Re: Litrpg Tips

#1
So, to make a long intro short, I'm already writing one story, but have been considering starting a second at some point in the next few months. Specifically, a litrpg with an artificer main character. The problem is I've never really done one, or even tried my hand at creating a serious litrpg system. 

My question to all of you is are there any good starting tips you can give? Mainly, ways to keep the powerscaling from going way out of whack fast. I prefer to write/read more gradual growth that eventually leads to OP characters, so I'd like to keep it reasonable and balanced, at least at first. Any help would be awesome. 

Re: Litrpg Tips

#2
I don't know about others, but when I first designed the System for mine I saddled my character two very special abilities that would grant him bonuses... and two major drawbacks to go with it.

For example, he has "Royal Blood" which gives him a major + to charisma, diplomacy, and leadership... but an automatic starting negative start to every combat skill level.

It turns out that finding ways to overcome the negative stat has been a hell of a lot of fun to write and lead to new plot points. It's a win-win.

So that's my advice: Give some downsides to whatever it is that makes your character a cut above the rest. Bonus if this ends up being good for the character in the long run for whatever reason.

Re: Litrpg Tips

#3
My LitRPG uses a class-based system very similar to FFXIV & WoW. Each class serves a different niche (Sentinels are bunker tanks who are hard to kill because of their high resistance stats. Berserkers tank through kiting and have high mobility. Dragoons can use a mount to aid them in maintaining mob aggro and disrupting enemies, for example). I started at the level cap of 100 when designing my classes and worked my way backwards to get the lower level classes figured out.

Knowing what max level players can do makes it easier for me to write the team fights and make it so each role actually feels important (whether I actually did that is up to interpretation. I still struggle with writing fights from a support's perspective). And personally, one of the tropes I hate with this genre is low level players or newbs to an MMO discovering secret powerful builds or getting cheat items. Completely unrealistic to real MMOs or anything with meta-gameplay. Strong builds will be discovered by your high level players and those who have been playing forever. If a game is even a year old by the time the MC gets to the game, you can consider all the strongest builds solved already outside of big update changes. And even then, old timers will know so much about the game that you can quickly theorycraft a new class's build as soon as you know what its kit does.


If your system is an MMO, remember that whatever tool you give the main character, any player who meets the same requirements can also use that same tool. That is the defining feature of MMOs and one that gets thrown out the window by pretty much every LitRPG author. If another player can't use your MC's tools, then the system isn't an MMO. Consider this when deciding just how broken your MC's abilities are going to be.

Quick balancing tip: Mages will likely have low HP and mobility but a lot of mana. Tanks will have high HP but low mana and mobility. Physical DPS will likely fall somewhere in the middle, depending if they are auto attack reliant (ranged DPS, typically has low mobility) or "physical damage casters" (typically melee users have higher mobility to get to their targets).

You can design classes or builds that stray from those, but remember give and take. Don't just make classes or builds score a perfect 10 in every category, unless you plan on implying that every player in your MMO story is using that specific build and nothing else.

Re: Litrpg Tips

#4
LitRPG's need a way to narratively get rid of the super high levelled characters. Even with some form of level cap, over time your world would just fill up with high-levelled people who get in the way of a good story by being able to just appear out of nowhere and curb stomp your protagonist/antagonist.

So long as these characters exist, your plots have to stay small. The world can't be in danger because why doesn't the level 1000 Fighter save it instead of your plucky farmgirl? The city cant be destroyed because a dynasty of high-level rogues has a summer home there. System apocalypse/Virtual Reality stories excluded, if you're going to create a living, breathing litrpg world, then narratively there need to be characters higher levelled than your protagonist, so there has to be a reason why they either don't exist or aren't involved more in the story.

Some books deal with this by having a multiverse, multiple planes of ascendancy, multiple planets or whatever, and simply have the events surrounding the protagonist be so far beneath the 'old monsters' notice to bypass this issue entirely, but I dislike that as lazy handwaving. Coming up with a narrative reason as to why the world isn't under the thumb of an immortal level 1000 wizard who instakills anyone who could ever grow to threaten their power is important, not just because it explains away a big issue with power scaling but because it forces you the author to actually think about what would a max level character look like? How powerful can you get in your world? What are the limits of longevity? If you're having elves or dragons that can live forever then why aren't they ruling over the short-lived humans?

