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WIP Worth the Candle by cthulhuraejepsen - T - Original Work

Discussion in 'Other Review Board' started by Ceins, Sep 14, 2017.

  1. Ceins

    Ceins Second Year

    Feb 14, 2007
    Title: Worth the Candle
    Author: cthulhuraejepsen
    Rating: T
    Genre: litRPG, Adventure
    Status: WIP
    Fandom: Original work.
    Summary: It's a self-insert litRPG portal fantasy, loosely based on my personal experience of falling into a portal to another world and discovering that I had a character sheet attached to my soul.
    Link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/11478249?view_full_work=true

    So while the summary is factually correct, it does the work little justice. Making it seem a whole lot worse and low-effort then it really is.

    The reasons I like it:

    We're finding out about the other world at the same time as the MC, and there are things to find out. The world functions differently with it's own biases and traditions, which we find out when the MC runs afoul of them. Like the fact that souls are proven the exist and make a nifty power source, which as you might imagine trips the MC up a bit. And it's interesting to find out why the other world uses souls and why morality doesn't even enter into the discussion.

    There's also the plot of that while the world is exiting and new, it's not completely unfamiliar, bearing uncomfortable similarities with campaigns the MC has run as a DM. Which is kinda bad news because they weren't the happiest of campaigns and the things in them would be horrible to actually meet.

    And the "character sheet" thing is being played refreshingly straight, which does have the fridge horror elements cropping up. As an example that I haven't seen elsewhere is the level up mechanic, mainly that it feels good. And it continues to feel even better each successive time, to the point where dealing with how good it's starting to feel and how everything else is starting to pale in comparison is becoming it's own little sub plot. Which is but one of the things I find neat about the ability and how the author is handling it.
  2. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

    May 27, 2010
    Ceins covers most of what I found good about this story, but doesn't cover the points which in the end only allow me to rate this as high as 2/5.

    Spoilers abound


    The author infodumps a shit load of stuff. Not just once or twice, almost consistently throughout the story we see it happen. Which I get, being a new world and all with new biases that are alien to us. However, there's something to be said about the way it was executed which I find distasteful and sloppy. The reliance on numbered lists for example. There's also the fact that it feels like too much too soon, I always find myself either 1) Wondering whether all of this information I'm reading is important or 2) Skipping through large segments of these infodumps.

    The dialogue itself is alright when it comes up, but IMHO the worldbuilding, while interesting as ideas, falls flat in execution. Bonus points for not suffering from adverb fatigue though.


    My second issue, and arguably the harder one to solve, is the harem vibes. Our first major character introduction other than the MC is an incredibly hot girl who turns out to be 1) A Princess, 2) Not only a Princess, but the primary designated heir through what I'm pretty sure arose from the mind of a CK2 player (agnatic gavelkind or somesuch bullshit) and 3) Takes an immediate interest in the MC and is primed to be the main love interest.

    Okay, I can kind of stomach it even though it's reminiscent of Fleur/Harry settings in that we have this seriously way out of your league female lead falling for some bumfuck gamer nobody from the middle of freaking nowhere. Pure fantasy and wanking, but I've seen worse.

    But then the second person to get added to the party is a half-elf, half-human girl who flirts aggressively with the MC. I'm just left thinking JFC can we get a staple character that isn't trying to jump this guy's bones.

    So we get a dwarf. A male one - sure it makes a big speech about how the dwarves technically have only one gender and yadiyadiyada - and then suddenly we find out in the latest chapter dwarf is only male out of convenience but was actually in an arranged marriage and TLDR is actually female.

    Give. Me. A Fucking. Break.

    It's not anywhere near harem fanfiction levels yet, but I can smell the smoke and I'm very rarely wrong about this kind of thing. Gamer fics, as a genre, do this story no favors in dissuading me that it's a stereotypical power wank fantasy.


    My final issue with the story is that it simply isn't all that interesting, when compared to other, better stories. For the most part, I think the fault lies with the personality and characterizations. Sure, sometimes the jokes are funny, but other than those few scenes that get a snort, there's not a lot for me to go on. The characters themselves I find dry and mainly uninteresting after a few chapters because holy shit could the women in this story be any much hornier for the MC short of being a smut fic.

