This Used to be About Dungeons

This Used to be About Dungeons

by Alexander Wales

This Used to be About Dungeons is a comfy slice-of-life adventuring story that occasionally features dungeons. Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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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Author
Alexander Wales

Alexander Wales

Achievements
Top List #50
Royal Writathon October 2022 winner
Word Count (20)
30 Review Upvotes
3rd Anniversary
Royal Writathon October 2021 winner
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Table of Contents
165 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Chapter 1 - The Fig and Gristle ago
Chapter 2 - Big City Energy ago
Chapter 3 - Venison and Honey ago
Chapter 4 - Three Raccoons ago
Chapter 5 - This One is Actually About a Dungeon ago
Chapter 6 - Henlings ago
Chapter 7 - Songbird ago
Chapter 8 - Late Meals in a Quiet Kitchen ago
Chapter 9 - An Unwanted Civics Lesson ago
Chapter 10 - Second Breakfast ago
Chapter 11 - Agates Among the Stones ago
Chapter 12 - Overgrowth ago
Chapter 13 - The Nature of Travel ago
Chapter 14 - Cracked Tiles ago
Chapter 15 - Good Next Steps, I Suppose ago
Chapter 16 - Notions from Elsewhere ago
Chapter 17 - The Blacksmith's Apprentice ago
Chapter 18 - The Next Day's Weather ago
Chapter 19 - I Suppose You're Wondering Why I Gathered You Here ago
Chapter 20 - Temple Politics ago
Chapter 21 - Sitting in a Song ago
Chapter 22 - The Journey More Than the Destination ago
Chapter 23 - This One is Actually About Dungeons Too ago
Chapter 24 - 10% Dungeons by Volume ago
Chapter 25 - A Post-Dungeon Pickle ago
Chapter 26 - Liberfell ago
Chapter 27 - Too Much Talking ago
Chapter 28 - It Takes Two ago
Chapter 29 - Historical Revisionism ago
Chapter 30 - Noodles ago
Chapter 31 - Delicate Arrangements ago
Chapter 32 - A Tree From A Stone ago
Chapter 33 - Possibilities ago
Chapter 34 - Woods Witch ago
Chapter 35 - Alumni of the Junior League ago
Chapter 36 - E7 Report ago
Chapter 37 - Cartier ago
Chapter 38 - Jockey ago
Chapter 39 - Holy Numbers ago
Chapter 40 - Post Mortem ago
Chapter 41 - Meddling ago
Chapter 42 - Singing Slow ago
Chapter 43 - Temple Day ago
Chapter 44 - Care Package ago
Chapter 45 - Visitors ago
Chapter 46 - Both Sides ago
Chapter 47 - Down the Dungeon ago
Chapter 48 - Dungeon Denizens ago
Chapter 49 - Dungeon Drudgery ago
Chapter 50 - Escape! ago
Chapter 51 - Mother ago
Chapter 52 - Teamwork ago
Chapter 53 - Siege Songs ago
Chapter 54 - Hatching ago
Chapter 55 - Carving a Path to Dondrian ago
Chapter 56 - The Family Vault ago
Chapter 57 - Street Food ago
Chapter 58 - Mixed Up Meals ago
Chapter 59 - Dressing ago
Chapter 60 - Opera ago
Chapter 61 - Concessions ago
Chapter 62 - A Night on the Town ago
Chapter 63 - Curation ago
Chapter 64 - Outside Help ago
Chapter 65 - Lonesome ago
Chapter 66 - Private Affairs ago
Chapter 67 - Resolve ago
Chapter 68 - Undone I ago
Chapter 69 - Undone II ago
Chapter 70 - Undone III ago
Chapter 71 - Hair of the Dog ago
Chapter 72 - Frink Fruit ago
Chapter 73 - Corridor Squeeze ago
Chapter 74 - Off Tempo ago
Chapter 75 - Constrained ago
Chapter 76 - Misgivings ago
Chapter 77 - The Day Of ago
