Andre Norton Charlotte W. Draper - Essay

Charlotte W. Draper

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Andre Norton] acknowledges that she has used the war game Dungeons and Dragons as the context for [Quag Keep]. Seven wayfarers, haunted by the memory of another world, are bound by a "geas"—an uncanny compulsion to seek out an alien force which menaces the precarious balance between Law and Chaos in their own world. The travelers wear bracelets of dice which warn them of new skirmishes with the agents of Chaos. When the companions arrive at Quag Keep, stronghold of the summoning power, they recognize the source of the spell: "[Y]ou aren't real, don't you understand that? I'm the game master." Chance is double-edged, however, and the Seven exert their own power over him. The landscape and its creatures—including some familiar inhabitants of Tolkien's Middle Earth—are cleverly devised and integrated. Skillful exposition in the first two chapters hints at previous incarnation for the Seven, but the reader remains as mystified as the actors in the drama, not understanding until the end why their behavior appears to be preordained. The characterizations derive from the magical or physical power of each player to oppose his or her adversary, and the plot structure is an analogue of the geometric pattern of a game board. The game seems deadly serious and involves a restructuring of the identity not only of the players—but ultimately of the game master himself. (pp. 285-86)

Charlotte W. Draper, in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1978 by the Horn Book, Inc., Boston), June, 1978.