Open Letter to WoTC - We want more novels!

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I agree with Mr. M. that I'd like to see more short stories.  I think Paizo (Pathfinder) publishes shorter works as e-Books or PDFs.  That's one advantage of the e-Book - you can put out something short and charge a buck or two.  I guess Wizards kind of tried this with Cold, Steel, and Secrets, but that was really more of a money grab, because you ended up paying the price of two paperbacks for half the content of one.  Again, I think DDI would be a good place for short fiction as well.

In 3/3.5 Realms, I liked the publishing model.  Basically, authors got a chance at a short story, then a one-off novel, and then a trilogy.  Yes, some authors skipped one or two of these steps, but you saw this pattern.  Wizards let feedback and the success of the book drive (to some extent) who published, and short fiction was a big part of this.  I think short fiction also fills in the cracks of the Realms, a setting that is, after all, as much about the small stories and the details as it is about the larger-than-life characters and Realms Shaking Events.

As far as making the fiction not part of the canon, I've always been against that.  I've actually championed the opposite - tying the fiction in more with the product.  Put out adventures that have accompanying novels - that kind of thing.
Sorry, I don't buy this argument at all....not one bit.


You misunderstand.  It's his (or her?) personal reason, and an explanation.  It's not for you to "buy into" or even agree with.

WoTC isn't around to please you personally.


You are mistaken.  If they want someone to buy something, then they need to please that individual customer.  The hope, of course, is that their product has wide, mass appeal.  If not, a product line will fail.  This is basic to business.

They have no collective awareness of who you are or what your ultimate vision for the Realms is.  So they didn't make any conscious decisions to "turn their backs on you".


The designers -always- made decisions based on what they think will sell.  In this case, the designers at the time decided to make massive changes to the overall setting.  They knew from product testing, surveys, and other research, that 3.5 had a lot of issues that needed some change and that their overall customer base was shifting from an older set to a younger set. 

They made a decision, with something of a gamble, to go for a re-design and match-up with the game rules at the time.  Had it been extremely popular in sales, it would have been considered a wise, good decision.  Considering that they are now deciding to minimize all those changes, sales must not have met a base minimum company need.

Whatever you think, the real story is that the decisions made were intentional and made with full awareness of possible loss of customers.

You are the one who decided that you didn't like what was being made.  So yes, you did turn your back on the setting.


Although the purchase decision was the customer's to make, their decision had 100% to do with the radical change in the product.  I can't speak personally for the person you were replying to, but for myself - and I know many people who feel as I do - we were loyal customers through the first three editions DESPITE many changes we didn't fully appreciate.  The radical change in tone and overall campaign feel is what changed our minds. 

Furthermore, by stating his (or her?) opinion online, this is clearly an indication that the customer(s) did not turn their backs on the setting.  They're posting, so there is still some level of investment there.  They want WotC to know what they WILL buy, not just what they won't buy.

You have a right to feel that way.  You can't make someone buy something that they don't like...unless your Apple.


News flash, people buy Apple because they like Apple.  However, you're right that it IS our choice to vote with our wallets when we dislike something. 

But I also have the right to my personal opinion that I feel that some of you are far too hard on the setting and it's designers.


You have the right to any personal opinion you'd like to express.  But you cross the line when you reinterpret others' reasons.  People say what they mean.  Constantly trying to reinterpret others' expressed opinions into what you think are the supposedly "real" reasons is beyond rude.

And FYI, the Realms practically started off with an RSE.  The first Time of Troubles novel was published in 1989.  A mere 2 years after the Old Grey Box was published.  So RSE's have been a fact of the Realms since close to the beginning.


The Time of Troubles (ToT) was, for the most part, something that could be totally and completely ignored.  I disliked Cyric, Midnight and Kelemvor and never used anything from the ToT story in my games.  Many others I know never had a ToT in their home campaigns.  After a while though, WotC started using the gods more and more as character-protagonists in novels AND the game material and the ToT became harder and harder to reconcile with many home campaigns.  The culmination of course was the massive overuse of Mystra as a novel character and the focus on her Chosen champions.  Then instead of minimizing these problems, WotC chose to expand on them by focusing on Shar and Cyric for a while. 

