I have a dirty little secret…
I read (and enjoy) LitRPGs.
There. I’ve said it. It’s all out in the open!
Why is that a dirty little secret? You know, that’s a good question. I’d say LitRPG is still a relatively new genre, but it’s growing pretty popular. Between that and the isekai craze in anime, people ending up in game-like environments is all over the place. Maybe back at the beginning of it, before it became ‘mainstream’, it didn’t have the best reputation. I know I’ve read a few…less than perfect LitRPGs, but I’ve also read some great ones (more on that shortly).
I played table top RPGs for a long time (where I got my start telling stories), and then MMOs for a long time after that (maybe too long), so the genre scratches an itch. And, done right, it actually makes for some really fun stories. I totally get they aren’t for everybody, with their skill-ups, or cultivation, or level progression (depending on the story), but they also offer a lot of flexibility to the author. Could I write one? Nah, I don’t think I could.
So, instead, I’m going to talk about a few I read and liked!
Let’s start with the Completionist Chronicles by Dakota Krout. The first LitRPG I ever read was actually his Divine Dungeon series, which was also super fun, but I think I enjoy the new series more. The magic system is flexible, there’s humor, fun characters, and the MC is even likable! The plot is a bit thin to start, but it was more than enough to keep me coming back, and the author has a really fun take on dungeons in general. Overall, I’d say I like the later books more than the early books, but a big part of that lies in the MC finding a party (and in turn, some regular supporting characters).
The second series I’ll talk about is He Who Fights with Monsters by Shirtaloon. I guess this started as a chapter-by-chapter web novel on Royal Road (which I haven’t visited, but I’m thinking about checking out). Aethon Books (same publisher I am with) picked it up and has been putting them out in collected volumes of…significant girth. These are some hefty reads, but it’s honestly great. Like the first series, it has an interesting growth system (cultivation system), though this MC can be a little more preachy (and a bit of a dick). Overall, he’s still likable enough to keep the story moving, and the supporting cast makes me chuckle.
Third would be the Awaken Online series by Travis Bagwell. This is an interesting take on things because our MC is (spoiler) a bit of the villain in the game world. I’ll be frank, he gets up to some stuff I wouldn’t condone in a person (and he somehow gets away with it, which feels forced sometimes), but it makes for an interesting story. With a bit of suspension of disbelief, it’s a fun ‘the villain is the hero of their own story’ type of thing. Also, I really dig the covers. I love the simplicity of them. (Small warning: this series is pretty graphic in its violence. If you're not into that, start elsewhere.)
Now, before I talk really quick about the fourth and final series, I do want to point out for anybody who is interested in the above 3 series, they are actually all very similar. Two of them have characters with direct shadow powers (while the third one has ‘dark’ powers). Two MCs are named Jason. All three rely heavily on outsmarting their opponents to overcome ‘impossible odds’. None of them are done badly, but if you read all three, it may feel a bit ‘done’.
So, the fourth and final LitRPG is the Defiance of the Fall series by The First Defiler (also from Royal Road). This one isn’t (just) about outsmarting enemies. This MC hits stuff. Hard. However, we do have a supporting character with shadow powers! (Maybe they are obligatory in LitRPG, or in the publishing contract?) This book is a bit more grindy (if you’ve ever played an MMO, you’ll know what I mean), but not in a way that’s boring or overdone. The action stays pretty fresh as the MC grows stronger, and aside from a few moments that were in there just to ‘look cool’, I happily enjoyed the ride.
Oh my gosh, that turned out way longer than planned! So, that’s it for some of the LitRPG books I’ve enjoyed. I’ll do another blog post at some point for more traditional fantasy novels, so keep your eyes open for that. I promise it won’t all be Brandon Sanderson books too.
If you have a favorite LitRPG that isn't on here, drop a note down in the comments. I'm always looking for more.