LitRPG Podcast 044
LitRPG Podcast 044
April 14th, 2017
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 44 of the LitRPG podcast.
I’m Ramon Mejia. I’m here to bring you the latest LitRPG news, reviews, and author interviews.
Before we begin I want to thank some supporters of the podcast, Blaise Corvin and Patrice V. Blaise Corvin upped his pledge on Patreon from $6/month to $10/month. Patrice has pledged $6/month. Thanks for the support and helping to keep the podcast going.
New Releases and Reviews:
Fjorgyn: A Rebel Rises (25:23)
Spectres & Skin: Exodus (31:17)
(Play Music 2)
SciFan magazine’s April LitRPG edition is out now. What was a one time event has turned into a regular monthly issue for the digital magazine. Short stories from established and new LitRPG authors. Plus reviews from: ??? look it up, and some of the podcast’s reviews. The magazine asked for exclusivity on the content but we declined that and just decided to forgo payment for the content. We give the reviews away for free on the podcast and on our site.
Jeffrey "Falcon" Logue, the author of the Slime Dungeon Chronicles, announced on Facebook that he should have book 4 in the series finished up in May and on Amazon’s digital shelves by June.
Additionally, he’s put another one of his stories up on Amazon for Pre-Order. This is the one titled, Hero of Naught, has a release date of July 1st. I mention it, because as of this recording, it isn’t listed on Amazon under the LitRPG search and I didn’t want you folks to miss it.
Travis Bagwell, author of the Awaken Online series is going to Dragoncon in September. While he plans to get a table with some other authors, he’s also going to cosplay as the main character in his story, Jason the Necromancer. He’s lookin for a few good people who’ll be at Dragoncon who can play the role of his zombie minions.
If you're interested, send him a message on Facebook with your contact info (name and email) and how long you'd be able to spend on this (maybe 4-6 hours for prep and creating a scene).
The Way of the Shaman comic is available on Comixology. 73 pages, which for a comic is pretty big.
Justin Miller updated us on the status of the audiobook version of his novel World Seed vol. 1. There are some delays but he says that the company that’s producing it, Tantor Media, has told him it will be available April 25th.
New LitRPG Audiobooks
The Cadet (LitRPG. Squadcom-13. Book:1)
Out Now, Will Review next week!
This is Our Land (Emerilia Book 5) (April 25th, 2017)
Lost Archive: A LitRPG Adventure (Veilwalkers Book 1) (April 28th, 2017)
Ascend Online: Hell to Pay (Book 2) (May 1st, 2017)
The First Player (AlterGame Book #1) (May 9th 2017)
Stuck in an RPG (Sucked into an RPG, Book 2) (May 27th 2017).
The Eternal: Dragonborn - A LitRPG Saga (World of Ga'em Book 2) (May 31st, 2017)
Hero of Thera (June 1st, 2017)
Conquest: A LitRPG Story (The SciFan™ Universe Book 1) (June 1st, 2017)
Fantasy Online: Hyperborea (June 2nd, 2017)
Stay on the Wing (The Dark Herbalist Book #2) (June 2nd, 2017).
Hero of Naught (July 1st, 2017)
The Curse of Rion Castle (The Neuro Book #2) LitRPG Series (July 6th, 2017)
Onto New Releases and Reviews
(Play Music 3)
New Releases and Reviews
Dominion of Blades: A LitRPG Adventure
For over thirty years, Dominion of Blades has been the hottest online role-playing game in the world. Any gamer with an immersion rig can enter the world of sword and sorcery, of goblins and dragons, and they can hack and slash their way to glory. But the game is too real for some, and after an epidemic of real-life fatalities, public use of the immersion technology has been banned, causing the game to be shut down.
Jonah wakes to find himself in-game, level one, with no memory of how he arrived and no way to eject. With only two companions, trapped in a world that once hosted millions, Jonah must battle his way across a treacherous landscape, fighting virtual monsters, all-too-real pain, and a very human enemy in a desperate bid to survive.
My Opinion: 438 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure, the author sent me an advanced copy of the book to review. I’ve purchased the story once it became available on Amazon.
Dominion of Blades takes the trapped in a game premise and gives it a twist. Three NPCs suddenly wake up one day to find that they’re actually players trapped in a full immersion VR game. Unfortunately, these players can’t remember much about their past and have all been reset to level one.
I enjoyed reading this story but there are some things that just kept it from being great to me.
