• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

D&D General I'm reading the Forgotten Realms Novels- #202 The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson (Dungeons 2)


The EN World kitten
Yes, there's the general lack of cohesiveness you mentioned quite apparant with many multi author characters.

Then there's this case which is very unique since none of Salvatores characters are multi-author.

There are merely three exceptions (of which only two ever made it to print) and they all date back to a time Salvatore and TSR were in a nasty fight about his contract.

TSR wanting to demonstrate strength then took his characters and gave them to other authors. Results were Arti appearing in this series, a Drizzt short story in one of the Realms of [...] anthologies and s whole Drizzt novel (Shores of Dusk?) which was written and advertised but ultimately never published.
I'm not sure which anthology that was, though I'm a tad interested in finding out now. It's worth recalling (or is it?) that Drizzt briefly appears in Brian Thomsen's novel Once Around the Realms. I suspect it's no coincidence that Thomsen was, according to James Lowder, the reason why things got so bad between TSR and Salvatore that someone else was commissioned to write Shores of Dusk.

log in or register to remove this ad

Where can I find that? It sounds fascinating.
I think i originally found it on the Dark Sun facebook page, but it's one of those things that's been rattling around on various sites since the internet was chiselled on the wall by cavemen. I think it originally dates waaaay back to usenet.

Found them! Bear in mind there's a lot of Dark Sun-specific stuff here which is of limited relevance to a Forgotten Realms thread, but it does give you an idea about how TSR ran things in those days

I hope I'm doing this right... I hope you'll all bear with me if I'm not.

I got the list address from a list subscriber I met at a convention last year. Until then, I had no idea that there was still such interest in the Dark Sun milieu -- or that anyone was reading my Dark Sun novels so carefully. It's quite an honor; I'm very flattered.

In fairness, though, it has to be said that the three Dark Sun books were not written during TSR's finest hours. The game department and the book department communicated primarily by rumor and although I would give the book department outlines that were roughly one-third the length of the finished book with the understanding that they would be reviewed and vetted by the game department, I never once got any feedback. (When it came time to do Dragon King, I was told that if I could write the novel in next 90 days, there'd be no need to get the gaming department's approval.)

The downside of all that freedom was that if I had a question about how the milieu worked, I could never get an authoritative answer -- so I would make things up. Sometimes I'd make things up that I was sure the game department wouldn't approve -- on the assumption that in disapproving the prose they'd have to answer my questions. This strategy never failed to backfire.

This is why I'm so honored (and surprised) that some of you seem to have enjoyed the books. You all have FAR more knowledge of Athas than I have or had. My reference materials were: the first boxed set, the psionicist's handbook, Troy Denning's Prism books, the hard-cover Dragon-Kings supplement, and (for Hamanu's biography) something called "Beyond the Prism Pentad".

Anyway, as I understand them, at least a few Athasian druids consider it their purpose and destiny to restore the Athasian wastelands. Philosophically, they have a lot in common with contemporary back-to-nature and Earth-First movements. They're not particularly tolerant of folk who don't agree with them and their standard of "right" and "wrong" is governed by whether an act will tend to bring a wasted area back to natural life. The druids I wrote about avoid places like mountains because mountains don't fit into their world view (because I thought there were a lot of contradictions in the reference materials that I had regarding the 10+ Guardians into which druidic characters were supposed to evolve).

I tried to imply that Telhami and her "congregation" might be considered heretical by other druids -- I was hedging my bets because I couldn't get the game department to answer my questions about druids in general... and I had questions about druids because I knew from the beginning that I was going to write about the dilemmas of a "good" man (Pavek) in a stable, but completely corrupt, society and I felt that druids offered a better contrast to the templars than any other "priestly" variant class.

(You can probably tell that I'm not much of a gamer. I started playing D&D before it had numbers and when all the rule books could be fitted into a rather small brown box. We played head-to-head, like poker, usually one PC (with 3 NPC assistants) versus the DM. We rolled for hit points, but everything else was negotiated, and you could never be smarter or wiser than you actually were. Needless to say, my group stopped gaming about the time AD&D came on the market... we went on to put together THIEVES' WORLD.)

Hamanu's story was a true roller-coaster ride. The only guidance I got from TSR was that, when the book ended, no reader should be able to tell what, if anything, had actually changed in Urik, or Athas-proper, because the milieu was going to be completely re-constructed. (I was told that the halflings were coming back in planet-killer space ships to do war with the Dragon-kings and recreate the Blue era. I thought that had zero potential for the sort of stories I like to write and my goal, when I began plotting the book, was to keep Urik safe from the game department and put Hamanu someplace where they couldn't mess with him.)

