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    Canonfire :: View topic - GH novels- best and worst?
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    GH novels- best and worst?
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:42 am  
    GH novels- best and worst?

    i've asked before about ToH novel and all the "revival" novels, likt the Giants and the White plume.

    very few people seems to like them, so i ask for (if possible):

    -3 GH novels i should read
    -3 GH i should avoid

    any takes?
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:04 am  

    The Paul Kidd trio are great. They are rather irreverent, but they are enjoyable above all other things. The Rose Estes books barely left an impact on me.

    Of the revival books, The Tomb of Horrors was not that great of a read. It had its moments, but it just never really took me anywhere. The characters were very cardboard cut-out and the actual dungeon itself was only in the last fifty pages of the books. The challenges seemed out of proportion, too. Like they fight a barbed devil in one scene, but one of the same characters gets taken out in one shot by a much weaker monster.

    Really the only thing I cared for in it was the Scarlet Brotherhood monk who was cool. The evil cleric of Tharizdun was stupid. The "fallen paladin" and his Holy Avenger of ultimate destruction was stupid. The waste of good material for the dungeon itself was stupid.

    Against the Giants was so good I couldn't finish reading it. It was that good.

    All in all, the only Greyhawk books I liked were the Paul Kidd three. They were as much comedy as fantasy, though. I mean, they are written like a Die Hard movie. Still, only GH books I would recommend.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 4:22 am  

    The Paul Kidd ones are ok. But i still recommend the Gord books. If i had to choose three: Saga of Old City, Artifact of Evil and City of Hawks. Together they make a great resource for the City of Greyhawk and Gygaxian Greyhawk.

    Night Arrant is a collection of short stories which is also quite interesting and a fun read.

    You shouldn't pay more than a few dollars for each of those. Postage is another matter of course. Try to get all three in one lot on ebay or check with www.bookfinder.com where to get them cheapest individually. (Bookfinder even calculates postage to brazil!) www.Half.com lists them for around $ 2 each. Unfortunately they don't allow for international sales afaik, but you could always try to contact the seller there, and see if you can arrange for something privately.

    Avoid anything by Rose Estes.
    GreySage

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:16 am  

    The Tomb of Horrors wasn't a total waste, but left something to be desired. It can be skipped. Confused

    Keep on the Borderlands could have been much better written. The book's "Keep" location is supposedly set in the Yeomanry and will give you a good "feel" of what the Caves of Chaos are supposedly like, though most of the fights were written by a teenager mentality. Wink

    The Paul Kidd novels were alright and readable. Cool

    The Gord books should be read, for the reasons Thanael gave. Happy

    Any of Rose Estes books are a waste of your valuable time. Razz
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:51 am  

    My perspective was not on how good they are in reference to Greyhawk canon or setting, but rather on which were the better reads. Paul Kidd's books were great reads, though I am sure their attention to setting was less than that of the Gord books. Read the Gord books for a good idea of what Greyhawk City is supposed to be like...otherwise you might be disapointed.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:11 am  

    I for one like the Gygax prose and I also liked reading the later books from the series. But the SoOC, CoH and Night Arrant where by far my favourites. I liked them more than the Kidd books.

    Last edited by Thanael on Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:23 am; edited 2 times in total
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:13 am  

    I've read 5 of the GH novels and liked everyone of them. I had read nagative reviews of Emerson's Against The Giants and avoided it.

    Strohm's The Tomb Of Horrors was OK, but like most complain about...the actual tomb part is waaaay too short for a book that's supposed to be based on just that. I did like the evil Scarlet Brotherhood monk quite a bit, as chaoticprime mentioned. The idea of a fallen paladin of Heironeous being the main antagonist was a pretty good idea, I thought.

    All 3 of the Paul Kidd novels were fun reads for me. The Justicar, while the equivalent of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone all wrapped into one, was a fun character to read dispatch baddy after baddy. And the idea of having a sentient hellhound pelt for a companion was a very cool idea, IMHO.

    Reid's The Temple Of Elemental Evil was pretty good, as well. Probably my least favorite out of the 5 but still worth a glance.

