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Lamora
Learned Scribe

USA
80 Posts

Posted - 20 Apr 2019 :  22:19:40  Show Profile Send Lamora a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Little late, but I do remember Unbroken Chain fondly. I wasn't too big into the Realms at the time I picked up the book. I got into the Realms from Salvatore's writing as I am sure many have. So I had no clue what to expect from Unbroken Chains. But it is one of my favorite Realms books. I really enjoyed the characters and the setting was quite unique. I would definitely put Johnson up there with Kemp and Elaine and Salvatore as some of the best Realms authors.

I am completely with you on Ed books. They are so bad (to me)! The only 2 I liked from him were Elminster in Myth Drannor (for the lore) and the very 1st Elminster book. Every other book from him seems to throw every villain plus the kitchen sink at the protagonist. I won't ever forget a sequence in the Spellfire books where mages, maybe liches, and then dragons all wondered upon Shandra out of nowhere back to back to back. It was so unbelievable to me. Though I did enjoy his combo with Elaine on Waterdeep. Credit where credit is due.

I am looking forward to your view on Gauntlgrym. Salvatore did some interesting things with his resurrected characters, but... well; I won't spoil anything until after you finish.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
416 Posts

Posted - 28 Apr 2019 :  22:13:51  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Gauntlgrym a couple days ago. RAS was absolutely my favorite author for many of the early FR years, but it seems as though his last several novels have been books in search of a story. In this one, I just couldn't buy in on the Dahlia character. On the surface she's terribly cliché - a young elf returns to her village to find it up in smoke and everyone she knew being put to the sword. She vows vengeance and then uses that anger to transform herself into a great fighter - an origin I'm sure we've all seen a thousand times. But how did so young an elf become so supremely skilled as to be able to outfight just about anyone? I know a great deal of her effectiveness comes from her very powerful and exotic weapon, but where did she get that from? Who trained her in the use of such a non-conventional implement?

Personally I think Kozah's Needle was made just so RAS could go even more overboard with his in-depth fighting descriptions. I used to be all-in on the fight scenes, perfectly recreating in my mind the exact positions of each combatant, almost down to the point of using figurines to represent them. Nowadays, it's all I can do to hold my attention firm as I scan over the action, trying to sort out if anything of major importance happens. I just don't care that her rear plant foot was offset at a 30 degree angle instead of her traditional 45 degrees while she used her off-hand to reach under the 2nd flail bar and flip it's position while flaring her left hip out into a spinning.... bleh.... ok, so she just smacked an orc in the face and knocked him out, great, moving on... As for the rest of Dahlia, well there's just not much there to evaluate. I think she's a really shallow, undeveloped character. What little development we see sort of played false to me anyhow - she goes from being an utterly ruthless, completely self-assured and confident villain, to a bit of a milksop patsy of the Red Wizardess Sylora Salm, to an energetic, smiling, fun-loving companion-in-arms to Drizzt that is going to rekindle his elven spirit and push him out of his current grim demeanor. She's just not working for me, although some of her lightning attacks and post-enemy-defeat poses did score pretty high on the coolness factor, even if they were a bit forced.

Did I know that Drizzt has a summonable unicorn mount from somewhere else or was this its first appearance? It was mentioned that Silverymoon "commissioned" the unicorn for him. How exactly does that work? I guess that must mean it is not a naturally born creature, but rather a magical item not unlike Guenhwyvar.

This story helps me understand that weird short story in the previous anthology a little bit better - the one about the mystical forest on the outskirts of Ten Towns. I still can't get past the wizard named Addadearber though. I think RAS should give a close friend or family member (his son, perhaps?) a one-time VETO power per book, on any character name, because man, Bob has come out with some atrocious ones over the years - I'm looking at you Cordio Muffinhead. I mean, his main character, the iconic dark elf that is amongst the most popular of all fantasy creations, has such a clumsy name that you will hear at least 3 or 4 different pronunciations when talking to other fans. Imagine if he spent just a little more time coming up with something a little smoother there. We still don't know the official story that is going to be used in the FR movie in development, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that the goofiness of this name may be an impediment as to whether that earns the final nod or not. Imagine a trailer for a film and you hear that guy with the iconic "In A World voice. Now picture him getting to the end and saying something like, "Homeland: The Legend of Drizzt Do'Urden" and thinking how badly that will test in a focus group. It sounds like you have marbles in your mouth. Hey, what did that guy say? Drizzle Dundee? Jerzit Durden? The hell is that? The film would probably have to be named "The Legend of the Dark Elf" or something, but you can only avoid that name for so long before it has to come up.

