Ed Greenwood grew up in the upscale Toronto suburb of Don Mills. He began writing stories about the Forgotten Realms as a child, starting in the mid 1960s; they were his "dream space for swords and sorcery stories". Greenwood conceived of the Forgotten Realms as one world in a "multiverse" of parallel worlds which includes the Earth. He imagined such worlds as being the source of humanity's myths and legends.
Greenwood discovered the Dungeons & Dragons game in 1975 and soon became a regular player. He used the Realms as a setting for his campaigns, which centered arounds the fictional locales of Waterdeep and Shadowdale, locations that would figure prominently in his later writing. According to Greenwood, his players' thirst for detail pushed him to further develop the Forgotten Realms setting: "They want[ed] it to seem real, and work on 'honest jobs' and personal activities, until the whole thing [grew] into far more than a casual campaign."
Beginning with the periodical's 30th issue in 1979, Greenwood published a series of short articles that detailed the setting in The Dragon magazine, the first of which was about a monster known as The Curst. He wrote voluminous entries to Dragon magazine, using the Realms as a setting for his descriptions of magic items, monsters, and spells.
In 1986, the American game publishing company TSR began looking for a new campaign setting for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, and assigned Jeff Grubb to find out more about the setting used by Greenwood in his articles for Dragon magazine. According to Greenwood, Grubb asked him "Do you just make this stuff up as you go, or do you really have a huge campaign world?"; he answered "yes" to both questions. TSR felt that the Forgotten Realms would be a more open-ended setting than the epic Dragonlance setting, and chose the Realms as a ready-made campaign for AD&D 2nd Edition.
Greenwood agreed to work on the project, and began to prepare his Forgotten Realms material for official publication. He sent TSR a few dozen cardboard boxes stuffed with pencil notes and maps, and sold all rights to the Realms for a token fee. The following year, Greenwood used this material as a basis for writing the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set along with coauthor Jeff Grubb.
The campaign setting was a major success, and Greenwood continued to be involved with all subsequent incarnations of the Forgotten Realms in D&D. He retained the rights to his fictional universe and went on to write numerous Forgotten Realms novels. Many of these center around the wizard Elminster, whom Greenwood has frequently portrayed at conventions and gaming events.
Greenwood feels his work on the Realms that he likes best are "those products that impart some of the richness and color of the Realms, such as the novel I wrote with Jeff Grubb, Cormyr; the Volo's Guides; Seven Sisters; The Code of the Harpers; City of Splendors; and stuff that lots of gamers have found useful, such as Drow of the Underdark and Ruins of Undermountain." He found that it has been easy to keep his enthusiasm for the Realms over the years, as so many people care about it, ask him questions about the world's lore ("Realmslore"), and share with him what they have done. He has stated that the Forgotten Realms, as run by him in his own games, is more "dark" and edgy than it is in officially sanctioned, published works.
Greenwood has also been contributing editor and creative editor of Dragon magazine.
Greenwood has published over two hundred articles in Dragon Magazine and Polyhedron Newszine, is a lifetime charter member of the Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) network, and has been Gen Con Game Fair guest of honor many times. Greenwood has written over thirty-five novels for TSR, and written, co-written, or contributed to over two hundred books and game products from other publishers. Greenwood has also contributed to The Book of All Flesh (2001), an anthology based on All Flesh Must Be Eaten, and written short stories based on the Silver Age Sentinels role-playing game. Greenwood's Castlemourn setting was published by Margaret Weis Productions. He is co-creator (with fantasy novelist Lynn Abbey) of the Mornmist fantasy setting.
He has also contributed to most Forgotten Realms gaming accessories, and authored many more—including the detailed Volo's Guide series—and continues to DM his own campaign. He writes regular Realmslore columns for the Wizards of the Coast website.
In addition to all these activities, Greenwood works as a library clerk (and sometimes as a librarian) and has edited over a dozen small press magazines. When not appearing at conventions, he lives in an old farmhouse in the countryside of Ontario.
As of 1998, Greenwood lived in applegrowing country on Lake Ontario, still working full-time at the North York Community Library, as he had since 1974, and continued to run his original Waterdeep campaign with the same core group he started with, albeit meeting only sporadically. He has stated that it is important for people who do freelance writing for roleplaying games to be active as both players and as dungeon masters.
Greenwood is an award-winning gamer (best player, 1984 Gen Con AD&D Open tournament) and game designer (several Gamer's Choice Awards and Origins Awards). He was inducted into the Gamer's Choice Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Academy of Adventure Gaming's Hall of Fame in 2003.
Ed Greenwood has appeared in the following newspaper and magazine articles, websites and podcasts.Open Design: Open Design 004: Dwarves of the Ironcrags. Ed provides the voice for the introduction to this show.
RPG Countdown: Ed appeared on these episodes: 29 July 2009 (Kobold Quarterly 010).
DiceCast Episode 10 (by Polymancer Studios)
To Believe the Magic Is Real: A Conversation with Ed Greenwood Clarkesworld Magazine, December 2008
Interview with Ed Greenwood, CRYPTYCH Magazine Issue 1/IV, February 1994 ISBN 1-883773-03-2"Ed Greenwood:10 min interview on Sounds Like Canada". CBC Radio One. 2007-08-28. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-10-08.