Yes, there have been many RSEs, but they have become progressively larger and harder to ignore if you want to run anything remotely close to a "living" Realms.  The 'plague-jump was the final straw for many of us, after years of trying to tell WotC to JUST BLOODY STOP with the RSEs.  Instead, they applied the most massive RSE to date, and this upcoming fix - well, I'm not certain how yet another massive cataclysm/RSE is really going to fix these problems.  It gets to the point where you wonder if they are listening at all, when you look at things like Neverwinter, where the 'plague-jump wasn't enough of a cataclysm and they had to have the volcano explode all over Neverwinter also.

Honestly, I'm afraid that this upcoming new cataclysm really will be the final coup de grâce and kill the setting once and for all.



A century after the Spellplague, the Realms is not a post-apocalyptic setting.


You seem to forget - at launch, it absolutely was intended to be a post-apocalypse setting.  The designers at the time found out very quickly that the changes were not as popular as they had hoped.  They scrambled at WotC to do some minimization even way back then, which is why a number of articles came out -after- the initial previews that basically said, "oh hey, wait wait wait, don't take the spellplague so seriously, it's not that bad now. Don't take the text so literally."

But before they got that response, the previews showed that it was absolutely intended to have that post-apocalyse "Yes album" tone and feel.

Interesting that those preview articles are no longer available, isn't it?

You seem to forget - at launch, it absolutely was intended to be a post-apocalypse setting. 

I’m left wondering where (or rather, who) you’re getting your information from?

I sat in on the Realms seminar at GenCon 2007 that introduced the Spellplague concept and the century jump. I don’t recall the primary presenters (Richard Baker and Ed Greenwood) ever emphasizing that WotC was going to release a post-apocalyptic setting that was wrecked to the core and looking for heroic characters to save the day. Granted this was about six years ago, but I’m pretty sure the word “post-apocalyptic” wasn’t even used. “Change” was used a lot, as in “the Realms must change” (per Ed Greenwood).

Maybe that colored my impression of things going forward, but I don’t think the web articles following GenCon strayed from the message presented at the Con.

Or who knows? Maybe you and I have wildly divergent definitions of what “post-apocalyptic” means.

The designers at the time found out very quickly that the changes were not as popular as they had hoped.  They scrambled at WotC to do some minimization even way back then, which is why a number of articles came out -after- the initial previews that basically said, "oh hey, wait wait wait, don't take the spellplague so seriously, it's not that bad now. Don't take the text so literally."

The later web articles you’re referring to were released because WotC saw that people were developing the impression that the Realms would be post-apocalyptic.

This impression formed because (as WotC figured out) the preview articles were spending too much time talking about what the Spellplague event was as opposed to what the Realms is a century after that event.

Yes, you are correct that WotC perceived a negative online reaction to the Spellplague, but it simply wasn’t the case that WotC was operating from an initial position that they were going to create a wrecked world.
Interesting that those preview articles are no longer available, isn't it?

You mean like this article?

There’s no conspiracy here.
I’m left wondering where (or rather, who) you’re getting your information from?


Baker, Cordell, etc. in their 1/2008 articles that used to be available online.

The later web articles you’re referring to were released because WotC saw that people were developing the impression that the Realms would be post-apocalyptic.
(snip)
This impression formed because (as WotC figured out) the preview articles were spending too much time talking about what the Spellplague event was as opposed to what the Realms is a century after that event.

Yes, you are correct that WotC perceived a negative online reaction to the Spellplague, but it simply wasn’t the case that WotC was operating from an initial position that they were going to create a wrecked world.

(snip)You mean like this article?

There’s no conspiracy here.


The article you're linking is from 8/2008, at the point the design team realized how unpopular the changes were - and they were trying at that point to minimize things even then.

I'm talking specifically about articles around 1/2008 like the Countdown articles and other responses online from staffers like Baker.  I recall very clearly Baker (on the forums) saying how much the design team wanted to make things even worse, that we had no idea how many battles he fought to save certain things.

If they had wanted it to have the atmosphere of a land that had gone through a cataclysm and had been in recovery for those 94-ish years, they would have led strongly with that.  Instead, the early previews were nothing BUT the cataclysm.  Honestly, what "impression" were people supposed to have?

And I'm not saying there was a "conspiracy" - rather, I'm saying that there was a big effort to manage peoples' impressions after the damage was done and it was clear how unpopular the changes were.  I think the designers at the time (most of them) were probably surprised by the negative reaction.

