LitRPG Podcast 036
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 36 of the LitRPG podcast.
I’m Ramon Mejia. I’m here to bring you the latest LitRPG news, reviews, and author interviews.
New Releases and Reviews:
We’ll begin with LitRPG news
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Adventures on Terra Audiobook out Now!! After a lot of work, it’s finally available. I’ll admit, it’s kind of cool to hear the book I wrote as an audiobook. I’ll play a little sample for you.
Interview with the narrator for the audiobook, Jill Smith, which will be available next week as episode 37 of the podcast.
Robert Bevan, author of the Critical Failure series, was a guest on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast. He’s the 3nd LitRPG author to be on the podcast and it was fun to watch him talk about his stories and writing in a niche genre.
Travis Bagwell has put the first three fully-edited chapters of Awaken Online: Precipice on his my Patreon. Anyone can go there and get the Preface and Chapter 1, but only his supporters at the $10 a month level will have access to chapter 2 right now. Travis will also be releasing a new chapter every week on his patreon until the official release of the new book on March 31st.
Michael Chatfield, author of the Emerilia series, has given some tentative release dates for the next books in his series:
Book 4 New Horizons, is slated to be out on the 28th of March.
Book 5 This is Our Land, is out on the 25th of April!
Difficulty: Legendary Books 1 and 2 (LitRPG Series) out as a bundle package. http://amzn.to/2mBWXha
The cover art for J.A. Cipriano’s next book, Soulstone: Skeleton King has been revealed and will be out March 9th, 2017. I liked book one. It had some issues but was fun. Gave it a 7 out of 10.
Christopher Kenee, has announced the sequel to his novel Stuck in the Game and revealed the cover art for the book. Back in the Game is the new novel and it will be available 03/10/2017.
Stuck in the Game: A young man and his girlfriend get into a car accident. They’re both brain damaged and hooked up to a dream based VR system to help their brains recover. Because of the delicate nature of his brain and the mechanics of the game, if he dies in the game though he might fall into an irreversible coma. It got a 6 out of 10 from me.
Back in the Game: Noah has survived the game and his body is on the road to recovery. His mind, however, cannot put the past behind him, knowing the company that ruined his life has escaped justice. With the evidence he needs to convict them still in the Dream State, he returns there to help his friends reclaim it.
Pre-Order Available for Audiobooks, Available May 7th
The Phantom Castle: (Way of the Shaman Series Book 4)
The Way of the Outcast (Mirror World Book #3)
Out Now, Will Review next week!
For The Guild (Emerilia Book 3) http://amzn.to/2m6syLa
The Dungeon's Child (The Slime Dungeon Chronicles Book 3) out now. http://amzn.to/2m1SxDK
Sufficiently Advanced Magic (Arcane Ascension Book 1) out now, LitRPG?? http://amzn.to/2m1Srfl
Goblin: a LitRPG Novel (Tower of Gates LitRPG Series Book 1) http://amzn.to/2lCkr5I
Soulstone: Skeleton King (March 9th, 2017)
The Crystal Sphere (March 10th, 2017)
Back in Game (March 10th, 2017)
Shadows of the Great Forest (Realm of Arkon, Book 4) (March 14th, 2017)
New Horizons (Emerilia Book 4) (March 28th)
Awaken Online: Precipice (March 31st, 2017)
Delvers LLC: Obligations Incurred (March 2017)
Earth Tactics Advance Vol. 1 (March 2017)
Soul Link: Origin (March 2017)
The Karmadont Chess Set (The Way of the Shaman: Book #5) (April 2nd, 2017)
This is Our Land (Emerilia Book 5) (April 25th, 2017)
Dominion of Blades (April 2017)
The First Player (AlterGame Book #1) (May 9th 2017)
Stuck in an RPG (Sucked into an RPG, Book 2) (May 27th 2017).
Onto New Releases and Reviews
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New Releases and Reviews
Lion’s Quest: Duel Wield
With Leo's commitment to Arnacript finalized, the champ announces his retirement to the world and prepares to work full-time on Ohlavar Quest. The challenges in the game world become steeper as Leo sets his eyes on the first of many artifacts, and he joins a dungeon exploration group in an effort to acquire the piece.
