Let's Read TSR
November 11, 2019 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Let's Read TSR reviews a popular line of Extruded Fantasy Product novels from the early 1990s. These include such hits as R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden and Cleric Quintet novels ("Say what you like about the forces of evil, but at least they’ve put a lot of effort into creating a diverse workplace"). There are also sneaky successes like the Wodehousian The Wyvern's Spur and the thoughtful Elfshadow. And, of course, there are plenty of photorealistic late '80s-style cover paintings.
posted by Countess Elena (96 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh man. I worked at a used book store then, and those books just flew off the shelves as soon as we bought 'em.
posted by doctornemo at 10:11 AM on November 11 [4 favorites]


Oh man. I worked at a used book store then, and those books just flew off the shelves as soon as we bought 'em.

Same.

I have a full collection of Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden books. My only complaint is that I feel like this character has done enough and he should be retired or killed off in some grand manor. We need to close out the chapter on his life, he's had a good one with lots of adventure. Let him ascend to that other plain and do glorious battle (with his trusty sidekick Guenhwyvar).

I also have a lot of fond memories for the Dragonlance series. I've read through both Chronicles and Legends at least 15 times.

Thanks for posting this, I plan on checking out these links later in the day when I have a bit more time.
posted by Fizz at 10:28 AM on November 11 [10 favorites]


Also, fun fact. Fizz is short for Fizban. Forever ago on the Terry Brooks forum, my user name was FizbansTalking_Hat and if you're a fan of TSR's Dragonlance, you'll probably smile a bit at this because you know that Fizban (Paladine) has many fun adventures involving his hat and a mischievous Kender.
posted by Fizz at 10:38 AM on November 11 [29 favorites]


Oh boy, I owned a BUNCH of these and loved them as a teenager.
posted by Canageek at 10:42 AM on November 11


This seems like good fertilizer for some aspiring little neural net that wants extrapolate some more crap.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:44 AM on November 11 [8 favorites]


Many mixed feelings. I'll definitely read the reviews, I probably won't re-read the books. I read so many of these when I was younger, and basically none of them hold up.

The last time I moved, I finally got rid of my very old, very tattered copies of a bunch of these (including all of Drizzt's original run and the original Dragonlance novels) because the last time I tried reading any of them it was painful. Some good ideas and fun stories, but oh boy is the writing awful.

Yes, even the ones you remember as being well written.

Trust me.
posted by tocts at 10:51 AM on November 11 [13 favorites]


Some good ideas and fun stories, but oh boy is the writing awful.

I mean, I often refer to these books and this genre as: bubblegum fantasy. It's easy to consume, you know what you're getting, it tastes great at first but if you chew too long, you start to notice it loses some of its flavor.

As long as you go into it with that mindset (I'm not expecting Joycean references here), it does its job and it does it well. I'm entertained.

Such fond memories.
posted by Fizz at 10:54 AM on November 11 [9 favorites]


Mmmm, TSR... It first came to my attention when my older cousin gave me books two and three of Dragonlance's Chronicles. It was a long time before I found book one!

Where I lived, I didn't have a whole lot of access to the books, either in the library or someplace where I could buy them, so i wasn't too deep into them. After Chronicles some others, I got into Ravenloft a bit and then ended up reading a bunch of Drizzt.

At a LotR themed MUSH I played at in the 00s, we would always be amused by the newbies who would log in the first time as Drizzt and want to play dark elves.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:54 AM on November 11 [6 favorites]


I had fun reading the Extruded Book Product entry, esp the section on Warrior Cats series:
"Erin Hunter" is a pseudonym for seven people: four writers, two editors-turned-writers, and one executive editor. It began with Warrior Cats, which usually has put out about 3-4 books per year, plus novellas. Although they are fond of their series, the authors have admitted that the publisher chose the topic and they deliberately wrote the books based on what was likely to sell from the beginning. Some of them don't even like cats!
Though I am the wrong age group for the series, I totally checked out a Warrior Cats book from the library just because cats.* I have what I thought was a low bar for prose style to plot line ratio, but couldn't make it through the first chapter. Sorry to committee of Erin Hunter.

*Fondish memories of Fritti Tailchaser I imagine, though there was some truly grotesque imagery in there, and apparently it's supposed to be/have been adapted into an animated film? Will Fritti be the new Watership Down, horrifying unsuspecting children and adults who just wanted a cute movie about fuzzy mammals?
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:06 AM on November 11 [12 favorites]


As long as you go into it with that mindset (I'm not expecting Joycean references here), it does its job and it does it well.

Kind of? I honestly don't mean to shit on them (much?). They mean a lot to me. But, I think beyond just being bubblegum, the fact that TSR definitely was hiring people who were not very experienced shows rather badly.

Basically, I think there are modern authors in that genre of kind of bubblegum (or at least, not high art) fantasy writing who are leagues better than nearly anyone who wrote for TSR in the '80s or '90s. I'd be fascinated to see what, say, Joe Abercrombie could do with the material (though obviously it's a lot tamer than what he typically writes).

On a more positive note, haven't gone through them all, interested to see how it goes when they reach the various Dark Sun novels, because it's my favorite setting of all time and I've read those a lot.
posted by tocts at 11:18 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


killed off in some grand manor.

Drizzt, in the conservatory, with a candlestick?
(Sorry, that was just too good a typo to resist)
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:25 AM on November 11 [23 favorites]


I read some of these types of books as a kid, and revisiting them as an adult has been an eye-opening experience. So much clunky writing. But it didn't take a lot to fire my imagination or keep me entertained as a teen, and I sometimes wish I could approach books as uncritically now as I did then.
posted by jzb at 11:34 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


killed off in some grand manor.

Drizzt, in the conservatory, with a candlestick?
(Sorry, that was just too good a typo to resist)


I mean, I'd read this book.
posted by Fizz at 11:35 AM on November 11 [17 favorites]


My TSR novel collection is pretty healthy also. A whole lotta Dlance, Dark Sun, a smattering of FRealms. Sigh. I ate these things up like flapjacks back in the day. Bought them from the little nerdy gaming bookstore in the mall along with a pack of magic cards and just devoured them one after another.

I have so many fond memories of those universes. The events in these books are forever stored in my long term memory. When I'm old and gray, I'll still be able to tell you all about the War of the Lance.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:42 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Also, fun fact. Fizz is short for Fizban. Forever ago on the Terry Brooks forum, my user name was FizbansTalking_Hat and if you're a fan of TSR's Dragonlance, you'll probably smile a bit at this because you know that Fizban (Paladine) has many fun adventures involving his hat and a mischievous Kender.


