Siege of the Tower

Siege of the Tower is an obscure and often-overlooked piece of Greyhawk fiction that deserves a place with other Greyhawk books. Read the review below and an interview with the author Kevin J. Anderson as well.

In 1982, TSR launched a series of books modeled after the popular Choose Your Own Adventure genre. The new series appeared under the title Endless Quest, publishing forty-nine titles before its relaunch in 2018. Most of the titles are generic Dungeons & Dragons fiction, but some were based on other TSR games and related franchises. According to a Wikipedia breakdown of the series, only two of the books are deliberately set in the World of Greyhawk: Siege of the Tower and Bigby’s Curse.

Siege of the Tower takes place during the Greyhawk Wars era, before the fall of Crockport. The action commences at Dragon’s Eye Tower, a Furyundian border post on the Iuz border between the Vesve Forest and Lake Whyestil. When a party of adventurers discovers a powerful scrying artifact called the “Dragon’s Eye” in the dungeons beneath the tower, Iuz decides he wants it. He launches a full assault on the tower and the hunt is on. A young fighter from Crockport named Corlen is entrusted with the Dragon’s Eye and given the task of safely delivering it to Count Delwyn in Crockport. It’s not going to be easy, and it going to involve a lot of difficult decisions along the way–decisions the reader must make.

The story starts as Corlen and the men of Furyundy prepare for siege:

You glance at the other grim-faced preparing to defend the Dragon’s Eye Tower, and then look out past the battlements to see the roiling chaos of the invading orc army. There don’t seem to be enough fighters to hold the decaying old fortress against the force massing on the plain near the shores of Lake Whyestil. A sea of orc campfires stretches far into the distance, flickering like water at sunset … Everyone around you checks and rechecks equipment, tightening bowstrings, fastening armor, stacking piles of arrows within reach, sharpening weapons, filling water buckets in case of attack by fire. A bucket brigade of soldiers passes skin bags filled with oil from the tower’s larders, dumping them into cauldrons by the perimeter wall. Others pile wood high, lighting blazing fires beneath the kettles. Defenders take position atop the earthen wall, ready to spill the boiling oil down upon the first wave of the orc attack.

Keeping the artifact safe from Iuz proves challenging. Not only does Corlen have a whole Iuzian army to contend with, but he also has the disadvantage of doing so while under a powerful elemental curse which makes all metals burn his flesh on contact. He cannot use a sword or armor. To satisfactorily complete his quest, he must survive the siege of the tower, navigate the dungeons beneath the tower, fight through the Vesve, take a boat across the monster-infested Whyestil, save his best friend’s life, and deliver the Dragon’s Eye to the real count (and not the imposter). If he’s lucky, he will also avenge his father by killing the sorcerer that put him under the curse. That’s a lot of content for a thin little booklet, but it works, and it’s a lot of fun.

Despite being written for young readers, the book holds the reader’s attention. On the downside, it suffers from the limits of its genre, and, at one point, the reader can find himself or herself caught in an endlessly looping sequence from which there is no escape. Perhaps that’s the “endless quest” part. But this is not just a throw-away paperback. It deserves a place of honor in the larger Greyhawk canon.

From a canon point of view, Siege of Tower occurs around the same time and in the same general geography as the great module Border Watch, another story set on the contested Iuzian-Furyundy border shortly after the Greyhawk Wars. It might have been intended to belong to that same time frame, but the references to the city of Crockport as yet still unconquered argue for an earlier date.

Be careful not to judge this book by it’s cover. The cover art by Jeff Easley, which also appeared as the cover for From the Ashes, has nothing to do with the contents of the book. According to the author, it appeared on the book due to a publisher’s error. In contrast to the book’s cover, the interior artwork by Terry Dykstra, the same artist who illustrated most of the Endless Quest books, is spot on and brings the action to life.

Whyestil

From a game perspective, a creative Dungeon Master could easily adapt this book into a fun campaign that could be played in tandem with Border Watch or any other campaign in the vicinity. It’s got plenty of classic D&D fun, a dungeon crawl, random encounters, and big epic quest.

Siege of the Tower belongs in every Greyhawk collection.  I give it four wizards.

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Thomas Kelly

 

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