But forces in the real world don't want the champ to retire from Astafar Unlimited, and they will do whatever it takes to get him back.
Even if it means killing his parents.
My Opinion: 828 pages, $7.49, not available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: Got this as an advanced review copy but purchased it once it was released.
The price point for this novel is going to be a sticking point for some people but remember that it’s over 800 pages long. Though, the last 5% is a preview of the author's other series The Destroyer.
In book 1 - Undefeated, we’re introduced to Leo the Lion, champion fighter in a virtual reality game. He’s recruited to test a full immersion fantasy VR game that is indistinguishable from reality. Only someone is willing to kill to stop him.
In book 2 - Leo Lenox gets back into the full immersion VR game Arnacript, he has to try and secure the first relic in the game.
The first 25% of book 2 does a nice job of wrapping up the storyline of someone trying to kill Leo, reintroducing the characters from the real world and virtual world, reminding you about the plot, and establishing that this is an action focused story.
There’s a lot less time spent in the real world in Duel Wield than Undefeated. It’s mostly clean up around him dedicating his time to the game and a reminder of part of the reason he’s doing all this, the treatment of his parent’s Alzheimer's.
Once Leo is back in the game, he stays there for most of the story. He pops out occasionally but the time he spends in Arnacript is more fleshed out in this book. One of the most noticeable improvements over book 1 are the expanded explanations of the game mechanics at work in Arnacript. There are also large cities to explore, an expanded history of the world, new races are introduced, an adventurer’s guild, dungeons are explored, and new fun characters.
I had a great time reading this novel and devoured it in a couple of days and it improves an already good series.
Lion’s Quest: Duel Wield gets a 9 out of 10.
Press X to Loot: The Scout of Artemis
Chris Ledfield is struggling. Thrust into running the family tour business years before he was ready, he spends his days leading people through Gossard Forest. His family have owned the business for generations, and Chris feels the weight of responsibility bearing down on him. When a national company, Star Horizon, try to buy exclusive rights to Gossard Forest, Chris knows Ledfield Tours is in trouble.
He doesn’t have the money to compete with Star Horizon, and all looks lost. But then he gets a chance; a fully-immersive VR game, Pana Reborn, is releasing an expansion pack. With the release of the pack, Artemis Island, the company are running a competition.
They’ve hidden something called Helder’s Bane on the island, and the first person to find it wins a lifetime subscription to the game. Not only that, but they also win 10,000GD, more than enough for Chris to buy the rights to the tour and save his family business.
In a world of combat, levels, skills and adventure, Chris must beat the other players to finding Helder’s Bane. Together with his party, he must explore the island and survive its dangers. That won’t be easy, because Artemis Island is different from the Pana mainland.
There’s a secret on Artemis Island, and players who venture out at night will discover just how dangerous it can be.
My Opinion: 425 pages, $0.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Written by Gregg Horlock, the author of the Difficulty: Legendary series.
In the story Chris joins the latest VR game for a chance to win the money he needs to save his family business. All he has to do is find one little item, Helder’s Bane. Only his group is competing against other better equipped players, they have to fight vicious monsters, and have to survive all that the game throws at them.
The first 15% of the novel is a background about the real life events that lead the main character to play this new VR game. It does a good job of establishing an emotional connection to the main character, it sets up why he has to play this game, why he needs a financial backer, and establishes some of the other characters in the story. It went on a little too long for me.
Once you get into the game world the pace of the story picks up quite a bit.
The cover art does this story an injustice. It makes it look like a jaunty 8-bit story. Instead it turns out it’s more of a survival story. Great!
Things I liked about the story: Cool Game Mechanics
1) The survival aspects of game. When the characters get into the game they have to create shelter, fire, the weapons, and special items they need.
