The birth of a genre: that’s not something many people get to say they have witnessed, but if you’ve been reading indie fiction lately, you might have been a part of it. In the past few years, LitRPG has exploded: it has even seeped into mainstream publishing and YA novels. But what is this genre, and what makes it different from other books already out there?
In a nutshell, LitRPG follows the video game format. In general, we follow a person from our universe who plays, fully immersed, in a RPG. The characters face threats and challenges that resemble the world of gaming and form the backbone of the plot. The struggles he faces, despite being virtual, are very real and affect his life. But we must never forget it is a game: at least some of the characters in a LitRPG novel realize this, and are ‘meta-aware’.
I sat down (virtually) with author R.R. Virdi to talk about this emerging genre. I’ve been a massive fan of his since book one: in fact, his novel Grave Beginnings might have been one of the first reviews I ever posted on this site. Having just released a LitRPG of his own, Goblin King, I thought it was a perfect time to talk about what it means to write gaming lit.
R: You’re most known for your works of Urban Fantasy, and have been nominated for many awards in the genre. What made you decide to come to LitRPG?
RRV: I’ve been a lifelong gamer from SNES to currently on a PC that I spent enough money on that it could’ve bought me a car. It seemed to make sense. I love storytelling, video-games, and this is a natural blend of them. Why not try my hand at a new genre, push my craft, grow, and broaden my backlist?
R: What makes LitRPG different from other genres? Why write it?
RRV: So far, the biggest differences are in the narration. A lot of the world-building parallels standard fantasy/sci fi settings. But the biggest standout is the video-game mechanics blended into the story: leveling up, stats, purchasing items/abilities, crafting them, display screens. It’s a mix of cyberpunk tech in some ways within (commonly, though not exclusively) fantasy backdrops. As to why write it? It’s different for each author I guess. For me, it’s a chance to flex new muscles creatively, indulge in a blend of passions for me, grow, and give people entertainment—suspense.
R: Tell us about your new novel, Goblin King, and your new series Monster Slayer Online. Where did your inspiration come from?
RRV: That came about from my love of the Monster Hunter and the Dragon’s Dogma franchise as well as my fondness for high-action combat RPGs. Plus, I love the mythology I can bring in.
R: Do you feel like your book fits the description of LitRPG, or does it spill over into other genres as well? Have you brought something new and exciting to the genre?
RRV: I believe mine does. It’s not traditional in the sense I deviated from the famous old tabletop and video game stat allocation systems where you acquire experience and give it to principle stats like strength or wisdom. I went for accumulation of points that can be used to by skills, abilities. The more you do, the more you learn to do. It’s less of progression by stats, more by versatility of what you can perform in any given situation.
R: Are there any other authors who inspired you while writing this book? Who do you look up to as the big names of LitRPG?
RRV: James Hunter of Viridian Gate Online was definitely one of them. Luke Chmilenko of Ascend Online is another.
R: What’s it like to write LitRPG versus your usual genres? What challenges arose? Did you find it more fulfilling, more complicated, more frustrating?
RRV: It’s difficult to remember that progression and stats need to be focused on because that’s a big draw for readers. I’m used to writing tight-knit thrillers in urban fantasy full of clues and plot twists. There’s more slice of life and slower pace moments where progression can permeate the story, but, I’ve seen it run amok in some novels in the genre and kill the narration for me. Keeping the craft balanced with genre expectations is what’s the proper challenge here.
R: You’ve mentioned on your blog already having started on the sequel. Can you tell us what we can expect? And how long do you plan on this series being?
RRV: Yep, book two, Beast Queen is in production at this moment. The series is slated for 6-8 books depending on how the next few go. I have the story for 8, but they could possibly be condensed if the story seems to grow larger per novel.
R: Tell us about the other projects you’re working on right now. Any other LitRPGs, or are you trying other genres too?
RRV: I have tons of ideas for other LitRPGs, but I have other commitments I need to tackle. My urban fantasy stuff, a space western for a publisher, and other Patreon projects. Too much to juggle haha.
R: Other than your own, what LitRPG books would you recommends to readers who are new to the genre and want to try it out?
RRV: Viridian Gate Online and Ascend Online.
R: And finally, if you could play the game Monster Slayer Online – would you?
RRV: Play it in my situation in my current life? Yes. Play it stuck in the world like Devrim? Oh-ho, no! Hahah. I like living too much.
To earn a second chance at life, Devrim Bains must die and enter a virtual world of monsters and mayhem. Let’s just hope one death is all it will take, because he can’t afford another.
When Devrim Bains reaches his twenty–first birthday, he’s finally punished for a crime that was never his fault–being born. In a world of strict population control, his life’s been decided for him, and it’s about to end. But a stroke of luck gives him opportunity to have his consciousness uploaded into a simulated-reality game world with the promise of paradise.
Except paradise always comes with a cost.
Monsters of legend and myths of old come to life in Lorian, needing to be slain or tamed for Devrim to have a shot at enjoying freedom. It’d be easy enough if one of the fiends hadn’t raised an army hellbent on conquering everything. The Goblin King has his sights set taking the lands of Lorian in his iron grasp, and Devrim Bains’ only chance is to quickly learn what it means to be a slayer.
To make sure his new lease on life isn’t cut painfully short, he’s going to have to embody the greatest rule in Monster Slayer Online:
Hunt or be hunted!
Goblin King is the first novel of the Monster Slayer Online LitRPG/Gamelit series. If you loved The 100, the Monster Hunter game franchise, and Dragon’s Dogma, you’ll enjoy this fast paced, hard-action monster-slaying novel.
Author’s note: Goblin King is a LitRPG/GameLit novel featuring game-like progression/skills, and appropriate text/pop-ups in narration. Please keep this in mind whilst reading.