Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

The Books I Read #18 Dungeons & Dragons

I kind of stopped mentioning the books I read for a while. Mainly due to the fact that I was stuck on the same saga for a while. I’ve started reading the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series by R.A. Salvatore.

I mentioned a few of those books already in an earlier post. Since I shunned my responsibilities since, I have to now catch up with these things for a bit, to regain my self respect. I’m going to discuss the Drizzt series books from the start and the comics I’ve been checking out on this topic.

R.A. Salvatore – The Dark Elf Trilogy (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn)

goodreads.com

In the first series we are immersed in the world of Drizzt Do’Urden, warrior, thinker and hero of the Dungeons & Dragons Universe. Drizzt is born underground, in a place of certain death and evil: The Drow city of Menzoberranzan. On the night of his birth his elder brother is killed by his sibling, which means the life of Drizzt is spared. A third son would be sacrificed to the chaos goddess Lolth. Drizzt is raised in the matriarchal society under the tutelage of his father and the weapons master of house Do’Urden, while the matriarch watches. His father, Zaknafein, installs a different moral code in his son, one that strays from the evil path of the Drow and will set Drizzt apart from his kind.

The storytelling is such as to really allow the reader to immerse in the otherworldly and unholy beauty of these realms, specifically the hard to imagine Underdark, where the drow live. One could argue that Salvatore is engaging in the nature vs nurture debate here as well, since the character of Drizzt only starts to really be discussed after the real ethical questions are being raised. Before this point, he is an empty vessel in a way, following the path layed out for him. Once Salvatore opens up the characters, it feels elaborate and completely in sync with how D&D players would express their characters. The journey is quite beautiful, but very solo Drizzt. It is a necessary story that allows the reader to appreciate and embrace the character and the element that is Drizzt in the further stories.

R.A. Salvatore – The Icewind Dale Trilogy (The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, The Halfling’s Gem)

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In the second trilogy we fast-forward a little bit to a point where Drizzt has made some friends in the northern valley of Icewind Dale, a place of thieves, robbers and outcasts trying to start new lives. His friends include dwarven king Bruenor Battlehammer, halfling Regis and Catti-bri, human adopted daughter of King Bruenor. The characters are introduced during the story, slightly lifting up the veil on their backgrounds, while a threat grows in the dale. Not only do the friends need to unite, they’ll also need to unite the bickering villages of the vale, who have only once managed to work together to save their hides.

It is also the story of another character, namely the barbarian child Wulfgar. During the battle where the villages united against the Barbarian tribes, he was spared and indentured by Bruenor. We find the child coming of age as a man with the right mindset and principles, but the stubbornness of his own people. In the story the characters develop and find themselves amid the turbulent times they are part of. Ofcourse the story kicks of a leap to the next trilogy as well and much further adventures for what becomes the ‘Companions of the Hall’.  Where the first book focuses on what can be called pretty much ‘survival’, this book focuses on other D&D values such as diplomacy, wisdom and cunning.

goodreads.com

R.A. Salvatore – Legacy of the Drow ( The Legacy, Starless Night, Siege of Darkness, Passage to Dawn)

The events in the previous trilogy lead to an expansion of the world that the adventurers face, but also brings forward a longing for peace and home. Unfortunately the figure Drizzt has become a much desired prize for the evil drow, his own people. The matron mother of the city of Menzoberranzan decides on a hunt for the rogue drown to appease the displeased deity Lolth. In fact, Lolth herself has a hand in the whole events, tricking a great demon into cooperating with her against the prodigal son of her people. This reconnects the reader with some old familiar figures and brings us back to the Underdark, the realm of the drow. Dramatic events start to unfold soon, which will reshape the personalities in the game, even assassin Artemis Entreri, now a mortal enemy of Drizzt.

The tone of these novels is much more grim and dark, similar to their setting. Where battles are usually briefly mentioned and the focus is usually in the Drizzt novels on the interaction and experiences of the characters, this time a full out war is part of the story as well. It makes the story bigger and more grim than the previous outings. Also noteworthy is the return of some other elements from the previous books, that prove that history is not something for archives but a real thing that can come back to haunt you. In this book Salvatore also chooses to connect Drizzt to some other figures from the D&D universe, which is for a long time fan an absolute pleasure obviously.

R.A. Salvatore – Legend of Drizzt: The Graphic Novel Omnibus Vol. 1 & Vol 2

source: amazon

When a book has so much detail and characteristics embedded in its way of telling the story, the big challenge of course is to bring that to a visual medium. Luckily, there are plenty of capable artists and the team that worked on these first two installments of the two trilogy’s of Drizzt are definitely worth your reading hours, if not only for the strong way of transferring the story to a new medium, without completely bastardizing the text. In fact, much remains the same, apart from the painting parts about the landscape. Those are replaced with stunning images of the realms and the characters.

