The Wandering Inn

Slice of Life and Epic Fantasy. Two Opposing Genres in One.

The Wandering Inn starts as a small slice of life story that turns into an epic story with awesome world building and deep characters. I personally find the execution brilliant and I find myself thinking about the series often while doing other things which only happens when I am totally engrossed with the world and story.

The story revolves around regular people from modern day Earth who are randomly transported to a Fantasy world that has subtle game like RPG elements. The first main character is a transported girl who finds an abandoned fantasy style inn and accidentally gains the "Innkeeper" class and starts leveling up and gaining supernatural Innkeeping related skills as she works and fixes up the old Inn. She has no idea what is going on but is determined to survive in this world that is far more dangerous and tragic than her own.

Sometimes the story will be like a slice of life and casual feel good story, and then the mood shifts and it will descend into a Lovecraft Horror inspired nightmare. Many of the characters are inspiring, while other times they are just frustrated and act just like normal flawed people.

The streamlined "game elements" of the world are well done and is great for those new to litRPG stories and deep enough for those who are veteran gamers. The litRPG elements include leveling up, gaining new RPG job classes like Wizard, Warrior, or even Innkeeper, and then getting associated powerful skills suited to their job classes. There are no hard stat numbers other than the class levels but characters do get stronger the higher level and better skills they gain. There are no respawns and the author isn’t afraid of writing tragedy.

The first two main characters of the series are female and they both have their own personalities and flaws.  They feel like real people. The side characters also have deep characterization and oftentimes I find that I like them even better than the Main Characters (especially some of the newer side characters introduced in later volumes who are amazingly well written). The writer is very talented and really demonstrates their ability to write in a lot of different ways.

On the downside, one of the main criticisms I see with the series (more so in later volumes) is that it is a bit too slow paced which I think is mainly due to their being too many side characters. This is great for World Building but does hamper the main story-line from getting anywhere quickly. Also, the characters are written with several flaws as part of their characterization which I personally feel makes them interesting but I can see how other readers could find these flaws as a negative and the characters annoying. All in all, there are some flaws but they haven't affected me like they might some others, and I can even be a bit of a picky reader so that is saying something.

This is a really awesome start to an epic story and world. Highly recommend to both heavy litRPG readers who want a more practical down to earth adventure story and also as a gateway series to those new to litRPG but don't want to get bogged down in too many stats.

Worth the Candle

Rational Take on Tabletop LitRPG

Review as of chapter 161:

Worth the Candle is a portal fantasy tabletop litRPG by a well known rational fiction author.  The story subverts as many tropes as it adheres to with expert execution of the plot.  You won't find a story on Royal Road with more comprehensive world building.  Even the bizarreness of the world starts to make so much sense as it continually intersects with the narrative and the wide variety of magic systems.

The world’s mystery is derived around the MC noticing many of people, creatures, and items that appear are directly related to RPG lore he invented himself in his own pen and paper games back on Earth. Unraveling this mystery keeps the narrative flowing. There are many flashback scenes to his games he played with friends in his old life and they tie into the plot of the story.

The world happens to be single player; only the MC has a character sheet.  So to put it in video game terms that many may be more familiar with than tabletop RPGs, it is like Skyrim with a mod to allow 5+ followers.  As he levels up, so do his followers and the difficulty of challenges thrown at them.  

The followers are NPCs in the loosest sense of the word, but in actuality they are highly complex real people with their own specializations.  His party works together as a team, each bringing their own skills to make a sum greater than its parts.  But their relationships with the MC and with each other are deeply explored and character growth happens to all of them, some for the better and some for the worse.  Even as we learn more about the MC's past, it changes our perspective of how we view other characters.  And they are so well written!  Character writing is probably one of the author's greatest strengths.

The author is also writing this story for the rational fiction genre and it really shows. The main character is highly logical and introspective as he questions the world he is transported to and the reasons he was brought there. He is a min-maxer and he studies his character sheet in depth, going so far to even do the in-depth math to min-max his build. The litRPG elements have more of a tabletop RPG influence as opposed to the genre’s more common video game RPG inspiration which is quite refreshing for the genre.

