Saturday, February 22, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary, Day 22

First D&D-based novel you ever read.

The first one, and the only one, I've ever read was Azure Bonds.  Overall it struck me as a case study in why novels should not be based on a game.  I really don't remember much about it, save that the writing style came across incredibly flat, the story was so-so, and the characters felt like they had been rolled up by a bunch of players each determined that their character should be the most "interesting."  The whole thing had an air of trying way too hard to capture D&D in novel form at the expense of being good fiction.

Oh, I've heard of others.  None has struck me as really worth reading for any reason other than its explicit connection to D&D.  Dragonlance doesn't even rate a yawn from me, and that whole drow thing smacks so strongly of Mary Sue-ism that I doubt I could force myself to read more than a chapter.  Maybe I'm judging these stories too harshly, having never read them for myself, but I have a hard time imagining D&D being a good basis for a novel.

Using works of fiction to inspire games is well and good.  You take a rich and nuanced work, and distill it down to fit within the framework of the game.  It loses a dimension in this translation, but that's OK, because it's a game, and games must be playable first and foremost.  You're not trying literally to duplicate the adventures of the Fellowship of the Ring or Jason and the Argonauts, but to borrow details to put flesh on the skeleton of the game system.  I just don't think it works the other way around.  A game system makes a lousy frame on which to build a compelling, rich, and nuanced work of fiction.  It's like wrapping a turkey skeleton in deli-sliced turkey and calling it Thanksgiving dinner.

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