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Literature / Caverns And Creatures

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Caverns and Creatures is a series of humorous fantasy novels and short stories by Robert Bevan. Central to the plot the titular Dungeons & Dragons Expy tabletop game.

In the novels, titled Critical Failures, four friends (Tim, Dave, Cooper, and Julian) get together to play C&C (not that one) and invite a Cavern Master named Mordred, whom they've never met before. Mordred turns out to be an overweight guy in his late 30s, who takes the game way too seriously. He immediately takes a liking to Julian, who's never played before but is willing to learn. However, when the others annoy him by not taking the game seriously and insulting him, he gives each of the players a black 20-sided die for a special roll. They roll, with each die coming up 1... and vanish. They find themselves in the game as their characters: Tim is a halfling rogue, Dave is a dwarf paladin, Cooper is a half-orc barbarian, and Julian is an elf wizard. Here the problem... just before the game turned real, Cooper thoughtlessly decapitated a city guard for no reason, and now the guard's friends are out for revenge.

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The four friends quickly realize what's going on and barely survive the pursuit. They find that, in addition to the expected weapons and inventory items, they're also carrying their character sheets, showing their stats (reflecting their current status) and abilities. Also, they discover that Mordred is, pretty much, a god in this game. He can see everything and affect the objects, creatures, and people around them as he wishes.

Not long after that, Tim's sister Katherine come back to find her brother missing and pounces on Mordred, who sends her into the game as well, turning her into an elf druid. Katherine's date Chaz walks in after her and gets sent into the game as a human bard.

The friends have to survive in this world, as everything is now real for them, including death.