    Sure the world building ideas are good (execution terrible, as discussed previously) and some of the gamer power aspects are handled neatly (level up addiction coming to mind) that set it apart from typical gamer stories, but at the end of the day it's a very YMMV story where if you aren't already familiar with the genre, you probably won't find a lot interesting here.

    Would I bother reading it again? No.

    Would I bother following the story? No.

    Would I bother recommending it to a friend as an absolute must read? No.

    Do I think it was an entire waste of time to read? No.

    TLDR: Decent time waster, nothing special.
  3. njist

    njist Squib

    Dec 29, 2015
    High Score:
    Just finished this weekend and couldn't put it down. The story has been amazing so far and the potential for a long, gratifying plotline is looking promising. Cherry on the top: the author's update schedule is obscenely fast.

    I was going to jump into the highlights, but the review above just rubs me the wrong way.

    @Halt - give me a fucking break. Your review is so full of unsubstantiated opinion, it's close to slander.

    1. Have you ever read a litrpg? This has some of the least awkward infodumping in any litrpg. To date, I don't think I've come across a single "infodump" that wasn't relevant to the situation at hand or was just, as the author calls it, "masturbatory worldbuilding".

    2. I thought the numbered lists were great as a stylistic choice. Uncommon but effective at cutting down on bullshit monologue padding between ideas.

    3. [spoilers] I have no idea if we're reading the same story, but there is absolutely zero evidence that this beautiful girl - who seems tailor-made to cater exactly to the MC's taste (any warning bells ringing? cause literally every time he looks at her, he feels like something is fucked up) - has any romantic interest in him. Conversely, every interaction suggests she's ready to exploit him as a tool.

    4. I can't say whether it won't turn into harem shenanigans, but there is absolutely zero evidence (see a pattern?) of any harem right now. You're literally judging it before it even happens and your review reflects how scared/disgusted you are that it's even possible, with more than 50% of your review about the nonexistent harem. Frankly I'm getting a completely different feeling that the harem is being teased but will never happen because group drama is actually a thing.

    5. [spoilers] The dwarf is about as much of a female as a male mountain gorilla without a penis.

    [EDIT] [spoilers] Speak of the devil. Latest chapter (40) did give us the first hint of romance with the out-of-his-league girl, even if it is drug induced and out of clinical pity. Point still stands. A little teeth action ≠ power wank fantasy. Also note that wish fulfillment is everywhere in media. I don't care as long as it's executed well.

    So now for the highlights:

    1. The plot has been riveting. A lot of litrpgs/portal fantasies have a problem with throwing characters into artificial situations and then being unable to realistically portray their reactions and actions in the new world. Not so here. The MC has an interesting backstory that's slowly revealed and later the backstory gains a life of its own with one of the most unique implementations of flashbacks I've seen. They're a personal favorite because they manage to be these emotional/funny/entertaining narratives that provide thoughtful commentary parallel to the main plot.

    2. Worldbuilding is solid, where solid means I'm interested in learning more about it. The game mechanics are kept to a tasteful minimum. There's suspense in the disconnect between what the MC thinks he knows about the world he created and how the world turns out to be. The overall execution suggests the author has put a lot of thought into this world - which he should have since it's apparently based off his real life D&D campaigns.

    3. Characters are rational (r/rational subreddit definition). Dialogue is natural and even clever at times. There's not enough chemistry so far that makes me feel extremely attached, but one character has been standing out.

    4. For a litrpg, a major plus is that the story doesn't shy away from the existential questions of being transported into a game that affects your very being. It's not a "oh new world, time to have a carefree adventure".

    I can't even count up to one hand the number of gamer stories of this caliber. Definitely worth the candle.

    5/5 if generous, 4.5/5 if I'm being stingy about the sparsity of memorable characters thus far.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
  4. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

    May 27, 2010
    I have read other litrpgs, the most recent one before this that comes to mind is How to Avoid Death On a Daily Basis. There have been others that were far less memorable.

