Winter’s Daughter

By Gavin Norman, Frederick Munch, Nicholas Montegriffo
Necrotic Gnome
Levels 1-3

The tomb of an ancient hero, lost in the tangled depths of the woods. A ring of standing stones, guarded by the sinister Drune cult. A fairy princess who watches with ageless patience from beyond the veil of the mortal. A forgotten treasure that holds the key to her heart.

This 32 (digest?) page adventure details a nineteen room dungeon with a heavy fey bend. Gavin experiments with formatting and has a decent number of interconnecting rooms and puzzles to explore. A solid journeyman effort, if a big page-heavy.

For (reasons) you are going in to an old knights tomb. Once there you probably get asked from someone inside to find and deliver a ring to a fairy princess. There’s about eight pages of overview and background that relates a fey/human war a few hundred years ago and a hero who banished the fairy ice king …and fey dude is looking for round 2. Thus a kind of fey-heavy background and location, with them being the more classical fey/fairies than the bullshit they turned in to in later D&D. Of the nineteen rooms about four are outside the heroes tomb, and about four more are in the land of faerie, leaving elevenish in the tomb, proper.

The adventure is pretty solid, content wise. Each room pretty much has something to fuck with, examine, investigate, puzzle over, and so on. Look at a mural to find a secret word, figure out what was dragged where from scrape marks on the floor. There’s a statue with a blindfold on you can take off. Skeletons float and dance together near the ceiling in one room. A mirror freezes you in place. Each room, just a little bit and a part of a larger whole. Cultists outside greet you warmly, thinking your appearance a boon, and their sacrifice happy to be one. Frost elf knights and nobility waiting for a wedding in faerie. There’s a little bit of interactivity in just about every room.

It’s also got a decent theming. Magic is glamour. The goblins are the “merchants” variety, and chasm leads not to death but a gentle float in to the realm of faerie. Gilded mirrors, and owls with violet eyes. Elven knights, ice wines, and foppish nobility. A troll in hessian garb that is of the “moss” variety rather than the carrot nose variety. This has that airy vibe that a good fey adventure does. Fey being who they are, Holy Water and sunlight works wonders in dispelling their glamours, a nice thematic touch.

The most noticeable feature though is going to be Gavins play at formatting. He’s trying something new, I think, and experimenting with a room format that allows one or two room per page. Large grey-boxed heading draw your attention to the major features of the room. Under those are key description words, bolded. WHITE MARBE STATUE. A fair maiden (long, flowing hair and robe, upon her brow a star) Beseeching silence (the statue is posed facing the stairs, with a finger raised to her lips) Blindfolded (a black cloth wrapped around the statues eyes, covering them) Round plinth (marble, 3’across, 1’high.) And then also some bullet points like *Removing the blindfold (the inside is embroidered with golden crucifixes) And then follows another grey boxed section for another feature of the room, the stairs down. It’s in interesting format and It works fairly well for drawing the eye and allowing for expanding detail as the players ask follow up questions and probe further.

The use of adjectives and adverbs is good. a candle is “thick” and slime is in “sheets.” Brass is tarnished, skeletons slowly waltz and speak in a “distant whisper.” This is the sort of verbiage I can get behind.

He goes further with leveraging the maps. There’s a little “mini-key” on them to help the DM during play and there’s no messing around with duplication …In one room there’s a chasm and, momentarily confused, I checked the map and yes, there was a chasm! Thus map features and whitespace are leveraged to provide still more resources to the DM during play.

I will say that the background is also done in bullet-point style and I’m not sure that works. I don’t think it’s reference material, during play, and perhaps, as an evocative piece, some freeform might have been better. Likewise there are bits and pieces that feel out of place and break immersion. The main quest item is a “ring of soul binding.” This links the ghostly knight to his fiancée, the fey princess. But, it’s described in the back as a normal magic item would be, even though it’s unlikely to ever be used as one, and in particular effects other than “destroy”, etc. Better, I think, to NOT explain the knight/princess magic and simply make them bound through their love and the betrothal ring. More explanation than that is not really needed and detracts from the mystery.

