Monday, December 6, 2010

What Edition for Drizzt?

Over at Cave of Chaos, I ran across a post pointing me to a video I might otherwise not have seen. It's part of a "Meet the Author" series from Northeastern University, this installment being devoted to R.A. Salvatore, whose claim to fame -- or infamy, depending on one's point of view -- is the creation of conflicted good guy drow, Drizzt Do'Urden.

Now, I expect a goodly percentage of the readers of this blog to loathe Drizzt and all that he represents and, honestly, I can't blame anyone who feels that way, because it's a feeling I share. But, after hearing his creator discuss, at 35:41 on this video, his preferences regarding roleplaying games and -- more importantly -- the reasons for his preferences, I can't deny that I feel a little warmer toward R.A. Salvatore than I ever expected I would.

34 comments:

  1. is this the first lecture of the uncreative writing course?

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  2. Salvatore is local to my neck of the woods (New England), and there's a local show called Chronicle that once had a feature of RPGs.

    Salvatore was playing in his local campaign as DM. Now this was either filmed very late 2nd Edition or early 3rd Edition. I can't remember when this story aired but it was sometime between 1998 and 2002.

    He was using the 1st Edition DMG. Efreeti Cover. ;-)

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  3. I'll put it this way: if he'd used equivalent inverse phrasing - say, '4e makes the DM's creative work way easier, while 0e/1e forced the players into creative choices by dint of its comparatively loose/threadbare mechanical design' - I don't think this woulda warmed yer heart-cockles quite the same way...;v)

    Oh, how well you know me! My soul laid bare!

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  4. That was excellent! Thank you!

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  5. Thanks for the embed. Actually a really interesting talk, not quite what I expected, especially the end bit where he was talking about how to be published, which I found refreshing and different then most writers take on it.

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  6. Drizzt was an accident, go figure.

    Thanks for posting this.

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  7. Whoa, I did not expect THAT answer from THAT guy. I am glad I sadly misjudged the guy and his relationship to D&D.

    He and his thrice-d****d creation are responsible for one of my house rules as a DM: no ambidexterity outside the Underdark, as it is a sure sign of demon possession and the possessed are immediately hanged from the nearest tree. I got tired of Drizzt wannabes and decided my game could live just fine without ambidexterity.

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  9. Not into his books per say, but he comes of as a down to earth kind of guy. Dose anyone know if he was playing 1E before or after he wrote his first novel?

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  10. Wow. Really kewl video.
    Glad to know he's a 1st Ed aD&D DM/player to this day.

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  11. I do admit to reading and enjoying his early books when they first came out (give me a break, I was 12 or so), but grew to loathe the effect that Drizzt had on players and the game.

    It's even worse if you ever try D&D Online...being a drow gives you extra-special points and powers and virtually everyone in the game is an ambidextrous drow ninja-type.

    Anyway, nice to see he's still a 1st Edition guy.

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  12. It should be noted that at the Celebrity D&D Game at Gen Con Bob exhibited detailed knowledge of 4th edition rules. He knew what he was doing with the rules and really displayed an enjoyment of play.

    That said, it's pretty clear that the "ambidexterity" of Drizzt, and the fact that he actually uses the "dual classed characters" rules in the prequel trilogy, show that Bob has been linking his fiction to the rules for a long time.

    Favorite rules inspired moments?

    Drizzt "going berserk at the sight of giants" representing the +1 to damage per level that Rangers get in Crystal Shard.

    Drizzt using the dual class rules and forgetting that he was an awesome fighter who was able to battle Greater Earth Elementals in the Underdark as he learned to become a Ranger in the prequel trilogy.

    Drizzt's ambidextrous use of weapons and use of Drow racial abilities, and the discussion of how some Drow cannot levitate.

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  13. I once had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Salvatore and having a short conversation with him at a local Con. He was a very cool, down to earth, guy. It was funny to me to hear this big burly guy talk about his home D&D game (and not try to sell me anything).