Chapter 78 - Law and Order ago
Chapter 79 - Sleepover ago
Chapter 80 - The Sunken House ago
Chapter 81 - Beruchald's 6th ago
Chapter 82 - As Easy as Falling Down ago
Chapter 83 - Oeyr's Hand ago
Chapter 84 - The Spare Lute ago
Chapter 85 - Seeker ago
Chapter 86 - The Unexpected Past ago
Chapter 87 - Composition ago
Chapter 88 - Stewing ago
Chapter 89 - Theater of Mind ago
Chapter 90 - Cloister ago
Chapter 91 - Liferaft ago
Chapter 92 - Frank Discussion ago
Chapter 93 - Catching Up ago
Chapter 94 - Bridges ago
Chapter 95 - Thinking Outside the Box ago
Chapter 96 - Square Meals ago
Chapter 97 - Flight of Fancy ago
Chapter 98 - Deals ago
Chapter 99 - Moving Mountains ago
Chapter 100 - Universal Truths ago
Chapter 101 - The All-Seeing Eye ago
Chapter 102 - A Bowl of Tea ago
Chapter 103 - The Waiting Game ago
Chapter 104 - The Pucklechurch Gardening Club ago
Chapter 105 - The Summer Dungeon ago
Chapter 106 - Strange Moods ago
Chapter 107 - Testing ago
Chapter 108 - The Warehouse ago
Chapter 109 - Dung ago
Chapter 110 - Slop ago
Chapter 111 - Swift Death ago
Chapter 112 - Stones and Tones ago
Chapter 113 - Weird Pot ago
Chapter 114 - Plating ago
Chapter 115 - Autem Mort ago
Chapter 116 - Wedding Bells pt. 1 ago
Chapter 117 - Wedding Bells pt. 2 ago
Chapter 118 - That Sort of Thing ago
Chapter 119 - The Brave Knight Gave ago
Chapter 120 - The New Normal, pt 1 ago
Chapter 121 - The New Normal, pt 2 ago
Chapter 122 - Brief Bars ago
Chapter 123 - The Sea and the Breeze ago
Chapter 124 - Bulrushes ago
Chapter 125 - Putting Up ago
Chapter 126 - Dungeon Dreams ago
Chapter 127 - Dungeon Dreams II ago
Chapter 128 - Dungeon Dreams III ago
Chapter 129 - Dungeon Dreams IV ago
Chapter 130 - Commiseration/Celebration Brunch ago
Chapter 131 - A Herd of Children ago
Chapter 132 - Lutes ago
Chapter 133 - The Last Days I ago
Chapter 134 - The Last Days II ago
Chapter 135 - The Last Days III ago
Chapter 136 - The Last Days IV ago
Chapter 137 - Demi ago
Chapter 138 - Overguard ago
Chapter 139 - The Wildlands ago
Chapter 140 - Foundation ago
Chapter 141 - Ecology ago
Chapter 142 - Spies ago
Chapter 143 - Songs of the Past ago
Chapter 144 - An Interlude on the Island at the Edge of the World ago
Chapter 145 - Allies ago
Chapter 146 - Meetings ago
Chapter 147 - Making Moves ago
Chapter 148 - Bellies ago
Chapter 149 - Diplomat ago
Chapter 150 - Wild ago
Chapter 151 - The Rayedhcraft School ago
Chapter 152 - First Steps ago
Chapter 153 - Setting Records ago
Chapter 154 - Roads Go Ever On ago
Chapter 155 - Wanderings ago
Chapter 156 - Searching ago
Chapter 157 - Cool Cave ago
Chapter 158 - Performance ago
Chapter 159 - Finding Joy ago
Chapter 160 - Dungeon Wide and Dungeon Vast ago
Chapter 161 - The Empty Dungeon ago
Chapter 162 - False Starts ago
Chapter 163 - The Sermon ago
Chapter 164 - Collegiate Daydreams, pt. 1 ago
Chapter 165 - Collegiate Daydreams, pt. 2 ago

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FoolRegnant
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Exceptional Characters and a Slow Burn

Reviewed at: Chapter 32 - A Tree From A Stone

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.

Ararara
Overall

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. 

