappearance of the Feywild, its natives have begun exploring the world again. These fey folk collectively call themselves Eladrin, and many Faerûnian elves have also adopted this name for their lineage, though they have not forgotten their traditional cultural distinctions and names. In casual speech, the world “elven” collectively refers to the two branches of this fey people: elves and eladrin.
Creation and The Great Ages
Toril has been sculpted and shaped by the merciless winds of history and time. Ancient wars, terrible catastrophes, personal tragedies, and great triumphs have all given rise to consequences that in turn caused other wars and disasters. Thus has the endless cycle of cause and effect been propagated across thousands of years and hundreds of cities and kingdoms.
The most common account of Toril’s prehistory traces its roots back to ancient Netheril. This popular human myth recounts the creation of the universe by Lord Ao and the epic struggle between the gods of light and darkness that followed. Only recently have other, more ancient legends come to light, recounted by the Sarrukh of Okoth and echoed by the dragonborn of Returned Abeir. By combining common threads from both accounts, backed by diligent factfinding missions, scholars and historians of today have gained a clearer understanding of the creation of the universe.
In the beginning existed a misty realm of timeless nothingness, crafted by Ao the Hidden One from the raw elemental bedlam of the Phlogiston. Within this dim sphere, several worlds drifted upon the Sea of Night. Though the worlds were lifeless and barren at this time, powerful beings of manifest entropy and elemental might coveted them. The name of their kind has been lost to the ages; the few sages who today know of their existence refer to them simply as the primordials.
Unknown to the primordials, detritus remaining from its creation coalesced around the universe as an ocean of silvery liquid. From this glittering realm of starlight formed beautiful twin beings, polar opposites of each other, one dark and one light. The twin goddesses birthed of the Astral Sea quickly moved to defend the virgin worlds from the destructive primordials. Other gods were created from the residue of the deific battles or summoned from other dimensions to aid in the fight against the primordials and their monstrous servants.
While the gods and primordials contested for ages, life struggled into existence on the worlds they coveted. The blue jewel Toril sparkled brightest of them all, home to a race of sea creatures that huddled in the depths of the world’s single vast ocean. This Blue Age came to a sudden and chilling end when Toril was inexplicably plunged into darkness, its sun snatched from the sky by a sinister primordial known as the Night Serpent. Global temperatures plummeted, and soon, most life on the planet became extinct.
Little is known of this Shadow Epoch, but sarrukh myths and legends speak of climactic battles throughout this age between the primordials and the Elder Gods led by Ouroboros the World Serpent. Ultimately, the tide was turned when the primordials were betrayed by one of their own. Ubtao the Deceiver assisted the elder gods in slaying, imprisoning, or driving away the remaining primordials.
Days of Thunder
–35,000 DR to –30,000 DR
Eons passed before sunlight warmed the world once more. Oceans thawed, then receded, allowing dry land to rise above the frigid water. In this ancient time, much of Toril’s landmass was a single supercontinent named Merrouroboros.
The creator races each dominated Merrouroboros in turn, creating or producing as offspring a host of lesser races. The noble fey never dominated the continent; they chose instead to rule the Feywild, an otherworldly realm loosely connected to Toril. These ancient peoples were known to later races, including elves and humans, by the Elven name iqua Tel’Quessir, or the Creator Races.
–30,000 DR to –24,000 DR
The empires of the Creator Races faded into memory, ushering in the Time of Dragons and Giants. Individual dragons and dragon clans ruled large swaths of territory and battled with their rivals for control of the land, seas, and skies. During this period of devastating warfare among the dragons, isolated pockets of formerly dragon-ruled territory came under giant control. Over time, such giant-ruled kingdoms threatened the hegemony of dragonkind, leading to great battles. Severely weakened after a thousand years of war, the giants were saved from annihilation when fey high magic sent the wyrms into a suicidal paroxysm of rage and destruction.
The First Flowering
–24,000 DR to –12,000 DR
The great elven civilizations of Aryvandaar, Illefarn, Miyeritar, Shantel Othreier, and Keltormir reached their peak during this age. As a result of the elves’ success against orc hordes, dragons, and giants, other races (including humans) thrived in safety and began the slow climb to civilization.
This age also witnessed the unbridled fury of the Sundering, a disastrous invocation of high magic that cracked Merrouroboros asunder, creating the disparate continents of Faerûn, Maztica, and Katashaka. Among the turbulent waters of the newly formed ocean later known as the Trackless Sea rose the Green Isle of Evermeet, thought to be a piece of Arvandor and a bridge between worlds.
The Crown Wars
–12,000 DR to –9000 DR
Many nations in the south fell during this terrible time, including Thearnytaar, Eiellûr, Syorpiir, and Orishaar. The Dark Disaster (–10,500 DR) utterly destroyed the forest realm of Miyeritar, leaving the blasted plains known today as the High Moor. Perhaps due to the savagery of the Crown Wars or other factors long lost to time, the dark elves became corrupt during this era. They broke away from their kinfolk, and after much warfare and cruelty, they were banished beneath the world’s surface to become the drow (dhaeraow or ”traitor” in Elven).
The Founding Time
–9000 DR to –3000 DR
Also known as the Age of Proud Peoples, this era signaled the rise of many humanoid civilizations in a time when the dragons and giants had been long overthrown and the elves’ wars no longer threatened everyone. Dwarven civilization in particular blossomed; the dwarves founded the kingdoms of Shanatar, Sarphil, Oghrann, Haunghdannar, Ghaurraghaur, Besilmer, Ammarindar, and Delzoun during era. The fey realms of Siluvanede, Sharrven, Eaerlann, and Evereska were established at this time, as were the mighty human nations of Calimshan and Jhaamdath.
Age of Humanity
–3000 DR to 1358 DR
With the elven and dwarven empires in decline, this era marked a dramatic increase in human expansion on Toril. The mighty human empires of Netheril, Imaskar, Mulhorand, Unther, Narfell, and Raumathar arose during this period. Great human nations developed in lands beyond Faerûn as well, ranging from the far eastern realms of Wa and Shou Lung in Kara-Tur, through Zakhara, to the distant shores of Maztica.
Era of Upheaval
1358 DR to Present
Scholars today mark the calamitous events of the Avatar Crisis in the Year of Shadows (1358 DR) as the start of the Era of Upheaval. Few in those early days could have possibly predicted that the physical and magical chaos of the Time of Troubles was merely a prelude to the Spellplague and the cataclysmic merging of two worlds that would follow. Though the union with Abeir was brief, its mark on Toril was significant and enduring. Even the gods themselves know fear for the first time in eons, for their numbers are diminished and the long-banished primordials have returned to oppose them and sow chaos throughout the cosmos.