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

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

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


IMG_3203.JPG


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

Legend
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

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


IMG_3205.JPG


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.
 

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