Lastly, the entire Gauntlgrym storyline bugs me, simply because... well, didn't we already do this with Mithral Hall? Bruenor faked an illness way back in, I think the very end of the Crystal Shard series, no? He tricks Drizzt into helping him find this near mythical ancient stronghold that will help him reclaim the glory of his people. So he bails on his kingdom up in Icewind Dale to go chasing after a legend that will help him rekindle dwarfdom in the North. Now, many years later, it seems like he's bored with being the king of Mithral Hall, so he starts it all over again with an even MOAR LEGENDARY homeland of the original Delzoun dwarves. The whole thing seems a bit clunky and ill-conceived to me. However I do like the tie in between Gauntlgrym and ancient Luskan - the cooperation between the races that formed this immense prison for the primordial that supplies power to the dwarven forges. So many good elements and themes there - the arrogance/hubris of mortals to cage this being and attempt to siphon its power - it almost feels like an allegorical comparison to mankind harnessing nuclear energy, and what occasionally happens when fail-safes, well, fail to be safe. The utter devastation of Neverwinter was epic and all, but maybe a bit too much after basically everything we know about Faerun has already been turned on its head in the post-Spellplague world we find ourselves in. I suppose it was a way for the video game makers to just utterly nuke any preconceived notions of what Neverwinter is supposed to be so they can build it up from the ground in their own direction without fans of the original games calling them out on errors. But again, I think the apocalypse and subsequent 100 year time jump was already ample explanation for any differences, but what do I know?

Ok, I think I've rambled enough. This book had some good things going for it, but overall failed to please on many levels. Up next I will read Sandstorm.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
919 Posts

Posted - 29 Apr 2019 :  10:08:45  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I did groan out loud at the shield that summons beer to give stat boosts. That seemed right out of an MMORPG (sigh). I wasn't connected to old Neverwinter, but I imagine so many cities got completely nuked in this era (Tilverton, Ordulin, Neverwinter, more in the south..) just loses its impact after the 7th Chernobyl hits the Realms. I almost think we are supposed to hate Dahlia, I never connected to the character or cared. I remember going to a book signing / talk with RAS when Gauntlgrym came out and we had loads of questions about the new world era and characters, and Bob just wanted to know what everyone thought of the weapon she carried. Double sigh.

I definitely get it with Bob's goofy names, but I seem to be immune to bad naming conventions. The things that get my goat revolve around massive plot holes.
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Lamora
Learned Scribe

USA
80 Posts

Posted - 29 Apr 2019 :  15:54:49  Show Profile Send Lamora a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The thing very obvious about Gauntlygrym and in the upcoming novels is that Salvatore seems to be repeating himself. Its like he can't think of any new plot points. Its just more Drow plotting involving Drizzt and more Dwarven Homelands. Just like you Viking, I also started skimming the battle scenes. We have seen all of this before. The battles just start to drag after a while. Heck, if Salvatore had just included actual magic in his battles it would go a long way to help shake things up. Cattie-Brie is now a mage, but she doesn't really travel with Drizzt. So her magical abilities aren't used in battle. Thus its always just arrows and intricate swordplay. I know Salvatore has unique ideas, but his newer novels definitely don't show them.
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Arannis
Acolyte

USA
10 Posts

Posted - 29 Apr 2019 :  16:54:18  Show Profile Send Arannis a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't disagree with you VikingLegion. The stories do seem a bit repetitive and I never did get into Dahlia as a character. I also didn't realize the beer shield gave stat boosts, I thought it was just really good beer(is there such a thing? :P) I agree some of RAS names for characters can get out of hand, but I personally don't think Drizzt Do'Urden is one of them. Even with all this, I still love the way he writes fight scenes and will probably read every Drizzt book that comes out!
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
141 Posts

Posted - 30 Apr 2019 :  08:33:46  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think this was best of RASs 4th edition novel. All after this one seemed to be kind of weathering the storm and waiting for 5th edition.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
919 Posts

Posted - 30 Apr 2019 :  08:41:55  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Was this the one with the vague "mystery" of Barrabus the Gray as well?
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
141 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2019 :  11:57:00  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Was this the one with the vague "mystery" of Barrabus the Gray as well?



Indeed it was. I think RAS is not so much to blame as usual. I think he would have done things very differently without that 4th edition timejump and unnecessary focus on Shades and Neverwinter area.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
416 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2019 :  18:39:10  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Was this the one with the vague "mystery" of Barrabus the Gray as well?



Well I do recall Artemis Entriri stabbing a Shade with his vampiric dagger, so if Barrabus isn't a certain well-known Fighter-Thief who kills people for money, I'll eat my hat.
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
141 Posts

Posted - 03 May 2019 :  09:23:03  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Was this the one with the vague "mystery" of Barrabus the Gray as well?



Well I do recall Artemis Entriri stabbing a Shade with his vampiric dagger, so if Barrabus isn't a certain well-known Fighter-Thief who kills people for money, I'll eat my hat.



Be prepared for even more anticlimatic explanation regarding his status
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
416 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  13:50:15  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Arannis

I don't disagree with you VikingLegion. The stories do seem a bit repetitive and I never did get into Dahlia as a character. I also didn't realize the beer shield gave stat boosts, I thought it was just really good beer(is there such a thing? :P) I agree some of RAS names for characters can get out of hand, but I personally don't think Drizzt Do'Urden is one of them. Even with all this, I still love the way he writes fight scenes and will probably read every Drizzt book that comes out!