But, overall, a great effort. There’s thought here in how the thing is constructed and how it tries to orient itself to the DM’s use. A little slow, I think, or maybe, melancholic? It’s a perfectly adequate adventure and I’d not hesitate to drop it in a hex crawl or some other locale. and, of course, in Bryce-speak “perfectly adequate” means one of the The Best.

This is on DriveThru for $7. The preview is nine pages and gives you a great idea of what you’re buying. Check out those last four pages to view the format.

This entry was posted in Level 1, Level 2, Reviews, The Best. Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Winter’s Daughter

  1. Gnarley Bones says:


  2. Glad to see you’d drop this into a hexcrawl. Other Dolmenwood and NG products are very setting specific, which makes sense, sure. But for me, modularity is really important.

    Gnarley, you’ve been playing *in* Dolmenwood lately? Is that right?

    Bryce, must have felt good to review one you liked after the recent stretch!

  3. Noxwell says:

    Bryce: The Best!

    Wallet: Did you say something?

  4. Kent says:

    Bryce, have you read the Dragon Warriors adventures, they are very basic but extremely atmospheric within a small space. Unfortunately there were two authors, one being dull he has to be ignored.

    The entire Rules & Adventures came in 6 Corgi paperbacks with great artwork. As an introduction to D&D it has not been bettered, and as the writers were English and not from the US, their use of language is competent.

    The rules are extremely simple and integrated into a mounting campaign which is superior to most D&D material I have read. I played through the entire thing as a teenager and know the adventures are swift and effective.

    if you want to apply your criteria to something brilliant, you may not have seen, check the Dragon Warriors out. Simple Atmospheric Integrated Adventures, with art and writing at the top end.

    • Melan says:

      By some no doubt demonic coincidence, I am reading the Dragon Warriors rules right now (courtesy of a friend who finally got me a copy of the first book), and I have to second this point. It is, indeed, high-quality stuff, atmospheric and very competently written.

      I wonder why it never gained greater prominence – and wish this was available to me when I was 11, and way too much into Fighting Fantasy.

      • Kent says:

        I have the 6 paperbacks and the recent hardback edition with new contemporary illustrations, I preferred the old paperback art, creepy lurching perspectives and the recent hardback edition doesn’t have the adventures.

        There are two authors Dave Morris 1-2-4-6 & Oliver Johnson 3-5. Dave Morris is more talented IMO and I ignored book 3 altogether.

        The way the adventures were integral with the modular rules, largely class based introducing new skills and magic, was very effective. The rules expanded, the campaign mounted and the adventures grew in perfect sympathy.

        ==I wonder why it never gained greater prominence

        I think DW is the best introduction to D&D for virgins, DM & players, but it has the same difficulty that Warhammer FRP (+Enemy Within) has which is it is doing the work for you, thinking for you, in a way which is hard to replicate beyond with you are presented with. Gygax’ genius and generosity was to emphasize thinking for yourself as a DM or player, so the style and atmosphere was what *you* knew, what *you* had read.

    • Frog Gode says:

      Come back to YDIS Kent, that Dani boy is fine but he’s not quite you.

      I am fond of Dragon Warriors. In France it was published as paperbacks too, by the same house and in the same collection as Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and its German competitors Das Schwarze Auge, which for whatever reason became much more popular. I never really played it at the time, but I had the Golden Dragon gamebooks and I loved them. Do the adventures convert well to standard-ass D&D, and are they hexcrawl-droppable ?

      As for Winter’s Daughter, I am not surprised Gavin did a good job, everything he’s done so far was very solid and usable – goodbye, money.

      • True story, Das Schwartze Auge is the only tabletop game to have been given the dubious honor of a Dutch Translation. I’ve played it for a few sessions, and GM quality nonwithstanding, it is a system of such overwhelming, cumbersome autism that it makes AD&D 1e with the Unearthed Arcana expansion look like 5e by comparison.

      • Kent says:

        ==Do the adventures convert well to standard-ass D&D, and are they hexcrawl-droppable ?

        No need, it is simple, even for a typical american teenager (you know who I mean), to play with the DW rules which make Mentzer Basic look challenging (as it was for americans). Rules light but characterful – loved the Assassin. Nothing at all resembling the hex-crawl approach which is just a lazy-ass DM phenomenon.

