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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I don't leave a lot of reviews, but I really enjoy this story, and I guess the guy who writes it appreciates the heads up.
Flawless style, that really implies an author who understands the promises they're making to their reader.
Clear indications the story has firm foundations.
Good grammar, I guess.
Characters! Memorable! Good names!
This is probably the best story I have read on Royal Road, at least so far, and with many chapters apparently to go. It's exactly what the author says in the story blurb: A slice-of-life day-to-day social story in a fantasy setting that blends classic tropes, new takes on classic tropes, and original ideas.
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.
A pleasant story with a weird but seemingly uncomplicated, well thought-through world that makes a good background for a focus, it seems so far, mainly on characters. Dungeoneer slice of life / coming of age (well, for new adults) it seems so far.
Complicated people are more likely to be available.
Only 6 chapters in but this story made me check for extra chapters on Patreon. I am really enjoying the characters, who feel distinct and individually motivated. Wales's worldbuilding is top notch just like in his previous works and he is introducing terminology like entads and henlings that I hope becomes widespread. The bottom line is, this is worth your time.
A new tale from the master of rational dnd, Alexander Wales - This Used to be About Dungeons is an adventure of Alfric who gathers a group of local girls [healer, ranger, bard, sorcerer] to challenge a local dungeon and to possibly take on more dungeons nearby.
Alfric reassures his group that the dungeon is as dangerous as fighting 3 racoons which isn't the case as the main monster they face is quite dangerous, but he seems to be quite well prepared and has chosen his companions with wisdom and nice research, even if it only took him a couple of days of gathering intel about them.
So far the story is very wholesome and light, a fun reading for all ages. Alfric hides some of his backstory when trying to gather his party, it's a fun mystery to find out where he really came from and why he's in such a rush.
Grammar and spelling is absolutely superb, characters are unique and quirky and the style of writing is fun to absorb.
Some of the fundamental titles such as Entads are possibly references to worth the candle.
Overall: great reading so far, will update review when there are more chapters!
Sometimes I think about web serials as a format, compared to traditional books. Series like This Used to be About Dungeons really highlight the capabilities of the format, and is a masterclass in using the strengths of a serial while retaining the quality of traditionally published books.
Alexandar Wales continues to be one of my favorite writers, and has a penchant for creating tangents you just can't help but follow. It feels comfortable, it feels personal, it feels like a walk with your best friend.
While Worth the Candle had a very introspective, but cynical feel to it, This Used to be About Dungeons takes that same introspection and gives it a nice warm layer. This is a good book if you're feeling down, and want to find a cozy reading nook and dream the hours away.
Great on a technical level. Not much else to say.
What to say about this. So far, the story is intriguing, if being mostly carried by characters and world. Going by his previous works, I am not worried about this at all.
I will say that the pacing is slower (being more slice of life), and even with a very consistent schedule of sizeable updates, I constantly want more to read. Though that says more about the addictive qualities of this book than anything else.
I enjoy the characters. I like their quirks, their thoughts. The little ways that they see the world, and how they interact with others. It feels like all the characters are equal, despite Alfric nominally being the protagonist. It's a diverse cast, and I'm invested in them. Definitely some of the best characterization on Royal Road.
This Used to be About Dungeons is one of those things I look forward to every week. The world is fascinating, the characters are life-like and interesting, the prose is great, and the style is warm and inviting. The long, weekly updates really make this work, giving the story space to breathe and meander as it takes you through the world. Where even a hike to a neighboring town feels interesting.
When should you read this series?
If you enjoy good characters, and love fascinating and in-depth world-building, yes. If you enjoy unique magic, good fight scenes, and pleasant pitstops, yes. If you want to escape to a different place, and feel a sense of wonder, yes. There's so much I want to recommend about this series, but don't have space for, that it might just be better to think about the people who might NOT enjoy this series.
When should you NOT read this series?
If you want a straight power fantasy, faced-paced series, with a focus on mostly a single character. This might not be for you. I still suggest giving it a shot, but don't force yourself to read something you don't enjoy.
So yeah. Read it.
I've read literally dozens of fics in this genre, and this one is already looking to be S tier for the whole genre. The characters have actual conflicts and motivations, the danger feels real, and there isn't a single excel spreedsheet in sight. I love everything about This Used to be About Dungeons. A+ , would read again.
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!
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.