Bitter Grey Ashes
There are a couple of books that do an exceptional job of portraying the multiverse setting of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons also known as the Forgotten Realms if we are talking about one specific world in the multiverse.
In AD and D tradition, the fundamental setting is that of the multiverse, composed of several different planes of existence, worlds like Earth or Toril, as well as elemental planes of existence such as Fire or Earth.
The point is, you can weave almost any kind of story from such a multiverse, because essentially it is like quantum mechanics. A universe full of infinite posibilities and variations.
Many books are written in the Forgotten Realms setting; most popularized by RA Salvatore in his Drizzt Saga, Icewind Dale trilogy, and Dark Elf trilogy. Salvatore also wrote a 5 book story featuring Cadderly, the mighty cleric and priest of the god Deneir. Drizzt’s party even met Cadderly once.
I’m not here to write about RA Salvatore though, for good as he is, he does not quite hit upon the interaction and characterization hybrid that I prefer. Meaning, the magic system of RA Salvatore’s novels are not written in reference to the spell levels in ADD games such as Baldur’s Gate. The spell names and effects are the same, but he does not reference them on any kind of objective power level. That takes away from the immersion into the Forgotten Realms because there is no consistent way to judge whether a magic is this or that. Powerful or weak. Whatever it is, it is based upon what the author described it as. A high level wizard can cast a longer lasting and more harder to dispel web spell, but how much longer and how much harder is left unanswered. This is different from the Sennadar novels by Fel, which is also based in the multiverse using the same physics as the Forgotten Realms; where gods derive their power from the belief of their worshippers and the Weave from the God of Magic is what powers spells.
In order to perhaps better explain my meaning, allow me to juxtapose magic with military technology. There is a specificness to military tech, such as capabilities, disadvantages, maintenance requirements, etc. For anyone for know which weapon to deploy in a certain situation, that person must know the basic capabilities of the equipment available. If he wants air support, what air support should he call upon? How likely is that support to be available? What alternatives does he have if there is no air support? How does he acquire coordinates for On Target artillery fire? How does he coordinate armored tank divisions with infantry?
These questions cannot be answered concerning magic in Salvatore’s novels or most any other FOrgotten Realms novel simply because there is not enough detail. It is sort of like saying a 500 pound J-Dam makes a bigger or smaller explosion based upon what plane it is dropped from. Rather vague in a sense.
Senndar doesn’t fall into this problem. Sennadar’s battle magic tactics make sense because it obeys common sense rules. It has an orderly system that has consistency; not based upon arbitrary visions from the author. The magic system of Sennadar then becomes sort of like the difference between a GPS guided J-Dam and a M82 sniper rifle. Each weapon has its advantages, disadvantages, and different requirements for skilled use.
To get to the point of this post, Bioware created a game called Baldur’s Gate II, which is a saga based upon a half-god child of murder trying to meet his/her destiny based in the Forgotten Realms world of Toril. This game still has a fan following because the mod communities are still cranking out mods for playing with Baldur’s Gate 2, and because the Infinity Engine is very easy to modify in such a way that it does not interfere with the main story line, this gives almost infinite replay and value to this game. It is an old game; one where every line is NOT voiced, rather just some of the text is voiced. I liked it because it had a lot of different character classes, items, quests, etc you could do. The magic system was also very complex, which allowed you to duel other mages and fight against many monsters that requires tactics to win out. Not just hack and slash, but tactics. As in hit and run, subterfuge, trap making, choosing the ground upon which you will fight, etc.
Dorotea made a short story mod concerning Jon Irenicus, the chief archvillain of BG2, wherein Jon Irenicus was “saved” and redeemed at the end of Throne of Bhaal, which was the last game in the Bhaalspawn trilogy.
If you click on the link, you will be able to go to her website and read her now fully novel sized story called Bitter Grey Ashes. It is not complete, although she has recently said that she is going to work on the future chapters. Regardless, there is plenty of material in there for your perusal. Its quality cements the best of interactive game playing with novel story telling.
