(x-posted from Reading Notes)
To me, Paul Kidd’s Greyhawk novels and short stories personify the sheer fun that is tabletop RPGs. Using classic modules as a backdrop, Kidd presents us with a fun, slightly munchkin, party. At its core, there’s the Justicar, a dour ranger; Cinders, his sentient hell hound pelt; Escalla, a slightly naughty faerie; and Polk the plain-old human teamster. The characters are eccentric and, occasionally, Kidd’s jokes go on just a little too long, but that’s how it sometimes goes in gaming.
I haven’t been a big fan of novels based on fantasy RPGs. Usually, they boil down to being fantasy novels and not much else. Kidd’s tales read a little more like a campaign journal. That’s both good and bad. On the one hand, if you’re familiar with the game, you can see how the game mechanics get translated into narrative. That sort of wink-and-nudge is a nice touch. On the other hand, sometimes that battles are too blow-by-blow and get a dry.
My favorite bits though are when Kidd describes parts of the world. Despite the zany antics of the ranger and the faerie, Kidd treats war-torn Keoland with respect and poetry.
"By the Job" by Paul Kidd
"Keoland Blues" (Dragon Magazine, December 2000 – Issue #278) prompted me to buy Kidd’s Greyhawk novels, but I hadn’t realized that that was his second story for Dragon. "By the Job" (Dragon Magazine, May 2000 – Issue #271) is the first and the origin story of Jus and Cinders.
"Breakaway, Backdown" by James Patrick Kelly
Not sure I agree with all the science, but a good story in that "what space would do to society" kind of way.