Dungeons of Dredmor: Jokeyness

I haven’t even mentioned the jokey aspects of Dredmor yet, which is a substantial oversight on my part. Usually I’d excuse this by saying that the jokes are superficial, and don’t intrude into the realm of gameplay, where the player’s attention is. But that’s just not true here. The jokes are pervasive at every level, and impossible to ignore. Take damage types: in addition to traditional things like fire damage and electrical damage (which tend to have higher-faluting names within the game, such as “conflagatory” and “voltaic”), there’s existential damage. Crafting skills let you make weapons and armor not just from bronze and steel, but from aluminum and plastic, both of which come in ingots. Randomized magic items have names pieced together out of random words, with madlibs-like results. There’s a magic item that can turn any object into lutefisk, which is more useful than it sounds, because of the various altars to the Lutefisk God scattered around waiting for suitable offerings. There’s one other deity represented in shrines throughout the dungeon: Inconsequentia, goddess of side-quests. who can send you to take on special monster teams with more jovially-randomized names.

In short, it’s a lot like Kingdom of Loathing, but more offhand about it. Which should increase the humor value. The thing is, I’m not really finding the game funny. The death message, “Congratulations! You have died”, always provokes a chuckle, which takes a bit of the sting off the death, but other than that, I don’t think I’ve laughed once while playing this game. The humor more works to set a tone, to establish a particular kind of rapport with the player. It’s not funny, it’s jokey.

And really, this is something that’s traditional in CRPGs. Nethack is quite jokey, providing cream pies as missile weapons and suchlike. The original Wizardry had a jokey heart. Dredmor is unusually dense with jokeyness, but it’s just a difference of degree. Perhaps there’s something about the mechanics of an RPG that invites such an attitude, an absurdity to the whole business of gaining levels that makes the author want to reassure the players that they shouldn’t be taking it too seriously, that it should be treated as something more like a tall tale than a believable simulation of a world.

2 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 21 Dec 2011

    While I never laughed out loud, I did find myself reading all the descriptions, which is something I almost never do in a roguelike.

  2. malkav11 on 21 Dec 2011

    I like it to a degree, but I find that it does have the effect of obscuring what stuff actually does in game terms in many cases, which is frustrating. I still don’t get their stat system with its tiny and easily confused icons at all.

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