Yeah, after going back and reading my Gauntlgrym writeup, I think I came off a bit harsher than intended. While I stand by the critiques, I, like you, will still read every Drizzt book, even if I wasn't doing a complete FR read-through. I owe RAS that much for being such an integral part of my teens and early twenties. I think maybe I'm so critical simply because the bar was set SO high with those first 8-10 Drizzt books, it's nigh impossible to reach those heights again. Oh, and I also stand by Drizzt being a horrible name for one of the most iconic characters in modern fantasy. RAS himself even pokes fun at the mispronunciations of it several times in his books, with people who just met him saying "Drizzit" until they are corrected. It's just not a well-constructed word, there's no comfortable flow to it. As I said before, I've personally heard, while talking to other fans, at least 3, maybe 4 separate ways to say it. And every single one of them sound like some drippy, nasally-toned desk clerk, not a heroic and inspiring ranger.

Moving on, I have 2 books to review. One of which I was able to blast through in a day, being a collection of short stories that I have already mostly read. I'm talking about The Legend of Drizzt Anthology, annotated by RA Salvatore. I absolutely LOVE reading author commentary, it's such a treat to get a bit of insight into their thought process for any work, or even just a funny anecdote or incident that happened during the creation period. So even though I only read 4 of the 12 stories in this book, I definitely read all those comments that preceded each. So, on to the shorts:

The First Notch - appeared in a Dragon Magazine issue that I probably have, but this story somehow eluded me. It was an entertaining tale of a young (beardless!) Bruenor out in the tunnels after a rogue ettin. The story itself was fine to above-average, but what really stood out to me, and was commented on by RAS, was the internal consistency in Bruenor's character that persisted over ~20 years. A lesson learned in this story - penned in 1989 - was instrumental in the treaty between the dwarves of Mithral Hall and King Obould's empire.

Dark Mirror - I might be in the double digits for reading this story. We've already covered how brilliant it was way back in this thread. But it was there and even though I said I wasn't going to re-read any, well... I did it anyway. And yup, it got me again. This tale is damn near the pinnacle of what a short story should be, and ranks amongst my absolute favorites, not just in FR or even D&D tales, but from all genres.

The Dowry - interesting, it was published and included at the end of one of RAS's Demon Wars books as some sort of cross-promotion between WoTC and CDS Books. The story had a very interesting premise - Drizzt and Cattie-brie want to impress Deudermont before joining his crew. To this end they decide they are going to capture a prominent pirate. But it turns out that "pirate" is ship-mage Robillard posing as a pirate boss so he can catch young thugs "trying out" for a life of piracy. It was a cool, witty, and amusing concept. But where it failed was in how contrived the battle scene ended up. Predictably, the two sides (Robillard covered in illusion magic, Drizzt/Cat wearing disguises) came to blows as they couldn't determine each other's identities. And here's where it got goofy. Cat is normally dead on with her bow, blasting through opponents and killing them like flies. But here every shot is a shoulder or leg hit. Drizzt's slashes are just surface cuts and/or pommel-smash knockouts, rather than opening up blood geysers like usual, resulting in zero casualties among the crewman of Sea Sprite, which would've made things *really* awkward... I don't want to say it ruined the story, but it definitely crippled my "buy-in" factor.

To Legend He Goes - another new tale. This was originally meant to be the first chapter of Gauntlgrym, but Phil Athans convinced RAS to chop it so it could be expanded into a short story. It tells the tale of Wulfgar's final battle. He is now over 100 years old (good bloodlines, I guess!) and is escorting a hunting party across the ice. His body is failing him, and he laments how he might die in his bed, but when a few members of the group are trapped and beset by yetis, he goes out to rescue them, defeating the beasts but taking mortal wounds in the process. It ends with his soul traveling to Iruladoon - that strange demi-heaven we were introduced to before where Cat and Regis have been residing for quite some time now. He is distressed that he didn't go to the Halls of Tempus, so we can surmise that this pocket plane is not a completely voluntary, true heaven as far as all its occupants are concerned.

That brings me to an interesting tangent. I'm sure great philosphers have already discussed this, but there's a big paradox when it comes to any kind of reward-based afterlife - if Wulfgar's Heaven is he and a twenty year old Cattie-brie (as she appears to him at the end of this tale), but Drizzt's Heaven is him with a ~40 year old Cat that is his wife, which version of Cat is there? Do the 3 of them all live together in the same forest glade, with Cat swapping partners and ages every other week?

For that matter, let's say your version of Heaven is spending eternity with your wife of 50 years. But maybe she just sort of feels lukewarm about you, staying together out of a sense of obligation rather than true love. She has had a devastating crush on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for decades, and her preferred Heaven is endless days of bliss with him, and you are nowhere in the picture!

