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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Alexander Wales

Alexander Wales

Top List #50
Royal Writathon October 2022 winner
Word Count (20)
30 Review Upvotes
3rd Anniversary
Royal Writathon October 2021 winner
Fledgling Reviewer (I)
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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A masterclass of worldbuilding

Reviewed at: Chapter 110 - Slop

Wow. I was a huge fan of AW's previous story Worth the Candle, so I was pretty excited to see how TUTBAD turned out.
Anyway, after catching up, I can conclude that this story, while tonally very different, is amazing. It lets AW's incredibly worldbuilding shine, and the characters are just incredibly fun to read about and get attached to.

Style5/5 Incredible. I'm not gonna lie, it could very well be a straight up published novel. Style is, of course, subjective, but I really like how the author does his descriptions. Just incredibly smooth to read.

Story5/5 There is no Demon Lord, no overarching world-ending threat that the party needs to defeat, but there are familly issues, logistics, and interpersonal relations that need to be resolved. It's a cozy slice-of-life that actually has stakes, fights, and character progression, and I am absolutely here for it.

Also, have I mentioned the worldbuilding? It's so different from our world and yet everything is so well thought out, from the magic system to the mythos to the institutions. Fantastic.

Grammar: 5/5 Literally have not noticed a single error.

Character: 5/5 Probably the strongest part about this story. What a joy to read about. In your average fantasy novel, having the MC be a dude with 4 women in his party would be a recipe for a really boring harem, but AW not only dodges that issue, he creates a living, breathing cast, each of them with their distinct characteristics and all of them feeling like real, flawed people. Legitimately incredible.

By the way, if the author happens to actually read this: hey AW, I really appreciate your work :D It's a large part of what inspired me to start writing again and posting to RR, and it's been a great ride following along with the story. Keep up the great work!


Exactly what it says in the blurb

Reviewed at: Chapter 27 - Too Much Talking

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.

Vitaly S Alexius

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.

Style 5/5

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.


Grammar 5/5

Great on a technical level. Not much else to say. 


Story 5/5

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.


Character 5/5

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.


Overall 5/5

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.


How Hasn't This Become Boring Yet?

Reviewed at: Chapter 127 - Dungeon Dreams II

Full disclosure: I'm a hardcore fan of this creator. Regardless, I was incredibly, incredibly skeptical when the idea was brought up in the author's Discord.

Paraphrasing, "a story about adventurers but focusing on the downtime between the adventures". It sounded like slice-of-life, and not a particularly interesting one.

This changed once I actually started reading it.

Interim's world is filled with cool magic items that characters will spend scenes and scenes figuring out, low-key worldbuilding derived from some of the most minor  changes you could imagine, exactly the kind of thing people enjoy but rarely get to read an entire story about.

The stand-out character is definitely Mizuki. Alexander Wales has been criticized in the past for writing samey characters, and he tackled this flaw with a vengeance,  designing the uniquely airheaded sorcerer. Her viewpoints are a joy to read, she keeps the plot from descending into depressing messes, something Wales had trouble avoiding in his previous work Worth the Candle. She isn't even the heart of the group, she is more mature than my description of her might make her sound, and yet simultaneously a gremlin. The other four characters are cool too I guess...

Despite the title, about 10% of the work is dedicated to delving dungeons, and while I'd actually call it the weaker part of the work, it's not by any means boring or bad. It just helps demonstrate how well the slice-of-life elements are being handled.

Rumors say this work is ending soon. Pick it up while you have a chance.



The writing is pretty good, the characters all have thier own distinct personalities and the dungeons are interesting. The author's focus is obviously on everything but the dungeons, but I don't actually mind that.

What I do mind though is that we're treated to the exact same 5-6 conversations in almost every chapter. One character will mention that they're gay/bi in every chapter. The priest character will remind everyone that her order is known for being down with the gays, in every chapter, regardless of if it makes any sense or not. One character will mention that they're not too sure about the party leader in every chapter. Every time the party makes any casual plan, like 'we should come back here next week' one of the members will say they're not even sure they're going to be in the party next week. Any time they talk about doing a dungeon, a party member will say they're not sure they want to do anymore dungeons. 

I could go on but the point is that fifty percent of each chapter is made up of these filler statements that we've heard 40 times already. I have no idea why it is so monotonously repetitive but after awhile I just don't want to read it anymore. Any given chapter is fine but hearing the same stock conversations over and over is just too annoying for me to stick with it. 