    *Personally, I'd like to see Paul Kidd tackle a couple more GH novels as I enjoy his style. They're quick, fun reads that can be read in a relatively short period of time because the pages seem to turn themselves.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:45 am  
    Re: GH novels- best and worst?

    rossik wrote:

    -3 GH novels i should read

    1. Quag Keep by Andre Norton (old school Greyhawk, great writer)
    2. Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey (good writing)
    3. Night Arrant by EGG (just fun, IMO)

    Quote:
    -3 GH i should avoid

    1. Anything by Rose Estes (see http://web.archive.org/web/20041108102528/www.tc.umn.edu/~monax002/Council/resources/rose/rosehate.html for reasons)
    2. Come Endless Darkness, by EGG (pointless story, IMO)
    3. White Plume Mountain, by Kidd (bleah)

    All based on my own tastes, of course. YMMV greatly.
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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:30 am  

    As others have said; while they do not pay much respect to Greyhawk canon; I think the Paul Kidd novels are great fun to read! Cinders the sentient Hell Hound pelt is one of the best characters to come from any book based on RPG products that I've ever read.

    Also, while no disrespect is intended for EGG, I don't really find his novels that good....they are decent, but, in my opinion, not really that great.

    As others have said; Estes' novels are pretty much a waste of time. I don't think Ru Emerson's novels (Keep on the Borderlands & Against the Giants) are as bad as some are saying; they're just mediocre.

    I kind of liked both Tomb of Horros and Temple of Elemental Evil; but I wish both of them had focused more on the ruins they are named for. I have read that Temple was going to be longer, but the writer had a word/page limit imposed upon him. Tomb of Horrors though, as others have said, takes up too much time in getting to the Tomb.

    So; if I have to choose 3 to recommend: all 3 Kidd novels; I think they are a blast! Just keep in mind; they have little connection to any Greyhawk 'cannon'.

    3 to avoid: (more than 3, actually) ALL of the Estes novels

    The others are so-so in my opinion.
    GreySage

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:22 am  

    It has been (viciously) rumored that Rose Estes novels cast the spell "Blindness" upon the unwary reader! Evil Grin

    OK, so I'm starting the rumor! Laughing Laughing Laughing
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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:29 am  

    I'll agree that the early Estes novels focusing on Mika-Oba are rather tepid at best but the one she wrote about his grandson, "The Eyes Have It" is excellent and you can get it on amazon right now for a penny.

    Go get that one at the very least.

    Also, the Kidd books were hilarious, and while from a literary perspective they may not have been Chaucer, they were most certainly excellent books. When it came down to Polks equipment list in the first book I couldn't stop laughing and his constant reminders on what the Justicar had to do to be a hero were priceless as well.

    Temple of Elemental Evil was bad. There's no getting around it. Yes I understand his BS excuse about word count and time constraints, well, he could have written a book just about the Moat House. He's a good enough author, he could've done that and had too good books, instead he choose to release one mediocre one.

    I would recommend reading the Gord novels but not because of their literary quality. Literary wise they're rather dry, but it does give you ample fertilizer for campaign material, most notably in terms of background material such as food and games played and eaten in and around The Free City of Greyhawk.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 9:27 am  

    manus-nigrum wrote:
    I'll agree that the early Estes novels focusing on Mika-Oba are rather tepid at best but the one she wrote about his grandson, "The Eyes Have It" is excellent and you can get it on amazon right now for a penny.

    Go get that one at the very least.

    Also, the Kidd books were hilarious, and while from a literary perspective they may not have been Chaucer, they were most certainly excellent books. When it came down to Polks equipment list in the first book I couldn't stop laughing and his constant reminders on what the Justicar had to do to be a hero were priceless as well.

    Temple of Elemental Evil was bad. There's no getting around it. Yes I understand his BS excuse about word count and time constraints, well, he could have written a book just about the Moat House. He's a good enough author, he could've done that and had too good books, instead he choose to release one mediocre one.

    I would recommend reading the Gord novels but not because of their literary quality. Literary wise they're rather dry, but it does give you ample fertilizer for campaign material, most notably in terms of background material such as food and games played and eaten in and around The Free City of Greyhawk.


