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When did "roll for initiative" become a catchphrase, anyway? You've got to roll for surprise before you can roll for initiative in most situations; wouldn't "roll for surprise" be more apropos? Unless this is one of those post-1st ed things. Do you even have to roll for surprise anymore? I'm going to be annoyed and grumpy if the answer is "no."
That said, I can't fault an author for what phrases do and don't enter the tabletop lexicon. My review of Prak's Roll for Initiative, after the break.
Impressions before reading: Well, I like D&D, I like ponies, and I like comedy... but my experiences at the gaming table (for the first) and online (for the last two) have shown me that all three can be easily perverted into something horrible, and even if that's not the case, this could easily end up being one of the great number of "ponies doing a thing people do... that's the joke, get it?" stories which litter FiMFiction. That all said, I've still got high hopes for his one going in based on the fact that, inherently, I like everything this story purports to be.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight runs the local Ponyville D&D group, in which the main six (and one new member) try to save the day via fortuitous 20s, among other things.
Thoughts after reading: The thing this story does really well, and which kept me entertained throughout, was parodying the way people play D&D (or any similar game, really) in a humorous yet accessible manner. The foibles highlighted are spot-on, and their presentation both fits within the context of an Equestrian game, and don't require a hyper-detailed knowledge of games or gamers to appreciate. In addition to, you know, being consistently funny.
Where this did all run aground, though, was in the characterizations. An early joke is made of Dash running through characters at an absurd rate, for example, and when she dies in a trap, we get: "The group soon passed the arrow trap and hopped across the spike pit, not even bothering to spare a glance downward at the carcass of their short-lived rogue. After all, there was no way to recover her gear from the pit." Funny (and true) enough of a general group, but even knowing this isn't the first time Dash has done this, it still feels like a missed opportunity to do more than make a joke about player callousness. This kind of characterization-subsuming occurs several more times throughout the story.
Combat is another weak point. Fights are often presented in list-summary fashion, with several paragraphs of "character did this, then monster did this. Character got hit, but killed a monster. Then character cast a spell, and this happened," and so on. The result was that, any time the party got into combat, the (story) action ground to a halt.
On the other hand, though, there's a pleasantly light-comic touch to much of the rest of the story, and when the ponies aren't being briefly sidetracked into gamer jokes, they play off of each other well. Twilight I found I could particularly relate to (as a foreverDM myself), and Prak works in a lot of small touches that lend a pleasant air of realism to everypony's interactions within the main group without sacrificing humor at the alter of verisimilitude. And when the new member shows up (about halfway through the story, at which point it abruptly but not unpleasantly becomes much more plot-driven), she is over-the-top enough to stand out from the group, in a positive way.
In a bit of a departure from the earlier comedy-driven narrative, the story ends on a very "lesson of the week" note. Without getting into the details, it was kind of hokey, but in a way I found appropriate to both the story, and the setting (FiM), rather than mood-breaking. I imagine that shift won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I didn't have a problem with it.
There's a lot here to like, for both D&D players and those who have only a passing familiarity with role-playing games. There are regular places where the story looses its breezy charm for a bit, but while this is a disappointment, they're rarely more than a few paragraphs at a stretch.
Recommendation: Readers looking for some goofy but not random comedy, especially those with an appreciation for pen-and-paper RPGs, will almost certainly enjoy this. Those particularly sensitive to plodding blow-by-blow combat descriptions may be put off by what they find here, though.
Next time: Rainbooms and Royalty, by Trinary