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This series provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Vorpal Swords can cut through almost anything. One of the Horsemen dual-wields them, and they have a whole barrel of them in their HQ.
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: Averted with Randy, who didn't know the guy was underage (he had a fake ID), but played straight with Dennis, who has no problem with raping little boys... and he's a cop to boot.
  • Ass Shove: Since the vampire's guards conduct a thorough search for weapons, Tim asks Frank to have a special wooden stake made to smuggle into the vampire's mansion. The only place large enough is Cooper's asshole. The master design a stake, whose handle looks like a large wooden dildo. When Cooper finds out, he refuses, until Katherine's character sheet appears to indicate her death (she was actually turned into a vampire).
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  • Attempted Rape: Tim is nearly raped by a hillbilly cop named Dennis, who assumes the halfling is a little kid. Tim then periodically beats him over the head with the fact that Dennis nearly raped him, with Dennis typically asking how long he's going to hold on to that grudge.
  • Bag of Holding: Several such bags are found by the friends. One is found in the vampire's mansion, and another one is in the possession of the Horsemen. It looks like a typical bag, but it leads into a Pocket Dimension that can hold a limitless number of items. It can even hold living beings, but there is only 10 minutes' worth of air in there (which doesn't apply to vampires, since they don't breathe). Taking things (and people) out requires someone on the outside to reach in and speak the name of the object/person (as long as it's close enough and the intent is clear). While in the bag, everything appears to be floating in a dark void. Anyone not used to weightlessness typically vomits, which may have a jet-like effect on the person thanks to Newton's third law. Flying towards the edge results in the person/object vanishing and reappearing on the opposite side, maintaining the same speed.
  • The Bard: Chaz becomes a bard, a class that's universally hated by all C&C players. The game may have made him one because he's in a rock band. As a former C&C player himself, he hates his class, but, at least, he knows quite a few modern songs he can use to imbue them with magic. He always carries a lute with him.
  • Bland-Name Product: The titular Caverns and Creatures tabletop game is obviously a rip-off of Dungeons & Dragons. The game's creator's name is Larry Lylax.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: This happens to Dennis, after Tim accidentally cuts off his balls during a bumpy ride in the back of a van (he only meant to threaten him). Dennis eventually agrees to help out the friends, after Chaz makes a vague promise to get him his manhood back. When Dennis finds out that he'll be transformed in the game world, he willingly rolls one of Mordred's magic dice... and ends up a female dwarf. Also, the vampire is also particularly sensitive to any mention of the fact that he can't get it up due to being undead.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Tim tries to trick Mordred into a position, where the latter has to bring them back, but ends up creating this trope instead. Mordred ends up stuck in the Chicken Hut freezer, since the inner door latch is broken, but he can't bring the others back without holding the dice, which are outside the freezer. Subverted in that they end up finding another way to come back and are surprised to find that Mordred hasn't frozen to death.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Female soldiers wear this type of armor. No other type will fit. However, incredibly, no one ever hits them in any non-protected area, since those are the game rules.
  • Dirty Cop: Dennis, who has no problem with raping little boys.
  • Disney Villain Death: Nearly happens to Mordred, when he falls out of a shattered penthouse window, but he saves himself at the last moment by throwing one of his dice ahead of him, vanishing into the game a split second before hitting the ground.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": The Horsemen don't like to be called by their real names, at least in public. As expected, they go by War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death.
  • Elite Mooks: The Horsemen are four middle-schoolers, who were in such awe of Mordred that he sent them into the game as a reward instead of a punishment. All of them were nerds at their school, so the sudden chance to be tough and do what they want without repercussions was accepted with glee by them. They became Mordred's fiercest followers, treating the other players like shit and not giving a shit about any of the NPCs. As a reward, Mordred frequently sent them boons and rare creatures to fight to boost their levels. By the time Tim, Dave, Cooper, and Julian arrive, the Horsemen are stronger than anyone in the game. They also insist that everyone refer to them as War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death, and are annoyed when their real names are used. Mordred's plan is to eventually bring them back into the real world and conquer it. It fails, since he mistakenly brings them back as their human selves with no memory of being in the game.
  • Familiar: Being a wizard, Julian summons himself a familiar. Mordred, in an unusual fit of benevolence, walks him through the process of selecting one. Julian settles on a raven, whom he named Ravenus (which is pronounced as "raven-us", not "ravenous"), who is able to speak to him. Anyone, who speaks Elvish, can talk to Ravenus, but only if he or she uses a British accent.
  • Fantasy Character Classes: Tim is a Rogue, Dave is a Paladin, Cooper is a Barbarian, and Julian is a Wizard, although, on Cooper's advice, he later becomes a Wizard/Sorcerer combo. Katherine is made a Druid, and Chaz becomes a Bard.
  • Fixing the Game: In the third novel, Julian uses a simple Mind over Matter spell to manipulate the ball at a roulette wheel in order to land precisely on the number he wants.
  • Flaming Sword: One of the Horsemen is particularly proud of his "FIRE SWORD" (cue heavy metal music), which works kind of like a lightsaber, activated by a button on the hilt. The hilt also has other buttons that result in other weapons popping out of the hole.