    Mika-Oba is a demi-gawd in my collection Laughing
    Ok,ok i know you guys all hate RE,but if you look at the time those books came out thier was a totally different line of thinking in this country .For example,when i was a kid the Ewoks ruled,now that i'm 30 years old and my line of thinking has matured i hate the Ewoks with a passion.Same as E.T. and the gremlins.Times have changed since then and perhaps more then a few of us have become a little desensitized to anything light-hearted.I can still read those pick-your own path books that she wrote and actually enjoy them,but to the hard-core fan in this modern age,i have a hard time seeing them take any comfort from those...And yes i know she was a canon-sabateur.

    " I still say gargoyle sux ~"
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 9:43 am  
    Re: GH novels- best and worst?

    Oerthman wrote:
    rossik wrote:

    -3 GH novels i should read

    1. Quag Keep by Andre Norton (old school Greyhawk, great writer)
    2. Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey (good writing)
    3. Night Arrant by EGG (just fun, IMO)

    Quote:
    -3 GH i should avoid

    1. Anything by Rose Estes (see http://web.archive.org/web/20041108102528/www.tc.umn.edu/~monax002/Council/resources/rose/rosehate.html for reasons)
    2. Come Endless Darkness, by EGG (pointless story, IMO)
    3. White Plume Mountain, by Kidd (bleah)

    All based on my own tastes, of course. YMMV greatly.



    This line alone from that link you posted,to me just goes to show that she was writing from game terms and not so much from a novelization point of view..it's still kinda funny though.

    "Mika grasped the single crystal bead that hung from a fine gold chain around his neck and quickly uttered the words to a simple globe of invulnerability spell.

    This spell, which he had taken special care to master, created a magical buffer around his body for five feet in all directions and protected him from spells up to the fourth level of ability.

    It seemed unlikely that the old man's abilities would exceed third level spells."
    Master Wolf, p. 115.


    " I still say gargoyle sux ~"
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 10:25 am  

    AcidArrow wrote:

    Ok,ok i know you guys all hate RE,but if you look at the time those books came out thier was a totally different line of thinking in this country ."


    but nothing had prepared me for this:


    "Men stood in the clearing looking upward, pointing at him as he flew above them. Well, he could fix that, and taking careful aim, Mika squeezed a sphincter muscle and was rewarded by the howls of of the watchers below as they shielded their heads and ran for cover."
    Master Wolf, p. 159.

    and this "wacca wacca wacca "momment:

    "'And just look at me! I'm dirty! I'm filthy! My hair's a mess! My dress. . . my dress, or what little there is left of it, is totally ruined! I even smell bad, if you can even imagine such a thing!'

    'I find out I'm not even a virgin anymore, and I don't even remember what happened!'

    The princess dispatched Iuz with ease, knocking him to the floor at Hornsbuck's feet, where he lay stunned. Mika almost felt sorry for Iuz. He could have told him even a demon has something to fear from an angry woman."
    Master Wolf, p. 308. "
    Master Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 10:40 am  

    I can echo most of the sentiments expressed so far.

    The best Greyhawk novel, in terms of both literary quality and (perhaps arguably) respect for the setting, is Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey. I have no idea why they didn't use this author more often, nor do I understand why they didn't even put the word "Greyhawk" on the cover. Bailey alters the characters only slightly to avoid conflicting with then-current canon, and captures the feel of Greyhawk City and the WoG very well.

    Behind this I would rank the various Kidd books, "revival" books, and Andre Norton's books. All of these books are well written, but as mentioned earlier none of them is all that valuable in terms of setting lore. The revival books suffer slightly more than the others because the authors were assigned too little space to adequately cover their subjects, and because they give clear indication of having been written with the 3e/3.5e rules in mind.

    Second place is shared by the various Gord books. I know it'll probably have some people foaming at the mouth, but I have to say Gygax just wasn't that great of a writer. He became reasonably competent in his later years, but that's as far as I'm willing to go. But as you would expect his books are a goldmine of GH lore. So I guess deciding which books hold second place is a matter of deciding whether you value literary skill or game respect more.