    I think we're using very different measuring sticks here. You are comparing the infodump in this story to other litrpgs. I am comparing it to good writing in general. Yes, litrpgs as a genre suffer heavily from awkward infodumps, doesn't mean I have to lower my standards. When it comes down to it, litrpg doesn't have any more of an excuse than super high-tech science fiction when it comes to world building. In fact, one of my most common criticisms of classic sci-fi is their infodumping.

    And it's not even the case where you have to be blatantly infodump-y to worldbuild, as recent successful science fiction has shown. Red Rising or an Old Man's War throw us into worlds and scenarios that are strange and require description and explanation, but neither one of those I would call excessively infodumpy.

    Also, saying that the author recognizes it's "masturbatory worldbuilding" does not prove your point FYI. Neither does calling it masturbatory worldbuilding mean it isn't an infodump, when I'm specifically accusing the worldbuilding of being the culprit.

    I used to think so too having employed numbered lists before in my own writing. However, even with the numbered lists there seems to be a lot of monologue still going around. Another reason I dislike lists is that it doesn't work as well as dialogue in having the reader retain this information. It comes across as a list of facts to be memorized from a textbook.

    You get around it by showing the dialogue, which is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to write, but also one of the most important.

    Zero evidence you say, and then the update goes ahead and proves my point for me. Smoke, fire. The fact that the author didn't go ahead and make the girl instantly interested in him means he understands character development and that people don't suddenly fall in love in life-and-death situations, which I do give him credit for.

    And if it does turn out the girl is stringing him along up until the end, I will be very happy. But that doesn't look to be the case.

    Also, it wasn't so much Princess Girl that I objected to, so much as the harem vibes, which brings us to...

    Except for the fact that every party member he has so far is a girl. And that one of them has shown interest in him as of the latest chapter according to you, while another is a half-elf who flirts aggressively with him. But right, zero evidence at all. Prediction: The next party member is also going to be a girl. If it's not, color me surprised and I will take back everything I said about this being a harem story.

    Teasing a harem, is in my opinion, even worse than outright stating it is a harem. Teasing a harem exists in this stupid grey zone akin to "Will they, won't they romance" writ large. But hey, that's just me.

    I will grant that the dwarf thing probably doesn't matter too much.

    At the end of the day, it's not even the harem thing that makes me rate it as low as I did (3/5). It's because the writing is, in fact, average. Sure, it might be great for the genre it's in, but the characters aren't terribly interesting and ultimately characters are what make or break a story for me. Worldbuilding is secondary. Colin is actually pretty decent, but his support cast is sadly lackluster.
  5. njist

    njist Squib

    Dec 29, 2015
    High Score:

    HTADDB is not a litrpg. Its tagline kinda markets it as one, but it's closer to a portal fantasy. And if we’re comparing them in terms of infodumping, it's conceptually different: the characters don't care about the world beyond the immediate situation. There's no spur to worldbuild.

    This brings up your great point that we're not measuring "info dumps" in the same way. Info dumps are a narrative necessity in fantasy – you don’t create an original world without them. I did not read Old Man's War, but IIRC Red Rising was a massive info dump in the first book. LOTR was the mother of all info dumps.

    Masturbatory worldbuilding actually sums up the difference between unnecessary and appropriate worldbuilding. We are dipping into subjective territory of what we consider egregious infodumping. I didn’t feel there was anything blatantly infodumpy, but then that just comes down to opinion.

    I didn’t say lists replace monologues – how could they, in a 1st person POV? I’m just saying there isn’t anything inherently wrong with numbered lists as a mechanic. Modern writing includes a whole host of techniques that depart from tradition. Better for some, worse for others: it’s just a matter of taste. I feel they’re beneficial when your story has a certain type of narrative voice and pacing. I skimmed over the first few lists I could find and none of them came across as facts that had to be memorized.

    Fitting all your information into dialogue doesn’t work in a 1st person POV. Dialogue as a medium is wonderful when done right, but there’s just too much in the stream of consciousness. It ruins the pacing.

