Mark of the Fool: A Progression Fantasy

Mark of the Fool: A Progression Fantasy

by UnstoppableJuggernaut

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

After his parents died, Alex Roth had a plan: become a wizard. Through hard work, he was accepted into the world’s greatest university of wizardry—but fate had another plan.

On his eighteenth, he is marked as one of his kingdom’s five Heroes, chosen to fight the land’s great enemy. But his brand is 'The Fool', worst of the marks.

Rather than die or serve the other Heroes like Fools in the past, he packs up his little sister, his childhood friend and her cerberus, then flees for the university in hope of refuge, magic and to unravel the truth about his land’s evil.

There’s one small problem: The Mark tries to ruin magic while enhancing skills outside of divinity, combat and spellcraft.…

…that is, unless he can learn to exploit the hell out of it.

*****

This the first time I am writing a web novel type story, and I hope you like it. I like progression stories and I've always wanted to try and write one like a few of the web novels that inspired me.

Updates Tues-Wed-Thur-Fri-Sat.

There are currently 10 advanced chapters on my patreon as a thank you to patrons.

Chapters will be roughly 2000-2500 words.

[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]

***

Rating: This story is kind of like a PG-13 movie. There'll be gore and some swearing but not much beyond that. If that changes, I'll warn you. 

Tone: Tone will be a mix of some action-adventure with excitement, comedy, slice of life elements and mystery. I won't be going too dark with this story. There will be mentions of war, some death, grief and violence.

MC: MC is analytical/rational with emotions. He is mostly in control of those emotions. MC will progress in power, eventually becoming very strong. When that happens, I'll add the Strong Lead tag.

Fights: Fights will be detailed.

***

Stuff this story won't have:

