Friday, June 30, 2017

Orconomics review

 Warning - This contains spoilers for Orconomics.

    ORCONOMICS is a story about how horrifying your typical Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft economy would look like if it was taken at face value. Basically, the idea that there's an entire class of people who exist for the purpose of exterminating numerous other classes of people in order to take their stuff. This is the central build-up of the story that you're supposed to miss what this sounds like until the final moment of the story when, oh no, this is actually like all the other horrific purges of ethnic minorities which have occurred across history.

    As someone who has seen the subject tackled before by Terry Pratchett, Andrjez Sapkowski, and debated the question over whether adventurers breaking into the homes of monsters to loot their stuff is ethnic cleansing--the twist of Orconomics isn't actually all that twisty. The question of "are orcs people too?" is one that has been brought up at many tables across the decades. Really, in 1E Dungeons and Dragons, the fact half-orcs were player characters made you ask the question whether you were expected to murder your fathers and whether we were to determine if "all" of them were the products of hate crimes.

    This seems like a rather big subject to tackle for something with a 19th century looking orc on the front of a dollar bill but the subtext is something that builds throughout the story. I'm kind of disappointed the story is told through the lens of a dwarven warrior named Gorm versus an orc themselves. Then again, that would probably spoil the point of the story too much, which is that you really shouldn't break into dungeons in order to slaughter everyone and take their stuff on the basis of them being greenskins.

    In this case, the story is about disgraced dwarvish berserker Gorm Ingerson. Gorm is not in a good place at the beginning of the story when he rescues a goblin, quite by accident, from being massacred for experience points. In this universe, the adventurers guilds tracks how much you murder and for what in order to determine what your level as a warrior is. There's also a joke about NPCS standing for something like, "Non Problematic Creatures" or something similar and they're basically the humanoids who have decided not to be monsters in hopes of assimilating. The fact this causes problems for those who live off murdering them for loot is always in the background.

    In a very real way, the main plot doesn't matter for ninety percent of the book. Gorm gets recruited by the adventurers guilds and some other interested buyers in order to begin an epic quest for a holy order that turns not to be so epic. The ragtag band of misfits learn about one another, bond, and gradually toughen up to complete their story. It's stuff we've seen many times before but it's only by going through the motions of that subject do we get a look behind the nastiness of the world they live in. Gorm THINKS he aware of the way of things but he's wrong and it's interesting to see how a thoroughly cynical character can underestimate just how depraved killing for gold can get.

    The regular cast of characters aren't all that interesting even if they are perfectly servicible. They're just a regular group of adventurers who are hoping to kill some monsters, get some money, and settle their debt with the adventurers' guilds. The fact they aren't aware of just how deep they're into something awful is part of the story. Also, the fact they warm to the NPCs around them marks them as profoundly ignorant but possessed of views that will soon be viewed as dangerous.

    This may sound like weighty reading for a book that's primarily humor but I actually think the subject is more interesting because of it. Do I recommend this book? Yes. I do think it would have been better to give a better conclusion, though. The book doesn't so much end as sort of stop and I think giving some sort of closure to readers at the end would have made it stronger. As such, I had to deduct a couple of points. I also think some of the training montage in the middle dragged and the ending should have been at their group's vow.

    Just saying.


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