        There is no “seems” about my criticism of americans. Fifty year old americans dress like 10 year olds in the rest of the world, they eat like huge 10 year olds, they read comics and get angry if don’t admire them for it. Look at american movies, who can sit through such entertainment without groaning so loudly and repeatedly that they would not be arrested? Americans.

    • Ice says:

      Dragon Warriors!

      PDFs of all of the books used to be available on abandonware websites in the early 2000s. As a teenager, finding free obscure RPG books felt like striking gold.

      One time, I made some of my friends (who didn’t give a shit about RPGs) come over and play the first adventure with me. My GMing probably sucked since we never played again, it was fun though. I haven’t looked at the books probably 14 years, but a few of the scenes from that first adventure still stick in my brain. The Elven Warriors jumping out of the tapestry was way cool.

      With rose-tinted glasses on, the adventure seemed like it was incredibly easy to run. I ran it off of a computer screen from the PDF without much issue. (For comparison sake, I did the same with the Sunless Citadel and nearly tore my fucking hair out)

      The Dragon Warrior books got a reprint and a reorganization about 10 years ago. They’re still in print. I’d totally play again!

      Also, Mr.Kent, you probably shouldn’t write stuff like “as the writers were English and not from the US, their use of language is competent.” All it shows is that you are wildly ignorant to how language actually functions, have some kind of weird elitist fetish, and, if you are American, hold quite a bit of self-contempt. One reporters opinion.

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

        Kent’s always had a bug up his ass about Americans. His second funniest ‘self-pwnage’, as the kids would say, was bitching about how ‘Americans don’t read’, then in the ensuing thread, admitting that he’d never read Melville or Saki.

        Kent is of the ‘tell, don’t show’ school… he will loudly crow about how smart his is, but he never delivers the goods intellectually. His absolute funniest ‘own goal’ was a time when he made a simple error in arithmetic, and when corrected, wrote, “I’m a mathematician!” Yeah, an innumerate mathematician, that’s Kent.

        He’s the Fredo of the OSR.

        • The Dungeon Analphabet says:

          Be warned, though: he reads Umberto Eco!

          A few years late, it seems: Foucault’s Pendulum is little more than an almost forgotten, glorified bestseller. But surely you need some serious reading skills to tackle that! Or not really?

          • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

            He probably watched a YouTube video about it. He stopped pretending to be erudite when he discovered Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson and degenerated into a y00t00b skollur.

            I haven’t read Foucault’s Pendulum in years, but I enjoyed it. It was the grad students’ version of Illuminatus. I need to reread it now that there’s a big Unified Conspiracy Theory that has gotten Fox News geezers engaging in gematria to find Hillary Clinton’s network of child sex dungeons.

        • Jason Nines says:

          It is a bit odd to comment on language competence when his own writing is so… idiosyncratic. I’m still trying to figure out what a “mounting campaign” is.

          • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

            It’s his typical Saturday night, when winos run a train on him for a euro a pop.

      • Kent says:

        ==Mr.Kent, you probably shouldn’t write stuff like “as the writers were English and not from the US, their use of language is competent.” All it shows is that you are wildly ignorant to how language actually functions, have some kind of weird elitist fetish,

        My shelves are groaning with books to the point where I have to throw books out to accommodate new ones.

        I will always throw out books written by americans first. Cormac McCarhty is excellent and Robert Stone and Hubert Selby Jr. are very good but … please … no one cares about american writers just like no one but an american cares about Bob Dylan.

        Let me tell you a story about books. I have fancy editions of Chaucer coming out of my ass, finally I got hold of the hardback Riverside Chaucer, not nasty but not a beautiful book physically, but priceless for content. My first thought was what piece of shit american trash can I fuck into the attic to make room for this bad book on my *premium shelves*. Clarke Ashton Smith – bye bye you american twat.

        My advise to anyone downsizing, look around and bin anything american.

        • Slick S. says:

          My crystal ball tells me back in uni a Yank on a study abroad program fucked the girl you had a crush on. Or something to that effect.

          • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

            Women hold no fascination for Kent. He probably hates a girl from uni because she fucked the Yank he had a crush on.

        • The Dungeon Analphabet says:

          “Clarke”? Can you even spell, my friend?