Edit: still going strong. Elements of romance and mystery started appearing.

The Wadapan
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

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—very likable characters with genuine depth of personality, good prose, and a sense of magic that suffuses every aspect of the story. 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. The choice to eschew blatant LitRPG mechanics (those elements are present, but as subtle background flourishes) is indicative of Wales' justified confidence in his cast's motivations to drive the plot.

The story's slice-of-life chapters are enthralling, flitting between perspectives and inner conflicts with natural ease. The interspersed dungeon sequences draw fascinating inspiration from AI-generated art, creating a genuinely offbeat atmosphere, and play host to some great action setpieces). This is a consistently fun low-stakes story—in a way which feels genuinely unusual to see in the fantasy genre—but I guarantee one character interaction or other will ring achingly true to an experience of yours, and that'll be what sticks with you. There's realism in the writing, as typical of Wales, but no cynicism, and at a time when it feels like so much of current pop culture is focused on deconstruction, this is a real breath of fresh air.

Owlish
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Sure seems like Slice of Life to me.

Reviewed at: Chapter 12 - Overgrowth

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.

Glaurung
Overall

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. 

crazy cupcake wizard
Overall

Alright, I had this huge ramble on this, but I deleted it cause nobody wants to hear all that. 

The conversations repeat without the issues underlying them not having been resolved hundreds of pages after it's clear it needs to be addressed. This is realistic, but not fun to read. 

The group dynamics change, except they somehow also don't. it's as though some characters are allowed to grow and become better people, while others...aren't. Some characters get to have deep, personal stories that change later dynamics, while others pour out their heart only to have later interactions make them feel like strangers. At least in my opinion. 

World building=great. Characters=mostly great. Writing style=fantastic. 

Try it. If you feel like you see the problems I've presented, well, at least you got to read something unique. For that reason alone I'd suggest this to people. It's still better than many other stories, just that the lack of actual stories means that these character interactions need to be really good, and I'm not sure it is. For me, anyways.

Pastafarian
Overall

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.

SmaugBeiber
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

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.

 

kingcaloob
Overall

This is one of the best written stories on RR right now. 

Highlights include: 

- Excellent characterization: every character feels unique and has their own style of thinking, speaking, and approaching problems. Interactions between the characters are also distinct. Hannah and Isra have a clearly different relationship than Alfric and Hannah or Alfirc and Isra. Each character has their own motivations and are aware of the differences between them. The characters feel deep and well thought out. 

- Worldbuilding: Alexander Wales is again displaying his skills as a creator. The world is interesting and the author has clearly spent time considering the implications of magic, magic items, and dungeons in society. New terminology is introduced and the world is explained via characters in a way that doesnt seem like an exposition dump.

- Pacing: This is a slice of life story with brief dungeoneering expedition. There are at least as many chapters with discussions about how to move loot from the dungeon or how to split loot, or how to turn a profit as there are chapters set in the dungeon.

In summary, while I might prefer a little more dungeoneering, this is a thoughtful and sweet slice of life story.

Lachsi
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Much less grimm than WTC, but still with the depth and quality of both characters and world that Wales is known for.

The magic system is well rounded out and put a unique spin on many tropes. It focuses more on narrative and the details of it are not yet fully given, but especially the sorcery branch of magic with its rules of opposition is quite a refreshing take.

Wales continued use of entands and the addition of entacts is great. they and their origin in dungeons gives the whole world building a nice touch which explains people's need to go into dungeons and keep at it, despite the danger.

The pantheon of TUTBAD is quite unique with gods focused around abstract concepts, i have never seen done before. Instead of going the clichéd route of tropey elements/weather phenomenon or professions, these gods stand for symmetry, infinity or even sets. Great background stuff.

I also really like how the author can juxtapose rational world building with obvious tabletop/game like elements like the hexes and forms of fast travel, without breaking immersion.

Also the focus on whimsy and intercharacter interaction is great. The characters all have their very unique voices and traits, their interaction seems natural and never forced.

All in all a very delightful read, i would recommend to everyone who wants something more lighthearted after WTC.