D&D General I'm reading the Forgotten Realms Novels- #178 The Emerald Scepter by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 3)

I was completely drow-ed out and antihero-ed out by the time these books came around, and given the ... less than stellar experience with multi-author series that was the Double Diamond books, I never bothered picking them up. Annoying to hear that I might have missed something worthwhile!
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
I was completely drow-ed out and antihero-ed out by the time these books came around, and given the ... less than stellar experience with multi-author series that was the Double Diamond books, I never bothered picking them up. Annoying to hear that I might have missed something worthwhile!

They're pretty good.
 

TheSword

Legend
I was completely drow-ed out and antihero-ed out by the time these books came around, and given the ... less than stellar experience with multi-author series that was the Double Diamond books, I never bothered picking them up. Annoying to hear that I might have missed something worthwhile!
Bonus is, it’s never too late! Just stop reading these posts for a couple of weeks!
 

Dire Bare

Legend
I was completely drow-ed out and antihero-ed out by the time these books came around, and given the ... less than stellar experience with multi-author series that was the Double Diamond books, I never bothered picking them up. Annoying to hear that I might have missed something worthwhile!
There are a lot of reasons why "The War of the Spider Queen" series should not be good, but . . . it actually is one of the better D&D novel series out there! It's not perfect, the ending has some issues for me, but overall a solid read for all six novels.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#146 Condemnation by Richard Baker (War Spider Queen 3)
Read 27/11/21 to 30/11/21


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Still good.

Not as good as the first two but that's because there's plenty of diluting with this one, there are lots of pieces on the board now and so we don't spend the same amount of quality time with our antiheroes/heroes/pleasurable-villains* (* delete as appropriate).

Also, we go places with this one, and travelling is often an issue, Baker does the right thing though, early on in the piece he was skipping the action, and I was fretting- where's all the good stuff, I like a good fight. But, he was right to, there's just so much to get in this one. It's pretty marvellous so far how the different authors have managed to get everything to line up, except... but we'll get to the exception.

So, Pharaun is too cool for skool, Ryld still a killing machine with a heart of something softer (but not gold), Valas similar but less well-defined, Quenthel still a tyrannical nutter (but in a really great way), same for Halisstra and Danifae; and Jeggred of course. The issue, as stated above, is we get less time to be with these folk. There's a whole heap of Halisstra in this one, captured by elves and subject to the (good) machinations of a priestess of Eilistraee, but do not fret- it all ends very badly for the good guys.

We skip about a a bit- Anauroch, Mantol Derith, Gracklstugh (with a bit of time on the Darklake) and then, at last, into the Demonweb Pits, where it gets all Q1 (remember the module), only... and again, we're in a race to get through this stuff. Everyone shines although perhaps not as brightly as they did in the first two.

Then there's the fact that we also get to spend time with some/more of the bad guys- the tanurrak legions and their cambion boss (and Aliisza, of course), then there's Horgar and the duergar, and then... phew, there really are a lot of factions in the game. Then there are the bad guy drow, with Grandfather and the despicable Lolth hating assassins of the Jaezrad Chausslin, you've got to love these folk.

Then there's Trilel Baenre, and Menzo- and a war, and Gromph has gone, and then there's the lich house master of house Dyrr, and a half-a-dozen other drow house and their matron mothers.

And then...

And then...

Truth be told if this was a 500 page novel then I would have read it as quickly and it would have been all the better for it, maybe even a seven novel series.

The point being some of these places- Gracklstugh, the Darklake & the Demonweb Pits, I'd really would have liked to have spent longer here, to take more of it in. Obviously that's as much about me and my game, but these are places that I have read a little about in other 5e sources and, I wanna know more.

Is there a novel out there that does for the duergar what Salvatore (and co) did for the drow?

That would be something I'd look forward to reading, a lot.

So, it's just sprawling, and because of this it has to dart about a lot. That's my major complaint about the Halisstra interlude, I guess it needs to stay in because there's a pay off coming somewhere along the line. But here, when every other section is moving so quickly, it seems to stand out and not for the right reasons, it just seems like marking time.

Again, there's something coming no doubt that makes the chunk of exposition here worthwhile.

The other error-

"Save your magic," Quenthel decided. "That strand will do. Jeggred, Ryld, carry Valas and Danifae."

