IFComp 2016: Labyrinth of Loci

Spoilers follow the break.

Serious D&D gamebook vibe here, with the grim and somber tone of a teenage dungeon master who earnestly wants to make a masterpiece of his imaginary world, even though his imagination is tethered to that of Gary Gygax. That is, we’ve got here a world that references hill giants and stone giants and golems and doppelgangers, and we all know why, as much as the author might try to make them his own by putting fresh invented mythological origin stories behind them.

You create a character by making a few arbitrary choices (Luck or strength? Faerie blood or knowledge of the old gods?), then go through a branching sequence of rooms stocked with traps, treasures, monsters, NPCs, and lore dumps, all of which you investigate and interact with CYOA-style. There’s no randomized combat; I did manage to find one deterministic, choice-based fight scene, but my experience was more like that of a thief or rogue, possibly just because of the doors I chose. See, after each room, you choose the next by picking from a pair of doors, each with a sentence or two of description to hint at what’s behind it. In the grand tradition of such dungeons, rooms are basically their own little worlds with no particular reason to exist in the same structure, and give the impression that they exist just to provide challenges for adventurers. And there may be something to that. One of the lore dumps, also used as the work’s blurb, vaguely suggests that the whole thing may be less than real even within its own fictional world. Why are you here, anyway? It’s unclear, perhaps deliberately.

But that doesn’t quite jibe with the way that, at the end, you can take objects out of the labyrinth with you. In my one complete play-through, I wound up with a sword with an enchantment/curse that determined the course of the rest of my life, as described in some detail in a post-labyrinth epilogue. This was fairly unexpected, and I think it was a good thing. Dungeon crawls don’t generally pay much attention to what happens after you leave the dungeon. This story doesn’t have much of a beginning, but it does have endings.

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