LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#1
Hi, i am just going to say straight up that i am a serious gamer, I am currently writing a book (not LitRPG). I have noticed that a lot of LitRPG authors have some things they do that turn some prospective readers off from their books after around 5 to 10 chapters.
I will admit before this guide starts, as i am more of a consumer of litRPG books and also of games, i will look at this from a slightly less objective viewpoint than most guides. Now let's get stuck into the guide.


Ohh almost forgot. BTW most examples i will use when focusing on the theme and setting will likely be Japanese light novels as the japanese seem to love this genre (not suprised).

What is a LitRPG?
A LitRPG is quite a new book genre focused on an RPG game format. there are 3 types of LitRPG situations the main character will be or get into that start the whole adventure.

1. The guy is a genuine gaming addict. This type will have a small bit of school and social life outside of the game mixed in with the gaming. A good example of this is Don't Fear the Reaper by schurmwalzer or whatever his name is.

2. The MC gets trapped in the game. This one is the most common and is probably its own cliche in Japan by now. Examples of this type of LitRPG would be the Light novel series Sword Art Online (yes SAO was originally a light novel series). This type either has one of 2 progressions. the 1st is trying to get out of the game and the other is adjusting to the new world and deciding to stay.

3.The MC gets moved by some mystical force into a world set out like a RPG game. I know technically you can classify this as Stuck in a game but it is a bit different. A good example of this type of LitRPG novel is Log Horizon.  

All 3 of the novels i mentioned are some of the better ones for their type (DFtR for a RRL book) and each does something right. Don't Fear the Reaper captures combat and the fact that most view VR games as another reality. Sword Art Online actually portrays melee combat quite well and also has some amazing  progression with the Alicization series. Log horizon does Politics and tactics amazing. 


So what do most LitRPG authors do that makes people quit their novel?


There are a few things that LitRPG authors do which puts most readers off from their novels. I am going to list some of the major ones and have some tips and tricks to avoid them.

1. Generic LitRPG setting, characters and even plot.
This is probably the biggest killer. People just go and read Sword Art Online (example) and think, "I am going to write a LitRPG" and then go and make a Sword Art Online copy. Now don't get me wrong. that was an uncommon example but my friend has actually done that and nowadays he is mad sometimes cos i bagged him out about it. Either way LitRPG's are actually some of the hardest action, adventure type novels to write. This is not because the genre itself requires skill (it really doesn't), but because the amount of content of this genre will mean you need to be absurdly creative and be able to turn a crazy weird idea into an amazing book. The creativity is the hardest thing to do in this genre because of the amount of content. Here are a few tips to help
Don't worry about you book being called generic in terms of the game aspect.
Way to many people get disheartened when they make a chapter and people call the game idea or game setting generic. To be honest most serious LitRPG readers don't give jack squat about game setting or how generic it is. Most will judge your novel on a few things. Basically anything but the game's theme and setting. If your game setting is, idk, a continent on the brink of civil war with a bunch of nations already at war, then dragons start invading and you have some mystical power that can capture a dragons spirit and use it to activate some words of power (Skyrim:ES V basically). The only thing i and most LitRPG readers that are serious about reading the book will care about is how the "mystical power" works and how creative you can get with it while keeping it sensible. The rest in that sentence is the kind of thing we either don't care about or love if you made a serious effort to make it unique and interesting. On to the next tip.

Make the systems inside the game interesting.
Don't worry about the history of the world the game is set in. Focus on the systems like Classes, sub-classes, races, magic etc.
It is like your average RPG game. The main reason people get rpg games is for the fact they can go on an adventure and kill an army of dragonpor.. oops i mean dragonborn soilders (doesn't actually happen in ESV but who cares). And especially for MMORPG's all anyone will care about is how easy the systems to learn and how hard it is to master. As i said, in game content and goals. making your game have infinite levels and always being challenging will make people want to play. It is the same with books.

