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, 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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Alexander Wales

Alexander Wales

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Word Count (18)
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Table of Contents
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

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furball tiger
Overall

This is an interesting, thoughtful, and unique novel, but it's not for everyone so a review may help match audience to offering. 

The world is quite unique, and the author has put a lot of thought into all sorts of things that often are treated shallowly or completely overlooked.

It is labeled as slice of life, but I'd argue it's more specific than that; this is primarily a social novel. In fact, as of Ch. 35 it seems to be almost like a nighttime soap opera (90201, Felicity, etc).  While routine tasks crop up, they're just background for the talking. So much talking. And, often, with so little progress. There really isn't one MC, although one has a fairly central role. The POV hops frequently, giving about equal time to the core party members. The chars are, fortunately, both plausible and individual.

It might be that the author figures "social story" therefore "progress must be via dialog" (which, ofc, leaves out a whole lot of other techniques). The dialog is generally both clear and lifelike, and (overly? more on that) thoughtful but not snappy, funny, or particularly remarkable. But it is competently done. 

Ever known someone who overthought everything, and couldn't stop going over and over something in their head? OK, imagine a world like that. 

I appreciate the chance to see a story like this, and to study the writing, enough that I've been sub'd on patreon for awhile.  The author really focuses on decomposing personal interactions into near atomic bits, which seems a consequence of a SoL social story expressed almost entirely via dialog. 

Is this for everyone (or even the typical RR reader)? no. But it's quite creative, competently written, and a niche that some of us enjoy. It would be worth reading (to some) just for the clever and well thought-out world, or the plausible and lifelike characters, or the careful and detailed interactions. 

My apologies if this seems a little like "tough love"; it is one of the few I didn't drop. A lot of RR stories are dark, action-oriented, and a bit too traumatic for my personal prefs, but everyone has different tastes.

hank
Overall

The book isn't long yet, so it can take a turn ,but so far it is on the list to read first when there are updates .  not too violent, interesting people. The loot is interesting as well ,random things with random abilities that make no sense but they have to deal with as best they can.

antikangaroo
Overall

One of the best stories on the site.

It has interesting characters in an interesting setting and doesn't rely on endless blocks of stats or blue boxes to generate fake story progression.

All five protagonists are well written, no cardbooard cut-outs here. They have distinct and interesting personalities.
The grammar is perfect, and the style of writing works very well.
The story takes place in an interesting setting, a world that has dungeons and some game-like elements without all the stats etc.

The only mild criticism is that the story could move a bit faster - for comparison, at a comparable word count a printed paperback would have to have reached the climax of its plot arc. Here it looks like it only just being set up at chapter 30.

 

I would have made this an advanced review, but Im not up for padding the word count with BS jut to reach the stupid word count limit so here are the scores:

Style: 5 / 5
Grammar 5 / 5
Character 5 / 5
Stroy 4.5 / 5

 

kalatenb
Overall

The worldbuilding and characters are compelling, and all indications point to this story continuing to be interesting to read going forwards. Wish there was more stuff even close to projecting this level of quality.

Also good if you care at all about basic internal coherence / realism / not having your suspension of disbelief constantly taking a beating. This author tends to be good if you're discerning on that front.

Fred
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Whatever you call it, it’s definitely well written

Reviewed at: Chapter 34 - Woods Witch

I've seen a few reviews arguing for and against the "slice of life" tag. I don't see much of a point in arguing about definitions and labels (definitely not a follower of Qymmos, I'm not), so I'll ignore it in favor of just stating that it is definitely a competently written story, with nigh impeccable grammar and point out the things that may or may not appeal to SoL readers.