  • Glamour: Vampires can dominate people. Dominated people act like their servants and will do what they can to protect their master. The vampire ends up glamouring Katherine, so she ends up as his "guest". When Tim confronts him about that, the vampire admits that he did glamour her initially, but the effects of the spell wore off. However, this turns out to be a lie, since Katherine snaps out of it as soon as the vampire is dead.
  • Good-Guy Bar: In the second novel, the four friends find a bar called "The Whore's Head" (they initially assume it's called "The Horse Head"), which is a safe haven for any person sent into the game by Mordred. The only people who aren't welcome there are the Horsemen, since they're huge fans of Mordred, do his bidding, and generally act like assholes (it doesn't help that they're middle-schoolers in Real Life).
  • Half-Human Hybrid: When Tim, Dave, Cooper, and Julian first end up in the game, one of the guards addresses Cooper disdainfully as an orc. The guys try to correct him, pointing out that Cooper is half-human. The guard merely snorts and points out that all it means is that Cooper's mother was dumb enough to have sex with an orc.
  • Healing Hands: As a paladin, Dave has a daily allotment of healing spells that restore a certain amount of HP. He usually puts his hand on the person and says "I heal thee!" (the first thing that popped into his head). He also has a weak zero-level healing spell (he simply touches the person and says "Heal!") that only restores a few HP. In order to get the daily spells, he has to pray to his god every morning. As it turns out, Dave hasn't chosen a god to follow, but it still works.
  • Honey Trap: Tim and the others use Stacy to lure Mordred into a restaurant in order to follow him to his hideout and take his magic dice. The attempt fails, and Mordred sends the girl into the game as punishment.
  • Iron Butt-Monkey: Cooper frequently ends up hurt during the adventures. Luckily, being a half-orc and a barbarian means that he can soak up a lot of damage before going down. Still, Dave ends up using his healing spells on Cooper pretty frequently.
  • It's a Small World After All: After getting back to the real world, the friends need an anti-venom for a scorpion sting and go to the nearest Poison Control Center, where they meet Stacy, who eventually turns out to have once had a fiancé, who cheated on her with Tim's sister.
  • Jerkass: Several characters note that Tim can be a bit of an insensitive jerk when things don't go his way or when he's annoyed by something. Even he admits that it's probably true.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the Horsemen is a powerful mage, who likes throwing fireballs.
  • Killer Game Master: Being a god in his game, Mordred has no compunction about putting the people he sent into the game world into mortal danger. In his mind, they deserve it for making fun of him or not taking the game seriously enough. Everyone else understands that he's simply a bullied nerd, who found a way to get back at anyone he doesn't like.
  • Love Interest: Stacy to Tim, even though she agrees that Tim can be a bit of a Jerkass at times.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: As a druid, Katherine gets an animal companion. It's a wolf she names Butterbean, who's fiercely loyal to her until she's turned into a vampire.
  • Magic Carpet: The Horsemen get one later on and use it to rapidly transport themselves by air.
  • Mind over Matter: Julian has a zero-level spell that allows him to manipulate small objects. He almost never uses it, since, like most zero-level spells, it's pretty limited in its usefulness. He finds it's very handy, when playing the roulette at a casino, since the ball is small enough to be controlled.
  • Mistaken for Foreigner: After coming back to the real world, Julian is frequently confused for Asian, since his elven eyes are slightly slanted.
  • Most Common Superpower: The few female players who end up in the game typically find that their boobs have gotten bigger. Stacy actually has trouble adjusting to her more restricted range of arm movement with the bigger boobs. It's not clear if that's something specifically done by Mordred or just an expectation of the largely male player base. Another female player is constantly drawing attention to her boobs because of her high Charisma score and the fact that the only armor that fits her is a Chainmail Bikini.
  • Mundane Utility: Julian's zero-level freeze spell ends up becoming really popular for its ability to make beer cold. His grease spell also ends up being useful as lube for sticking the dildo-shaped wooden stake back into Cooper's ass.
  • Never Learned to Read: Cooper's Intelligence stat is extremely low (made even worse by his character choice), so he can't even read simple words, even though he could have easily read then before ending up in the game. He can still read character sheets, since they're not part of the game world.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: This is the reaction of the other trapped players, when Tim, Dave, Cooper, and Julian reveal that Mordred is dead, since this means that they can't go home.
  • Noob: Julian has never played C&C (or any other tabletop game, for that matter) before. While there are a number of things he doesn't know that any veteran player thinks is common sense, his fresh perspective does allow him to think outside the box, coming up with unique uses for otherwise useless spells. He even initially impresses Mordred with his attention to detail, who gives him 100 XP as a reward. Being a noob, Julian ends up accidentally putting the XP into his HP column on his character sheet, resulting him being the Tank during their first engagement after ending up in the game for real. After the others correct his mistake to him, Mordred fixes the character sheet, resulting in Julian nearly dying from all the damage.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Near the end of the third novel, Mordred is caught with his pants down, literally, having been masturbating to a porno at a hotel. Confronted by his enemies, he summons his Horsemen from the game, but they return as teenage boys with no memory of the game world, just as hotel security bursts in. All the security guards can see is an overweight half-naked man standing next to four teenage boys with a porno playing on TV. Cue Oh, Crap! from Mordred.
  • One to Million to One: Vampires can turn into a cloud of bloody droplets that are suspended in mid-air. They can reform at will.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: As expected, in C&C, dwarves are short and stocky. They are tough for their size but can't move very quickly. Beards are a must, even for dwarven women. Dwarves also have an extremely high tolerance for alcohol, so beer won't even give them a buzz, no matter how many mugs they drink. They tend to drink something called Stonepiss instead. After becoming a dwarf, Dave realizes he's now more attracted towards dwarven women than human women.
