Fighter Fred and the Dungeon of Doom by Jason A. Holt
Genre: Fantasy, Humor
Age category: Adult
Release Date: August 1, 2019
This book left me feeling…conflicted. Amused, but conflicted. On one hand, it made me laugh out loud quite a few times. On the other hand, I feel if the book were stronger, I would have laughed a lot more.
Fred and the Dungeon of Doom tells a typical D&D storyline from the point of view of a fighter who is blissfully unaware he’s a character in a game. He doesn’t understand why people do weird things like say “I light a torch” right before they light a torch, but he’s a simple guy who loves adventuring, so he doesn’t question this stuff too much. When he joins a group searching for a lost amulet with one character who takes this all quite seriously and another who clearly does not, hilarity ensues. It’s similar in concept to NPCs by Drew Hayes but lighter and with way more fourth-wall breaking.
There are a few points in the book where it’s difficult to tell who this book is aimed at. The cover at first made me think this was a middle grade book, along the lines of “Herobrine Goes to School” but with D&D characters. (It’s obviously not categorized as such–speaking of first impressions only.) And some of the humor is very juvenile. Bad puns, potty humor, that sort of thing. Then in come the other jokes about marijuana and human anatomy.
The humor of the book shines in its self-awareness and the hilarious way Fred’s world takes everything in a tabletop role-playing game literally. For example, animals are named by how they’re listed in the Adventurer’s Handbook. The group doesn’t encounter a “giant rat” but a “rat comma giant.” This type of humor requires the audience to have a bit more than a passing knowledge of D&D, but the payoff for readers who do is quite satisfying. The plot meanders, and it’s meant to. These are characters walking through a set adventure with an often less-than-creative DM. The reader is along for a fun ride, not a deep story.
The female representation is the book is less than stellar. All four of the main characters are male, and most of the characters they encounter are male. They chat with a barmaid in the opening chapter and a scantily-clad female barbarian later on, who hangs out for a bit, makes some jokes about how she adventures for the sponsorships, and soon leaves. Her sponsor? An underwear company. Her clothing choices are hand-waved away by saying that male barbarians don’t wear much either, so “it’s not a woman thing. It’s a barbarian thing.” It’s a false equivalency. From the perspective of a female dungeon master, this element of the book definitely disappointed me.
Overall the book is good for a laugh, but the type of humor varies greatly, and odds are, not everyone is going to find the majority of the jokes funny. But the jokes I did enjoy had me laughing loud enough to draw confused glances from others around me, and ultimately these moments kept me reading to the end.
Rating 3 out of 5
You can find Fighter Fred and the Dungeon of Doom on Goodreads
You can also buy Fighter Fred and the Dungeon of Doom on Amazon.