    It doesn’t prove anything. Firstly your review was written before there was anything. Second, this recent development was hardly romantic in the sense you meant and reviewed (princess falling for average Joe at first sight). There’s no reason to overreact to “smoke”, and supposing this is one of those stories where the guy gets the 10, the only thing that matters in the end is the execution/road there.

    That’s a plain contradiction. Every member a girl? Hairy effectively-male dwarf? I’d honestly like to see the author with the balls to make a harem including a gay dwarf.

    Going by the old adage, two does not make a pattern. Part of my issue with your review is you’re jumping to conclusions without actually knowing what will happen. I realize reading fanfiction and the ubiquitous power wank fantasies make one cynical, but two people being interested in the same person does not make it a harem or wank fantasy when it commonly occurs in real life.

    You hate harems or teasing harems: I get it. I don't know what will happen but I have noticed that these types of meta stories habitually deconstruct tropes and clichés.

    I found the writing (not in fact because I’m not speaking as a Distinguished Professor of Literature) way above average for a fantasy – even more so for original web fiction. Not some literary masterpiece but extremely readable. But again, I can’t tell what your real complaint is: the harem vibes? The technical writing? The characters not being terrible interesting?

    P.S. I liked HTADDB and Colin as well. However, he’s a caricature of the jaded antihero. It’s easy to make and find him interesting if you enjoy that kind of perspective. Taking things to extremes is the easiest way to make a character memorable.
  6. BTT

    BTT Death Eater

    Aug 31, 2011
    Cyber City Oedo
    Tolkien ;)
  7. Harshmate

    Harshmate First Year

    Apr 10, 2016
    High Score:
    This story isn't for everyone.

    1.) The author updates at a superb pace. The story was started in July this year and it's already close to 300,000 words. And we're not even halfway through the story. What all this means is that the writing isn't tight or careful or novel-like. It's written like any other good web serial. But this less than excellent writing does counter what the author is trying to do.

    2.) Deconstruction - I hate to use that word because I don't think it's fair at all or what the author is doing. But, deconstruction conjures up a better description for what the story is than self-insert litrpg. When you think SI litrpg with gamer elements you automatically think of the worst stories possible. This is a deconstruction of those stories. Okay, it isn't. But it is closer to a deconstruction of those elements than it is to those awful stories. It brings those elements to light and then tries to subvert them. Tries.

    3.) Theme - I think the number one thing that separates this from from other si litrpg gamer powerwank harem fics is that the story isn't about any of that. Ultimately, the protagonist has a purpose that isn't getting a harem or saving the world or even going back to his own! The story is ultimately about the protagonist's inner conflict. And every aspect of the story mirrors that. The setting resembles the worlds he made for DnD but not exactly. The story subverts the tropes of its genre more and more as it progresses. These two aspects are very important because they mirror what the protagonist is going through.

    But, all that said, this story still isn't for everyone. If you are the sort who regularly reads long fanfiction and gamer fics then you can read this story. I'm a hundred percent certain that we didn't need 300,000 words to be where we are right now in the story. Ultimately, in my opinion, this is a very good web serial. I went into it expecting it to be a good web serial. So I'm perfectly happy.

    On what Halt said -
    Technical : I read the story word for word and never found it boring. Every detail was something I appreciated. But if you're the sort who can't read a story with "infodumps" then don't read this.

    Wankery : Not a harem fic. If you dropped it before the subversion then yeah, that's what you would've thought. But it's not a harem.

    Interest: I found the story very compelling. I've loved it throughout.
  8. Lynnx

    Lynnx Squib

    Feb 11, 2014
    I've read about 270k words of this now and I've got to say, while I find some aspects of the story enjoyable, I'm getting some serious fatigue from reading this. It feels like every chapter the main character has to have an internal infodumping monologue about the science behind the velocity of an unladen swallow or something.

    It's not even infodumping about the new world he's in but about every damn thing on his mind, as if the author is trying to say "Look at all of these concepts I understand! Aren't I just amazing?"

    It also bothers me that every main character always appears to be some highly intelligent, perfectly rational and logical being that is capable of recognizing their own flaws and uncovering ridiculous plot lines like "the greatest king of the world, Uniter of lands from 500 years ago was actually from another dimension we don't believe is real and every action he ever took was dictated by his inherent belief that his life had to make a good story."

