And that was the first time I died.
The first published novel from Caustic Critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
, famous for his online Video Game
critique series Zero Punctuation
, introduces us to the world within a popular fantasy-themed
(basically World of Warcraft
in all but name). There, the NPCs
go about their daily lives, unaware that some of the people among them - thought to suffer from a strange syndrome - are player characters
controlled by beings from another universe: us
It's the story of Jim, a minor character in the game, who dies when an army attacks his magic school only to be resurrected sixty years later by a "rogue necromancer" named Lord Dreadgrave, and now, all he wants is to find a way to die again, preferably for good this time, which is not an easy thing to do, since death seems only to be a temporary state in Mogworld. In his quest, he's accompanied by a pair of other undead (an airheaded
girl named Meryl and a self-righteous priest named Thaddeus) and the inept thief Slippery John - whether he likes it or not.
Not only has the flood of preorders meant that the success of the book is even more inevitable than it already has been, but it also kicked off the branch of Dark Horse Comics known as Dark Horse books, who are also publishing books based off Penny Arcade
, Mass Effect
, and The Guild
. As Yahtzee has said in response to a question on Twitter
is the first book published by Dark Horse Books.
Now has an audiobook
narrated by Yahtzee himself.
Mogworld provides examples of:
- Academy of Adventure: Jim's magic school, which even he admits is sort of on the level of a community college rather than one of the major magic schools. The fighter schools are probably closer.
- Aerith and Bob: We get names like Jim, Meryl, and Barry, mixed with names such as Drylda, Bowg, Mr. Wonderful, and Thaddeus Praise-His-Name Godbotherer III.
- Affably Evil: Baron Civious has been cultivating a image of being a cool Evil Overlord with a booming voice, but behind the scenes, he is more of a Dark Is Not Evil guy who spends most of his time bickering with his wife and, thanks to his recent dethroning, being the leader of La Résistance.
- Lord Dreadgrave also falls under this trope. He resurrects the dead as sentient zombies to serve as his minions in his evil doom fortress. However, he pays them fairly, listens to their feedback, and strives to make their working conditions more comfortable. In short, he is a model employer. Even the residents of the nearby villages welcome his weekly plundering raids because it keeps their construction industries in business, and seem to get along well with Dreadgrave's minions.
- A God Am I: Simon's ego leads him to try to make himself into "Lord Si-Mon", the god of Mogworld.
- And I Must Scream: Jim is afraid having his body destroyed will lead to this, as he would be a sentient pile of ash unable to move or communicate with the world.
- And indeed it does. Fortunately, he is permanently deleted before too long.
- Anti-Climax: Not actually the real Climax, but when Baron Civious and Barry are face to face, each summoning up their Auras of Light and Dark respectively and the general feeling is brought up, that the entire world could just as well be ending right now, Barry just pulverizes Civious with a single gesture.
- Awesome McCoolname: Lord Brutus Dreadgrave, Baron Carnax Winchester Civious, Thaddeus Praise-His-Name Godbotherer III.
- Badass Preacher: Thaddeus, as it turns out, was an immensely powerful and influential high-priest in life; and even with the loss of his arms, he's able to climb Mount. Murdercruel and come close to matching Barry in a spell-fight.
- Baleful Polymorph: Jim's Bunnymorph spell turns people into rabbits.
- Benevolent Boss: Lord Dreadgrave inadvertently raises a zombie horde with free will. He's able to retain their service by offering them a surprisingly thorough array of perks, including room and board and a monthly musical performance. Jim repeatedly mentions what an attentive and generally gracious employer Dreadgrave is until he's offed early in the novel.
- Big Bad: Simon, in his Mogworld persona as 'Lord Si-Mon'.
- Body Horror: This is a world where no one can die, and many of its jaded inhabitants have started to get really creative with it.
- Book Ends: The book starts with Jim being killed in front on his magic school. It ends with the re-incarnated Jim finding himself in the same situation, only this time he decides Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and leaves.