There are no wrong answers to these questions, but there needs to an answer even if its 'All people over level 100 disappear and no one knows why.'.

Re: Litrpg Tips

#5
Try to avoid the luck stat or anything else luck related unless the litrpg is explicitly about a luck manipulating/abusing character or your character has very bad luck. Having your protagonist receive multiple lucky breaks really stresses plot armour and makes it hard to buy into the story. Audiences want protagonists to earn their success not have it handed to them through 'random chance' that we all know is the author putting their finger on the scales.

For that reason handholding in the form of cheat skills/talents/classes given out by benign gods or administrators need to be handled very carefully. While it can be done well, all too often we see some infinitely powerful cosmic deity giving some random loser all this extra help for the most tenuous reasons. When the protagonist then uses this unfair advantage, the reader is left with the opinion 'of course they beat the demon lord they had all this help'. 

Again there are no rules to writing, but be aware that meaningful victories are so much harder to write when the protagonist is perceived to have unearned help.

I feel like I have more advice to give, but I'm hesitant to spam this thread.

Re: Litrpg Tips

#6
I'm with a lot of the things already mentioned before

Rather than focusing solely on the consistency of the system, make sure the world is cohesive with the kind of world that has been dealing with the system for a long, long time. There will be high leveled people. Class, skills, feats, titles and more should be relatively well known. You're not going to suddenly stumble on some amazing synergy that no one's thought of before. What could happen is that a synergy already known works extremely well with your personality/body/whatev. 

Take Rain, from Delve, he picked a class that he though people weren't aware of. People were aware of it, but it's not popular since it's a path highly reliant on others to carry the fighting. His personality makes it well suited for him. Not only does he want people to generally like him and so enjoys helping others, his analytics and calculations make the most of a class that's based on buffing.

As for high leveled people... Why did they go for high levels? It makes sense for the military and people who'd need that edge, but your average adventurer will be happy to farm an area somewhat below his level. If it's enough to live comfortably, why risk your life for more? There is no such thing as an average human who'll decline profitable work because he or she wants something that's more likely to get him or her killed. Azarinth Hunter has this quite right. Most people barely level. People with the right classes and resources do, but generally only to level 200 where they get a hugely extended lifespan. After that the need to press on is gone and you only have the battle junkies, explorers and other crazy people pushing the limits. The only reason for a lot of people to get to very high levels is when the world is very dangerous. Constant wars, monster attacks or whatever.

This also applies to your character. Make sure he/she has a reason to try and improve. Either an intrinsic or external motivation works.


A thing to be mindful of is power creep. Your characters will get progressively stronger and so their challenges will have to too. It's easy to push their strengths too far too soon which makes 'ordinary' enemies uninteresting. There are a lot of challenges and problems you can only present when someone is relatively weak. If you have anything 'small' planned where your character is supposed to struggle, those events need to take place before they get to strong. Make sure to have a rough roadmap with how strong your character needs to be at which point in the story. You could take a lesson from RPG game devs there (which is a discussion from some time ago on the forum). They plan out either exactly or rougly what your skills, abilities and equipment should be at any point during the game.

Keep an eye out for the trap of handing out key skills and equipment and such just before it's needed. That's very much plot armor. Better have a skill be there already and used a few times before setting up an arc to make it shine. Otherwise, have a side quest to gain that skill or ability specifically.


Re: Litrpg Tips

#7

S.G. Wrote: I don't know about others, but when I first designed the System for mine I saddled my character two very special abilities that would grant him bonuses... and two major drawbacks to go with it.

For example, he has "Royal Blood" which gives him a major + to charisma, diplomacy, and leadership... but an automatic starting negative start to every combat skill level.

It turns out that finding ways to overcome the negative stat has been a hell of a lot of fun to write and lead to new plot points. It's a win-win.

So that's my advice: Give some downsides to whatever it is that makes your character a cut above the rest. Bonus if this ends up being good for the character in the long run for whatever reason.



Good point. I have an idea about that which I'm still trying to figure out. I've always liked the ideas from things like Fallout, where traits give buffs but also downsides that can lock you into a particular style. Definitely can see what you mean, and how adding in the downsides can make it more interesting to write and read. Appreciate it

Re: Litrpg Tips

#8

Oskatat Wrote: I'm with a lot of the things already mentioned before

Rather than focusing solely on the consistency of the system, make sure the world is cohesive with the kind of world that has been dealing with the system for a long, long time. There will be high leveled people. Class, skills, feats, titles and more should be relatively well known. You're not going to suddenly stumble on some amazing synergy that no one's thought of before. What could happen is that a synergy already known works extremely well with your personality/body/whatev. 