The way the main character’s backstory is gradually revealed through a series of dreams is interesting and creates genuinely surprising revelations.
I really liked the character Poper, a guy trapped in a little girl's body. He’s irreverent and very memorable. The visual description of a grown man being trapped in the body of a cute little girl wielding deadly weapons while riding a hippopotamus with a unicorn horn still makes me chuckle.
The action scenes in the story are well written. There are no two fight scenes that are identical and the types of tactics used to win are varied. I particularly like the use of unusual weapons, abilities, and mounts. I mean who wouldn’t like a talking hippo with the horn of a unicorn named Alice?
My favorite part of the story was the beginning, the first 26%. Three NPCs suddenly wake up from their repetitive life and realize they’re actually players. Only they don’t have any of their memories. They accidently accept a quest to help the town they’ve been stuck in from a gnome attack. While they deal with that seemingly straightforward quest, they accidently trigger a game event that poses an even greater danger to the town they’re in. This part of the story feels the most natural. Characters don’t know the best courses of action to take and bad decisions have unforeseen consequences.
I really liked the game mechanics in the story. It’s a skill based system. Players can raise skills through practice or training though it becomes more difficult to raise the higher it gets. As the skills get better they give randomized abilities and spells. Making each character unique even someone else has the same skills. Levels are gained and give increases to health and mystic points. Leveling also gives tokens that can be used to increase skills, learn spells, or increase an attribute.
One of the most interesting parts of the story are some of the larger themes is deals with. Without getting too spoilery, there are questions raised about: How innovations in technology have allowed people to be who they truly are who they want to be without fear of dominant cultural structures restricting them. Can someone find truth in a world where everything is fake?
One of the wonderful things about gaming and online MMOs, in particular, is the freedom it allows. I can be a halfling hero, or a dragon rogue, or a villain, or a female chainsaw wielding cheerleader, and people don’t get to judge me for it. Hell, it’s acceptable and even applauded in some circles. In these digital domains gamer’s get to be whoever they want to be or truly are.
The characters are a bit overpowered. Even though their levels have been reset, several of their skills are at high levels conferring special abilities and weapon masters they never earned.
About 33% into the story it takes a weird turn. **Spoiler** One of the players is scratched by a feral NPC and finds himself cursed with the Devouring Soul curse. It lasts for 666 days, causes all undead in an increasing radius to attack you, and if you die you go to hell for however many hours your level is and are tortured. All done by one of the only other eleven players on the server. It feels so...staged. Like the author had to find some villain for the players to struggle against. It doesn’t quite make sense and the curse is not only overpowered, it’s only supposed to be found in this high-level dungeon as a part of a legendary contest set up by the developers.
Gretchen, the main female lead is only mildly interesting.
The plot feels forced. Outside the very first scene when the three main characters wake up, most of the story events feel forced and exist to herd the characters down a specific path for the right conclusion.
Some of the game mechanics feel like they were created only to further the plot. They feel like they were created specifically to herd the characters in a particular direction. Specifically, the curse thing and the lack of shrines for the characters to respawn to.
A Magic plot wand is waved sometimes! Inconsistencies are waved away as events that happened in the game that they missed or the results of actions of other players with unexplained powers.
The writing in the story is solid. There are some interesting and fun characters.The 1st game event in the story is cool and there are some interesting explorations about technology allowing people to be who they want or they truly are. Unfortunately, much of the story felt ‘on rails’. The characters felt like they were being herded towards very specific places and events. Still, it I had a good time reading it.
Score: 6 out of 10.
EverRealm: A LitRPG Novel (Level Dead Book 1)
In the 23rd century, the world is at an end, and a group of gaming and programming friends decide that their only way to survive is to discard their bodies and send their minds into the quantum matrix of a virtual gaming world. They have created the Domains and there they plan to reside forever.
Except, the nightmares of reality have followed them into their new quantum dimension and those nightmares threaten to destroy it all!
Now it is up to one of them to help navigate the quantum platform known as EverRealm, a fantasy MMORPG of epic proportions, in order to complete a quest he neither wants to complete nor knows how. With the help of his friends, and a lot of luck, he will have to face trials and tribulations like he's never faced as a player! Because now it is no longer a matter of Game Over, but of life or death!
Can he survive it all and come out a winner? The only way he'll know is if he plays the game to the bitter end!
My Opinion: 250 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Just a heads up, the last 10% of the novel is a sample of Titan Wars by MC Norris.
