DNA Podcast 034 – What are litRPGs?


Don and Rob are joined by the awesome Ramon Meija of the litRPG podcast to talk about the biggest new genre you’ve probably never heard of- litRPGs. The three discuss the origins of the genre, what makes a litRPG, what books you should be checking out, and how the litRPG genre reflects the world we live in today. All that, and how to write litRPGs in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs!

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

The litRPG Podcast
Gate of Revelation (the novel Rob couldn’t remember the name of where our world is the game world)
The King’s Avatar (another one Rob mentioned)
Legendary Moonlight Sculptor (English fan translation)
Adventures on Terra: Beginnings (Ramon’s Book! Check it out!)
Sword Art Online
Ready Player One
litRPG Forum- LitRPG Forum – Books, Geeks, & Gamification


Ramon’s Extensive Notes for the show:

What are litRPGs?

    • LitRPG or literary RPGs are stories that incorporate role playing game mechanics.
    • There’s a facebook group dedicated to LitRPG (https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGGroup/) that’s had that discussion several times. As a group, we’ve come up with two identifying marks of LitRPG. I’ll paraphrase them:
    • 1) The story must exist, at least partially, in a world with expressly stated game mechanics. This can mean that the story is set in an MMO, a VR game, an RPG game, or even a parallel or alien world. As long as there are expressly stated game mechanics. For example: Level up Notifications, Experience Points given for completing quests or killing monsters, learning game skills, health/mana bars.
    • 2) The main character progresses in an expressly stated way. For example: Leveling up, Increasing skills or abilities, increasing ranks, or increasing reputation.  Also by expressly stated, I mean that it says it in the text of the book and isn’t something that’s inferred or something only the author would be aware of.
    • The easiest and most common way this is done is usually something like this:
    • “A blue notification screen appeared before the character.
    • You’ve gained 1 level.”
    • It’s not complicated. It’s just not hidden in the background of the story or some table of information only the author sees. This type of information is conveyed to the reader. LitRPG, or literary RPG, merges the things gamers love about RPGs and MMOs and a good sci-fi or fantasy story. Those guidelines allow for maximum storytelling flexibility while maintaining the core elements of the genre.

How popular are they?

    • Among the fans, amazingly popular. LitRPG stories are like literary crack to the fans. They just can’t get enough stories. I’ve personally read over 300 LitRPG novels and online stories this year.
  • How big is the fandom?
    • Our facebook group has about 3,000 members.
    • Over 7,000 people visit the Royal Road regularly, a place where people post a lot of free/amature LitRPG.
    • FogCon, a literary convention is considering adding a panel on the genre.
    • It’s also a lot more popular in countries like Russia, Korea, China, and Japan.

Where did the genre come from?

    • There have been stories set in Virtual Reality and game worlds since the 1970s, when there was a virtual reality boom. However, the recent explosion of LitRPG originates overseas in places Korea with the Legendary Moonlight Sculptor (2007), a story set in a virtual reality massively multiplayer online game (VRMMO). With the popularization of gaming culture worldwide LitRPG stories spread throughout Korea, China, Japan, and Russia.
    • It’s only in the last 5 years or so that it’s spread to the U.S because those international works were translated into English either by fans or specialized publishing companies like Magic Dome Books.   

Where did the term litRPG come from?

    • Vasily Mahanenko, a Russian LitRPG author of Way of the Shaman, says he and another author came up with the term LitRPG or Literary RPG to describe their brand of fiction that has their stories set in game worlds (2012).

Why do people enjoy litRPGs?

    • They’re fun. It’s the same reason people like to play video games and tabletop RPGs.They’re fun. They incoporate game rules that make sense to the reader. I’ve played video games for twenty years so the worlds that LitRPG stories exist in make more sense to me sometimes than the real world. Additionally many LitRPG stories speculate about a future where full immersion VR exists and people can explore their favorite MMOs as if they were real worlds. What gamer wouldn’t like that kind of world?

What do you wish people understood about litRPGs? (What is most people’s misunderstanding about them?

    • I don’t know that the genre has been around in the U.S. long enough for people to misunderstand LitRPG.
    • I guess if I there was one thing, is that while a lot LitRPG has video games as their base, not all video game fiction is LitRPG. They need to hit those two qualifies we talked about earlier: 1) Set in a Game World with expressly stated game mechanics, and 2) character growth in game terms.

How did you get into them?

