Dungeon Born: End of the Tutorial

Chapter 12

<People are on the stairs, Dani. Get ready for an incursion! This is gonna be awe-soome.> I nearly sang, enthusiasm dancing in my mental voice.

Hey, Dani, remember how an adventuring party stomped in here and completely wrecked my shit? Well it’s happening again, but this time, I have rabbits!

It’s entirely unclear what kind of party we’ve got entering the dungeon this time. Seems like we’re probably looking at Fighter-y fellows just on the grounds that only those types of guys appear to have arrived right now, but numbers are unstated and it’s not clear how many of them are properly geared up and how many are using hand-me-down chain or leather armor or whatever.

Taking direct control of the largest [rabbit], I launched my new body at the back of someone’s knee. A direct hit in the tender pressure point, and the man fell. The attacks on the other humans had varying degrees of success, with a few landing decent hits against legs, some bouncing off armor, and one even being knocked away by a shield that moved when the guy wasn’t even looking!

So, yeah, they’re not Monty Python style killer rabbits, they don’t have any special powers or anything. Cal is seriously just taking totally ordinary rabbits and using them to try and bludgeon his opponents. And he seems super stoked that this is gonna be super effective. His thorn-spitting, fang-mawed mushrooms are way more threatening, and to the extent that the rabbits are helpful at all, it’s that they might keep a target busy while a thorn ‘shroom lines up a shot.

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: End of the Tutorial”

Dungeon Born: Foreshadowing of Five Armies

Chapter 10

Having taken a couple of days to spend nearly all my free time replaying XCOM in its entirety, I’m pretty sure I’m quite finished half-assing my projects, so let’s dive into Dungeon Born with a proper, full-length post.

It had taken a few weeks of hard travel, but the group of mostly C-ranked adventurers had finally reached a city large enough to have a Guild office, an Elven embassy, and a church with a B-ranked priest.

Okay, so we’re following these guys again. Have we seen the last of Dale? Because he didn’t seem like he was done yet, narrative-wise. He ended his introductory chapter all full of ambition, and so far all he’s done with it is write a letter and show these other guys to the dungeon entrance. I like the idea of having Dale as the consistent face of Cal’s opposition, staying the same while the adventuring parties are usually or always new characters after the last ones die or flee. Since the whole point of a dungeon heart story is that you’re seeing it from the dungeon’s perspective instead of the adventurers’, you might expect that this makes the adventurers the antagonists, and it’d be cool if it turned out that no, the dungeon side equivalent to an adventurer is actually a minion, and it’s the quest givers who are the dungeon’s true antagonist.

Maybe we’ll hop back to Dale and get that dynamic going at some point.

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: Foreshadowing of Five Armies”

Dungeon Born: That Rabbit’s Not Dynamite

Chapter 9

I was particularly nervous that another group would come in soon, due to every living thing in my dungeon except me, Dani, and the Silverwood tree being dead and reduced to ash when the jerks, I mean- the scouting group, had come through.

This is not an unreasonable fear, but injecting the narrative with a “joke” like this is even worse than leaving them in dialogue. With dialogue, you can pull the trick where other characters present roll their eyes, so if the joke lands, then great, the audience is laughing and probably doesn’t care that other characters in the book didn’t like it, and if the joke flops, then at least the joke was supposed to be a dud, which means the audience’s eye rolls are directed towards a character in the story, not the story itself. It might even help improve their immersion into the story by making the other characters, the ones who are also rolling their eyes, more relatable.

Sticking it in the narrative, on the other hand, means that when the joke is bad, I roll my eyes at the story.

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: That Rabbit’s Not Dynamite”

Dungeon Born: Late Explanations

EDIT: I forgot to add this to the queue when it was finished editing and didn’t notice that it didn’t publish until late in the evening. Well, I accidentally published a post 12 hours early a few weeks ago, so I figure if I schedule this one for 12 hours late that’s a wash. Also, the title of “late explanations” was actually picked out before this happened. Maybe I should avoid putting the word “late” in future blog post titles to avoid the curse going forward.

