Review of Dungeon Born (Book 1, Divine Dungeon gamelit series) by Dakota Krout

Title: Dungeon Born (Chaos Seeds: Book 1 A LitRPG Saga)

Author: Dakota Krout

Series: The Divine Dungeon (4 books as of November 2)

As with many gamelit / LitRPG series, it took me a couple times to get into this book.  I understand having to introduce people to the system, but a lot of authors seem to be fans of a cryptic start.  Still, the beginning premise was intriguing enough to continue. 

The main character is a dungeon core. This is the first ‘dungeon’ type LitRPG I’ve read, and apparently there are multiple series where the main character is a dungeon.  I’ve seen them on Royal Road too, just haven’t read any yet.

General Overview

The main character is a human (?) consciousness/soul who is forced into becoming some kind of jewel by a necromancer.  Much of the first part of the book is Cal figuring out exactly what he is, and how he can take in energy and make himself stronger so that he can create living beings, plants, and shape his terrain around him.  As you can imagine, this is a great book for readers who like to experience a process of leveling up.

Cal’s guide is a Wisp, a fairy-like creature of light who bonds with him and teaches him (and us) about the system of magic they use.  At first, Dani’s personality irritated me since this character seems to be based on a moody teenager, but as someone on the subReddit pointed out, Dani is a wisp, a fairy-like creature.  Can’t blame her for being wisp-like.

The other main character is Dale, a basic human noob on the surface.  Yet he is also a surprisingly tenacious and non-stupid adventurer.  He starts off as a terribly low level, yet keeps being just powerful enough to survive Cal’s challenges, unlike other hapless dungeon-crawlers who end up becoming ‘food’ for Cal.

There are hints of a larger antagonist, but nothing too solid yet.  This first book focuses on the magic system, Cal’s dungeon expansions and mob and trap creation, and Dale’s training.  There are also some factions coming into play as a city starts forming around the dungeon, and Dale’s caught in the middle of politics between humans, the church, elves, and some other interested parties.  (I’m currently on book 2, so I don’t remember exactly where the divide is.)

Magic system details: high.

50% of this book is explanation and demonstration of the Essence and Mana system.  There is much, much discussion of what kind of Essence people, creatures, and dungeons can use (there are 6 types) and how to grow in power.  Almost all the major characters are high-ranking ‘cultivators,’ who are on the path to power.

Mob and item creation: high.

At least in this first book, there aren’t that many fighting encounters.  It’s more like a tower defense book, where the dungeon sets up his system to defend himself (mostly against Dale) with increasingly better mobs and traps.  And drops better loot.  Creating and enchanting the loot takes up 20% of the book.

Gaminess: medium.  

This isn’t properly LitRPG, which seems to require the characters being trapped or transported into a literal game world.  Instead, this is gamelike fantasy where the rules of the world include game elements (like the levels.)  

Game aspects are the formal levels of Essence and Mana development, the dungeon and associated loot, and the many races and guilds that populate the world.

Sexism: A small amount, but it’s humorous and equal opportunity.

There is a very small amount of sexism, but far less than you’d find in the average Dragonlance book (what I started with.)  In general, it’s intended to be humorous.  While the dungeon and wisp are technically genderless since they aren’t human, Cal’s voice is male and Dani’s is female, and they are both fully-formed characters with personalities and independence. 

Romance: None, so far.  

Cal is a dungeon, and while he and Dani have a relationship, it’s not romantic and doesn’t look like it’s headed that way.  Most of the female characters, though young-looking, are much older than Dale, who is a young and (sometimes comically) innocent man.

What I Especially Liked:

As the third LitRPG series I’ve read, this one has held my interest the most.  Here are my favorite points:

  1. Though some people may find it excessive, I enjoy the detailed description of how the magic system works, for both the human and dungeon characters.  It’s clear that the author put a lot of thought into it, and it feels unique, instead of something just based off a MMORPG.  Not that there’s anything wrong with using a D&D based system or anything.  I just like getting a fresh perspective on a logical process, not just ‘it’s magic!’
  2. I was truly entertained by Cal’s amoral, survival-based personality.  The body count is high, but hey, a dungeon’s gotta eat.  Dani sort of serves as a conscience, but not really.  After all, a wisp’s gotta eat, too.
  3. The races, factions, and town planning.  There’s a fair amount of city building in this book, though it’s woven into Dale’s everyday troubles.
  4. The humor.  This book definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s highly entertaining.

In Conclusion…

This book is worth reading if you want to go in-depth into dungeon creation and a magic system.  There is a plot, but this first book takes a lot of time showing the upgrades and leveling procedure for the main characters.  I have already gone on to Book 2.

Perhaps it’s because this is the first ‘dungeon character’ book I’ve read, but it doesn’t seem to be as derivative as others. I know there are other dungeon stories on Royal Road, but it felt like I was reading something original.

Worth the $4.99 I paid?  Yes.

I was kept entertained all the way through this long book and went on to Book 2, which seamlessly picks up where Book 1 ends. I’ll post a review of that one, too.

Review of The Land: Founding (Book 1, Chaos Seed LitRPG Saga) by Aleron Kong

Title: The Land: Founding (Chaos Seeds: Book 1 A LitRPG Saga)

Author: Aleron Kong

Series: Chaos Seeds (7 books, so far.)

I’ve tried a few times to get through this book.  That’s not to say it’s badI enjoyed it, once I got going.  But the beginning didn’t grip me.  There was something about a prince tricking humans into their ‘game?’  I found it convoluted, and I didn’t want to work that hard to figure out what was going on. 

This is not an issue only found in The Land.  In fact, I just started the Divine Dungeon series and ran into the same confusing beginning issue.  My writer friends tell me that openings are hard, and any kind of fantasy with a magic system is going to have some abstract concepts to teach.  

