Storm of the Dead review

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Argoth
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Post by Argoth » Mon Jan 07, 2008 1:48 pm

From what I read in all the spoiler-like posts (and I don't mind at all) I am getting more and more frightened.

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Post by silke_rahn » Mon Jan 07, 2008 3:27 pm

Well as I read the 3.5 version of the Monster Manual the average citizen of the Drow lands of the Underdark is actually neutral, it's the leadership and those that actively support it that are the evil ones. The same could be said about the so called evil communities of Drow on the surface in the Realms. Now I suspect that the average Drow citizen of a community associated with the worship of Eilistraee is even now after the defeat and absorbtion of her brother is still somewhere ranging from true neutral to chaotic good with a few very rare exceptions of the psychotic nature of a lawful good or lawful neutral appearing. Most good drow I suspect are chaotic good with some neutral goods, and chaotic neutrals. Now that would be an interesting story, Silke returns to Faerun initially to conduct an anthropological study of a community of surface dwelling Eilistraee following Drow then gets involved in some crisis or another affecting the community.
Drow on the Surface face as many dangers as those in the Underdark. Just because the Rivvil is friendly does not mean he wishes to help you, he may just want to get you off guard before knifing you.

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Post by Unen_Stealthfoot » Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:50 pm

[color=darkred:264qckcw]Whatever, I still think Jarlaxle should get promoted. He's the best choice among drow (except Qilue) for divine status. He's the most famous drow in recent memory.[/color:264qckcw]
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Post by silke_rahn » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:03 am

Why not Drizzt or the young lady from the Daughter of the Drow series?
Drow on the Surface face as many dangers as those in the Underdark. Just because the Rivvil is friendly does not mean he wishes to help you, he may just want to get you off guard before knifing you.

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Shir'le E. Illios
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Post by Shir'le E. Illios » Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:43 pm

Sorry for coming late to the party; only finished reading the novel over the Holiday period.

Let me first say that I quite enjoyed the novel despite my fears and some of my misgivings. Ms Smedman most definitely entertains with her writing. For the rest I agree with Kaelen: There’s actually a number of changes that I like. Some I’m still ambivalent about and a few I dislike, but this book has made me cautiously optimistic.

But let me get into more detail (and thus, spoilers). Points are in no specific order.

[hide:1nm45i0v]I’m not sure yet of Eilistraee as the “Masked Lady”. The imagery of “naked except for a half-veil” seems to be an odd one, but one I can get used to. I also don’t mind the more secretive, stealthy, rogue-ish elements it adds to her, though I’m sure that’ll make “finding a place on the surface to live in peace among the other races” rather more difficult; it’s hard to trust drow as it is, even harder to trust ones who are being secretive all the time. I do like the half-moon symbol though. Though technically speaking Eilistraee’s symbol was moon[i:1nm45i0v]light[/i:1nm45i0v] and not the moon itself, a simple round disc didn’t really make for an interesting icon. Oh, and I’m also not sure about the streaks of black suddenly everywhere; though I don’t think black has to mean evil it sure seems to be used a lot like that. Let’s just hope it’s just a “silver is a combination of black and white” thing.

Her now having male clergy and no longer being, as it’s been put, “a matriarchic religion” is, for me, the biggest “Yes!”. I really liked that part and I also really liked how there was suggestion of this increasing sexual tension. How did she write it again… slink off to sheathe sword of a different kind? That, for me, is definitely a way in which I can see the changes work while still preserving the most important heart of Eilistraee (and, indeed, strengthening that heart).

Her now approving of assassination and such is, so far, the biggest “no!” for me. Particularly the callousness with which Qilué seemed to order the killing of Kiaransalee’s (former) priestesses. I’ll get back to that second part, but in general why this is the biggest problem for me is because it takes Eilistraee further away from her Good alignment (which I’ll also get back to in a bit). In general I can see the inclusion of assassins (and, after all, it’s been suggested before in other novels that good can employ assassins to further their cause), but it’s definitely something which should be used with caution and care. And it sure isn’t going to make finding acceptance among the other races any easier.

