Dembo's Ditty (A LitRPG Gamebook)


You are Dembo Daji, a Maroki – a Griot. But you weren’t always. You were once a struggling DJ in the near future. Home for you was a tiny efficiency in the Pittsburgh Projects – a 50-story housing development in the crime-ridden, ultra-violent area of Pittsburgh, in southwest Atlanta, Georgia… until you finally saved up enough credits to purchase the U.R.E. – the Universal Reality Engine – the world’s most popular gaming console and you decided to play Ki Khanga – the world’s most popular MMORPG – on it.

Now, you’re stuck in the world of Ki Khanga and looking for a way out.

All isn’t bad, though. You’re in love with Joni, a beautiful and brilliant princess. But in order to win her hand in marriage, you have to first win over her father, who demands his daughter marry someone of great fame and fortune. Becoming the official Maroki of Yoro Mosa, the hero of heroes, is the best way to do it. The problem is, Yoro’s life is fraught with dangers. Hordes of evil, intelligent chimpanzees, sorcerers and gargantuan monsters are just some of the terrible things you’ll have to face if you get the gig.

This gamebook is similar to the Choose Your Own-type books, but with cool game stats, weapons, skills and funky spell-songs to choose from!

Hack, slash, talk and sing your way out of trouble and into fame and glory as you choose your path through a hilarious and dangerous LitRPG adventure!


My Opinion: 222 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

The author describes the story as a Choose your own Adventure, ‘but with cool game stats, weapons, skills and funky spell-songs to choose from!’ He’s written 16 novels and gamebooks.

This was always going to be a tough project. Choose your own adventure or Gamebooks as the author calls them are intended to make you feel as if you're in the story and that your choices change the story. They usually do this by presenting you with choices, then telling you to go to a certain page or place to see the results of that choice. That choice leads to other choices which lead to still more. The result is usually a complex network of branching narratives that can result in multiple story paths and even different endings.

Computer games made this sort of novel obsolete or at least moved the medium to the digital realm where the possible story branches weren't limited by physical page count. Now a days there are even apps that do this kind of stuff. Sorcery! Series by Steven Jackson. They even keep track of stats, attack and damage rolls during a fight, health, mana pools, etc, so you don't have to keep a journal to remember your choices.

For me, this novel was a nostalgic trip to my childhood. Buying a new book, getting my notepad and dice and flipping pages till I died then starting again at some branching path. The problem with this story, is that technically feels outdated. Also unlike having a physical book, there’s no easy way to skip to your choice here. I’d expected some hyperlink or something to send me to my choices. Instead, you have to swipe through all the possible choices and you can't help but read some, ruining any possibility or replay or reread.

Additionally, aside from a couple places where your choice will end the story and tell you to start over, the story moves in a fairly linear manner. There are branches that send you through interesting side missions but ultimately they all lead right back to the main linear story.

There are a series of complex rules for combat and skills that take up the first 5% of the novel to explain. Unfortunately, none of it matters. The story narration predetermines the outcome of every combat choice. Skills are never even taken into account for choices.

Ie: For example, at one point as the MC, you are tasked with getting the ingredients for a breakfast (17%). Given two choices for type of food to get: Giant Clam or Seagull eggs. Each leads to combat and more sub choices as to how to fight. Magic  music, weapons. Each of those choices has results that might end the fight or give you more combat choices. Regardless, they end in one of two ways basically. Clam- Kill the clam, get big pearl, sell pearl and split money with fishermen that come to help you. Escape clam no reward. Cook clam, no pearl, but no extended combat. You basically get similar results with the seagull eggs. Yet, no matter what you choose, they all lead to a breakfast scene (27%) where the cook ‘takes the breakfast stuff’ and the story continues on like nothing else happened.

My favorite part, was the world building done in the first 5% of the novel. The author paints a picture of a vibrant Afrikan inspired world with unique social structures and traditions. Throughout the novel the choices given often include musical options. Choosing to play one type of music over another leads to different small consequences and outcomes. The author describes a world where music is as powerful as any blade or spear.

I genuinely would not mind visiting this world again. Just not as a choose your own adventure.

Score: 5 out of 10.

Dembo's Ditty (A LitRPG Gamebook).