- Brand X: the Mogworld game is basically World of Warcraft with the name changed.
- Brawn Hilda: Cap'n Scar has shades of this.
- Break the Cutie: Meryl, two times, in fact. The first time is the realization that Jim was right about their homeland's citizens' having neither the pride nor the revolutionary fervour to rise up against their conquerors, and the second is the revelation that Jim sold out the Magic Resistance.
- Completely Missing the Point: For comic effect, a lot of reviewers review the book with the expectations of a video game, disregarding how it isn't interactive. In an In-Universe example, a review of the Mogworld game closes off the book, in which the game gets 9 for innovation, 4 for gameplay and 3 for lastability, concluding with a score of 72.85%.
- Crapsack World: Already has shades of this following The Infusion, due to stagnation. Simon trying to manipulate it just makes it way, way worse. Averted at the end when the programmers redesign the game to accommodate the NPCs and not the players.
- Crazy-Prepared: Slippery John just so happens to carry magical crampons for scaling Mount Murdercruel. Leads into his Crouching Moron moment (see below).
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Slippery John, specifically revealed at Mount Murdercruel where Jim figures out he's only Obfuscating Stupidity to avoid getting the Syndrome.
- Also the pompous, sermonizing, holier-than-thou and rather dim-seeming priest Thaddeus eventually reveals himself to be the legendary high priest of his religion - and an EXTREMELY powerful magic user.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Anything against Barry. Points to Thaddeus for both scaring him, knocking him around and actually lasting more than 30 seconds against his concentrated ultimate attack.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Odd case. Baron Civious seemed to be evil in the past and possibly still is now (his continuing experiments involving vivisection, and the legion of tortured souls of the damned in his battle aura basically scream "Yes"), but at the time of the story he's definitely working on the side of good by trying to get rid of the Adventurer's Guild and stop the Infusion.
- Earlier in the book, Lord Dreadgrave is well-regarded by both his undead minions and the townsfolk he constantly raids.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jim, who at one point claims in narration that actually being dead makes you even better at it. Also Don, the programmer overseeing the Mogworld project and Mr. Bowg, who is also The Stoic.
- Death Is Cheap: And how cheap it is! Anyone who dies, for any reason, finds themselves instantly brought back to life at the nearest church, where they are provided with a bathrobe and must run back to their corpse to get back whatever items they were wearing. Incidentally, this has the side effect of various churches vying with each other for the best (read: most deadly) locations.
- Death Seeker: Jim, although he's more a deletion seeker.
- His fellow zombies join him eventually. Thaddeus decides he deserves to die for being a zombie and an abomination, Meryl actually wanted deletion for three quarters of the book but tried to hide it.
- Deconstruction: A surprisingly dark one of the conventions of MMORPGs, and video games in general. What were originally NPCs became living, sentient beings, driven mad by the painful cycle of murder and plunder. Real thinking entities unable to escape a wretched existence, without the escape of death as an option. Entire lives ruined, all for a game.
- Dedication: To Blizzard Entertainment, for the 3 months of my life I will never get back.
- The Ditz: Meryl
- The Dragon: Barry
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Jim, in a way. His whole motivation is to acquire a death that isn't an And I Must Scream scenario, and along the way he winds up developing some heroic tendencies. This lands him not only deletion but something better; a fresh start.
- Easter Egg: At one point the book contains a fragment of a YouTube URL. The link works, and it's part of Yahtzee's Let's Play for Flashback.
- Appropriately, it's a clip of two NPCs killing one another.
- Elves VS Dwarves: Averted, as Mr. Wonderful (an Elf) and Bowg (a Dwarf) are partners. Then played straight when Mr. Wonderful kills Bowg to help Jim and Thaddeus get to the Nexus.
- Embarrassing Last Name: Jim's full name, James Rufus Bottomroach.
- Mrs. Civious' maiden name (seen by Jim through Drylda's eyes, but never mentioned) is also apparently painfully embarrassing.