I was also glad to see that it seems that redemption is still a large part of her faith and I loved reading about Cavatina’s redemption. I’m not quite sure though how I feel about it being a redemption away from some demonic taint (though that sure does explain a lot regarding the drow), as long as it’s still a redemption of trying to be good (which I felt was hinted at when some of the ancestral drow raised questions about whether the Wizard was really Miyeritari) and not some redemption of “being another kind of evil” or even just “not forced to be evil” it’s fine with me.

I also liked the description of how The Descent really worked, what it really did. I quite liked the explanation of it being linked to Faerzress. One of those things again that explains a lot (like the demonic taint thing). I’m less happy with the strength of it seemingly having increased again (which means more drow are going to be drawn back underground and thus less drow on the surface), but I’m kinda hoping that the third novel will completely sever that link for the drow (I’m still expecting drow to be reborn as a new race or such).

To comment on priestess of Eilistraee saying that Eilistraee entered into Vhaeraun’s realm, I got the impression from the novel that this was because the priestesses thought it showed clearly that Eilistraee was much stronger than Vhaeraun; perhaps it’s much harder to accept her as a new deity if she only won because it happened to be a fight on her home turf. Then again as a follower it would raise doubt in my mind if she really did defeat him. After all Vhaeraun is (was) a master of guile and misdirection so Eilistraee entering into his realm only makes it more likely that he staged something to survive (which would be much harder to do on short notice on Eilistraee’s home turf). Though perhaps some holding on to the hope that he’s still alive and thus continuing to worship Eilistraee is exactly what they had in mind with that.

I’m not sure about Bhaern’s comment that in 2[sup:1nm45i0v]nd[/sup:1nm45i0v] edition deities could only be killed in their own plane, only to say that this would mean that Selvetarm is probably still alive too. So I’d guess that’s one of those changes in 3E. The Vhaeraunite believing that his god is still alive sounds a bit like trying to sow doubt in the reader’s mind; otherwise it seems quite clear that he’s dead (for one, Vhaeraun wouldn’t be concerned with redemption and would have little reason to wait for such redemption on Cavatina before aiding her against the demon… he would have no reason to try and deceive her then by acting exactly like Eilistraee would). Of course, the possibility, however tiny, does still exist. But the possibility also exists that Selvetarm rises from the dead and kills all gods to reign alone… or something. :p

The killing of Kiaransalee’s priestess is definitely worrying. I can buy the explanation that this was Qilué being corrupted by the sword (and I’m really more and more starting to dislike the “sword that can kill deities”). I can also see it as some sort of defensive manoeuvre: would Kiaransalee’s worshippers also be subsumed into Eilistraee’s faith? That would probably completely tear the religion asunder, so best to get rid of the potential further negative input. That, however, sounds like a very, very flimsy excuse for killing so many, not even giving them the chance to redeem. So yes, this is very worrying and I hope it’s not a sign of the goddess slipping towards Chaotic Neutral.

Which leads me to my biggest point: I’m not sure yet if Eilistraee is remaining to be a good deity. For me it’s vitally important that Eilistraee stays to be a Good-aligned deity; the whole good versus evil struggle between Eilistraeens and Lolthian drow is what makes them so interesting to me. At times reading the novel I worried that they’re making it an “underground vs above-ground” struggle instead, which isn’t nearly as interesting. Redemption (as in trying to be good) and trying to live in peace with the other races, trying to bring the drow back to this (relative) peace they had before the Descent (or rather the Crown Wars), is what appeals me in Eilistraee the most (though the dancing naked sure does help ;)).

I fear, still, that they might be shifting Eilistraee towards Chaotic Neutral. It makes sense after combining a Chaotic Good and a Chaotic Evil deity of relatively equal strength into one deity (which really seems what they’re doing here). But that would mean that they’d be more interested in finding a place for themselves despite the other races, maybe going to far even as to assassinate among them to maintain their place on the surface. And that would remove a lot (if not most) of the interesting interaction and roleplaying opportunities there. No more Run, no more drow at the gates, no more struggle to prove that you’re not evil as your race might suggest to them. And I don’t want to lose that. I want to maintain that sense where, as an Eilistraeen drow, you’re continually having to prove to others that you’re good, fighting that disbelieve. If Eilistraee isn’t good anymore then this wouldn’t be maintained.