While I don't really want to rehash the subject much, I have to agree with Jorunhast, there was a very clear indictation online that the setting was being shifted to a PoL/Post-Apocalyptic sort of place, where heroes were very much needed to turn back the overwhelming tide of darkness, blah, blah, blah.  Certainly they've done a wonderful job of stepping back from that stance, but the fact remains that initially, that was the intent as I understood it, and I also recall Rich Baker's mentioning his efforts to keep things from being even darker.  There was also the rather odd disconnect between the various parties working on the Realms that said one thing, then another, then back to the other stance, and no, we're not doing that anymore, oh wait, yeah, we are still doing that... for maybe a three or four month period there was a lot of conflicting bits and pieces across a lot of different sources, mainly those gleemax blogs and the odd article here and there.

"Be careful to choose your enemies well.  Friends don't much matter.  But the choice of enemies is very important."  

- Oscar Wilde

Baker, Cordell, etc. in their 1/2008 articles that used to be available online.

Try as I might, I haven't been able to find them, even on the internet wayback machine.

Does it follow, then, that there was some sort of reactionary coverup (if that's the right word)? I don't think so.

Between the Gleemax crash and the forum reorg, lots of things got lost and moved around. I'll keep searching because I want to re-read those articles and see just how rose colored my glasses are.
 I recall very clearly Baker (on the forums) saying how much the design team wanted to make things even worse, that we had no idea how many battles he fought to save certain things.

The Realms design team has fought similar battles in the past. There's a reason that only Tilverton went BOOM when the Shadovar showed up. Initially, the novels side wanted to do a lot worse to the Realms to herald the Shade's arrival, but they were out voted.

Regardless, if the 4E Realms had been altered more significantly, there's still the century of time in between those changes and the later presentation in the FRCG.

I can see how Baker’s comments, taken with the web articles, could leave an impression in a reader's mind that things were all bad and we were going to get a radically altered Realms.
If they had wanted it to have the atmosphere of a land that had gone through a cataclysm and had been in recovery for those 94-ish years, they would have led strongly with that.

So it's impossible for WotC to make mistakes in marketing in message?
I didn't realize you had such faith in them.

Facetiousness aside, to me it made perfect sense that WotC would go out of its way to talk about what the Spellplague was because for the eight years prior everyone and their mother with a gripe about Canon Realmslore complained to high heaven on this and other forum spaces about why this or that (3rd Edition) change wasn't described, in triplicate, in-setting.

They tried to do right by the fanbase by explaining the Spellplague, they just didn't turn the corner fast enough and ended up generating a lot of angst instead of interest (at least online).
I know that I remember seeing the "Points of Light" setting bandied about at the start of 4E.  I think that there was the thought that this would be the state of the new Realms.  Spots of civilization in between large tracks of dangerous wilderness....aka the Dark Age Realms.  But I think that concept lost steam very early due to blow back and the lack of fortitude to push forward with the concept.  I kind of liked the idea of the Dark Age Realms, but not as the halfassed implimentation it became.  
I know that I remember seeing the "Points of Light" setting bandied about at the start of 4E.  I think that there was the thought that this would be the state of the new Realms. 

You know, you just gave me the spark of memory. I recall asking Rich Baker about the Realms being a Points of Light setting, to which he replied that it wasn't PoL.

I can't remember if I asked that before or after the FRCG was released.
You know, you just gave me the spark of memory. I recall asking Rich Baker about the Realms being a Points of Light setting, to which he replied that it wasn't PoL.

I can't remember if I asked that before or after the FRCG was released.


Doesn't really matter - the new Neverwinter campaign guide definitely has a strong Points of Light feel to it, just like the new Salvatore Neverwinter novel trilogy with Drizzt.  Pretty much PoL by definition, reading those.  It's all completely "shades of gray" and "you're the only heroes on the block" stuff, in spades.  Drizzt even has interactions with common farmers, showing that no one trusts their neighbors anymore and tons of backstabbing and theft is happening just among the common people.  If that isn't the tone of the Dark Ages, aka PoL, I'm not sure what they could do to make things darker or more PoL.

