The Sunday Review: Death by Cliche

Death by Cliché by Bob Defendi


If you are a nerd like me, you spent a large portion of your teenage years playing Dungeons & Dragons or some other Role Playing Game (RPG). (For those of you youngin’, RPGs are like World of Warcraft, except you sat around a table with others sort of like you and you had to imagine the giant dragon about to Kentucky Fry your character’s tuchus). And at some point you probably played an adventure that was full of really clichéd narrative events and stereotypical characters. Bob Defendi’s Death by Cliché gives the reader a humorous opportunity to see how such a world looks to the people in the game. And Defendi has inside knowledge of the gaming world as he is a game designer and troubleshooter.

Bob Defendi’s hero is an RPG game designer and troubleshooter named Bob Damico. (And yes, it is that obvious who the character is supposed to be). Damico is asked to check on a new game being play tested when he is shot in the head by the game creator and the next thing Damico knows, he is inside the game, not sure if he is dead or alive in the real world. Damicio finds himself in a party of adventurers, the dwarf Viking Gorthander who loves to fight and fight, the half-elf warrior Omar who loves to fight and loot, the bard Arithian who talks like someone trying to emulate Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, and the magic using Lady Lotianna. All of his fellow adventurers are just characters in the game, being controlled by people in the real world, sitting around the gaming table, unaware he is a real person. Damico is forced to go along with the adventure to stop the evil Hraldolf (a man so beautiful, he can cause your head to explode in wonder and awe) from gaining the McGuffin Artifact that will destroy the world, enduring every cliché a bad game will have.


Damico is unknowingly changing the world and the stock characters in it. Hraldolf begins to question why he simply puts a village to death because it can’t pay tribute because of a late crop season. Hraldolf starts wondering if maybe he offered his serfs health insurance, they would be more motivated to work. Another stock character, the beloved lord of another land, realizes he is in fact, a sociopath. By the end of the story, Damico has upended the rules of the game world and discovers what the true artifacts are and what has happened to himself.

The story works because it is not just a satire of bad gaming and clichés, but because the story is aware that it is a story about bad gaming and clichés, complete with introductory “quotes” for each chapter. If you’ve played RPGs, you’ll like this book because you can probably relate.

If you have never played an RPG, the story might not make quite as much sense at first, but relativity quickly the reader should be able to understand the basics of how RPGs work and enjoy what it would feel like to endure a bad RPG adventure.

Either way, the story is engrossing and funny and you will definitely enjoy it.


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