Sure, one could argue that with a Chaotic Neutral deity you can still be Chaotic Good as a priest, but it wouldn’t be the same as it wouldn’t be something that’s an inherent part of the religion anymore. The support would fall away as it’d be far too easy to just say “ah, just ignore those fools” or such. Besides, we’re already having trouble enough (still) with the shift from 2[sup:1nm45i0v]nd[/sup:1nm45i0v] ed. To 3E where suddenly Lawful Good wasn’t accepted anymore and suddenly Chaotic Neutral was (originally Eilistraee only accepted the Good Alignments). Shifting the deity to Chaotic Neutral now (and thus suddenly also accepting Chaotic Evil) would be too much change. What’s next, in 5E they’ll shift her to Chaotic Evil completely? Even if they change the one-step rule with alignment then it still wouldn’t work, as the reality remains that the deity would draw strongly to her own alignment.

As such I’m really, really hoping that Eilistraee remains a Good-aligned deity. If she doesn’t then that’s bye-bye 4E for me. I’m hoping that they’ll see that the tension between Lolth’s Evil and Eilistraee’s Good is what makes the two so interesting, maybe building on it. After all, Eilistraee sure has to be stronger now that there’s fewer drow deities to cause Lolth trouble; she needs to be able to stand up to her mother alone now (even if more with small rebel factions spread through the surface, which would certainly fit 4E’s “points of light” paradigm).

Which leads me to one more point. I maintain that, based on Ed’s comments of Qilué becoming the mother of a new race and, perhaps, the title of the last novel (as well as some comments made regarding 4E) that the drow might become a race unto themselves. In this Qilué might perhaps gain deity status (to become the new Eilistraee in the same way that Danifae became the new Lolth as, after all, either Eilistraee or Lolth still has to die as per the rules of their sava game and their agreement with Ao… not that I don’t think Lolth might not have some way to worm herself out of that one). After this last novel though I’m not sure I’m happy in whatever role Qilué might play in this as the damned sword definitely seems to have a very negative impact on her; creating a new race or even deity based on a corrupted person doesn’t sound too hopeful.[/hide:1nm45i0v]

Anyway, after Storm of the Dead I remain cautiously optimistic… it’s about time Eilistraeens get a series that ends well for us and with the last two books causing all kinds of mayhem and changes and problems for them we need something to make up for it now. Something that clearly says “yes, Eilistraee is still around and she’s still good”. At this point I’m not even sure I’m really all that concerned with how many of her worshippers really remain. After all, as a player I’m far less interested in whatever NPCs there might be running around and far more interested in the things (like what deities there are[sup:1nm45i0v]1[/sup:1nm45i0v]) that I use to define my characters.

We’ll see later this year I’m sure.


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Shir'le


[sup:1nm45i0v]1[/sup:1nm45i0v] This is also one of the reasons why I don’t agree with 4E seemingly killing off most deities (the other being that having so many deities is one of the main things which gave the Realms its character and set it apart from every other fantasy setting). But that’s another discussion entirely.
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Argoth
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Post by Argoth » Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:45 pm

Drizzt should have been killed a lot of novels earlier! He's boring! Liriel on the other hand is my second choice after Qilue. But then again, even she doesn't have what it takes to be a deity. I love her still.

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Post by Arathen » Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:59 pm

[quote="Argoth":3an37xql]Drizzt should have been killed a lot of novels earlier! He's boring! Liriel on the other hand is my second choice after Qilue. But then again, even she doesn't have what it takes to be a deity. I love her still.[/quote:3an37xql]

That first bit is a matter of opinion, honestly. But, to each their own. And I do like Liriel...she's one of my favorite characters, along with Qilue...and even Halisstra before she turned all wishy-washy in the end of WotSQ >_> when she first converted to Eilistraee was my favorite scene out of the books.
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Post by Narsia Ny'Dhun » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:56 pm

I agree that Liriel never had what it took to be a diety, since what made her interesting was her personal struggle and not her alignment or what she could potentially do for others. I wouldn't ever expect her to take up that torch, though seeing her make a return in some way would be nice.