- Extreme grimdark content

- Murderhobo plots

- Edgy, anti-hero MC 

- Pacifist MC

- Harems

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Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
Chapter 1: Fools and Inheritance ago
Chapter 2: Uldar's Legacy ago
Chapter 3: The Mark's Mocking Grin ago
Chapter 4: Departure and Dogs ago
Chapter 5: The Coins and the Priests ago
Chapter 6: Coin Tricks and Fire Light ago
Chapter 7: Good Dreams and Bad Luck ago
Chapter 8: The Chosen ago
Chapter 9: Telling the Truth ago
Chapter 10: Red Eyes in the Dark ago
Chapter 11: The Goddesses' Wrath ago
Chapter 12: The Traveller's Magic ago
Chapter 13: Walls and Keys ago
Chapter 14: The Sanctum of Doors ago
Chapter 15: The Hive-Queen ago
Chapter 16: The Core ago
Chapter 17: Out into the Light ago
Chapter 18: Using What You Have (Interlude) ago
Chapter 19: The Red Siren ago
Chapter 20: Cookies and Dances ago
Chapter 21: The Spear-and-Oar Dance ago
Chapter 22: Tests by Moonlight ago
Chapter 23: The Nightwatch ago
Chapter 24: Other Dangers ago
Chapter 25: The City at the Center of Creation ago
Chapter 26: Wonders in the Sky ago
Chapter 27: Negotiations in the Hall of Magic ago
Chapter 28: Welcome Home ago
Chapter 29: Selecting One's Path ago
Chapter 30: The Means of Survival ago
Chapter 31: The Chancellor ago
Chapter 32: Responsibility and Paths Forward ago
Chapter 33: The Beastarium ago
Chapter 34: A Clash of Beasts ago
Chapter 35: The Beginning Fruits of Failure ago
Schedule going forward (Today's chapter right after this) ago
Chapter 36: Dummies and Forceballs ago
Chapter 37: The Spell-Joust and the Second Spell ago
Chapter 38: An Endless Forest (Interlude) ago
Chapter 39: The Beginning of Baelin's Test ago
Chapter 40: The Plain of Dust ago
Chapter 41: Predators ago
Chapter 42: Ambushing the Ambushers ago
Chapter 43: The Escarpment ago
Chapter 44: The Bonedrinker ago
Chapter 45: Lessons and Gods ago
Chapter 46: A Pie Party ago
Chapter 47: The Path of Potions ago
Chapter 48: The Art of Asking Questions ago
Chapter 49: The First Classes ago
Chapter 50: Familiar Encounters ago
Chapter 51: Help Wanted ago
Chapter 52: Manipulating Mana and Mind ago
Chapter 53: The World Opening to the Senses ago
Chapter 54: Safety in The Cells ago
Chapter 55: Reflecting on Different Paths ago
Chapter 56: Naming and Sculpting Futures ago
57: Terrain and Entourages ago
Chapter 58: Planning Around the Mana Vents ago
Quick Announcement: Patreon Chapters Increased for Higher Tiers ago
Chapter 59: Group Dynamics ago
Chapter 60: Wrangling the Herd ago
Chapter 61: Trust ago
Chapter 62: Glyphs and Quicksilver ago
Chapter 63: Unsafety in the Cells ago
Chapter 64: Benefits of the Talented ago
Chapter 65: Armwrestling Wizard's Hand ago
Chapter 66: The Summoning ago
Chapter 67: Beyond the Material World ago
Chapter 68: The Devil that You Know... ago
Chapter 69: Expanding Perspectives ago
Chapter 70: Different Paths in Life ago
Chapter 71: Gains in Mass and Mana ago
Chapter 72: For and Against Pride ago
Chapter 73: A 'Handy' Breakthrough ago
Chapter 74: Ghosts of the Past I (Interlude) ago
Chapter 75: Ghosts of the Past II (Interlude) ago
Chapter 76: The Path Alone ago
Chapter 77: Fire and Coils ago
Chapter 78: Many Hands Make Light Work ago
Announcement: Final Patreon Tier and Top Web Fiction ago
Chapter 79: An Elemental Battle ago
Chapter 80: Pack Tactics ago
Chapter 81: Fire and Midterms ago
Chapter 82: Challenge ago
Chapter 83: A Mana Monster ago
Chapter 84: Growing Bonds ago
Chapter 85: Chancellors, Ships and Priests ago
Chapter 86: Pirate Tales and Dances ago
Chapter 87: A Fine Evening and Anxious Morning ago
Chapter 88: The Interview ago
Chapter 89: Honours ago
Chapter 90: Isolde's Pressure ago
Chapter 91: The Rally ago
Chapter 92: The Demons ago
Chapter 93: The Chancellor's Power ago
Chapter 94: The Weight of Secrets ago
Chapter 95: The First Meeting of the Cabal ago
Chapter 96: Taking a Chance ago
Chapter 97: Ram's Forceful Guidance ago
Chapter 98: The Cleansing Movements ago
Chapter 99: Family Time ago
Special Announcement: Discord Server! ago
Chapter 100: The Masks that are Worn ago
Chapter 101: Nostalgic Recipes and Warnings ago
Chapter 102: The Festival of Ghosts ago

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Nameless32
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You'd Be a Fool Not to Try This

Reviewed at: Chapter 16: The Core

Update as of 4/15/2021: Hopefully as of chapter 16 some of the mentioned "future events" have been sufficiently awesome/intruiging. If you're having thoughts about the MC doing (spoiler for chapter 3)

magic despite previous Fools being unable to

I highly encourage you to read up to 16 before judging too much :D

(Previous review below)

I swear, Mark of the Fool is going to hit trending HARD in the coming weeks. This story is just about everything you want from a good RR story without the drawbacks that normally come from this format. There's great plot, amazing writing, complex characters, and brilliant fights - all wrapped up in one awesome package. Before I get into that, though, here's some things to note.

I'm a fan of the author's previous works, and had the good fortune of being able to read this story before it got posted here. Thus, I have more to work with than the 60 pages currently up, and might reference vague "future events". The author also has a history of completing whatever he starts, which might be reassuring for those cautious of drops.

Now that I've gotten those disclaimers out of the way, let's get right into things!