Granted, sometimes the drawings don’t correspond with your expectations, but that’s an inevitable qualm you’ll have with any adaptation. Ofcourse here and there sections are left out or minimalized, but you can’t prevent that from happening either.  When a fantasy story doesn’t have a film or something, itś always great to have something that offers you a visual experience. These comics definitely do that for you.

Cover image; Website Wizards of the Coast

The Reading of Books #17

Some books I read, by Houellebecq and Lévy, Felica Day, R.A. Salvatore and David E. Ewalt, so a lot of geeky stuff again (Dungeons & Dragons).

Michel Houellebecq & Bernard-Henri Lévy – Public Enemies

source: goodreads.com

It’s a fascinating idea to have to of the most influential thinkers (regardless if Houellebecq looks at himself in that way) of the modern times to go into a letter exchange with eachother. Do that with these two leading french intellectuals and you’ve got something special going on. Both are on different sides of the spectrum, but in their letters the interest and respect clearly shines through. When the book begins we can find some stabs and misconceptions, but gradually it becomes an intimate and deeply intellectual exchange.

The two men are united in their self deflating humor and loathing for their roles in life. Loathing and love, because both seem to be addicted to where they are and the way they are perceived in the public eye. I do think that this exchange finds no equivalent in other European nations, this is an exchange embedded in the french form of a ‘public intellectual’, which is a new concept, that rarely actuallye embodies any sort of true intellectualism in other nations. These men however, are deeply involved in knowing the self and therefor int rying to comprehend the other. The fact that they manage to convey it in a convincing and witty manner even makes this a better read, worthy of your attention.

David M. Ewalt – Of Dice and Men

source: goodreads.com

I have only recently embraced the world of D&D, but David Ewalt had done so many, many years before me and knows the game, the history, the rules and the story well enough to tell the tale of D&D itself, which he does in a captivating, spectacular and immersing way. Well, that should be enough of convincing, but let me go a bit deeper into that. Ewalt is a journalist for Forbes, so we’re talking about serious business here. The man had left his roots behind and somehow started to export his nerdy past as an explorer, an ethnographer if you will.

Ewalts trip into the history and dense development of D&D and its affiliates gets a personal touch through that, with a warm and fond approach to the subject matter and some reverence for the key figures like Gygax and Arneson. While the personal fire rekindles, the story becomes a beautiful legend told with much love and warmth, but always remaining that of a journalist trying to tell you more about this phenomenon. There is definitely criticism and analysis, but it helps in understanding that beauty of D&D, it’s about characters, flaws and strenghts. It’s about what you can do when you combine the best of all. Ewalt brings that together in a great read.

Felicia Day – You’re never weird on the internet (almost)

source:goodreads.com

The book by Felicia Day reads as a bit of therapy, as someone coming to turns with her own path in life a lot later in it. Turns out that’s partly why it was written and in what state the author was. I chose to go for the audiobook version on this one, because it was read by Felicia Day herself. Like the book ‘Just A Geek’ by Wil Wheaton it just happens to connect easier that way and is probably the most ‘true to the core’ experience you can get. The book is a good read for everyone who has felt like an outsider somewhere in their lives.

The book is therefor a story of Felicia’s life, filled with humor and self deflating remarks, highl lighting the problems she has faced throughout the years as an insecure person trying to deal with the world. In that way, there’s also a part lamentation of choices done wrong and hardships endured, but it’s all in good fun. We know where it ended, which is in a good place. The particularly interesting bit in the book deals with gamergate, which was a horrible part of gaming history. Being a self-appointed geek for pretty much forever, I felt alienated and truly disappointed with the gaming world after gamer gate, and that sentiment was clearly there. All in all, it’s a fun and light read about that girl who could be your neighbour. It’s great stuff.

R.A. Salvatore – Gauntlgrym

source:goodreads.com

Getting into Dungeons & Dragons requires you to start getting some footing in the vast universe of the game. No other way is better than reading the novels and letting your own fantasy shape that world the way you wish to perceive it. No other character is more intriguing and part of this world than Drizzt Do’Urden, a drow elf (a dark skinned variation, living underground and generally underground). This story takes place later in the cycle of the life of this character, which developed from a supporting character to a main player in the universe.

Gauntlgrym is an old dwarven hold, thought lost and the huge quest for aged King Bruenor of the dwarves of Mithril Hall. Together with his old friend Drizzt he concocts a plan to escape his duties as king and go fight for his ancestral home in the final great quest. This story follows their adventures, wracked with memories and their old past and is a classic adventure novel, displaying various classes, races and elements of D&D.