Manga Review: Delicious in Dungeon Volume 1

When I was younger, there were a couple things that grabbed my imagination when it came to dungeon fantasy – there were the Monster Ecology articles in Dragon Magazine, and the descriptions of monsters in Hackmaster and KODT Magazine. The Monster Ecology articles envisioned a fleshed out dungeon ecology, where every monster, even ones created by coked out wizards like the Owlbear, had a life cycle and found a way to fit into an ecosystem – indeed, the articles presented the idea of a Dungeon Fantasy setting as an ecosystem that the monsters fit within.

KODT and Hackmaster – particularly with Hackmaster 4th edition’s tongue-in-cheek approach to dungeon crawling – took the idea of using every part of the monster, save the squeal. And not just for spell components and weapon and armor materials, but also for edibility as well – that you could supplement your rations with critters found within the dungeon.

Delicious in Dungeon Volume 1 basically encapsulates both of those approaches. The manga follows a party of adventurers from a town above a Wizardry/Undermountain style mega-dungeon. When one of their number (specifically the sister of the protagonist) is eaten whole by a dragon, the party has to hurry to save her. This means they don’t have time to resupply properly, so they have to forage their way through the dungeon instead. To help them make their way, they enlist the help of an eccentric dwarf who is an expert in the preparation of dungeon cuisine.

The art in the book is great, with just the right balance of macabre and comedic to make it fit with, well, some of the art from Hackmaster. This was a real kick to read, and I’m both surprised that I didn’t start reading this earlier, and I’m also surprised that I haven’t heard more discussions of this book in the old school gaming community.

I’ve heard discussion of this in comics circles – which is still an impressive breakthrough. However, while a lot of Western-style fantasy anime and manga draw cues from JRPGs instead of tabletop roleplaying, Delicious in Dungeon feels more like writer and artist Ryōko Kui is drawing from tabletop gaming instead, and in particular from the general vibe of works like some of the art in First and Second edition AD&D, and (again) Hackmaster 4th Edition.

In a way, it makes sense that the magazine this was originally serialized in is published by Enterbrain, which (among other things) publishes several Japanese tabletop RPGs, along with related magazines. This would fit perfectly with that.

I think tabletop roleplayers – especially fans of D&D or the OSR – should absolutely check out Delicious in Dungeon. They’ll get a kick out of it and maybe, just maybe, it might inspire their gaming.

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