What I'm curious about is what people think is a good way to retain the "numbers going up" nature of a lot of LitRPGs while simultaneously avoiding those numbers becoming irrelevant. What should be avoided? What should an author know going into things? What should be emphasized?
All thoughts are welcome!
You can make it as high as you want, but what matters is that, fairly early on, you show the upper limit of what the system is capable of. My go-to example, even though it isn't LitRPG and isn't on RR, is Cradle by Will Wight.
In the very first book, the protagonist is literally as low as can be: in a world full of magic kung fu powered by souls, Lindon effectively does not have a soul at all. He's a total level zero. Then comes the introductions to people slightly higher ranked in the system. Then, once you've come to grips with the basics of how the system works, you meet a Judge, someone who can reverse causality, freeze time, teleport through dimensions and space, observe entire planets, break the sound barrier, alter her appearance at will—and that's just a taste of what she can do.
Over time, the series introduces other beings at her level, and shows a little more of what she can do—depopulating a planet of a few billion with one attack, just as an example—but crucially, the rule of "Judges are the peak" is effectively never broken (There's some wiggle room with one character, Ozriel, but even then, he's still treated as a peer of the other judges).
The protagonist advances, closing in on the top power level for his world, but the power cap of the series stays the same. The protagonist just gets closer to playing at that level.
Elijah Wrote: The protagonist advances, closing in on the top power level for his world, but the power cap of the series stays the same. The protagonist just gets closer to playing at that level.So just to clarify, you're saying a good way to avoid power creep is just, to have a good idea of the limits of the system and to avoid breaking them as much as possible? That makes a lot of sense, thanks for the post and the example!
I agree, the very first thing you will have to do is to define a ceiling what someone could reasonably reach. The number is arbitrary, but let's stay with Level 100 for the example.
The highest Level, most legendary Hero in all of recorded history was Level 100, and he needed a lifetime (say, 30-40 or so years) to reach that Level. While saving kingdoms, killing dragons, weasels and stuff. Probably with cheat powers, maybe by cheating the System, whatever most OP MCs do.
Take your System and make a Character Sheet for him. Just to see, what the most legendary OP MC Hero could reach in 30-40 years.
So, you have established the maximum, think about how the common people, ordinary adventurers or "normal" Heroes would factor in a world, where around Level 100 is the maximum, even a cheat-power OP MC could reach.
I would say, if Lvl 100 in the max, there wouldn't be many people running around who are markedly over Lvl 50 or so. Those would be the current Heroes, leaders of organisations, kings, high priests, archmages and such.
"Common adventurers" would be not much over Lvl 30 or so.
And all those Levels were reached in a lifetime, or most of a lifetime.
The most recurring troupe for OP MCs is that only they know a loophole in the System, only they could level fast and easy (by doing mundane things) and only he gets showered in rare, unique or legendary Skills, Perks, Classes, etc.
Almost like the OP MC has a completly different operational system running then everyone else.