Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: Bender on March 05, 2020, 04:28:45 PM

Title: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on March 05, 2020, 04:28:45 PM
Didn't find a thread for this.

I got into this genre quite recently after Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe and find myself fascinated. This seems to be a quite delicate balance to achieve keeping readers interested in plot and gameplay and not overload them stats and skill trees.

I loved playing these games, though I don't have that much time to sink on games, this is proving to be a suitable alternative.

I've read all of Andrew Rowe's books.
Currently reading Euphoria Online books.

So what else is recommended?
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: CameronJohnston on March 06, 2020, 01:52:36 PM
I like a fair bit of LitRPG, though some of it is horribly written trash that makes me vounce off hard.
Some good ones:
God of Gnomes by Demi Harper is basically Dungeon Keeper cross with Black & White with added whimsy. I really enjoyed it.
Crafter's Dungeon is pretty fun, and focused on a dungeon cored more interested in crafting and building than killign advenurers.
CivCEO is a bit different, focussed on trade deals and village building, but fun too.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 09, 2020, 03:25:17 PM
So time to bump this up. I have read a bunch of books in this genre. Looks like most of the stuff in this genre are a bit amateurish, juvenile and pretty much stereotypical with few variations. It's because authors tend to concentrate more on game mechanics to detriment of overall plot. Some series that I liked are:

- Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell

Pretty much the best out of the lot. It has a good in-game plot, a good out-game plot that blends with in game mechanics, solid characters and overall an action packed fun read. The game stat elements are kept to a minimum and plot flows well across all books. 8/10

P.S: The author also as a side series set in same world, Tarot series. Avoid that.

- Ascend Online by Luke Chmilenko

Another good series which starts off a bit trope-y but turns into a genuine good series. You have the feel for the characters and story and really engaged in what happens. Very nice book. 7/10

- Crystal Shards Online by Rick Scott

Book 1 starts off a bit like usual, but then the world and scope expands really well. The setting changes every book and from usual sword and sorcery, we get to high speed races and bad ass gun fights in book 4. Well defined characters and refreshingly new plot. 7/10

- Way of the Shaman by Vasily Mahanenko

This is almost as good as Awaken Online just suffering from a occasional translation issue. Starts off in a prison mine and expands in subsequent books. Book 1 is probably the weakest in series as other books really explode in terms of scope and variation. The in game and out game elements are blended well together with good characters into one well made package. 8/10

- Towers of Heaven by Cameron Milan
- Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe

Both these are tower based books where the protagonist has to clear levels of a mysterious tower, fight against monsters and level bosses to progress. The mechanics are done well and story line is engaging and world building is fantastic. Arcane Ascension is a bit well rounded in writing style, but books books are rengaging and fun to read.

God of Gnomes by Demi Harper

Probably the one with best prose of the lot. A more nuanced book where the protagonist is reborn as a 'core' and unable to talk to his denizens, the Gnomes...but still has to influence and protect them. A quite novel take and the prose and setting alone are worth reading this. A really good book. 7/10

The Crafting of Chess by Kit Falbo

A crafting based book, where the protagonist crafts gear rather than engage in battles himself. Lots of fun following him and light fun read. 7/10


Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: eclipse on September 09, 2020, 03:27:15 PM
Are this like fighting fantasy novels?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jackson%27s_Sorcery!
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 09, 2020, 03:41:58 PM
Are this like fighting fantasy novels?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jackson%27s_Sorcery!

Just looked that up. Don't think so.

Rather than happening is a fantasy world, the books happen in a virtual game world. The world building is pretty much the same as other fantasy books with the exception that this has stats to some extent. Just a RPG game where we can choose to play as a character (warrior, wizard, necromancer etc) and clear levels and get stat points which we can assign to attributes (like strength, dexterity etc).

The books above have the stat elements to a minimum, and really follows a protagonist who enters a Virtual Reality game for whatever reason and we see how the in-game character develops and how it all links to the real out game persons story.

Give Awaken Online book 1 a go if you want to sample this.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Alex Hormann on September 09, 2020, 07:23:47 PM
Are this like fighting fantasy novels?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jackson%27s_Sorcery!

Just looked that up. Don't think so.

Rather than happening is a fantasy world, the books happen in a virtual game world. The world building is pretty much the same as other fantasy books with the exception that this has stats to some extent. Just a RPG game where we can choose to play as a character (warrior, wizard, necromancer etc) and clear levels and get stat points which we can assign to attributes (like strength, dexterity etc).