Design the Game before ANYTHING ELSE.
THis is probably the biggest thing people should do when making a LitRPG. Make the game and how it works before anything else. I am actually thinking of starting one too sometime and i am gonna make the game first. Make the game, then test by making different characters and treating them as the MC with different classes and stuff and see how it goes. 

And that is all right now. I will edit when i think of some more stuff. either way, here are some useful links. One is mainly about magic systems but i think can be applied to anything

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbL-84SkT4Q&list=PL70TVzJA5SvhKvM3GZRsM9FJ_Zirm4AvY

http://coppermind.net/wiki/Sanderson%27s_Laws_of_Magic

RE: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#2
4/30/2017 2:23:16 AMWorstNameEver Wrote: [ -> ]Hi, i am just going to say straight up that i am a serious gamer, I am currently writing a book (not LitRPG). I have noticed that a lot of LitRPG authors have some things they do that turn some prospective readers off from their books after around 5 to 10 chapters.
I will admit before this guide starts, as i am more of a consumer of litRPG books and also of games, i will look at this from a slightly less objective viewpoint than most guides. Now let's get stuck into the guide.


So what do most LitRPG authors do that makes people quit their novel?


There are a few things that LitRPG authors do which puts most readers off from their novels. I am going to list some of the major ones and have some tips and tricks to avoid them.

1. Generic LitRPG setting, characters and even plot.
This is probably the biggest killer. People just go and read Sword Art Online (example) and think, "I am going to write a LitRPG" and then go and make a Sword Art Online copy. Now don't get me wrong. that was an uncommon example but my friend has actually done that and nowadays he is mad sometimes cos i bagged him out about it. Either way LitRPG's are actually some of the hardest action, adventure type novels to write. This is not because the genre itself requires skill (it really doesn't), but because the amount of content of this genre will mean you need to be absurdly creative and be able to turn a crazy weird idea into an amazing book. The creativity is the hardest thing to do in this genre because of the amount of content. Here are a few tips to help
Don't worry about you book being called generic in terms of the game aspect.
Way to many people get disheartened when they make a chapter and people call the game idea or game setting generic. To be honest most serious LitRPG readers don't give jack squat about game setting or how generic it is. Most will judge your novel on a few things. Basically anything but the game's theme and setting. If your game setting is, idk, a continent on the brink of civil war with a bunch of nations already at war, then dragons start invading and you have some mystical power that can capture a dragons spirit and use it to activate some words of power (Skyrim:ES V basically). The only thing i and most LitRPG readers that are serious about reading the book will care about is how the "mystical power" works and how creative you can get with it while keeping it sensible. The rest in that sentence is the kind of thing we either don't care about or love if you made a serious effort to make it unique and interesting. On to the next tip.

Make the systems inside the game interesting.
Don't worry about the history of the world the game is set in. Focus on the systems like Classes, sub-classes, races, magic etc.
It is like your average RPG game. The main reason people get rpg games is for the fact they can go on an adventure and kill an army of dragonpor.. oops i mean dragonborn soilders (doesn't actually happen in ESV but who cares). And especially for MMORPG's all anyone will care about is how easy the systems to learn and how hard it is to master. As i said, in game content and goals. making your game have infinite levels and always being challenging will make people want to play. It is the same with books.

First tip: DONT make your Litrpg generic.

Second Tip: dont worry if your Litrpg is generic.

Third Tip: Make your Litrpg unique.

[th_107_.gif]

what do you really want us to do?

RE: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#4
You can keep people entertained for a while with just fleshing out the system but the real thing that tends to keep people is character development and not just their personality, who they enjoy being with, their outlook on life and finally; how everything they've done has warped their views to match the current world.

Also you forgot to list the 4th option, apocalyptic litRPG, the normal 'modern' world being taken over by the system.

You've also got things like 'World seed' that mix two together.

RE: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#5
My single biggest bit of advice to any aspiring litrpg writer would be to look and listen, even if you don't have time to read. 

