What makes a good Story?

#1
Obviously this all comes down to personal preference, but what would you say makes a good LitRPG story?
This can be for one's that are so good you can't stop reading them, but it's also for the ones that are only meh, but still good enough that you continue reading.
Personally I like well developed characters and good world building, but even for stories that aren't particularly good, I'm still able to tolerate them if the narration is done well. 
So what about you?

RE: What makes a good Story?

#3
I like consistency in character - this is true regardless of genre, but can be particularly apparent in LitRPG if a character is supposedly "good at games" and then continually makes dumb decisions regarding said game or it's mechanics.

Worldbuilding within LitRPG for me is a difficult line to walk. Like Fantasy, unless it's a fan-fic, the bulk of the story is taking place in a whole new world. However, if too much time is spent on worldbuilding narration, I tend to get lost because I want the characters and dialog to pull me through.

Obviously good character development and progression are important regardless of genre. What is specific to LitRPG, are the gameplay mechanics.

So on that note - if the mechanics are different than normal, or incredibly integral to what is happening, I enjoy reading about them. However, if a mechanic is pretty standard in the gaming world, then reading about it again either comes across as spoon-feeding, or just annoying as someone who is familiar with games.

This has some to do with your target audience - if someone writes a LitRPG to target non-gamers, then they'll have to do things like explain what a "noob" is. If gamers are their audience though, having common terminology explained can become tedious to read. Along those lines, taking time to explain gameplay mechanics that someone who is considered a gamer would already be familiar with, can get old fast as well. This causes me to skim far more than I would prefer.

Again, it comes down to who the target audience is - and for me as a reader, to understand who the author is targeting.

LitRPG is growing pretty steadily as a genre, but it's still young. Most of the time I simply assume the author is targeting gamers. However with the popularity of novels such as Ready Player One, the audience is starting to grow and other authors have been, and may continue, to experiment with the genre. I just like to know who they're targeting before I dive in.

RE: What makes a good Story?

#4
Off topic, but is there a name for a genre that's very similar to LitRPG, but the only difference is that it isn't actually set in a game world, but either isekai/chuanyu (transported to another world) or simply directly starts with a protagonist in another world? But it has other characteristics of LitRPG like leveling up, gaining new skills and stuff like that?

Anyway, yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to personal preference. For example, I look for a particular type of story. I.e OP protagonist who no one knows about, and they look down and laugh at him, but he ends up owning everyone. In Chinese that's called "zhuangbi", and there are a lot of stories like that.

Generally, if it isn't too horrible and it follows that kind of a... trope, then I'll probably like it. Or at least, I'll like it enough to keep reading. Some of my favorite stories are Quanzhi Gaoshou, Quanzhi Fashi, Overlord.

But for other stories, like say... Log Horizon, which, objectively is quite a decent story, end up being boring for me, because I just can't get into all the basic game play explanations, and slow plot progression. It's way too focused on character growth than I care about. So even though it's objectively good, I end up getting bored.

And I assume it's the same for a lot of people. Rather than quality of the story, they look for particular tropes they like, and if it's present in the story, they'll like it, if it isn't, then it's hard to get them to like it.

RE: What makes a good Story?

#5
maziapprentice - I believe that would still fall into the LitRPG genre. If it uses RPG mechanics, it fits - even if the "world" isn't necessarily a game. Delvers LLC: Welcome to Ludus comes to mind. The characters are transported to a world that utilizes game-like mechanics, but isn't a videogame world per se. Delvers LLC comes up in LitRPG searches.

Both you and TheLeakingPen make great points about tropes though. As has been said on this forum before, many readers here tend to seek out things they already know they like - such as the OP MC trope. LitRPG really caters to this, and there are a plethora of concepts to play with and either expand upon or reinvent. It's one of the reasons I've been reading LitRPG over a year now, and haven't grown tired of it at all.

RE: What makes a good Story?

#6
Putting aside tropes, probably my three big things are:

Consistent and reasonably fast pacing. A story that doesn't move too fast or too slow, and doesn't rush or wallow too much in various bits.

Compelling and believable conflict. There's enough struggle of a type I like seeing (exploration, adventure, good vs. evil) that isn't founded on idiot-ball stupidity or author fiat.

Measured and plot-related payoff. I like a story where the actions have consequences, and those consequences fit the plot and actions of the characters. Over-the-top drama requires over-the-top payoff, and vice-versa. If the MC is getting beaten down for no good reason, I'm out; if the MC gets the world for a dime, I'm out.

Smaller points are:

Character agency. I want the MC to actually make choices and do things. If they're just getting dragged around, I'll only stick around if the worldbuilding is awesome or the backstory is amazing or something like that. The only genre I think it's okay to really do this in any amount is horror, and that's probably a big part of why I don't like horror. Besides, you know, not enjoying being horrified.