In order for Hamanu's story to work, he had to go up against a character who was more "evil" than he was... and that meant Rajaat, which meant Ur Draxa, the Gray, and the Black. It also meant trying to reconcile the material in "Beyond the Prism Pentad" with the Pentad itself... and without TSR's help. I managed to get a few maps of Ur Draxa, but I didn't know if they were "official", so I had to flood the place with sludge and fog to create believable confusion on Hamanu's part (since he should have known how the city was laid out and how it worked). I never did figure out the Black or the Gray; fortunately, Hamanu didn't understand them either, so it wasn't difficult to create believable confusion.

After I finished Dragon King, the game department did answer most of the questions I'd raised over the preceding years... naturally they answered them their own way, which contradicted much of what I'd laid out in my three books. There's is the "official" version, but I like to think that Hamanu's was the truth... at least as he understood it.

I know the old Lion of Urik would be pleased (but not surprised) to find that Dark Sun continues to exist on the Internet.

If anyone ever has questions about why things are the way they are in the books I wrote, I'll be happy to answer them -- I only hope you won't be too disappointed by my answers.

All for now... Lynn Abbey


A few basic things you need to know. First, it's been quite a while since I was day-to-day immersed in DarkSun. I've relocated twice and my notes have gotten sketchier each time, so while I'll try to answer your questions honestly, today's answers might be different from the answers you might have gotten in 1995 or 1996.

Second, the Dark Sun years were not the brightest years for TSR. things were getting increasingly desperate within the corporate structure and desperation does not foster good communication. I had some input from the gaming side of the house for Brazen Gambit and Cinnabar Shadows, but Rise and Fall was written without any consultation with the gaming department...no, let me be honest and say it was written despite the gaming department. When I had questions, I had Troy Denning's novels, the basic box, a psionics handbook, the Dragon Kings supplement, and a poorly produced supplement that was supposed to translate Troy's novels into gaming terms. For the most part, then, I was on my own for the world building and making things up as I went. (The actual Rise and Fall deal was that if I could produce the book in less than nine weeks then the book department could bring it out without ever consulting the gaming department...it was part of a destructive civil war within TSR.)

So, your basic assumption -- that I was aware of what the GAMING department was doing with Dark Sun -- is wrong, especially for Rise and Fall. I never did fully grasp the difference between psionics and sorcery as the Sorcerer-kings manipulated them. I strove to have mechanics that were internally consistent for my own plots and (because the gaming department was never going to see the final manuscript) didn't worry over much about how they related to the game (which, I'd been told, was being overhauled into an SF setting with large numbers of technologically-advanced halflings coming back to Athas from their native planet...a scenario I found appalling.)

Now, as for the way Hamanu (and by extension the other wildly powerful npcs of the setting) used sorcery...as best I can recall, I messed around with the idea of obsidian with the idea that the dragon metamorphosis created living obsidian, which was, in and of itself, fuel for sorcery. Hamanu could suck the life out of anything, but usually he chose to suck the life out of himself (he was casually suicidal, among other things). Of course, the more he used himself as the fuel for sorcery, the further he progressed toward the mindlessness of a full-fledged dragon. Sorcery for Hamanu is still a lose-lose proposition: he could destroy himself or he could wreck Urik.

I'm not claiming that this structure works for the game, but it worked for the novels, and that's all I needed to care about. I truly expected the halflings-as-uber-aliens scenario to destroy the Dark Sun community and was just trying to finish Urik's story before that happened.

As to what happened to Sadira -- remember I was playing around with the powers of obsidian and the notion that Hamanu's "real" skeleton was being slowly converted to living obsidian. Hamanu thought the folks from Tyr were the greatest (and most dangerous) fools ever hatched because they confined Rajaat (a proto dragon) in lava which is nothing but potential obsidian, thereby giving Rajaat access to a virtually unlimited amount of sorcerous fuel. Hamanu and I also believed that Sadira didn't understand HOW her darkling magic worked. The way we understood it, when Sadira cloaked herself in shadow, she was effectively "borrowing" the same power that Rajaat had harnessed to make living obsidian. When Sadira and Hamanu confronted each other, and she attempted to use her "power" she was, unbeknownst to her, attempting to draw on the very fuel contained within Hamanu's living obsidian bones...but Hamanu was an expert at denying and/or manipulating the use of that power. You could think of it as a feedback loop -- she was sucking power out of him, he had a conscious thought to reverse the process and sucked the power out of her instead. The only reason he didn't reduce her to ash was that he still hoped she would ally Tyr with Urik.