2) The limited skill slots made choosing skills a much more important decision. You still have to earn the skill by practicing that skill. Want the sneak skill? Just try sneaking and have the opportunity to learn it and equip it in your primary or secondary skill slot. If you fill up all those slots you’re out of luck if you want another one, even if it’s a really cool or rare skill.
3) Base building - Even though it’s a small part of the story, I really liked that the characters could build a shelter, setup traps, and special runes that gave bonuses to help them fend off the waves of monsters that appeared at night.
Things I didn’t like:
1) Self generated Quests - The quests in the story are not just generated by the NPCs but the players themselves for themselves. It’s just an odd game mechanic that the characters can generate their own quests by thinking hard about them. Why not create a quest for everything and earn a bunch of XP that way? Make dinner - quest, walk to town- quest, use the restroom - double xp quest.
2) The predictable and unmemorable villains. In the game another team shows up also looking for Helder’s Bane. Only this team is super rich and they never get any time in the story that makes them more than a reason for the main characters to get frustrated or diverted from their quest.
3) The convenient way the characters get exactly what they need. This is especially prevalent in the last 25% of the novel but often in the story the characters need something to complete a quest or advance the story and it just magically appears. Hit a magical barrier? Oh, look a witch just happens to ride up and can fix that for you. Need a map? Oh, one of the characters suddenly remembers where he hear about getting one. Wait, a plot twist changed what you thought you needed to get to finish a quest? Oh, look someone magically appears that tells you exactly where to go to get it?
4) The rushed last 25% of the novel. It really feels like the author sort of lost interest in the story near the end or just wanted a grander ending. It feels rushed and almost unrelated to the rest of the story. Most of the other elements that I liked about the story just disappears. Also, a entirely new quest story appears without any type of foreshadowing. It felt like a separate short story that was tacked on and modified to fit this game world.
Overall: I enjoyed the story. The rushed ending with the convenient story lessened the overall score but Press X to Loot: The Scout of Artemis still gets a 6 out of 10.
Alpha World Book 1: Gamer for Life
Seamus is facing life in prison without parole. While doing his time he's given an option by the Department of Justice and the biggest virtual game maker around, Mindblown Entertainment. If he will help them test long term immersion he will get the chance to play the latest game from Mindblown, Alpha World. All he has to do is sign away his legal rights and sign an NDA.
Now exploring Alpha World, Seamus becomes the Summoner Alburet. Follow Alburet on his journey of exploration and questing in the latest game to hit the market. He will summon demons, befriend players and NPCs alike all while trying to find a little happiness in his life.
He's the first gamer to be sentenced to life imprisonment in a virtual world. What could go wrong?
My Opinion: 403 pages, $3.99, available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of this but picked it up on Kindle Unlimited once it was released.
Written by Daniel Schinhofen, author of the Last Horizon books.
These are the adventures of Seamus, a convict, who chooses to serve his life term in a virtual reality world as Alburet, the summoner. There’s no mission to save the world. Just the adventures of a man who now has to live in a virtual world. He’ll fight monsters, make friends, find lovers, and figure out how to best use his class abilities to tame the snarky demons he can summon.
Just a heads up: Towards the end of the novel there are some rather steamy sensual scenes that some may consider mild erotica.
I enjoyed about 80% of this novel quite a bit. Which I’ll talk about first.
The author has a talent for creating characters with depth. They have interesting backstories, internal conflicts, and distinct personalities. The relationships that are created between characters, whether romantic, friendly, or as enemies, are the highlight of the novel. I connected with the characters and found myself wanting them to be happy and feeling sad when bad things happened to them.
There’s action in the story. There are fights with skeletons, goblins, and orcs. However, it often felt very technical and while the group battles aren’t bad, they’re not amazing either. Instead the most interesting part of the story are the conversations and relationships between characters.
There’s lots of flirting from the MC with a few other players and even one of the NPC. There are even some very sensual scenes involving massages, showers, and baths that gave me the vapors. These scenes appear about the 62% mark and then more through the last 25% of the novel. There is sex in the story but is mostly of the ‘fade to black’ variety and is not graphic with the exception of one small scene near the end. These scenes make sense in the story and ultimately lead to a big reveal later on.