- Everyone Is Satan in Hell: In-Universe: The priest, Thaddeus, to the point where Jim gets...irritated.
- Evil Overlord: Baron Civious is supposed be one, but he got dethroned when he refused to bend-the-knee to the policies of the Adventurer's Guild. Also Si-Mon and Jim, in the SECOND ending to the book.
- Also Lord Dreadgrave, who seems to look up to Civious, what with the posters of him in his office.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Mogworld stands for "Massive Online Game World."
- Exact Words/ Language of Magic: The way magic works in Mogworld. For example, the spell for "Fireball" is Arcanus Inferus Telechus. However, you don't have to say those words immediately after each other, or even say all three if you're knocked out, and someone else says the rest for you. This loophole allows Jim to discretely cast spells by saying words that sound like the spell words, disguised as normal conversation.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Baron Civious, not necessarily because he's weak, he's just weak compared to Barry.
- Faux Affably Evil: Mr. Wonderful. It's when he starts hacking off his own limbs and eating his own corpse that he really starts to grow on you.
- Fingore: Mr. Wonderful and his precarious knife spinning habits.
- Foreshadowing: Jim describes climbing the stairs of his crypt as a newly-risen zombie as being akin to climbing Mount Murdercruel. Guess where Jim has to go in the final act of the story?
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Barry went from a barely-respected vicar to The Chosen One of an evil programmer-god.
- Fusion Dance: What causes NPC's to come down with the Syndrome is a player merging their spectator avatar with an adventurer.
- God Mode: An In-Universe example: Barry is empowered by Simon in order to work as his agent in Mogworld. His regular priest powers are upgraded to godlike levels, and he gains ludicrous amounts health and mana to match. Baron Civious, a late-game boss NPC, isn't even a challenge to him.
- Game-Breaking Bug: Jim (and presumably Thaddeus and Meryl as well, though the story does not really use them in this regard) is this, because he's a result of the AI procedures doing something that the developers did not expect. When he interacts with control connections to the real world, only accessible in what is to him the spirit realm, he corrupts them. This ends up screwing up a player's access to his character, and later it allows Jim to reset the world after Si-Mon took it over..
- Grew Beyond Their Programming: The NPCs were so complex, that they eventually became self-aware.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: "The Truth" - that their entire existence happens to be a video game - has different effects depending on who hears it, with some becoming oddly placid, and others going into a murderous rage. Some like Meryl become depressed and seek death.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress:
"Then gravity, that smug jerk, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how I was going to stay up. I didn't have an answer to that. I fell."
- Guile Hero: Jim leans this way sometimes.
- Heel-Face Turn: Mr. Wonderful, at the top of Mount Murdercruel when he sees the Nexus and Jim tells them he can end the Infusion. Although how much of a Heel-Face Turn this was will vary when you consider that he only wants the Infusion to end so he can enjoy murdering people again.
- Hell Is War: Mogworld seems to be increasingly heading this way near the start of the book, with perpetual (in some cases, weekly) battles being the norm. Slightly subverted in that some enjoy it as sport, and others (especially the Adventurer's Guild) enjoy the business it brings.
- Hero Killer: Jim's career as an undead minion mostly involved the use of the Rat Pit, where captured adventurers would be slowly and painfully devoured by, well, rats. All indications are that he was rather good at it and enjoyed his work.
- From a narrative perspective, Barry kills the King of Lolede, as well as Baron Civious and his wife, when he invades the city. Though they'll eventually respawn, they're never seen again in the story proper.
- Hidden Depths: Toward the end of the book Slippery John turns out to be a cunning and manipulative thief who acted like a bumbling doofus so he wouldn't be targeted by the angels, Thaddeus is revealed to have previously been an absurdly badass priest when he was alive, and Meryl turns out to be just as suicidal as Jim upon realizing her homeland had been taken over, and that her former countrymen had no urge to rise up against their conquerors.