So, in D&D terms, does every individual soul get their own personalized pocket heaven where everything is customized exactly to themselves and there is no true communal experience? Does Wulfgar get a shade of the young Cat he was engaged to before he fell against the yochlol? Does Drizzt get his mature wife? If so, neither of them are the "real" Cat, but rather simulacrums or copies, not the original. I know this is kind of a strange, metaphysical question to be asking here, particularly if we apply it to real-world religions, but in the D&D multiverse characters can actually travel to - bodily and without expiring - the outer planes that serve as the Heavens and Hells of existence; therefore they would have to be more like shared dimensions and not as "pockety" or tailored to the individual.

At any rate, the intro to this story helped me understand Iruladoon a bit more than I had before. Up next, I also managed to finish the novel Sandstorm this week. So I'll go straight into that review later tonight or tomorrow (gotta run)

Edited by - VikingLegion on 04 May 2019 13:54:32
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Gary Dallison
Great Reader

United Kingdom
4561 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  14:33:12  Show Profile Send Gary Dallison a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well I play it that the afterlife is like a drug induced fantasy designed to keep the soul calm and willing while the owner of the outer planar dominion slowly leeches away their life force to power himself until the soul is utterly consumed.

Can you tell I'm an atheist

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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
416 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  16:20:18  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gary Dallison

Well I play it that the afterlife is like a drug induced fantasy designed to keep the soul calm and willing while the owner of the outer planar dominion slowly leeches away their life force to power himself until the soul is utterly consumed.

Can you tell I'm an atheist



Wow, that's bleak! Not unlike the machines putting humans in The Matrix to keep them as docile energy-producers - Coppertops - as they say in the movie.

Has any extremely powerful mortal in your fiction (or campaign) ever managed to tumble to the dark of things and lead some kind of revolt against the false gods?
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Gary Dallison
Great Reader

United Kingdom
4561 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  16:55:54  Show Profile Send Gary Dallison a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well I don't view them as false gods, they are the gods, it's how they survive (by feeding off souls), I like things to make sense even in a fictional setting, the souls serving as food for other beings is common to other creatures and gods need a lot of power that souls can provide.

I have been wondering what would be the endgame for a soul that rejected the afterlife, haven't got an answer for it yet. Perhaps that is where all those outer planar natives come from (lemures, old version eladrin, Angel's, etc), those souls who choose not to be devoured get remade by the plane as something else

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Edited by - Gary Dallison on 04 May 2019 17:00:09
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
416 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  17:15:36  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also finished Sandstorm, the only FR novel by Christopher Rowe. It's a shame he didn't get another commission, because this book was wonderful. The dialogue was clever and witty, without going overboard into snarkiness. The characters were super interesting, many of them centering around a strange traveling circus led by a kenku barker. My interest was piqued immediately by this oddball cast, and only deepened as it went on, my favorite being the goliath strongman who was this delightful mix of simple wisdom and childlike wonder at the same time, if that makes any sense, being those two things seem to be opposites.

There was a tremendous amount of history and intrigue in this story, it was actually a bit difficult to follow at times and required a greater than average amount of concentration. There were two characters I had crossed/confused for maybe 5/6ths of the story and only got it straight at the very end. A good deal of my confusion came from not knowing the Arabic-inspired "adh", "yn", and "el" naming conventions for family relations. Maybe it was spelled out early on and I simply missed it. I was amazed by the amount of lore and detail a 1st time Realms author packed into one book, and then I saw in the acknowledgments that Steven Schend was first and foremost. Then it all made sense to me. Schend's writing is astoundingly detail-oriented, to the point where one must be a Realms scholar to follow all of it. And that is just not my level of knowledge, even in Pre-Spellplague Faerun. Post SP, forget about it! I do enjoy Schend's work, but man he makes you earn it. This book followed in that vein.

I LOVE the new-look Lands of Intrigue. I feel like I'm shedding my old curmudgeon/grognard self with some of these 4e novels, particularly Unbroken Chain and this one. There's some cool stuff in there if you are open to the new experiences. Calimshan has gone from a somewhat boring, drab, grimy human-dominated city of 2 million slaves and vastly wealthy pashas with a nod to Middle-East culture, to a colorful, awe-inspiring, djinn controlled, fantasy-scape of a city, with all manner of elemental beings vying for control in the wake of the return of Calim and Memnon. This is Arabian Nights on steroids. I haven't been a fan of a great deal of the Realms makeovers (necro-Thay, goth/shadow-Sembia, etc.), but this one really nailed it and is much better for the change in my opinion.

