Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Eight-Bit Bard: A Novel with CRPG Addicts in Mind

If you're a CRPG fan looking for a fun diversion for a few hours, I solidly recommend The Eight-Bit Bard, a "fantasy novel set to the tune of classic computer role-playing games," written Aaron Rath. Aaron frequently comments on my blog under the name "Quirkz."

Half-parody, half-homage, the engaging and well-written book draws from a Bard's Tale theme but offers allusions to hundreds of RPGs, settings, and characters; I'm sure I missed as many as I picked up. The story concerns Endrew Aric, a moderate-level bard who finds himself abandoned by his party the moment he's level-drained in combat. He takes up with a group of Level 1 misfits and finds himself in the unexpected position (because of his higher level) of party leader.

Aaron has a great feel for the amusing vagaries of CRPG playing and decision-making. Endrew explains why the party's magician is named "Hunter2" ("for obscure leagal reasons, the 2 is silent, but always scribed"), how dungeon doors work ("it was impossible to tell whether or not anything was on the other side without opening it and diving through, shouting a battle cry, and hoping for the best"), and the relationship between some characters and the mysterious god known as The Player.

Characters ponder why creatures without opposable thumbs are mysteriously found inside houses, why animals carry gold, the  meaning of "xyzzy," what it means to "dig too deep," and who, exactly, writes all of the messages they're finding on the dungeon walls. We get a rare glimpse from the characters' points of view on what it's like to grind, to have to return to the temple for healing 10 minutes after you were just there, and to stand in front of the review board to "level up."

I appreciated a personal homage in the form of a (deceased) band of adventurers known as the CRPG Addicts, and several of my frequent commenters will find their names among its members. (Canageek, you're one of them, so when you reach this posting in about 18 months, make sure you buy the book!)

I've only read about half of the book myself so far, but I've skimmed the rest, and I look forward to what's ahead. It appears we'll be answering some meta-questions about what the characters do when The Player isn't around, how they incorporate knowledge from hint books, and what happens to them when the computer crashes.

On rare occasions, I've tried to write bits of the adventure from the perspectives of my characters. If you like that kind of posting, I guarantee you'll like The Eight-Bit Bard. Amazon is currently selling the electronic edition for $4.99 in the U.S. Congratulations, Quirkz, for bringing this project to fruition!

38 comments:

  1. I did like those posts (especially the Wizardry one) so I think I'll add this to the list of books I want to check out.

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  2. £3.17 on amazon.co.uk, so I thought I'd take the chance on it. Hopefully I won't miss too many references, but I already noticed a blues brothers one in the first chapter so I think I'll be okay!

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  3. It's on Kindle Unlimited, yay! Thanks for the recommendation, I'll take a look tonight.

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  4. I am going to download Amazon's free Kindle-reading App just so I can experience this.

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    1. That's nice. I can't even get it due to regional restrictions. WTF?

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    2. I thought it was available anywhere Amazon sold ebooks. Are you somewhere where they don't support them at all, or did I just overlook a region?

      I'm locked in for another 75 days or so of a 90-day Amazon exclusive contract, but after that I might look into other avenues. I'll also note there's no DRM on the book, so if you've got a friend in a more compatible region they could buy it and send it to you without trouble.

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  5. Replies
    1. Save the trees, dude. We're living in the 21st century.

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    2. I'll look into it, but those who are selling ebooks for $5 are selling print-on-demand physical versions for something like $20, nearly all of that cost to Amazon. I figured most folks wouldn't be interested in paying $15 more just to hold a copy. But tell me if I'm wrong; the more who ask, the sooner I'll try to figure out out.

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    3. A pdf version on DriveThruRPG would be great ...
      I have no kindle ;-)

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    4. Man, I didn't know about DriveThruRPG before, but there goes all the book profits and then some. As I mentioned elsewhere I've got maybe 75 days left on the exclusive contract with Amazon (you don't need a Kindle, by the way, any computer can run their reader, including many smart phones) but then I'll be looking at expanding options. That looks like a really good fit, so I'll add them to my list of places to talk to. Thanks!

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    5. Since you asked, I've been looking into print versions. It looks like I can hit something around $12.50 for a physical copy. That's still a bit more than $5 for the eBook, but a lot better than the $20 I'd expected. It's probably going to be a few weeks before I can get my hands on a copy to confirm quality, but I'll post here to let you know when they're available.

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    6. A "real" version (i.e., a print version) is now also available through Amazon. I've got a couple of test copies, and I'm happy with the results. It looks like a real book!