I wish the writer would have a little faith in the audience to remember this stuff instead of beating us over the head with it at every opportunity. 


Great storytelling, but group dynamics are awful..

Reviewed at: Chapter 11 - Agates Among the Stones

So a lot of the other reviews discuss why the novel is good and I generally agree with them.  The writing is excellent, the pacing is great, the world seems well thought out, and it has a very homey, comfortable feel.

That said, I'm not getting into it nearly as much as Worth the Candle, and I think the biggest issue is the group dynamic so far - though it's still early days.

Thr group consists of Alfric, who has trained his whole life to do dungeoneering, and four people he tries to interest in the endeavor.  Alfric is the party warrior, knowledge base, and organizer.  He takes almost all the of the risks, but he spends most of his time worried about getting his party invested in continuing to do the dungeons with him. 

Two of other members are fine - one is actively interested, another is along from the ride because she needs friends - but the other two are actively selfish and recalcitrant, which leads to a really annoying group dynamic.  He's spending all his time attending to the groups needs, while the dilettantes are a drag.  

This reminds me a lot of D&D games where a couple of people didn't really feel like playing, and had to be bribed with good loot, special GM favors, and/or had someone else do the work of filling out thier character sheets and reminding them of the plot - which is just an obnoxious memory and not one I enjoy reading renacted in the context of in-world storytelling.

Is it an accurate picture of real table top game group dynamics?  Yes.  But it's not the one I want to read about chapter after chapter.

It also doesn't fit the world - dungeoneering is just too easy and provides too much wealth, especially given Alfrics knowledge and training, for how disinterested the rest of the party is, even if they don't care for the task itself.  It's like a rockstar coming up to you and saying 'hey you wanna make 10 grand to play in my band for a set' and half of the musicians he asks turning up thier nose or needing more convincing to sweeten the deal, even though they've got nothing better to do - it just doesn't track. 


A world where dungeons are magical and mundane

Reviewed at: Chapter 70 - Undone III

You know how sometimes the slice of life moments are the most magical and satisfying in a progression fantasy? Well this story is 90% that, punctuated by brief chapters of dungeon delving and combat. It's about the rest and repose between dungeons and how the dungeon delvers or "dungeoneers" fit into the wider world, what their daily lives are like as dungeoneers in a world *with* dungeons and magic. Following the small personal interactions of the main cast, we get to see what life would be like, with a level of detail that's a testament to the author's worldbuilding. Mixing the magical and mundane is something that I enjoy in well-thought-out fantasy worlds and this story scratches that itch. The dungeons are still the primary draw, of course, but the sedate pacing of adventures far and few between (in terms of word count, not in-story time) is living up to the story title. Like the main character's vocational or existential dilemma, the story fills me with a yearning for a world that's a little less tame, a little more strange and magical.

Thanks for writing a wonderful story.

P.S. I have critiques that don't really matter, but the one I feel compelled to mention is too much dialogue starting with "Well"

P.P.S. The album "Flying Blind" by Jef Martens was a lovely accompaniment to reading.


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.


Im sure Im not the only one who think the About Dungeons world is delightful. The adventures are intriguing, Pucklechurch is homely, and there's nothing like a good system for magic  and worldbuilding (conveyed without too many large dumps) to intrigue a reader. I admit, in my head I spent like 10 chapters giggling and going "hexagons are the bestagons" (a la youtuber CGP Grey) everytime the hex-related quirks of reality would pop up, and that may have colored my fondness. But that doesn't change the fact that it's well done and exciting despite the coziness of the vibes.

I think the biggest struggle to picking up any new story is the dimensions of the characters. There's something thoughtful and human about AW's crafting of each cast member. Not just MCs, or frequent characters, but everyone in the About Dungeons world. 

I think I appreciate it even more so considering the large cast of female characters, since usually it's an alarm bell for cringe and 2-dimensionality. There's a lot of people who never understood that "Stong Female Character" was never about how "girl boss" an fMC could be, or about how like a generic mMC a female in a story could be, but about how realized she is as a character, displaying it to the reader through what she faces. 

I'm well into Bk2. This has to be the HIGHEST praise I can offer without spoiling or going in depth: there is no character, male or female or otherwise, who made me embarrassed for the author. 

Kudos to Alexander Wales for making me think "This is what I want to write someday." It's rare that I encounter something that sparks both admiration and craving... I'm green with envy, but mostly delighted and impressed!