        • Kent says:

          What I can’t do is come up with decent american authors beyond the few I mentioned. Go ahead and promote your darlings – I will laugh.

          • The Dungeon Analphabet says:

            So Clark Ashton Smith went directly from the “premium shelves” to the attic– A radical change of mind indeed. Also, I don’t see how the hardback Riverside Chaucer is both “priceless for content” and “a bad book”. Then you say you needed space for this bad book on your premium shelves. It’s all very confusing and extremely entertaining, so I’m eager for a richer explanation.

            On a more serious note, and I’m really interested in your answer, what do you think of Jack Vance’s work?

          • Kent says:

            Bad-boy Bad-book. You’re not hip are you. I bet your spectacles look like the bottoms of cut-glass whiskey tumblers. I’m hip so I get to call you a goofy MFer and everyone laughs and points because people are cruel and suggestible.

            I think Vance is a good genre writer and EotO and CS are his most imaginative and funniest works. Lyonesse has great characters but too many hackwork chapters, it was in his blood. Love Persillian. The Miracle Workers is an excellent novella. His descriptive power is at times extraordinary and his preposterous scenarios are bizarrely inventive but he doesn’t write well outside of his style like a courtier who only looks well in one costume.

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            Howard, Merrit, P. Anderson, Lovecraft, D. Simmons, F. Herbert, Zelazny, J.C. Wright, Cordwainer Smith, Wolfe to name but a few.

            On the literary front I’ll fully cop to having read only english, french and now italian (Dante!) stuff worth mentioning. American Psycho has a certain familiar appeal, like coming home after a long walk through the forest.

          • squeen says:

            Definitely Zelazny—although I have to admit I’ve mostly read his short stories. I did thoroughly enjoy “A Night in the Lonesome October” and read it aloud to my children when they were younger.

            Frank Herbert’s Dune is a bit of an acquired taste, but it was a game-changer for sci-fi. Doesn’t that imply greatness? A work that creates a seismic shift.

            I know quality books, but can’t say I can identify great writers (or even know/care what that means).

            In the current D&D publishing world, it’s only Patrick Stuart’s writing talent that strikes me as rising to another level—but as impressive as his published products they are, I’m not sure I could run them with my group. Still, they do inspire.

          • Stuart has a better vocabulary and greater subtlety then most but some of his sentences are clumsy or drag on too long. His greatest asset is creativity, his hindrance a lack of follow-through and an almost pathological inability to grasp scale, the implementation of ideas into the framework of dungeons and dragons or make plausible settings. I have not yet read Maze of the Blue Medusa but I would hazard a guess that it will be visually and conceptually exciting but flawed as a gaming product, as it must inevitably be.

            Kent could (and perhaps would) counter that there have been authors that have been of huge influence on the genre but with crippling defects in their writing.

            Already he has Conditioned this Ground, making himself the fulcrum of our thoughts, the very measure against which all things are measured. An age-long downpouring of endless torrents of Blackbush has but refined and distilled his Irish crafts. Somewhere in distant Aione, a bag of morons is crying itself to sleep.


            Dune is one of my favorite books and I was pleased to find it held up upon rereading it more then ten years after. The intricacy of the fictional world is coupled with noble, relatable characters and dense, subtle prose. It’s bizarre that the same author who wrote Dune also wrote a book about a mad scientist creating an underground commune where men live like insects.


            John M. Stater. Guy Fullerton. Chris Kutalik. Kevin Crawford.

            Stuart is good but overrated, propped up by the now verboten Zak S.

          • Ray Weidner says:

            I agree that Stuart writes beautifully, but he indulges his artiness to no end. I got the Silent Titans PDF last night from the kickstarter, and the jury is still out, but it looks vintage Stuart in all respects.

            If we’re talking about great American authors in sci-fi, my two favorites are probably Ursula LeGuin and Gene Wolfe. The Left Hand of Darkness and the Book of the New Sun are as close to perfect as I can imagine. I agree that Dune, especially the first one, is brilliant, and as I have said elsewhere, it really is one of the few sci-fi works that completely holds up in 2019.

