book reviews, book talk, dungeons and dragons, spoiler free

Dungeons and Dragons: Endless Quest Books

This week I’m excited to review something that brings some of my favourite things together, books, Dungeons and Dragons and Choose your own adventure. These style of interactive gamebooks rose to popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, such as Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy and Find your Fate as well as the most well known, Choose Your Own Adventure books. The idea was that not everyone had the friend or means to be able to play Dungeons and Dragons and other RPG’s like it but still longed for that style of personal, decision-based storytelling that has become so addictive and these books were a great way to capture some of that magic.

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In 1982, the original publishers of Dungeons and Dragons saw these books as an opportunity to bring in new players and so they too released their own series of books, titled Endless Quest, which were more about the story than combat like the Lone Wolf books for example. Now with the rising popularity of Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop roleplaying games) thanks, in part, to the success of shows like Critical Role and High Rollers as well as the more open “geek culture” we enjoy today the Endless Quest books have returned! Penned by American writer and game designer, Matt Forbeck, new books were released in September last year as hardbacks aimed mainly at a middle-grade audience, although easily accessible and enjoyable by anyone with an interest in Dungeons and Dragons. The four books feature unique storylines in a multitude of popular D&D settings such as the dangerous, winding Underdark and the murky streets of Waterdeep while each one also focuses on a particular class, these four in particular star a fighter, a cleric, a wizard and a rogue.

Two of our friends gifted us the set as a Christmas present and I’ve loved reading through them multiple times! They feature brilliant art like that you find throughout the source books for D&D and although they seem small each adventure is packed with choices giving the reader multiple outcomes, not all of which are good.

38398948To Catch a Thief – Rogue
When you tried to pick the pocket of a civilar in the night-shrouded streets of Waterdeep, you never thought she’d catch you — and you never dreamed she’d force you into her service. Now you must find the baby griffon stolen by the beholder Xanathar, leader of the city’s powerful Thieves’ Guild. And if you should fail . . . you can count on spending the rest of your life behind bars, rogue. 

To Catch a Thief was the first of the four I read as I play/have played a good few Rogues in my time and it seemed a good place to start. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of art inside these books and reading about some of the popular characters from the Waterdeep campaign was a lot of fun. In my first read, I made it about three quarters through before I met my untimely demise but made it through the second time fairly easily. The story didn’t feel especially limited to a Rogue to me but enjoyable nether the less.

38398950Big Trouble – Wizard
When evil giants attack your home in Ardeep Forest, your parents think you’re dead and they go hunting for your missing little brother. You wake up and set out after them, helped by a giant wizard who lives in a flying tower. You don’t know where they’ve gone, but you know that if you don’t find them, you’re all in big trouble. Wield your magic wisely against the giants, wizard.

I died pretty early on in Big trouble to my absolute shock. I don’t play a lot of spell caster classes in the game and I often tend to forget just how squishy some of them can be. I found this one to be the hardest by far and died about four or five times, I did manage to survive twice but with unsatisfactory endings and a pretty good one. Despite having now read through Big Trouble at least eight times I’m fairly certain there’s still more to discover and plan to give it a few more tries still! This one felt a lot more suited to the chosen class of Wizard, although I definitely think it would fit an arcane trickster rogue too and as my favourite rogue archetype, this made me pretty happy.

38398947Escape the Underdark – Fighter
You awaken in an underground cell, stripped of your armor and your sword. Your fellow prisoners inform you that you’re trapped in the Underdark, soon to be taken to the great drowcity of Menzoberranzan and sold off as a slave. But word is that demons are stirring in the underworld’s depth. Perhaps you can use that to break free, fighter.

I love all things Underdark and as expected this is one of my favourites, unlike with the first two I read I found I actually got attached to the two characters who accompanied me which I hadn’t expected and after making two choices that led to my death it was third time lucky and got the best ending of any of the four books I’ve experienced. Although this is the Fighter book though I really didn’t think there was much that was hugely fighter specific to it but it was hugely entertaining even still.

38398952Into the Jungle – Cleric
The Harpers have lost one of their own, a legendary adventurer named Artus Cimber, keeper of the artifact known as the Ring of Winter. They’ve hired you to travel to the jungle-clad land of Chult to find him. If only you can manage to find Cimber before the frost giants do — or the zombies that infest the land get you first. You’re in the jungle now, cleric.

