The LitRPG Writer’s Toolkit
So you want to write a LitRPG novel? This genre is growing in popularity, which is no surprise, given how ubiquitous gaming (video and table top) has become. Books utilizing LitRPG aspects play to a very specific demographic: gamers who like to read. It’s best if the author also fits into that demographic.
LitRPGs present their narratives in a game-like format, where the characters progress in skills, levels, etc. (like in a role-playing game), as the story unfolds. The characters usually know they are in a game or game-like setting. Though it’s open to many different rules styles and genres, the LitRPG mainstay is typically grounded in statistics that describe the character’s strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and equipment. This is the literary equivalent of playing Dungeons & Dragons at the table with a group, or playing Skyrim on PC/console. (Or EVE Online if you’re really into accounting…)
Writing a LitRPG brings its own set of challenges and considerations on top of all the others the author must deal with. What follows is a breakdown of the most important ones.
1: If You’re Not a Gamer, This Isn’t For You
Yes, I understand that heading presents a narrow position, but if you’re not a gamer, it’s highly unlikely you’ll enjoy writing a LitRPG. You probably won’t respect/know your target audience, or produce your best work. Like any creative endeavor, you must love what you’re doing — else it becomes a chore, and your audience will see this in the finished work. Readers know when you care about your story — and when you don’t. This doesn’t mean you should be a hardcore gamer that logs hours of playtime each day, or possesses an expansive library of titles and/or corebooks. It does mean you should be familiar with that subculture, and participate in it. If you don’t enjoy horror fiction, why would you write a horror novel? The same principle applies here.
LitRPGs are vehicles of story and character-building — which means your characters should receive/earn improvements to their abilities throughout the narrative. They level up, gain achievements, find better equipment, and so on — just like a player character in a traditional RPG. This is a core element of what LitRPGs are about: progression. The reader will expect this to happen, just as a gamer would…