Jeggred?

The big lad is back guarding the physical bodies of the astral walking drow, Jeggred can't hear you Matron.

Whoops.

But that's not much to write home about.

It's another good to great novel, more of the same- too much more, as stated- I'd have turned this one into two, or else submitted a 500 page text and let the series bosses figure it all out (and would therefore never have get another writing gig again).

But you get what I'm saying.

It flies too fast at times, too much stuff- not enough time for a proper look around, but I get it- that's the load that this one has to carry.

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

TheSword

Legend
Your read through is making me want to go back… but I know if I do that I’m going to start writing drow campaign stuff… and I’m already part way through three other campaigns. Must focus!!

Great summary and pretty darn accurate! These are the best three books of the series without doubt.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
This was another good one, though I seem to recall thinking that the sheer number of plot threads was starting to become...not cumbersome, per se, but rather offering more than could be adequately showcased. As you noted, this book would have felt short even if it was twice the length that it was. But while some (actually a lot) of this gets touched on later in the series, the ones that didn't felt kind of like a tease.

But I suppose that if my biggest complaint is "it left me wanting more," then I don't really have a complaint now, do I?

The ending of the book, when they finally get to the Demonweb Pits, was by far the most memorable portion of this story, at least to me. The usage of high-level magic was impressive, not simply unto itself, but because this felt like a story where we could really follow the action in terms of the D&D 3rd Edition rules. There are plenty of stories with high- and epic-level characters (Elminster and the Seven Sisters come to mind), but these usually have a "plot first, then rules" structure, where they're whipping out magic we've never heard of before, and we'll have to hope that there's a sourcebook or an article in Dragon magazine that will eventually put stats to what they're doing.

While that's a good way to generate new content, and maybe even interest in a particular novel if you read those rules first and then want to go back and see them in action, this was a nice change of pace. Gate, astral spell, blade barrier, sending, and quite a few more were on display. It's like the difference between watching the Marvel shows on Disney+ after having seen every film in the MCU versus only having seen a couple of them; those little "I know what that is!" moments are more worthwhile than you think.

Of course, occasionally that goes the other way. I can't recall if it was in this book or the previous one where Danifae reveals that she's a bard, and as such has access to the cure light wounds series of spells, since bards could do that in 3rd Edition despite being arcane spellcasters. That's never sat right with me, since healing being a hallmark of divine magic - or at least, a hallmark of the idea that your spells are given to you by some entity (which is why I have no problem with Pathfinder's witch class having access to healing spells, despite also being an arcane spellcasting class) - is a D&D staple, and there's never been an adequate (again, to me) explanation for why bards could suddenly use them despite their arcane magic. Particularly in the Realms, where divine spellcasting requires that you worship a deity or near-divine entity; none of this "cleric of a philosophy" stuff there. Plus we got a whole bunch of stuff about Danifae's bardic tradition that felt a bit too rambling in its attempt to answer the question of why drow society would even have bards.

Still, it was good stuff overall. That they actually got to the Demonweb was a bit surprising; I'd have thought they'd have dragged that out until the end. But them arriving and not getting any clear answers was a nice twist, even if it then turned into a game of "let's try it again, maybe this time it'll go differently."
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
This was another good one, though I seem to recall thinking that the sheer number of plot threads was starting to become...not cumbersome, per se, but rather offering more than could be adequately showcased. As you noted, this book would have felt short even if it was twice the length that it was. But while some (actually a lot) of this gets touched on later in the series, the ones that didn't felt kind of like a tease.

But I suppose that if my biggest complaint is "it left me wanting more," then I don't really have a complaint now, do I?

The ending of the book, when they finally get to the Demonweb Pits, was by far the most memorable portion of this story, at least to me. The usage of high-level magic was impressive, not simply unto itself, but because this felt like a story where we could really follow the action in terms of the D&D 3rd Edition rules. There are plenty of stories with high- and epic-level characters (Elminster and the Seven Sisters come to mind), but these usually have a "plot first, then rules" structure, where they're whipping out magic we've never heard of before, and we'll have to hope that there's a sourcebook or an article in Dragon magazine that will eventually put stats to what they're doing.