To me, the NWCG is more post-apocalyptic than PoL (they aren't the same thing). I can't say for the full Neverwinter series, as I've only read the first book, though the North has always been a harder, more isolated place to begin with (i.e. a place resistant to civilization).

Of course R.A. Salvatore--popular as he is--doesn't set the tone for the rest of the Realms. To me the full (4E) setting just isn't post-Apocalyptic or properly PoL. There are certainly areas that are more isolated (and thus closer to PoL) then others, but having read the numerous Realms articles in Dragon and Dungeon, as well as some of the novels, overall the Realms is still the Realms: a place that's busy interacting and trading with itself.

I realize not everyone feels this way, but that's OK.

However, I am repeating myself, so it's time to bow out of the part of the thread.
No, Mr Salvatorre doesn't set the mood for the rest of the Realms but I think it's fair to say he writes what he's asked to write.  The problem as I see it, is that WotC has a "vision" for where the realms are headed.  In the TSR days, it seemed the authors could write what they wanted, provided they didn't step on other people's toes or contradict existing canon.  Now, the novels are plot drivers.

There never used to be a plot, or a theme to the realms.

Well, I haven't read every single book that was released since 2008, as they all haven't been available at my library to borrow.  But I have read these:



Neverwinter series = definitely PoL.


Brotherhood of the Griffon series = definitely PoL.


Brimstone Angels (two novels so far) = definitely PoL.


The current Elminster series = definitely PoL.


Gilded Rune = definitely PoL.


Haunted Lands series = definitely PoL.



Even adventure-wise:


   Rise of the Underdark = definitely PoL.


   Neverwinter Campaign Guide = definitely PoL.



Neverwinter series = definitely PoL.


Brotherhood of the Griffon series = definitely PoL.


Brimstone Angels (two novels so far) = definitely PoL.


The current Elminster series = definitely PoL.


Gilded Rune = definitely PoL.


Haunted Lands series = definitely PoL.


I haven read Neverwinter and the latest Elminsters, but the others are definately not PoL.

PoL is scattered communities as separated PoLs in the darkness.


BotG took place in a couple of countries waging war upon each other. Fully functional countries and not just some collections of PoLs.


Brimstone angels took place in a city (first one) and in a forgotten underground cave. While the city certainly has seen better places, it's not enough to paint a PoL picture. And the second one shows that the cities are still well connected (portals from Waterdeep to Cormyr to be purchased, before that the heroes easily travelled from Neverwinter to Waterdeep) and since the rest just takes part in a forgotten cave it doesn't really tell anything.


Gilded Rune has a city under quarantine due to plague. But the quarantine had to be imposed to keep frequent caravans and traders away. So the city was everything but a lonely PoL cut off form the others, it was a trade hub.


Haunted Lands is half pre-spellplague and the other half is invading Thay. Well, Thay is not the nicest of places.

In PoL you can still have cities and some trade.  To me, every single one of those novels I mentioned exactly fit the PoL description.  I see nothing but dark ages in all of those: war, plague, mass quarantines, and nobody except the main character can save everyone.  The earlier Realms felt more Renaissance, with capable people here and there, and all sorts of trade and friendly commoners - which wouldn't be PoL.

BTW- the portal in Brimstone Angels (only one mentioned, btw) between Waterdeep and Cormyr, was extremely expensive and meant to cut down on months of travel - the fairly high level adventurers couldn't afford to send more than two people, and even then it was one way; it's not like it was a super-saver airline thing that everyday commoners could use regularly.
Actually I remember getting a strong undertone of Anger, Sorrow, and Melancholy that fit how I felt about the changes that occured in the Realms when I read, R.A. Salvatore's Transition Series. 

I think it also gives us an idea that if you have invested twenty plus years reading, writing, and adventuring in the Realms that something happened with the Spellplague that was larger than the general fictional world (Real World Economics).  

It had it's impact and I think by having the authors, "Sundering Six", working together.  We maybe guaranteed to get back some of the quality we had before in the Realms.  

Reading Greenwood's, "Forging the Realms" articles makes me feel like things are getting set back in order.  At least giving the feel of the Realms, I grew to love reading and adventuring in.  

I also have to say I took a year off of DMing in the Realms (I stuck around Forums though and read or own 85 to 90% of Novels released) but naturally I have come back to gaming in the Realms and deliver the Realms as before with something different here or there, whether all the maps suffered extreme distortion and many of the gods were killed.  I have maps from all the earlier editions along with a fine collection of material surviving each company or edition brand that are still very useful.  