I’m not really a fan of dwarves and I’ve never been too sure of clerics but Into the Jungle totally won me over and is my favourite of the bunch. In one of the games of D&D, I play with friends we’ve had our fair share of run-ins with undead creatures and necromancy which I think added another level to this story for me. I only had to go back on one choice to accomplish the task my character had set out to complete but the journey there was heartbreaking and done so very well,. Into the Jungle definitely fit my style of storytelling more and not only had a brilliant and evocative storyline (in my playthrough at least) but also felt the most right and fitting for it’s chosen class.

In conclusion, I found the new series of Endless Quest books to be well worth the read and are a great way to dip your toe into the world of Dungeons and Dragons or to get you by until your next game session. Published by Studio Press Books, all four of these are available now and I’m hoping we’ll get some more classes in the near future. I would especially love to see Ranger, Warlock and Bard ones in particular!

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Bookish Discuussions

Dungeons, Dragons and the (not so) new art of Story Telling

As many of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter know, I absolutely love a bit of Dungeon and Dragons. I grew up around my parents and their friends playing the game but didn’t play until the fourth edition of the game and its ruleset was released in 2008 when I was nineteen. I completely fell in love with the game which is a mix of roleplay, dice rolling, maths (groan, I’m still bad at this part), using your imagination, puzzle solving skills, battle tactics and so much more. I’ve always had, what I consider to be quite a vivid imagination and the game helped to feed into it more and to rediscover my love of medieval era fantasy, especially in regards to reading which I hadn’t done since over reading the Hobbit as a child.

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For a long while, playing games like Dungeons and Dragons was something only stereotypical “nerds” did, made fun of for years in film and literature you could almost always bet that the token uncool or “nerdy” character would be a pasty white male who lived in their mothers basement and played Dungeons and Dragons.  Now, in 2019 the role-playing game is finally having its time! Millions of players across the world and gender spectrum and from all walks of life and it feels blooming fantastic if you ask me. Not only does Dungeons and Dragons bring people together and help them to explore outside of themselves and for some, from their comfort zones, I feel it’s brought a different kind of storytelling than the conventional novel  back into the spotlight thanks to shows like Critical Role, High Rollers and Dice Friends as well as the magic of social media and Wizards of the Coast knowing how to use it, not to mention services like DnD Beyond that take away the, sometimes daunting, task of the paper character sheet and delivered a digital system where you can cast spells, check stats and more with a touch of your finger so it’s so much more accessible to more people.

With Dungeons and Dragons, you can be a player and let your Dungeon Master weave a story around you where the actions of you and your party will determine the story. Feel like playing a Dragonborn Barbarian from a gnome run orphanage who’s searching for the secret to immortality? Or an argumentative hill dwarf paladin who sold everything they own to attend adventuring academy? Go for it.  I’ve got a few reviews of some “Choose your own adventure” style books etc coming up soon and if you enjoy those trust me this is a whole new level. Your group gets attacked by a party of goblins? Want to fight them? Great! Want to try and talk them round peacefully? Also great! Want to deceive them then shoot them in the back and steal their loot? Brilliant. This interactive storytelling that reacts to you and your choices is the reason I play video games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age but nothing beats a few friends (or even complete strangers!) sitting around a table (IRL or digital as that is an option as well now!) and going on a damned adventure. Books are great, I love them but now I’ve dabbled I know that I need my weekly dose of Dungeons and Dragons to placate my story needs.

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Want a bit more control? Have great ideas for stories but have a bit more trouble executing them or physically getting them down on paper? How are you with improvisation and on the fly storytelling? Sound fun? Thrilling and terrifying perhaps? Then the role of the Dungeon Master could be the one for you! This past weekend I came up with a three and a half hour session in an afternoon purely based on a loose premise and player interaction, when asked about the layout of the keep we were in I suddenly found myself sketching this place I could see in my minds eye but would have trouble perhaps describing it in words on a page but here I was with my players interacting in it. I was blown away and those moments where you can surprise yourself as well as your players is one of my favourite things about being a DM.  It’s such a freeing feeling and as someone who likes to consider those of super detailed ins and outs but tends to be unable to make a choice half of the time this forces me to make a choice on the spot and stick with it and make it good.

