Original ONGOING Fantasy Short Story Dungeon Grimdark High Fantasy LitRPG Magic Mythos Non-Human lead Strategy Strong Lead Virtual Reality
Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Traumatising content

Charlie had never felt comfortable in their own skin. Enduring the taunts and teasing that echoed from their youth had become all too commonplace. Most adults don't think twice about staring at someone who looks different. They may not speak the insults, but they are felt just the same. 

This book is a prequel to Adventurer, it is independent and stand alone, but it does contain spoilers that will give away world elements of that work.

Spoiler: Spoiler

Nextlife offered the ultimate solution to Charlie's problems. Not only were they able to participate in the development of whole new worlds, they could find the perfect one. A world where Charlie could become the ultimate expression of their desires, dreams, and aspirations. After all, a dungeon isn't confined by the constraints of human interpretation. 

Join Charlie as they dive headfirst into the world of Elysium!

[Participant in the Royal Road writathon challenge]

Authors Note: I understand that gender discussions are not for everyone. If gender fluid concerns are an issue for you please consider not reading this story as it may upset you. If you can withhold your judgement, it is not a heavy topic of the narrative, but it is the MC's motivation to become what they become. I hope that this note helps folks.

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Definitely a twist (at least fer me)

Reviewed at: Chapter 9: Benign Poison

This the 2nd story I've read by tabletop and so far AM NOT dissapointed. Charlie is a character in themselves that Wants to be a Dungeon Core. The grammar and style are spot on. Will revise my review as the story developes.


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Step into the Influence of the Lair…

Reviewed at: Tables & Charts

I absolutely love lit RPGs.

I think it has something to do with my introduction to .Hack as a young pup. The genre has great potential for lore building with the willing suspension of disbelief being a much lighter burden to hold up. The Lurking Lair fits firmly within the “dungeon core” subgenre of lit RPGs; featuring a character who directs or acts as a dungeon within a game system as the name implies.

While many dungeon core works have issues with the portrayal of overpowered protagonists, if pulled off well, they can serve as brilliant exploration pieces. Arcs where the powers that be have to react to what is often an outside context problem holds personal appeal. Look to Overlord for an example of such a concept drafted out to be highly successful. The genre is in a unique position to display a well developed world undergoing rapid change.

With the Lurking Lair, we most certainly see the foundations of such. The story is played out within Elysium, the setting of Adventurer, a tabletop rpg of the author’s own creation that appears to be heavily inspired by traditional DnD. 


The main character, Charlie, is a person that suffers from severe identity dysphoria. They use their job working for a game developer with access to brain upload tech as an escape. A concept that drew both interest and a little bit of sympathy. For someone to be dissatisfied with themselves that they would choose biological death (I think) and the uncertainty of new technology to bring about change. While they are reluctant to talk about it with their only companion (as of reading) after becoming the eponymous Lurking Lair we are treated to bits and pieces through the narrative and a short flashback of this issue’s effect on their psyche.


I don’t want to say that The Lair’s human life wasn’t portrayed in a decent manner, but the way that they come off as a character seems to edge on the wrong side of flimsy, and this isn’t just with the dysphoria bit. The issue lies in the amount of content we actually get in the narrative. 


A lot of the focus is on The Lair’s progression rather than character development. It’s like watching someone play a game while you’re trying to have a conversation with them. You get bits and pieces, but a large chunk of what we see involves interaction with the game system itself and non-sapient npcs. One of the scenes that worked to forge a connection between the reader and The Lair features a conversation with one of Adventurer’s gods, Charlie’s excitement to become something inhuman and Charon’s reaction felt genuine. The story can use many more moments like that.

It is however, still early on in the story at a point where The Lair is some ways away from civilization; it’s a bit too early to accuse it of being dragged down by its game elements yet. There are, however, a few issues with the text itself that get in the way without a doubt.

The primary issue lies in the lack of evocative prose. That is, text that hits the reader in the senses (and not just the physical). I found it difficult to feel what Charlie/The Lair felt. Take the following snip, for example:

Spoiler: Spoiler


This isn’t as strong as it can be. Saying that the language is too much tell and not enough show only addresses part of the problem, but it would be the easiest way to point a sign down the right track.

The feeling that the text is trying to present is clear, but it’s muted. What do pain, doubt, and resentment feel like for Charlie here? Is it a hot, stabbing sensation? A pressure against their skull that threatens to burst every moment they think about this departed person?  It references a previous variable “someone lost, but not forgotten”, but the reader isn’t privy to who that is or what that person meant, thus the emotional impact is blunted connecting the emotional response with the physical restores some of the punch. I understand that as a dungeon core, The Lair is departed from human sensations, but there’s no excuse for segments focusing on Charlie as a human. Finding a way to convey strong emotion in a way that grabs the reader should be a priority as well. The attempts to do so are present with the shared mental space between The Lair and their familiar but it’s just not there yet. 

There also seems to be an issue with the economy of words, particularly in the dialogue department. I feel like the story would benefit from a trimming pass. Get the most said using the least amount of words. This will lighten the risk of reader exhaustion while allowing for longer paragraphs of introspection and exposition when they become necessary.

Other than that, there are some minor issues with grammar and sentence construction. Pay attention to the proper use of apostrophes and keep a watch on inappropriate shifts from third to first person writing (there are a few “I”s lurking about that need to be converted into thought form, or put into third person. Some actions or words are used too close to each other, it’s not a drastic issue, but certain readers will find it disruptive. The lack of contractions is an odd decision but doesn’t break the story for me. 

For all of the nitpicks I have with The Lurking Lair, I would say that it sits comfortably within the realm of average as far as quality goes among stories found on RRL, I’d be delighted to recommend it to fans of the dungeon core subgenre.

So roll yourself a character and dive inside the world of Elysium. Interesting developments are afoot.