I don’t expect to find mastery in this new genre. Nor do I expect great emotional depth or memorable characters. If those things happen, it’s a pleasant surprise.  

It sounds like I’m blasting the genre.  I’m not at all.  It’s that great characters, emotional depth, and even a well-crafted beginning, are not necessary for ‘classic’ LitRPG.  ‘Classic’ LitRPG is all about the process of playing and world discovery, at least to this lifelong fantasy nerd.  You just don’t need a memorable hero for that. All you need is an avatar.

The Land’s beginning reminds me of middle school, where my buddies would try to write this awesome book and make everything as complicated as possible, because that’s what they thought they had to do to make it impressive.

Still, I have to give the author a nod for a real setup, one that will potentially up the stakes for the characters later.

General Overview

Richter is playing an online RPG with his friends, and gets lured into joining The Land, a gamelike existence where dying just means returning to spawn.  This ‘game’ is possibly set up by demons from another dimension so that a human can break them free.

He finds he can’t log out, but takes his new existence in stride as he uses his special ability: Limitless, which is the ability to acquire any skill.  In this first book, he levels himself up, gains Companions, rescues people, learns spells, makes a semi-powerful enemy, and gets a stronghold that serves as a refuge for non-humans (Mist Village.)  

All while making references to outdated pop culture, such as What Does The Fox Say, which was popular at the time but has since sunk into the pile of dead memes.

Action: Lots.  

The characters are constantly traveling, fighting, or questing.  You see a lot of different settings and characters, which makes it fun, and makes the story move very quickly.  There is a feeling of easy progression that makes everything enjoyable. In a traditional fantasy, this would never happen, so hardcore fantasy readers might find Richter’s easy growth unbelievable.  I was surprised when I read the book for the second time at how much I either glossed over the first time or had just escaped my memory.

Gaminess: High.  

The main character is aware that he is in a game, or at least a gamelike existence.  You get numbers.  I read this on my Kindle phone app, though, and the stats tables didn’t format well as I scrolled through them on my small screen.  I’m not sure they worked for me, anyway. They made the classic error of yanking me out of the story to squint at a badly-formatted table.  But I’m sure some people like them, so I’m not going to say it was a bad choice. 

More important than the stats is the prevalence of game elements.  You’ll find dungeons, leveling, classes, herb lore, magical items, markets, different races (and racism, which is interesting), magic maps, and quests.  Everything you expect in a traditional RPG.

Sexism: Some, about what you’d expect.

I get the feeling that the trite gender roles more out of laziness, and a lifetime of reading typical fantasy, than anything.  In this book, there are no viewpoint female characters, and the side characters are mostly predictable types: motherly and bossy/fierce; beautiful, fragile, and shy; dark and mysterious; cheerful big-boobed bar wenches.  Richter’s memories of his real-world exes are reduced to boobs and purses.

If things continue, I’m guessing that we will see the following:

  • a short-haired hardened female soldier who has the respect of all the boys, but has a hidden soft side she shows only to Richter
  • a beautiful dark mage (with flowing long hair) who can be wooed if Richter beats her in power or intelligence
  • a country-fresh hometown girl who falls in love with Richter for noticing her

I’ve read a lot of fantasy, so it takes a lot to surprise me.  

Romance: None, so far.  

Hints of interest with some kind of beautiful, young, and sheltered elf mage (I’m 80% sure she’ll be some kind of spiritual mage if she returns, maybe a healer, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if she isn’t.)  I am not eager to see this author attempt romance.

The Main Character

You know what, though? I found the main character funny.  He’s immature and makes dick jokes constantly, but that’s the character the author created.  Richter doesn’t take himself too seriously and also does heroic things, such as rescuing the enslaved and providing a non-human sanctuary.  Generally, his heart’s in the right place for a young hero.

If Richter is based on the author himself, then Aleron Kong probably isn’t someone I’d like to grab a beer with.  I’m past my teenage years and am no longer amused by rating women in bars. And if you’re a woman reading this, I can see how the main character would remind you of the kind of awkward boy you most wanted to avoid in high school.  But in a story, it doesn’t bother me. It’s fiction.

What I Especially Liked:

This was the first LitRPG I read (besides Ready Player One, which doesn’t count.)  What I liked and remember best were these things:

  1. The random secret quests that he didn’t know he fulfilled until he fulfilled them, combined with random point amounts.
  2. A lot happens, with a lot of ‘game process’ details.  Quests, leveling, items. It really feels like a game, which is a big part of why I like this genre.
  3. The merchant, and selling all the jewels.  That was awesome. I like loot and buying and selling; it’s so satisfying.
  4. The Mist Village building aspect at the end.  It’s not hardcore into the civilization management, but enough to keep me ‘playing along’ in my head, if that makes sense.  I think it’s my favorite part of the book.

In Conclusion…

My impression of The Land, at least the first book because that’s all I’ve read, is that it’s all in good fun.  Amateurish? Sure. Immature? Definitely, and there’s a sense of good humor, almost parody, about it, like a middle schooler dropping in-jokes into his story for his friends.  

The fantasy game tropes are well-worn, but that is what I wanted to read – the familiar elements fleshed out, rather than anything truly different.  The scope of the story feels truly huge and unbounded, like anything could happen and that this is just the beginning, despite so much stuff happening in the book.

And Aleron Kong’s clearly put in some work and thought into the game elements, so it all hangs together, especially when the book gets into the civilization management in the end.  I’d like to see more of that.

Worth the $2.99 I paid?  Yes, I’d say so.

I’ll get around to Book 2 sometime, but I am not a ‘marathoner’ of series by any means. I’m more of a ‘taster.’ I’ll usually read Book 1 and come back to the series after a while.