While that's a good way to generate new content, and maybe even interest in a particular novel if you read those rules first and then want to go back and see them in action, this was a nice change of pace. Gate, astral spell, blade barrier, sending, and quite a few more were on display. It's like the difference between watching the Marvel shows on Disney+ after having seen every film in the MCU versus only having seen a couple of them; those little "I know what that is!" moments are more worthwhile than you think.

Of course, occasionally that goes the other way. I can't recall if it was in this book or the previous one where Danifae reveals that she's a bard, and as such has access to the cure light wounds series of spells, since bards could do that in 3rd Edition despite being arcane spellcasters. That's never sat right with me, since healing being a hallmark of divine magic - or at least, a hallmark of the idea that your spells are given to you by some entity (which is why I have no problem with Pathfinder's witch class having access to healing spells, despite also being an arcane spellcasting class) - is a D&D staple, and there's never been an adequate (again, to me) explanation for why bards could suddenly use them despite their arcane magic. Particularly in the Realms, where divine spellcasting requires that you worship a deity or near-divine entity; none of this "cleric of a philosophy" stuff there. Plus we got a whole bunch of stuff about Danifae's bardic tradition that felt a bit too rambling in its attempt to answer the question of why drow society would even have bards.

Still, it was good stuff overall. That they actually got to the Demonweb was a bit surprising; I'd have thought they'd have dragged that out until the end. But them arriving and not getting any clear answers was a nice twist, even if it then turned into a game of "let's try it again, maybe this time it'll go differently."

Thinking back I should have mentioned the spell use in my little write-up and the joys of high level play, so often they sound wrong (the spells), or else... well, some other form of magic that's not D&D but something else. But this one, and particularly with the epic confrontation in the Demonweb, yeah- that'd be just about right.

A chunk of this endeavour, I guess- on reflection, is about my dislike or else failure (in previous editions) with high level play, or else the fact that it seems to me as the DM, at times, that I'm just about entertaining/humouring the players. At a certain level, and with four or five of them versus/against me, I sometimes/often come up short with the threat. I know how to kick ass as a DM to about level 12-14, but after that.

I think I can deliver plot and story until the end, but the mechanics- I think I'm at volume 11 but then the encounter begins and... I take a kicking, as always.

So, I'm fond of this bunch, and the telling of their tale, because in part I'm looking for clues as to how to make this work, and also how to describe it in game. This series has been good at that, from the Shadow Walk and beyond.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#147 Extinction by Lisa Smedman (War Spider Queen 4)
Read 4/12/21 to 7/12/21


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And there's a bit of me that thinks that this is the best one yet in this series, and in particular because this one just seems to go places, it's one of those novels in which the author's brief is to get a variety of characters from point A to point B. Lisa Smedman does his with style and aplomb.

True to say that the main characters in this one are more often than not Halisstra & Ryld, and their blossoming non-Drow style romance, right the way down to the SPOILER point in which one of the pair 'gives' themself to the other.

I liked the Eilistraee moments a lot, that's the way to find a new goddess- kill the priestess that takes a chance and believes in you, and then figure out afterwards that you are the bad guy in your own story. Then, get given a second chance...

If Halisstra switches sides again, in the end, I'm going to be sore. I loved the fact that (as with all things drow) it's the love-sick, sorry Melee-Magthere weapons master, Ryld that has to slope around in the background, trying to make sense of it all.

Because there's a chunk of this then there's less of some of the other guys/favourites here- Pharaun, Quenthel, Jeggred, Danifae and Valas. But here's the thing- they stay the same, there's no deviation (for me) from the iterations of these character as portrayed in the previous novels. They're true to form, but better still- the cracks are starting to appear, and its wonderful to watch, even Valas is making snide remarks and getting teenage-grumpy. They're falling apart, or else the oh-so-slow-burn Pharaun-shaped rebellion is building to a head. We've got to get to Pharaun (& Aliisza/Gromph/Valas) versus Quenthel (& Jeggred) or some variant of the same.

But don't tell me, don't give it away.

Better still, the places they go in this one- from the Cold Field and the tattered and broken undead there, with added extra Purple Worm action. Oothoon the aboleth and his chums are just glorious, and I've been called to DM aboleth's in the past, and now- at bloody last, I've read this one and know how to do it properly. Then there's the Lake of Shadows, and the drow demon captain of the Chaos Ship, stuck in a perpetual storm. And crypts, and wights, and wraiths, and I've forgotten some of the stuff from the start.