Look at the top books in the genre (lion's quest, awaken online, emerilia etc) for tips on formatting, but try to avoid looking at them for content.  You need to do your own thing if you want to stand out. 

Likewise, you need to listen. There is a fifty something episode podcast you could eat through in a week that has reviews of hundreds of litrpg. Having listened to all of them I can say that one of the worst things in the genre is being 'that story'. 

You know the one. The one that a reviewer starts by saying "this is a pretty typical litrpg'. 

Stand out, have your own focus. Bring something to the genre rather than just regurgitating a story we have already read.

RE: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#6
If I could just add one thing to this discussion, as a writer who is currently producing a LitRPG series at the moment.

There seems to be a lot of focus on crafting something that is "unique" and "different," when it comes to designing the system and the world your story takes place in. While I agree that this is an admirable goal, what I can say is that - in my own opinion - the most important thing is to keep a good sense of scale.

Not the scale of your world or story, mind you, but of the differences between your work and the origins it sprouted from.

I think the OP was trying to convey this sentiment as well.

You shouldn't have to worry too much about making your work different in every category imaginable. Pick what you like, and write what you know. Take those tired character tropes, settings, and plot devices that made you fall in love with the genre in the first place, and then express that love and sentiment to the reader as well as your skill level will allow.

A painter can create wonderful works of art with only a single type of brush, without needing to fill his studio with every type of art instrument imaginable. In the same way, a writer can use simple means to craft a fun and engaging story. As you create and imagine, you'll surely learn more about your characters, your systems, and your world. You'll be able to grow them into those unique and diverse entities that readers are so desperately craving, while still maintaining the spirit of the genre.

No two stories will ever be wholly alike, just as they will never be wholly different.

And of course, never stop writing!

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#9
Stick Wrote: There seems to be a lot of focus on crafting something that is "unique" and "different," when it comes to designing the system and the world your story takes place in. While I agree that this is an admirable goal, what I can say is that - in my own opinion - the most important thing is to keep a good sense of scale.

Aye. Agreed. As I've written in another comment (that I can't find right now), every story is a recombination of existing elements. New authors still have the glamorous idea of their story being all original, experienced ones make use of this by adding resonances or consciously playing with established tropes. There's the famous (albeit science related) quote about standing on the shoulders of giants. As authors, we naturally do this too. To try differently is noble but foolhardy. 

Now about the LitRPG genre, in my opinion, you don't really need to have that much of a different skill. "Normal" authors naturally also need to be crazy creative to keep their battles interesting (for example, I like to imagine battles like card games where each action can only be played once). A well thought out base system is nice but not necessary. Ideally, it gets the readers engaged and makes them want to tinker with it. If you can create theorycrafters with your LitRPG story, you've done something right, but not even the most successful ones necessarily reach that level.   
Honestly, in my opinion a lot of the stories fail for another reason. LitRPG can be a trap. It's easy to forget developing your characters as they gain stats and level ups. In a way, the systemic addons are a way of character development and it's great for an initial boost. Yet after a few chapters it starts to feel stale and that's because the characters themselves haven't really moved. In essence, think of LitRPG as an extension to your story, not a replacement. It still needs to be fun if you tear out all the systems in place. 

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#14
If this help, I started some cheat sheets to beginner LitRPG writers, based on my own experience. Hope this can help to someone. 

https://www.facebook.com/TheChangingWorld.Series/photos/a.591849637935225/694881934298661/?type=3&theater  

https://www.facebook.com/TheChangingWorld.Series/photos/a.591849637935225/698655197254668/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/TheChangingWorld.Series/photos/a.591849637935225/708483582938496/?type=3&theater

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#16
Heyyy good to see people of my genre!

I only got 1 tip:
Don't get too into the gamey mechanics.