  • Our Elves Are Different: A number of elves are present in the novels. Julian is an elf wizard (although he later chooses to be a wizard/sorcerer combo), while Katherina is an elf druid.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: No full orcs are present in the novels, but there are two half-orcs: Cooper and "Pestilence". Both are of the "barbarian" class. However, Cooper is particularly disgusting because, in addition to his low roll on Charisma, half-orcs further reduce that stat. When they're in the game, this means that he smells awful, shits and pisses in his loincloth, and behaves like a boor. Sometimes he apologizes, pointing out he can't help himself. "Pestilence" doesn't appear to have that problem, and he's a much higher level to boot.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In the second novel, the friends encounter a vampire, who lives on top of a mountain in a large mansion. Cooper ends up accidentally killing him, but not before the vampire turns Katherine. Katherine then accidentally turns a halfling robber, who gets loose in the real world. Weaknesses include wooden stake to the heart, sunlight, holy water, and holy symbols.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Several people in Cardinia use zombies to tend their crops and gardens. These are of the "reanimated corpse" kind, not the infected kind, so a zombie bite doesn't turn anyone into a zombie. Their main vulnerability is fire.
  • Pædo Hunt: As soon as they get back, the friends start looking for a vehicle to travel in without being seen, since some of them don't look human at all. The obvious choice is a van with no windows in the back, so they immediately look up the list of sex offenders in the area and are surprised to find so many. While Chaz does point out that it's ridiculously easy to end up on that list without doing anything sexual (such as public urination while being drunk), they end up quickly finding a van they need. Later on, Katherine breaks out of the Chicken Hut freezer and sees the sex offender map on the computer, assuming that her brother is trying to find her a bad guy to suck on.
  • Projectile Spell: Julian likes throwing Magic Missiles, although they're pretty weak.
  • The Queen's Elvish: In order to "speak" Elvish, one only needs to speak in a British accent, no matter how terrible. Dave's "Elvish", in particular, is pretty bad, frequently using stock phrases like "Ello guvna". Cooper explains that this is the convention among C&C players, since no one can be bothered to actually learn the fictional language.
  • Reality Ensues: When Julian, Cooper, and Professor Goosewaddle go to a Poison Control Center to get some anti-venom for Cooper, who was stabbed by a weapon coated in giant scorpion venom, they are told that it's not that simple. Typically, in order to produce anti-venom, they have a scorpion sting a horse, whose body then produces the vaccine. After some hilarity with horses and a giant scorpion, they find out that it takes 10 days for a horse's body to synthesize the anti-venom. They then just grab a vial of some other kind of anti-venom from Stacy and inject Cooper with it. Stacy is shocked to see Cooper heal almost instantly, claiming that it's not how anti-venom is supposed to work. Of course, since Cooper is still his game character, the rules are different for him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Frank is the de facto leader of the players trapped in the game world. He typically accepts anyone from Earth, but he was forced to kick the Horsemen out for their unruly behavior and blind obedience to Mordred. Everyone at the Whore's Head obeys his orders, and he has proven himself to be a competent tactician. When Stacy flees the Horsemen and is taken in by Frank's group, Frank is willing to fight the powerful players to protect her, although he is visibly relieved, when Stacy gives herself up to spare them.
  • Shoot the Mage First: This is the tactic of the players against the Horsemen, should it actually come to a fight. While the Horsemen are stronger than them, there are a lot of good players. Since the Horsemen's mage is capable of summoning hundreds of fireballs at once, and he also happens to be the second weakest Horseman (only because the rogue has been slacking off in his level grinding).
  • Skewed Priorities: After the vampire's Glamour is dispelled, Katherine is primarily upset not at the fact that she's undead and needs blood to survive but that all the time she spent at the beach has gone to waste, as her skin is now deathly pale.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Teleportation is possible with the right spell, although most only work on the caster. However, Professor Goosewaddle has been able to alter his teleportation spell to affect others. It's also limited to only the places familiar to the caster, but it's possible to use a mind-reading spell to glimpse the location from someone else's mind. Tim uses this combination to get Professor Goosewaddle to send him back to the Chicken Hut, although he still arrives as a halfling. At the end of the third novel, the friends have Goosewaddle transport them back to the game world, after realizing that none of them have the money to pay for the restaurant bill.
  • Toilet Humour: The books thrive on this. You'd be hard-pressed to find a chapter without it. Partly (but only partly) justified by the game's setting being in the Dung Ages.
  • Trapped in TV Land: Mordred's magical dice are capable of sending any person, who rolls a 1 on them, into the game. At the end of the second novel, the friends pay a wizard to teleport them back into the real world, but they remain as their game characters and have to track down Mordred in order to become human again. Mordred has the power to bring anyone back, but that person comes back as his or her original self and with Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Unstoppable Rage: As a barbarian, Cooper can make himself really angry once per day, giving him a temporary boost to his strength, agility, and endurance stats. His muscles visibly harden even more than they already are.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Vampires can turn into bats, wolves, dire bats, and dire wolves.

Alternative Title(s): Critical Failures

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