            If we’re talking about game writing, Stater doesn’t get mentioned enough. His Hex Crawl Chronicles are absolutely wonderful. Crawford is not flowery but he is a master of clarity. Also, Ken Hite manages to write stuff that is very playable AND fun to read – the man knows his history and uses it to great effect.

          • PrinceofNothing says:


            I am sure Kent will be happy to comment on your inclusion of this one. (Although by mentioning it I have diminished the probability somewhat).

            [Silent Titans]

            The Art got me curious. I am considering going on a Stuart-spree this year after I finish with SWN, approximately nine hundred VS pdfs, three hundred play reports and revise yet more of my older reviews so I can place the bulk of the Lotfp catalogue smack dab in the mediocre centre of published materials where it belongs.

            [Holds up]

            I think we talked about this once. Anything that isn’t too hard tends to age a lot better.


            The big difference is that Crawford is a Game Designer (captialized for emphasis), and Stuart is a writer. Crawford devises systems for the convenient and inventive generation of entire stellar clusters in a way that has not been done before. Stuart devises some sort of Xanthic Crane (or is that fluvious or frumious) made of lost time and the Dreams of the Spaces between Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or something of the like.


            What do you think about the Silmarillion?

          • Edgewise says:


            As for LeGuin, I had assumed we had moved past the classic “duel of wits” phase of the conversation, but I suppose we’ll see. I’m just talking about great American authors, with a sci-fi bent. Nothing that could compare with the Middle English stylists of yore – I surrender in advance!


            But have you read Book of the New Sun? I have to re-read it, but that may be my favorite sci-fi. Then again, I don’t know if the genre entirely fits.


            You know, I had forgotten entirely about Vonnegut. He’s basically sci-fi. Cats Cradle and Galapagos were both pitch black and amazing. Bradbury also slipped my mind, and he was sporadically brilliant.

            I read a little Sam Delany about a million years ago. It was very odd and literary, and I was young and didn’t know what to make of it. But some of it made an impression and I wonder if I should circle back.

            [Wolfe again]

            Back to Wolfe’s New Sun, though – that’s one of my favorite books, period. I have to re-read it.

          • Edgewise says:

            “Stuart devises some sort of Xanthic Crane (or is that fluvious or frumious) made of lost time and the Dreams of the Spaces between Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or something of the like.”

            I forgot to mention – that’s either a direct quote from Fire on the Velvet Horizon or an amazing parody. The SSRI reference makes me think the latter, but I am still very curious to hear about this creature.

          • PrinceofNothing says:


            Yeah I know but I was just curious. I think LeGuin is at least competent and one of the few female Sci-Fi authors that I consider somewhat capable (I have not read Connie Willis and I consider her inferior to C.S. Friedman), but to put her alongside Gene Wolfe, a superlative author of immense subtlety and imagination is surprising to me.


            New Sun and Five Heads of Cerberus. Great books. Just got The Urth of the New Sun and planning on reading more of his stuff. Terrific author.


            I like Vonnegut but why would you read Vonnegut when you can read Philip K. Dick?

            Delaney is…interesting (I hesitate to use the word problematic unironically). Babel-17 is a staple of the sf-genre and his Fall of the Towers series was alright, but he was also a NAMBLA supporter and he wrote an extremely degenerate porn novel among other things. I am generally an advocate of separating the man from his work but I guess I have limits too. Whodathunkit?

            The Ephemeral Pelican Ghoul is a semi-humanoid deep sea creature that appears 3 adventures before it is encountered, gaining experience and HD from all the treasure the party leaves in the dungeon.

            The unique Cryptoanomalocaris is a super-dense (treating all normal creatures as incorporeal) predator whose destruction requires a precise sequence of different attacks that only the Cryptoanomalocaris knows, but will reveal peacemail in the form of riddles when presented with hyper-dense objects to eat.

            Once you crack it its relatively easy to replicate.

          • Ray Weidner says:


            I’m guessing that you haven’t read The Left Hand of Darkness. I haven’t read enough of her canon to say with certainty, but it’s heads and shoulders above her other works that I’ve read. Although I really enjoy the Earthsea trilogy (yes, I know there were more books).

