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.
- Overall Score
- Style Score
- Story Score
- Grammar Score
- Character Score
- Total Views :
- Average Views :
- Followers :
- Favorites :
- Ratings :
- Pages :
Leave a review
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.
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.
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.
If you're already familiar with Alexander Wales's other story, this one is different out the gate. As dire and serious as Worth the Candle was, like a car careening downhill, This Used to be About Dungeons is more like stroll through a forest meadow. Going from 'chosen one needs to save the world' level of stakes to 'person trying to gather some friends to explore/adventure' is a large shift but it isn't made lesser for the focus.
The characters are dynamic and feel distinctly different, the setting strikes a good balance between fantasy but not overloading with exotic terminology. Explainations and worldbuilding never feel like a character turns to the reader to talk about something which anyone native would already know or never care to ask. The magic system is interesting, especially the quirk with Sorcerer using other existing magic rather than just naturally manifesting compared to the Wizard which studies (as the traditional D&D difference.) Add in a skeptical, but lyrically talented Bard, a taciturn Ranger, an eager country Cleric, and the stiff by-the-book big city Warrior and mix until shennanigans ensue.
My only complaint is that there are only a few hundred pages to read so far- I need more!
So, all in all, my thoughts on the story after a hundred chapters can be summed up as: it's a pretty decent slice of life, but the characters are simply TOO flawed. Which is funny, because most of the time characters fail because they're too perfect. Too clinical... Not realistic enough. But here the characters are simply too 'human' and flawed.
The author is either an English native speaker/writer or as good as one. There are likely mistakes, but they're small and rare enough to not be a bother.
My general impression is that the whole dungeoneering party is essentially Alfric running a daycare for problem children. Oh, and it's really for children, not the (quasi-)adults that the story presents them as age-wise. I'm not trying to offend anybody with these generalisations, even though I doubtlessly will, but you have:
Mizuki: the ADHD kid who isn't capable of thinking anything through or having an attention span longer than five minutes. Boys? She flits through them like a butterfly looking for nectar. Authority? Nah, following rules is for boring 'bricks', even when those rules are perfectly understandable and have an actual reason to be there. Look, somebody who berates you for jaywalking when there's literally no car in sight is a stick in the mud. Somebody who asks you not to fly high up in the air when there's been dragon sightings and disappearances is just being logical... She isn't just negative of course. She's capable of caring for people... when she wants to and is feeling lonely... or not if she doesn't... She's just pretty selfish about it. That would be a human characteristic. Hell, I'm like that. Adding another heaping of faults on top of that makes her a pretty annoying problem child though.
Isra: a literal child. She's eighteen, but let's be honest, her wood-hermit life has essentially rendered her a child. She's getting baby's first love, baby's first friends, baby's first family, baby's first everything. It's kind of funny that she was one of the more 'okay' and less frustrating characters before. She wanted to learn about her place in the world, find out what knowledge she's missed, make up for lost time. All fun things for the readers to go through with her together. Now she's found out what love is and is going full angsty first-love teen all over it. Every single reader knows it's probably going to be a drama-filled shitstorm and I honestly don't want to read yet another YA-novel first romance story... It just seems so typical and it's annoying that a character is being lessened through such a stupid 'plot'. Then again, I've read enough YA to be sick of this stuff, so maybe somebody who hasn't read that kind of literature yet wouldn't mind. I'm just getting the same old alarm bells of the same old tropes for the same old results...
Verity: Honestly one of the more normal characters. She's 'flawed' in the way that she's thirstier than a dried-out camel in the Gobi desert and an utter doormat that anybody can wipe their feet off on, but that's still okay. For the rest she seems rather normal. She can understand logic, she can follow some rules, she doesn't feel the need to test every single boundary or learn about them anew like she's twelve (or one of the previous characters). She still needs Mr. Overguard, his teacher-colleagues call him Alfric, to lead her around a bit because she has the initiative of a dead rat, but she doesn't seem irredeemable without another 200 chapters of growth like the rest. I feel like her growth will actually be interesting instead of filled with stupidity and annoyance.
Hannah: Even though I utterly dislike her character, she might be the most functional besides Alfric. Maybe she's like the class-president in the daycare/school metaphor. Or maybe a beginning teacher? She's really damned arrogant and has a way too high opinion about herself and her capabilities, but at least she has some... you know, capabilities. Her moralizing can get really repetitive and her whole 'Will I, won't I' love thing with Marsh is typical YA-drama, but she's capable of thinking things through, seeing things from other people's perspectives, being helpful, etc. In short, she's capable of being a functional human being.
Alfric: Mr. Overguard is the only reason the story is a story and also why it feels like a daycare. Without him to give some kind of direction, the rest of the cast would still be stuck doing whatever useless escapism they were doing before. He's prepared, understanding and knowledgeable. He's pretty damned good I'd say. That doesn't mean he doesn't have problems though. He's cautious, maybe too cautious sometimes, is understanding while having trouble truly understanding some of the emotional things his teammates go through and obviously there's the whole 'I don't want to use my family's copious resources to make things easier'. The thing is though, he ,once again, seems functional. He could do something on his own, go be himself and still be better off for it. Hannah could too in some way, but for Verity, Mizuki and Isra I don't see them amounting to anything but sad escapists if Alfric hadn't appeared. They'd likely still be stewing in their own issues.