    That would make a GREAT end of book reveal or something, but instead it's written off as obvious to the characters because they had an overnight brainstorming session or something.
  9. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Chief Warlock

    Jun 27, 2011
    Chester, England
    I've enjoyed and subscribed to the story, because it's certainly pretty good. There's a decentish array of characters that do differ from each other, there's conflict within the party, a plot, metaplot, and the starts of genre-savviness. The main character is called Juniper, which (maybe because of Pokemon), I'd always thought was female name, but I don't actually know anyone with it, so it doesn't strain belief too much.

    The author also seems to be touching on things often left alone in gamer style stories - increasing intelligence on your character sheet might well change who you are as a person, the potential omnipotent power that's watching every move you make, and so on. It's mildly refreshing. But at the same time, the author's posting the story on r/rational, which can cause... issues. It's been mentioned above, about all the characters acting rational all the time, and whilst I disagree with the specific instance given (in-text, we're told it's a theory that people ignore because it's mildly uncomfortable, which means it doesn't get spread outside of specific circles), I do think there's issues with that.

    There's also things I'd like more explanation over, because I'm not in the author's DnD group. The Colour Coteries sound interesting, and appear to have been around since the First Empire, if I intepreted the talk of the Black whatever's sneaking things into parliament correctly. But there's no real explanation given, which makes the story feel more like fanfiction than something original. In an Isekai story, especially, the main character doesn't know everything, and considering that these groups have been antagonists a time or two, further explanations wouldn't go amiss.

    The harem shenanigans don't bother me. Firstly, because I don't dislike haremfics in general (although they're normally done badly). Secondly, because it doesn't appear to be going that way - the first girl doesn't appear to be actively interested yet, much less than I'd thought since browsing this thread (numerous times during the actual reading, I'd said to myself that the MC should stop chasing her, because she's just a little not great for him), and the second girl is actually fun, and isn't just set up as a sex-doll the party carries around. The dwarf (I'm pretty sure) isn't going to be entering into any harem business.
    Whilst Juniper has had the starting steps of physicallity within his relationship, and the non-humanness is notable (and am I pervert for wondering how? If it's so noticeable that he can say her "genital topology" is way outside human norm, but not any of the strangest things he'd accept), he was grossed out by the description of human/dwarf sex.

    I also quite like that the characters all seem to have agency. They don't act perfectly in line with Juniper's desires, and that has caused minor screw-ups a few times. Nothing major yet, and I haven't seen anything to say that the author really will cause irreversable horrible bad things to happen to characters we actually care about, but it could still happen.

    Also, it does feel like the story is made up of the different campaigns they've played through with their DnD group, with some of the flashback conversations quite possibly having come up at the table, although embellished for the sake of story. I wouldn't be completely surprised if this was something in line with All Guardsman Party, and was a re-telling of an actual campaign they had played through. I don't think it is, but I could accept it.

    Enjoyable story, interesting world and characters, although I feel it's lacking the details to make it perfect. Currently a 4/5, although I could see myself revising that upwards depending on later chapters.
  10. Bernd

    Bernd First Year

    Feb 2, 2017
    Lauer Höhle
    High Score:
    I had mixed feelings about this work, pros and cons that balanced each other out. I don't particularly like the Portal Fantasy/LitRPG genre, and this story, while decent on its own merits and much better than other LitRPG serials I've read in the past (How to Avoid Death on a Daily Basis, Delvers LLC, etc), is still a LitRPG. It embraces the common LitRPG tropes: stat sheets, meta-narrative pop cultural awareness, power-leveling and munchkinry. If you can't stand those, there's no reason why you should read this story, let alone write a 1-star review about why you hate the tropes. But as I can stand them, I'll skip over complaining about them because it's pointless and has already been covered by other people.