Speaking of elemental beings, I think this is the 3rd book in a row with a genasi presence. I see that they, along with the eladrin, are among the "product push" races of 4e. I commented in an earlier review of my surprise that genasi can choose to change which element they manifest - that was very new to me from what I knew of 2e Planescape genasi. That specific ability features heavily into this story. When the main character, an earth-soul, is speaking to a female wind-soul, she describes her family life:

She laughed. "The Cabalists believe the great clans of earthsouled and stormsouled and all the others should keep their lineages apart. They use words such as 'pure' and 'inviolate.' When couples of different expressions, well, have children together, for instance, the Firestormers say they've blurred the szuldar."
Cephas asked, "This is widely believed?"
She shrugged, "It's hard to say. There are many who find the idea repellant, this programmatic separation of the expressions. I know I do. And my parents. My father is watersouled, and my mother most often expresses as fire.
"Yet you are windsouled?"
Again came the laughter like bells. "My mother was born windsouled but found the fire suited her better."

What a cool concept. Imagine playing a character that can be born one way but chooses to change themselves into a better fit. Roleplaying in general is all about being able to try on a new skin and be something you aren't in the real world. But think about how awesome the genasi race must feel for some angst-filled teenager that is unsure of themselves, specifically some aspect of their own sexuality or gender identity. The cynic in me says the D&D team probably pushed this angle to simply attract another demographic for more sales, but I'd prefer to believe it was a really kind and thoughtful move by the staff to create a playable race that felt comfortable for gay or transgender players. There's been such a concerted push in recent years for inclusivity, and it feels to me like this is probably the ideal metaphor for some players struggling with coming out. If that's the case, nicely done WotC! If I'm crazy and reading way too deep into this, and they are simply a race of elemental beings and someone thought it would be neat if they could willingly alter themselves for different combat bonuses, well... still a pretty cool concept!

Anyway, the next book will be Bruce R. Cordell's Sword of the Gods.


Edited by - VikingLegion on 04 May 2019 17:17:37
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Mirtek
Senior Scribe

540 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  19:25:32  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gary Dallison

Well I play it that the afterlife is like a drug induced fantasy designed to keep the soul calm and willing while the owner of the outer planar dominion slowly leeches away their life force to power himself until the soul is utterly consumed.

Can you tell I'm an atheist

Actually that kind of nails exactly how the D&D afterlife works. Except you do not even get your personalized drug induced fantasy.

Instead you merely get all your memories stripped away directly at day 1 and then "life" out the shared standard of your respective afterlife.

While doing so you're slowly "purified" even more, until you are a perfect mini representation of the ideal of your plane (or deity).

Once you reached this point, you'll be consumed by the plane/deity to empower it.

Good or evil, it doesn't matter, all mortals are just "alignment batteries" in the end.

A few very exceptional individuals may be allowed to keep their memories and are instead assigned special roles by their deities. For the majority Tyr eventualls consumes his faithful as sure as Cyric (or the planes of Celestia and the Abyss respectively).

That's also a reason why the deities of the realms had the Wall of the Faithless build, the terror of the wall prevents that too many of those "tasty little morsels" slip through their fingers.

quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Has any extremely powerful mortal in your fiction (or campaign) ever managed to tumble to the dark of things and lead some kind of revolt against the false gods?


No sense in that (other than fleeting personal satisfaction maybe), because even those without patron deity who just go to a plane of existence that matches them the most are going to suffer the very same fate.

And a few truly exceptional individuals are spared (denied?) that fate and made into special servants

Edited by - Mirtek on 05 May 2019 07:02:30
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Gary Dallison
Great Reader

United Kingdom
4561 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2019 :  22:08:46  Show Profile Send Gary Dallison a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well canon likely dresses it up nicer but I essentially took all the basic components from source books and dressed it up in a more macabre suit.

I'm sure the churches and their priests believe what they are preaching, that when you die your soul will spend eternity in the living embrace of their favoured God (what better way to get worshippers, worked for christianity and other real world Faith's too) and if novels have seeming paradise afterlife then I see no reason not to address it with such a hallucination, but the bare bones is you die and then your soul is consumed to power a deitys continued existence.

Souls after all are the most valued currency in the outer planes, so why wouldn't the gods get in on the action as well.

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Mirtek
Senior Scribe

540 Posts

Posted - 05 May 2019 :  07:01:07  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gary Dallison

I'm sure the churches and their priests believe what they are preaching, that when you die your soul will spend eternity in the living embrace of their favoured God
Well, it's not "that" wrong either, at least looking at it from a certain perspective.

You get to spend some time in a "nice" (depending on what you and your deity define as nice) afterlife as an individual (although amnesic) and then you go a step beyond that and forever become part of your deity and make sure your deity will stay around to fight for the dogma you believed in during yoour mortal days.