To me, I've been pretty much worrying most about the one question that's been kinda shadowed over by the events of the last two books.

The trilogy being named after her, what part does Halisstra have to play in all of this when all is said and done?
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Post by Alak Xiltyn » Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:27 am

One thing that keeps sliping my mind is that Wizards is largely eliminating the the alignment system and that rather than having a set alignment PCs can choose to affiliate themselves or not, perhaps they will apply this to dieties. Some dieties can be seen as good and others as evil but if they choose not to be affiliated then they are not.

As for the Drow being their own race the primer on 4th ed they put out neither expressly states or denigns it so it could still go either way. Personally I like having the Drow as the archetypal evil Elves but when you REALLY look at it even in 3/3.5 the Drow aren't really elves.
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Post by Sancha » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:16 pm

[quote="Alak Xiltyn":3jjxqcxo]Personally I like having the Drow as the archetypal evil Elves but when you REALLY look at it even in 3/3.5 the Drow aren't really elves.[/quote:3jjxqcxo]

Yes we are. We are elves. And we have far more in common with the Ar-Tel-Quessir than most elves are willing to admit.

Would you say that the people of Zhentil Keep or Amn are 'not really human'? ;)
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Post by silke_rahn » Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:29 pm

Would our brethren on worlds like the one in D20 Modern still be elves though they seem to be less powerful than their DnD (heroic fantasy based) cousins? They look like us and in many instances act more like the Lolth followers than the Eilistraee followers.
Drow on the Surface face as many dangers as those in the Underdark. Just because the Rivvil is friendly does not mean he wishes to help you, he may just want to get you off guard before knifing you.

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Post by Sancha » Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:28 am

Not sure I really understand the question, but I definitely couldn't even attempt to answer it, not being familiar with open license D20 game worlds. I didn't even know there [i:195m3azx]were [/i:195m3azx]elves at all in D20 Modern. Are there orcs and dwarves too? I'd always assumed D20 Modern was just humans as far as races go.

But my question was in regards to a comment about D&D 3rd/3.5 edition (Forgotten Realms specifically, since this is definitely a FR-specific thread), not in regards to any other games.
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Post by silke_rahn » Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:04 am

The Urban Arcana Book added the Elves, Drow, and half-Elves to the mix in the modern fantasy rules of the D20 system. It seems that like the other races of the Realms and other fantasy worlds these folk crossed over from Shadow to that other Earth. Sounds alot like the background story I developed for Silke.
Drow on the Surface face as many dangers as those in the Underdark. Just because the Rivvil is friendly does not mean he wishes to help you, he may just want to get you off guard before knifing you.

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Post by Alak Xiltyn » Thu Jan 10, 2008 7:15 am

[quote="Sancha":3omck8er][quote="Alak Xiltyn":3omck8er]Personally I like having the Drow as the archetypal evil Elves but when you REALLY look at it even in 3/3.5 the Drow aren't really elves.[/quote:3omck8er]

Yes we are. We are elves. And we have far more in common with the Ar-Tel-Quessir than most elves are willing to admit.

Would you say that the people of Zhentil Keep or Amn are 'not really human'? ;)[/quote:3omck8er]

I meant in mechanical terms, creating a Drow in 3.5 feels more like the Elven features were added as an after thought than the Drow being a variation of the Elves. I'm optimistic about the mechanics of 4th ed, it's the fluff I worry about.
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Post by silke_rahn » Thu Jan 10, 2008 8:02 am

btw would I find the 4E rules out yet or are they still in print? Also with regards to the book this post originally covered is it at B & N?
Drow on the Surface face as many dangers as those in the Underdark. Just because the Rivvil is friendly does not mean he wishes to help you, he may just want to get you off guard before knifing you.

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