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  14. The first appearance of Drizzt is in the 1e supplement The Savage Frontier (one of the best AD&D supplements, I might add).
    He is not the super-powered character he became later: he is a 10th level drow Ranger with a figurine of wondrous power, and a scimitar frost brand +3/+6 v.s. fire using/dwelling creatures. He fights with two scimitars, but that does not push the AD&D rules too far. By UA rules, 10th level is also the maximum he can reach, unless he increases Int and Wis to 18 (12th level); OR Int or Wis to 19 (14th level).

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  15. I don't understand...Why did some have a negative view of this man prior to seeing this video? Anyone care to share and enlighten?

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  16. Once Drizzt came out and became wildly popular, everyone, it seemed, ended up having a player in their game who wanted to play a good drow superhero.

    For some reason people blame Salvatore for this, as though that was his intent. Now, in my humble opinion, that's unfair, as he's a very strong writer who emulates a good pulpy-style--especially in his battle scenes. I am not ashamed to say that I've enjoyed the Drizzt books (but also won't make the leap to the 4e Forgotten Realms with him in the new trilogy, so I'm done with them as of now.)

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  17. I don't see any reason to loathe Salvatore or Drizzt prior to this video, and I don't see how a throwaway comment about 1st edition supposedly absolves him of... whatever. Either of those responses comes across as almost nonsensically partisan.

    I think he's an OK writer. I read the first half dozen or so of his D&D novels. They were good enough to prompt me to go ahead and keep the first three of them, the original Halfling Gem trilogy, but not good enough to prompt me to continue reading beyond that, and I haven't looked at one of his novels in fifteen years or so now.

    He's hardly responsible for the behavior of a bunch of annoying fanhoys. I thought Drizzt was a decent character, before he got over-exposed. He's not remarkable, but he's not loathesome either.

    Plus, everytime I've ever seen anything about the guy, he seems like a nice, laid-back, interesting guy that I'd be happy to take to dinner and chat about writing and gaming and kick back a few beers, and just hang out with.

    What's not to like? I certainly don't love his work, but it's not unlikeable.

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  18. He seems like a nice guy. I still hate him for killing Chewbacca.

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  19. Thanks for filling me in, Joshua and Jason. I agree with you both. I really don't get why anyone would take a disliking to him given...well, whatever it is. It is non-sensical.

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  20. Mr Salvatore has always been a 1E guy, I've heard him speak of it in several different interviews. During the WoTC 3E days he never bashed 3E just always stated his game (for his long running group) was 1E.

    As he states in this interview I believe what drew him to try 4E was his sons interest in it and of course his publishing relationship with WoTC/Hasbro. Mr Salvatore is co writing some novels with his son so I think (IMHO) he is "playing nice" with 4E to keep the WoTC publishing avenue open for his son and the gravy train going for himself. It would be financially foolish of him to do otherwise.

    As far as Mr Salavtores novels go I think they are fine. In the early novels they seemed to follow the 1E rule set pretty closely as far as power levels and abilities. The later novels strayed much more into a story telling vein with a casual link to the 1E rule set. Personally I don't feel Drizzt or his companions actually do any "super powered" things in the novels that I have read and seem like they are somewhere around 10-12 level (in 1e-3e; 4E you can't compare levels with previous editions). I've read passages of Drizzt and his companions almost being killed by a couple frost giants and being very wary of things like mountain lions so I don't know where the "super powered" stuff comes from. The novels don't seem to support this. I don't know how someone who has never played D&D could enjoy these novels but I assume that is the case based on the sales. To me you have to have a pretty strong connection to AD&D and/or Forgotten Realms to get any enjoyment out of these books. I don't know how a layman can make much of them.