Trust me, I'd love to talk about lag, mouse sensitivity and other big or small things gamers would know.
But not only are those hard to make interesting in a story, it's hard to stay consistent when bringing them up (you can't ignore lag upon showing its effects once)
Plus it scares off a lot of readers like if you gave me a book about football with all the terminology and expect me to know what crests mean what on each team.

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#17
My advice, don't make a litrpg make a transported to a fantasy world or something similar.  I say this because almost everything that's written in litRPG would likely be better without the litRPG elements.  

I find that no matter how good the author is, litRPG elements just end up damaging an otherwise good product.  The blue screens are just cumbersome details no one cares about.  No one wants to read and interpret the convoluted math you've made with your novel.  

Sword Art Online is a unique exception because the author actually uses the game as a core element of the plot.  In essence, the plot isn't possible without the game.  So having the game is actually important.  In fact, it doesn't feel like a game, it feels like a game come to life.  And that's why it works so well.  

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#18
Personally I have a lot of complaints about LitRPGs. And since D&D is a great example for all of this, I'm going to be referencing it a lot in this post.

1. LitRPGs Are An Easy Crutch That Supports Lazy Writing

Have you ever played D&D? Have you ever read any of the D&D novels? If you have, you may notice that absolutely none of the novels make any reference whatsoever to the actual rule systems that all players are familiar with.

Why is that?

Is it because D&D changes rules? It's on its 5th edition after all. Nope. It's not that.

It's because, "The wizard cast [fireball] and all of the goblins were burned," is lazy fucking writing.

There's no description. There's nothing that adds to the imagination. But it's a writing style that LitRPGs enable by the simple fact that all spells, skills, and abilities are precodified.

"The wizard held out his hand and a small flame, like a flickering candle, formed between his fingertips. He thrust his palm forwards and the light sped towards the oncoming goblins. When it reached their center, it expanded, engulfing them all. The fire faded almost instantaneously, but when it did, there was nothing left but charred flesh and scorched bone."

Both of those sentences are possible in any fantasy novel, but only one works in a LitRPG, and the former is actively encouraged by the mere existence of that foul thing known as The System.

2. Stats Are Boring

Have you ever wondered what Drizzt Do'Urden would be like if he spent his time brooding over his EXP gains instead of the emo bullshit we all loved him for? Yah. Wouldn't be that interesting, would it?

As I said in my review of Delve:

Quote:Do you want to know what his mana regeneration will be if he puts a skill point into Ability A as opposed to Ability B? Do you even care? Will it affect the plot at any point in the future?

No. Probably not. I highly doubt that a character's life and/or the fate of the world will ever be determined by a single misspent skill point.

But what if it was two points?! Think of the possibilities!

No. The answer is still no.
And Delve  is a LitRPG that's actually good!

Stats never mean matter anyway. They never effect the plot. Anything done in a novel with stats can be done just as easily in a novel without stats. More often than not, they're just an extra layer of contrivance so that the author doesn't have to come up with an excuse for why something should or shouldn't be possible.

A setting doesn't need consistency in its worldbuilding. If the great holy System says that things work a certain way, then logic can go get fucked. I mean, it's not like most LitRPG authors frequently ignore their own rules whenever it suits them, because that would defy the entire point of having The System in the first place! Right? Right?!

3. Power Creep

Have you ever played D&D with max level characters?

The actual fights aren't that much fun, are they? They usually end with the party wizard coming up with some metagamey spell combo that's capable of killing a god in a single fucking turn.

It's like how, in a lot of MMOs, you start off with less than 100 HP, but by endgame you're dealing six digits of damage per hit.

The same thing happens with LitRPGs. The scaling never really matches up with the story.

In the early game/plot, the MC is scrounging for every bit of EXP and mana they can find. Later on, their stats make them Neo in the fucking Matrix, and the authors frequently have no idea how to give their characters an actual challenge. 

Dragons? "Yawn." 
World-ending apocalypse? "Really? That's the third one this week!" 
Demigod? "I'm sorry, but do you have an appointment? I'm kind of busy being insanely powerful. Level up a bit and maybe then you'll be a worthy foe."