The books above have the stat elements to a minimum, and really follows a protagonist who enters a Virtual Reality game for whatever reason and we see how the in-game character develops and how it all links to the real out game persons story.

Give Awaken Online book 1 a go if you want to sample this.

First of all, I love Fighting Fantasy so much. It's what got me into fantasy as a whole.

But I've never seen the appeal of LitRPG. For me, it's a bit like streaming. Why would I watch/read about someone playing a game when I can just play games myself?

I'm massively into D&D, and I enjoyed Kings of the Wyld, Dragon Lords and a few other games which were influenced by RPGs, but are still proper fantasy novels. Having the game elements be literal just pushes it too far for me.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Peat on September 09, 2020, 09:28:14 PM
Everytime LitRPG comes up I have one of those unfair "plz nos".

Then I remember my favourite webcomic is Order of the Stick (D&D based, characters refer to their levels and skill ranks, etc.etc.) and that one of the greatest things I ever read was the DaveB Mage: The Awakening Actual Plays (these being accounts of the actual gaming sessions, rather than fiction based on games).

... And then I still have the same reaction.

Although I'd be tentatively not interested in LitRPG based on non-D&D things because man, if there's one thing in fantasy that needs a savage kick down the stairs in the name of diversity of takes on the genre, it's D&D (for all the good it's done).
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 09, 2020, 09:39:51 PM
Why would I watch/read about someone playing a game when I can just play games myself?

Did you feel like this after reading some books in this genre?

For me, despite the presence of stat sheets and skill trees, the story is pretty much the same as any other fantasy books. A added benefit is that you essentially have 2 plots that run together, a in-game and out-game scenario. And when they blend in well, it's just like another genre. I rarely get the feel of watching e-sports or following someone else game.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: DrNefario on September 09, 2020, 10:43:33 PM
I don't think they are like regular fantasy, really. I like (some) LitRPG, but I decided eventually that I was going to class it as its own thing. Initially I thought it was maybe more SF than fantasy, being about immersive VR gaming, but not everything is like that, and in the end I figured I should stop trying to cram the books into categories they don't fit.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 10, 2020, 03:30:52 PM
There's a difference between playing a game, watching others playing a game and reading LitRPG.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Alex Hormann on September 10, 2020, 05:06:37 PM
Why would I watch/read about someone playing a game when I can just play games myself?

Did you feel like this after reading some books in this genre?

For me, despite the presence of stat sheets and skill trees, the story is pretty much the same as any other fantasy books. A added benefit is that you essentially have 2 plots that run together, a in-game and out-game scenario. And when they blend in well, it's just like another genre. I rarely get the feel of watching e-sports or following someone else game.

The only LitRPG I remember reading was years ago, before it was really considered a genre. I think it might have been called Shadow of the Minotaur or something like that. Basic premise, boy falls into computer game and has to play his way out. I remember thinking that it seemed like a fun game, but not so much as a plot element.

More recently I remember Peter Newman's Landfall, which is not quite LitRPG but is set in an MMO world. I think that's one of my problems with the genre, the MMO feel to them. Grinding through levels in search of loot and new abilities is tedious enough when you're the one doing it, let alone reading about a fictional character doing the same.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 10, 2020, 08:44:15 PM
@Alex Hormann that is probably a bad example as it's based on a real game and won't be interesting to non players.

Forthe books I mention, the stats/grinding are all very basic and the plot takes a big role. In Awaken Online, you might as well be transported magically to a fantasy world (rather than a game).
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Justan Henner on September 14, 2020, 09:22:13 PM
I've read the first two books of Arcane Ascension, and agree that they're much more plot focused. The game elements there are more of a structure applied to the magic system.

In that sense, it reminded me a bit of Sanderson, just in the sense that the magic system is rigorous to the point of being almost scientific. (But here, instead of physics and math, it's game mechanics).

Personally, I really like the Andrew Rowe books and am looking forward to the next in the series. The RPG part of this subgenre is ultimately just a worldbuilding structure, and if it's got great plotting and characters, I don't see why a book written in that structure couldn't be great.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: cupiscent on September 15, 2020, 04:30:47 AM
I have to admit I still don't really understand the whole LitRPG thing. Is it stories about people playing the game? Is it stories (like Joel Rosenberg's old Guardians of the Flame (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardians_of_the_Flame) books) where the players get transported into their characters? Is it just taking the game-setting for the telling of a story within that structure?