Take Rain, from Delve, he picked a class that he though people weren't aware of. People were aware of it, but it's not popular since it's a path highly reliant on others to carry the fighting. His personality makes it well suited for him. Not only does he want people to generally like him and so enjoys helping others, his analytics and calculations make the most of a class that's based on buffing.

As for high leveled people... Why did they go for high levels? It makes sense for the military and people who'd need that edge, but your average adventurer will be happy to farm an area somewhat below his level. If it's enough to live comfortably, why risk your life for more? There is no such thing as an average human who'll decline profitable work because he or she wants something that's more likely to get him or her killed. Azarinth Hunter has this quite right. Most people barely level. People with the right classes and resources do, but generally only to level 200 where they get a hugely extended lifespan. After that the need to press on is gone and you only have the battle junkies, explorers and other crazy people pushing the limits. The only reason for a lot of people to get to very high levels is when the world is very dangerous. Constant wars, monster attacks or whatever.

This also applies to your character. Make sure he/she has a reason to try and improve. Either an intrinsic or external motivation works.


A thing to be mindful of is power creep. Your characters will get progressively stronger and so their challenges will have to too. It's easy to push their strengths too far too soon which makes 'ordinary' enemies uninteresting. There are a lot of challenges and problems you can only present when someone is relatively weak. If you have anything 'small' planned where your character is supposed to struggle, those events need to take place before they get to strong. Make sure to have a rough roadmap with how strong your character needs to be at which point in the story. You could take a lesson from RPG game devs there (which is a discussion from some time ago on the forum). They plan out either exactly or rougly what your skills, abilities and equipment should be at any point during the game.

Keep an eye out for the trap of handing out key skills and equipment and such just before it's needed. That's very much plot armor. Better have a skill be there already and used a few times before setting up an arc to make it shine. Otherwise, have a side quest to gain that skill or ability specifically.



Both the power creep and the potential for super-powerful monsters are things I'm really worried about for the future. I've already learned how easy it can get to go too  big too fast and sit there wondering, "Well how do I escalate from here?" Hell, I'm a big Dragon Ball Z fan and they hit that back in the 90s. Either way, you raised a lot of good points. Thanks for the comment 

Re: Litrpg Tips

#9

Luke Wrote: Try to avoid the luck stat or anything else luck related unless the litrpg is explicitly about a luck manipulating/abusing character or your character has very bad luck. Having your protagonist receive multiple lucky breaks really stresses plot armour and makes it hard to buy into the story. Audiences want protagonists to earn their success not have it handed to them through 'random chance' that we all know is the author putting their finger on the scales.

For that reason handholding in the form of cheat skills/talents/classes given out by benign gods or administrators need to be handled very carefully. While it can be done well, all too often we see some infinitely powerful cosmic deity giving some random loser all this extra help for the most tenuous reasons. When the protagonist then uses this unfair advantage, the reader is left with the opinion 'of course they beat the demon lord they had all this help'. 

Again there are no rules to writing, but be aware that meaningful victories are so much harder to write when the protagonist is perceived to have unearned help.

I feel like I have more advice to give, but I'm hesitant to spam this thread.



Feel free to spam away if you want, I'm not gonna complain about more potentially useful advice. Still very much learning, and any little bit helps. 

As far as luck goes, I try to avoid too much of it. Plot armor is gonna be a real concern to me because of the nature of litrpg worlds. I'm still trying to hammer out how to avoid it, but I can pick up what you're putting down. Like you said in your other comment, I'm already running into the question of "okay where are all the maxed out characters and why aren't they sneezing and wiping out major problems?" Got a few ideas, but trying to  decide which to follow.

Anyways, the tips are real helpful. Appreciate it/also read your story, and I'm really liking it so far! 

Re: Litrpg Tips

#10

B.A. Wrote: My LitRPG uses a class-based system very similar to FFXIV & WoW. Each class serves a different niche (Sentinels are bunker tanks who are hard to kill because of their high resistance stats. Berserkers tank through kiting and have high mobility. Dragoons can use a mount to aid them in maintaining mob aggro and disrupting enemies, for example). I started at the level cap of 100 when designing my classes and worked my way backwards to get the lower level classes figured out.