Like some reviews before this have said, the prose here is good. Like, really good. Some of the best on the site level good. If I could give this section a 6/5, I would. Normally, RR's writing tends to be fairly minimalistic, and a lot of stories with fancy flourishes end up having the prose detract from the actual story. Not this one, though. All of UnstoppableJuggernaut's writing enhances the story, making the story and characters come alive in your mind in a way I rarely see on RR. It's never too much, never too purple. Just the right amount to make your reading experience 5x better. I swear, if for nothing else, read this story for the actual writing.

Of course, that isn't to say that there's nothing else about this story that's worthwhile. Even if you don't care at all for prose, the story and characters more than carry the book on their own. You could say that the plot of Mark of the Fool is a twice-subversion of traditional fantasy plot. He doesn't get the Chosen One Amazing Hero Mark, and he doesn't go out to fight the dark lord. Instead, the MC carves his own path and tries to evade getting dragged into the grand quest as much as he can. Basically, the MC actually gets to drive the plot forwards by himself, and it only gets better in the future.

He's also much more realistic than some protagonists can be. He's rational and clever, but he still has emotions. For a spoiler example (chapter 3):

We can take the scene where he gets the Mark. At first, he reacts negatively, because he doesn't want any Mark, and especially not the Mark of the Fool. However, after he gets some time to process the situation, he immediately starts testing the Mark's capabilities in order to see what he can do with it, and if he's able to exploit it at all.

His catchphrase is even "Think. Adapt," which should tell you everything you need to know about his character.

It's not just the MC who gets to be "an actual character", though. All the side characters are interesting, which is something I see in very few fics on RR. Even the kinda-sorta-antagonist-figure is semi-likeable, when it could have been easy to make them human trash. The banter between the MC and his companions is heart-warming and genuinely funny sometimes, and it offers some nice contrast to the tension of the rest of the story.

Just a warning: There is a romantic subplot, though it's minor and handled wayyyy better than your typical romance is. I personally enjoyed it, and you can rest assured the characters aren't going to do stupid things because they were "blinded by love" or anything.

There is a very slight nitpick I have to give, and it's honestly almost unfair of me to give Mark of the Fool's story score a 4.5 because of this when it's really more like a 4.9. That very slight nitpick is that the beginning takes just a tad longer to get to the meat of things than RR may prefer. This may come down to, as another review said, the "Trad Quality" of the story, because in a bookstore I probably wouldn't blink at an intro twice this length. It's also chock-full of still-interesting moments that I wouldn't mind reading it even at twice the length. I'm just nitpicking because the most likely reason a reader is to pick up this book might take a bit longer than expected to appear.

Anyways, I've rambled on for long enough, so let's wrap things up. Overall, I couldn't praise this story enough. It's all the best qualities of progression mixed with the masterful prose and characters of a professional. No stat screens in this one, but it doesn't need them to be interesting. Like I said, this will hit trending like a truck, so why not get in now while it's still young? I promise, it only gets better in the future.

Deathless
Overall

Mark of the fool builds more on its character in a single chapter than most royalroad novels do in a book. Its manner of revealing exposition feels natural and flows, slowing clueing us in to details about the world and opening more and more mysteries for us to wonder about.

The authors prose is pretty much masterful, indistinguishable from the kind of work you would find in the recommended section of a book store.

I am excited to learn more about this worlds magic system and the worlds history of the fool.

KoboldPatrol
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Great story, writing style is slow but excellent

Reviewed at: Chapter 41: Predators

(as of chapter 39) 

I've watched this story soar to the heights of RoyalRoad within days during the Writathon and now I finally had time to read it. 'Mark of the Fool' is a worthy addition to the top percent of stories here and I enjoy it immensely. It is not only a nice read with interesting subversions of some common tropes but an excellently written piece of literature as well. 

Plot teaser: Alex just wanted to go to wizard school and care for his little sister, but then Prophecy/Fate/whatever struck and branded him with the worst variant of "You Are The Chosen One" mark available, the one whose bearer is mostly useless, usually killed and sometimes even a traitor according to the old stories. Instead of Answering The Call, he nopes out of Dodge and tries to be a good wizard student while keeping his mouth shut about that whole "saving the worl– tiny backwater region" stuff. Well, not completely shut, because there is clearly something fishy going on. Do the old stories err? Or worse, do they LIE? Come in and find out!

