Books, Games and Tabletop RPGs: The Holy Trinity of R.A. Salvatore (Part 1)

David Craddock | 14 Oct 2014 12:30
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ra salvatore at book loft signing

Editor's Note: R.A. Salvatore has been a huge part of Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms universe. Since 1988, he has penned more than 40 fantasy novels that helped expand the lore for the tabletop RPG, including creating one of the game's most influential NPCs, the Dark Elf Drizzt Do'Urden. David Craddock caught up with him at a book signing in Columbus, Ohio, to talk about his legacy in a three-part interview.

Every creator draws motivation from somewhere. For several years, R.A. "Bob" Salvatore drew from a wellspring visited by millions of parents each day. When fatigue set in, he would look above his monitor, where he had taped a paper showing the total amount of his children's college tuition to the wall. The sight of all those zeroes set his fingers racing as fast as his heart.

Salvatore and I sat down to dinner the night of September 30, which marked the release of Rise of the King, Salvatore's second published book in 2014. The first question I asked was whether he even bothered to pencil sleeping into his schedule. "Well, what happened was, for a few years, I was down to one book a year because I was working at 38 Studios," he began. "When 38 collapsed, it left a big hole in my schedule and in my heart. So I called Wizards [of the Coast] and said, 'Hey, instead of doing one Drizzt book a year, why don't we crank up that schedule and do two a year?' And they were like, 'Uh, yes!'"

Returning to the Forgotten Realms and traveling by the side of Drizzt and his friends, the Companions of Mithral Hall, proved cathartic for Salvatore. The full-time author had doubled as 38's Creative Director and had been intimately involved in penning the backstory for Kingdoms of Amalur and the ill-fated Project Copernicus MMORPG. "I needed to do that. I needed to bury myself in work just because I didn't want to think about it. It was a painful experience."

At a book signing earlier in the day, he announced two books on the slate for 2015. After that, he'll dial back down to one per calendar year, but not because his fingers need a break. "I think we're outstripping the readers. We need to give them time to settle in and catch up," he admitted.


The publicists at Wizards are amenable to any schedule Salvatore wants to set. He's been a part of the Forgotten Realms since 1988 when he published The Crystal Shard, his first novel and the first adventure starring Drizzt and his whirling scimitars. Twenty-six years later, both author and publisher are comfortable easing off the gas when necessary. "If I have a due date in August and the book doesn't get done until November, that's okay. I've been doing this for a long time, and there's really not going to be a big edit [on any particular book]. It'll be a small percentage, just around the edges. They're not worried that we'll have to [delay the release], or having to say, 'Okay, you've got to throw this all out and redo it,' which happens sometimes. But at this point, it's completely under control. I know where I'm going and the characters are going to take me there anyway. It's pretty laid back."

Every two weeks, Salvatore, other Realms authors, and the publishing team at Wizards convene online or over the phone to discuss the state of the Realms. Traditionally, each Realms author stayed in his or her corner of the world. "I basically hide away from the main stories as much as I can, but we really don't want to do that anymore because they're licensing more now. There are a couple of computer games set in the Realms: Dungeons & Dragons Online, and Neverwinter, and I'm sure there will be more."

rise of the king book ii of the companions codex

Team Efforts

I commented that Wizards seemed to be in a good place. The company was bigger than ever before, yet seemingly taking even greater strides to give its authors and game designers as much creative control as possible. Salvatore agreed. "They're bigger than they've ever been, but not personnel-wise. They're not doing as many products because they're licensing. When you start talking about the numbers involved in computer games, movies, and TV--they're substantially higher, but there are fewer people involved at Wizards."

If anything, the authors are running the asylum. Several years ago, Wizards shook things up through a world event known as the Era of Upheaval. Goddesses died, main characters perished, and armies clashed. As things died down, Salvatore and other Realms authors were given the task of writing a multi-book series called The Sundering.

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