            [Vonnegut and Dick]

            Well you got me there (how could I forget PKD???), but for what’s it’s worth, they’re not mutually exclusive. I don’t think they quite fill the same niche. PKD is far more psychedelic and existential, whereas Vonnegut is more about the social commentary. They are both wonderfully acidic satirists. I think of Vonnegut as a reincarnation of Mark Twain, whereas Dick is largely unprecedented. Thanks for reminding me about him.


            Well, that’s fucking gross. I can handle porn up to a point, but NAMBLA? Very disappointing, because I have some vague but positive memories of Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Don’t judge me.

          • PrinceofNothing says:


            LHoD is her best book (I have not read the Dispossessed). The planet is nice and vivid and and the tragedy of impending war is vaguely reminiscent of Shinto Era Japan, the genderfluidity bit left me cold but the tragedy was poignant and I liked it a lot. Still no New Sun buster.

            Tehanu Tehanu Tehanu. LeGuins ideology shows itself a bit too much in Earthsea. There is something missing in the societies which she describes which makes it feel artificial and by the book 4 it just becomes a whining diatribe by a bitter old woman. I found the landscapes, magic and strange threats interesting for their novelty but this fantasy could have used a little bit more wonder and adventure as far as I recall.

            [Vonnegut and Dick]

            Oh yeah they aren’t mutually exclusive but for whatever reason they seem to occupy the same ecological sf niche in my headcanon. Maybe its the juxtaposition of tragedy and with a wry sort of comedy? Both essentially use science fiction as a vehicle to explore a topic or theme, rather then as an end in and of itself.

            Mark Twain (another literate amerifag) I have not read, but Vonnegut and Dick I have read a plenty.

            Dick is something else. An honest to god tin-foil hat-wearing junkee that manages to articulate in his bizarre fashion some pretty poignant insights into the human condition, transcendence and the various evils of corporatism, bureaucracy, government and so on.

            Except the Solar Lottery. The Solar Lottery is a hack fraud novel.

          • Ice says:

            We read The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula Le Guin at my short story club. It’s really great and less than 10 pages long. It asks a lot of interesting questions and really made us all think a lot. We talked about it for almost two hours. Definitely one of the most interesting short stories I’ve read. You guys should check it out if you haven’t. It’s freely available on the internet and I think there is an audiobook recording of it on YouTube.

          • Edgewise says:

            [The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas]

            Thanks, Ice, I’ll definitely track it down.


            I did say that I loved the trilogy. As for the sparseness of the setting, I know what you’re talking about it, but I don’t think of it as a weakness. Everything s very understated and between the lines – it has a melancholy fairy tale vibe, to me. The Tombs of Atuan does a lot to flesh out the sense of a horizon that extends beyond the stories. Actually, I think that sparseness is confined mostly to the first book, which is from the point of view of a magical prodigy who starts out as an absolute backwoods hick.

            I’m not putting it on the level of Left Hand; it’s just a very charming work that has held up for me.

        • Ice says:

          The pomposity of this comment is mind-boggling, fascinating, and wonderful. Did you plan it that way? You are the most interesting self-absorbed man-child I have encountered in any internet comment section.

          Have you read A Confederacy of Dunces? I am sure you’d hate it.

          • Kent says:

            I’ve read every book written by or about fools. It has some funny moments but falls apart. A good editor could have made of it a second rate Flann O’Brien novel.

          • Slick S. says:

            Minor correction: you’ve read every book written FOR fools.

          • Kent says:

            I’m quickly learning who are the inexcusable cretins to be ignored on this site and it is fun. That’s a hard ignore.

          • Slick S. says:

            Kent, everyone on this site besides you makes “Your List”. Maybe try to examine why that is.

          • Edgewise says:

            Kent, why don’t you like Americans? We invented all the stuff and saved you in World War Two. If you post your real name and address, I’ll be sure to send you a 2-for-1 coupon for an Egg McMuffin.

        • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

          Notice how he says he ‘has’ books, but he doesn’t say he ‘reads’ books. Our Fredo of the OSR looks at books as objets d’art, but they may as well be pretty blocks of paper as far as he’s concerned. He has his books on his ‘premium shelves’, but he spends his time listening to Joe Rogan podcasts while the books collect dust.

          I’d be willing to bet actual folding money that the last thing he’s read is the tabloid astrology column, or perhaps some gay monster/dinosaur porn.