Chapter 8

Once again we begin with Cal’s abbreviated perspective on the raid.

I should never have made it so easy to get down. I just really had a thing for the spiral staircase ever since Dani had suggested it.

I am kind of surprised to see the story admitting this is a bad idea. On a similar subject, it’s kind of surprising to have the story let Cal be completely overwhelmed by this crack team of veteran adventurers, even if the delivery was very much underwhelming. This story isn’t without good ideas, although they are unfortunately very often crippled by the execution. For example:

<Dani… I think they are going to kill me.> I uttered slowly when the strange looking man talked about my bloodmoss.

“It’ll be ok Cal; can you tell what rank they are?” Dani replied soothingly.

<No, I just visualize an ‘X’ when I try to analyze them. I can’t analyze their gear either… What is going on?> I demanded, voice low and scared. I liked to understand things.

“The gear makes sense; their aura would protect it unless it got too far away from them. Oh! I never told you about auras! You see, when an aura is present you can’t affect things in the same way.[“]

You can tell from the bracketed close-quote that this isn’t even the end of the lecture. Much like the Cleric shrieking out a calm analysis of the situation, Cal is very likely going to die here and Dani’s all “oh, hey, now’s a great time for a lecture.” Think maybe Dani is acting like this party is a non-threat to try and calm Cal down? Think again:

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: Late Explanations”

Dungeon Born: Dale Strikes Back

Chapter 7

Dale had returned home with the sad news of the deaths of his comrades, citing a landslide which buried all of them. The recent events and his guileless, lightly bearded face meant he had no issues convincing the townsfolk of his sincerity. He shed tears from soulful brown eyes for the lost men… while at the same time selling everything he owned. With the money gained, he purchased the empty parcel of land containing the dungeon – claiming it would be good grazing for the sheep he was planning to buy.

Oh, good. We’re back with Dale. Looks like he’s going to either gear himself up for a solo dungeon raid or else get himself some better trained reinforcements.

His claim to the land secure, he sent a letter to the Adventurers Guild, announcing that he had found a new dungeon and was willing to allow adventurers to come into it for a percentage of the yearly profit it brought in.

Wow, okay, looks like option B. Is Dale even going to return to the dungeon, or is he just going to be the recurring face of a cast of antagonists that otherwise sees constant turnover as parties are mostly or completely wiped out upon entry? Here’s our first group of schmucks:

Quite an event to have any travelers at all, this far into the mountains, people were shocked to see not only armored knights, but an Elf in the group!

Oh. Oh, wow. This is not the ragtag band of starting adventurers out to scout out a new dungeon and get their start that I was expecting. These guys are stomping around in plate. I don’t know how badass that makes them (maybe magical crystal armor a thousand times stronger than steel is the cap for this kind of thing), but I damn well know it makes them, like, a hundred times more dangerous than a bunch of shepherds.

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Dungeon Born: Ongoing Tutorials and Video Game Morals

Chapter 6

We open this chapter with a brief recount of the dungeon raid from before from Cal’s perspective, the only important takeaway from which is that he has done an atrocious job placing his static defenses or else made his corridors way too wide, because despite multiple chokepoints it was only through pure chance that one of the raiders actually walked into any of his defenses. Shouldn’t have been hard to give total coverage to the entrances and exits to each room, Cal.

The other important takeaway is that Cal gets essence from people dying within his influence, and it is worth a lot. So much that he has trouble holding onto it all and threatens to overload and die.

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Dungeon Born: A Stoppable Force Meets A Movable Object

Chapter 5

”Well something had to cause it!” broadcasted an angry bearded man. “I lost half my flock. Maybe some meteoric iron is laying around? The whole damn mountain nearly fell over.”

This is the opening paragraph of the chapter. We’re seeing things from the perspective of the townsfolk now. Being 14% of the way through, it’s not a bad place for a change in perspective, especially since Cal and Dani aren’t very fun to listen to.