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  21. Yeah, the half dozen Salvatore books I've read are part of a big mental pile I've labeled "stuff I ultimately regret wasting time on." Recently I was given a novel of his, which was not of any D&D line. I skimmed the prelude, thinking that maybe he writes better when not constrained by D&D publishers and settings, but promptly gave it away. His fiction is horribly predictable, which is a deal-breaker for me.

    That said, Salvatore sounds like a decent guy that I'd like to chat or game with if we happened to cross paths. Being a well-fed gamer shlub with a mild Brooklyn accent makes him rather endearing. Also, in all my years of gaming I've yet to see a Drizzt clone so I don't sympathize with all the drow hate.

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  22. @Tequila Sunrise: Yeah, the half dozen Salvatore books I've read are part of a big mental pile I've labeled "stuff I ultimately regret wasting time on."

    I've come to realize recently that that's true of most stuff I've read, regardless of whether or not it was "game fiction" or not. While some of the worst game fiction I've ever read is among the worst fiction I've ever read, period, the vast majority of it isn't significantly worse then the vast majority of genre fiction in general.

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  23. I've always equated RoSal to "light" reading.  He's one of the few writers I can just sit back and enjoy the ride without having to focus too much on what I'm actually reading.  Sometimes it's a nice change if pace.  The man created a interesting secondary character that the public latched on to and consequently has enjoyed a remarkable success as a writer.  

    Just 'cause he has chosen to ride the D&D gravy train through it's various incarnations is no reason to dislike the guy or his writing.  

    A single good drow ranger IS interesting.  It's the whole army of wannabes that followed that diminished the concept & uniqueness.

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  24. I'm still not convinced that there is a whole army of wannabes. That's the story, of course, but I know hardly anyone who's actually witnessed a player show up with a Drizzt wannabe.

    Maybe it's an RPGA thing.

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  25. I've come to realize recently that that's true of most stuff I've read, regardless of whether or not it was "game fiction" or not.

    True that. I have a very short list of fiction that I really love, and most of the rest is part of my 'bleh' pile, from Salvatore to Ayn Rand. I think it's time to blog about the short list!

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  26. tedopon said...He seems like a nice guy. I still hate him for killing Chewbacca.

    Why hate him at all? Because he was paid by George Lucas to write a story that killed a fictional character? No wonder fanboys are despised.

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  27. Cool dude, even cooler he likes 1E.

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  28. Great "interview". I like him more after having seen it, though I haven't read any of his books in years. I did enjoy them as light fantasy back in the day though.

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  29. I don't loath Drizzt as much as I cannot understand his place. Being quite the purist and never owning the A Series...the Drow were the ultimate Shadows Behind the Throne and only revealed themselves in the Giant trilogy. Which my players only encountered after 8yrs of gaming. Then just as they figured the Drow were behind much of the woe on Oerth...in stepped Lolth and the other demons.

    So, a Drow turned good has its precedence in the Gord novels but never thought it was a good idea. Not that all races are born into the alignments they have pre-selected but it does help clarify the epic struggles in fantasy games...I always found it odd that old Gary chose Neutral.

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  30. So, a Drow turned good has its precedence in the Gord novels but never thought it was a good idea.

    I don't like it either, although there is an example of a non-evil Drow in Vault of the Drow, I believe. He's a political dissident awaiting execution in a prison cell. I don't recall anything more than that.

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  31. [i]Vault of the Drow[/i] is an odd sort of module...it sets up a traditional dungeon crawl then overlays a huge dynastic struggle and in the deep bowels of Oerth were nobody can rescue them.

    I remember the pains that I had trying to reconcile the Dungeoneer's sourcebook with real world conditions combined with Vault of the Drow. I came to the conclusion that it the whole Material Plane was merely magic and that allowed me to dispense with making it work.

    What I find troubling is the World of Warcraft appropriation of D&D tropes and this in turn feeding what we visualize for D&D. For I fear the next generation...

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  32. So, a Drow turned good has its precedence in the Gord novels but never thought it was a good idea.

    Why not? Good creatures can turn evil.

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