Out of the Abyss

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So Out of The Abyss is not a novel per se, but I had to read it as I was running it for one of my D&D groups so here it is.

Third official published campaign from Wizards of the Coast, Out of the Abyss takes place mostly in the Underdark.  If anyone has been reading the more recent Realms books you will notice obvious tie ins between this and the novels.

The realm of the Abyss, home of the chaotics demon races, is held at bay from the prime material plane of Toril (or Abeir-Toril as it is now known) by a force called the faezrass.  Dark elves and denzions if the Underdark (the subterranean world beneath the surface of Toril) are most familiar with it as they are in contact with it almost daily, a subliminal itching or buzzing in the back of their minds to let them know it’s there.

But what happens when one goddess’ lust for power and one wizards arrogance combine to take that magical wall down?  Chaos of course, and the demons and their lords spew forth to wreck as much havoc as they can before being drawn/sent back to their own plane.

And that’s the gist of the story for this campaign.  Lloth decided she wanted more power, so she tricked the drow race’s greatest Archmage Gromph Baenre into tearing that barrier down and letting the demons out to play.  And while Demogorgon, Grazzt, Baphomet and the others are having a grand old time in their new kingdoms, Lloth is quietly taking over their old ones.

So. Players start off as prisoners of the drow in the underdark and in their attempts to escape and reach the surface they come across all manner of demons and possibly the demon lords themselves.  They can eventually make it back to the surface but then of course they are told they are the only ones who can help close the breach and take out the demon lords so down they go again.

Lots of different ways to end this campaign, and it’s different from the other ones I’ve run in that it’s very open world/sandbox-y.  There is not straight line to the end of the story, not even a semi-straight line with a few side branches.  Players can literally go wherever they want, whenever they want, which does make planning ahead and prepping per session difficult.  You pretty much have to have EVERYTHING on hand to be able to follow along where the players lead.

But that’s really the only downside to this campaign.  Pretty standard aside from that.

And now we’re off to the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood with The Thief by J.R. Ward next.

Having allied themselves with the Band of Bastards, the Brotherhood is committed now more than ever to eradicating the Lessening Society. Recovering from their most recent battle against the last of the lessers, the Brotherhood comes to realize that the fight against their enemies is far from over.

Throe, Xcor’s former second in command, is using an ancient tome to summon a new army engineered by a force more dangerous and evil than the Omega.

And now the brothers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood will be tested both at home and on the battlefield


The Blade Rises

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And I spoke to soon when I said we were done with Realms short stories.  Looks like we have one more here with Rise of the Blade. It was supposed to be another Harper tale but got held up in legal publishing limbo and was never officially released though you can find free PDF versions here and there, pretty sure the author Charles Moffat put it up on his site too.

Anywhoodle, Rise of the Blade is set in Waterdeep (of course) and starts off with a pair of Harpers: Witter, an old grizzled veteran who gets himself blown up on the first page, and Pierce aka The Doctor, his protégé and master of the Acadamy of Combat.  After Witter’s death, Pierce kinda seeks vengeance and shuts down the smuggling operation that killed Witter, squaring off against Giffs and guns.  Then he wanders around the city a wee bit, introducing you to his friends and allies who will be important later on as the real story unfolds.  Chev, Waterdeep’s most famous and talented swordsman, has been imprisoned in stone for hundreds of years.  Now free, he goes on a murderous rampage across the city, seeking revenge against the d’Or family for the wrongs their ancestor did to him so long ago.

A fun little story.  I would have liked it more as a complete novel with Chev’s backstory more fleshed out, but the characters are engaging and the combat isn’t boring so overall a good short story.

Ok.  Pretty sure we’re done with Realms for now.  Onwards to The Devil’s Cut by J.R. Ward.

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company’s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there’s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward’s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer–only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing’s for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder. 

Resistance is Futile

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The Way by Ed Gentry ties into Neversfall in The Citidels series in some way, but I’m not sure how. It’s been so long since I read it and Google searching aren’t turning up a lot of stuff.

Anyways, we’re introduced to Corbrinn, a Halfling ranger, on his current assignment. Leading a caravan of merchants through a forest.

All goes well at first, until a woman wakes up screaming that her husband is missing.