4. In Games, Stats Aren't Literal. In LitRPGs, They Are.

In real life if you shove a sword through a person's eyeball and into their brain, they're gonna die. In a LitRPG, not so much, because that sword only does 1d8 damage, and the person you're trying to kill has a bazillion HP. And if you can kill someone that way, THEN WHAT'S THE POINT OF HAVING ALL OF THOSE STATS?!

Edit:

5. Leveling Up Is Not the Same As Character Development

If a character at level 100 is the same person they were at level 1, they haven't actually grown. They've just gone to the gym a lot.

If the only changes to a character happen in their stat menu, then they're probably one dimensional and boring.



Novels rarely gain anything by making use of a system, and frequently lose out on a lot by doing so.

If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. The same applies to LitRPGs, and no single person will ever be able to do that.

I have read and enjoyed many novels that are LitRPGs, but I'll never like a story simply because it's a LitRPG.

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#19

DarkD Wrote: Sword Art Online is a unique exception because the author actually uses the game as a core element of the plot.  In essence, the plot isn't possible without the game.  So having the game is actually important.  In fact, it doesn't feel like a game, it feels like a game come to life.  And that's why it works so well.


I'm double posting, but oh well.

SAO is a horrible example, specifically because of how often the author ignores his own rules.

If you make a system, stick to the system. If you make a world with rules, you must abide by them. Even with the Progressive novels, Kawahara has repeatedly shown that he is unable to maintain the internal consistency of his own setting.

Sword Art Online would actually work better if the characters were being sent to a genuine fantasy world rather than a game. He basically did this in Alicization, since that's the point he clearly stopped giving a shit and openly based the power of attacks on the amount of love/commitment/resolve/imagination/whatever.

Throwing his old system out the window was probably the smartest move he ever made.

Re: LitRPG Guide. What makes a good LitRPG

#20
I've been reading and watching a lot of stuff for a few days now about writing litrpg, fantasy and novels in general because I'm juggling this silly idea in my head to try my hand at writing something.
But damn, this is just a wrong and harmful post if I've ever seen one. I'm surprised that almost nobody has said anything about it considering that there are newer comments and I'm not digging it up from the last page. If I found it, chances are other also will, so here I go.

First... Genres - all of your examples are gamelit rpgs and you are excluding everything else from you classifications and answers.
Litrpg is not gamelit and vice versa. While one may encompass the other and they may have some common ground between them, they are not the same. A litrpg doesn't have to be a gamelit or have anything to do with any kind of game. You are thinking about a game-like world (because it might have stats, attributes, levels, classes, etc.), but you still fail to give a proper example with 3. Log Horizon which is still a game turned into reality. Ironically most gamelits have a rpg system and most are just called only litprgs. So I'm just gonna substitute the "game" you are talking about with the equivalent in my mind and further down in my comment and hope I get what you mean (though I think there are already discrepancies).
There were discussions and arguments about it, some say one is big genre category and the other is one of its sub-genres, tried to force or con bs words and whatnot like some small group of authors are the authority on the subject, they are different enough by themselves... The terms are clear and simple enough and self-defining - gamelit is about a game (any), litrpg has rpg elements (yes, "rpg" is a game, but the elements are what counts). Just like a detective story doesn't need to be a mystery and not every mystery is a detective story no matter how the genre started and what is the most popular or typical. 
If you want another parallel - a weapon and a gun. A "weapon" is a broader term, ofc not every weapon is a gun, but there are kinds of guns that are not weapons (water, flare, lyle...). And when you are talking about a gun, you are a lot more likely to call it "a gun" and not say "a weapon that..."