A good hook. This is one of the big weaknesses of amateur authors (and even non-amateur authors who've never had to deal with contests or publishers and trying to be popular) so if I closed every story with a boring start, I wouldn't be reading much. But stories that don't do anything interesting in the first chapter or two tend to leave a bad impression on me.

Something original. Sure, it depends on what I've read before, but still. If the story feels too much like a re-tread, without adding it's own elements, I'll get bored quick.

Hopefully this was helpful. I've tried to avoid calling out specific tropes, but this is still pretty slanted towards what I like to read.

RE: What makes a good Story?

#7
What makes a good LitRPG-story for me...

First off, I like capable but fallible MCs, as they have good means to show both aspects: The one who knows and the one who learns. As this role is often split between characters, one of them is written off as a n00b for life, which is actually a pity. So having someone who's good at what he does is nice, but making mistake isn't only human, it's practical.

I also like to have a basic amount of logic. If the MC is a gamer, who has completely disregarded a social life, then it's logical to assume that the MC lacks some social skills. If the world is ruled by "hard scores", then let the actions reflect the stats of the character. If there is magic in a world, there should be reasons why it is or isn't implemented into the culture of the setting.
Might look like basic concepts here, but the reason why I drop many litRPGs is simply that I can't take it anymore.

In terms of world-building, I like to get only as much information as necessary, still, I get a feeling whether an author has thought up the setting beforehand and is only disclosing information, or if they make it up as they go. Of course, it's better if the basics of the world are already set beforehand (though I won't demand anyone to have a whole book for the setting hidden on their PC).

I also like to have the story to have a personal flair, a bit of own personality. Of course, this might drive me or other readers away, but I won't think worse of it, it's way better than a bland construct of words that might tickle the ego of the reader but has nothing to offer. If I think the characters are the worst, have no redeeming qualities, and they get under my skin, I'll congratulate the author for being able to move me in a way. Something has to resonate there, right? I may drop the story, but I'll think: This one had me on the ropes. :D

Finally, as RPGs have the aspect of bettering yourself/your characters (levels, skills, abilities, etc.) I don't like OP-MCs in litRPG, as the growth that is part of my basic understanding of RPGs is dismissed (or even worse: hollowed out/pseudo-growth).

RE: What makes a good Story?

#8
The only thing that really matters to me is character development. A character can be a bland template A in chapter 1, but by chapter 10, he should be someone who has a distinct personality. It doesn't matter if he is good or bad, or anything in between, since to me it is just a different side of a coin.

I like my character flawed. In fact, the perfect character is the imperfect one. He doesn't need to follow the so-called reader's logic since no one is in his shoes, but what he needs to follow is his established convictions, cultures and beliefs. Just because he said he plays a lot of games doesn't mean he played the same way like 90% of the other players.

At the end of the day, the LitRPG game system is merely a tool to help tell a story, therefore after a while, something must happen to the MC, not only to move the story forward but to change MC to something either good or something that is far worse.

RE: What makes a good Story?

#9
I want a likeable protagonist. Someone who does things for fun and to help people or animals. Who does not automatically get an epic mount because he helps an old woman and is not part of the main quest because he protects an animal.

I don't like protagonists who always have their advantage, loot, skills or rewards in their heads.
I love it when someone just lives the game and is nice.

I don't like it when the protagonist is not alone any longer. Why do they always gather parties, often even harems, have the best mounts and pets and weapons and skills and the most important quests and do everything to be known to as many uninteresting human players as possible?

I hate it when the protagonist enters a new (game) world and has endless possibilities and does the same again as in the real world. Same people, power struggles, bad guy attacks good looking girl, protagonist helps her... party wins a member...*snore*... ups, sorry, did something interesting happen? Ah no, just the same thing again? Who cares.

Why is the protagonist always important?
Why does he always have to show his skills to others?
Why does he always have mindless fans, aehm... useful party members?

I love me my Mary Sue, but why can't he/she be anonymous and nice and alone?

RE: What makes a good Story?

#10
2/23/2018 12:01:43 AMTanaka Tomoyuki Wrote: [ -> ][...] wanting the protagonist to be alone forever without any friends or allies? That's going to the other extreme end.

Yeah, may be. But that is what I prefer.
Every story I remember got a least a bit less interesting as soon as the protagonist was part of a party.
Less interesting for me, I am sure others have different tastes.

I love to be immersed into the protagonist.

I don't want changes of the point of view. These are fun if you see the last minutes of live of one of the bad ones, but I don't want them.

I don't want to "waste" time on dialogs and inventory management of party members.

I want an interesting story with a likeable protagonist.
He may befriend people, he may travel some time with them or do stuff together with them, but then they should separate as friends and I can concentrate again on ME! (the protagonist).

It is just what I prefer.