There's just so much to see, hear and like.

This one is just epic, an epic adventure- there's a bit of me that keeps thinking back to D1-3 & Q1 (after the Giants) and thinking- they should have made this one as well, this should be a mega-adventure, or else get ported somehow.

The other itch in my brain that I keep having to scratch is memories of 4e, not the system you understand, but the presentation of adventures as being a series of encounters rather than a sprawling dungeon/plot that the players had to dig their way through. Late 3.5e and 4e (WotC published) adventures (caveat, some of them) seemed to me to have a strange (good, at times) structure that at least pointed more towards epic.

This one is like that- three cracking high level environmentally rich encounters in a row, or else- at times, just a series of crash-bang-wallop climaxes.

Everything is epic, terrible and glorious.

But the heroes keep being smarter than that.

I really liked this one, kudos to the author for carrying the story, developing the characters, and all towards somebody else's big bang ending (fingers-crossed). There are so many balls that Lisa Smedman has just kept spinning, faster and faster, we plunge on.

Bloody hell, and I didn't even mention events back in Menzo, so much good stuff...

Sorry if I got a bit fanboy there, forgive me.

Great work.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I'm not sure why I don't have quite as much enthusiasm for this one as the previous works in the series; I normally love Lisa Smedman's work, something which I've mentioned before. But for whatever reason, this one didn't leave a strong impression.

As much as I suspect that's my fuzzy memory in general, I have a vague sense that this one was a little too all over the place. That this one largely consisted of a series of encounters as the group tried to reach their destination. "Are we there yet?" stories tend to have that effect on me, if for no other reason than they become a travelogue that wants to de-emphasize the destination in favor of the journey, even as the destination remains the most salient motivation for the characters (otherwise, why would they be making the trip in the first place?).

Now, we do get some good character drama along the way. I'm trying to recall if it was in this book or the previous one where there was a scene where Quenthel's whip was putting ideas in her head, floating the idea that it was the real puppet master, while she only thought she was in charge. I mention that because there was some interview with the author where that was specifically called out, but it never really got any development, and so seemed like a wasted idea. (On a related note, each of the five heads on Quenthel's whip has its own personality; from what I can tell, this isn't really something you can do under 3.5's rules for intelligent items, much like how you can't apply the flaming enchantment five times over so that a magic weapon does +5d6 fire damage. The best you could do was have a double weapon with each end having its own personality, but even then it wouldn't be much different from any other magic double weapon.)

Alas, the ship of chaos here didn't seem like the one in A Paladin in Hell, which was actually an entire layer of the Abyss shaped into the form of a ship. It might have been like one of the ships from In the Abyss, but I can't really say, since I don't have that particular module (yet).

Eilistraee's depiction here was interesting, simply because I hadn't seen much of her faith in Realms fiction. While there's undoubtedly some that I missed, I suspect the main reason it hasn't gotten much exposure is because it's an open secret that R. A. Salvatore doesn't like it very much. Why I'm not sure; the implication seems to be that he feels it weakens Drizzt's story as a renegade drow if there's an entire religion dedicated to the concept. As it is, most drow deities outside of Lolth tend to get little-to-no exposure in Salvatore's novels; it's no coincidence that the eponymous Starlight Enclave makes no mention of Eilistraee that I'm aware of.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#148 Annihilation by Philip Athans (War Spider Queen 5)
Read 15/12/21 to 18/12/21


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Well, I still haven't found the bad one... it's going to be the last one isn't it?

Don't answer that.

So, I thought to begin with that this one was a bit light-headed- it seemed to dash from place to place, person to person, in an attempt to keep all of the balls in the air. And there are a lot of balls in the air right now. Not only that but from the get-go the author seemed to be going for climax after climax, building tension- bloody hell forget that, and the hits keep on coming.

