It’s funny just how hard it is to tell a story about dungeon crawling.

You may have noticed that Water Phoenix King has some roots in Dungeons & Dragons, in the same way you may have noticed WPK is in color–it’s pretty damn obvious. Before my ultimate burnout, I ran a lot of D&D, and one thing that always impressed me is that the most fun D&D games make terrible stories, and the D&D games that twist themselves into the shapes of conventional narrative aren’t always good games. Similarly, good fantasy (and even bad fantasy) looks almost nothing like a typical D&D session. Even the inspirations for D&D, from the famous “Appendix N,” rarely feature the sort of dungeon crawling that defines the game, and those that come closest, like the magnificent Tale of Satampra Zeiros, the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories and, of course, The Hobbit, aren’t really about the “crawl.”

Which is why, although there are all sorts of allusions to the giant and mostly unnamed Rappan Athuk-/Ruins of Undermountain-/Castle Greyhawk-style dungeon beneath the Inn of Silver Leaves, it’s shown almost entirely in single panels overlaid with narration. There might be a good game there, but there’s not a lot of story.