Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Endless Quest #5: Revolt of the Dwarves
Revolt of the Dwarves is by Rose Estes, and is a fairly creative story. First of all, it takes one of the main player races of D&D and turns them into the bad guys. It gives them a serious grievance, and reasons for their revolt (although you may never learn them, depending on which paths you take). There are quite a few other encounters that don't play out the way you'd think they should just by looking at the listed alignments of the creatures in the rulebooks. For these reasons, I like the book.
It does have some serious flaws, though. First of all, your protagonist Galen is an 8-year old kid with a puppy (thankfully, Woofy never talks to you, only to pixies and his voice his never heard). There are a lot of places where you're given the sorts of choices an 8-year old might actually choose (like giving up, or attacking recklessly against overwhelming odds), and these invariably lead to a bad ending. The writing at times also reads a bit like it is begin written for an 8-year old reader, but not consistently. I'm not sure what the target age for the EQ series was, but I was reading them when I was 10 to 15 or so. I never read this one as a kid, but I think those places would have bothered me as being 'too kiddie' than I was used to from the series.
Next, and the biggest flaw, is the linearity of the story. Revolt of the Dwarves has three main branches you can take, which is a good thing. The problem is that once you start down one, you don't have much real choice.
The first place you can make a choice comes 3 pages in to the story. I thought that was a good sign, until I found out that the choices were an easily telegraphed bad ending, a choice that does nothing and sends you back to make another choice, and the correct choice that leads to another 6 pages (1 illustration) of text before you get to choose one of the three branches.
Those three branches are going to the dwarves' caves, going down the river, or going to the pixie forest. While each of these branches has some interesting stuff, it's pretty clear that the dwarf cave branch is supposed to be the correct one. On both the river and pixie branches, the first choice or two gives you the option to give up and go to the caves.
And an awful lot of choices aren't really choices at all. Lots of them involve choosing A or B, reading a page, and then both A and B lead to the same page to continue the story. Sometimes that gets changed into an A, B, or C choice, where A and B both work and take you to the same continuation, and C leads to an ending. Or as the very first choice in the book, A works, B tells you to choose again, C is an ending. Other choices tend to be simple A works, B is a quick ending types.
When you finally get to the 'good' endings, there can be a bit of variation. But for the main part, this book doesn't offer a lot of meaningful choice. Despite the flaws, though, it's got some interesting encounters, and despite the 8-year old protagonist, it still feels very "D&D" to me. You can enlist some interesting allies along the way--an old blind deposed dwarf king, a 'Huck Finn' type kid only not as cool as Huck), or a vain prankster pixie chick. And as I mentioned, quite a few monster encounters don't play out as expected.
The art is good. It's got the required Elmore cover--although the raiders look a bit more like humans than dwarves in their proportions--and Holloway interiors. I like Holloway. I've said it before. But I think he's great at getting lots of expression into his characters and details into his pictures without overloading them. And he does another good job here.
Overall, I find the book a bit disappointing. There's some good stuff in it that can make for some interesting situations in your home game. But as a game book itself, it's limited choices make it not so fun to read.
Protagonist: another helpless child
Sidekick: a puppy (with old dwarf, another kid, and pixie as possible help)
Adventure: lots of good ideas
Endings: quite a few where you lose but don't die and 'live the rest of your life regretting not making another choice.'
Art: Good. Decent Elmore cover, nice Holloway interiors.
Overall: Average (good ideas, poor execution)