::single chicken feather floats slowly to the ground::
posted by lazaruslong at 11:43 AM on November 11 [15 favorites]


I really liked the Icewind Dale trilogy and the follow-ons at an impressionable age, but now I look back and the entire series is so problematic and cringe-laden that it gives me hives.

Overidentification with Drizzt or Raistlin is not a good sign, and woe to those who don't grow out of it (and the people around them).
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:59 AM on November 11 [4 favorites]


Oh man, did anyone else try and read the entire Harper's series? SO many novels that didn't feel like they fit into the Realms. (cf Night Parade).


I tried to reread some of the ones I liked about the giantkin recently, and BOY did they not hold up. I've deliberately NOT reread some of my old favourites like the Cleric Quintet to preserve the memories.

Also did anyone else notice Ed Greenwood only has one or two female characters that he keeps recycling over and over?
posted by Canageek at 12:03 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


I devoured the Dragon Lance novels when I was a kid and discovered the Forgotten Realms novels at a used book store and couldn't get enough (Drizzt and Icewind Dale especially). Then, about 10 years later, I realized Salvatore was still writing Drizzt books and read a recent one for a lark and it... was about what I remembered. And now I find out that he's still writing them and... man.

::single chicken feather floats slowly to the ground::

Deep cut. Into my heart, I mean.
posted by Reyturner at 12:04 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]


It's easy to consume, you know what you're getting, it tastes great at first but if you chew too long, you start to notice it loses some of its flavor, it's inexpensive (but not free), it's actually produced by a large pool of authors of varying ability, it's text-based, it's blue... as long as you go into it with that mindset (I'm not expecting Joycean references here), it does its job and it does it well. I'm entertained.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:07 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


I had this experience trying to reread Elfstones of Shannara as a late teenager. When I read it as a 7th grader, I thought it was totally badass. Just a couple years later, I realized how little taste I had when I was younger. If I had had a little bit more self-insight, I would have realized that I would be re-having that same insight repeatedly for the rest of my life.
posted by notoriety public at 12:56 PM on November 11 [20 favorites]


I grew up reading all the Dragonlance stuff, and apparently had the exceptionally common experience of going back to it in my 20s and being like "woah, this is not great."

also, an aside: the admiral thrawn star wars EU books are similar in that they don't hold up at all
posted by dismas at 1:09 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]


On the other hand, Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlases of The Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance are easier to enjoy without baggage.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:12 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


When I read it as a 7th grader, I thought it was totally badass. Just a couple years later, I realized how little taste I had when I was younger.

Me too. When I was 14 and 15, I ate up these books. I remember naming the Dark Elf Trilogy alongside Pratchett books as my favorites of all time. I drew character designs for House Do'Urden members whose existence I have not thought about in decades until I found these book reviews. But eventually I began to feel somehow, well, stifled by these books. I didn't then know what H.G. Wells said, as it's quoted on this site: "If anything is possible, nothing is interesting."

Take Catti-brie. I was vaguely interested to know whether she and Drizzt ever got together. I looked it up, and Good God, what a load of information. She died and then was reincarnated which meant she was the same person but also not and ... As an adult, I find something rather horrifying about a death that is not final, a forced immortality, a lack of possibility for anything to begin again. It's such a small universe, when gods and planes and things are literally real.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:14 PM on November 11 [6 favorites]


I never got into the Forgotten Realms stuff. Then I spend a year after college working in a small town bookstore where a friendly older guy named Ed, with a long white beard and shaggy bowlcut would often stop by, grab the latest fantasy and sci-fi books, and hang out to shoot the shit. After his first visit, I was told he wrote D&D books. Cool. It wasn't until a little later into working there that I found out it was the person who invented the Forgotten Realms.
posted by thecjm at 1:30 PM on November 11 [14 favorites]


Oh man, I inhaled the dragonlance books in middle school and thought they were SO DEEP at that time in my life. There's no way I could possibly re-read them now, though - I decided to not ever re-read any fantasy books from my childhood a few years back, as I had tried to re-read a handful of Piers Anthony novels. I was obsessed with them at the time I found dragonlance, and holy SHIT are they really weird re-reads as an adult remembering that they were a kid when they first read them. I sort of quietly filed away all fantasy novels from the early 90s as "things that shall remain mostly forgotten" after that.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:38 PM on November 11 [9 favorites]


As of late I have been getting back into D&D after a roughly 30 year hiatus and I sort of regret missing TSR's glorious flame-out days of pumping out fantasy novels in the true 30's pulp fiction fashion. God they churned out a lot of books. And having read & listed to podcasts on the history of TSR it really was a flame-out - they were simultaneously publishing more and more books while completely running out of working capital. Anything authors at the end of TSR's run were basically not getting paid or were getting paid months late. But there are always more authors and there was enough goodwill to burn though that they managed to print a lot of books before it all imploded.

It's funny that 5th ed D&D ignores most of this stuff but at the same time is unwillingly attached to it and lovingly beholden to it - the Forgotten Realms is the same as it has ever been and no one can possibly know all the random lore so they just go with the most important stuff and ignore the rest. It's weird meeting players who started playing decades after me who have read many of these novels and know the FR lore inside out while I can barely keep Torm and Mystra straight.

I'm sure these books have very avid collectors and I'm sure that very few have survived and that somewhere there's a message board of people looking for each and every one of them.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on November 11 [7 favorites]


Lots of ppl in this thread expressing variations on a theme, perhaps one summary of which could be: I loved these books as a child, but now realize that they are problematic / bad writing / schlock-y and so will sort of consign them to the mists of childhood and that's that.

I think that's a reasonable position to take.

For me, I was bullied so hard as a kid and found such a refuge in fantasy novels that I will defend them to my death. Not really on their merits, because I know that they are problematic bubblegum at best, but rather as dear friends with flaws who were there for me when I desperately needed them.

I felt motivated to write this comment just in case there are folks reading this thread and thinking that maybe they should be embarrassed for still liking this stuff: don't be. Not everything has to be high art and it's okay to like stuff that when viewed as a modern adult has some bruises and blemishes.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:50 PM on November 11 [48 favorites]


Anyone have D&D stats for The Suck Fairy? Because she has hit too many books and needs to be taken out.
posted by fings at 1:50 PM on November 11 [3 favorites]


For me, I was bullied so hard as a kid and found such a refuge in fantasy novels that I will defend them to my death. Not really on their merits, because I know that they are problematic bubblegum at best, but rather as dear friends with flaws who were there for me when I desperately needed them.

