Wednesday, July 27, 2011

King of RPGs Second Edition

King of RPGs volume 2 has fewer references to porno manga than the first, but since its ending seems like a suspiciously good break point if further volumes don't get greenlit, it seems like a good time for a closer look.

KORPG actually has some surprisingly complex structure given how broad the jokes are. I always get a kick out of structural metahumor; Thompson has a longtime interest in both RPGs and manga, and it's amusing how seamlessly he fits the conventions of tournament battle manga (childhood inspirations sparking lifelong obsession, villains almost more interesting than the heroes, each more powerful than the last, defeat means friendship) with the inside-baseball gamer humor of Knights of the Dinner Table, Order of the Stick, Darths & Droids, DM of the Rings, etc (satanic panics, LARPing, adversarial GMing, and some MMO stuff in volume 2). It's especially great when the two synergize, like referencing Death Note to emphasize the Game Master's control-freak nature.

The main idea of "Shonen Jump-style battle manga about Dungeons & Dragons" isn't a very pointed parody given that things like Yu-Gi-Oh and .hack have already played it completely straight, but this time there's the occasional undercurrent of absurd black humor from the tone clash of zany unrealistic plot elements uneasily butting up against the reasonably honest portrayal of the main character's emotional problems. It's either tasteless or ballsy to have the plot basically boil down to "Mazes and Monsters by way of Bastard!", but then Thompson always was fond of manga's transgressiveness, and "Jack Chick was right!" is pretty much the ultimate taboo in RPG circles.

And finally, there are lots of tiny throwaway jokes all over the place, from the blatantly referential to the obscure (like Shesh Maccabee's signature in-game weapon). The art's quite nice too; Victor Hao's got a nice, cartoony expressiveness that works well for the comedy and lends the proper flair to all the scenes and characters.

I'd be happy to see more of this, but frankly the odds seemed kind of against even getting as much as we have. I'm honestly not sure if you can fully appreciate King of RPGs without having spent way too much time both reading manga and playing RPGs (though actually we have a couple guys like that here on the blog), but if you are one of those rare no-life kings, you should definitely check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Remind me to set up a meeting with Jason while you're in town. We can play Maid or something.