I honestly don't know whether what I did should be considered a "godlike" power. To me, it arose naturally from my initial "messing around" with living obsidian, which I don't think was ever a part of the Dark Sun canon, but which I needed to make my story work. Actually, I needed a lot to make my story work. I don't think that the DarkSun creators really thought through the mechanics of the Sorcerer-kings. As a group they were more like gods or natural (albeit willful and malevolent) forces in the world and the deeper the creators got into the mechanics they more they (like me) had to fudge things.

I'm secretly pleased, though, that Rise and Fall found a receptive audience in the Dark Sun community, since it was such a subversive, under-the-radar project. It remains one of my favorite books -- having Hamanu in my head day and night for nine weeks was a truly life-changing experience -- whenever the going gets rough, I drop into his mind set and plow forward.

I hope some of what I written helps you and the other regenerators... good luck. (And if you're ever bored, you might check out the THIEVES' WORLD books formerly from ACE and currently being published by TOR. After all, the only reason I got started in Dark Sun was because the TSR editors assured me I could write the Athasian milieu because it was THIEVES' WORLD with elves.)

Thanks for writing...

Lynn Abbey


The EN World kitten
I think i originally found it on the Dark Sun facebook page, but it's one of those things that's been rattling around on various sites since the internet was chiselled on the wall by cavemen. I think it originally dates waaaay back to usenet.

Found them! Bear in mind there's a lot of Dark Sun-specific stuff here which is of limited relevance to a Forgotten Realms thread, but it does give you an idea about how TSR ran things in those days
Wow...that's quite a lot to take in! I'd say more, but as you noted, I don't want to derail things (further) with a long Dark Sun tangent. Thanks for reposting those!


I'm not sure which anthology that was, though I'm a tad interested in finding out now. It's worth recalling (or is it?) that Drizzt briefly appears in Brian Thomsen's novel Once Around the Realms. I suspect it's no coincidence that Thomsen was, according to James Lowder, the reason why things got so bad between TSR and Salvatore that someone else was commissioned to write Shores of Dusk.
I'm not sure which anthology that was, though I'm a tad interested in finding out now. It's worth recalling (or is it?) that Drizzt briefly appears in Brian Thomsen's novel Once Around the Realms. I suspect it's no coincidence that Thomsen was, according to James Lowder, the reason why things got so bad between TSR and Salvatore that someone else was commissioned to write Shores of Dusk.
Good catch with Once Around the Realms. Didn't remember that.

The short story is "The Fires of Narbondel" by Mark Anthony. Mark was also the one tasked with writing a whole Drizzt novel, but then TSR and Salavatore came to an agreement and no other author was then allowed to touch his characters


#103 The Lost Library of Cormanthyr by Mel Odom (Lost Empires 1)
Read 27/10/20 to 30/10/20


And it's a corker, and what a relief after the last series- although, fingers-crossed the others in this series can get close to this one.

There's a ranger (Baylee), but he's not a drow, and he has a good heart- and the skills to pay the bills, likewise his wizard mentor (Golsway) is too cool for school, and just ask anyone they'll all tell what wonderful people the pair are.

The ranger is Indiana Jones, only with an Azymuth Bat (Xuxa) and she's sooooo cool- and with a telepathic bond with our hero ranger.

There are Waterdeep watch style detectives- and they're cool too, especially Cordyan- a strong female that doesn't have to use sex to sell her authority, that's not to say she's not attractive. But y'know- smart first, which is switch up for some of these novels.

There's a lich (Shallowsoul), and he's bad to the bone; there's a drow (Krystarn)- and she's a deceiver, and a bunch of hobgoblins with a semi-cool chief.

The lost library is the treasure, and it's a far from straight chase to the end.

There are cool places to visit, cool secondary and subsidiary characters (including pirates- I love a good pirate); there are great scenes- some of which I am going to steal- the next time my PCs are investigating a wreck I'm going to have a pod of whales turn up and scoop up the remains of the sunken ship.

The story just works, there are no spare parts- a little marking time but all to good intention- we're building a nice guy here, one that the reader is going to want to win. He's a bit bond- with his various groovy skills and specialist tools- including the above mentioned Xuxa, who can read minds!

