Anauroch (pronounced: /ɑːˈnɔːrɑːah-NOR-ach[3] or: /ɑːnˈɔːrɒkhan-OAR-ock-h[4] or: /ɑːˈnɔːrɒka-NAW-rock[5] or: /ɑːnˈɔːrɒkan-OAR-ock[6]), or The Great Sand Sea, was a magical desert in northern Faerûn. It held the remnants of the once-powerful Netherese Empire, their flying enclaves having crashed to the ground when their greatest mage Karsus, in a desperate bid to end the war against the phaerimm, challenged the goddess Mystryl for her divine mantle, causing the Weave to falter and all magic to fail. For generations since, Anauroch, the greatest desert in Faerûn, encroached relentlessly on border nations, burying them beneath the sands.[citation needed]


The only people to call Anauroch home were the nomadic Bedine tribes and a small Zhentarim garrison, tasked with patrolling and defending a line of oases along the Black Road, the trade route that winded west from the ruins of Teshendale to Llorkh at the foot of the Graypeak Mountains. A diminutive people called the D'tarig[7] were the only other major inhabitants, who lived along the borders of the desert and interact somewhat with peoples from surrounding countries.[citation needed]

Finally, on Nightal 20 in 1372 DR, the Netherese enclave of Thultanthar (also known as the City of Shade) of the ancient Netherese Empire re-emerged from the Plane of Shadow in the skies above the Dire Wood, before drifting into Anauroch, settling above the Shoal of Thirst, bringing the evil and warped Shadovar into the Realms.[citation needed]

Life and SocietyEdit

The Bedine nomads were simplistic in nature and survived by raiding and guiding caravans through the hidden passes, making their home on the surface of the wastes, traveling from oasis to oasis. They were divided into a dozen or so minor tribes lead by sheiks, whose wealth was measured not by gold, but by the size and well-being of their herds. The Bedine were good-natured and noble, and the encroachment upon their home by the Shadovar trapped them in an exposed position.[citation needed] Suspicious of magic at the best of times,[8] they had to deal with a vastly superior magical force altering the environment around them.[citation needed]

The Zhentarim, always eager to make a profit, fought long and hard to secure routes for their caravans through the desert. The northern routes across the High Ice were plagued by monsters too numerous to fight and in the south humanoid raiders and interference from the Dales and Cormyr hindered their efforts. After years of painstaking effort the Zhentarim created a caravan route via oases in the Sword, the sandy southern portion of Anauroch. The garrison constantly fought to defend its territory, but despite years of bitter fighting with the Bedine, the Zhentarim held little more land in Anauroch than that on which they stood.[citation needed]

Below the dunes of Anauroch lurked what remained of the evil phaerimm, a race of reptilian spellcasters with near-unrivaled mastery of the Art, long imprisoned in a magical shell called the Sharn Wall under the desert. The phaerimm were forgotten by all but the wisest of sages until the barrier holding them was broken. After fighting the combined armies of most of Evereska, Evermeet, the Heartlands, the Chosen of Mystra, and the Shadovar—all at once—the remaining phaerimm were scattered beneath the surface.[citation needed]

The returned masters of Anauroch, the ancient Netherese wizards of Thultanthar, warped and twisted by their long exile in the Plane of Shadow, were determined to retake what they considered their birthright, longing to restore the barren wasteland that was Anauroch to the once-fertile land of Netheril. The Shadovar had a regimented society, ruled by Telamont Tanthul and his Princes of Shade, all working in unison, toughened by centuries of hardship in the Plane of Shadow, to accomplish their common goal. They all but ignored the Bedine and Zhentarim, considering them beneath their notice.[citation needed]


The northern area of the Anauroch was a frozen land of rocks and the black glacier known as the High Ice. The middle area was the dry Plain of Standing Stones, where winds abraded jagged rocks that stood in the middle of a sea of gravel. Lastly, the southern part was commonly known as the Sword, a hot sandy desert. Anauroch was bordered on the west by the Silver Marches, the Savage Frontier, and Evereska; on the south by Cormyr and south-east by the Dalelands; on the east by the Moonsea and the Ride.[9]

Notable locationsEdit

Empire of ShadowsEdit

Returned in 1372 DR, Thultanthar, the City of Shadows, was a floating mountaintop, sliced off and inverted, with a city built upon it. It was built centuries past, before the folly of Karsus, and no magic like it survived in Faerûn in the 14th century, as the reincarnated Mystra restricted mortals from ever again creating such potent spells as the ones that created Shade's mythallar.[citation needed]

Ruins of HlaungadathEdit

About forty miles east of the ruined city Ascore on the northwestern border of the desert, another abandoned city rose from the sands. Hlaungadath was one of the three floating cities that Mystra saved during the destruction of Netheril. It was a city that landed near the High Ice and was eventually abandoned. Old but largely intact, the ruins were inhabited by a clan of lamias. The lamias stalked the nearby oases, preying on careless Zhentarim or unwary Bedine. Anyone knowledgeable of the desert knew of the evil of Hlaungadath and gave the ruins a wide berth.[citation needed]


In -461 DR, the phaerimm started casting spells in the land of Netheril.[10]. These spells were the magical cause of Anauroch.[citation needed]

In 10 DR, the Netheril region was renamed Anauroch,[11] to reflect the great desert that the region had become.[citation needed]

The arrival of Thultanthar in 1372 DR[12] heralded the beginning of the end of Anauroch.[citation needed]

By 1479 DR, the end of Anauroch was complete and only occasional dustbowls remained as a reminder of the once great desert.[13].

Important PersonagesEdit

Rumors & LegendsEdit

The ruins of the very first cloud palace, belonging to the father of the cloud giants, Nicias, were thought to be located somewhere in the great desert.[14]



  1. Ed Greenwood (1991). Anauroch. (TSR, Inc), p. 83. ISBN 1-56076-126-1.
  2. Ed Greenwood (August 1992). “The Everwinking Eye: Words To The Wise”. In Jean Rabe ed. Polyhedron #74 (TSR, Inc.), p. 14–15.
  3. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 99. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  4. Ed Greenwood (1991). Anauroch. (TSR, Inc), p. 3. ISBN 1-56076-126-1.
  5. Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 92. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
  6. Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 23. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
  7. Ed Greenwood (1991). Anauroch. (TSR, Inc), p. 31. ISBN 1-56076-126-1.
  8. Ed Greenwood (1991). Anauroch. (TSR, Inc), p. 20. ISBN 1-56076-126-1.
  9. Ed Greenwood and Jason Carl (July 2002). Silver Marches. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 22. ISBN 0-7869-2835-2.
  10. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 268. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  11. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 269. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  12. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 271. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  13. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 164. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  14. Ray Winninger (August 1995). Giantcraft. (TSR, Inc), p. 119. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.


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