Understanding the Abyssal Plague

Over the past year or so I’m sure most of you, like me, have seen new D&D novels coming out marked as part of the Abyssal Plague series of books.  I’ve done a fairly decent job keeping up with reading all of these and have found them fairly enjoyable.  I have even been pleasantly surprised by some of the tangentially related off-shoot novels ( Sword of The Gods) but when I found out the last book in the core trilogy was coming out in April I realized I have no idea how many other books are in the series and in what order I would need to read them.  So, like any good engineer I sat down and made a diagram of the books in this series to help me wrap my head around it.

If you find the images and text hard to read you can look at a larger version of the diagram.  The main portion of the story is outlined in white and contains The Gates of Madness, Temple of the Yellow Skulls, Oath of Vigilance and the upcoming The Eye of the Chained God.  Having read the first three of these books I would say it is entirely possible to read just those core books, or in fact to skip over The Gates of Madness altogether and just read the core trilogy and have an enjoyable read.  In my diagram I put The Mark of Nerath ahead of all of these other books though because it introduces the reader to the characters that weave their way through the rest of the main trilogy and gives some extra depth and back-story to several of these characters.

The Gates of Madness then sets the stage for Tharizdun and the Voidharrow to wreak havoc on the rest of the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse.  This book was originally released as five novelas and is now available as a free download from the Wizards website.  Overall it is a fast read and does a more than sufficient job setting up the situation that then plays out throughout all of the other novels.  The Gates of Madness also introduces Demascus, the main character in Sword of the Gods and the upcoming Spinner of Lies.  If you plan to read those books, and I certainly suggest you do as the first one was very good and the second is bound to be as well, then it is worth it to read The Gates of Madness as well.

Speaking of Sword of the Gods, it follows Demascus, presumably after the events in Gates of Madness, as he continues to adventure and have dealings with the fallout of the Abyssal Plague.  I will refrain from saying too much about this now as there will be a complete review of the book here at a later date.

Shadowbane is currently the only book released in the Abyssal Plague series that I have yet to read.  From its description though the characters are dealing with side effects of the Abyssal Plague rather than acting against Tharizdun and the Voidharrow specifically.  It is worth mentioning that Shadowbane is an eBook only release, a first for Wizards of the Coast.

Under the Crimson Sun occurs in the Dark Sun setting, as the name implies.  I found this book a very entertaining twist on the Abyssal Plague as a gladiator infected by the plague becomes an unstoppable menace in the pits of the Athasian city of Urik.  Dark Sun has always been one of my favorite campaign settings and this book only helped to cement my love of the world of Athas.  The descriptions of the desert, monsters and places within the book along with great pacing and action scenes captured my attention and kept me entertained from beginning to end.

All in all I’m still not entirely certain what I think about the idea of an event that echos across multiple Dungeons and Dragons Campaign settings but I feel that so far it has been handled well.  The books have been well written, the characters are interesting and the stories are engaging.  Add to that the fact that the upcoming Encounters season is going to focus on ‘The Elder Elemental Eye’ and the corresponding fortune cards being titled Spiral of Tharizdun and it looks like the whole thing is planned out well and will end with an interesting game tie-in.

Going through all of this certainly helped me to get a better grasp on  the Abyssal Plague and I hope it helps all of you to better understand it as well.

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