BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

D&D: Five Ancient Empires of Faerun

4 Minute Read
Apr 14 2024

The Forgotten Realms are full of, well, realms that people forgot. Here’s a look at five of Faerun’s ancient empires.

D&D loves ancient empires that were powerful and advanced. In fact, so does real-world history too. The world is old—so old that by the time people started recording history, they knew it was old. Cleopatra was born closer to the invention of the iPhone than to the building of the Great Pyramids. So it makes sense that your D&D campaign would be full of ancient empires.

Looking for some to populate your campaign with ruins? Here’s a look at five of Faerun’s Fallen Empires.


Is an ancient magical catastrophe threatening Faerun? Odds are good it’s because of Netheril. The Netherese loved having their reach exceed their grasp. And since this is Faerun and not ancient Greece, they probably didn’t know about hubris yet. This is why you can always find some device or rite that the Netherese either discovered, hid away, or accidentally unleashed upon the world.

This ancient magocratic human empire had a very defined class system. If you were among the wealthy elite you were above it all. Literally. Their wealthy and powerful lived in the floating cities of High Netheril.

Right up until hubris caused them to try and become gods and destroyed their ancient empire in a matter of hours. You know the drill.


Another ancient magical empire, the Imaskari are unique. Their story has changed throughout the editions. But at their core, this is an empire full of godless wizards. Godless wizards who use magic portals to capture and enslave people from distant lands. Including ancient Earth in one edition. They’re why ancient gods from Faerun have names like Horus-Re and Set.


They’ve casually faded into the background in later years, but their works remain on Faerun.

The Sarrukh Empire of Okoth

There are old empires and then there are old empires. And nobody is more old school than the Sarrukh. Though for an ancient empire, they’re surprisingly new. The Sarrukh crashed into the Forgotten Realms in 3rd Edition.

WotC introduced them as one of the five progenitor races of Faerun. These are the five races that seeded the world with life. The Sarrukh are responsible for pretty much all of “scalykind.” Basically, anything vaguely reptilian. They were shapeshifters and depending on what book you read, are probably the first ones to discover arcane magic with any kind of sophistication—unlike the more “primitive” warmbloods, they dabbled in genetic manipulation, body transmogrification, and a host of other things.

Their reign is known as the Days of Thunder, because they’re the lizards of Thunder, and D&D may be many things, but subtle it ain’t. Their empire ruled over Faerun during “caveman times.”


The Maztican Empire

The lush continent known as Maztica was discovered only relatively recently. Before people from Amn showed up and ruined everything in a tragic mirror of the colonial expansion of Europe into Central and South America, the Mazticans had a flourishing empire.

Maztica was originally the name of the Maztican goddess of earth and life. It was believed that she, along with her husband and her children (the other deities of the Maztican pantheon), created the land, the plants and animals, and humans. Early in the continent’s history, the gods Qotal and Zaltec fought over it until a crime against his sister caused Qotal to retreat from the land for ages.

Later on, the Payit people of Payit and Far Payit built a mighty civilization. They were a peaceful people, but they gained much knowledge and wisdom during their golden age. They also built great cities of stone and made wondrous works of art. However, the Golden Age of Payit eventually came to an end in treachery and murder.

Shortly after the golden age ended, a tribe of Dog People arrived in the western Valley of Nexal. The Valley of Nexal had its own people, and its own culture, but that small tribe eventually built a city-state of its own, Nexal. They went on to conquer and rule a mighty empire, the greatest in Maztica, for almost 300 years.


An ancient city that was founded on the continent of Chult, Mezro was home to one of the region’s oldest civilizations. Up until just a hundred or so years ago, the city was surrounded by powerful magic which prevented people from reaching it, or even knowing it existed.


Mezro was the largest civilized area in Chult and a holy city to the Chultan tribes. The city was generally peaceful and few people, except for outsider adventurers, carried weapons. The city was protected by the undying baras of Ubtao and six paladin-esque chosen who ruled the city. It then served as a safe haven for explorers battered by the harsh jungle until the Spellplague, at which point it collapsed into the earth.

Keep these in mind the next time you need an ancient empire.

Author: J.R. Zambrano
  • 'Baldur's Gate 3' Wins Big At BAFTA Game Awards