        • Edgewise says:

          AHEM methinks you have never heard of a certain…oh…JOHN GRISHAM.

          Check and mate.

          • Gus L says:

            The greatest American fiction author can only be G. Gygax – have none of you read “The Gnome Cache”. The first few chapters are rough but the h
            Whole thing is sublime.

      • MIke Hill says:

        Still in print? Where please?

    • Edgewise says:

      I gotta agree that Dragon Warriors is great. Unfortunately, if you didn’t get the six Corgi volumes the first time around, you have to get the slightly inferior reprint by Serpent King. They are slightly better organized as a complete set of rules, but I really miss that vintage 80’s British fantasy art.

  5. Ice says:

    At some point the authors of this module had to have come on here to read the review, got excited when they saw so many comments and thought “wow, this is great, people have a lot to say about our work”, and then proceed to read the comments and say WHAT THE FUCK.

  6. Fiasco says:

    On the strength of Melan’s recommendation I’ve ordered the full set of the Serpent Games reprints of the original books. Can’t wait until they arrive.

    In terms of fantasy authors very few have genuine literary merit; like SciFi it’s a genre more for ideas than execution.

    That said LeGuin has genuine talent. The economy of Earthsea is close to poetry and her feminism doesn’t bother me at all. The Dispossessed is her other masterwork, IMO.

    Wolfe is also excellent though his stories didn’t not quite grip me as much. He’s a little too in love with the surprise twist.

    I dearly love Vance and he’s a master of language and exotic cultures. I have to rank him a little lower than those above, however as he doesn’t transcend the genres he writes in.

    • LeGuin is good and about on par with Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Peter Daniel and John Ringo. Will anyone discuss the merits of Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet Series versus Graham Sharp Paul’s Helforts War series?

      • Malcalus says:

        I have read the 1st 6 books of the Lost Fleet, I will have to look into the Helforts War Series.

        • PrinceofNothing says:

          Lost Fleet is pretty cool in how it treats combat at relativistic velocities and it seems almost perfect for conversion into a strategy game. The worst thing about it was the idea that all of their officers had died in the opening battles and no one had rediscovered relativistic maneuvering in a hundred years of warfare in a bizarre reversal of WW1 tactical doctrines. The protagonist is very much a dad hero, and I think I would have liked it better if he had never bumped uglies with

          Hellforts War also has a stock action hero protagonist (a problem with military sci fi in general) but its take on space combat is immaculate and suitably crunchy and its antagonist is a bit more credible then the at times incoherent Syndics, who never really cohered as a civilization to contend with Space America. The Hammer of Kraa is essentially Space North Korea mixed with Space Scientology and performs along those lines until the third book, when a new technology radically changes the field of war.

          Its alright if you are into Mil Sf but you should probably read shit like Dante or Terry Goodkind if you want to enrich your spirit.

          • Malcalus says:

            Currently getting my SF fix from The Expanse (books and TV) but was looking for the next Mil SF series and was directed to Honor Harrington or Hammer’s Slammers, I enjoy my SF Hard with a side of crunch so this information is very welcome. Thanks!

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            I love the Expanse series but the books having won a Hugo surprised me, its far too normal for a sci-fi book series.

            I’ve actually started Hammer’s Slammers today and the omnibus has a foreword by Gene Wolfe and the merit of the author actually having been in combat. If you can get pas the jargon its damn tasty.

            A friend of mine read Harrington but couldn’t get over the cringy main character, an author insert of his ideal woman, a thirty year old beautiful virgin lady who is a genius more competent then all the lads and is well respected.

      • Edgewise says:

        “LeGuin is good and about on par with Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks…”

        Oh, you thought you could just slip that by. Terry Fucking Brooks? Seriously, you put The Left Hand of Darkness (or The Dispossessed or Earthsea, for that matter) on the same level as the Kidney Stones of Shannara? You think I won’t notice this dagger in my heart?

        • The Dungeon Analphabet says:

          Yeah, that comment shocked me as well…

          Unexpected to say the least.