Style: MotF is told in third-person internal style from Alex' point of view. That way we learn his thoughts, which are usually rather smart. The phrasing is very good with a great use of literary devices and smoothly flowing sentences that make the scenes flourish in the reader's mind. The world-building is done excellently, there are lots of smaller details fleshing out the lore, the mechanics and the (side) characters. At the same time, there is no needless bloat, UnstoppableJuggernaut really manages to walk that thin line of perfection IMO. 

Story: Young man gets special power, leaves home, goes to wizard school, meets people both friendly and unfriendly. While this may sound like every third story on this site, MotF is anything but. The rather strict rule of "no fighting" enforced by his special powers is throwing a full spanner set in the works while the "no magic" rule is setting those works on fire. Alex does not only have to navigate the usual obstacles of a "school story/arc", at the same time he has to overcome those additional difficulties. Aaaand it has to stay a secret, no biggie. Concerning the thin line between "not good enough" and "too perfect", it feels like Alex is succeeding a bit too easily in his "this should be impossible but it works" moments, finding successful workarounds very quickly. 

The pacing is a mix of normal and slow: Many things are happening, yet it does not feel rushed, but rather sedate because of the many world-building details. According to the comment section, this seems to annoy the "I want nothing but power-levelling"-crowd; I like it the way it is, with good lore. 

Oh yeah, there's the coming-of-age stuff as well; it is presented rather marginally as hints and short moments and feels natural, not as extensive as in other stories. It's enough to be noticed as a sub-plot and creates some interesting moments, but it is clearly a minor thing instead of distracting from the main storyline. 

Grammar: Excellent. I noticed some missing spaces next to text in italics (a known formatting problem when copy-pasting to this site) but barely any other errors. 

Characters: All are complex and feel natural. Alex is a smart young man, he plans ahead and thinks things through instead of rushing blindly ahead. His mantra of "think, adapt" is helping him tremendously in overcoming the stuff the author throws at him. At the same time, he has a full set of personality, from worries to delights, from strengths to (slight) weaknesses. While Alex has only few faults, he is not a Gary Stu, just a resourceful guy a bit ahead of the curve.

The central characters of his inner circle are done excellently as well. We don't know their inner thoughts but their behavior is smart and sensible, with full, natural-feeling personalities. If I had to point out any fault at all, they come across a bit too mature for their age; perhaps I am just too used to stupid kids to realize that some youths are more mature than most... On the other hand, that everybody is so sensible makes them feel a bit too interchangeable, there is no real conflict going on between them. I can't even say that this is bad, because the story is focusing on other conflicts, it's just something I noticed. 
There is a large amount of other side characters introduced as well; all of them, from the regulars to those met only once for a short scene, are behaving like a normal person would, with emotions and quirks and different personalities. 

tl;dr: Who should stay away from this story: Power-fantasy fans who evaluate progression by "amount of enemies killed" or "(level/stat/...) numbers going up"; people who prefer quick-paced, right-into-the-fray stories without any side-tracking; people who hate everything that is not fighting or looting; people who like one-dimensional OP MCs. 

Who should absolutely read this story: People who love characters with real personalities; people who love world-building; people who prefer brains to brawn; people who love to dive into a complex creation of excellent literature and still enjoy a nice read. 

Skepto
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

If you can look past the logical fallacies...

Reviewed at: Chapter 17: Out into the Light

The characters of the story feel very flat, with little depth to them. It feels as if I'm looking at actors reading from a script, rather than people who each have their own beliefs, morals, and values. Especially a lot of the humor feels very contrived, rather than arising spontaneously. I can't give an exact definition of why it feels this way, but it feels as if the world is rotating around the main character, rather than the main character being a part of the world.

The grammar of the story is impeccable, with no flaws that I noticed. The style of the story isn't something that is bad, but it doesn't greatly stand out either. There's nothing that I can point out that says "Only this author writes in this way."

The story and world building is actually interesting and engaging. The chosen hero concept has been done to death, but this is an interesting take on it, with the main character actively fleeing from said duty. My biggest complaint is that the story suffers heavily from Assumption Syndrome.