It's just a very well written book, a great hook, great character development and rising tension and a beautifully thought out ending- I am gagging to see if there's a sequel to this one in the series, even if it is written by someone else- please be as good as this one.

Probably in the top 10 of the 100 or so I've read so far.

Mel Odom, I salute you.

Great work.


Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan


#104 Faces of Deception by Troy Denning (Lost Empires 2)
Read 1/11/20 to 3/11/20


Book 2- and, well- it's nowhere near as good as the last one, it's okay- and I whizzed through it in only three days so I was keen to see how it all worked out.

We're back in the Utter East (which still strikes me as a nearly clever buy mostly dumb name for the place). Sune (Goddess of Beauty) has charged Atreus (a would-be adherent, pandered to by the church because he has money) to go on a quest to recover from the fountain of yadda-yadda. Atreus hit every branch on the way down when he fell out of the ugly tree- he was raised by Ogres, which is a switch on the usual.

Along for the ride are Yago (Atreus' Ogre bodyguard/father- you decide), Rishi (a Mar sometime villain) and towards the back half Seema- beautiful and beguiling (and the key to their success, sorta).

So the gang have to get to Langdarma, the hidden unspoilt valley beyond the glaciers (Tibet/Nepal). I guess some of my issues with the book are the fact that the good guys have to invent their enemies along the way- the Queen of wherever it is Atreus lands is not keen on him making the quest (why is a bit airy fairy) and so soldiers are despatched to chase the gang down- when out gang escape the city. There's a 100 or so page section in which our guys face down the soldiers in a marsh, followed by a confrontation with a Devil-lead slave ship, at which point the gang rescue Seema.

Tarch, the devil, is the best NPC in this- boy is he hard to kill, for which I really like him, the odd thing is he talks like he's from the bayous around N'Orleans (forgive me if that's incorrect, I'm not from the US) I just remember him calling one of our guys 'Bubber', which probably should be written as bubba. But again, not my area of expertise.

But my point is that without these two random-ish encounters then there'd be a lot less of the book, and the soldiers hang around for quite a while, and add very little to the story- except maybe that Atreus has to dump his strongbox full of gold.

But we get to Langdarma, and all is suitably paradise-like = dirt poor, but 'appy.

Atreus nearly learns to trust but not quite, Seema gives up everything- just odd, Yago is bemused by much of the finale (and Atreus' chop-changing his mind) and the Ogre pays the ultimate price. While Rishi turns out to be a nasty piece of work... I don't know quite what to tell you, it's just all a little odd at the end. It's like the author was aiming for ending A and at some point decided that ending B was slightly better, and then ended up writing ending C. Which doesn't quite leave the reader very satisfied, there was a bit of... is that it? Is there a sequel?

A bit disappointing- a lot of journey, most of it okay but y'know repetitive in places, nice exploration- but not a place my PCs are ever going to visit; like the devil- Tarch... and then the end.

Okay, I guess.


Stay safe and well.

TSR did a few quasi-series like Lost Empires around the same time - multiple books written around a vaguely common theme but all actually standalone, not trilogies, though they were all promoted as 'Lost Empire Book 2' or whatever. My guess is that it's part because they realised at this point how terrible they were at continuity, and maybe partly because it let them float characters in single novels to see if they got a following before committing the resources for a trilogy, the same way the Harpers books spawned the very successful Arilyn/Danilo series. Most of them weren;t too memorable. Lost Empires (couple of good ones), the Priests, the Rogues, the Cities, the Nobles (couple of good ones here too), etc etc.

Running in parallel they were also starting to do fairly long pre-planned epic series like Sembia and War of the Spider Queen, where the story DID follow over multiple books but each book was written by a different author. I think Double Diamond was a dry run for this (not a terrible successful one, but i think that's mostly because you got very little book for your $ back then), though i think Sembia was happening at roughly the same time. I'd always assumed this was a reaction to the contract dispute they had with Salvatore and the mess about Shores of Dusk - they were trying for a novel-writing model that made authors more interchangeable and less powerful.


#105 Star of Cusrah by Clayton Emery (Lost Empires 3)
Read 4/11/20 to 9/11/20


Book 3- and another good one, I'm beginning to like this series, not that they are (as explained above) in anyway connected, apart from the slow reveal of an ancient and lost kingdom in all of its glory.

