This Used to be About Dungeons is a comfy slice-of-life adventuring story that occasionally features dungeons. Updates Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Mostly it's about walking in the woods with a friend, looking for mushrooms to put in your soup, or haggling with the guy selling squash, or taking care of a neglected garden. It's putting some jam on shortbread biscuits. And yes, sometimes you go down into the dungeons with your friends, and you kill monsters there, or disarm traps, but when you come out, you realize you've found the perfect magic item to give to one of the local kids that helped you out when your cat was sick. Look, the dungeons are always going to be there, and sometimes you need to make a journey to one of the Spirit Gates, or make a pilgrimage with the local Cleric of Symmetry to a holy shrine. Your tour through the local dungeons can wait. You'll have rivalries with other groups, and find some dungeon eggs that need to be carefully incubated in case they turn out to be something valuable, and help a friend to build a fishing weir. There's a big world out there, a mostly tame place with lots of magic, and even more to do and see. Join me, won't you?
The cover image is Morning Sunlight Effect, Eragny, by Camille Pissarro.
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This is very good and I want more. The writing is 5/5, it's not overly tropey, the characters are fun and vibrant, and I enjoy the MC's perspective even if he's a bit strange. The dungeon delving is cool. Also the world sounds interesting so far, and is believable. Also author thanks for the long chapters, I appreciate them.
I wouldn't call this slice of life though, not even close. (Which is good, since I find slice of life boring. I like action, mystery, adventure, plot and intrigue). Sure, the pace isn't fast, but it doesn't have to be.
When I was a kid my family had a very old sofa that was the comfiest thing in the world, which I miss dearly. This Used to be About Dungeons is about as comfy as that, I think.
If you've read any of Wales' work before, you know the drill—likable characters, good prose, and a real sense of magic. Wales makes worldbuilding look easy, whether it's evocative concepts dashed off as set-dressing, or the fundamental rules of the setting driving the characters' goals. I think the choice to eschew blatant LitRPG mechanics, instead placing those elements in the background, is indicative of Wales' justified confidence in his cast's motivations to drive the plot. It doesn't use gimmicks as a crutch; the closest thing it has is the "party" system, and it's unclear how prominent that element will wind up being.
Beyond that, there's a lot of promise in these opening chapters—it's plain that thought's gone into character backstories and I'm very interested to see that continuing to unfold on the page. There's realism in the writing, as typical of Wales, but no cynicism, and the result is something that I find myself looking forward to checking in on regularly. I'll try my best to keep this review updated as the story progresses.
There are three chapters out at present (though there's enough of a prewritten backlog to ensure regular updates for a while), which isn't a lot to pass judgment on. But Wales' previous works speak for themselves, and TUTBAD continues a tradition of compelling worldbuilding and characters. It's intended as a palate cleanser, with no meta-analysis looming over the plot and stakes that fall short of the fate of the world. Adventure without angst. And at that purpose, it succeeds.
TUTBAD's wholesome in the way catching up with a friend from your childhood over a hearty breakfast is, or hot soup on a winter day, or haring off into the woods over the weekend to get away from it all. It's already got good culinary scenes, and once the story develops further it'll hopefully have camaraderie as well. If that differs from RoyalRoad's usual fare, well, variety's said to be the spice of life. Try a bit; it might just be to your taste.
So, ok. A bunch of pure 5 star reviews, from fans of the author's previous work. And a much lower review, from someone who thinks this isn't Slice of Life enough, apparently.
So, good stuff first. The grammar is good, I didn't go back looking for errors but don't remember any. And there aren't the weird turn of phrases you sometimes get with non-native English speakers.
I really like the worldbuilding. No need to go into detail, but if I ever want to run a tabletop rpg with some gamefied elements, I'm stealing some stuff.
Characters are well drawn out. But, I don't really sympathize with any of them. They've all got quirks, and probably all have secrets. And, ok, risking your life in a dungeon isn't for everyone.
Writing this, maybe the problem is that there aren't any surprises? The tank was able to bring a party together, some people easier than others. But they got through a dungeon, are now selling the loot, and I'll be shocked if they don't all do a second one.