I was trying to cobble together a comment to this effect but you put it perfectly. Thanks.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:59 PM on November 11 [9 favorites]


I read a few of these as a teen (the dragons of [season] and the Raistlin ones) and knew at the time that they weren't great, but they were enjoyable. Part of that may be because I had already sucked down the David Eddings books, which maybe balanced the frothy adventure with slightly better writing? I'd have to go back and reread the Dragonlance stuff and I don't want to, but every once in a blue moon I will pick an Eddings back up as a potato chip reread.
posted by PussKillian at 2:24 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


The reviews in the link are quite good, by the way. They're not merely malicious, mean-spiritied, or mocking; they're pretty careful and analytical, and I wish more reviews were written so well. Good post.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:33 PM on November 11 [5 favorites]


I mean I hear you on this - I was certainly bullied quite hard as well, and they absolutely were a refuge for me as well. I don't want anyone to feel embarrassed for liking them now, and that's certainly not my intent.

I think me using PA as a metric is perhaps unfair, as he is a bit of a "special case," and there were some strange and unwanted encounters from adult PA fans when I was in my teens that my re-reading seemed to explain. I'll leave it at that, and an apology if it seemed like I was unfairly attacking anyone who enjoys these novels - and probably best to back out since it's oddly personal for me in ways that it probably isn't for anyone else, and this isn't a PA thread.
posted by MysticMCJ at 2:34 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]


The reviews in the link are quite good, by the way.

Yeah! They also have a fair bit of background info on how things came to be. I specifically remember the cover of Darkwalker on Moonshae grabbing me as a twelve year old and picking it up.

Per the review:

Let’s kick off our appraisal of the Forgotten Realms novels by looking at a novel that wasn’t even supposed to be a Forgotten Realms novel! Darkwalker on Moonshae, the first Forgotten Realms novel published, was originally written for a never-finished campaign world which TSR UK had been working on. The setting which Darkwalker was supposed to be set in was cancelled, leaving Douglas Niles with a suddenly useless half-written novel. But on the other side of the pond, TSR found itself in need of tie-in novels to introduce this new “Forgotten Realms” setting they were developing, so they stitched the novel into the campaign setting as best they could, slapped the original Forgotten Realms logo on it, and sent it out into the world.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:39 PM on November 11 [3 favorites]


It's so interesting to me how D&D the game has interacted with fantasy fiction over the years. In the beginning, it took existing trope from fiction and built a game out of them. As the game established canon settings of its own, TSR started publishing fiction set in those worlds. Certainly there was an eager market, but in some ways it's done lasting damage to the game. It's harder to make your own characters feel like heroes when Drizzt and Elminster are out there (in the version of Faerun that I DM in, those two are fictional characters). But it's also kind of cool to have tons of lore to draw from. And for all those kids who had a hard time putting a regular gaming group together, it was at least SOMETHING.
posted by rikschell at 2:39 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


I really loved Choose Your Own Adventure novels, and the TSR entries into that field were really good. Or at least, I remember them being pretty good at the time.

They even went into other TSR properties: I never played Gamma World or saw a sourcebook for it, but I remember that pick-a-path book's conversation with a replanting robot quite vividly.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:40 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Oh, I loved this stuff. Weiss and Hickman's Dragonlance novels especially. And Knaak's prequels, Legend of Huma and Kaz the Minotaur. Tasselhoff Burrfoot was like the best thing ever to my stupid young idiot brain.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:51 PM on November 11 [9 favorites]


I remember reading the first.. half-dozen?.. or so Drizzt books, and I remember reading some Dragonlance trilogy(?) with some wood elf / sun elf thing (I think those were the types). As much as I loved D&D, I don't think I ever really got into the fiction.
posted by curious nu at 2:59 PM on November 11


Oh, yeah, don't get me wrong, I have a lot of affection for the Dragonlance books - although less the 5th Age stuff. But I loved them, loved the SSI Krynn and Forgotten Realms games...
posted by dismas at 2:59 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Their review of Azure Bonds somehow fails to mention the only thing I remember about it, which is that that there was an in-text explanation for the boob window chainmail armour the protagonist is wearing on the cover art. They gave it a good grade though, so maybe I should reread it.
posted by rodlymight at 3:12 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]


also, an aside: the admiral thrawn star wars EU books are similar in that they don't hold up at all

I re read these a couple of years ago and whilst simplistic, was actyally pleasantly surprised at how well they held up! They weren't actively stupid at least.
posted by smoke at 3:26 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


[CTRL]-F "Gygax"

Okay, so I recommend nobody go back and re-read the "Gord the Rogue" books by Gary Gygax. Or if you must, read only Saga of Old City if you can find it. I have very fond memories of reading it and some of the sequels in high school, but good lord! Is the writing bad. Especially books written after he left TSR (Sea of Death &c.)

It has long been on my bucket list to do a complete edit and re-write of Saga of Old City.
posted by JohnFromGR at 3:43 PM on November 11 [3 favorites]


I had more or less passed out of my Must Read All The Fantasy Novels phase by the time TSR began pumping these out, but I am curious to know if there is an infographic somewhere that shows how many words of fiction have been devoted to the exploits of Driz’zt compared to, say, James Bond or Sherlock Holmes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:59 PM on November 11 [3 favorites]


It's harder to make your own characters feel like heroes when Drizzt and Elminster are out there

Oh, hah! My characters kick over the bones of Drizzle and El-spinster! Who stood alone as the undead swelled over the Demon Bridge? WE DID! Who dared the sewers of the Forgotten City and lived to tell the tale? WE DID! Who challenged the Demonic Lord of Evil Plants and the Red Druids? WE DID!

Some call us heroes. Some call us murder hobos. We call ourselves: those guys that met up at the tavern one day.
posted by SPrintF at 4:06 PM on November 11 [16 favorites]


The fellow with the bowl-cut you met at the bookstore was perhaps Ed Greenwood!

I used to devour Dragon Magazine as a kid. I especially loved anything by Greenwood. From what I remember he didn't write the fiction. Rather, he invented (along with others, presumably) the entire universe these characters lived in. He'd write lengthy articles about the Forgotten Realms, the secret societies, the pantheon of deities, the cities, the countries, the leaders, the economies, etc, etc.

I got DEEPLY into doing that as 9-15 year old (or so). I created a vast world all my own, along with gods, temples, armies, queens, kings, ancient evil—everything. I can feel the rush even as I type this! I wrote out so much of this stuff. It seemed SO important to me to do so. Just create, create, create. Maps, dungeons, cities, drawings of all sort, and written descriptions. Sometimes adventure modules. I was always going to enter their module competition, and I even typed out vast quantities of the stuff. We never even played my adventures, as our D&D group was small, and various friends drifted out of it as we got older. But I was just So Passionate with my personal world-building.

I truly wish I still had a passion like that. To just be happy CREATING, without a real purpose. Just building, imagining, drawing, inking, writing, writing, writing. I had no giant dream I'd become rich doing any of this, I simply had to do it. I had to.

.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:24 PM on November 11 [19 favorites]


I always looked at and liked D&D as being similar to the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series; I called these books (as a snotty lit-obsessed teen), "Choose Someone Else's Adventure."

That said, I am glad people can wax nostalgic over these. I was too up my own ass to even give them a chance.
posted by not_on_display at 4:30 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah it was totally Ed Greenwood. I figured the folks commenting here would put 2 and 2 together without me going "Guess what I know Ed Greenwood!"

From what I hear he DM's for the local kids from time to time, which must be mind blowing for them.
posted by thecjm at 4:57 PM on November 11 [9 favorites]


🎵 I’ll never be your Drizzt Do’Urden, my back is broad but it's a hurting 🎵
posted by panama joe at 4:57 PM on November 11 [11 favorites]


This was a timely post: I had read a few of the Drizzt novels back in the 90s but recently read the Icewind Dale trilogy for the first time on the theory that, having moved my wife’s copy around the country I should at least read it before donating it. The comments about weak plotting skills definitely ring true, as well as the mix of reasonably well-crafted settings with the middle eastern cliché-fest later when you could hardly miss that he was on deadline.

The lack of female agency was definitely noticeable now: in the 90s that was common and didn’t stand out enough but after having so many counterexamples it really felt like half of the world was inexplicably missing. That really made me appreciate all of the efforts to change norms having been more successful than it might feel every time there’s something like a puppy outbreak seeming like that progress is in jeopardy.

The hordes of evil bit definitely stood out, too, more so because the Drizzt arc almost has this idea that you aren’t bound by your race but there’s clearly a hierarchy here which doesn’t get explored.

One thing I noticed which might be a sign of getting old: these characters all follow action movie health rules, where any injury to a major character can be shaken off any time the plot requires. This felt odd in a setting which has loads of magic and healing, where there could be an easy explanation for why a crippling injury wasn’t but it felt odd not to mention that.
posted by adamsc at 4:57 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Screens so dominate the life of nerdy ten-to-14-year olds now that no one could ever replicate what TSR did in the 80s and 90s. Sad.
posted by MattD at 4:57 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Conterpointus Potterio!

Or whatever, I'm old.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:59 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Like that Wyvern's Spur write-up! Along with a bunch of others I remembered fondly from the library but never owning, I re-read it about 10 years ago and was surprised by the novel's willingness to try something different.

Couple more votes for Team W&H and Team DragonLance here too.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:04 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


These all exploded at a time when I wasn't reading much fantasy, so I hadn't read any of them until I recently picked up Unclean of The Haunted Lands series. I'm researching lich lore for one of the big players in a campaign setting I'm building, and Szass Tam figures prominently in the series. Dunno that I'll continue with them as I found it a bit of a chore to read, but I could definitely see my younger self devouring them.
posted by calamari kid at 5:05 PM on November 11


I'll never read Dragonlance again but I think Raistlin was a pretty good antihero.
posted by mobunited at 5:38 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


I sometimes wish I could approach books as uncritically now as I did then.

I feel you.

God, I miss the days when I would stay up til 3am reading the Drizzt books and the Dragonlance books, loving every word on the page and also going through an entire package of oreos and a half gallon of milk while reading them, and my metabolism would say "No worries, I got you, fam!" letting me wake up the early in the morning the next day and go to class with no ill effects whatsoever.

Now if I stay up til 11pm reading something Weighty and Important -- because my leisure time is so scarce as an Adult With Responsibilities, I feel that's all I'm "allowed" to spend those precious minutes on -- I'm all "Ugh, I stayed up too late reading" the next day.
posted by lord_wolf at 5:49 PM on November 11 [17 favorites]


Dimly remembered, but Raistlin was basically a murderously resentful and self-pitying incel literally willing to send both himself and the rest of the world to hell to become powerful so he could punish everyone for being mean to him for being different.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:54 PM on November 11 [7 favorites]


I read a fair number of Forgotten Realms novels as a kid, and sometime within the last decade read the Cleric Quintet, which I never got around to when I was younger. It was okay, but didn't do a lot for me as an adult; still, I admire anyone who can stick to a plot and keep things moving.

The first Forgotten Realms book I read was The Halfling's Gem, which I found at the library in Miami in fifth or sixth grade. I can't say for sure if I read it because I'd picked up the first FR boxed set and was curious about novels set there, or vice versa, but I lean toward the former. I still remember weird little details from the novel—or rather, details I and my buddy, with whom had a seriously awesome two-person Forgotten Realms game going for a couple years, misread or misinterpreted. Said buddy played a barbarian named Wolfgar (not Wulfgar!) from Icewind Dale, and claimed to have thought him up before reading any of the Icewind Dale trilogy. Later on, we played bards with the jester kit from The Complete Book of Bards. Yeah, we ruled.

Drizzt and company never did it for me like some of the other Forgotten Realms characters, like Giogi Wyvernspur. (I would re-read The Wyvern's Spur today if I could find my copy.) The steady march from the thin-but-evocative setting in Ed Greenwood's original boxed set to the ultra-detailed and god- and hero-ridden campaign material of half a decade later weren't exactly off-putting, but even in middle school and high school I felt like TSR was trying to cram anything and everything onto the somehow ever-expanding surface of Abeir-Toril. Some additions, like the Al-Qadim setting, were really cool, even if they didn't need to belong to the Realms—hell, Kara-Tur didn't either—while others, like Maztica, felt half-assed in addition to contributing to the sense that TSR was trying to make the Realms analogous to our world as seen through a fantasy lens, a notion that swiftly fell apart upon closer inspection.

The last Drizzt Do'Urden novel I read was The Legacy, which was a big deal since it was the first hardback FR novel, and maybe TSR's first hardback. I remember being disappointed, and after that, my consumption of FR novels tapered off. Moving overseas a couple years later didn't help. Yet I continued, and still continue, to inhale RPG material periodically, and go back to re-read early '90s TSR Forgotten Realms stuff fairly often. My brother, who played D&D with us back then but was never as into it as me and my buddy, even brings up certain game books from the era—Volo's Guide to Waterdeep, specifically.

My all-time favorite Forgotten Realms material (and which never featured in Realms fiction when I was reading it, save perhaps the passing mention) was Ravens Bluff, which had its origins in the RPGA. That meant that it was sometimes thematically a little off from the Realms at large, but for sheer joy and usefulness of play, Port of Ravens Bluff holds top honors in my suburban weirdo heart. The over-the-top difficulty and madness of the Bloodstone modules (which had an adventure for characters of up to 100th level!) is also a high point of late '80s D&D, and I'd say that by mentioning it I digress, but someone decided that Vaasa and Damara belonged in the Forgotten Realms, and so I had yet another strange corner of this scattershot fantasy world in which to spend a chunk of my youth, and thus, nary a digression.
posted by heteronym at 6:17 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


Oh man, did I ever love Dragonlance and the Icewind Dale trilogy. When I was a kid, they were just as important as Tolkien and Lewis. It's still odd to me that they haven't really been turned into movies yet. Come on, Hollywood, cast Tom Hiddleston as Raistlin, get all the money.

Or imagine seeing Drizzt's rivalry with Artemis Entreri onscreen. The kids would love that. Right? I think they would, anyway.
posted by Chronorin at 6:45 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


At risk of turning myself into The Person Who Posts About His Dead Cats A Lot (not a trigger warning, no details follow), as an adult in the early '00s I threw myself back into the core DL novels and filling in all the missing, unread ones as a way of dealing with the loss of one of our much-loved furry family members. I was actively, consciously looking for something to ground myself in myself again and bury myself in too. Good job I'd never heard of drugs, alcohol or the million other vices out there. I wanted to find the 14 year old who'd first devoured them alone against the world and work from there to (what was then's) here, without having to think about my lost cat.

Not exactly a full-throated recommendation, but it worked. There's more than enough matter in which to immerse yourself in these books and these worlds, as an adult as much as as a teenager. On that criterion they have/had value, nevermind others.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:58 PM on November 11 [6 favorites]


Who stood alone as the undead swelled over the Demon Bridge? WE DID! Who dared the sewers of the Forgotten City and lived to tell the tale? WE DID! Who challenged the Demonic Lord of Evil Plants and the Red Druids? WE DID! Some call us heroes. Some call us murder hobos. We call ourselves: those guys that met up at the tavern one day.

This is basically the plot of Kings of the Wyld--a novel from 2017 that takes this kind of humorous yet sincere nostalgia, projects it onto some characters in an essentially-D&D world, and comes up with something pretty gripping and fun.
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:35 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Why did nobody tell me that "Jeeves and Wooster but D&D" was a thing?
posted by tobascodagama at 7:37 PM on November 11 [6 favorites]


Like a lot of others, I read the original Dragonlance books in middle school. During my freshman year of high school I told a friend about them. Mark loved D&D but didn't read much outside of RPG manuals, Dragon Magazine, White Dwarf and the like. I think I may have read the follow up series before giving up on the books but, I swear to God, Mark went on to read every single one of those mass market paperbacks they ever produced. He passed away way too young a couple years ago but whenever I see the TSR/Wizards books in the fantasy section I think of him.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 8:05 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]


Dimly remembered, but Raistlin was basically a murderously resentful and self-pitying incel literally willing to send both himself and the rest of the world to hell to become powerful so he could punish everyone for being mean to him for being different.

okay FINE so I guess November 2019 is when I die on Raistlin hill.

So yeah, the big bucket archetype for Raistlin is this, more or less. Raistlin does seem to have a bad rep, and I think that's a shame. Incoming detail specific nerdiness:

Raistlin is a more complex take on the skinny brooding nerd antihero. He starts out life as basically a child with serious life-threatening issues at birth. The midwife straight up says it would be a mercy to kill the child, which is super fucked up and also part of the story. His mother is kinda the wilder archetype, a witch with power who can't control it and slips into trances which are unhealthy for her.

So yeah, okay, whatever. He can't go out and play with the other kids, but his mom is a witch and he loves her and maybe if Raistlin learns magic, he can help with the trances and sicknesses. So he starts studying, and gets to take The Test!

He's young af and new to all this, but while The Test is a super serious ritual for anyone, well...the (still a child!) fledgling wizard is ambushed in the course of The Test by like, the equivalent of a time-traveling Voldemort (Fistandantilus, about as Big of a Big Bad as you can get) which results in some increased power and increase health costs.

So at this point he's this kid who was always sick, trying to learn magic to ameliorate the loneliness and help his mom (while healthy-birth big brother was out there punching dudes in the neck [and don't even get me started on Absent but Protective Older Queer-ish Badass Sister {Kitiara} cause it me] and generally being the healthy foil to Raistlin's infirmity) and all of a sudden he is coughing up blood, yellow skinned, hourglass pupils, Voldemort-soul bargained and he's like 17. Then his mom dies.

In spite of all of that, he still goes off and is a major hero of the War of the Lance. He's explicitly on the good side for like, so long. And then when he takes the black robes (and has the super hot [in my head canon at least] bromance with Dalamar his drow nee Silvanestri black robed apprentice) he still ends up on the side of good over and over, eventually (spoilers) letting the Queen of Darkness Takhisis kill him while he holds the portal from the Abyss closed as Caramon and Crysania escape.

Yes, his whole schtick can get tiresome as he's always being the sardonic asshole in the group, and he makes a lotta mistakes, but he does have that fundamental Heart of Gold which always wins out in the end.

I didn't self-identify with Raistlin when I was eating this universe but I easily could have. I just had a crush on Tanis cause half-elf qt.

But yeah. Raistlin's more complicated, and I loved him as an anti-hero. He was flawed but also a big badass who eventually made the right call. And had a ton of soft spots (his relationships with Tas and Bupu Bulf???? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh) and had the nuclear family fracturing loss coupled with physical and mental health issues...his attempt to find a solution to his situation immediately hijacked by an implacable evil which destroys his mind and body? My LE from middle school and early high school feels seen af.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:06 PM on November 11 [19 favorites]


Raistlin's a really compelling, attractive character, but for me he's always gonna be a wrong'un, despite/because of his better sentiments. I do like his constellation though.

For me The Problem Of Raistlin is that, esp. with so many much later novels involving or dedicated to him there's not really a shared Theory Of Raist nor implicitly agreed canonical texts, so it seems easy to argue past each other about the character. The Raistlin of Chronicles/Legends Only is not the Raistlin of Soulforged-included or whatever. Me, I noped out on retconning Rasitlin around the Kitiara Dark Heart novel where he was a perfectly articulate adult as a six year old, which might have been fine if anyone in his family had commented on it.

Very late series Steven Universe spoilers follow - skip/skim if unfamiliar, read if unconcerned.

There's a great moment in very-late SU where White Diamond (beautifully all eyes, talons and Takhsis) reaches out for Steven's Gem and I immediately thought of My Raistlin and his Promethean punishment. It's that ingrained in me. I love My Raistlin, but and because he's a tragic character. He's Bismuth unredeemed and then some (since we're talking and spoiling SU).


I had a chill suddenly, a small sense that I'm probably unconsciously re-enacting other people's Usenet arguments from decades ago. Apologies if so!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:42 PM on November 11 [5 favorites]


My LE from middle school and early high school feels seen af.

Er....Lawful Evil?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:54 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]


I mostly read Dragonlance books, which for most of the people I played AD&D with in high school was their main fantasy consumption. The same friend who got me into the first six DL books also loaned me the Drizzt books and the Elric of Melniboné series; even then I had the taste to prefer Elric. I read some Dark Sun books, the Ravenloft ones (which were occasionally passable horror) and even some terrible Greyhawk books. And yeah, it was extruded fantasy product, but it was fun and we were reading books.

WotC has completely stopped publishing novels (they gave Bob Salvatore the license to write new Drizzt books), which I think is a shame. Tie-in fiction has come a long way. I’ve been reading canon Star Wars novels and enjoying them as fun adventure sci-fi books on their own. D&D seems to me like it should have new epic fantasy tales being written today.
posted by graymouser at 9:27 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong, I definitely identify with a lot of what you wrote. I was pretty much in the same position, badly bullied (I'm guessing we're not alone in this thread), and the Dragonlance books were a big solace (ahem) to me. I remember crying bitterly at Sturm's death, and again when Flint died. They were a big part of my life at the time, and I read absolute tons of them, from the Raistlin and Caramon time travel trilogy to the spin off novels and short stories.

I did try going back, though, and unfortunately, they were unreadable to me, in ways that a lot of other young adult lit (the Bordertown/Borderlands world books for example) weren't, and I was pretty badly disappointed by that. Even then, I recognize that these books were incredibly important to who I was then, and they will always be that for me.

As far as Raistlin goes, I can accept that he had an absolutely awful lot in life, but he doesn't ever transcend that, he wallows, he accepts, he becomes embittered and vengeful, and that's where, like Rorshach and a ton of other angry guy characters, people identify with them too much, and yeah, I'm just glad Dragonlance was so long ago that there's little chance of Raistlin ending up an incel meme.

On the other hand, I think it's worth recognizing the Legends trilogy for what, in YA D&D writing, is a pretty in depth story of co-dependency, as well as deconstruction of heroes. From Caramon's struggles with alcohol and depression to really making Raistlin full on evil as hell, I always thought it was a good deal more grown-up, more likely (ignoring time travel and godhood questions) than the original series.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:44 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]


> "I sort of quietly filed away all fantasy novels from the early 90s as 'things that shall remain mostly forgotten' after that."

Well ... there is fantasy from the early 90s that holds up. Off the top of my head, for high fantasy there's the Cygnet duology by Patricia McKillip, for weird-ass what-was-that fantasy there's The Interior Life by Katherine Blake, for humorous fantasy there's Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett...

And the rather D&Dish late-80's Deed of Paksennarion series by Elizabeth Moon is quite good.
posted by kyrademon at 4:48 AM on November 12


Anyone have D&D stats for The Suck Fairy? Because she has hit too many books and needs to be taken out.

His franchise also includes recently deceased pop stars, disgraced comedians, and all kinds of politicians.
posted by otherchaz at 5:15 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]


Speaking of old school D&D, last week I saw the play "She Kills Monsters" with some folks in my gaming group. It's all about mid-90s high-school D&D stuff and it is fantastic.
posted by exogenous at 5:37 AM on November 12 [3 favorites]


I've said before, Kitiara was my first crush.
posted by DigDoug at 5:40 AM on November 12 [2 favorites]


It's still odd to me that [Dragonlance novels] haven't really been turned into movies yet.

I have either good or bad news for you, depending how you feel about terrible things and overabundance of colons.
posted by jackbishop at 5:47 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]


I felt motivated to write this comment just in case there are folks reading this thread and thinking that maybe they should be embarrassed for still liking this stuff: don't be. Not everything has to be high art and it's okay to like stuff that when viewed as a modern adult has some bruises and blemishes.

I agree. Personally, low-art fantasy novels are something I enjoyed immensely for a few years and then at some point they stopped appealing to me. But I don't bag on them because I still have those fond memories, and I know plenty of people for whom they are still a source of pleasure (or as you noted, comfort) as adults.

When I consider many of those books now, though, I can see flaws that I didn't notice back then; at that age I wasn't aware of even the term "problematic," much less what might be problematic in terms of their portrayals of, say, gender or sexuality. And I think there is a real spectrum, from books that are maybe a bit simplistic in those portrayals but are coming from a good-hearted place and can hold up fine to a reread, and others that come off now as creepy or gross (e.g., quite a few of Piers Anthony's books, to pick one that was mentioned above).
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]


I was browsing B&N last week and was surprised to see brand new editions of Salvatore's work. The guy is still shifting product. Me and my friends devoured these in the early 90s. Even then we knew they were terrible but they were a rich starting point for our own role playing campaigns.

Somehow reading about a mopey, conflicted, misunderstood, outsider weirdo really appealed to teenage me in a way I just can't put my finger on. I've try to read a couple in my twenties and found them almost impossible to get through.

Anyway, I like the tone of this blog - page after page of honest reviews without any irony or (too much) snark.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:19 AM on November 12


For me The Problem Of Raistlin is that, esp. with so many much later novels involving or dedicated to him there's not really a shared Theory Of Raist nor implicitly agreed canonical texts, so it seems easy to argue past each other about the character. The Raistlin of Chronicles/Legends Only is not the Raistlin of Soulforged-included or whatever. Me, I noped out on retconning Rasitlin around the Kitiara Dark Heart novel where he was a perfectly articulate adult as a six year old, which might have been fine if anyone in his family had commented on it.

Hah yeah, that's a great point and totally fair. I didn't consider that there are def conflicting accounts and characterizations. My head canon Raist is probably a lot more deserving of empathy and forgiveness than the Raist of this trilogy or that one-off.

Er....Lawful Evil?

No idea why I decided to abbreviate that...there's no reason it should be understandable! Lived experience.


lazaruslong, I definitely identify with a lot of what you wrote. I was pretty much in the same position, badly bullied (I'm guessing we're not alone in this thread), and the Dragonlance books were a big solace (ahem) to me. I remember crying bitterly at Sturm's death, and again when Flint died. They were a big part of my life at the time, and I read absolute tons of them, from the Raistlin and Caramon time travel trilogy to the spin off novels and short stories.

...

On the other hand, I think it's worth recognizing the Legends trilogy for what, in YA D&D writing, is a pretty in depth story of co-dependency, as well as deconstruction of heroes. From Caramon's struggles with alcohol and depression to really making Raistlin full on evil as hell, I always thought it was a good deal more grown-up, more likely (ignoring time travel and godhood questions) than the original series.


Great point about the Legends trilogy especially. I had actually forgotten that Caramon sank into depression and alcohol and lost his physical prowess, a la Thor in the Avengers doohickey. I remember not really understanding what was happening there, when I read them as a kid. I also wonder if there was an intentional Of Mice and Men thing going on with Caramon as Lenny, with the shadow bunnies thing.

I read through some of the reviews and enjoyed them. Still, FRealms was the campaign setting that I played the least and read the fewest companion novels, so outside of the major Drizzt series and a couple of one-offs centering on Waterdeep, I haven't read most of the reviewed books. I hope they get to Dark Sun eventually!
posted by lazaruslong at 6:24 AM on November 12 [2 favorites]


I hope they get to Dark Sun eventually!

Similar, though I must say that the term Mary Sue / Marty Stu is probably not strong enough to describe the problems with Sorak. He's literally a dude with significant skills on his own as ... I guess a fighter but sort of a ranger given his penchant for an animal companion, but he also has about a dozen personalities living in his head ready to pop out when needed, 4 or 5 of whom are distinct high level incarnations of other character classes.

I still love the world and the worldbuilding in the books, of course, but wow is he ridiculous.

(Also, I swear to god, I've had the phrase "bracing, cool waters" stuck in my head since the early '90s because it's the only way Troy Denning knew how to describe the river near the monastery Sorak was raised in, and he does it repeatedly, and it sticks out like a sore thumb every time he can't come up with a different description ....)
posted by tocts at 6:41 AM on November 12 [4 favorites]


I loved the Tribe of One series! I think maybe because I was young and queer / questioning and so there was something attractive about the dude with a bunch of women in his head. There's probably a deep textual queer reading of that series to be written if it isn't already out there.

I also loved that we finally got a Big Good on Athas in that series with the whole Avangion thing.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:54 AM on November 12 [1 favorite]


Like many here, I loved DL, FR, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and all the rest, throughout my middle and high school years and a bit beyond. I never did any actual D&D gaming, having gotten in with the wrong (non-nerdy) crowds during those years. And yet I have this vast reservoir of arcane knowledge, further bolstered by playing games like Neverwinter Nights.

Since then, I have gone back to a few of my favorites. The original Dragonlance trilogy is still pretty solid. Many, many of the FR books are... not. One of the "newer" ones that I picked up (this was still many years ago) was surprisingly entertaining: The Erevis Cale series. It's not perfect, but Kemp is a pretty good writer and the characters and subject matter really held my interest. I've even re-read the entire series at least once since the mid-2000s when they came out.

Reading this thread has been one helluva nostalgia trip, though. Thanks for sharing!
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:37 AM on November 12 [2 favorites]


I do have fond memories of that second Dragonlance trilogy, but overall, yeah, trash.

Thank you for this great FPP and thread!
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 AM on November 12


I learned the word "cataclysm" from the back of the first Dragonlance book. I can clearly remember what the bookshelf in the bookstore looked like when I found it at some point in the 80s. It was around the first novel I ever read. Being a nerdy kid, I of course devoured all of them. And later forgotten realms stuff.
So of course I had a cat named Tasslehoff, and later, Flint.

I haven't tried rereading any of them, and I don't plan on it. But man do I have a lot of fond memories of reading those with my (very) small handful of friends. I'm pretty sure I started reading them before trying D&D, which we also did quite a bit of.
posted by flaterik at 12:19 PM on November 12 [4 favorites]


I really liked Dragonlance, in no small part because I could look up stats for things in Monster Manual (death knights ftw); I liked the robe colour thing for mages; the Elmore art lined up with what I thought D&D was "supposed to" look like from the Basic red box days; and yes, because of Raistlin, who I liked as a moody just-teen who nobody I understood and just you wait one day I'll show you all.

I never read the Drizzt stuff. By the time I knew it was a thing it was all a certain type of gamer ever talked about. "Yeah I'm a drow dual class chaos mage anti-paladin (page 8) with silver hair and purple eyes and you all feel oddly drawn towards me, no, the DM will make you do it, so you have to, no I'm the only one who's allowed to play drow otherwise it's not special anymore guys." I guess something had to replace "lol I'm a pyromaniac kender called Fluffybunny and I steal all your stuff and burn it but you find it endearing and delightfu...wait, no PK".

Screens so dominate the life of nerdy ten-to-14-year olds now that no one could ever replicate what TSR did in the 80s and 90s. Sad.

My ten year old would look up from whatever Magisterium book he's reading at the moment to say "OK boomer" if he knew what that meant. Before that it would have been Ranger's Apprentice. Before that Harry Potter. Maze Runner. Hunger Games. His Dark Materials. Percy Jackson...
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 5:51 PM on November 12 [2 favorites]


I soaked these up as a 'tween until I aged out of them.

Mostly library checkouts, but I owned a bunch too. Dragonlance, ofc, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, some Greyhawk (because I owned the module).

I totally got into the Spelljammer novels, though, and bought the entire set as each paperback came out. As many of the rulebooks as I could afford.

Never did run a 2nd ed. Spelljammer campaign, especially as I lateraled into Shadowrun, MERP/ Rolemaster/ RMSS, various GURPS (including Macross), a bit of RIFTS, a Chaosium ELRIC! campaign, and later some CoC when in college. Had a casual HoL campaign that kinda-sorta lasted after college by correspondence.

Purged a large amount of my childhood room, which my folks had packed away, when I returned from college and I kind of regret letting those go for a song - pretty much the only things the used bookstore would actually pay cash money for.

Did re-read them before selling them. They're bad, but it'd be pretty epic as a grand AD&D campaign and was very effective at introducing the concept/ setting.

I still love the concept - spacefaring in a standard Western medieval fantasy setting, with a universe built using concepts like phlogiston and glass bubbles (solar systems) floating within it. It reconciles with the AD&D "planes" concept while provided another device for moving both information and goods between campaign settings.

--

Been unpacking after a move; I still have my teenage tabletop rpg stuff (binders and binders of notes, maps, character sheets, etc.). I have two straight weeks of mandated holiday during the holidays this year. I'm probably going to go through the binders, maybe digitize some, and let it go.

Still have a bunch of RPG books/ sets/ miniatures/ a big Crown Royale bag o' dice/ etc. Can't decide what to do with them, or the method of letting them go.
posted by porpoise at 7:31 PM on November 12 [3 favorites]


Purged a large amount of my childhood room, which my folks had packed away, when I returned from college and I kind of regret letting those go for a song

Most of my childhood was likewise purged when there came a time to put aside childish things, and a family yard sale was the departure point. 98% of what I discarded I never missed (I am sure I could not recall 70% of it, decades on). Almost all of my RPG stuff went — D&D, Traveller, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Call of Cthulhu — along with all my Tolkien, Moorcock, and Leiber. I don’t know that I had much tie-in fiction (this was the mid-eighties, so there wasn’t that much around) but I did have at least one or two of Gygax’s turgid Gord the Rogue books and maybe a couple of others (Andre Norton’s Quag Keep... deep cut, huh?). These books are all long gone from my shelves and I figure that is where they and I most likely parted ways.

The gaming segment was part of a larger haul of stuff which I mostly miss not at all. Some consortium of neighbourhood kids scored literally a couple hundred Kenner Star Wars action figures that day as well as a mess of ships; other more discerning kids may have grabbed the older eight-inch Mego superheroes and Star Trek figures. Spock had and surely still has a slightly mangled left hand as my cat had chewed on it one day for reasons elusive.

And there were more things, I am sure, that I have entirely forgotten. A few choice bits were held back for whatever reason... my original Deities and Demigods (you know, with the Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythoi). Harn seemed interesting enough to set aside, and I ended up running a lengthy game in the setting in the nineties. My fondness for Gamelords’ stuff meant it got set aside (although the cheap production values meant it wouldn’t produce a great price anyway). My dice mostly survived, including those from my original Basic D&D set in the seventies; they have gradually vanished over the years but there is that big cheap clunky twelve-sider which in seven weeks I will have rolled in six different decades.

And one unexpected survivor, like the one Tommy who didn’t charge over the top with the rest of his platoon into the machine-gun fire because he had snuck away to visit a French nurse the night before the dawn raid was planned, was my first edition of Runequest. Turned out I had forgotten that I had lent it to my buddy Larry, and he had in his turn forgotten he had it. Maybe two years ago he sheepishly returned it after a thirty-five-year or so borrowing period but I was so pleased to see it again I didn’t mind at all.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:48 AM on November 13 [7 favorites]


I totally got into the Spelljammer novels, though, and bought the entire set as each paperback came out. As many of the rulebooks as I could afford.

Only read a couple of them plus I had bare though equally rewarding contact with either setting, but I reckon PlaneScape is the Right Answer but SpellJammer is the Best Answer (to the Question of how do we draw all this stuff together).

Sisko and Jake! Fifth Doctor's Enlightenment! Earendil was a mariner! Etc, etc.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 9:43 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


(that was intended to be slightly more cogent, but I accidentally hit Post and had to abuse the edit window something terrible sharpish)
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 9:51 PM on November 14


Multi-posting sorry, but on the subject of putting away childish things as raised above, probably giving the game away here but I lost everything twice over as a kid/teen when the house burned down, twice. Not literally, that's simply my preferred form of words to not talk about said event(s). On topic though, I didn't get to make that choice (to put childish things away) which might be why I still have a complicated (or even any!) relationship with the fetish objects of my youth.

Metafilter and/or Name Of Your Sex Tape: Fetish Objects Of My Youth

Ahem!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:06 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Oh, hah! My characters kick over the bones of Drizzle and El-spinster! Who stood alone as the undead swelled over the Demon Bridge? WE DID! Who dared the sewers of the Forgotten City and lived to tell the tale? WE DID! Who challenged the Demonic Lord of Evil Plants and the Red Druids? WE DID!

Who had his high level barbarian decapitated by a vorpal blade that was wielded by a character played by his own son? I did.

That said, I definitely used some of those books along with D&D as a refuge as a kid. I started playing D&D again about a year ago and fell back in love with it. From the sound of things here though, perhaps I'll leave the books to fond, if fading, memories.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:33 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


childish things

Perhaps my holdup is that I don't think of those as "childish" things.

I've done purges before, don't remember much of them - but I do remember specifics, like a red cross-strap sleeveless Rampage dress that'd totally work today with modern tech but not 16 years ago.

But, yeah, different era but I've learned not to put too much, if anything at all, into the John Donne poem.
posted by porpoise at 11:38 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Same. I still have a ridiculously big collection of 1st and 2nd ed D&D stuff, and a healthy smattering of 4/5e stuff. I still play D&D from time to time, so I'm glad to have them!

Even the books I don't use to play these days (i.e. most of them) just spark joy by being on the shelf. And leafing through them is fun. I think I will start taking scissors to some of them for which I have multiple copies, and using cutouts to make my MeFi Card Club offerings more badass.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:07 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is that when I was into these back in the day, I didn't really think of them as game tie-ins. I knew that they were, but what I wanted was a book with a swordy lady and/or dude and some magic stuff on the cover, and I often found that in the form of TSR novels.

Once my ninth-grade English teacher assigned us to bring a favorite sentence into class. I picked out a Salvatore novel opening that went something like "The man marveled at how easily the dagger slipped past the silken robes and into the old man's withered flesh." (Only more so, because it was Salvatore; I can't find it now.) I will never forget the delighted sneer on my teacher's face. (He was hard on me and he was good for me and I absolutely need to send that man a card; I was such a load.)
posted by Countess Elena at 6:35 AM on November 15 [8 favorites]


is it this one?
posted by lazaruslong at 11:42 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


"The man marveled at how easily the dagger slipped past the silken robes and into the old man's withered flesh."

Oh, that's definitely Kessel killing his mentor to steal the Crystal Shard, don't even have to look it up.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:19 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Hahahah you are spot on. Very nice!

“The man marveled at how easily the slender dagger slipped through the folds in the older man’s robe and then cut deeper into the wrinkled flesh.”

Impressively close from memory too, Countess Elena!
posted by lazaruslong at 12:33 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


There's probably something to be said about how some iffy stuff in TSR's EFP gets baked in via explicit basing of characters on D&D rules.

Like, the Ranger class patron and aligned racial enemies? Yikes. As in, the whole thing where Drizzt adopts a "natural, good" white unicorn lady forest goddess in opposition to the "evil, perverse" black misandrist dominatrix spider lady cave goddess Lloth and thereafter especially hates and is good at killing more bestial humanoids, which is...not great?

I guess it's "favored enemy" in D&D now, which is a little better.

Other stuff from D&D getting baked into EFP characterizations probably include racial and gender stat/skill bonuses and maluses, class restrictions, etc.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:12 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Nice catch, snuffleupagus! I guess I kept it in mind because I have a great memory for times I was being ridiculous and did not realize it.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:10 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Oh, you don’t have to tell me. I was Raistlin one Halloween, probably 5th or 6th grade, and mutually decided it would be a good idea to make an in-character live action short about Drow with my 7th grade girlfriend, which mostly involved us emerging from shrubbery in the backyard in capes. (“Pifawi” is still taking up room in my brain, it would seem...)

The video wasn’t meant with quite the type of acclaim we had hoped for when we screened it in class.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:41 PM on November 15 [4 favorites]


This is a really well written set of reviews, evoking just the right level of nostalgia. Thanks for sharing.
posted by jjderooy at 3:49 PM on November 16


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