    Things I liked:

    The prose is polished, a few typos and misplaced apostrophes, but it was only a handful of times across half a million words. Much better writing than your average serial, pop culture references were infrequent and when they were used, it usually had some relation to a plot point or backstory. At a more thorough look, I found the prose overall to be serviceable. Not stellar, as the fight scenes and stat sheet descriptions and later game interface sections were clearly written to do a job -- conveying the action. If you want to read literary prose that flows like poetry, this isn't the story for you. However, the character interaction scenes were more thoughtfully written, introspective and a better demonstration in terms of displaying writing skill than everything else.

    Chapter 53
    This is better internal dialogue than the info lists or number crunching stat sheets. But it's also much less frequent.

    The character interactions were the best part of this story, and is what separates this story from the average LitRPG fic. Juniper's flashbacks to his old life in Kansas, and his gaming sessions with the group allow him and his quest to have more depth than just doing stuff because "The game told me to do it". It's an interesting stylistic choice to flip back and forth between timelines, and although it cuts into the pacing when used during suspenseful chapters, it's an effective way to explain the workings of the Aerb universe and characterize Juniper outside the RPG Hero lens. I've seen other stories where the MC's are dumped into the fantasy world with their Earth memories completely wiped (with the exception of a handful of plot convenient skills and jarring pop cultural reference drops because "harhar I know that thing of which you speak")... and that's generic as fuck. Your protagonist is supposed to be a person, not a NPC. I want to see that.

    There were some imaginative ideas in worldbuilding, namely the list of Exclusion Zones and the Unicorn. The Exclusion Zones are unique encounters/dungeons, with unique enemies, and their existence affects the universe at large by sealing off game breaking magic. The backstory behind the Unicorn's creation was interesting, and its parallel universe manipulation powers allowed for a creative fight. In rational stories, I prefer protagonists to find creative ways to solve their problems than min-max their stats so they end up one level higher than their opponents, whereupon they facepunch them to death.

    If you are tired of Generic Medieval Low-Tech Setting tropes in LitRPG or Xianxia, then Worth the Candle avoids the worst of them.

    Things I didn't like:
    I dropped this story for a long while because the first couple of chapters were very rough. They were the most generic, and worst, parts of the story. Dumped into the Noob Dungeon with no explanation, no weapons, and no idea what is going on. Watch as someone innocent is killed in front of your eyes by the Level One Monster, loot cool stuff, existential crisis about the nature of reality, rinse and repeat. This is the standard story start in these kinds of stories, and I hated it. I thought it was a shitty Maze Runner-style ripoff at first, and wouldn't have continued on without positive commentary on the later chapters of the story.

    Whitebread default "Most Generic Man Alive" as the MC meets super hot Princess-Needs-Your-Help plot set-up in the early chapters felt like blatant self-insert, pandering nonsense, like this genre's male version of Bella Swan from Twilight. Yes, you want your MC to be relatable and sympathetic from the beginning if you want to keep readers reading, but this was so generic and uninteresting. Frankly, I would have liked it better if Juniper had been a female MC because I have seen so many Whitebread Male Protagonists in LitRPG, but never a female one. It would have shaken up the trope expectations and status quos associated with the genre, and made worldbuilding and NPC interactions a lot more engaging. I actually thought Juniper was a girl in Chapter 1 because I've always understood "Juniper" to be a woman's name, and now that I've read to the latest update, I firmly believe a female MC would have improved this story. It would have given the Arthur-Juniper relationship another layer worth contemplating.

    The trope expectations I'm talking about, if I am to be blunt about it, is the Harem aspect. The MC is self aware, but it's still there and doesn't add much to the story. 79 chapters published as of now, and the MC's party has 4.5 female members out of the total count of 5 companions. He has a rich exiled warrior princess, a half-elf archer, and a devil girl all wanting to jump his bones. Meanwhile, as of the latest chapter, the MC still pines over his lost Earth girlfriend. I like character conflict in stories, but does it have to be from a harem romance angle?

    Chapter 79
    What the fuck, please stop this mess. The "Meeting the DM" element too. We don't need this.

    The story has good things and bad things, but it also has a fast updating schedule which means it may redeem itself at short notice, or it may plunge further into harem pandering. We'll see where it goes from. Right now, the prose is good, but the story itself feels like it's falling into a slump of meta-plotting.

    My rating: 3.75/10.