Something is indeed lost in translating a pen-and-paper role-playing experience to a video game. It’s not just the lack of a voluminous, dog-eared monster manual or velour pouches of many-sided dice. The main shortcoming of video game RPGs, as I see it, is the lack of spontaneous creativity. You have no dungeon master calling audibles to counter your increasingly powerful and consonant-heavy dark elf assassin, and there’s no personal element to the authorship of the quest.
Knights Of Pen And Paper recreates not just the tabletop game itself, but the experience of playing that game. You control both the players (like Nerd, The Warrior; Mr. John, The Paladin; Pizza Guy, The Rogue), and the dungeon master responsible for creating the quest. As you choose missions, the party is transported out of the living room to a more appropriate fantasy setting, where you face bats, rats, cyclopean slimes, and plenty of other experience-bleeding offenses to nature.
The conceit is amusing, and Knights Of Pen And Paper does offer a character-building grind that will appeal to the masochists among us, but it all feels a little cynical.
My main gripe has to do with this fantasy world’s horrendous economic inflation. It’s like Milton Friedman mated with a chaotic-evil dwarven thief. Generally, the party gets between $1 and $5 per successful fight. The first weapon and armor upgrades for each character costs about $70. That price would be acceptable, if steep, except that you only have about a 40% chance of successfully forging the weapon (the percentage goes up as you improve the blacksmith’s skill). So you can drop this coin and have nothing to show for it, theoretically forever. Price gouging is no fun, but—surprise!—the game allows you to purchase in-game gold with real money, a bit of skulduggery tantamount to bribing a dungeon master with donuts.