King of RPGs cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.
Rating “OT Ages 16+”
King of RPGs is an American manga (OEL manga) from author Jason Thompson (Manga: The Complete Guide) with art by newcomer Victor Hao. Set in the world of intense role-playing games (RPGs), King of RPGs focuses on a hardcore gamer whose gaming sometimes reveals a serious psychological problem.
As King of RPGs, Vol. 1 opens, Shesh Maccabee enters the University of California, Escondido both as an incoming freshman and a court-ordered, recovering gamer. It was his dark, split personality, which emerges during intense rounds of gaming, that got Shesh in trouble. Mike Ba, his roommate and friend, is tasked with keeping Shesh away from any computer with access to the online game, World of Warfare.
All is going well until the duo meets Jen Pedwar, Renaissance Faire participant who introduces them to the campus gaming club and Theodore Dudek. Theo is a fan of tabletop games (an example being Dungeons & Dragons), in particular, Mages & Monsters, and he is a fanatical tabletop game master. Theo sees a kindred spirit (or pawn) in Shesh, and Theo likes Shesh’s dark side.
THE LOWDOWN: There are several good characters in King of RPGs – mostly young people with a genuine love for their hobby and pastimes. I have a mild interest in this subculture. Perhaps, that is why I found myself really wanting to know a character every time a new one popped up in the story.
However, King of RPGs seems less about characters and more about gaming scenarios. In fact, a significant portion of the first chapter of this volume, writer Jason Thompson devotes to a Mages & Monsters campaign. Of course, much of that game takes place in the players’ minds. Thompson has his collaborator, Victor Hao, visualize this particular round of role-playing in several pages of graphic storytelling that resemble an old Marvel Conan the Barbarian comic book. Normally, that would be fun to read; here, it just kills the momentum of what seemed like a college-set, ensemble comedy with much potential.
I know that gaming is integral to this series, but pulling readers into gaming campaigns may not be all that necessary. Hopefully, King of RPGs will get back to the heart of the matter – its characters.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of RPGs may like King of RPGs.