    • I fell into the rabbit hole that is LitRPG through my love of another geek culture. Anime. I saw the anime Sword Art Online and fell in love with the idea of living in a game world. So much so that I searched the internet for the original Korean Light novel that the anime was based on. I found that I enjoyed the books more and searched the internet for more like it. I read a ton of translated LitRPG from Japan and Korea. When I exhausted those sources I started trolling fan sites like the Royal Road and then paying good money for new stories on Amazon. Now I spend most of my waking hours either reading, writing, or podcasting about LitRPG.

What are the most popular LitRPGs and where do people find them?

Why did you start the LitRPG podcast?

    • I love LitRPG. I started interviewing LitRPG authors on my podcast the Geek Bytes Podcast as a way to express that love to those listeners and found they were really popular. So I spun it into it’s own podcast where I talk about LitRPG news, reviews and author interviews. The community has responded well.

What are some of the challenges of writing LitRPGs?

    • The same challenges as writing normal. Figuring out a good story to tell and getting people to read it. Some of the unique challenges are figuring out the game rules your story uses. Most of the LitRPG authors I’ve interviewed have multiple spreadsheets to keep track of all the formulas they use, character sheets, skill and ability descriptions, and research material. That and how all your readers are gamer and are more than willing to point out the flaws in your game systems.
    • Adventures on Terra: Beginnings http://amzn.to/2fXJRfw

DNA Podcast 033 – Writing Formulas


Lester Dent

In this episode, Rob and Don sit down to discuss story structure. They explore the origins of the 3-act structure, discuss Chris Fox’s Write to Market strategy, and break down the Lester Dent Master Pulp Writing Formula and Michael Moorcock’s How to Write a Book in Three Days method. All this, and why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is really a ninja, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs!

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

3 Act Structure Made Easy (video)
Aristotle’s Poetics
Save the Cat!
Story/Plotting Formulas
Chris Fox’s Write to Market
Anne Rice
Buffy Vampire Slayer
Vampire the Masquerade
Urban Fantasy
The Hero’s Journey
The Procedural
Writing Creative Procedural Fiction
Rob’s Thoughts on Different Story Structures (blog post)
Bakuman Manga
Dan Harmon’s Story Wheel
Dick Tracy
Predator Rocky Sequel?
Lester Dent Master Pulp Writing Formula
Michael Moorcock’s How to Write a Book in 3 Days Method


DNA Podcast 032 – Voice Acting with Kimlinh Tran


In this episode, Rob and Don explore the possibilities of sound by talking with voice actress Kimlinh Tran about her experiences and perspectives gained voice acting in anime and video games. They talk about her efforts to improve her craft, why being near entertainment production centers is a must, and why recording walla is so much fun. All this, and why having a voice acting safe word is a must, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

Kimlinh’s Homepage
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Ms. Fortune
Tweeny Witches
Hookers (The story I told is apparently not quite right- Rob)
Voice Acting Club

DNA Podcast 031 – Comics Creator Ben Dunn and Antarctic Press


In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by comic book creator and founder of Antarctic Press, Ben Dunn. The three of them sit and chat about Ben’s long career in comics, how Antarctic Press came to be, and the ups and downs of running a comic book company. Along the way, Ben gives great advice about succeeding as an artist both in and outside the comics field and discusses the secrets to AP’s longevity and success. All this and a heaping helping of Ninja High School can be found in this, the 31st episode of The Department of Nerdly Affairs.

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

Ben’s Wikipedia Page
Ben’s Body of Work
Inkpot Award
Marvel Mangaverse
Antarctic Press
Ninja High School
Exremely Silly Comics
Mazinger Z
Tiger X
Urusei Yatsura
Project A-Ko
Warrior Nun Areala
Diamond Comics Distributors
Fred Perry
Wild Life
Shatter (computer generated comic)
Gold Digger
Strangers in Paradise
Box Office Poison
Warrior Nun Pilot (animated)
Warrior Nun Pilot (live action)
Steam League
Science is Magic
Mighty Tiny
Upwork.com (formerly Odesk)
comixology (digital comics site)

DNA Podcast 030 – Interview with Dr. R.N. Shukul


Rob and Don sit down with Journalist and TV Producer Dr. Rashid Narain (R.N.) Shukul to discuss Television and Media in India. Along the way, they touch on RN’s career as a cameraman and war correspondent, his time as TV game show producer in India, his time producing documentaries for Fremantle Media, and some of the political figures he’s encountered. Are Indians into Scifi? What is their preferred style of heroic fiction? And what’s up with all the singing and dancing? All of these questions and more will be answered in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

Fremantle Media
Press Trust of India
Indira Gandhi
$64,000 Dollar Question Scandal
Margaret Atwood
Media Convergence
Marshal McLuhan


DNA Podcast 029 – Our One Year Anniversary


Rob and Don have been at this for a year, and take a show to look back on 28 episodes of the Department of Nerdly Affairs and how far they’ve come. They discuss the origins of the show, some behind the scenes thoughts about the different episodes and their guests, and finish with a special announcement. (No, the show isn’t ending.) So, come on in and join us to celebrate one year of the Department of Nerdly Affairs!