Then, and I don't know quite when it happened, but it all seemed to settle down and get quite groovy, there was lots to see and hear, and even more to admire. Not the least of which was Ryld's death (Temporary? Shrugs- I don't know) and then the meeting with the same drow's spirit on the long trek to NEW SPIDERTOWN (the new locale of the Demonweb Pits). I loved this stuff, and the gushy will-she/wont-she (hook back up with Lolth) for Halisstra, and the fact that priestess who got her to join the club has to give up her life again.

And the backdrop throughout this novel is just stupendous- I really dig the Chaos Ship, into the Shadow Plane- watch out for the bats, then on into the Astral Sea- ahoy me hearties! Set sail for the sixty-sixth layer of the Abyss. Just great.

Then there's the forty or so pages apiece rumbling fight-off's, Jaggred versus Ryld, and Gromph versus Dyrr (& Nimor). They were great... Philip Athans you are spoiling us with your chop/spill-socky.

Then there's Pharaun versus Jeggred's (Hezrou, from memory) dad.

Then there's Quenthel, who when the really great thing happens- Lolth finds her house keys, well... Quenthel is back to her terrifying best.

Then there's the old Demonweb Pits, and the great big Spider Automaton that I seemed to remember having fun with back in Q1.

Love Grandfather, and the telling off for Nimor, he's just one of the lads now.

So, a lot goes on- the balls are all violently juggled, or else just smashed- like eggs, on the floor. It's ram-jam-packed with excitement, and yet...

And yet it's not my favourite, the joy (at times) is a little ephemeral, fleeting, because mere moments later we are somewhere else doing something else and... I'd probably liked to have spent a little more time with the last that we were up to, particularly (as stated earlier) at the start.

But here's the thing- it's bloody great, I enjoyed it immensely- not all/just the action, but the places we've been to see, the spells we witnessed, the... well, just the DM in me is lapping up this stuff.

Read & enjoyed.

The next one's bad isn't it? You can tell me?

But don't do it, I beg of you.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
As it turned out, I do remember several salient points regarding this novel; I just couldn't recall that I remembered them.

Which is to say, there were several parts of this particular book that stuck out in my mind, but I needed to review it's Wikipedia entry to remember that this was the one where they happened. For instance, the issue with Lolth suddenly granting spells again, followed by Triel casting a miracle spell to turn Gromph's losing fight with Dyrr around; very cool imagery there, but I'd forgotten that the major issue with Lolth's Silence - i.e. that she'd gone silent - ended here, despite there being one more book in the series.

I'm likewise still trying to recall if this was the one which revealed that the Demonweb Pits was no longer part of the Abyss, becoming its own plane. That was an eye-rolling moment for me, because A) it seemed like a years-late justification of that whole "World Tree" idea, where the Forgotten Realms cosmology was needlessly reshuffled away from perfectly-serviceable Great Wheel (even if you could technically chalk that up to the events of Die Vecna Die! (affiliate link), which despite popular belief is actually German for "The Vecna The!"), and B) I'm still not entirely sure how they justified that change from an in-character presentation. If Lolth did that herself, then...how? Last time I checked, becoming a greater deity (which was Lolth's goal with the Silence, even though it wasn't ever confirmed by any subsequent game materials) doesn't allow you to reshape cosmologies.

Also, props to Valas for knowing when to exit stage left. Dude already got hit with aboleth slime, and needed to have a baleful polymorph used to change him back to normal in an earlier book, which noted that it only approximated how he used to look before. When stuff like that happens, it's best to quietly part ways with the party while you can, since at that point you're pretty much asking for some big bad to undo the baleful polymorph with a dispel magic and let you asphyxiate.
 

TheSword

Legend
This series is so awesome. So many reasons to love it.

I remember the Gromph Spell duel being bloody brilliant though. Probably the best spell duel I’ve seen in D&D fiction. And every spell, level for level, available to players in the game.

The silence ending was like flood waters after 40 days in the desert. So satisfying!

What I love about this series is how it makes drow… full blown evil drow… extremely likeable.

The finale is an anticlimax, but then how can you follow 5 books of such awesomeness. There some great moments though. Dyrr’s phylacteries needs dealing with.

I’ve read the books through twice, but heck, these posts have inspired me to read them again!
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#149 Resurrection by Paul S Kemp (War Spider Queen 6)
Read 23/12/21 to 26/12/21


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Hmmmmmmm.

I mean, hmmmmmmm.

