It was a Saturday of 20 years ago, after school, when I was 16.
I went to one of the few stores of rpg games here in Milan (where a couple years before I had met a guy who would have become one of my better friends, but that's another story) and I bought the second edition boxed set of Forgotten Realms setting.
I didn't knew very well it but from Dragon Magazines articles, some RPG games and few talks with other players I had the idea it was a wonderful place to visit and to use for my next campaigns.
I had enough money to buy also a single sourcebook or supplement and I was looking for something describing deeper an area of the setting.
I was looking expecially for a not to much civilized region, with many wild areas, woods and forests, full of mysteries and places that were awaiting only to be explored since places like that are perfect to be the starting area to play for the first time in a new world (we'll talk further about it in a post of our worlbuilding guide series).
My eye was caught by the Volo's Guide to the Dalelands book.
It was inviting and so I grabbed it and gave a quick glance.
At that time I barely knew Ed Greenwood was the Realms' creator and, trust me, I didn't notice who was the book's author.
In a couple of minutes I decided the book was what I was looking for and I bought it too.
On the way back, by train, to my little town outside Milan I started to read the Guide and continued, with the help of an English dictionary, also at home, until 2 or 3 am.
I was deeply involved by the descriptions of the Dales because they were giving to me what I had ever looked for:
A living place, full of real and living characters, mysteries, wonderful places and rich of details.
You should know what I think about Ed as a novel writer: well, as a sourcebook writer is simply magnificent.
Very soon I started a campaign settled in the Dalelands and we spent there more or less 10 years.
We had great fun and I always looked to the Guide to find useful hints for new adventures or new ways for the players' paths.
In ten years of gaming we had a lot of adventures but, trust me again, I used no more than a half of the pretty little (or not so little) things one could find in the books.
For example players of mine still have to be in a quest to find the Talking Bone (and maybe use it!) or they haven't met the Chessmen of Valsprendar yet.
In the following years I also bought all the other books of the Volo's Guide series and my opinion was always the same: wonderful books.
So, if you want a fantastic place for your campaigns go and buy a copy of one of the Volo's Guide to (Dalelands, Cormyr, Waterdeep, the North, the Sword Coast or Baldur's Gate II) and you'll be really satisfied.
They have very little stats (2nd edition rules) so you can use, with very little and easy conversions, it whatever D&D edition you're playing (from BECMI to 5th).