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[...] if a player ever tried something on the theory that ‘that’s how it works in stories’ then it was your duty as DM to slap them down so hard they didn’t try garbage like that in the future.
— Juniper Smith, musing on Narrative Causality
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Worth the Candle is an ongoing Trapped in Another World Web Serial Novel by seasoned Rational Fic writer Alexander Wales (of The Metropolitan Man fame) under his "cthulhuraejepsen" Pen Name. The story's first few chapters were released in July 2017, and it has periodically updated ever since.

A short side story, The Council of Arches, was published in May 2018. It's set between chapters 55 and 56 of the main story, and features its cast playing a Game Within a Game.

Discussion of the story takes place on the r/rational subreddit. Has a wiki (naturally) which could do with a bit of Wiki Magic Love.


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Worth The Candle contains examples of:

  • Brown Note: Some of the books in the Infinite Library contain these, of varying severity.
  • Covers Always Lie: The author had a habit of describing the story as a self-insert litRPG portal fantasy - while technically true, the loaded nature of these terms often put people off from the story.
  • Deconstruction: Of "Trapped in Another World" stories - particularly the kind with game mechanics.
    • What sort of person is actually happy to end up in an extremely dangerous universe where he faces death on a daily basis? An extremely unhealthy one, by his own admission.
    • The first person Juniper meets is a merciless Action Girl who openly attempts to sacrifice him on several occasions to increase her own chances of survival. She's a princess - the most direct descendant of the legendary king from ages past - but her family is chock-full of intrigue and backstabbing, and she's as cutthroat as any other member.
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    • Said legendary king never got to enjoy peace, because plot threads kept appearing as he tied off old ones. The Good Guys Always Win, eventually, but they're Phyrric Victories at best. His associates - particularly lovers - had a nasty of habit of getting Stuffed into the Fridge.
    • Juniper's stat growth directly changes his body, mind and values. Instead of gleefully exploiting it like in, say, any given fanfic based on The Gamer, the cast spends plenty of time agonizing about the terrifying existential implications of this - but exploit it anyway, because they need to survive.
      • It turns out that the typical "died and ended up in another world" protagonist was Juniper's best friend, who became the aforementioned legendary king. The story explores how that loss affected Juniper and his friends in great detail - something which most Isekai stories would be perfectly happy to ignore. Furthermore, it seems that Juniper and Arthur weren't the only people from Earth who were sent over; the others apparently didn't succeed in impacting Aerb in the same way.
      • The "game" has a Relationship Values system called "Loyalty". Party members get certain perks at certain levels of Loyalty to Juniper. This comes with its own existential implications, which Juniper doesn't like one bit. When Amaryllis literally sits there and makes herself more Loyal to Juniper, he freaks out a little.
    • Juniper tries a Dangerous Forbidden Technique - not to defeat a bad guy, but simply to survive. It doesn't quite kill him, but makes him much more fragile.
    • Video games are often designed to give the player a rush of dopamine when they Level Up. This still happens to Juniper, but the rush increases with each successive level - he soon finds himself on a Descent into Addiction.
  • The Everyman: One of Juniper's friends once pointed out that he "looked like someone had chosen ‘default’ for every option in the character creator", leading to an endless series of variations on that theme from the rest of the gaming group.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Almost every one of Juniper's companions turns out to be a princess or something reasonably close to it. He's not too amused by this.
  • The Face: Amaryllis, being a princess and having spent much of her life at court, usually plays this role for the party.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. Aerb has guns, but magic armor, velocity wards, and various other defenses make them less of a big deal than they are on Earth.
  • Flashback Echo: The events of the main plot are frequently interrupted by relevant flashbacks to Juniper's gaming group in Kansas.
  • From a Single Cell: One of the many reasons Fel Seed is impossible to get rid of, although even destroying literally all life within its exclusion zone (as confirmed by a god) wasn't enough to keep it from coming back.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Of a few varieties, most notably with regard to half-elves.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Not just half-elves; there's an entire in-universe book devoted to which species can interbreed.
  • Hell: Aerb has several thousand hells, but no heavens (as far as anyone can tell). Even the mildest are still bad, but there are places on Aerb itself that are awful enough to be as bad as many of the worse ones.
  • Game-Breaker: invoked Anything that's too powerful or world-destroying tends to get "excluded", restricted to a single individual and/or geographical region. Juniper discovers that maxing out still magic lets him make any temporary effect last for as long as he can stay awake. There's a magic tattoo that gives six seconds of immunity to damage, and another that lets him delay going to sleep. The Dungeon Master lets him exploit this for a while, then restricts skin (tattoo) magic to a geographical region.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The "game layer" seemed to break for a moment when Juniper made "[Null Pointer Exception]" a companion and then raised her loyalty to 10.
  • Ice Queen: Amaryllis, though she's technically a princess.
  • Killed Off for Real: It takes significant sacrifice to revive the first party member to die. The second seems to be dead for real - though Joon plans to bring her back, the game itself tells him that this'll be a significant challenge.
    If another of your party members dies, don’t expect it to be so easy.
  • Lampshade Hanging: All over the place - but mostly by Juniper, who is well-versed in fantasy and tropes.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: True for many of the magic systems presented in the story, though there are some exceptions.
  • Mind Manipulation: Both soul magic and spirit magic are capable of this. Soul magic is highly illegal and spirit magic is a lost art thanks to Uther's deliberate attempts to eradicate it.
  • Mordor: Many of the exclusion zones are like this, especially the one containing Fel Seed.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Unicorns like virgins. This is not depicted as a good or healthy thing, and more as a psychosexual obsession with purity. They don't much like it when people try to take their girls away.
