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Literature / The Avatar Series

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The Avatar series is an ongoing series of novels set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons, written by Scott Ciencin, Troy Denning and James Lowder.

. Its starring character is the archmage Elminster Aumar, one of the Chosen of the goddess of magic.

The series currently includes the following books:

  • Shadowdale, by Scott Ciencin (1983) The first of the original Trilogy, wherein the Time of Troubles begins.
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  • Tantras, by Scott Ciencin (1983) The second of the original Trilogy, featuring ?.
  • Waterdeep, by Troy Denning (1983) The finale of the original Trilogy, in which the Time of Troubles ends and several new Gods rise to prominence, most notably Cyric.
  • Prince of Lies, by James Lowder (1993)
  • Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad, by Troy Denning (1995)

The Avatar series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Archmage: Elminster features in the original trilogy, as one of the more knowledgable individuals in regards to precisely what is going on regarding the Time of Troubles, Mystra, and the greater forces at work. Blackstaff also features in the third book.
  • Anyone Can Die: Even Gods are not immune to this, and the first Trilogy alone claims at least five during the "Time of Troubles" featured. More continue to perish during the latter novels.
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  • Being God Is Hard: Highgod Ao's is, at least. He started the Time of Troubles and cast out the deities in large part because they were widely inverting this, lounging about enjoying their power without working hard to serve the mortals who worshipped them.
  • Big Bad: For the first two books, Bane is this, who orchestrated the plot to steal the Tablets and will stop at nothing to use their so-called power to usurp Ao. Myrkul becomes this in the third book, Waterdeep, but mostly because he is growing desperate. Cyric somewhat shares this role in Waterdeep as he orchestrates the death of several of his companions in an attempt to gain Godhood himself, and firmly cements himself in this role for the fourth and fifth sequel novels.
  • Church Militant: Some of these crop up naturally as a result of having actual deities hanging around the Realms, most notably Zhenthil Keep after Bane whips them into a frenzy.
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  • Corrupt Church: Ironically, this could be argued of Torm's Tantras branch in the book of the same name. While they are ultimately doing it for what they believe is the greater good, they are using very shady methods to achieve such. And Torm is the God of duty, loyalty, righteousness!
  • Divine Conflict: Especially in the sequel novels, books four and five, where the Gods are back in their own respective heavens but working against one another for various reasons.
  • Divine Ranks: Averted in the original trilogy, where the Gods are all Avatars and thus equally helplessly mortal, but comes up in the sequel novels, which feature at least a few deities quite willing to pull rank on each other, particularly around demi-gods and lesser ranked deities.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Several are introduced during the fourth and fifth books, including the Night Serpent, a snake so huge it will one day swallow Toril, and gorges itself on nightmares, and Kezef the Chaos Hound, whom can hunt and kill Gods and took at least a dozen or so greater deities to restrain last time he was free.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Once "Midnight" ascends to godhood she takes the public name of "Mystra", the same as her predecessor, in order to keep the new church stable. But Midnight wasn't even her real name, and few besides Cyric and Kelemvor know her birth name was Ariel Manx (she gave it to Kelemvor to pay for his services, and Cyric overheard).
  • God's Hands Are Tied: Gods cannot act against their portfolio at all (Oghma in the Avatars cycle stood on a razor-edge when he hid a location of the pile of misinformation, and the rules limit them even in withholding their boons. Likewise the new Mystra must allow everyone equal access to the "weave" of magic, including those she has personal distaste for. When the Gods step out of line, there are consequences for them.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Post Time of Troubles, the powers of deities are partially dependent on the number of followers they have. Naturally, they all had to work extra hard just to keep them.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: In the fourth book, Cyric created a book that converted any who read it into a faithful worshipper of his, regardless of their mental strength or hatred for him. It was so powerful that the Cyrinishad even converted the minds of Gods to worship Cyric. When he read it himself, however, his own self-loathing and lies drove him completely mad. It took quite a while for him to find his way back to sanity.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Helm, after killing Mystra. It cost him a lot of worshippers and saw him relegated to a mid-level deity. Prior to the Time of Troubles, he was a greater god.
  • Honor Before Reason: Taken to a divine level in "The Trial of Cyric the Mad". Cyric is put on trial and threatened with destruction because his insanity makes him a threat to the stability of the pantheon. He makes no secret of the fact that he intends to have the Cyrinishad read into evidence. The Cyrinishad is a book of epic propaganda telling the highly-sanitized story of Cyric's mortal life, enchanted by Cyric himself to brainwash anyone who hears its words from start to finish one of his worshippers, even gods. The pantheon's greater gods serve as Cyric's jury and would have no choice but to hear the Cyrinishad if he introduces it, and so pull out all the stops to keep the book hidden from his worshippers. They fail. Thus, when Cyric's most worthy follower shows up at the trial with the book, all Heaven and Hell break loose, with half the gods ready to destroy the mortal and each other before being bound to Cyric's will. Tyr, God of Justice and the trial's judge, forbids them to interfere. To his reasoning, Cyric faces death and has the right to present any evidence he may to prove his innocence; to him, a pantheon of brainwashed deities bound in service to a Mad God is a small price to pay to avoid violating the sanctity of his trial.
  • Judgement of the Dead: When he ascends to Godhood, Kelemvor, the God of the Dead, judges the Faithless based on how righteous they are and assigns them to live various locations in the City of the Dead in accordance with their deeds. It backfires spectacularly. Cyric, Mykryl, and Jergal had similar jobs when they were God of the Dead, though their judgements tended to be a lot more terrible for the False and Faithless.

  • MacGuffin: The Tablets of Fate, upon which are inscribed the names of every God and their portfolios. The theft of them prompted Ao to banish the Gods to the realms in Avatars and started the Time of Troubles. Everyone and their dog aware of them is trying to obtain them, either to seize power or return them to Ao and end the madness. Fitting for a pair of Mac Guffins, Ao later reveals while their return was instrumental in his judgement, they themselves are largely worthless.

  • Secret Test of Character: One could argue the original trilogy was this, Ao testing his deities to see if they were up to snuff regarding their care for the mortals in their keeping. Needless to say, most failed (some worse than others).
    • Also applies to Torm, who while an Avatar posed as a low-level cleric to speak with Adon and learn more about what motivated him. Unusual for him, but then again he never actually lied.
  • Taking You with Me: Killing an Avatar results in a massive explosion. Fully aware of this, Bane took Torm with him when he threatened Tantras, and Bhaal would have taken his own murderer with him if they hadn't been whisked away with mere seconds to spare.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Prior to his apotheosis, the mercenary Kelemvor Lyonsbane would transform into a dangerous werepanther due to a family curse if he did something out of kindness.
  • Weird Weather: With a God or Goddess to direct it, nature is running wild. Rain flowing up is the least strangest thing you could see during the Time of Troubles.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: A god who kills another god can acquire that god's portfolio. Even before the Time of Troubles this transpired on several occasions, but during the original Trilogy, Cyric destroyed Bhaal by himself, and Midnight aided in the destruction of Myrkyl. Both were promptly elevated to deities following the conflict, albeit with different portfolios. Later, Cyric kills another God to gain power over illusion as well.

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