As you might have noticed recently, I’ve been writing chiefly about books and what not, rather than politics and war. It is a nice break from the extremely repetitious nature of Leftist dogma, propaganda warfare, and the Iraq conflict.
It’s nice to be able to read stories in which the protagonists kill the evil people and not have to worry about the ACLU or CAIR. That has always been nice. People always talk about Westerners and the good guys vs bad guys theme as if this was something simple and parochial. It isn’t really. There are a lot of characterization developments in both Dorotea’s and Fel’s stories. The good become bad, the bad become good, the powerful defeated by the weak underdog, etc.
Fel’s stuff even has grand politics at the ending portions of his series; grand alliances between different nations and races, binded together to fight against a common enemy. Dorotea focuses on the themes of hellish damnation, redemption, narcissism, and amnesia in contrast. The amnesia and the narcissism bit being what the main character has. Indeed, yes, our chief protagonist and would be hero is a narcissist and perhaps even a malignant narcissist at that. The only other example of such a novel is Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow‘s End.
Excerpt’s available of course.
There is a certain purity to these kind of stories, you know. In our world, our themes are guilt vs pride and power vs doubt. We, as the mighty United States, do not lack power to solve our problems, rather what we lack is strength of will and spirit. We doubt, and therefore that is our problem. I feel an empathic connection with these kinds of stories because as individuals we do lack power, even if our nation does not. As individuals we doubt, we feel pain, and we given up at times when the going is too tough. It is inspirational thus, to be able to read stories like Deathstalker and Sennadar where the protagonists use their power for good, regardless of the costs to themselves or their souls. Often in these stories, the hero lacks power but not will. Often in our real world the US lacks will, but not power. It is the smaller and weaker nations on Earth that lack power.
You know the age old story of the underdog adventure-fantasy depiction. Farm boy heads out to the real world, meets thieves (or monsters) and other trash, learns how to survive, and therefore becomes more powerful. The simple challenges wherein to overcome them you just need to become more powerful, stronger, or more crafty. It is different in our day and age, but not so different as we may think.
One last thing. Such stories as I’ve presented here gives you the viewpoints of both villains and heroes. You don’t have to worry about lies, illusions, or traps set for you, the reader. Not like it is in the real world, where propaganda has 5 different layers, all trapped with deadly details and hidden barbs to prevent the removal. In Sennadar, the hero fights monsters and dragons and after the hero wins, the monsters and dragons start talking and demonstrating their own motivations and reasoning. In our world, humans talk and kill women and children, thus demonstrating their monstrous abilities and natures.
Jon Irenicus was the villain of Baldur’s Gate 2, and he made it into being the chief protagonist in Bitter Grey Ashes. America fought against Ameri-Indians and Japanese warriors, but eventually ended up fighting with them against our common enemies. The Navajo, Cheyene, Apache, etc in WWII, and the Japanese with us against China/North Korea/Russia in both Cold War and now. Look at even the Al Anbar tribes that once fought against the US “occupation” forces for the jihad. These kinds of stories are stories about real human beings, not monsters. Monsters just kill; they cannot be reasoned with because they are not essentially people. Instead of people, they are more like tools, weapons, or simply natural forces.
What makes an entity a monster though, is not what it does or says or is. No, what makes a monster a monster is its inability to change for the better. Traitors and enemies of humanity will always be enemies to humanity, because they have turned their back on the Light and without the Light they cannot change for the better.
I like tales of redemption in stories, true redemption that is, because you don’t often find it in the real world. You don’t get more than one chance to redeem yourself in the real world, if only because one mistake is enough to end a civilization or a career. Look at Vietnam. Look at the Revolution that ousted the Shah. Hell, look at what ended the Golden Age in Cuba when the intellectuals and other elitists supported the glorious leader Castro. One mistake is all that is needed. One moment in history that should not have occured but did.
Anyways, this is getting long enough and you should spend your time reading the stories by Fel and Dorotea. Far more entertaining, I assure you.Explore posts in the same categories: Books