This is a meta story where the "narrative" of the story itself is part of the narrative which really is intriguing and lends a lot of credibility to the world and the character's actions and reactions. This isn't litRPG written just because stats are cool, the worldbuilding is logical from the ground up and the stats make sense in a narrative way that many other litRPG stories completely lack.

While the story is brilliant, it isn't for everyone though.  The readers who might not enjoy this story are those who don’t like stories with flashback scenes or just can’t get into the deep philosophical discussions.  There is a lot of subtext that is easy to miss and subtle foreshadowing that some may not pick up on.  If you are looking for a pulpy read without thought, then this is not the place to start.

But for those who want to read a litRPG story that actually strives to be rational, this is the closest you will likely get. 

Mother of Learning

Groundhogs Day in a Magic Academy

The title is derived from the latin proverb "repetitio est mater studiorum" which means "Repetition is the Mother of Learning.

As you can guess, the MC is here to learn.

The time loop he finds himself in presents oppurtunities to master magics in a way normally unavailable.  I mean, who doesn't fantasize about being in a time loop and able to master skills you never have time to learn and correcting everything that might go wrong in your life?  And there is a lot going wrong here.  A surprise enemy invasion, classmates being slaughtered, his city being destroyed, a world ending creature being released from its prison.  It makes the perfect premise since it is a problem that will takes years to solve and time is something he suddenly has a lot of.  But not as much time as he thinks.

What really sets this story apart from others is the incredible scope and how the MC handles it.  The MC is great at breaking down the overwhelmingly massive problem of an enemy invasion into manageable bits that he can actually do something about.  He uses the time loop to figure out what went wrong and try again.  He is never overpowered compared to the forces arrayed against him but seeing his step by step solutions is incredibly satisfying.  There is a serious mystery going on, and the character taps into his Sherlock side as he finds clues and makes deductions and then rationally applies solutions to the problems.  The MC is no slouch at combat either and the way he shores up his own weaknesses with either training or by enlisting allies is well done.

I love his magical crafting and the clever inventions he creates to problem solve.  He is able to train with different Masters who he normally wouldn't have access to outside of the time loop and the way he approaches their knowledge is different for each one. The time loop makes the story appear kind of "game-like" since the MC exploits the Magic trainers and min-maxes his resources at his disposal each time cycle.  The goal of breaking out of the time loop keeps the character driven and pro-active.  

The series is so good it is hard to believe it is a free web series. The author has been writing this series for over 7 years and it is very close to being finished.  The author is at chapter 91 at the time of this review and plot threads are crashing together into a tsunami of climaxes.  It is amazing.

Advent: Red Mage

Apocalypse litRPG Adapting FFVII Materia System

This review is written after the end of Volume 1.

I find that this story executes its plot very well. The main character is working in a military bunker when the entire Earth is converted into a lethal RPG game-like system giving all humans access to skills and turning once harmless creatures into killing monsters. The bunker the MC happens to work in is converted into a dungeon so things get deadly quick. This is an action heavy story with lots of deadly combat and the author isn't afraid to kill some people off so it maintains good tension when it needs it.

The magic system is what is the biggest draw for me about this series because it is loosely based on Final Fantasy VII's materia skill system. Regular people can get these orbs called Xatherite from killing monsters and permanently slot them into a grid-like skill map to get skills and abilities. Discovering the synergy between different skills can create new linked skills so there is a lot of strategy and guesswork by the MC of where to slot his Xatherite. There are some stats but most are abstracted out and streamlined to maintain a narrative focus on what really matters and is interesting: the skills and linked skills on the skill map.

The story starts out like a typical Apocalypse litRPG story but then it becomes quite a bit more epic (like galactic level) in scope once new unknown characters enter the picture. It is possible that the story might be a tad too ambitious with these additional plot threads but I am interested in seeing where the author goes with it so will reserve judgement on that until the author delves into that more in future volumes and I am sure my rating I give on this thread will be adjusted up or down accordingly.

Additionally, there is a bit of a tease that in the future there might be some sweet base building elements later on as well.