I've been reading and enjoying it since chapter one came out, but I waited until a good while longer before writing an advanced review so that I'd have a reasonable grasp on it before doing this. TUTBAD is not a story with some great goal that it's headed towards. Each of the characters have their own goals and motivations, but none of them is headed to defeat a big bad, save the world, retrieve a macguffin or anything of the sort. They're a party of dungeoneers clearing dungeons. That might give one the impression of an action adventure story, and in fact the dungeon chapters qualify as such, but as the title and the blurb clearly state, that's not the focus here. What the story is all about is the time in between, the interactions of these characters as they slowly go from complete strangers to friends. There's a whole lot of eating scenes and hikes, as they provide the backdrop for them to talk and reveal their personalities, each of which is quite unique and, just as you think you're getting the hang of them, still manages to surprise you in a way that makes perfect sense in retrospect. 

As far as worldbuildiing goes, the author doesn't disappoint, the setting feels quite unique, even as it is playing with the conventions of your typical fantasy world. 

And even in regards to the storyline, which is usually the weakest point of SoL-like novels, there's still some manner of conflict going on to keep things interesting, even if it's not the main focus. 

acids3
Overall

cozy and fun with a dash of action and adventure

Reviewed at: Chapter 6 - Henlings

Quite liked the first few chapters, the characters seem nice and realistic. Still early but I have high hopes for the story! Our mysterious main character seems intelligent but not overly so and kind, while for now keeping his semi-mysterious background. Not really litrpg no blue screens yet, but there seems to be certain game-like elements, that for now have been explained rather well.

Grammatically it's very good, very few mistakes in the first six chapters which is very positive for me. Story is interesting and the world is still being explained and explored. Some key points like dungeons being more dangerous closer to cities because of magic expended is original, and seems promising for the future world building.

I suggest you give it a read :)

Tegid
Overall

The characters seem to be well build and the slice of life-type stuff feels very nice to me. The bits of worldbuilding are also delightful.
I'm liking it a lot, for now, but I'm also intrigued about the backstories of the characters, and what the serial will actually end up being about.

 

(Five stars, for now. There's only 9 chapters published).

Chris Roberts
Overall

A realistic fleshed out take on a D&D esque world

Reviewed at: Chapter 10 - Second Breakfast

This story manages to feel real in a way that few stories on this site do.  The world seems fleshed out and consistent, and characters motivations and personalities are diverse and interesting.  This story is manifestly not an endless slog of dungeons, this is a slice of life done well.

Maxsimal
Overall

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. 

Chroma
Overall

This was supposed to be a slice of life

Reviewed at: Chapter 11 - Agates Among the Stones

Thus far the story does not deliver at all on the synopsis. If the synopsis had said that this would be a slightly gritty fantasy novel about dungeons with a little slice of life, then I would have no big complaints. It's well written, no major spelling or grammar mistakes, but it's not slice of life as the synopsis says it is. 

As of me reviewing the synopsis currently says: 

"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?"

That synopsis does not represent the story thus far, or what it seems to be building into. The synopsis should say that it's a dungeon fantasy with occasional comfy slice of life.

Without getting too spoilery: Two characters continuously reference their home city, which is seemingly political war central (no way that becomes a plot point later), the main character is only focused on dungeons (more slice of life from other characters than the MC who seems like a soulless "must conquer dungeon" bot), extremely limited interaction with everyone but merchants they are selling their dungeon loot to. All of the world building thus far screams conflict, everything from the MCs background/

Betrayal by his former super party.

To the bard who has her own "ran away from thing parents wanted me to do" story. The world is built and explained in such a way to create mystery, same with the power system which will likely lead to even more not slice of life in the future. 

There are several other things I could list, but they all have the same conclusion. Not slice of life. 

To be perfectly clear, for someone who enjoys dungeon diving fantasy, this is probably a great story. But when you say it's a slice of life, and attract slice of life readers (like me) then it's not even close to slice of life: we get frustrated.

It could also be that I'm reviewing too early, the slice of life could come in later. But the plot gives no signs of slowing down, in fact, if anything it's speeding up with the party buying supplies for their next dungeon run. And even then it seems counterproductive to start a story as not slice of life, then transition to slice of life.

This was a bit disorganized as I'm on mobile currently, but overall I'm just disappointed. The synopsis describes something that sounds like a great slice of life, but the story does not deliver.