I watched Dave Barrett’s It’s All Fun and Games climb the charts of the Nerdist Collection contest on Inkshares with a mixture of admiration and curiosity. The premise—a Live-Action Role Play game come to life—seemed pretty basic. I decided it would be made or broken by the quality of the prose and characterization, since the plot could not possibly be that interesting. Right?
Turns out that It’s All Fun and Games was a fabulous read. The writing was effective—not arabesque or anything, but strong writing that was easy to read, but not overly simple—and the characters had enough depth. But what took me by surprise is the larger arc of the story (left unresolved in the book) and where it might lead.
For those of you unfamiliar with Live-Action Role Play (LARP), it’s one of the nerdier pastimes you can get into. Essentially, it is acting out your dungeons and dragons characters and battling each other using foam weapons, nerf arrows, and beanbags as your implements of war. Here’s a cringe-worthy example of LARP in action.
Now that you understand the context, we can talk about It’s All Fun and Games. Six friends begin what seems to be a weekend of normal LARPing adventure when, for reasons unknown, their make-believe becomes real. The begin to take on the mannerisms of their assumed characters, as well as their personalities, memories, and abilities. They take their mysterious and magical translocation in stride, assuming they must play out the “encounter” to discover how to get home.
For a short while, progress is smooth. They save some townsfolk from brutal bandits, find some treasure, and feel powerful with their in-world “enhancements.” But, things tending toward entropy, a member of the team is soon killed, and all but one are taken captive by a group of monsters.
The process of rescuing the team is fun to read, but the tacit acceptance of the changing circumstances by the group (attributed to their assimilation of fictional personalities) is irksome. They rebel at the notion of their captivity in a fictional world for only a short while (until things get real what with the death and all), and from that point forward, are adventurers. I’d have liked to see a bit more resistance on the part of the teenagers—though they’ve become magically skilled and fine warriors in their own right. Even if some parts of it would be awesome, I can’t say I’d be entirely stoked to suddenly find myself in a dungeons and dragons quest.
The end of the story is somewhat abrupt. The crew is rescued by the unlikeliest of members, and they set off to learn more about the Evil Guy who brought them to the fantasy land for reasons unknown. It kind of fizzles out—a single encounter that would have been terrific fun to play with friends in dungeons and dragons, but a less-than-perfect ending to a novel, perhaps.
If, as I surmised from the accompanying text, Dave Barrett intends to make this a serialized story, I’d be glad to read the next installments. It was a quick read, without too many surprises, but absolutely enjoyable and well worth your time, if DnD is your cup of tea.