- Jim lampshades this himself after seeing Thaddeus dispose of two pursuers with a powerful spell. Using his toes to cast it. He realizes that since he never bothered with talking to Thaddeus or learning about him, he had no idea what kind of priest he was in life, or how strong his magic was.
- Holier Than Thou: The religious figures who appear in the story all have varying degrees of nastiness. Thaddeus the zombified priest is a delusional prat who constantly insults his fellow zombies, an early Youth Group from a different religion (the Enlightened Church of the Earth Mother) destroys a rival church to steal its business and Barry the Vicar is an unlikeable Smug Snake who starts abusing his God Mode powers the second he gets them, and gleefully tries to take over the world in the name of Si-Mon.
- Thaddeus does redeem himself toward the end when he realizes he's just as much of an abomination as the others and stops talking down to Jim, instead offering decent spiritual advice. He also turns out to secretly be a badass around the same time, to the point that he's the only character able to briefly go toe-to-toe with Barry.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Mount Murdercruel, the Malevolands (now Fortune Valley), Greydoom Valley (formerly Goodsoil County).
- I Love the Dead: Slippery John's "wife" Drylda. Although technically she's still alive, most of the other characters view her as nothing more than a corpse.
- It straddles a thin line between Dude, She's Like, in a Coma! and I Love the Dead, if you want to get technical. Most of the other characters don't seem to care which side Drylda falls on - they see it as creepy and very disturbing.
- Slippery John was also clearly enjoying his time spent as a rabbit in Meryl's dress, despite Meryl being a decades-old corpse.
- Averted with the zombies themselves. It's pointed out early in the book that they could never have sex with anyone- even prostitutes would have to be totally blind and have some degree of mental illness to try it.
- Not to mention one zombie who repeatedly points out that an undead minion has to be in reasonable condition in order to be capable of maintaining an erection.
- I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: Jim would rather be a protagonist.
- Inept Mage: Jim. Granted it's because he only completed one year of magic training before he died... the first time.
- Insistent Terminology: It's not a catapult, it's a trebuchet!
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water: The programmers end up doing this with Mogworld.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: "Slippery John is a fatheaded, useless berk." "Oh, come on. He's not useless."
- Jail Bake: Jim gets slipped a scone and a croissant with the key to his cell inside each.
- Jerk Ass: Simon.
- King Incognito: The King of Lolede attempts this. Absolutely no one is fooled, because he doesn't disguise his voice, still wears his crown under his hood, and later carries the King's Sword around.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Lampshaded. Turns out local villagers are not very fond of adventurers, and among their long list of complaints against them is their tendency to just outright take things that don't belong to them.
"Knocking on your door at all hours of the day and night, wanting to rummage through your drawers for potions and loose change."
- Killed Off for Real: The 'Deleters', true to their name, are the only beings in Mogworld capable of doing this. Lord Dreadgrave is one of the first to suffer this.
- Kill 'em All: By the end of the story, everyone in Mogworld is dead, deleted or erased by the Reset Button. The programmers fortunately are able to restore everything afterwords.
- Knife Nut: Mr. Wonderful is never seen without twirling around a butterfly knife. He even uses them on himself when he doesn't have an excuse to use it on somebody else, to the point where he chops off his own hand when he was particularly emotional.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Jim.
- La Résistance: The Magical Resistance.
- Light Is Not Good: Barry's holy powers granted by Si-Mon.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Since everybody gets new bodies right after they die (well, almost everybody. Jim, being undead, doesn't.), mortal wounds don't even faze people anymore.
Part of the dungeon collapses on Slippery John's head.
Slippery John: Aw crap, Slippery John's spine is powderized.
Jim: Er, do you need any help?
Slippery John: Nah, that's okay. Slippery John's lungs are filling with blood, so Slippery John'll head right on out after he dies. You should probably make a run for it though, if you're not going to be growing a new body after this.
- Million Mook March: Barry's massive army in Lolede.