Same goes for being a non-believer of an individual deity (if not living and dying on Toril that is), just with an outer plane instead of a specific deity
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Hyperion
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Posted - 06 May 2019 :  08:44:42  Show Profile Send Hyperion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion


What a cool concept. Imagine playing a character that can be born one way but chooses to change themselves into a better fit. Roleplaying in general is all about being able to try on a new skin and be something you aren't in the real world. But think about how awesome the genasi race must feel for some angst-filled teenager that is unsure of themselves, specifically some aspect of their own sexuality or gender identity. The cynic in me says the D&D team probably pushed this angle to simply attract another demographic for more sales, but I'd prefer to believe it was a really kind and thoughtful move by the staff to create a playable race that felt comfortable for gay or transgender players. There's been such a concerted push in recent years for inclusivity, and it feels to me like this is probably the ideal metaphor for some players struggling with coming out. If that's the case, nicely done WotC! If I'm crazy and reading way too deep into this, and they are simply a race of elemental beings and someone thought it would be neat if they could willingly alter themselves for different combat bonuses, well... still a pretty cool concept!


The idea has its merits but I'm not entirely on board on this, mostly because I remember well in D&D/AD&D elemental races were clearly separated and had specific rivarlies, so I'm not sure I like this very much.
Also the whole conflict between the djinni Calim and efreeti Memnon seems rather diminished by this fact, in my view. I like too some changes to Calimsham but not so much the idea genasi can change elements at will..

Edited by - Hyperion on 06 May 2019 08:46:18
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 07 May 2019 :  02:17:01  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hyperion

quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion


What a cool concept. Imagine playing a character that can be born one way but chooses to change themselves into a better fit. Roleplaying in general is all about being able to try on a new skin and be something you aren't in the real world. But think about how awesome the genasi race must feel for some angst-filled teenager that is unsure of themselves, specifically some aspect of their own sexuality or gender identity. The cynic in me says the D&D team probably pushed this angle to simply attract another demographic for more sales, but I'd prefer to believe it was a really kind and thoughtful move by the staff to create a playable race that felt comfortable for gay or transgender players. There's been such a concerted push in recent years for inclusivity, and it feels to me like this is probably the ideal metaphor for some players struggling with coming out. If that's the case, nicely done WotC! If I'm crazy and reading way too deep into this, and they are simply a race of elemental beings and someone thought it would be neat if they could willingly alter themselves for different combat bonuses, well... still a pretty cool concept!


The idea has its merits but I'm not entirely on board on this, mostly because I remember well in D&D/AD&D elemental races were clearly separated and had specific rivarlies, so I'm not sure I like this very much.
Also the whole conflict between the djinni Calim and efreeti Memnon seems rather diminished by this fact, in my view. I like too some changes to Calimsham but not so much the idea genasi can change elements at will..



It was tough for me to get behind as well. I'm a firm follower of the 2e Great Wheel as far as planar cosmology goes, so a lot of the changes have me feeling dubious. But it seems all the Inner (Elemental) Planes got smashed together into one big soup called the Elemental Chaos or something like that. Stranger still is the Abyss resides somewhere within this mess, rather than being a distinct outer plane. Not a fan of all that, but at the least I understand the concept of, if all the elemental planes are no longer distinct, neither are the genasi race, who are simply elemental (non-specific) "touched".

It has some merits, but as you pointed out, also some bigtime flaws. I remember in old school D&D there were some pretty bitter rivalries among the evil elemental princes like Ogremoch and Yan-C-Bin, Imix and Olhydra…. man those were from way back...

Edited by - VikingLegion on 11 May 2019 14:45:16
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 11 May 2019 :  14:57:52  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Sword of the Gods yesterday. It was very Cordell, so if you like his style and sensibilities, this is another good one. Here we have an immortal hero with amnesia - I immediately thought of The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment. But this guy is a deva that keeps reincarnating to fight evil as some sort of divinely contracted assassin, he gets his hands dirty when the gods of light don't want to. It was a pretty good story, decent characters - though I think the villains were probably more compelling than most of the protagonists. The main hero is in a race to recover enough of his memories and powerful magical items (that each contain fragments of his past) so he can defeat the big bad. This was an "Abyssal Plague" tie-in novel, so there are plenty of references to Tharizdun and the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye.

There was also a very strong genasi presence in this one, a whole city full of them in Akanul, so now in the last two books I've seen just a TON of genasi - out west in Calimshan, and now around the Sea of Fallen Stars region. Overall I'm not a huge fan of the whole Abeir-Toril merger, I think it's a clumsy mechanic to usher in a new edition, but it does rather easily explain how certain races (namely genasi and dragonborn) can so quickly go from being extremely rare outliers, to having entire masses of them in great concentrations.

Good book for the most part, not Cordell's best work, but certainly a solid and entertaining read. Up next I start Dawnbringer.
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 23 May 2019 :  11:12:09  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yesterday I finished Dawnbringer. This was a very nice surprise gem for me. The main story involves two devas attempting to broker a peace between rival houses that have been involved in a blood feud for so many generations neither side even recalls the original grievance.

If I can tangent for a sec... many books ago I was inundated with monks. Monks in every book. Then it shifted to eladrins, and I found them in 2-3 books in a row. Then it became genasi as the major focus. Now, curiously, the last two consecutive books feature devas.