        • PrinceofNothing says:

          I may have been trolling a little bit. Inspired by Kent, like Glauring to his Morgoth I set out to further poison this discussion of fantastical literature, working my subtle venoms and barbs into the conversation. Where it his clearly his scheme to derail this elfgame review blog with the discussions of fantasy literature, I set out to in turn tarnish these until they too become base and vile to those of delicate sensibilties.

          I think LeGuin is pretty good but that evil man suggesting she somehow transcends the genre while my Vance must languish there is deeply hurtful to my poetic soul. Thus instead of these lofty concepts and ethereal fairy-tale beauty we shall discuss behemoths of gleaming iridium-ceramite, Fusion plumes miles long and volleys of tungsten, gleaming with the gamma-rays of annihilated particles.

          Instead of character and prose we will discuss joules, gravities and d. Let our only measure be the Kardashev Scale.

          I have never read Terry Brooks and I never will.

          • Edgewise says:


            Was I the evil man? I don’t think I said that LeGuin transcends the genre, and I don’t believe that I’ve ever thought that (I hope I’m not wrong…too lazy to search). Left Hand has a very thoughtful forward by the author that discusses the value and goals of science fiction, so it’s not like she’s trying to be something else. If I said that, I am a wrong person.


            Vance is a terrific writer, but quality has nothing to do with how well one fits within a genre. I mean, the man is a smith of words – no doubt about it. I think of him as a master stylist with a genius for witty dialog. I feel that Wolfe is practically a direct heir; he’s not as interested in dialog, but he sure picked up the style torch.

            But Vance is definitely sci-fi, and I don’t think he aspired to be anything else. And good for him. Transcending genre is a tricky business – do it deliberately and you’re just being pretentious. You can transcend genre poorly, and there’s nothing wrong about sitting comfortably within a market and a set of expectations and conventions.


            I read several Shannara books – Brooks is a hack, but at least his books aren’t larded down with fucking elf songs and other boring shit that wouldn’t rate an instagram. “Hey Frodo, that rock used to be an exciting place in the First Age.” I can be a troll, too, but at least I don’t turn to stone in sunlight.

          • [Value/Goals]

            I find treatments of the purpose or value of a genre beyond its intrinsic worth to skew towards the reductionist. Perhaps that is my problem with LeGuin.


            Science-fantasy surely? Lyonesse, the Dying Earth and assorted novellas and short stories are certainly more fantasy then science fiction.


            The Fellowship has some pacing issues but at about the Mines of Moria the book grabs you by the throat and does not let go. Much like the songs and fictional languages, the geographic detail and history, often portrayed as much longer then it actually is, adds depth and makes everything feel grounded and real. There is a reason Tolkien gave birth to the fantasy Epic and no one has been able to oust him as of yet.

            [Brooks, Anthony, Eddings]

            I have reason to believe Brooks and Anthony are genuinely dreadful but Eddings always struck me as a perfectly wholesome author of epic fantasy, never really straying from the beaten path, but certainly nowhere near as offensive as Brooks or interminable as Jordan. I read Elenium I think.


            I read Feist when I was young and liked it well enough then. Another C-lister, but nothing offensively terrible.

        • Gus L. says:

          This does beg the question – “Terry Brooks or David Eddings? Who’s the worst?”

          I’d add Raymond Feist to the deathmatch – but at least he managed to write a series of novels about his Tekumal game.

          • Edgewise says:

            “Terry Brooks or David Eddings? Who’s the worst?”

            I thought about it, and I can’t easily decide – they are two very different types of awful. I admit to loving The Belgariad as a high school freshman, but Eddings might be the worst of the lot. His crime: a big hot mess of unpleasant stereotypes and creepy adolescent wish fulfillment.

            Also, I’d round out the triumvirate with Piers Anthony.

            This is a worthy topic for Bryce’s new forum.

    • vilecultofshapes says:

      I’m so thankful Melan exists because now I don’t have to go through the trouble of having my own opinions about stuff.

  7. Fiasco says:

    Point of order. I love Vance dearly and return to his books time after time. I wouldn’t, however, recommend his books to someone not into sci-fi/fantasy whereas I would certain works of Le Guinn.

    Incidentally Vance also wrote detective fiction sometimes under his name and sometimes under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen.

    I can recommend his two Sherrif Joe Bain books.

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