Knowing what max level players can do makes it easier for me to write the team fights and make it so each role actually feels important (whether I actually did that is up to interpretation. I still struggle with writing fights from a support's perspective). And personally, one of the tropes I hate with this genre is low level players or newbs to an MMO discovering secret powerful builds or getting cheat items. Completely unrealistic to real MMOs or anything with meta-gameplay. Strong builds will be discovered by your high level players and those who have been playing forever. If a game is even a year old by the time the MC gets to the game, you can consider all the strongest builds solved already outside of big update changes. And even then, old timers will know so much about the game that you can quickly theorycraft a new class's build as soon as you know what its kit does.


If your system is an MMO, remember that whatever tool you give the main character, any player who meets the same requirements can also use that same tool. That is the defining feature of MMOs and one that gets thrown out the window by pretty much every LitRPG author. If another player can't use your MC's tools, then the system isn't an MMO. Consider this when deciding just how broken your MC's abilities are going to be.

Quick balancing tip: Mages will likely have low HP and mobility but a lot of mana. Tanks will have high HP but low mana and mobility. Physical DPS will likely fall somewhere in the middle, depending if they are auto attack reliant (ranged DPS, typically has low mobility) or "physical damage casters" (typically melee users have higher mobility to get to their targets).

You can design classes or builds that stray from those, but remember give and take. Don't just make classes or builds score a perfect 10 in every category, unless you plan on implying that every player in your MMO story is using that specific build and nothing else.



That's a good point about how difficult it is to make a unique class or abilities in a 'settled' world, so to speak. I'm trying to decide how to circumvent that problem without it appearing too "oh the MC got that MC luck and special MC powers" thing that frankly, I'm already doing a little too much of in my existing story. 

And yeah the give and take is something I'm playing with right now in my notes/planning. Like I said in the initial post, I love the idea of Artificers and feel like there can be some interesting downsides with a class based around items, creating equipment and so on. 

Either way, brought up some good points. Thanks! 

Re: Litrpg Tips

#11
I think the Chinese Wuxia methods need to be adopted into litRPGs.  They're very similar.  What Wuxia does is establish a power ladder.  The protagonist starts at the bottom of the ladder, but there exists realms far greater, but for now they only really show people with similar power levels to the protagonist.  They justify it by saying it would be shameful for someone from a higher realm to pick on someone from a lower realm.  Like this, we avoid showing what the higher realms look like.  


The idea is that you isolate the protagonists view into a bubble.  People don't want the full-picture all at once.  They want to be spoonfed it little-by-little.  Too much and it just becomes a mess of ideas and the reader isn't following anymore.  

Re: Litrpg Tips

#12

Havoc1021 Wrote: Feel free to spam away if you want, I'm not gonna complain about more potentially useful advice. Still very much learning, and any little bit helps. 

As far as luck goes, I try to avoid too much of it. Plot armor is gonna be a real concern to me because of the nature of litrpg worlds. I'm still trying to hammer out how to avoid it, but I can pick up what you're putting down. Like you said in your other comment, I'm already running into the question of "okay where are all the maxed out characters and why aren't they sneezing and wiping out major problems?" Got a few ideas, but trying to  decide which to follow.

Anyways, the tips are real helpful. Appreciate it/also read your story, and I'm really liking it so far!



Glad you like it, more readers are always greatly appreciated.

Regarding plot armour, the best way to deal with it is to write around it. Which helps to either be brilliant or to simply have a large backlog to allow you to make large edits on the fly where your audience can't tell the difference. If your solution to conflict or combat is to have your protagonist survive with 1hp or do some risky manoeuvre with a 0.00001% chance of survival in my opinion you've made a mistake in setting up the conflict. 

Again this is all opinion, there are no rules to writing, but I feel that you should foreshadow your hero's survival long before the conflict even occurs. 

