I’ve played various tabletop RPGs since the early 80s, including ones devised by myself and my friends. While I haven’t played too many of them in recent years, it was with great interest that I picked up Death by Cliché by Bob Defendi. I’ve met Bob a few times over the years, and he is always full of witty remarks. This gave me high hopes for this book.
Damico is a game designer, and a fairly well-known one at that. During one of his trips to a local game store, he gets shot by someone whose works he has repeatedly rejected. He wakes up to find himself in an RPG apparently written by that fan. Now he has to figure out how to escape before his body dies.
One of my favorite parts of Death by Cliché was the set of quotes at the beginning of each chapter. This is a common trope used in epic fantasy works, usually meant to give the reader a little extra insight into the world. Bob has great fun abusing it and milking it for all its worth.
I loved the characters, too. Damico uses his knowledge of how RPGs work to great advantage a few times, though that doesn’t always work. Jurkand was awesome with his special item (which I can’t reveal without ruining the story). Lotianna was a great love interest for Damico, though she’s not really in distress most of the time, and she is generally quite good at taking care of herself. Gorthander (the dwarf) was as stereotypically bull-headed a dwarf as I’ve ever seen in a game. It was wonderful!
The story is pretty straight-forward, similar to many RPG scenarios (professionally-created or not). This works in the story’s favor here. Damico and company have to defeat the evil overlord in order to set things right in the kingdom, but strange things are afoot which threaten to turn all RPG tropes inside out and every which way. How the characters work through everything is what makes Death by Cliché fun.
Bob is great with humor. I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading, much to the annoyance of those around me on the plane. If you are taking a 2-3 hour flight somewhere, Death by Cliché is the perfect book to read in that time. The humor makes the flight go by much more quickly, and it’s certainly far more entertaining than most other plane-bound activities. If you are a fan of tabletop RPGs, and the quirky interaction common between players, this will be an entertaining read. I strongly recommend it.
Release Date: June 15, 2016 (print, USA)
ISBNs: 1620076578 (9781620076578)
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional social drinking)
Language: 1 (minor)
Sexuality: 1 (some mild innuendo)
Violence: 3 (some brutal violence, murder, fantasy battles, death)