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  6. I read a similar story written by Carlton Mellick. His took place in the paper and pencil D&D game. I'm guessing this story uses less profanity and pre-adolescent gross out joke. His book was titled The Kobold Wizard's D-ld-o of Enlightenment +2. I laughed so hard I cried. I'll check this one out , it looks like fun.

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    1. Yes, one of the things I like about Aaron's book is that the humor isn't vulgar or juvenile.

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  7. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesJune 10, 2015 at 5:17 PM

    Citizens of Earth and Half-Minute Hearo were great parodies of R.P.G.s and good R.P.G.s in itself, much like Mother but you can play them because they are available on computers. I really recommend them to someone who likes R.P.G.s and surreal satire. I suspect their humor has more subtlety and depth than in the book, since it goes further than simply explaining obtuse terms.

    Another game that was a good parody but not a good game was the modern Bard Tale remake: It had a lot of good jokes and characters and endings; unfortunately, it used tedious Diablo-style combat without the depth of good R.P.G.s. It is worth playing for a laugh if you can handle repetition.

    Brad Hates Games had a play based on the Bard's Tale that was a hilarious parody of the flaws in C.R.P.G.s. (https://bradhatesgames.wordpress.com/category/3-special-features/the-bards-tale-play/) It also made a play based on Metal Gear Solid that poked fun at weird Japanese games, so it was not entirely against this genre.

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    1. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesJune 10, 2015 at 5:18 PM

      I men Hero

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    2. I'm playing a few Indie games now and one of them is Cubicle Quest and You Are Not The Hero. Parodies JRPGs to a great extent.

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    3. The Bard's Tale Play that Obdurate linked to is short, sweet, and funny.

      I finished The Eight-Bit Bard. It's a full length novel and took several hours to read. The madcap in-jokes, puns, and video game references never let up, but there's also a character-driven story underneath all the parody.

      Well, as character-driven as anything based on create-your-own-party CRPGs can be.

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    4. @Victar: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

      @ OHRG: The linked Bard's Tale play was a fun read, thanks.

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  8. Thanks, Chet. That was more thorough and enthusiastic than I'd let myself hope for. I appreciate the mention, and I hope the folks who give it a try do enjoy it.

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  9. Check out Progress Quest if you're into parody CRPGs at all. The game is 100% automated grinding. Roll your character and set him loose. Watch as he slaughters hundreds of low level nooks, grabs loot, sells loot, buys New gear, levels up and does it all over again. How long can you watch it go? Why are you watching it do everything? What was the point? It runs in your browser!

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    1. Yeah. Tried it. Boring as f***.

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    2. I dabbled with Progress Quest once. Watch a Youtube video of s Progress Quest running for sixty seconds, and you've seen all it has to offer.

      Okage: Shadow King for the PS2 also heavily parodies RPGs, especially JRPGs, although it's a little on the difficult/grindy side.

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    3. I know! (Steve Martin as The Jerk grin)

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    4. I got an e-mail with Kenny's reply, and I thought it was in the master thread (i.e., a reply to the post) rather than a reaction to Progress Quest. I was agonizing whether I was going to censor an opinion or let an extremely rude comment persist on my blog. I was so relieved when I saw where it actually was.

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    5. Believe it or not, even Progress Quest gets a nod in the novel.

      I played it once, briefly. Obviously not much point to it, unless you find a way to enjoy the idea they've taken a computer GUI and basically turned it back into a story, where you're just reading lines and clicking next. I might have pushed on for a while to see where the narrative went, but I think I remember the progress bars taking way too long to wait for more loads.

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    6. @Chet - Hey! I already censored it myself, you prude. XD

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  10. Thanks for the recommendation, Chet, and congrats to Quirkz! Picked up a copy and am looking forward to reading it.

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  11. Hi, first time to comment after following for a while. Within the context of this blog entry I'm sure you all know the web comic Order of the Stick, with an Adventure Group in the main role. In case you don't here is the link: www.giantintp.com

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    1. That's a good one, just for general story and also for poking holes in RPG conventions. Familiars that only show up when you think about them, the evil twin with the backwards name, the inept character who becomes ept when he coordinates puns with his sword thrusts (wish I'd thought of that), and lots of other good stuff. I used to read daily but got tired of the erratic schedule and switched to checking in roughly every year.

      Believe it or not, there's a pretty subtle nod to that site in my book: a staff called an OOTS stick.

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  12. I did like those posts (particularly the Wizardry one) so I think I'll add this to the rundown of books I need to look at.

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