The Department of Nerdly Affairs
The Department of Nerdly Affairs
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 ( 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