This is the bad one- right, only its not that bad. It's nowhere near as good as some of the others en route but, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Okay, Pharaun has gone from suave sophisticate with the touch of the common man (drow) to surly and spoiled (kill the oaf Jeggred) and then... until the finale, a bit invisible. Basically, he's no-longer telling us the story.

Although we do get the Pharaun versus Ultroloth, Street Magic 2- the ultimate spell battle button bash at the end.

Quenthel and Danifae just keep on getting better, more malice, more spite, more ultra-polite threats wrapped in custom and guile (top drow matroning). Halisstra, well- I'm surprised she knows which way is up, if faith is defined as the belief in something unprovable, then... well, she ain't never had none. Halisstra therefore (maybe) embodies the dilemma of being drow- in a society with rigid structure and order, and in which every significant member constantly seeks to undermine, trip up (or just plain murder) their rivals, well... not a lot of room for faith. Perhaps Halisstra is the ultimo-drow, happy to change deities as often as she changes her clothes.

Jeggred just gets more Jeggred, he's a lovable ol' draegloth, kidding- he's terror incarnate. Love it.

The Ultroloth, didn't really get it, except that the author, I suppose, at some point thought- not enough bad guys for the finale, I know- an army of Yugoloth's. So, that was nice, as was the Klurichir (never heard of it, but I googled) and the great spider swarm et al. So, lots of climactic finale good stuff, even folk that you think are dead (Halisstra) getting back up again.

There's a mad bit where the main players head through the Pass of Whatever It Was Called and take it in turns to get swallowed by the ancient colossal serpent within, and there's some of this that I kinda got, but then wasn't sure about.

I take it the random chapter in which Danifae does favours for money, disfigured and discarded she... keeps the faith, I guess this bit was the test- all part of the passage to the domain of Lolth and the great plains and the city, and world/universe-wide-web.

So, forgiven.

BIG SPOILER.

I liked that the Yor'thae turns out to be Danifae, for two reasons- I was much too fond of Quenthel, the character, in my mind she needed to get back to Menzo quick-sticks to make more mischief in other books, in my head she is the ultimo-drow, she's the one my PCs are going to encounter. And later wish they hadn't. The opposite is true of Halisstra, to begin with she was cool- her and Ryld, but then- well she just tied herself in knots (repeatedly, and there comes a point- the lady doth protest too much), and in this one... I get she was finding out stuff (about herself) as she went along but she was (seemingly) happy to play good/bad, and in both guises ultimately screw her compatriots over (so, drow). I didn't like her so much, so screw her- she can't be the Yor'thae.

I get that Lolth embraces chaos but surely the Self comes before the chaos, apologies if that doesn't make much sense. Let me put it another way- Halisstra is too bothered by stuff, she lacks bad ass, gravitas and, well. she's a mess.

In truth, when I was reading it, from the chapter with Danifae still worshipping Lolth (and murdering folk in her name) while she turned tricks, well- I thought she's got to be the winner.

Liked all the journey, and the end-game.

Not as good as some of the others but, it worked- for me.

Last bit, the Gromph attack on House Dyrr should be read accompanied by the Mission Impossible music, or else something from one of those interminable Oceans followed-by-a-number films.

Like the Lolth finale this one (Archmage versus Lichdrow et al) got silly, but here's the thing- what did I expect, if not this then what... It was good, all of it. Just not, y'know, a firecracker- the novel's biggest problem being that some of the previous ones were just plain cooler and better.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Have a great Christmas break and New Year.

Cheers goonalan
 

TheSword

Legend
Great review. Couldn’t agree more. My only disappointment was that Phaerauns end was so ignoble. After being so cool for the rest of the story.

…Then again… he had it coming 🤷🏻‍♂️😂
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Going back over this one in my head, I agree that it was the weak link in the series, but mostly due to being overshadowed rather than fumbling anything.

Part of what I found difficult to swallow here was the rewrite of the lore around yugoloths. I mean, I'm sorry, but "Inthracis"? Everything about him sounds like a cheap knock-off of Anthraxus. Moreover, his being strongarmed by Vhaeraun despite supposedly being the second-most-powerful member of the 'loths is something that flies in the face of how they've been classically depicted. Khin-Oin is supposedly made out of the spine of the first god who crossed the yugoloths. You'd never know that by reading what's here.