Being the best at woodlore and it kinda being his job on this kind of trip, Corbrinn goes off in search of the missing caravaner. What he finds at the end is not at all what he expected.

The caravan is attacked by a motely crew of humans and humaoids, working together when history and demographics state they really shouldn’t be. Corbrinn does what he can to help, but is in the end is overcome but the creatures and their masters: Formians. Ant like creatures with telepathic abilities that can overcome the mind and enslave ‘lesser’ creatures in their seeming attempt to create the perfect world.

Alas and alack, Corbrinn and those caravaner who survive are overcome by these creatures and are now mind slaves to them

Resistance is futile.

Aside from not really knowing what ‘The Way’ is, it’s a good story. Like I can assume it’s either the hive mind of the Formians or Corbrinn’s ranger ways, but for me we’re not clearly pointed in one direction or the other as to what exactly ‘The Way’ is.

Super excited for what we got planned next.  Three Sisters Three Queens by Philippa Gregory!

As sisters they share an everlasting bond; As queens they can break each other’s hearts.

When Katherine of Aragón is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined—with Margaret’s younger sister Mary—to a sisterhood unique in all the world. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France.

United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. Katherine commands an army against Margaret and kills her husband James IV of Scotland. But Margaret’s boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne when Katherine loses her son. Mary steals the widowed Margaret’s proposed husband, but when Mary is widowed it is her secret marriage for love that is the envy of the others. As they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.

And Boom Goes the…Pig…

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So the full title of this short story is Pigs Explode: A Tale of the Seigebreakers. We were first introduced to the Seigebreakers in Crypt of the Moaning Diamond, also by Rosemary Jones, and fourth in The Dungeons series.

A rag tag and eccentric group of mercenaries who claim they can bring down any walls. Sometimes with very…unconventional…methods.

I’m not entirely sure when this story takes place in regards to the Seigebreaker’s timeline, whether its before or after the events of the Crypt. I assume before as that’s kinda how these things go, but it’s not for certain.

Anyways, the Seigebreakers have been contracted to bring down the tower of a wizard that has kinda been…well not terrorizing the local townsfolk so much as annoying them, by killing their herds of swine and ensuring the meat was unharvestable.

We’re brought into the story as the Seigebreakers are surveying the land, trying to figure out how they’ll take this tower down while the wizard is away, and they happen on a very interesting and gross idea. The land around the tower is littered with hog corpses, bloated and decaying slowly.  So what do they do? Break into the tower’s basement, pile up the bloated corpse, light a match and run.

The methane gas that had built up within the dead swine was more than enough to make a big bada boom and bring down the tower in rubble amid a shower of dust, debris and pig guts. A smelly but successful ending to their latest endeavor.

And that’s it. It was fun seeing the Seigebreakers run around again, there was a scene with a yappy chihuaha or something that was pretty funny.

Up next we’re going to look at The Way by Ed Gentry.

Serpents and Thayans

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Serpentsong by Richard Lee Byers is again! One of those stories that while being good, is not what I was expecting.  I was thinking this to be something about Yuan-ti and was SUPER excited about it because we don’t see a lot of stuff with Yuan-ti in it, but sadly t’was not to be.

Instead we are introduced to a band of adventurers, one of whom is a Thayan bard named Bareris, held captive by lizardfolk and being led by their shaman-bard to a prison island surrounded by hundred of poisonous snakes. Only the lizard shaman’s song can calm the snakes enough to allow passage back and forth from the island to the mainland, so once the shaman leaves the group there, they’re trapped.

For a little while at least. It’s not long before the lizardfolk are back and the shaman sings a song to calm the serpents and call forth one of the adventurers to be sacrificed. This happens twice, each time with Bareris trying and failing to break the shaman’s magic.

It’s only when the surviving members of his company try to kill him for his failure, and he lights on the idea of working with the shaman’s magic to turn it against him. His fellows allow him to live for one more night, on the condition that if he fails again his life is forfeit.

Which of course doesn’t happen, and Bareris is able to subvert and take over the shaman’s song, allowing the rest of the company to kill the lizardfolk and escape.

So all in all a happy ending to a otherwise gruesome and disturbing tale. The next one we’re looking at seems like it’s going to be just as interesting.  Pigs Explode by Rosemary Jones.

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