I must add the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas a great tool and I like the idea of Articles in Dragon containing excerpts, essays, or short stories like the magazine we use to hold in our hands to read which is also a sign of the economic times which extends beyond the lore of the Realms and will probably be some notation in the history of fantasy literature when we are all dust and bones.
More Forgotten realms please i love most of these books and release more in paperback
Novels, by their nature, change the individual characters in them.

What's the difference?



As a reader, it's extremely disheartening to read.  I expected Drizzt to change and grow, but reading the current novels are depressing and he has ultimately regressed.  RAS is an excellent author, so I am still reading them and liking them well enough to continue, but the charm of the other companions and Drizzt's nobility almost seem to be parodied.  Was it all worth it, if Drizzt has to live in this dark new world?  What's different about his experience in Menzoberranzan compared to his life in the post-cataclysm, post-volcano Neverwinter?  It's killing, more killing, revenge, mourning the old days, missing his old noble companions, and then more killing.  And apparently, Drizzt has had this same sad mood for the past 100 years.

Sure, it's still somewhat entertaining, but it's depressing to wade through and slowly killing my interest.

What is Drizzt without the Companions of the Hall?  What would Arilyn be without her Danilo?  What is Liriel without Fyodor?  And yes, I know what happened to Fyodor at the end;  frankly, I think it's a good thing we never got to see Liriel wandering around constantly depressed and mourning Fyodor like Drizzt has mourned the Companions.*

It's never just about the one that survivies when it comes to cataclysmic events.  By the way, I do think Fyodor's end was poignant, important for the story, and necessary for Liriel's development, but that loss was an entirely different kind of thing and made Liriel grow.

Let's consider Cadderly's end story.  For most of his life, Cadderly was a principled, cool guy serving a deity that had a noble purpose.  At the end, Cadderly becomes someone who tortures demons (or was it a devil?  but even so, torture?  come on!) and then sacrifices his life for a deity that wasn't so much of a deity but a servitor-Exarch (or something equally minor) to Oghma.  Thanks for reinforcing the concept, WotC, that some deities weren't what we - or even their priests - thought they were.  And then, in a final and mostly meaningless gesture, Cadderly sacrifices his life for - for what, exactly?  To somehow bolster something "metatexty" but extremely nebulous in one of the divine planes?  Honestly, for a sacrifice to have any meaning, you have to see SOME effect in the world.  We got nothing, really.


* having said this, I do think Cunningham could do an excellent follow-up on Liriel, but she'd have to introduce some new support characters.



I am actually at the opposite end of the spectrum. I am enjoying Daliah's character for the most part. I certainly don't hold her past actions with Effron against her. There is a key difference between the Drizzt of Homeland and the Drizzt of the Neverwinter Saga: Homeland's Drizzt strove to validate the drow perspective, and abstain from violence against his people. You'll recall he failed in this regard in...either The Legacy or Starless Night. Back to the main point; in the Neverwinter Saga, Drizzt is using violence to run from his loss. Drizzt doesn't want to move on; he wants to try to evoke the good old days of battling goblins and highwaymen in Icewind Dale with the Companions.


Cadderly's sacrifice kept the Ghost King bound, I believe at the ruins of the Edificant Library. Considering how badly the Ghost King ravaged Cadderly's lands and peoples, I'd say the sacrifice had plenty of meaning. Providing an out to some divine problem was just a side bonus. 
(snip) There never used to be a plot, or a theme to the realms.



I would argue that novels have driven the Realms for most of its history, beginning with the Time of Troubles. And that's always been a source of tension for FR fans.
Cheers Imruphel aka Scrivener of Doom
(snip) There never used to be a plot, or a theme to the realms.



I would argue that novels have driven the Realms for most of its history, beginning with the Time of Troubles. And that's always been a source of tension for FR fans.

...and joy!
Matt James Freelance Game Designer Loremaster.org

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(snip) There never used to be a plot, or a theme to the realms.



I would argue that novels have driven the Realms for most of its history, beginning with the Time of Troubles. And that's always been a source of tension for FR fans.

...and joy!



Yeah... as long as stuff doesn't get exploded because reasons.

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