Ed Greenwood grew up in the upscale Toronto suburb of Don Mills. He began writing stories about the Forgotten Realms as a child, starting around 1967; they were his "dream space for swords and sorcery stories". Greenwood came up with the "Forgotten Realms" name from the notion of a "multiverse" of parallel worlds; our Earth is one such world, and the Realms another. In Greenwood's original conception, the fantastic legends of our world derive from a fantasy world that we've now lost the way to. Greenwood discovered the Dungeons & Dragons game in 1975, and really got into role-playing with the first AD&D game releases in 1978. The setting became the home of Greenwood's own personal campaign. Greenwood began a Realms campaign in the city of Waterdeep, then started another group known as the Knights of Myth Drannor in Shadowdale. Greenwood felt that his players' thirst for detail made the Realms what it is: "They want it to seem real, and work on ‘honest jobs’ and personal activities, until the whole thing grows into far more than a casual campaign. Roleplaying always governs over rules, and the adventures seem to develop themselves."
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. Greenwood 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 as portrayed in his articles in Dragon. 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 setting upon deciding to publish AD&D 2nd Edition. Greenwood agreed to work on the project, and began working to get the Forgotten Realms officially published. Greenwood sent TSR a few dozen cardboard boxes stuffed with pencil notes and maps, and sold all rights to the Realms for a token fee.
In 1987, Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb wrote the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set for TSR...though Greenwood had used the Forgotten Realms for his home Dungeons & Dragons campaign since 1975. The spawned campaign world was a success, and he has been involved with all subsequent incarnations of the Forgotten Realms in D&D. Greenwood's most lasting character from the setting is the wizard Elminster, whom he portrayed (at TSR's request) for a number of years at conventions and as a participant in the RPGA's Living City campaign.
Since the release of the Forgotten Realms, Greenwood has published many Forgotten Realms novels, as listed below. He retains certain rights of his setting, but is essentially a freelance author.
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.
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, has written over thirty books and modules for TSR, and been Gen Con Game Fair guest of honor several times.
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, and frequents the Candlekeep web forums (where he may be contacted).
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.