So yes this book wasn’t published by TSR but I decided to read it and include it in this list because it was featured in The Dragon magazine and mainly because it’s considered the first ever D&D novel. This is a long time before the first DragonLance book!
Sometimes D&D books have the accusation levelled at them that you can hear the dice rolling in the background. In this one, that’s not the case. Instead you can literally hear the dice rolling in the foreground because all the main characters have bracelets with dice that occasionally spin whenever there’s something crucial happening.
The plot is so so. Real gamers in our world drawn into the fantasy world yadda yadda.
The main thing is… it’s just kind of boring. It felt very plodding. Even when there were fights it was boring. I guess I just didn’t like the writing style. The descriptions didn’t evoke very strong pictures in my mind.
Of course, the book’s main draw is as a portal into the then unknown world of Greyhawk. We get to visit the Sea of Dust and hear of other places that would later become known to us. There’s one interesting reference to the Temple of the Frog from Blackmoor, funnily enough because the player in the real world (in the novel) has played the scenario.
Ultimately the worst crime is that the story is frustratingly pointless.
I don’t regret reading it but I gave this 2 stars on Goodreads as a warning to anyone else wanting to go on this drab quest.
And don’t get too excited about the prospect of some sort of castle adventure – the damn Quag Keep doesn’t appear till about the last 10 pages! (No, that’s not a spoiler, it’s just making you aware of the false advertising in the title.)
A preview was in Dragon 12 (February). It gets a mention in Dragon 15 (June). Copyright date of publication is March 10, 1978, so March it is.