Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 181 (8/3) -- King of RPGs, Vol. 1 by Jason Thompson & Victor Hao

King of RPGs makes an expansive land-grab for itself -- it wants to be the American Yu-Gi-Oh!, and at the same time a parody of that genre, to be a moderately serious drama of character and also make fun of all the kinds of gamers it can think of. If it's not quite as successful at all of those things as it wants to be, that's only to be expected. But it's definitely an energetic and engaging -- and mostly successful -- attempt at porting over manga styles and concerns to an American background.

Shesh Maccabee is a recovering World of Warcraft addict, just enrolling in UC Escondido as a freshman after a breakdown the previous year. (Actually, he's a World of Warfare addict; writer Jason Thompson changes all of the names here, either out of fear of legal action or just to be puckish, but they're all such transparent transformations that the reader keeps translating "Mages & Monsters" to "D&D" at every turn.) Shesh's best friend, the not-quite-as-insane-about-gaming-but-pretty close Mike, is also along. On their first day at Escondido, they run into crazed game master Theodore Dudek, whose master plan is to eventually get the whole world tabletop RPGing. (Thompson certainly has that manga staple, the kooky monomaniac, down cold.)

Shesh and Mike meet some minor characters as well -- real girl-gamer Jen, fake girl-gamer Callie, and hard-ass anti-gamer campus cop Rona Orzack, among others -- but the story is primarily about Shesh and Theo, and how their respective manias mesh. (Shesh has a secondary personality -- Grathkamog, his WoW character -- that pops out in moments of gaming stress, in best Yu-Gi-Oh! style, to win battles for him or cause huge problems, or both. And Theo is just utterly nutty about RPGs.)

And then wacky hijinks ensue, mostly involving games (though there is a carjacking in the middle as well). It's all lofted several stories over the top, which makes the attempts at seriousness or real-world references (Jack Thompson, Shesh being worried about getting expelled) stand out badly against the general zaniness. But zany King of RPGs is, most of the time, and it's a pleasant, damn-the-torpedoes kind of zaniness, which should find fans among people who like various kinds of games -- as long as they don't mind being made fun of, now and then.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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