Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dungeon Quest, Book Three by Joe Daly

The Dungeon Quest series, as far as anyone can tell, is not based on any particular paper-RPG campaign -- in fact, the creator, Joe Daly, has said that he's been much more influenced by video game RPGs, and was never a D&D guy.

And that's surprising, since Dungeon Quest has the feeling of a particularly goofy campaign -- to find the pieces of and reconstruct the Atlantean Resonator Guitar, and, as we find out later, to use that to activate the Gogh Verbirator Vortex device to replace the Earth's missing second moon and put the world back to rights -- as played by a bunch of slackers (three men and what I could swear is an NPC female, Nerdgirl, to give the party someone with decent ranged weapons -- she hardly ever speaks, and has no personality to mention) who are deeply fond of smoking weed, insulting each other, and sophomoric philosophizing.

In Book Three, those three men -- Millennium Boy, Steve, and Lash Penis (see what I mean? those are exactly the kind of names a bunch of toked-up friends would think up during a long evening of playing and indulging at any college in the English-speaking world) -- learn the history of Atlantis and the true nature of that quest (the Verbirator and the bringing-stability-to-the-world thing), and then set off to do it. There's then a long prose section, as Millennium Boy reads from The Romish Book of the Dead (a secret ancient text from the Romish people, the heirs to Atlantis) for forty pages or so of silly invented prehistory and anthropology -- this is indulgent and silly, but it fits the laid-back vibe of the series (and the deeply nerdy, and entirely self-invented, pseudo-knowledge of the kind of person it evokes), so there's no way to be annoyed at it.

Eventually the story starts back up, and our heroes get further on their quest -- this time out, they gain another member of the party and have to deal with an ambush (which also results in the kidnapping of Nerdgirl -- it would have been nice for Daly not to have made the only female character a pure plot token, but I suppose that's also authentic for the kind of people he's writing about) along the way. Book Three is substantially longer than the first two books, but less happens here: Millennium Boy and his pals learn the full scope of their quest, but don't get any further into it, so the end looks further away from the end of this book than it did at the beginning.

But Dungeon Quest is so mellow and stoner-joyful that there's nothing to do but go along with it. Unless you bounce off the premise entirely -- and I can see many readers, particularly women and the reflexively anti-druggie, doing that -- it's an entirely amiable, perfectly cromulent wander through well-emulated quest-fantasy tropes, enlivened by cursing, drugs, and just a hint of sex. (Though the sex is mostly the kind that teenage boys have by themselves up in their rooms.)

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