Cursrah, gets a go in this novel, and the conceit is three guys (let's call them adventurers) discover the aforementioned ancient city/palace/temple, meet a mummy (and lots of other stuff) and then get captured and hounded by half-ogres, bandits and other assorted reprobates. While at the same time one of their number wearing a magical circlet gets to to watch the the princess, back in the ancient past when Cursrah was really something, live her life.

What's that, the princess has two very close male friends, a roguish fellow and a stout warrior.

But what's that the adventuring party in the present contains a princess (actually an heir to a slaving concern) and her two friends- a roguish fellow and a stout... but you're there already.

So, a semi-legitimate way to work the two stories as one- to connect them, but also to set up for the inevitable overlap when we get to discover who exactly is inside the mummy's bandages.

It is of course exactly who you expected it to be.

But here's the thing- the action in the past is excellent, edifying and interesting- if you want to read about how to deconstruct a city/empire/regency then this is the book for you, seriously- in-game this would be such a great thing to get the PCs mixed up in.

Oh, and Cursrah is Egyptian-ish, but these are transferable skills the author is teaching us.

Inevitably the past gets to meet the future, and vice-versa- and that's all good too, a nice wrap up- semi-convincing, in retrospect employing the person who most hates the royal family to serve as their protector in the afterlife, all the way through to the dawning of the new age of Cursrah.

Not the best plan, clearly no lawyers were involved in this decision.

You'd have though a kingdom used to doing deals with Djinni would check the small print first.

So, nice PCs- the latter mob a small adventuring party, not neophyte but nicely low to mid level, that's nice- and a change up.

Nice monsters, traps and effects.

No big evil dude, and probably all the better for it.

Very nice info that's going to get recycled.

Read- top work, just a good/great little story- nice device.


#106 The Nether Scroll by Lynn Abbey (Lost Empires 4)
Read 12/11/20 to 17/11/20


Book 4- and another good one, perhaps not as good as number two and three but the story is slightly let down at the end by the deus ex machina- the mind flayers to the rescue, which in itself is pretty cool, but still a bit of a gyp.

Also the Netherese Artefact- the Nether Scroll, is that the key to a Lost Empire referred to in the series title- if so, that's tenuous. The Netherese have been explored elsewhere in these books, and in much greater depth, although perhaps the Lost Empire here is Dekanter. Mebs.

I'm just not sure, as I say- it just felt very tenuous, and not that informative- there are no great revelations.

So, some of the good stuff in here- the four/three adventurers, their motivations and their backstories- they're all broken, or at least the ones we get to peer closely at. I like broken, it's in my realm of understanding, give me anti-heroes every time.

Dru is cool, and it's the first Wizard protagonist that I've really rooted for, Dru will do. Also I like the mechanics for the mage taking on his spells- nice! Likewise Rozt'a is a strong female character with an in-yer-face attitude- she's her own woman, and the (not so) strange ménage-a-trois in the middle of this is likewise slightly ahead of its time- certainly for the FR novels I've read so far. It's a little more adult this one. Tiep, now that lad's broken- and again nice insights as to how the Zhent get their claws in. Point of fact the Zhent in this one come out as semi-friendly mobsters, which I also like.

Of greater cool is the Alhoon, I am having him for my game- the entire set-up in Dekanter is suitably terrifying, with the 'egg' and the feral (post-apocalyptic) goblins. I liked them too.

It seems there's a lot to like.

And I wanted to like Sheemzher, I really did- and there are bits of me that still think- yeah, that's what a goblin is like, or else can be like- but I keep picturing him as some sort of dirty leprechaun in my head- with a spear, and buckles on his shoes. Perhaps it's just me but I just didn't believe him, he just seemed to clean, to neat, to... good. Like a filthy Ewok.

And again, the story goes a bit woolly towards the end, after the surprise mind flayer invasion it all just goes easy- like an explanation.

The action on the way to and in Dekanter is the good stuff, particularly the latter, the first chunk of the text is a bit slow- there's a lot (a lot) of set up before we get into the action.



The EN World kitten
I remember wanting to read this one, but never finding the opportunity to, a situation that unfortunately continues to this day. While I have mixed feelings about Lynn Abbey's work (though finding out about what she had to put up with while writing the Dark Sun novels has made me reevaluate that opinion quite a bit), the Nether Scrolls are central to how magic developed in the Realms, which makes them artifacts of exceptional note. Hence my continued interest in finding out how they come into play in this novel.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads