Temple of Elemental Evil campaign, I decided to go all-out by playing the computer game and reading the novel as well. The book was a bit forgettable, but it was nice to read something that felt like an actual D&D game. Previously the only D&D books I'd read were the first 20 or so Drizzt books. Those were fun and all, but lets face it, they don't really feel like D&D. Drizzt is more like a super hero than a character you'd roll up in D&D, and I can see why many gamers don't like the influence he's had on munchkin players.
But the ToEE novelization was different. It didn't have any
break-out characters who had abilities beyond their class, just the
normal RPG mainstays you might see in any tabletop party. I wouldn't
call it an important work of fiction, but there are worse ways to pass
the time. So with that attitude in mind, I recently picked up "Against the Giants" by Ru Emerson. I was actually impressed. Okay, it still
wasn't a masterpiece by any standards, but it really captured the feel
of D&D and I enjoyed that a lot. It was also a light read - I don't
get to read often so books usually take me forever, but I managed to finish
this one in about two weeks.
I think it was the little details that enthralled me the most. While
the action scenes were adequate, I preferred all the dungeoneering
aspects - searching for traps, using noise-blocking spells to keep the
fights from attracting reinforcements, preparing food, finding spots to
hide for long rests, choosing spells to prepare, and so on. There are
varying motivations among the party members - vengeance, duty, treasure -
which results in the occasional in-party conflict. For example (slight
spoiler), at one point the party has a huge disagreement over whether to
kill a helpless enemy, and it reminded me of some of the best moments
I've had in my own groups. So while Ru Emerson might not be one of the
best writers I've ever read, I'd love to have her as my DM.
My only real gripes with the story came when I start to think of it
in terms of game mechanics. I kept trying to figure out what level the
group was. They definitely weren't newbies: They were able to take out a lot of giants with little difficulty, and
the party wizard had a wide variety of decent spells. But the main
character, Lhors, was a farmboy with some training but no real combat
experience. He had the background of a level 1 character, but he
managed to take out a giant with one hit fairly early in the book.
(Must have rolled a crit.) It was believable enough in the book, but it
shows exactly why it's problematic to think in gameplay rules. Even
when playing the actual game, a good DM will nudge the rules aside now
and then for the sake of a good story, so I have no problem with the author taking these dramatic liberties.
Also, I hate to nitpick, but the book also had a lot of typos. Sometimes I
think I should have been a proofreader, because typos just really stand
out to me. So it's a personal beef; knowing that I'm catching things
that other people were paid to catch (and still failed). But that's
Anyway, if you like D&D fiction and want a quick read, there's
worse books you could try. It might not be particularly memorable, but I found it more entertaining than any of the Drizzt books. Next up, I'm reading the Tomb of Horrors. I
think I could get addicted to the novelizations of classic Greyhawk