  • Medieval Stasis: Aerb has Schizo Tech that mostly peaks at around the 1920s.
    • Certain technologies (such as nuclear weapons in particular) have been realized and then "excluded," usually to a particular location.
    • Other modern discoveries, such as cathode-ray tubes and plastics but not the radio, turn out to have strange properties that would lead to disaster when mass produced. Such inventions have been averted by a dedicated group with foreknowledge.
  • Never Split The Party: Discussed, specifically as a trope in tabletop games, but ultimately Let's Split Up, Gang comes into effect.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Bethel makes several passes at Juniper, and when she gets a body capable of feeling sexual pleasure, she sets out to seduce him in earnest. He says no despite being sorely tempted, but Bethel refuses to take no for an answer. Juniper resorts to using Mind Manipulation on himself to deal with the aftermath.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: People in the Risen Lands get up in arms when Juniper uses that word, but the reason isn't explained until much later in the story. It eventually transpires that a specific necromancer trademarked the word "zombie" to refer to a particular type of undead only he could create, a reanimated corpse that could follow simple orders until it eventually decayed away to nothing. He used them as cheap industrial labor and advertised his goods as "Zombie Made." Unfortunately it turned out that the souls of the people turned into zombies were bound to the corpse and fully conscious - unable to act and suffering all the pain of being stuck in a decaying body. Ever since the public found out the truth, the word "zombie" has been taboo.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Mostly played straight - except that they're a literal One-Gender Race thanks to Bizarre Alien Sexes.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Played straight (they're dicks about it).
  • Our Zombies Are Different: You have to destroy the heart, not the head. Naturally, this was a deliberate feature designed by Juniper to trip up his gaming group.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: When the Dungeon Master (re)introduces himself to Juniper, the first thing Juniper does is beat his avatar to death while accusing him of being directly responsible for all the horrible suffering that exists on Aerb.
  • Rational Fic: A rational look at Trapped in Another World stories. It's easy to think the whole thing's just an excuse for Alexander Wales to show off his World Building chops.
  • Reconstruction: Several common tropes are modified to withstand scrutiny by both the readers and the characters.
    • An important concept is the "exclusionary principle" - the name given to the phenomenon of certain forms of magic or technology suddenly, permanently ceasing to function outside a geographically restricted area, called an exclusion zone. The actual mechanism is a mystery to the people of Aerb, but it seems to happen whenever the excluded magic or technology is about to threaten an Apocalypse How scenario. This allows the world to exist in spite of several active threats which should by themselves be world-ending. It also helps maintain the (partial) Medieval Stasis and puts a dampener on Munchkinry, since powerful enough discoveries or exploits are liable to be excluded.
  • Roman à Clef: The pre-Aerb events of the story are stated to be autobiographical to some degree - Juniper's friends have different names, but the real-world people they're based on would probably recognise themselves immediately.
  • Scary Teeth: Elves have sharp pointy teeth.
  • Self-Duplication: Doris Finch learned how to do this when she was nine years old. Unfortunately she grew up to be a total bitch, and there are now about nine million of her in the exclusion zone that she and her power are restricted to.
  • Self-Insert Fic: Juniper, purportedly - though the author keeps quiet about the extent to which Juniper is an Author Avatar.
  • Speak of the Devil: Saying the name Shia LaBeouf summons a horror movie villain version of him that will inevitably kill the person who says the name, along with anyone else in the area he feels like killing.
  • Sudden Game Interface: It's revealed at the end of the first chapter that Juniper has access to a character sheet that appears when he closes his eyes for three seconds - but even before that there are text pop-ups. The game system is apparently based on the one that Aerb!Juniper made. Or the one that the DM made him make... it's confusing.
    Achievement Unlocked: Down, But Not Out …
  • Tabletop RPG: The primary focus of the story, both in flashbacks and in the elements of the world. At one point the primary characters sit down to play a Game Within a Game.
  • Title Drop: Juniper's prayer to the Dungeon Master.
    “I don’t want Fenn to change because her loyalty metric increased. I want her loyalty metric, if she’s going to have one, to just be a reflection of how loyal she is, not an invisible lever controlling her. I want her to be a real person, or at least as real as I am. And … I’m hesitant to want that for everyone else in Aerb, because sometimes existence is pain, but … if they’re not going to be real, or at least as real as I am, then I want them to be real enough that I can’t tell the difference. I want that for the whole of Aerb, alright? I want to poke at the seams and find out that you thought of everything. And at the end of it, I want Arthur back. That’s the only way that this game is ever going to be worth the candle.“
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Juniper was a total Jerkass to his friends on Earth after Arthur died. He's aware of this and has been trying to be better to his friends on Aerb, but being aware of his flaws - that he's basically an immature, self-centered teenager who doesn't understand other people's needs very well - only goes so far in helping him actually be a better person.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Frequently discussed and partially Jossed. According to the Dungeon Master, it doesn't have nearly as much weight as the characters seem to think. Despite this, after Fenn's death Amaryllis bushes for it even harder.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The guiding ideology of the Second Empire amounted to this.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Juniper based some things in his tabletop games on ideas from the SCP Foundation. He ends up having to fight creatures with "anti-memetic" properties; one is a giant monster that anyone not in its presence can't remember exists, and others are creatures that are effectively invisible because people's brains can't perceive them properly while they're still alive.
  • Unwanted Harem: Juniper is very disturbed by the fact that his companions (almost) all seem to be potential love interests, and wants very much not to have to deal with this particular trope.
  • Whole Episode Flashback:

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