For example, let's say your MC artificer, expresses disdain for religious figures throughout the first arc/book of the story. In chapter 1, have them discuss their love for artifice as it lets them create crappy copies of all other types of magic. In chapter 5 they're made aware of some looming danger that is fated to kill them, as their railing against religious prophecy in Chapter 10 they express strong opinions about some of the churches laws, including why it's stupid that necromancy is illegal when they could revolutionise say farming/mining/keeping great scholars/kings 'alive' when arguing with a priest/oracle character. Have them make loads of money in ch15, then in ch20 have them complain that they're overworked, broke and briefly describe a smattering of their new equipment. Then in 30 kill them in epic combat to the looming/fated danger. If in 31 you bring them back as a crappy version of a lich, who kills the antagonist when their back is turned, by having that expensive necklace they've been mocked for as a poor man's phylactery that retained their soul in their broken corpse, you've laid down the groundwork and it works. It shows your MC thinks ahead, is smart, resourceful etc, willing to go to extreme lengths. If instead, you have them survive by the skin of their teeth with 1 HP in the big finale through their 'sheer force of will'/luck you can practically feel your readers eyes roll into the backs of their heads.

The above example took about 5 minutes to come up with so it probably has numerous flaws, but I'm hoping you can get my point. By setting up your conflicts well in advance and you can have the protagonist survive much easier without stressing plot armour quite so much. Additionally, once your readers cotton on to the fact that you're doing this, they will read you're writing with a lot more attention to detail which is always nice.

Re: Litrpg Tips

#13

Oskatat Wrote: Keep an eye out for the trap of handing out key skills and equipment and such just before it's needed. That's very much plot armor



Normally, but if the plot is about getting the equipment/skills, then it makes sense that they don't appear until needed - the hero is deferring the battle until he can win.   If you do this remember that the big final battle is tying up the loose ends before closing the story, even an afterwards "finally armed with the dragon sword, and the flame resistant armor the hero teleported into the dragon's dev, ignored the fire breathing while slice the dragon to pieces.  He lived happily ever after."

Re: Litrpg Tips

#14
My starting tip is to first consider what function the litrpg element is supposed to have in your story. There are many possibilities, most of them exclusive, that determine what fits and what doesn't fit.

Let's look at the caricatures of some archetypes:
  • There is what I'd call the "road to power". The primary purpose of the story is empowering the MC and the reading enjoying someone getting to powerful in their stead. So in a way some "competence porn" just like traveled back in time stories. Here the function of litRPG elements is to show superiority and power. Skills are best not shown before they are used. And if they are then only to have people mock them until the MC can beat everyone using them is some big reveal of the hidden synergy/clever use/.... Predictability is no issue, power creep is only an issue w.r.t. to being able to still top it. Consistence is not that important and being always better.
  • There is the variant of some detective stories, only with min-maxing instead of crime solving. The author builds an world controlled by some system and allows the reader to make predictions, until showing them the really good solution. Getting this correctly in the extreme open case is very hard. Not only does the author have to invent a viable consistent system, they also need to actually find a very good application (it gets ruined by readers seeing better solutions), but communicating the system to readers without boring most readers is almost impossible. Thus best suitable if you want to sell the system and the fiction is a way to promote it or you can build on top of something the readers already know.
  • There is using a litRPG as a mystery story. Instead of ghosts in your attic you get the system suddenly showing up and the MC living in it. This lives on the novelty, on matching conveying some otherworldly esoteric charm. On the low-fantasy/our earth side this lives from matching every-day live with that system (The first chapters of The Gamer webtoon/mahnwa are the ultimate in this regard). On the high-fantacy/isekay side this lives from having a workable society build on those concepts (the more alien and similar to ours at the same time, the better)).
  • There is the system-fan-fiction, where the rpg system is the primary thing binding your story to some work the reader already knows and gives them familarity. Living in the games they know. As with fan-fictions in general there are the variants of keeping as true as possible to the original, of showing the hidden twist/behind-the-scenes/... and so on.
  • RPG elements can be used as chains to keep the story together. Fantasy (in the general sense, including science fiction) has the problem that everything is possible for the author, so it is hard to set expectations in the reader. The numbers and skills limit what the characters in the story can do, and thus can help to explain their actions. The read understands the setting enough to enjoy it. The author can just claim they calculated the result (or even just throw the dice if they cannot be bothered to write a consistent story).
I called those archetypes caricatures for a reason. While they can be a fun read (though without any depth) in the extreme, those functions are usually better hidden in a story. It might still help you do take their role to the extreme to determine what help their cause and what hinders it. (Or what the negative side-effects are you may want to counter).