I am... perplexed. I guess I just don't see the point? But I want to know! I really enjoyed Rosenberg books back in the day, which offered some amusing storylines about the translation of current-day knowledge of various things to a fantasy-world environment, and also dealt with some interesting self-definition stuff (from memory, there was a guy in a wheelchair in the real world who infinitely preferred being his dwarf-warrior character thanks!) But that doesn't seem to be the overriding common thing of the subgenre, and also I'm not sure there's a whole subgenre worth of stories in those small elements.

Sorry for coming in here with the 101 questions, but I've been following along on this thread and poking around the internets and I'm still not sure what's going on with LitRPG so I figured I'd just ask...
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Lady Ty on September 15, 2020, 11:44:01 AM
A very gentle intro to this new genre ( sigh)  is
How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps by Andrew Rowe. I came across it because it was free if you have audible. Loved it for pure light entertainment, it was funny and clever, probably mainly for Teen/YA RPG fans, but I enjoyed it enormously and even if you are unfamiliar with RPG think it is still fun.
@cupiscent  Can't copy paste on phone, but if you look up publishers book description on GR or similar it will give you more idea of how it relates to RPG.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 15, 2020, 02:35:23 PM
@cupiscent Sadly, the genre is littered with bad books and hard to find good ones. But the good ones are really good.

Most of the stories usually take the flow of the protagonist entering a fully immersive VR RPG game and the plot mixes their real life and game life events forming the plot. I can summarize a few top books so you can get a feel of the genre.

It's a hybrid of portal and school/training based fantasy books with only addition is that the magic system is structured like an game (people can buy spell scrolls, the power levels are comparable in stats, growth is measured in levels etc). Like entering a Dragon Ball Z world and becoming a super saiyan.

It definitely is not reading about someone else play a game (which is a accusation thrown by people who really haven't read good books in the genre)

If you want to jump in, read Catharsis (Awaken Online book 1). Starts off a bit slow but once you hit about 25% it just blows up to a rollercoaster ride.

Awaken Online

This is about a middle class kid in a posh school who gets bullied. He gets invite to play a VR game, where he chooses an 'evil' character (necromancer) and uses that to blow off steam and gains fortitude to face his issues in real life too. His evil kingdom is both revered and reviled and he has lots of adventures in game. The sub-plot is that the game's AI questions it's own sentience and connects with the protagonist with both trying to figure out who/what they are. It covers lot of topics like influence of games in real life, limited AI trying to understand the meaning of sentience etc etc.

Way of the Shaman

In a futuristic society, the protagonist is caught hacking into a govt system and sent to prison. To save costs, prisoners are forced into stasis and loaded into VR game were they virtually work out their term. In game, he realizes that his punishment was orchestrated by an unknown party for reasons unknown. And he unravels the mystery to seek justice.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: cupiscent on September 16, 2020, 12:44:20 AM
Thanks so much, @Bender that really helps me get a handle on things.

Just from what you've outlined, I'm seeing a lot of cyberpunk elements - VR and AI awareness and Matrix-style virtual incarceration. Would Neal Stephenson's recent Fall (or Dodge in Hell) fit in here, because it's largely set in a digital/virtual "afterlife" where minds are uploaded after death and can build the world around themselves... or does it have to have that "game" aspect? (Or, for that matter, what about the game-involved aspects of Stephenson's Snow Crash or Reamde, or the nested-narrative/portal elements of his Diamond Age?)
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 16, 2020, 03:05:02 AM
Thanks so much, @Bender that really helps me get a handle on things.

Just from what you've outlined, I'm seeing a lot of cyberpunk elements - VR and AI awareness and Matrix-style virtual incarceration. Would Neal Stephenson's recent Fall (or Dodge in Hell) fit in here, because it's largely set in a digital/virtual "afterlife" where minds are uploaded after death and can build the world around themselves... or does it have to have that "game" aspect? (Or, for that matter, what about the game-involved aspects of Stephenson's Snow Crash or Reamde, or the nested-narrative/portal elements of his Diamond Age?)

I haven't read those books. the only cyberpunk, I've read is Neuromancer and this is nothing like that. Just looked at Snow Crash and looks to be similar themed.

The VR setting is game based as in it has set of rules, worlds, classes, skills etc pre-defined. Similar to any other magic system, it has rules and structure. Though in books I mention these rules are subtle and the plot takes precedence.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: S. K. Inkslinger on September 16, 2020, 10:07:00 AM
@cupiscent Sadly, the genre is littered with bad books and hard to find good ones. But the good ones are really good.

