Friday, August 7, 2009

Drizzt Do'Urden: When novels and games collide

In 1989 TSR released the Forgotten Realms supplement, Hall of Heroes. Back then I was a huge fan of the FR novels, so I was very excited to get this book because it had the game stats for the major FR novel characters. I was especially eager to see Drizzt's stats, because I thought he was awesome (I know, burn me at the stake). I bought the book, cracked it open and thought, "Wow, that's pretty stupid!"

The thing about novels compared to games is that an author can have his characters do all sorts of things and not have to worry about fitting the actions into a framework of game rules. A powerful character can be stabbed in the heart with a dagger and die if the story requires it. That sort of thing.

So when I looked at the Drizzt stats I expected to see a ranger, albeit a drow ranger. For the most part that's what we got, and his basic stats were nothing special. Then as I read further I got to this part that really gave me the shits:

"So accurate are his wicked cuts, that if Drizzt's 'to hit' roll exceeds the minimum required for a hit by more than 5, he scores double weapon damage and has a base 10%, plus or minus 3% per level difference between him and his opponent, chance of killing the foe instantly."

AGGGGHHH!! Why did they do this? They invented a special critical hit system exclusive to Drizzt!!! My nerd rage knows no bounds!

Yeah. See, for those of you who never read the novels Drizzt appears in, he kicks so much ass it almost becomes comical, especially in the Dark Elf Trilogy. Drizzt wields two scimitars simultaneously, and dances around sticking one scimitar here, another scimitar there, artfully slicing here dicing there dancing over there flashing the blade to one side then to the other side then upside down in a circle up the ribcage to the brain while standing on his head picking his nose...

...all while balancing his checkbook at the same time.

He's the Ultimate Master of the Blade, have no doubt about that. His sword prowess is described in such detail over and over again in the books that I guess I can't blame the writers for needing to somehow justify it when presenting Drizzt in actual game terms. The problem though is that I wanted to play out little arena battles between my favorite character and Drizzt, but he had that damn special critical hit ability. Without that my character would stomp him like the sissy elf he is.

Sometimes I think the best policy is what happens in the novel, stays in the novel.


Matthew James Stanham said...

Interestingly, Hall of Heroes was not Drizzt's first appearance as a statted out character; for that you need look no further than FR5 The Savage Frontier, where he is much more reasonably presented.

Dan of Earth said...

Cool, thanks for pointing that out, I didn't know that!

Robert Fisher said...

I’ll be the first one to say that, despite some similarities, the needs of a novel and the needs of a game are different enough that they can be tough to reconcile.

(Besides, I’ve come to believe that role-playing groups shouldn’t be afraid of one-off rules. I just have a tendency to make sure that they are more interesting quirk than mechanical advantage.)

But if your novel is going to trade on a game’s brand, I expect you to at least make an effort to fit your story within the rules of the game. If you write a “sonnet” of twenty lines with a different number of syllables in each line and no rhymes, pretty much no one will consider it good no matter how evocative your imagery or how moving your message.

This is why I didn’t have a clue who Drizzt was until, I think, 2001. After reading a few AD&D novels, I stopped because of this.

Anonymous said...

I still like certain FR novels (I'm reading The Finder's Stone trilogy at the moment), but I cannot, and will not, read anymore Drizzt novels. I tried reading the first one Salvatore wrote, and I went with it until about the halfway point before literally snapping the book shut and chucking it across the room.

The character was perfect. He had absolutely NO flaws whatsoever. And the battle scenes that everyone applauds Salvatore for were a joke, the literary form of a Chuck Norris movie where the bad guys just stand there and let uber-hero run up and kick them in the face.

JB said...

Remember when we just used to kill Drow?

Ahh...the good ol' days...

Word verification: "Worgi"

The plural of what I'd like to feed Drizzt to...