The only thing I can think of that might make this more Slice of Life- there hasn't been much time passed. Not sure.
Anyway, good luck.
I'm not much of a fan of slice of life stories, but I think AW could write a story about someone renewing their driver's license and I would find it compelling.
The characters are flawed enough to feel real and have mild interpersonal conflicts, but not so much that they're hard to like.
Each character has a good, distinct voice that gives insight into their character, both in their narration and their dialogue, but doesn't hit you over the head with it.
The world building is interesting, though largely in the background.
The plot is fine. Slow-moving, but that is, to all appearances, by design.
For me, personally, this story could probably never reach the heights of, for example, Worth the Candle, simply by virtue of what it is, but for what it is it's exemplary.
I've seen a couple reviews complaining about the party dynamics being annoying, which I don't really get. There is some conflict there, sure, but isn't that necessary for a compelling story? Especially for slice of life stories, where you would expect the main conflict(s) to be interpersonal. I guess don't read this if what you're looking for in your slice of life story is people sitting around getting along with absolutely no issues?
So this is what I want to read. Please write more! It's just starting and I am very happy with what it appears to be so far. Upturned expectiations, dungeon crawling, and all the slice of life that the Wandering Inn would scratch the itch for without having to read through 8 million words to get current.
Story starts off well, putting the party together, good world building. You can tell that that author just finished a 1.8 million word story with a strong ending as there is none of the fumbling that often shows up at the beginning of most stories on here.
Style is clean with the wry humor that was present in Worth the Candle without the metacomplexity.
Character's are a strength of this piece. There's five main characters right now and they all have a distinct voice and personality in the first three chapters which feels like an accomplishment in it's own right.
For the grammar, the author can write, and seems to have had this all edited before posting it or at least is good enough at self-editing that he did not need to do so.
Give it a read. Let's see how it develops.
We'll start with the great, which is almost everything. Grammar is impeccable and the style is compelling, with multiple povs telling the story in a fascinating spiral of events. Povs don't exactly overlap, but there is a lot of reflection on prior events so that each character gets to share how they feel about certain events and other characters in an entirely natural and organic way.
The single best aspect of this story is the characters. They are exceptional. They are exceptional because I don't particularly like most of them but am delighted to see how they view the world.
Each and every main character is nuanced and fleshed out, with positive and negative personality aspects, which make them some of the most real characters I've read in fantasy, let alone on RR. Each is distinct, with unique let overlapping cultural, ethnic, religious, and personal aspects.
The weakest part of the story is the story, but even then it is still at the low end of great rather than anything bad. The story combines slice-of-life with a linear, time-sensitive plot which allows for the story to flow but is mainly focused on character development and interaction. This is not a bad thing, especially when the characters are so well written, but it should be clear that the title is perhaps a little too subtle, it might be more straightforward if it were titled "This Is Not About Dungeons".
Ultimately, this story is compelling for its exceptional characters, professional grammar and style, and a slow-burning but clearly progressing plot, topped by unique and subtle world-building.
I'm enjoying everything about this book, from the world building, to the characters, to the food! I love how the magic items work, and I can't wait to read more of it as time goes on. There are a number of compelling plot points that I CAN'T wait to see the end of!
5/5 stars you should absolutely check this book out.
Gotta say, it is really weird that that last two reviews are "not enough slice of life" and "too much slice of life"
I will agree that this isn't what I would have expected from a "slice of life" novel, but eh. It is mostly about what happens in between the dungeon instances and is almost always focused on the dungeon. Case and point, there is a gap between when the party is formed and when the -party gets access to the party chat feature. The author time skips like 4-5 days. Slice of life would focus so much on those 5 days. Oddly, most of the characters are living together at this point, but then show no development in their relationships. Very odd really.
All in all, I really enjoy it, but it isn't really a slice of life story at this point. Just a slow burn and character driven dungeon crawler.
This story is shaping up to be very comfy and cozy. I like that. I'm definitely feeling like this is a chill out, sip some metaphorical hot chocolate kind of story, and I don't have enough of those.
Also, the three raccoons is the best analogue ever. I want them to have a trenchcoat.