Parts that I didn’t enjoy as much:
Really, not one but two scaling items for the main character?
Only inconsistency in game mechanics is that the main character seems to be able to use unarmed combat techniques like a rear chokehold without having any type of ingame skill. The main character is a summoner with slightly better than average stats but still focuses on intelligence and wisdom. Yet he can consistently defeat trained NPC guards and soldiers who presumably have more stats invested in strength, agility, and constitution? It’s really the only thing that stuck me as inconsistent.
Then the last 25% of the novel turns into this sensual harem-ish story with occasional breaks for combat and leveling. Then the end sort of just peters out with a reveal that was a bit obvious.
Overall, it’s a fine story with more game mechanics, classes, and crunchy numbers that the author’s other series. However, the ending just fall a bit flat and isn’t really satisfying. It’s just a reveal, then The End.
I give Alpha World Book One: Gamer for Life , a 7 out of 10.
A Player in the Greenwood: A LitRPG Novella
Who I am in real life doesn't matter; who I am in the game is what counts.
Before it happened, I bumbled my way through the virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game "The Greenwood," made crap builds and wasted my time.
Then I got murdered. A shadowy figure took my hard-accumulated possessions and left me to die. I admit, I did a rage quit and deleted my character.
Then I wondered what kind of person that rage quit made me? Maybe I was a quitter? And maybe I really was someone who would let a bully get away with disrespecting me?
But then again, no: I respected myself too much for that. I rolled a new character, I vowed to get good and re-entered The Greenwood.
I took on the name Barcud and the profession of ranger. I vowed to rise through the levels, hone my skills, hunt down the shadowy figure, and grind his face in the dirt.
My Opinion: 147 pages, $2.99, available on Kindle Unlimited
Written by Galen Wolf, author of the sci-fi Wolf Cyborg series.
This is the story of an inexperienced player hanging around a PVP zone in a fantasy VR MMO. He gets killed and is forced to give up his hard earned gear. At first he rage quits then he instead decides to roll a brand new ranger and become powerful enough to get his revenge against the unknown assailant and solve a mysterious easter egg quest.
This novella does a really good job of introducing and explaining the game mechanics of the VR game world succinctly. Both with direct explanation and through actions of the characters. You can tell the author has spent time playing actual MMOs.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of ‘I have to get strong to get revenge’ premises but I understand that every story has to start somewhere and the main character has to have some flaw to improve by the end of the story.
The beginning of this story reads like fan fiction for the MMO Dungeons and Dragons Online. A lot of the game mechanics, adventure settings, classes, and their abilities are direct pulls from that game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I really like that game and have spent many hours playing a drow sorcerer and warforged artificer there. It injects a type of nostalgia into the story.
From there the story creates its own gaming mechanics and skill sets that make it feel more unique.There are some interesting game mechanics provided by a variety of poisons and counter poisons that are used in PVP combat that highlight the human skill involved in that type of fighting. While I’m not a big fan of the over powered poison that makes you follow one order from the poisoner, I understand it’s use in furthering the plot.
Eventually there are guilds, PVP experiences, guild battles as the main character levels and tries to solve the easter egg puzzle and get his revenge against the guy who keeps killing him. Towards the end there are a couple places where the main character levels and gets just the right ability and weapon to accomplish his task but you find that kind of stuff in a lot of stories.
This is not epic fiction but is an enjoyable story that’s reminiscent of watching someone play an MMO.
A Player in the Greenwood gets a 7 out of 10.
Project Phoenix #1: Jacked In: A LitRPG Series
Sex, Drugs, Space Ships, and Explosions. In the future Nihilism rules, and it's known as Project Phoenix.
The year is 2038. A new simulated reality game known as Project Phoenix is a global phenomenon with over a billion players.
Jack was an average accountant who'd never played, until a corrupt branch of the US government arrested him.
Now he's struggling to survive both in game and real life.
My Opinion: 40 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Written by N.A.K Baldron, author of the urban fantasy series Aether Walker.
