From the Ruined Tower to the Caves of Unknown Horror
Word Count: 30,500
Summary: Jared's been adventuring for most of his life. He loves being out on the road with his friends—killing monsters and bad guys, finding treasure, and helping people out of sticky situations. It's all part of being a good-hearted barbarian. Then his carefree life is shaken up by the introduction of a scrawny half-elf wizard called Jensen, who joins them for a quest upon which they will encounter horror, true friendship, and a secret buried deep underground...
My thoughts in brief:
I haven't been that impressed with this years crop of Big Bangs. Though, I do make it hard for people, since I only like SPN stories that follow canon religious and the flip side of that is that I only like AU J2 (the more AU the better). I also haven't read anything posted in the past three weeks, so who knows what I'm missing.
Regardless though, one story from the stories I've browsed so far has stood out for me! Not because it's a heartwrenching angst filled trip full of pain and misery...but because it's ADORABLE, amusing, and warms the cookies of my heart. It also is a little heartwrenching (but just enough to satisfy). Also, the D&D universe that the story is set in allows for great plot and emotional points that would not be possible in real life.
Further thoughts (not that brief):
In the interest of full-disclosure, I should say that I started playing D&D when I was 21 - a boy (who is now my best friend) introduced it to me. I, like perhaps many of you, thought "D&D is for nerds and dorks!" But I was WRONG. D&D is for story-tellers. Over the years, my best friend and I have told many stories: a dwarf and an elf who shouldn't be best friends, but are; a rogue and cleric who can't stand each other but are forced to work together anyway (and never become friends at all); a brother and sister team (that mirrored the Sam-Dean dynamic before I even saw the show...I played the Dean character...the Sam character was the girl, though she wasn't like Sam at all in personality); and I believe in our final adventure we were a rogue and a wizard, fumbling through adorably clumsy flirting while trying not to die.
So, maybe what stood out about this story is how in keeping it is with D&D. I love the fact that it's told from a kind-hearted barbarian's point of view - because you don't get the angst that comes with over-thinking. Instead you just get the pure emotional responses, and friendship and romance is allowed to follow it's natural progression.
I also love the fact that although the Jared character is supposed to be the one protecting the Jensen character, from the very start of their adventure we see that it's actually the other way around - with the Jensen character immediately standing-up for the Jared character when Jared is not intelligent enough to know he is being treated poorly (or, rather, is probably so used to being treated poorly because of his low-intelligence, that he doesn't realize he deserves better).
I won't give away the ending, but I will say that the author really knows how to use the rules of D&D to enhance the story.