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NPCs Paperback – April 29, 2014
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About the Author
Drew Hayes graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in English. He is the author of many books, including NPCs and The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant. Drew lives in Texas. Visit him at drewhayesnovels.com. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There is humor, a must for books, and games, that I love and a story that tickled everything in my nerdy heart. It's a great book with a great story. Highly recommend, and I've started the 2nd one.
The story follows a group of NPCs who are faced with the choice of "Stand by as the Mad King destroys their village and the certain death that will follow" or "pretend to be adventurers and only probably die in the process". The book not only follows all of the typical roleplaying tropes but also embraces them as part of the reality that is the characters world. Examples like "why are there so many monsters in this area? Well its because there are a lot of adventurers and monsters tend to go where adventurers are for some inexplicable reason" or "Paladins cant run away from evil. Like literally their feet get stuck to the road and they can't move" all make up facets of this story.
This could easily become groan worthy but the author manages to tackle these elements and make them feel compelling. So if you want a bit of good old days of roleplaying nostalgia then this is the book for you.
I've never played a pen-and-paper role playing game; I thought they sounded like fun as a kid, but didn't know anyone else who was into that kind of thing. A little older and I was too ashamed to admit to liking something so nerdy...and then I discovered video games. Even though I'm not the stereotypical gamer, I like a game with a good strong storyline for the same reason I like reading well-written fantasy: it's a chance to immerse myself in a magical world, and the best games do it like a Choose Your Own Adventure. (Remember those?)
Sadly, many of the books I've tried that are based on a D&D-style storyline just don't cut it. The "rules" that make a lot of sense in a game get cumbersome in a book, and things like characters and the depth of the plot are sometimes less developed than they should be. Too often they just sound like something that would be better if you could play it, like a you-had-to-have-been-there moment.
Not sadly, this was not one of those.
The author was completely transparent about basing this on an RPG; the whole story is built on a real-world frame of five obnoxious kids playing a pen-and-paper game, and the author frequently pokes lighthearted fun at the game structure that any of us who've played them for any real length of time probably don't even notice anymore. It really was a very funny book. One of those jabs was at the traditional party structure - a standard RPG party of adventurers contains a fighter, a rogue, a magic-user, and a healer because those four classes cover the bases. It's both an interesting look at stereotypes and a mockery of the way character races gravitate toward certain classes.
I was a little nervous about the writing going in. I hadn't heard of this author before, and there are SO many e-books written by people who never really grasped the mechanics of telling a story well. I needn't have been; I thought the book was very well-written and I enjoyed the author's style enormously. It wouldn't have surprised me if the author's voice and sense of humor had started to grow old - again, it happens a little too often, and what starts out charming starts to grate before too long - but it never did. And I KNOW I don't need to mention the epidemic of editing fails going around lately. This book was definitely edited. I think I caught two mistakes.
This was a very quick read. (Too quick? Only 'cause it was so good.) The plot itself was impressively well-paced, with a perfect scope for the length, and a terrific balance of action, discussion, and exposition. The main storyline is tied up neatly - I do so hate cliffhangers - but instead of a happily ever after, the author leaves plenty of room for the continuing adventures of the NPCs. I really, really hope we get to continue their adventures!
I've been trying to decide whether people who aren't into role playing games would enjoy this, or even get it, and I'm inclined to think they would. While the universe is along the lines of Drizzt's or Elminster's (though to be clear, this is not set in the Forgotten Realms) or the Dragonlance books, it probably reminded me most of the comedic fantasy of Jig the goblin in Goblin Quest, with flavors of Robert Asprin and Xanth without the puns.
I'm either off to see what else this author has written - he's seriously got some chops - or maybe I'll dust off Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights; NPCs really reminded me why I liked those games so much. As for you, I say you should try it...and if you're not a "gamer" but find you like it, then maybe that's a suggestion that you ought to give an RPG a try and find out for yourself what it's like to be an adventurer.