Ok, back on track. The devas were explained very well in this story, functioning not exactly like I remember them in 2e Planescape lore, but updated for mainstream 4e with some very interesting twists. The two devas happen across each other in every incarnation of their beings, as some sort of destiny draws them together time after time. But in this incarnation, things start to change, as one of them has grown increasingly bitter/cynical as to the nature of their work over time. In the background is some Lovecraftian horror imprisoned on another plane of existence, yet able to exert some small measure of influence over the cast on Faerun.

The story and writing quality was excellent overall. So much so that I had to look up Samantha Henderson to see what else she has written and if it's anything I want to track down. This is yet another 4e story of surpassing quality that probably went largely unnoticed and unheralded by the majority of fans that didn't take the Spellplague time jump. Speaking of which, this story covers an absolutely vast timeframe, as it tells a tale that hands down over several generations. It starts in 1460 DR and goes all the way into the 1600s by the time it finishes. Yes, I said 1600s. That aspect of it seemed weird to me, like it was so disconnected from anything else going on. I mean, the late 1400s seemed like a huge jump, now we've gone over 100 years beyond that! I'm interested to see where I end up in the timeline by the time I finish this reading project.

Up next, I will bring 2-3 books with me on vacation, so I won't be updating this thread for at least a couple weeks. I plan to take:
Untold Adventures - not necessarily a FR book, but a collection of short stories from several D&D worlds, some of which are FR.
Unbroken Chain: The Darker Road - sequel to the excellent first book in this line by Jaleigh Johnson.
Neverwinter - not sure I'll get this far, but better to have it and not need it.
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 03 Jun 2019 :  19:55:36  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Back from vacation, I didn't get to read quite as much as I thought I would. I only finished the anthology Untold Adventures. This was a collection of short stories set all over the D&D multiverse, with stories set on Athas (Darksun), Eberron, Nentir Vale (the generic setting of 4th?/5th edition), as well as some others. I'll comment on just the Forgotten Realms entries:

Tall Folk Tales - Lisa Smedman - this was a decent Underdark yarn about a human (who believes himself to be a reincarnated dwarf) describing to another adventurer his harrowing journey through Araumycos - the fungal homeland of the myconid people. There's a strange, undead creature that yearns to have its bones discovered and buried properly in order to find rest. A solid story, nothing noticeably great or bad about this one.

Watchers at the Living Gate - Paul Park - this was a very strange tale about a half-orc druid who is tasked with shutting down a portal or tear in reality that threatens to let in a presence from the Far Realm. A very bizarre story, but extremely well written and may have been the best in the entire book.

Lord of the Darkways - Ed Greenwood - a cool premise; there are several well-to-do Zhentil Keep citizens (prominent merchants, nobles, and such) with ties to Sembia - either through business ventures or familial connections. Each one operates and maintains a portal deep within their own compounds that leads to Sembia. They form something of a secret society and use the portals to smuggle goods, slaves, soldiers, whatever in and out of the Keep for their own profits. Manshoon becomes very concerned about this, imagining what might happen if they ever coordinated together and brought a sizeable force from Sembia directly into the heart of the Keep, thereby bypassing much of their magical defense. He alters the spell powering the gates so that anyone passing through has their blood transformed into acid, and dies in a predictably horrific way. Elminster becomes tasked by Mystra to fix this "abuse" of magic. Though why some spells are considered ok and some are blasphemous to a god of magic, I'll never understand. It still irks me that Mystra isn't just a goddess of magic, but instead becomes this sort of patron for justice and goodness, but that's probably a discussion for another time.

As I said, a pretty good premise, but in typical EG fashion, it soon becomes messy. Another dizzying cast of characters is introduced, some of which last only sentences before being massacred. Illusion magic and shape-shifting abound, as usual, further muddying the waters. Elminster is nigh-indestructible, as he is assaulted by dozens of high-level mages at once, but Mystra simply returns all spells back to sender and the attacking force is turned into so much chum without El even lifting a finger in his own defense. Sigh...

Dreaming of Waterdeep - Rosemary Jones - a prequel for one of her characters that appears in City of the Dead. It's strange, nothing about her type of writing would normally appeal to me, but I find I've enjoyed every one of her entries into the Realms thus far. This one is about the mage Gustin growing up on a farm and always wishing for a more exciting life. He falls in with some questionable adventurers and runs away from his uncle's farm to explore a nearby ruin said to contain treasure.

The Decaying Mansions of Memory - Jay Lake - I know I said I was only going to reference FR entries, but this one was too good not to give at least some passing mention. It's listed as "Core", so I'm assuming that means Nentir Vale/generic, and I didn't recognize any of the locations within the story. But it was an exceedingly well-written story about a man of questionable moral fiber attempting to find a purpose to his life after serving as a mercenary for most of his time as an adult. He ends up at a mysterious monastery seeking wisdom, but are the strange monks just toying with him for their own purposes?