    In last place is the Estes stuff. Read these only if you're in prison and can't get anything else. And maybe not even then. I enjoyed them when I was young, and I have included a detail or two just for fun, but I'm a raving completist and can't help myself. Forgive me.
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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:28 am  

    rossik wrote:
    AcidArrow wrote:

    Ok,ok i know you guys all hate RE,but if you look at the time those books came out thier was a totally different line of thinking in this country ."


    but nothing had prepared me for this:


    "Men stood in the clearing looking upward, pointing at him as he flew above them. Well, he could fix that, and taking careful aim, Mika squeezed a sphincter muscle and was rewarded by the howls of of the watchers below as they shielded their heads and ran for cover."
    Master Wolf, p. 159.

    and this "wacca wacca wacca "momment:

    "'And just look at me! I'm dirty! I'm filthy! My hair's a mess! My dress. . . my dress, or what little there is left of it, is totally ruined! I even smell bad, if you can even imagine such a thing!'

    'I find out I'm not even a virgin anymore, and I don't even remember what happened!'

    The princess dispatched Iuz with ease, knocking him to the floor at Hornsbuck's feet, where he lay stunned. Mika almost felt sorry for Iuz. He could have told him even a demon has something to fear from an angry woman."
    Master Wolf, p. 308. "


    Lol,maybe RE was on heavy medication at the time...

    " I still say gargoyle sux ~"
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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:36 am  

    bubbagump wrote:
    The best Greyhawk novel, in terms of both literary quality and (perhaps arguably) respect for the setting, is Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey. I have no idea why they didn't use this author more often, nor do I understand why they didn't even put the word "Greyhawk" on the cover.

    Because the label "Greyhawk" was toxic at that point, after the Rose Estes novels.
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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 12:10 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    I know it'll probably have some people foaming at the mouth, but I have to say Gygax just wasn't that great of a writer. He became reasonably competent in his later years, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

    His style is idiosyncratic at best, and downright ponderously pompous and dense at worse. Happy He did better with the first 2 books - I suspect he had a page count limit and/or a better editor than he did at New Infinities.

    Quote:
    But as you would expect his books are a goldmine of GH lore. So I guess deciding which books hold second place is a matter of deciding whether you value literary skill or game respect more.

    I don't think it's game respect so much as it is insight into the mind of the man who developed the setting.

    Quote:
    I enjoyed them when I was young, and I have included a detail or two just for fun, but I'm a raving completist and can't help myself. Forgive me.

    Avast, me hearties! Keelhaul the wolf-loving landlubber!

    Remember - International Talk Like A Pirate Day is tomorrow, September 19th!
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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:23 pm  

    Oerthman wrote:
    bubbagump wrote:
    I know it'll probably have some people foaming at the mouth, but I have to say Gygax just wasn't that great of a writer. He became reasonably competent in his later years, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

    His style is idiosyncratic at best, and downright ponderously pompous and dense at worse. Happy He did better with the first 2 books - I suspect he had a page count limit and/or a better editor than he did at New Infinities.

    Quote:
    But as you would expect his books are a goldmine of GH lore. So I guess deciding which books hold second place is a matter of deciding whether you value literary skill or game respect more.

    I don't think it's game respect so much as it is insight into the mind of the man who developed the setting.

    Quote:
    I enjoyed them when I was young, and I have included a detail or two just for fun, but I'm a raving completist and can't help myself. Forgive me.

    Avast, me hearties! Keelhaul the wolf-loving landlubber!

    Remember - International Talk Like A Pirate Day is tomorrow, September 19th!


    I meant "game respect" in the sense of containing significant references, information, and stylistic elements intended to overtly connect the book to the setting in a more than merely cosmetic way. For example, the revival books mention places and occasionally situations that are clearly Greyhawk's, but in terms of style they could fit any world with only a few cosmetic changes. Similarly, none of those books contain any new information or added depth for the setting other than the stories themselves.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:38 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    I meant "game respect" in the sense of containing significant references, information, and stylistic elements intended to overtly connect the book to the setting in a more than merely cosmetic way.

