Heroes of Hillsfar
Traveling from the Dalelands to the Moonsea is a bit like walking from a temperate, lush forest into a raging snowstorm: It’s unexpected, uncomfortable, and if you aren’t prepared for it, it could kill you.
—Elminster of Shadowdale
The Moonsea, also known as the Sea of Dragons, lies nestled between Thar to the north and the Dalelands and Sembia to the south. These natural barriers prevent casual contact between the two opposing regions.
The Moonsea is a cold, clear, deep lake the color of dark amethyst, with frequent storms and turbulent weather that mirrors its turbulent past and present. It is a place where unwary adventurers can either make a name for themselves or be buried under the dark, hungry waves.
The Moonseas shores harbor a list of cities whose fame (or notoriety) is well known throughout the Realms: Hillsfar, Phlan (what’s left of it), Melvaunt, and Mulmaster. Each city along the Moonseas shores brings with it its own unique contributions, helping to shape the overall character of the area. If that is truly the case, then the cities have little good to offer. Since the Moonsea is a harsh place, the people themselves have become harsh in order to survive. Suspicion, greed, brutality, and political treachery have become the meat and drink of the regions inhabitants.
But for every one city that still exists on the Moonseas coast there are three that were not so fortunate. The Moonsea is dotted with the ruins of cities and the tombs of the unfortunate men and women who built them and sought to dwell in them. Zhentil Keep, once a power, not just in the Moonsea region but far beyond, is now a crumbling ruin crawling with undead.
In addition to the dead cities, there are the ruined castles and towers of petty would-be rulers and mages who sought solitude in order to better work on their spells of power and conquest.
The Moonsea is located in the northern part of Faerun. While not as cold as the Silver Marches or the Dessaryn Valley, it is much cooler than the Dalelands or Waterdeep, and people dress warmly all year round (a fur cape or cloak is a common article of cloathing in the Moonsea lands). The Moonsea lake itself is fed by glacial meltwater and even in summer it can be cold enough to kill a swimmer. Because of this, most people who make their living on the water can’t swim, since they’ve never had the opportunity to practice; instead they have learned more practical skills such as fire building and how not to fall out of a boat.
In winter much of the sea freezes over, making travel across the ice possible, but (due to the great distances involved) not very common. It is also easy to get lost on the ice without any road or landmarks. The larger cities sometimes use icebreaking ships, summoned monsters, or fire magic to keep their dock areas somewhat clear of ice, though this is impractical on a large scale. Ice fishing is common, with fishermen walking to their favourite spot, rather than boating. The first snow usually falls in early to middle Uktar (, and the land is consistently snowy from Nightal to Alturiak, with occasional snowfalls happening throughout Tarsakh.
People of the Moonsea
Because of their frontier station and the many threats in the Moonsea, particularly from rival states or supposed protectors of the lands (for example the corrupt Red Plumes of Hillsfar), the people of the region are mistrustful of strangers. Unlike other harsh lands where a culture of hospitality to all became the norm for the sake of survival, the Moonsea folk have a more “take care of your own” attitude. This also makes them reluctant to turn to outsiders for help except under great duress, or if the person is obviously someone who can be trusted – for example even in the Moonsea a paladin of Torm is someone you can trust not to have a sinister, ulterior motive. Generally strangers must prove their worth before earning even a small measure of free hospitality. While the people of the Moonsea are not inherently evil or distrustful, that is the attitude bred into them by a culture where survival is hard work and the kind hearted are usually taken advantage of.
If things are thus, then why go to the Moonsea at all? The answer is simple: It is where legends and reputations are created and undone. If one wishes to make a name for oneself, one must take chances and face hardships. The Moonsea has risks and hardships to spare.
— Information from TSR9474 The Moonsea (modified to take into account latest developments)