Overall it was a very solid anthology, even factoring in the inclusion of Eberron stories, which is a world I know next to nothing about. There were only 1 or 2 stories that did nothing for me, the rest were either very good or at least of moderate enjoyment. Up next: I'm about 2/3 of the way through Unbroken Chain: The Darker Road and should have that writeup done by the weekend.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 03 Jun 2019 20:08:16
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 08 Jun 2019 :  11:42:04  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Unbroken Chain: The Darker Road, and it's official - I'm a huge Jaleigh Johnson fan. I think now I've read 4 of her novels and 2 short stories, and already she's been inducted into my FR pantheon with Elaine Cunningham, Paul S. Kemp, early RA Salvatore, etc. Her dialogue is brilliant, her character development is right up there with the best, and her mood/tone setting is terrific.

This book had a couple of rough areas, I'd rate it just a hair behind the original Unbroken Chain, but it was still terrific. In this sequel we see the main characters traveling out of the Shadowfell to the "Mirror World" (Toril/Faerun) as Ilvani the witch is mysteriously drawn to her counterpart in Rashemen. Just when I thought this series couldn't get any better, Jaleigh goes and includes my absolute favorite region of FR! Ilvani's dialogue was particularly well written. What looks initially like gibberish or the ravings of a madwoman, eventually start to make sense as you figure out what is happening between the witches/wychlaren and the spirit world. It's very cleverly done. This book would make a good candidate for a re-read, if only my book queue wasn't hundreds and hundreds of books deep! Regardless, it was a great book and great series, and instantly ranks among my personal top tier of FR stories.

Up next, I will tackle Bury Elminster Deep.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 08 Jun 2019 11:43:03
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 22 Jun 2019 :  13:35:26  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Bury Elminster Deep a few days ago. This one seemed a bit less problematic, but I'm not sure if it's just because I've become more inured to his writing style?

I really liked the mind-meld Elminster performed with the noble, Arclath DelCastle to try to reassure him that he isn't a bad guy and that when he rides other's minds, it's only out of necessity. This scene was exceptionally well-written. The only problem is, after Arclath becomes convinced Elminster is a kindly, trustworthy sort (to the point where he breaks down crying because he's so overwhelmed by El's altruistic, benevolent disposition), what does he do next? He immediately commissions another mage to make him an item that will protect against this very thing. It made no sense at all.

That brings me to another point. Every character not named Elminster or Storm seem to be either hysterical over-reactors, or just plain incompetent buffoons. Every noble of Cormyr is a callow, backstabbing fop, every war-wizard is an arrogant blowhard, every purple dragon a bullying, boorish thug - honestly I could barely tell these guys apart from Zhents. It's so tiring to see the supporting cast reduced to something worse than comic relief, all so El and Storm (and Mirt, to a degree) can come off as these ultra-effective, calm-as-can-be solvers of all problems. I get it, they've been around for centuries, they've saved the world numerous times... but would it be too much to ask that someone, anyone else can ever do something of value instead of crumbling under pressure or exploding in an apoplectic fit?

There was a character named the Lady of Ghosts that just sort of appeared out of nowhere when the book was about 80% done and played a very prominent role.

The made up curse words are just getting out of control. Mirt introduced several new ones, must be Waterdeep has their own slang or something... Now we have talandor, caztul, kelstyn, and gelkor to join the ranks of hrast, stlarn, tluin, naed, sabruin, etc. It's not just the fact that these are clumsy, silly words, it's the proliferation of them that are bothering me. I can't read 2 pages without them popping up multiple times. Speaking of clumsy words, this one had a whole new crop of goofy names. I've figured it out, Ed is in love with the letter "R", especially following another consonant it has no place coming after. About halfway through the book I started writing some names down, so this is only a sampling and I'm sure I missed many others:

Sraunter
Broryn
Blamreld
Rorskryn Mreldrake (jeez... overboard!)
Vrabrant
Brabras (Brabras? seriously? Bra followed by bras)

And, the last thing I'll touch upon, reluctantly, is the creepy relationship between Elminster and Storm. Late in the book they are sleeping in a bed together, naked (of course) and this follows:

Such beauty...
He was aroused, yes, stirring beneath her and causing her to purr and move against him in her sleep. Aroused, and why shouldn't he be?
Well, because she was his frend, and although she wasn't his daughter, he's raised her like one some seven hundred years ago. She was his companion, his sword sister, not his lover... never his lover...


The scene goes on with Storm waking up and staring up at him dreamily. They exchange some awkward words before rising to start the day. It's the first time I've seen it mentioned that Elminster regards Storm as an adoptive daughter and wouldn't sleep with her. So.... good on him I guess. But as far as cuddling naked with her every book, and using his ash form to slither all down her bodice and nether regions to make her shiver in pleasure... that's just totally normal behavoir for an adoptive father, right? Ughhh, it's such a gross relationship.

Up next, it's back to RAS for Neverwinter.




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