A small group of sheepherders were walking along a sloping mountainside, sunshine streaming around them as they searched for the source of their sudden misfortune.

Why didn’t this scene open with this? Why lead with disembodied heads talking to each other and then set the scene? It’s not the first line of the book. Anyone who’s reached chapter five is pretty likely to read through to the end (unless there is a sudden plunge in quality), so there’s no need to be trying to hook anyone this late in the game.

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Dungeon Born: Why Is The Dungeon Heart More Mobile Than His Minions?

Chapter 4

Dani’s out to look around, which means Cal is on his own. Turns out the solid rock he spread his influence through contains a bunch of high-value coal (specifically anthracite, because that’s still happening), which he sucks dry in order to make a bunch of rooms.

Just as I finished my fourth room Dani zipped in at full speed, “Cal! Are you ok? There is an earthquake happening!!”

<Surprise! I grew!> I paused, waiting for the glowing admiration to flow from her.

“Oh Cal no.” Dani whimpered. “We need to get ready. People are going to want to know what is going on.”

<Did I do something wrong?> I was a bit sad that she wasn’t happy with the new additions. <I was just trying to show you that I could do the things you wanted.>

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Cal. Just a little. . . too fast for the moment.

Well, at least she’s stopped scolding him for failing to read her mind, but we’re still pretty firmly in mother/son relations, here, and not in an interesting way.

“No, I am serious! You are growing so well! And your knowledge must be growing too, after all the work you put in, I’m seeing you as an F-rank zero dungeon! You are almost dangerous!” She half-praised, half-teased.

There wasn’t a description of G ranks 5-9 that I skipped, the narrative just skipped over them completely, as predicted. Apparently F-rank is the point where a dungeon has multiple rooms and begins to resemble an actual dungeon. It’s not a bad distinction to have between G-rank dungeons that are still poking around their natural environment and F-ranks that have begun serious (if not impressive) modifications and fortifications, but the numbered sub-ranks are still useless. And honestly, with how many ranks there are (all the way up to A, then three different S grades, then “heavenly” and “godly”) I’m not even confident that clear and reasonable divisions between the lettered super-ranks is going to remain consistent. Leveling is important to LitRPGs, it’s a core part of the genre’s appeal and you can make a reasonable argument that a book that features no kind of character progress analogous to leveling isn’t really in the genre (although assigning individual stat points or whatever as opposed to getting specific levels would definitely still qualify), so for sure a dungeon heart book benefits from some kind of dungeon ranking system. You could probably make it work with, like, 5-7 ranks, though. That’s more tiers than most dungeon heart games have in their tech trees.

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: Why Is The Dungeon Heart More Mobile Than His Minions?”

Dungeon Born: Black and White

Before we get started, Longes made a few predictions about Dungeon Born based on its xianxia-derived dungeon ranking system. I’m gonna go ahead and list them here so we can keep track of how many come true by the end of the book. Jury is currently out on whether I’ll read any of the sequels (but signs point to no), so anything that doesn’t come true in this book may come true in later books. I may never know.

Predictions about Dungeon Born based purely on it drawing from Xianxia:
1) Protagonist will find a variety of gimmicks and/or single innate gimmick that will help them skip massive chunks of Cultivation
2) There will be a bunch of time skips because Cultivation takes forever
3) Protagonist will level up to kill and replace God
4) Different levels of Cultivation equate to MASSIVE power differences and absolute curbstomping
5) Protagonist may find a gimmick that helps them fight people on higher Cultivation level
6) Being the very best like no one ever was is the protagonist’s primary motivation
7) There’ll be a bizarre economy and people will interact with it in a very bizarre way
8) Skills or their equivalent (minions?) will be bought and sold via bizarre economy
9) Protagonist will find a way to completely skullfuck said economy
Bonus predictions:
10) Cultivation requires or is greatly sped up by some magic potions or eating monster parts or something like that
11) Protagonist will subvert that, skullfucking the economy in the process

Look at all those predictions. It’s ridiculous. It’s not even funny.