- Mission from God: Barry gets his from Si-Mon. Later, Jim, Thaddeus and Slippery John get their own commanded by Dub.
- Morality Pet: Meryl is the only thing keeping Jim together, in more ways than one.
- Non-Player Character: Jim and his "friends" are these.
- Non-Standard Game Over: Slippery John mentions this when he first brings up the fact that he died. This is a reference to the resurrections of the player characters in an actual MMORPG.
- The Not-Love Interest: Meryl for Jim, though it's not without plenty of Ship Tease.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: This is how Slippery John evades being taken by the Syndrome. Probably.
- Oh, Crap: Happens several times to Jim. By the halfway point of the novel, he stops being surprised at situations just happening to suddenly turn against him.
- A particularly memorable one was Barry realizing Thaddeus was a particularly powerful priest in life. "Holy balls, I did my thesis on you!"
- Our Elves Are Better: Averted in the case of Mr. Wonderful.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: I'm sure Baron Civious would have been more useful if he wasn't fighting someone with Game Breaker powers.
- Perky Female Minion: Meryl, one of Dreadgrave's first risen minions until his deletion. She remains upbeat and chipper throughout the story, and even manages to bounce back without much difficulty when the the current of events briefly made her angry and depressed.
- Pirate: The crew of the Black Pudding, every one of which has an eyepatch.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: From what little we see of Brian Garret, CEO of Loincloth Entertainment, he appears both to be very pompous and quite ignorant of his workers' problems.
- Completely averted with Lord Dreadgrave. Despite being a necromancer with a doom fortress and an army of undead minions he is shown to be an excellent boss. He follows through on his promises, is attentive to the needs and wishes of his undead minions and most importantly, he remembers your name.
- Procedural Generation: How the world and all in it was created, apart from direct developer manipulation. Apparently the NPC procedures were so complex that they developed sentience.
- Physical God: Barry, thanks to Simon.
- Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: A ditz, an Inept Mage with a death-wish, a holier-than-thou priest and a terrible rogue.
- Required Secondary Powers: Jim mentions that more powerful spells are required to have secondary magics built into them that prevent the spell from harming the caster.
- Reset Button: Jim introducing his corrupt code into the Nexus causes this, but not in the context of time - The Mogworld game is sent back to an extremely early pre-alpha build, embodied by a featureless, lifeless wasteland.
- After Si'Mon is defeated (and Simon fired from Loincloth), the other programmers work to restore Mogworld properly. In honor of Jim, they go through various alternate builds for his benefit - redesigning him as a barbarian hero, followed by a powerful necromancer - before playing the trope straight and simply giving him a world where his death at St. Gordon's Magical Collage never happened.
- Running Gag: "OH GOD YOUR EYES HURRAAARRGLAB!"
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The THIRD ending to the book.
- Shout-Out: Both to Zero Punctuation and the obvious.
- Some of the people who work at Loincloth Entertainment are named Mason, Sunderland, and Townshend.
- One of the towns is called Cronenburg.
- Also, Thaddeus' ultimate attack spell, the Level 47 Cunning Argument ("for the rapid conversion of heathens") is apparently a reference to a once-mentioned Omnian character from the Discworld, 'Smite-the-unbeliever-with-cunning-arguments'.
- Near the beginning of the book, Jim expresses regret about the magic school he attends not being a castle, which was almost certainly a jab at Hogwarts.
- In one scene, Dub begins to wax philosophical about whether the NPCs might really be alive or not. Don berates him for watching too much Star Trek, as it makes him talk like Picard. Dub corrects him by pointing out that the idea was actually from Deep Space Nine.
- Since Jim dies quite often, Yahtzee often precedes his deaths with "And that was the nth time I died".
- Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Jim and friends are either type I or II. They can "repair" their bodies, but not heal them.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Mount Murdercruel
- Smug Snake: Barry, after becoming Simon's figurehead. Also Simon, from what we see of him.
