Thursday, May 16, 2013

So wait, the clans got involved with dragons?

Since I'm really not updating this blog as much as I'd like, and I'm not reading with the alacrity I used to read with, and there are so many other blogs doing similar to this one...

Trying to take notes from Bob over at Candy-Coated Razor Blades and posting occasional updates that aren't about a specific book, but maybe a synopsis of an ongoing series, a survey of books from a specific genre or world...stuff like that. Particularly given how many of the series I'm reading are getting ready to release new books soon-ish, it would be helpful to the 5 of you, out there alone in the dark looking at this, to have a ready log of what came before, so I'm not having to explain a world to you before talking about the newest book

Any rate, with that in mind, and the fact I'm about 30 pages from the end of the book I'm reading right now, I thought I'd spend some time talking about some of my first real introductions to the fantasy genre, Role Playing Games tie in novels.

To be fair, most of these get a really bad rap. Mind you, most of the time, it is a deserved reputation... But some of it is fairly entertaining and only held back by the fact it has a game logo on the cover.

I think I started with Troy Denning's Prism Pentad, set in Dungeons and Dragons' Dark Sun setting. Also known as "Let's make the Hobbits cannibals and everyone lives in a desert!" The five book series covers the freeing of the City State of Tyr, the origins of the dragon that comes and eats folks as tribute, and what actually happened on Athas that caused the desolation of the planet. It wasn't exactly happy reading. It also gets points taken off for introducing psionic powers to D&D, which basically increased the math exponentially.

Then there were the loosely related Ravenloft novels. Ravenloft was a gothic-horror setting tied into Strahd the vampire. The novels here were generally tied to one or two dominions within the Demiplane of Dread, and usually involved one or more Darklord, ruling over that geographical area. Some of them were quite good, like Christie Golden's Dance of the Dead. That one involved a theatre troupe on a boat facing down an evil boat captain in the island of Souragne. So, basically, the main character learns to control zombies with magical dancing. It sounds silly, but it worked well. There were others, though, like Mordenheim, which were more or less retellings of the source material. (In this case, Shelley's Frankenstein.) One thing that should be pointed out about the Ravenloft novels, however, is that they attracted a lot of talent before they became big names in the genres they write in. Like Tanya Huff, Laurell K. Hamilton, and P. N. Elrod.

And the grandaddy of all D&D literature, Dragonlance. Which I still love the hell out of, even if the Chronicles are an unholy mix of Mormonism and Lord of the Rings. And that series is still going strong. Just stick with Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and you'll be fine. Some of the stuff they didn't write together or separately delves off into silliness.

And of course, as much as I wish we could, I can't talk about D&D without mentioning the damned Forgotten Realms. I enjoyed the Avatar Trilogy by  Richard Awlinson, but hated the two sequels. (The first 3 concerned all the Gods of Faerun being kicked out of their realms and forced to live among their subjects. The followups concerned folks who ended up becoming Gods to replace dead gods. And they got progressively dumber.) And I'm seemingly alone in my hatred of R. A. Salvatore and his Dark Elves, monks, and frozen waste series.

Moving on then, we reach White Wolf's World of Darkness fiction. Which, again, is kind of a grab bag, usually continuations of short fictions published in anthologies accompanying ever game's release. Or interrelated stories set in late Medieval (for the release of Vampire: the Dark Ages) and the modern age. Or the Clan Novels (13 novels and an anthology. Each novel centered on a specific clan. Some were really good. Others, like Tremere, were horrible. Thankfully, they released 4 Omnibus editions that more or less assembled the plot lines in chronological order.) and the Tribe Novels (14 novellas centered around the Werewolf tribes, printed in two novella editions.) All of which lead up to the end of the shared Universe. Gehenna: the Final Night (Vampire) was well written, The Last Battle (Werewolf) was probably the best, because Judgement Day (Mage) was like ending a plotline in an outhouse. (Seriously. It had nothing to do with much established metaplot, well loved characters, or anything to do with Mage at all. Instead, we got people fusing 3 souls into one body and then being judged. The actual supplement they released to end the line would have made a MUCH better ending.)

Which brings us to the last shared world I wanted to discuss, Shadowrun. SR was very interesting in setting, mixing high fantasy and cyberpunk. Other than the system's reliance on d6...(First time I played, I had one roll that involved rolling 10d6. (10 six sided dice, for those not up on terminology.)

I found a used copy of a book called Crossroads by Steve Kenson at a local gaming store. And I got sucked in, buying the other two stories revolving around the main character (Ragnarock and The Burning Time) because I liked the story. Basically, Tommy Talon was an Arcane Mage in the setting who also happened to be gay. (Let's face it, finding gay characters in any RPG is a rarity. One who survives 3 novels, has a dead lover who figures prominently into the plot, and kicks ass in pretty much unheard of.)

I'll also tell a story of Mr. Kenson here. At the time I read the trilogy, I called a friend of mine who informed me that Steve;s husband was a New Age/Pagan/Witch author of some renown, Christopher Penczak. I read some of his stuff as well, and still highly recommend two of his books to friends. (One on Gay Spirituality, and one on city life.) Anyway, it seems the majority of my circle of friends knew of Mr. Penczak before they knew of Mr. Kenson. Seems I was the odd man out in that situation.

Anyway, a review of Doktor Glass should go up this weekend, and I'll see about doing another survey/synopsis post later next week.

And before I forget, since my friend Robert over at This is who I AM always acknowledges his followers as they sign up, I'd like to recognize Bob from Candy-coated Razor Blades, Lady Justice at Justice Is Served, and Chris from Renrields. Go read em. They all have interesting things to say.