The story starts with Jack, in the game with a spaceship, struggling to make enough money to pay his daily space station bills. It then shifts back in time to tell the story of how he got there.
First, let me say that I enjoyed reading the story. The writing had a few grammar errors but nothing that took me out of the story. It however is not LitRPG. You could call it video game fiction or sci-fi but it is not LitRPG.
LitRPG: 1) Set in a world with game obviously stated game mechanics. The limit of the game mechanics that were shown were brackets around some item names and some casual references to focus. Which may or may not be a character stat. Again, no game mechanics were explained.
2) The character grows in power according to those mechanics. Also didn’t happen. No level ups, Ranks, skills.
This can sort of be called video game fiction but even then it’s limited. There’s a section of the story where the main character hears about this great new VR game but doesn’t want to play it. Then a shady government agency breaks into his work, arrests him and forces him to play. Then the story reads like it’s regular space sci-fi with a couple casual references to it taking place in the game.
The author messaged me and we had a nice chat. He says he plans to make this a weekly serial release. I hope that the next episodes in the serial have some LitRPG in them.
For now, Project Phoenix #1 gets a 4 out 10 for not actually being LitRPG. As a sci-fi story, it would get a better score but it’s presented as LitRPG
Spetsnaz: A Permadeath LitRPG LitFPS
It's 2100, France has been devastated by nuclear explosions, and ChinKor Republic troops are searching for those responsible. Trapped in France, the 49ers must team up with Russian special forces, the feared Spetsnaz, to escape the devastation. Together they will wreak havoc as they blast their way through the enemy forces.
My Opinion: 131 pages, $2.99, available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure. I received an advanced copy of the novel to review. I picked it up on Kindle Unlimited once it released.
I had issues with the first novel in the series because of the lack of description of the game mechanics in the story. There was sort of some at the end but it felt forced in and never clear. With book 2 in this series, it’s only become more of an issue for me.
To be frank, this is not LitRPG. The only game mechanic is DP, development points, and it doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s not used at all, it’s just awarded after kills. No evident game mechanics, no progression of character. Not LitRPG.
This is not poorly written. There’s lots of military SciFi action. If you liked the first book, then you’ll probably like this one too.
I’m not disputing the author’s right to tell the story he wants to tell. Maybe he took out all the game stuff because it disrupted the flow of the story. I can’t say for sure. That’s fine but if you’re going to put LitRPG in your title, it should be LitRPG and this is not.
As LitRPG, I give it a 4 out 10. Additionally, I’ll be dropping this series from my review schedule.
Serial Short Stories LitRPG Opinion
I’ve noticed a trend recently of authors writing short fiction and calling it LitRPG. It usually feels like they’re testing the waters to see if they can write in this genre or if they understand what it means. However, often these stories have ended up not being LItRPG but instead, videogame fiction or just fantasy or SciFi.
I understand that serial short stories are challenging and they’re short by their very nature, so authors have to be really selective about what they include.
But you can’t skip out of the very things that make LitRPG unique and fun.
It’s set in a game world or world with game like mechanics and they’re obviously stated.
Characters progress according to those mechanics in an obviously stated way.
All this really means is that you don’t hide all the cool ways the story world works and your characters clearly grow more powerful in a defined manner. No vagueness, no allusions. These are clear statements. Think of the game world like a character you need to clearly define and make understandable.
I think it’s hard for authors that come from other genres to give themselves permission to put in the damage notifications, level up messages, skill descriptions, ranks, cultivated essence, etc. They’re used to all that behind the scenes stuff being considered immersion breaking. But in LitRPG, it’s ok. A lot of us like that stuff and the folks that don’t just skip over it when they read it.
Write the story you want to write but understand that it’s really disappointing when a story labels itself as LitRPG and isn’t.
If you want some examples LitRPG serials that I’ve seen done well are: Reborn series, and Oakshield Junction series.
That’s it everyone!
Thanks for hanging out with me today. Until we can hangout again, remember to go read some LitRPG!
"Blip Stream" "Mighty Like Us" "Big Shift" "Vivacity"
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License