There's also the fact that Inthracis makes liberal use of the clone spell - a la Manshoon - to repeatedly survive his own death. I mean, that's technically not against the D&D 3.5 rules, but it feels like it should be. I mean, the Outsider type has an entire bullet point describing how their bodies and souls are a single unit, rather than existing in a dual nature, and so most life-restoring spells don't work on them. Yes, it omits mention of the clone spell, and the spell itself doesn't explicitly forbid Outsiders from using it (or reference raise dead, resurrection, etc.), but this really feels like an exploit, you know? It's the sort of thing that gives rules lawyers a bad name.

Regarding the ending, I remember a quote from Paul Kemp (I think from the old FR mailing list) where he talked about some of the decisions that were made regarding how things turned out. It was taken as a given, for instance, that only one member of the band could return to Menzoberranzan, because...something about how it having multiple members of the party return would have forced a power struggle over who got credit for the Silence ending, I think? I can't quite recall now, but it was definitely decided that only a single member would make it back alive (though quite obviously, sequel series undid this).

Personally, I'm glad it was Quenthel. She's petty and cruel, but you get the sense that she doesn't really know how else to be, and flounders when not able to live in her "stereotypical drow" comfort zone to the point where it becomes oddly endearing. Like an aggressive puppy who growls at everyone, but has never been outside of their owner's apartment, when they find themselves lost in the wilderness you still end up rooting for them to make it back okay, because deep down you know they're just a scared little puppy. That's how Quenthel came across (and of course, we know from Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue (affiliate link), that she eventually took over the city anyway), at least to me.

Another thing Kemp expounded upon was the nature of the tests that Halisstra, Quenthel, and Danifae went through. Namely, that it was a test of character for each of them. Halisstra, being torn between religions, failed to slay Lolth when she found herself in her vision, instead falling down weeping (if she had killed Lolth, Kemp revealed, she would have passed the test, implying that she would have become part of the goddess instead of Danifae). Quenthel, engaging in petty acts of vengeance for not being chosen, was likewise considered a failure.

But Danifae? In her vision, she lost everything, and her attitude to that was "Bring it on!" She's been down and out before, and she knows how to climb back to the top, and that's what she demonstrated. So she was the one to become part of nuLolth, who subsequently seemed just like the old Lolth.

And really, that's kind of my problem with how this all ended. I won't say it was with a whimper, but it was more like a shrug. We got a sequel series (The Lady Penitent), and other characters returned later on (The Empyrean Odyssey), but otherwise, things were overshadowed by the forthcoming Spellplague and move to Fourth Edition too much for this to make much of a lasting impression. Lolth became a greater deity? Okay...I suppose you can point to something about how only greater deities made it through the Spellplague without losing a lot of their power, but that seems like a fairly minor point to justify an entire series around (and there's no way they were anticipating that when the War of the Spider-Queen series started).

It's kind of like putting on a dramatic production of Death of a Salesman in the middle of an airport terminal. You'll definitely get some eyeballs, but too much other stuff is going on for it to make much of an impact.
 

TheSword

Legend
I don’t think the spell plague following on from this has any bearing on how we view this work. You can be responsible for your own work but anything subsequent is someone else’s problem.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I don’t think the spell plague following on from this has any bearing on how we view this work. You can be responsible for your own work but anything subsequent is someone else’s problem.
In terms of viewing this series unto itself, sure, but I think it's also valid to consider this series in terms of its overall impact on the shared world in which it takes place. This was presented as a not-insignificant event which was subsequently overshadowed by the next big thing which came down the pike, which strikes me as something of a shame.
 

TheSword

Legend
In terms of viewing this series unto itself, sure, but I think it's also valid to consider this series in terms of its overall impact on the shared world in which it takes place. This was presented as a not-insignificant event which was subsequently overshadowed by the next big thing which came down the pike, which strikes me as something of a shame.
Hmm. I disagree. Impact on the game world is completely irrelevant to the quality of a story to my mind.

I’d rather have a quality intimidate tale about a family of four than a sprawling continent spanning but less well crafted story.

Not to mention that the events had a pretty big impact on the Drow of Menzoberranzan which was the crux of the story.
 

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