R.A. Salvatore on Combat and Dungeons & Dragons

Todd Kenreck: I sat down to speak with R.A. Salvatore about one of the most remarkable things in his writing, how he describes combat and also, why D&D is currently seeing a resurgence.

R.A. Salvatore: When I write the Drizzt books, I am very much aware of the fact that 9 year olds, 10 year olds will read them. That doesn't mean I don't make them full of action, there's blood, there's whatever, but you tend to pull the curtain a little earlier on the scene. When I'm writing my Demon Wars books, don't let kids read that until they're older. At least until you've read it and then if they get corrupted by it, that's on you, not me.

I play hockey. I played hockey my whole life and I guess maybe that's why Drizzt has curved swords. No. I play hockey and I actually ... I grew up watching sports, I love sports. I will still put on Torvill and Dean doing an ice dance to the Bolero because the way the human body moves mesmerizes me. I'll watch yoga videos and things like that. Just the way the human body moves ... Tai Chi, yoga, martial arts, whatever, and I pay attention to that in sports. I grew up watching Ali, Fraser, the great boxing matches of the '70's, Foreman, and all of that. In high school, I was in the boxing club and I paid my way through college as a bouncer in all the local bars. You learn ... by the way, because I'm a storyteller, I was a really good bouncer because I was able to avoid the fights. The bouncers who got in all the fights did really well and then they didn't because they were all busted up and hurt. But you learn about balance being the most important part of any type of combat.

It's basically just paying attention and then I did some martial arts in the early '80's before my knees said, "You're not doing this anymore," and it meant it. Then, when I was going to do ... when I was writing DemonWars and I had the elves, who are very, very small in DemonWars, they're more like fairies than elves, and how are they going to fight against these people and be effective? I don't know if you ever saw the Liam Neeson movie Rob Roy, he's got this gigantic like claymore and the little English guy with the rapier is poking holes in him and he just can't keep up with it. I signed up my kids up for fencing lessons and while they're on the mat beating the crap out of each other, I'm talking to the instructor and writing down my notes. That became the elven sword dance in my DemonWars books.

Yes. You have to pay attention. The whole back and forth motion instead of side to side of fencing, the quick retreat, the quick attack, the quick retreat, the quick attack, and the elves and a metal called dark fern that they knew how to get. It basically grew in these ferns and they would be able to extract the metal piece of it. Their weapons were finer, they were very slight, very light, but very strong. So, you might have the armor, but they became good enough to poke through the seams in that armor, and you're not going to catch up with them because if you've ever seen an actual fencer at play, a really good one, we're talking about people who are watching for you to blink so they can get you before you open your eyes on the other end of the blink, right? It is phenomenal how quick. I mean, they're vipers. Yeah. That's how I do it. That's how I do it.

When I'm writing, I'm banging the keys furiously in the fight scenes. I'm seeing it, I'm telling them. I'm writing it, I'm writing. That's how I want people to read it. I want it to be furious. I want your pulse to be popping. If it's not ... and I guess that was ... one of the things for me is I was frustrated 'cause all the fantasy books I was reading, when they get to the best fight scenes, they basically just told you what happened at the end, who survives. "Boy, I'm really hurt. That was tough."

Todd Kenreck: Why do you think this resurgence is happening now?

R.A. Salvatore: Because computer games, if you throw pizza at somebody that screws you over in the computer game, you just get your own screen dirty. It's human contact. It's human ... My D&D games are pizza nights, that's all they are. We get in there, everybody orders their dinner and we sit there and we spend half the night talking about old D&D stories and the other half of the night, playing. It's a poker night without losing money, except for the money for the food.

It's human contact, and this idea that you spend your whole day like this with your phone or your iPad or your computer, it just ... I don't think most people ... if they can discover to actually be in a group where you can feel comfortable with people with whom you feel comfortable enough to look them in the eye, to yell at them when they tick you off, to cheer them when they do something funny or good, and you're sitting around the table, it's the sitting around the table is what makes it as opposed to having to turn on the computer game. I'm not knocking computer games, I play them too, but I think that D&D is a wonderful balance to the computer game.

Todd Kenreck: Are you ever going to be done with Drizzt?

R.A. Salvatore: I thought I was and he just keeps showing up. I said a long, long time ago and I still mean it, am I ever going to be done? Yeah. Eventually because, if nothing else, I'll die, I mean. But I always said as long as I was having fun writing it and people wanted to read it, those are the metrics. I'm still having fun. I had a blast writing Timeless and I'm just starting the second book now and I'm having a lot of fun with that already.

I can do my Drizzt books and it takes me back to when I was in my 20's and writing the first Drizzt book. Then, I can do my DemonWars books and I can go different places with those than I go with the Drizzt books, if I so choose. It's a nice balance and as long as I'm having fun and people want to read it, I don't see why I'd stop.

Todd Kenreck: Thank you R. A. Salvatore for being on D&D Beyond. I'm Todd Kenreck, your host. Thank you for watching.

 

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