Assumption Syndrome is when a character makes a completely baseless assumption, that they couldn't possibly have guessed without prior knowledge, but they turn out to be right because of plot convience. A good example would be Sherlock Holmes. He walks into theoretical crime scene and sees a wine bottle, and immediately guesses the wine was poisoned by a threatened butler, whose family is held hostage by the local kingpen. There's no way anyone could have possibly guessed all that just from seeing a wine bottle, but he's "so smart", so it's waved off.

To list a couple of such instances in the story. 

The main character is attacked by a bug monster, and immediately assumes they must have been the soldier version of their species, and that there must also be a worker version of the species, because of course all bugs are basically ants right? How would a character in a mideval fantasy world even know about ant hive structures?

Another instance is when the main character accidently controls an evil dungeon core and immediately assumes there must be a shadow government organization that is keeping all this hidden. Because obviously the previous heros that went missing had tried the same insane act of interfacing with an evil dungeon core after defeating hordes of monsters, and had been killed off for their knowledge.

If you can look past the many logical fallacies that grace the book, it's a decent read. It's not a litRPG or harem, so it's already unique compared to 90% of the other power fantasies on this site. I don't have a problem with either of those genres, but you have to ask yourself, do we really need another one? Thankfully this novel answers that question with a resounding "No!"

Clavita
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Unique take at a "chosen one" trope

Reviewed at: Chapter 49: The First Classes

 I really like this story. You can see how much thought the author put into every little part of it. Every chapter ends with a light cliffhanger that makes it rather hard to stop reading. Additionally the worldbuilding is phenomenal. All  descriptions are very natural and don't stop the flow of the story.

Grammar is pretty close to perfect. At no point did it influence my reading experience in a negative way.

The one thing that I can critique is character building. Especially in early chapters the characters don't seem... real, I guess.

The worst offender is MC love interest (although no romance actually happened yet) Theresa who is just a little too perfect. She makes MC look like a bumbling fool just by existing. It does get better though and by now I actively enjoy MC and his sister, and tolerate Teresa in small doses. 

When the MC gets to his destination we also meet an assortment of new characters, every one of them unique and a delight to read about.

The style is actually quite good and I don't have anything negative to say about that but it lacks that spark of character (or individualism, or whatever you would call it) that would make it stand out.

TL;DR I would recommend this story for it's interesting concept and breath taking worldbuilding but it really starts to shine (character-wise) about ch30

ItsObviousWho
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Review just after finishing chapter 43

Reviewed at: Chapter 43: The Escarpment

Review just after finishing chapter 6

The first thing you can tell is that this author has been writing for a decent amount of time. The saying 'It's not the stories that make the author good, but the author who makes the stories good' holds very true in this case.

The style of writing is very good with a strong use of alliteration, similes, metaphors and personification to expand on the setting, the characters and how they are feeling at any given moment.

The heroes plot I'd say is common in the anime/manga world but has been done differently, and very well I might add, which pulls the reader in. I enjoy the ends of chapters the most, as the author has written the chapters with a soft cliffhanger each time, making the story a page turner. The grammar is very good with 1 or  2 grammatical errors up till this stage which are usually highlighted in the comments for correction.

The MC is very likable I'd say, ruthless enough to get revenge, jovial in situations, logical yet hard-working. Very well-rounded with no overpowered abilities out of nowhere. Everything the author has done fits.

There was one section in chapter 2 that could be reworded as it sounds confusing but, as a reader I got the gist and it didn't really impact the readability all that much for me.

Despite this, I'd recommend this story 100%. Some of the best-made chapters I've read on this site.

(My bad for any grammatical errors, did not proof read :) ) 

Short Update - Review just after finishing chapter 19

I've found myself disliking the story and characters more and more as the story has gone on. I think the premise is still very good and I'll continue to read to see where it ends up, but there are parts where I was like "this is so boring and irrelevant can we just move on".

Hopefully it picks up.

Update - Review just after finishing chapter 43

Okay, so it picked up. :)

More of the story is now solely about things occurring around the MC, with enough mention of the side-characters to let you know they still exist and are doing things of their own.