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

Check individual  episodes for show notes.

DNA Podcast 028 – The Nature of Nerdliness


In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with guest Jack Ward to discuss what it means to be a nerd. The trio discuss exactly what nerds are, where they came from, and whether nerds as a concept is even still relevant in modern culture.  All this, and why The Nutty Professor was the great nerd hero of the 20th century are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:
The Anarchist movement
The IT Crowd
Oscar Wilde
The Nutty Professor (trailer)
Science Fiction Conventions
Our Gang
Starfleet Command Fan Organization
Mysterious Universe
Snake Theory of Human Evolution
Metal- A Headbanger’s Journey (trailer)
Led Zeppelin and Tolkien
Star Wars and Flash Gordon
Easy Riders – Raging Bulls
Howard the Duck (movie review)
C-3PO’s Cereal (video review)
Heavy Metal Magazine
Custer’s Revenge (video review)
The Nintendo Power Glove (video review)
Oliver Twist
The Picwick Papers
Hammy Hamster’s Adventures on the Riverbank (video)

DNA Podcast 027b – Horror Hosts Extra with Michael Monahan


The horror host Rob grew up with- WUAB Channel 43 Cleveland’s Superhost!

This is an extra after-show conversation which occurred after the recording of episode 27 and continues on from where we left off. Among other things, we talk about the passing into history of the original horror hosts, how Horror Hosts dealt with national tragedies like the Kennedy Assassination and 9/11, and the changing relationship between people and local media.

Don grew up with a variety of Detroit horror hosts, which you can see here:


DNA Podcast 027 – Horror Hosts with Michael Monahan


In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with Michael Monahan, author and co-producer of the documentary American Scary, to talk about Horror Hosts. We delve into the origins of the Horror Host phenomena from its early days with Vampira to the megahit Ghoulardi and the modern incarnations which still stalk the airwaves. All this, and why Bob Wilkins is a name every scifi fan should know, is coming to you in this, the 27th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

American Scary Trailer
American Scary (First 10 mins)
Z-Team Productions YouTube Channel (has bonus and deleted Horror Host interviews)
3 Minute Horror Hosts Montage from American’s Funniest Videos
Bob Wilkins
Horror Hosts
E-Gors Chamber of TV Horror Hosts (more detailed host list here)
Shock Theatre Package
Midnight Spook Show
EC Horror Comics
Turn Blue: The Short Life of Ghoulardi (Documentary on Cleveland Horror Host)
Interview with Horror Host Tom Leahy (Documentary on Kansas Horror Host)
Dinner with Drac
Hillarious House of Frightenstein (episode one)
YouTube Horror Host Playlist (nice random sample of horror host schtick)
Doctor Morgus from New Orleans hosts a showing of Godzilla (video, full episode)
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Youtube Channel
Reptilicus Trailer
American Scary- The Book
Dr. Ghoulfinger

DNA Podcast 026 – Indie RPGs with Graham MacLean


In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by scholar and game designer Graham MacLean to talk about the Independent Tabletop RPG scene. The trio talk about the origins of Indie RPGs, why D&D was the first Indie RPG, and how the Fruitful Void can make you look at games in a new way. All this, and heaping helping of Paranoia are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

    Closing Music:

Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt 

Things Discussed:

D&D 1st Edition
Empire of the Petal Throne
Bully Pulpit Games
Evil Hat Productions
Palladium Books
Apocalypse World
It Came from the Late Late Late Show
The Forge Indie RPG Community
Narrativist Theory
Over the Edge
Dogs in the Vineyard
Fruitful Void
Emily Care Boss
Story Games
Dog Eat Dog
Ron Edwards (game designer)
Do- Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
The Unstore
Robin D. Laws
Pelegrine Press
Legend of the Five Rings
Shotgun Diaries
Cosmic Patrol
Feng Shui: Shadowfist
The Mountain Witch
Lady Blackbird
Castle Falkenstein
Old School Renaisance Games
Monster Hearts
Golden Sky Stories
Weapons of the Gods
401 Games in Toronto
Alternate Reality Games
Second Life