Most of the stories usually take the flow of the protagonist entering a fully immersive VR RPG game and the plot mixes their real life and game life events forming the plot. I can summarize a few top books so you can get a feel of the genre.

It's a hybrid of portal and school/training based fantasy books with only addition is that the magic system is structured like an game (people can buy spell scrolls, the power levels are comparable in stats, growth is measured in levels etc). Like entering a Dragon Ball Z world and becoming a super saiyan.

It definitely is not reading about someone else play a game (which is a accusation thrown by people who really haven't read good books in the genre)

If you want to jump in, read Catharsis (Awaken Online book 1). Starts off a bit slow but once you hit about 25% it just blows up to a rollercoaster ride.

Awaken Online

This is about a middle class kid in a posh school who gets bullied. He gets invite to play a VR game, where he chooses an 'evil' character (necromancer) and uses that to blow off steam and gains fortitude to face his issues in real life too. His evil kingdom is both revered and reviled and he has lots of adventures in game. The sub-plot is that the game's AI questions it's own sentience and connects with the protagonist with both trying to figure out who/what they are. It covers lot of topics like influence of games in real life, limited AI trying to understand the meaning of sentience etc etc.

Way of the Shaman

In a futuristic society, the protagonist is caught hacking into a govt system and sent to prison. To save costs, prisoners are forced into stasis and loaded into VR game were they virtually work out their term. In game, he realizes that his punishment was orchestrated by an unknown party for reasons unknown. And he unravels the mystery to seek justice.

Added those two to my TBR list, by the way. The only game related english book I've read is Gamer Girl, and I'm not entirely sure if that's really LitRPG. I've come across it a lot in other media, though, like Sword Art Online as anime and I've read 1/2 Prince which is a LitRPG originally in Chinese and later translated into my native tongue. LitRPGs are the biggest thing in my country, there aren't really any fantasy books except extremely popular ones translated from English.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 16, 2020, 11:14:25 AM
@S. K. Inkslinger just read Awaken Online. Shaman is a slow burn and only takes off in book 2.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Alex Hormann on September 19, 2020, 04:27:42 PM
So, I was thinking about this genre and gave a listen to a load of samples on audio, specifically of Andrew Rowe since his is the name that seems to come up a lot. The sample scenes were a) some people trying to pull a sword out of a stone, and b) someone trying to find their way through a dungeon in some kind of contest. It actually reminded me a little of the CBBC show Raven, if anyone remembers that.

First of all I will say that I didn't get a computer game feeling from them at all. There was a key that sounded a little like a one-use cheat code, but that was all. Coming at it from a D&D player's perspective, however, the impression i got was that I was listening to someone describing a game of D&D they had played. Having to decide which door to go through, noticing people using class abilities, etc. And that really left me cold. What I enjoy about D&D isn't the mechanics of it, it's the decision-making. Listening to someone else describing, or even playing D&D, just does nothing for me. It's the reason I could never get into Critical role or any of it's competitors. When you strip out the social element, and the personal freedom of choice, there's nothing to separate it from any other story except for a few specific terms. i suppose in the end I just don't see the need to put game elements in if it's not a game.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Bender on September 19, 2020, 10:06:46 PM
When you strip out the social element, and the personal freedom of choice, there's nothing to separate it from any other story except for a few specific terms.

What do you mean by this?

A goof book in this segment blends the plot and mechanics well that you don't really feel you're reading a game mechanic rather than a explanation of a magic system.
Title: Re: Game themed books (LitRPG, D&D, Final Fantasy etc)
Post by: Alex Hormann on September 20, 2020, 05:26:15 PM
It's annoyingly hard for me to put this into words, but here goes.

Example 1) John is a wizard with three years' training and has learned how to throw fireballs. This is absolutely fine, and appears in a lot of generic fantasy novels.

Example 2) John has the abilities of the Wizard Class, at level 3 he has unlocked the Fireball spell, which he can cast once per day. This is just too explicitly a game mechanic for me.

When you're playing a game, particularly an rpg, you're joking around with friends and using abilities in clever ways to try and make a story together. But the mechanical side of things emphasizes that it is not real. It's a set of rules that exists beyond the world of the characters, and is only used by the players behind them.

I think the main thing is that I want to read about worlds that feel real. Having game terms crop up just reinforces the fact that it's not real, and robs the narrative of weight and consequence.