Alright, I thought I’d write this. This is a kind of checklist of tropes and things that people find appealing as well as what I enjoy reading.
Numbers go Up. Whee!
Ever played a game and wanted to try different builds? See what happens with the way the various character skills / equipment / etc change? Well, LitRPG kind of taps into that itch. A chunk of theory-crafting of ‘should I get this build or should I get that build’ is part of the crunchier (more number driven) LitRPG. It’s fun to look at a new system (often RPG and/or MMORPG systems that can’t be recreated in real life yet) and figure out what you’d do. And then watch what happens when the protagonist (and his friends) pick different builds.
To a lesser extent, seeing new shiny loot is a ton of fun. Even if that loot isn’t useful, it can be silly and humorous like RPGs.
Like a chicken hat of +Charisma
(and how, btw does that work…?)
So, that’s a very gamer perspective but one part of the appeal.
Unique Settings & Scenarios
Secondly, there are some more unique scenarios that ‘normal’ fantasy can’t deal with / doesn’t do well at. Viridian Gate Online does the ‘trapped in a game world’ trope, but then removes permadeath. So, you have millions of people fighting one another, but none of them can die. How does a war work in that sense? How do you deal with logistics and tactics?
Now, add the fact that everyone is leveling up and getting powers to that. Do you have a broad base of leveled up characters (and how do you balance having people run around slaying monsters to get levels and fighting on the front lines where they might actually lose levels?) or do you focus on a few elite who might be tens of levels higher?
Another one – what happens if the world (real world) gets a bunch of gamelike components? There’s a whole apocalyptic sub-genre (yes, including mine) that deals with that question. It changes the apocalyptic trope quite a bit and lets you handwave away a bunch of things like electronics and guns (if you want).
Portal fantasies into worlds with a system are also quite common. Answering questions about what a game system (just another hard magic system in a way, but SUPER hard) would work is fascinating to see, sometimes, depending on the writer.
Then you’ve got NPCs becoming aware (and what is an NPC?), super-sophisicated AIs, etc. All of these can get tackled by writers (or ignored, depending on the writer).
Favorite Character Classes / Protagonist going Over-Powered (OP)
Power fantasy is a big part of the LitRPG genre without a doubt. A lot of people just want to see the entire progression fantasy (weak to strong) aspect, while others just want an OP character from the start. Either case, it’s kinda fun to see someone grow from weak to strong or to be so strong, they wander around smacking down trouble without an issue.
On top of that, if you are an old gamer, it’s fun to see certain kinds of classes get that treatment. Necromancers are one of the most common classes that people love to see OP. Spellswords (or swordmages) are another common one.
Cool / Different Game Systems
Now, mind you, a lot of the systems used are very similar. But, then you get the writers who decide to create something very different or tackle certain kinds of games to see what happens.
Scottie Futch decided to tackle turn based combat in a novel setting in Earth Tactics Advanced.
Advent: Red Mage uses a crystal network, where you plug in crystals into your own star constellations (with everyone having different constellations) to power up. And you have to use different crystals with different abilities to upgrade.
Dakota Krout wrote an entire system for a dungeon core (a living, thinking dungeon and its evolution)
Codename: Freedom uses a system that basically draws upon real world body building aspects, with people growing stronger by literal hard work (and nannites in the bloodstream).
Street Cultivation mixed up energy cultivation and LitRPG numbers to come up with a different system on top of that.
Threadbare has a multi-class system that includes non-combat Classes like ‘Model’. All for a golem teddy bear.
And so on, so forth.
Lastly, as a writer…
DM’ing without annoying players
If you ever ran a campaign, you’ll realise how often players mess up your plans. All these great ideas, these cool settings and scenarios… bypassed. What do you mean you won’t assault that base I spent 6 hours drawing the map to, creating NPCs for and writing out the various security settings they have? You’re just going to lure the target out and kidnap him in the middle of the street????
So…. as a writer/DM you get to play the game with yourself and do cool scenarios and don’t have silly players getting in your way. I know some writers who go as far as rolling dice for character interactions, combat, etc.
I’m sure there are other reasons, but these are the ones that come to mind. Do you have other reasons why you love the genre?
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