There is so much more to discuss about D&D but I really just wanted to focus on the storytelling aspect of it and how it brings another dimension to the entire experience and can nurture the storyteller in all of us. Do you play Dungeons and Dragons or a similar role-playing game? Do you find that kind of storytelling exciting and liberating or daunting? Let’s discuss!

#SixforSunday, Uncategorized

S4S – New Year, New Books!

Still not really quite over the fact it’s 2019 and half the time I don’t actually know what day it is but my phone calendar insists today is Sunday which means time for the very first of this years #SixForSunday posts! This weeks prompt is New Year, New Books and being that it’s only coming to the end of the first week of the new year and I’m still pretty broke I’ve decided to list my six newest books as I was lucky enough to get some Christmas money with which to buy most of said books.

1. Mass Effect: Annihilation by Catherynne M. Valente
Set around the same time as the game Mass Effect Andromeda, this book follows what happens to the, as far as we’re aware in game, missing Quarian Arc. I’ve read the first of the three novels that tie in with Andromeda, the second focused on a character that I had almost no interest in so I’m yet to read that one but after being fascinated by the Quarian race in the original Mass Effect games and an intriguing story line of deadly pathogens and murders in space I found myself completley unable to resist.

2. Lumberjanes Volume One by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen
I’ve been looking at the first volume in this graphic novel series for a while now. I fell in love with Noelle’s art style and I’ve heard great things about the series as a whole but finally gave in after me and Chris read Romeo and/or Juliet together on Christmas eve for Jolabokaflod, it’s hillariously funny and has a lot of brilliant art, some of which done by Noelle which really got be interested in Lumberjanes again so I finally decided to give it a go.

3. Nix Chapter Two by Katherine Ellis
Another graphic novel but self published this time, about an elf who gets turned into a cat and taken in by someone who tried to kill him a few hours earlier, something fishy is going on and he’s detirmined to find out what it is and how he can be turned back into his elf form! It’s hillarious and the writing is so quick witted and funny I instantly fell in love after I picked up issue one of Nix by this Devon based artist who goes by the name of Katworks Creations online (check out her Etsy!) at a London MCM Comic Con last year and after not being able to find her at one of this years conventions I finally checked her out online and when I realised chapter two was available I ordered right away! I forgot to mention it in my TBR post earlier in the week but this is defnitley one I’ll be getting round to reading in the very very near future.

4. Star Wars: Women of The Galaxy
This was a treat to myself a little while ago with what was probably my last pay check but I wanted to mention it because I’ve been looking forward to this since I saw it advertised back at YALC last year. I’ve had a quick look through it so far and the art is absoloutley gorgeous, I can’t wait to have a proper sit down with it and read it from cover to cover.

5. Dungeons and Dragons: The Players Handbook 
An essential guide to everything you need to play Dungeons and Dragons 5th edtion (which I currently play), I’ve gotten by so far using a PDF version and the DnD Beyond website to reference things I need but after looking through my old fourth edtion books (I still have no idea how I managed to afford all four of them…) I realised that it wasn’t the same without the physical book, I missed looking at all the art and appreciating it properly as well as just being able to look through the book generally instead of just heading to the pages I needed and that being that. This isn’t a book I’m going to sit and read cover to cover but I am looking forward to having a closer look at some of the classes and/or races I have played so far and learning more about them.

6. The Dungeons and Dragons Endless Quest Books
In case you hadn’t guessed, I do quite like Dungeons and Dragons and another thing I like almost just as much are Choose your Own Adventure, games, apps and books etc, now smoosh these two together and I’m in heaven. Me and my little family were lucky enough to get the whole set of four for Christmas along with a beautiful Dungeonology book. I’ve already read the Rouge themed one and survived and I plan to read another one this week, probably before our first Dungeons and Dragons session of the new year infact!

Ahhh it feels nice to get back in the swing of the Six for Sunday posts already! Did you get any new books for Christmas? Have you brought any since the New Year begun? Let me know in the comments! Have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here Tuesday for a new review!