Dungeonmans from Adventurepro games is a parody of fantasy games in the roguelike style. As a titular Dungeonmans (the title is used no matter the preferred gender) at Dungeonmans Academy you sally forth to crush monsters and find treasure. Near-inevitably your character will die, but their legacy lives on to assist the next student. Eventually, you accomplish the all-too-common goal of finding the Big Evil and beating it up, then faffing around and exploring if you so wish.
Dungeonmans doesn’t aspire to a unique plot – the game’s charm is that it embraces all the tropes of fantasy and the roguelike genre. Among the kill-and-loot mechanics and laughs there are multiple lessons for writers – because comedy is challenging. Fortunately, Dungeonmans is fun, funny, and educational for writers
Embrace The Tropes
The game embraces every trope of fantasy and dungeon-delving games without a single inhibition. Dungeonmans has dungeons, treasure, towns in need, and everything you’d expect from the umpteenth fantasy adventure game or story. It doesn’t feel boring or repetitive, because the unoriginality is needed as it’s a parody.
By embracing the tropes, the game meets expectations of gameplay, but also allows it to mock them. A player gets exactly what they expect in play and story, while also getting to see them taken apart and parodied. You can’t parody from a distance, you have to embrace it.
Come to think of it, you can’t do anything with a genre without diving in, can you? Other wise it’s half-baked, whereas Dungeonmans is perfectly prepared.
Explain The Tropes
Good worldbuilding in any story is needed so players understand what’s going on, or think they do. When you’re playing with tropes, say in a parody game like Dungeonmans you have to explain what’s going on. The tropes need to be explained as that’s part of the parody – because parody is often taking things to ridiculous lengths or exploring them.
Dungeonmans goes out of the way to explain what’s going on. Dungeonmans are a recognized profession in a world overrun with monsters and evil. An Academy was put in place to train such adventurers because they have to come from somewhere. Some villains you face are even failed heroes, suggesting a kind of “economy of evil.”
The game is thus funnier because of the worldbuilding. All the things you take for granted in a fantasy game have reasons, reasons both funny and thought-provoking. Imagining the social and economic implications of professional but expendable monster-killers takes you places like any good story.
Funny Needs Details
Dungeonmans explanations arent’ just broad strokes. Every item you find or create has a name and text explanation. What is this wand made of? Why does this ridiculous sword exist? Is the name of this weapon really twelve words long? There’s all sorts of little details in the game that make it more interesting and funnier.
Good parody – and any good writing – has those little details that draw you in. When you’re “in” the world of a story or game, you appreciate it more and feel those chills, thrills – or laughs in the case of parody. Dungeonmans is filled with these little details, and you might find yourself pausing to read the description of the latest treasure you find.
Into The Depths of Humor
For me, Dungeonmans was the rare experience of a game both funny and engaging. I kickstarted it, played it at least twice in early access, then once after it was released, and once after many updates. Every time it was fun, and every time I’d get a good laugh, even with material I’d seen before. Over these years, I realized these were lessons worth sharing.
Lessons for Writers:
- If you parody something, embrace the tropes enthusiastically. That meets expectations while letting you poke fun at the elements you’ve targeted. You have to know a trope to take it on.
- Disinhibition is necessary to embrace tropes, or you might do it halfway, and that is often miserable.
- In parody – or anything involving tropes – you’ll need to explain them. That makes the world believable, and is even more important in parody or extrapolation.
- Details matter in any story as they draw the reader in. They are important for impact – even when the impact is a good laugh.