And some more detailed predictions made shortly thereafter:

Based on your two posts I’m going to guess that the main key to skullfucking will be Cal’s ability to spawn matter. He’ll probably progress from a childlike imbecil into a mad scientist, learn alchemy and some kind of frankensteining and abuse that in a way that dungeons should have figured out millenia ago. This may lead to him learning to spawn Cultivation potions.

The story will likely go grimderp and Cal will become an unlikeable douche evil dungeon, probably starting to cultivate demonic chi in the process. He’ll probably fight the big white dungeon in the sky Cantor eventually. Alternately Cantor will get worfed by the real big white dungeon in the sky who is the main villain.

Eventually Cal will have a redemption arc

Chapter Three

The chapter opens with Cal having just finished expanding his zone of influence to cover the entire room of the cave he’s located in.

“Good work!” congratulated a very bored Dani. The poor girl hadn’t been able to order me around for days, I think it was wearing on her.

For those of you keeping track at home, Longes prediction #2 is at least half-true. It wasn’t essence cultivation that took forever (Cal has not increased any ranks so far as I can tell) but timeskips because increases in power take forever are confirmed.

<What about the door? Won’t it flow out?>

“If you focus hard there first, you can direct your will to cause the air to be too dense for less concentrated Essence to leak out, like a bubble.” Dani distractedly stated.

I considered this for a moment. <I like bubbles, they make my puddle dance.>

“HA! What? That took me by surprise.” She chuckled. “Try it out.”

They say you should keep your characterization consistent. Certainly that is true, but Dungeon Born appears to have misunderstood the directive. The idea is to have consistent motivations and personality traits, not for every character to consistently have the same bizarre verbal tics. Or, is Dani just going completely stir-crazy after several days with no one but Cal to talk to?

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: Black and White”

Dungeon Born: Mushrooms Aren’t Plants

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Dani is walking Cal how to upgrade himself. Now, I am reading/writing this the day after I read/wrote the last one, so maybe I’m missing something, but glancing back over the last few pages, I can’t find an explanation of what an upgrade does. Apparently it involves using magical matter reassembly to remove imperfections from his gem self, but to what end?

“Careful now, not all at once or you may shatter yourself.” Dani murmured, trying not to break my focus.


A small patch of perfectly bonded carbon molecules formed.

Besides once again drawing attention to the hit-and-miss science of this story?

Once Cal finishes the upgrade, he blacks out and just about dies, taking Dani with him. When Cal wakes up, he’s able to feed on some moss to keep them both alive.

I tried to defend my actions, <But I was only doing what you told me to do?>

“I told you not to rush!” Her anger fading, her body slowly returned to her regular coloration. “Are you ok? Did you hurt yourself?”

Listen, jackass, don’t try to pawn this off on Cal because you offered a vague warning that rushing it might have a negative effect at all. “Don’t rush it or you might kill us both” is a significantly different warning from just “don’t rush it.” For all Cal knew, you were telling him not to rush it because you were worried he would get frustrated and demoralized if he didn’t meet quick success, and concentrating on it for several hours straight until the job was done is exactly what you were asking him to do.

It’s bad enough that our protagonist is the child in a mother/five-year old relationship, it’s even worse that the mother figure isn’t even a very good mother. That might work if it were the actual point, but right now it seems like the narrative wants us to believe that Cal was being reckless, rather than being misled by sloppy instructions. Maybe as we get deeper into it the narrative will make it clear that Dani is intentionally kind of bad at this, but I don’t have a whole lot of confidence. This seems a lot like the story is just playing out the “reckless new kid nearly causes disastrous harm by disregarding advice” trope without realizing that the advice he was given was too vague and useless to reasonably prevent him from acting recklessly. Particularly because, while I only quoted the first two lines, this actually goes on for a couple of paragraphs. It’s not a one-off line, the book draws attention to this.

Continue reading “Dungeon Born: Mushrooms Aren’t Plants”