Second... Examples - These are not the only 3 types of litrpg (or gamelit) there is. On the contrary, you are listing the most cliche plot tropes that are very likely to turn readers away based on that alone. Idk why you are giving SAO as example in anything other as how not to write, but it's a fact that it is trash. Nothing against people who like it, I also like some stupid stuff, but do not say it's has quality. It has done nothing, absolutely nothing, right. It's mind boggling why and how it became so popular. It is a last second first draft in a competition from a broke author and it somehow passed between the raindrops and won. The author only continues with it because it makes him money (he himself said he is surprised it became a hit with so many plotholes and nonsense and basically no editing) and it is one of the reasons there was a flood of published low-quality light novels. It gave litrpg such a bad name and it is not even a litrpg... It is successful, but it's not good and your advice is something like "Sell everything you own and buy lottery tickets with all your money, you will win like him"
Don't Fear the Reaper is one of the most overestimated works I've seen on this site. Won't add more because I feel I'm ranting now.
Compared to them Log Horizon does everything better without even trying (meaning those aren't its strengths, it's not a bland wish fulfillment within a fail of a game system, just the author knowing what he's writing about or done proper research on it).

Third... Advices - Generic setting, characters and plot... Correct me if I'm wrong, but that would make anyone drop anything regardless of genre or even medium. Yet, the first right thing so far, how helpful is doubtful. Then you go "hardest action, adventure type of novels to write / no skill required / absurdly creative / turn a crazy weird idea into an amazing book". The reason for this is the amount of content? Why do you think that the majority of fiction is litrpg, so much that this is the genre where you need something more than the other authors in the field (and that is after you specifically mean gamelit rpgs)(or you mean something else by amount of content)? Why do you think that any "amazing book" doesn't need skills to write? Why do you think only creativity matters and creativity matter only in litrpg? What part of all that is a guide exactly?
You don't need a crazy new idea for a good book, originality is ofc always welcome if done well, but that doesn't need to come from the litrpg side. If you first can't write compelling story and characters (and/or world), the litrpg genre would be the least problem, it won't save you and could only hurt you if it's all you rely on to keep the reader interested.
To be honest by your own words, you are not a litrpg fan, you are just a fantasy fan (probably portal)... and you want hard magic. If you are gonna judge on everything but the system (you call it the game's theme and setting, which then you turn into the world's setting), then you are not actually reading it because of the rpg elements, but despite them. The system in a litrpg should be a part of the story (should be important enough and interconnected with the other parts and the whole), not something just slapped on and there for the sake of it and no other reason. If you remove it and nothing changes narratively, then you are better off without it and it was not a real or good litrpg to begin with.
You next advice is exact opposite of your first summary - the systems inside the game ARE the game aspect you are writing.
People playing games and reading books is not the same. The two activities are too far removed from each other to compare them and more, basically saying it's the same thing. The rest of that is also terrible. There are different people, you know. They play for different reasons, they read for different reasons, they play and read for different reasons... What you want and search in a book or a game is not the same as everybody else, even if it's the same book or game and you both like it, you may like it for different reasons and like different things about it. You may have totally different views on works in the same genre. You don't even need statistics and surveys to see how wrong you are about that and if the word "different" used a dozen times didn't clue you in, you ARE wrong. Don't just present your opinions and likes in gaming as an advice on good writing or litrpg when it has nothing to do with it.
The last point is at least semi-correct, but not all the times and in all detail. Characters and plot are still more important, the rpg elements are device, not a focus (unless they are, but it's rare and it's still only a part of the story, not the whole story). It depends on what exactly it's gonna be and how you are more comfortable writing. Some people think out everything beforehand, others go with only broad strokes (especially with soft magic). It's good to have at least basic outlines and ideas of where to take it or where it'd go. That goes for everything, but a rpg system is one extra thing to keep in mind and track of as you go on.

TLDR: This is no guide and it neither asks nor answers what makes a good litrpg. As I mentioned, if I found it, then chances are others could too and I'd rather say my piece about it now. I think it would be better to be said what a pointless, misguided and misleading thread this is.