I still have issues with some of the character traits and pacing of the story. However, it has vastly improved from Chapter 19 up till now. I'd say this is due to the fact the author was doing a writathon, and may have had to speed up writing in some areas.

It is still very good but, certain areas of the story could be revisted before publishing.

Overall, I like where the story is going and I feel like pacing is going to be key to how this 1st book/iteration of story is depicted; as well as the satisfiability of this arc's ending for readers.

 

Henry Furlow
Overall

The main idea of the five marks is intriguing. It is similar to other ideas of 'chosen ones', especially in isekai type stories, but the actual story and plot is much different from those. It mixes the 'chosen ones' idea with a type of plot where it is not normally used.

While there is not enough posted to flesh out the systems(magic/mark/etc.) used in the story it does seem like the basis for a somewhat unique blend of genres.

Miss Corbyn
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

The fool refuse the Call:100th chapter anniversary

Reviewed at: Chapter 100: The Masks that are Worn

So, like many others novels and popular manga, our MC became the least popular hero out of a four heroes party that got branded every century or so.

However this is not a copy and past of the Rise of the Shield Hero.

Instead of getting angry at his misfortune, accepting his fate like a good boy or to go his own way to prove anyone else wrong, our MC simply decide not to answer the call and to go to a wizardry academy to fullfill his lifelong dream.

Giving himself the time to grow, he is slowly becoming overpowered, with the casual pace of a slice of life family-friendly story. This is totally something I would read to a seven years old kid as a bedtime story and yet, enjoy myself as an adult.

The characters have some depth build up over those 100 chapters so far, and while I was worried at first for the MC was the typical analitycal/rational MC at the start, he grew into something more than that and I'm rooting more for the MC now that I was at the start of this novel.

However, the main selling point of this novel isn't its original plot or its glowing characters but the style. Even if you never liked slice of life and slow-paced story, you might fall in love with this one for there is always something relevant and fun happening.

I don't know how much the author have thought about but each chapter is bringing something new to the table. So even if it's slow-paced, I think it would deserve to be called lore-rich. Whenever this story would reach its end and given its popularity, I think someone would have trouble making a comprehensive wiki about the novel world.

It has the potential to be as story-rich as Pathfinder and so far, we only had been visiting three cities with a main focus on Generasi, the Mage City, where must of the action is taking place. I could say that the lore might explode once the MC graduate from the sheer amount of details the authors is giving to us readers.

And the best part is that it doesn't feel like an overload of details either, just a springle of details from each chapter which is slowly growing into a thriving fantasy universe I would enjoy make my own D&D campaign.

As for the Grammar... sure there is some mistakes here and there but the author is really community driven so those mistakes are not lasting long. Plus, I'm not a native english speaker and I'm not a grammar facist so I don't have a single thing to say about Grammar. It sound good enough for me.

This is my celebration review for the 100th chapter anniversary. And so far, I have been pleasantly surprised that the author consistently kept the pace of about five chapters a week. This is really hard a feat to pull off so that much should be worth a little extra on the overall score.

I strongly recommend this novel. Enjoy.

And hopefully, see you on this novel next anniversary!

Errant-Knight
Overall

It's only 4 chapters in but the story already has me hooked. Great pacing and the characters have a lot of depth. The plot is intriguing and I'm very interested in finding out the quirks of our Mcs 'gift' and if he is the only Fool to have figured it out so far or if there is a reason the others have not. 

If the quality of the story stays this good, it will likely become one of my all-time favorites and this site. Highly reccomend giving it a shot.

Milo Goodell
Overall

The basic technical skills of the author are quite sound, which is why it's so baffling that everything else is so lackluster. 

It starts with a complete absence of character building -- we have no idea who Alex or his sister or his love interest are before they're jammed down our throat doing grand adventures. 

The exploitation of the Mark of the Fool is about as clever as kindergartener, and about as believable as one of them throwing magic spells around -- we're supposed to believe that no one else thought of aiming near but not at enemies? Give me a break. 

I wanted to like it. I hated it.