LitRPG: Pure Pulp, Pure Fun

I’ve started reading a genre that’s fairly new to me: Literary Role-Playing Game, or LitRPG. I’d heard about it back when I was reading the Cradle Series, by Will Wight. I really enjoyed that one (check out my review), though I think I called it “level up fantasy” at the time. It’s about a main character who’s constantly getting stronger and stronger using different types of magic so that he can take on bigger and badder enemies. Over, and over, and over. You would think it would get old after a while, but it really didn’t. Was it a series that made me think and changed me as a person? Nope, but it sure was a lot of fun and a great escape, and that’s often what I’m looking for out of books.

So I wondered if there were other books like it out there. With a bit of research, I discovered the official name for it was “Progression Fantasy,” which makes sense (though I think I still prefer “level up fantasy” more). In turn, it’s closely related to LitRPG, which is basically a book equivalent of playing a role playing game, typically with actual game mechanics as part of the plot. Like, characters in the book have actual hit point values, and they learn magic spells that use up a certain amount of mana or whatever. It’s not a choose your own adventure. It’s not like you’re taking part in the book. You’re just reading about someone else doing it.

The first series I tried in the genre was . . . much less than enthralling. I’d read a bunch of different overviews of what to start, and I’d read multiple recommendations for it, but I found it simplistic and forgettable. (I know. I’m complaining about a very straightforward genre having a series that’s too straightforward. But there are good versions of anything and bad versions of anything, and this was (for me) definitely a bad version. No, I won’t name names. I don’t throw other authors under the bus. I did give it a second shot, reading the second book to see if it improved, since they’re fast reads. It didn’t, so I gave up on it.)

I then did what I should have done in the first place: I asked someone who was an actual fan. My brother-in-law has gotten into them a fair bit, so I hit him up for some recommendations. He pointed me to Dungeon Crawler Carl, and I had a blast with the first book. It’s light-hearted and thoroughly entertaining. The entire world is suddenly destroyed one evening, with every single structure plunging into the ground at once. Everyone who was inside is killed instantly. Anyone who was outside is informed they have an hour to decide if they want to compete in a galactic game show with the promise of possibly getting their life back if they win. Carl is a normal guy caught outside looking for his girlfriend’s cat, and the two of them become the protagonists. (The cat enters the dungeon at the same time and gets the power to talk.)

Again, this is nothing high brow at all, but it’s fast moving and a lot of fun, and I can see why people like it. It feels a lot like Magic at 30,000 Feet to me (an earlier book I’ve written), and I’ve now thought some about whether I could do something like this with that book. That’s a question for later. For now, I’m just enjoying some quick books, and I wanted to point them out to you in case they sound appealing. (That should pretty much be immediately obvious. If the plot sounded idiotic and silly to you, then . . . go back to your Faulkner. 🙂 )

Anyone else reading these? Anything else to recommend?

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