- Spanner in the Works: Jim.
- Stealth Pun: "Mogworld". "MMOG" world.
- Not so stealthy, since the In-Universe game reviewer picks up on it and says that it's a rubbish pun.
- Straw Hypocrite: Averted with Thaddeus. At first he absolutely hates and dismisses the other zombies for being monsters and abominations. When it finally hits him that he's a zombie just like the others, he decides that he needs to die just as much as the others and joins Jim's quest for permanent death.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Simon apparently thinks he's a shit-hot genius programmer who's the only one with a clue. He's an egoistical, narcissistic jerkass who screws up the entire game beyond belief.
- Terms of Endangerment: An integral part of Mr. Wonderful's persona.
- The Nothing After Death: Played with. The first time Jim dies, he gets visions of a beautiful, perfect afterlife where he's perfectly content with everything, which is abruptly ended when he's resurrected as a zombie. When he asks Dub if he could be sent back to that afterlife after he's deleted, Dub outright tells him that it was (probably) the AI equivalent of a pre-death hallucination, since the developers never programmed an afterlife, to which Jim responds, "Thank God for that." Even so, Don suggests that Jim, as a conscious being, could have a sort of an afterlife by invoking the Quantum Suicide theory.
- Third-Person Person: Slippery John thinks Slippery John is this.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Mr. Wonderful and Bowg.
- Took a Level in Badass: Thaddeus, specifically after his arms get ripped off by Barry.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The first major twist, that Jim is a NPC character in a MMORPG, is known to pretty much everyone who followed the news about the book before the launch.
- The blurb on the back of the book explicitly mentions programmers working out bugs in their AI, so even if one hadn't heard that much about the book before, it's still thoroughly spoiled. It's a real shame, too, as it could have been interesting trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
- To be fair, it surely wasn't meant to be that huge a twist. Even without reading the news or the back of the book, the truth (broadly speaking) of what's going on is obvious long before any character in the story has a clue.
- The Undead: Jim, Meryl, and Thaddeus, or <Lord Dreadgrave's Undead Minions> to be more precise.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Jim is acerbic and sarcastic, Thaddeus is condescending and insulting. Merryl is upbeat enough to put up with both.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Jim and game developer William Williams discuss this near the end, just before William complies with Jim's wish and deletes him. As a result, William feels very depressed afterwards, and feels compelled to posthumously reward Jim with a new, better life in the revised Mogworld.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Not Jim, as it's made pretty clear from the start he's not too pleased being wrenched back from the dead. The rest of the world is like this to a greater or lesser extent, as for the past fifteen years since "The Infusion", no-one can die, or even age. They just respawn at the nearest church.
- Taken to an extreme as Jim starts to get towards the end of his quest. They spot flyers for ways to commit suicide, and people who offer ways of mutilating yourself. After all, you'll only respawn if you die - so why not? Jim considers it a little unsettling when he thinks about it.
- Wild Magic: Magic is said to have a will of its own, and gets "upset" if a spell is finished by another person if the original caster is incapacitated in some way. It really doesn't like being used by corpses (i.e., the caster is killed midway through, and someone aims their severed forearm at their enemy and finishes the spell. Although that's only for properly dead people; it has no beef with being used by self-aware Undead).
- Wizarding School: Where Jim is studying as a second year student at the beginning of the story. Notably, it was only founded recently, and is primarily a purely vocational school rather than a research focused one.
- Weird Currency: James mentions bartering with turnips a couple times.
- X Meets Y: World of Warcraft meets The Truman Show with a helping of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide.
- Yes-Man: The term "lickspittle" is used to describe Barry by Thaddeus.
- Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: Mr. Wonderful often calls the group "my little [x]" with x being a word or phrase vaguely appropriate for the situation. When Meryl lampshaded it, he switches it up with "my tiny [x]," "my diminutive [x]" and so forth, to the point where in one scene he has an open thesaurus on his desk during an interrogation.