Maybe the best way to put it is that we know Alfric had a difficult year after what Lola did to him. But he's already had that year. He seems to have bounced back somewhat by the beginning of the story, while the other characters haven't had that year yet. What we're seeing is kind of Alfric guiding the characters through his 'first year' that we readers didn't get to see. Seeing one 'template' for how that looks Interacting with such problem children does make it kind of frustrating though. Like, you get an example of an end result, or somebody who's well on their way, but then he needs to deal with brats that you'll likely have to wait actual IRL months or years on.
Repetitia est mater studiorum - Repetition is the mother of learning
That's essentially the style. If you read the author's other story, I have, you'll realize that they don't do 'short'. You get sprawling chapters with heaps of text, but sometimes you really just get needless filler. I think that's also some of the problem I have with the characters. Their flaws aren't just stated and shown once or twice. No. Every single chapter one or more of the characters' flaws and/or positive characteristics get highlighted. Always. I understand slice of life lives and dies with the characters, their thoughts and actions, but there is a limit. Just, please, stop repeating the same thing slightly differently...
I'll be using both worldbuilding and the actual 'plot' as factors here. For worldbuilding 5/5. Not because it's perfect, nothing really is, but because it's really damned good. We have an interesting world that is well thought out, follows its own set of rules, has 'agency' outside of the main characters and provides a good backdrop for the story. It's pretty great. What kind of sucks though, is the story itself.
Now, slice of life is already kind of a 'non-story' kind of fiction. You're just following characters going through their day. Getting a slice out of their daily lives. There is, however, a need for an overarching plot. Any slice of life can follow some characters, but if nothing happens to them it just gets boring and repetitive. As of this review I'm probably about one third through the 'second' book. That means only one story has really finished, book one. The story there was subpar. Not what happened during it, but the main 'crux'. No spoilers, but what happened to the main antagonist was kind of an anticlimax. Gets built up as this manipulative villain with powers that could lead to some interesting shenanigans, but in the end the villain is also just a really flawed and incompetent character... It kind of fits with how flawed and 'human' most other characters are, but dear god is it kind of 'meh' as payoff.
All in all, it seems like the characters were just made TOO flawed while one character has already been through a lot of growth. It feels like the others have just too much to get through and grow, which will perhaps take literal years of writing to get through. The author's other book took around four years to write I think. This one is already a year old. You kind of have to ask yourself: do I potentially want to spend another couple years following this story and its characters in the hopes that they get less frustrating? I might come back to it once it's finished, but by that time I might've also already forgotten it.
Maybe I'm just getting too old for YA novels? Oh god.
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.
A very fun start, as well-written and -characterized as you'd expect from Alexander Wales. This Used to Be About Dungeons comes off as a very nice story, with a tight-knit cast of likeable characters, though Wales is capable of mixing that kind of vibe with more serious elements. It's definitely a litrpg (probably mostly of the tabletop variety), which people probably love or hate, and which in typical form for the author is done in a familiar yet creative way and without the lousy prose and over-focus on gameyness that might be expected from a typical entry in the genre.
It's unusual for me to be so easily hooked just after finishing something I liked, particularly if it was as long as Wale's excellent and recently-finished Worth the Candle; I've enoyed other serials without getting into the authors' others. Based on that WtC and on his shorter works, I look forward to a well-thought-out and satisfying story.
There will be regular updates for at least a while, and Wales produces a lot of output in general; this story seems like it might be easier to produce on a regular schedule, though it's a strength of Wales that he writes enough at one time to mitigate some of the downsides of serial publishing.
I'm guessing that TOTBAD will be a widely-loved serial. Forgive the straight five-star scores, but it's already clear to me that, like WtC, it will scratch certain itches about as well as they can be scratched.
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 absolutely perfect. Every character has that thing that makes them seem real, more than just a trope to pad out the cast. The story is immensely comfy and has just enough character consequences, be it death, personal failings, or general emotional scarring, to keep you on your toes and grateful when everything works out in the end.
I again cannot stress how real each character feels, and how perfect of a story this is.
Now, disclaimers, I haven't read too far into the story at this point, only really at chapter 12 so far. But gods I just felt strongly enough that I had to leave a review!
Firstly, the writing is impeccable. I haven't spotted any grammar or spelling errors, none of it confuses me, and the worldbuilding is simply divine. The constant allusions to other portions of the world we don't know of yet are then explained later and really make you feel immersed in the world and its contents.
The characters are also brilliant! Each of them with clear flaws and clear virtues. They all have depth. We don't know everything about all of them, some obvious secrets to be learned as we go on, but that just makes me want to read more! And gods their interpersonal relationships are nuanced and unique between each one! And intelligently written at that. So much better than a vast majority of stories on this site.
I also love the story structure so far, I look forward to seeing what other dungeons they might pursue and how the party will evolve together throughout the story.
I look forward to catching up to the story!