    Ah, gotcha. I think we're saying the same thing, just different words. ;-)

    Quote:
    For example, the revival books mention places and occasionally situations that are clearly Greyhawk's, but in terms of style they could fit any world with only a few cosmetic changes. Similarly, none of those books contain any new information or added depth for the setting other than the stories themselves.

    True. You could replace the GH names and places with just about any fantasy world and things wouldn't change - they aren't that tightly tied to the setting.
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    GreySage

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    Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:23 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    I meant "game respect" in the sense of containing significant references, information, and stylistic elements intended to overtly connect the book to the setting in a more than merely cosmetic way.


    For instance, Baroness Evaleigh of Ratik (LGG) is introduced to us in "Saga of Old City" when Gord rescues her from Stoink. And as Bubbgump points out, there are many others. Wink

    The Gygax books are "good" for the Greyhawk information they provide, not for EGG's writing ability. Embarassed
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    Sat Sep 19, 2009 11:36 am  

    Of the Greyhawk books, I have only read the "revival" novels; Keep on the Borderlands, Against the Giants, White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Queen of the Demonweb Pits and Temple of Elemental Evil (I had picked up Tomb of Horrors, but I don't remember reading it...). Of all these books, while none were terrible, only the Paul Kidd books retain any traction for me. This is due to the style; the books themselves are fairly lacking in WoG goodness. Somehow they go from Urnst to Keoland in their search for Hommlet? Right... Still, they were great fun; indeed, they were "Hoopy!" Laughing The other books... I know I read them, but that's all I can recall about them.
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    Mon Sep 21, 2009 9:46 pm  

    I'll put in my two cents...

    Gord the Rogue books: not great writing but good to read for a greyhawk fan. Series started fairly decent but the writing got worse at the series progressed

    Rose Estate books: avoid at all costs

    Paul Kidd books: a bit off the wall but probably the best written of the greyhawk books, you just have to swallow the bile at the occasional things like decanters of endless HOLY water and the hasted speedloading hopper feed crossbow/machine gun. Really well written characters (loved the sentient hellhound fur cloak)

    Nightwatch: one of the better books you could read 'set' in greyhawk.

    Andre Norton: Quag Keep was very, very early greyhawk, it was written several decades ago so the writing style is a bit outdated feeling and it doesn't match the modern cannon very well.

    Temple of Elemental Evil and Tomb of Horrors: So/So not badly written but trying to write a story about something that took my players several months to experience in under 300 pages left lots to be desired... kind of like watching the movie version of a favorite book, you leave the theater thinking "that was alright but were was the other 90% of the story.

    Against the Giants: all the problems of ToEE and Tomb of Horrors PLUS a wuss of a paladin constantly using his 'detect evil' ability to locate evil monsters so he could AVOID dealing with them and sneak away. He wouldn't have kept his paladinhood very long in my campaign.

    Keep on the borderlands: all the problems of ToEE and Tomb of Horrors Plus basically not very well written.

    Three to read: Nightwatch, Saga of the Old City, and any of Kidd's books. Nightwatch is a good stand alone book and doing one each of EGGs and Kidd's books will let to discover if you might want to read more of their stuff.

    Three to avoid: Rose Estates, period

    Editorial note:

    Actually some of these authors, even the much loathed Rose Estates, are MUCH better authors outside of the D&D setting. I would recommend checking out some of their non-D&D work to see for yourself if it was the author or the restraints on them when writing for a gaming company. I think that TSR and WotC are probably fairly difficult publishers to work for. I mean, could any of us do credit to a cherished adventure in a single book with less than 300 pages, including introducing and developing the main characters, introducing all the NPCs, and covering all the major points of the adventure?

    I know that currently WotC pays by the word for adventures they publish and requires submissions to follow an extremely limited writing template which leaves us finished products that are fairly bare-boned and lackluster: plot hook -> combat encounter 1 -> skill challenge encounter 1 -> combat encounter 2 -> skill challenge 2 -> encounter 3 -> conclusion with 'descriptions of NPCs limited to statblocks and combat tactics suggestions. I can understand somewhat their point of view, it makes it easy for amateur writers which they are really encouraging and they want to keep things simple for everyone (authors, editors, and DMs included), but it sure churns out a lot of stunningly boring meritocracy.
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