The first 10% of the novel reads like a good zombie apocalypse story. A group of people create virtual worlds each and plan to transfer their beings there to ride out the zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately, two of the group are attacked by zombies and accidentally unleash zombie horde into virtual worlds created by others. Weirdly the zombie virus transfers too, infecting the other group members digital worlds. Oh, and these programmers coded in permanent death for themselves for some reason so if they’re killed by the zombies they may die permanently.
The relationships between the characters in the group. They’re the last people on earth and they decide to spend their last days voluntarily trapped in virtual worlds. I can appreciate that decision. The banter between these characters is funny and you get a feel for the group's dynamics.
There are a lot of logic issues in the story. Like why would a biological virus be transferable to a digital/quantum system? Why can’t a level 235 magic user beat a level 152 Undead elven warrior? Who would code a destructible save point, the only thing protecting the players from permadeath? These logic flaws don’t ruin the story but they do stick out to my gamer brain.
Here’s the big issue with the story. This is not LitRPG. It may be portal fantasy or video game fiction but it’s not LitRPG.
For me, someone that reviews LitRPG stories on a daily basis, there are two things that differentiate LitRPG from video game fiction.
1) The story is set in a game world or a world ruled by obviously stated game mechanics. That means the reader gets to know about how the game world works. It’s not hidden from the reader. The stuff about levels, classes, spells, abilities is actually presented to the main character and the reader.
2) The main character grows in power according to those obviously stated game mechanics. How an author chooses to do this is their decision but can include levels, increases in health, mana, new skills, new abilities, ranks, chi levels, and many other ways. The big key here is that the reader gets enough details to understand that this increase in power means something. A rule of thumb I use is that if I don’t know enough about the game world to plan and roll my own character, I’m probably not getting enough information.
Hidden Game Mechanics: Characters cast spells but the reader is never told of this is a class ability, racial trait, spell scroll. Can this spell be upgraded? What are the features of the spell? Nothing. This is an issue with just about every aspect of the story. I don’t need a bunch of hard numbers to make a story LitRPG. I do need to understand the game mechanics of the world. Which means I should get some information about how things work.
Characters do not progress in power according to the game mechanics: In the story, there’s text that says one of the characters gains levels. However, it doesn't seem to really mean anything. The reader isn't told what game mechanic is used to progress. Do characters get XP from killing monsters and completing quests? Is there some magical transfer of Ki energy? I don’t know because the game mechanics of this world are hidden. When the character levels there’s no appreciable change in the power of the character. No skill increases, no improved stats, no increases in health.
The main character looks at his character sheet but they're described in %. Which is another way of hiding information about the game world. For example, the character's strength is listed on his character sheet at 65%. 65% of what? There’s no base number to compare it to so it really doesn’t have any meaning. The same idea applies to the rest of the character sheet.
I really liked the first 10% of the novel when it was a zombie apocalypse story. The author has written several other stories in the zombie apocalypse genre so it makes sense that this would be the best part of the novel. Everything after that feels like the zombie stuff was being mashed into a video game story. Then it turns into more of a fantasy quest to prevent the rise of the evil bad guy. What it never felt like was LitRPG.
Perhaps the author in intentionally going light on game mechanics so they don't alienate an existing reader base, I don't know. I do know that as I was reading the story I kept asking, “What does that mean? How does that work? That doesn't make sense in a game.” If I’m asking these questions and not getting answers in the story, then it’s likely not LitRPG.
It’s not bad video game fiction or portal fantasy. In those categories, it's actually decent. But it’s not LitRPG.
Score: as LitRPG, 4 out of 10.
Fjorgyn: A Rebel Rises
Michael was proud of his life and his accomplishments. During the day he was Michael Semione. He worked, spent time with his family, and did everything young professionals were meant to do. At night, he became Creighton Dian-Cecht, a druid healer in Fjorgyn Online. He was head of a company of crafters and adventurers known throughout the game.
Things changed, however, when Michael was killed in real life while playing the game. He was reincarnated in a world based on Fjorgyn a level one, alone and naked in the woods. When he played the game, all he wanted to do was craft and heal. Follow his new life and his new adventures and challenges. See how he reconciles his desire to only heal in this dangerous, new world.
My Opinion: 173 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Michael, a high level gamer, dies while playing his favorite VR game. He wakes up to find he’s been reincarnated into a new world just like the one he was playing. Michael has to discover the hard way how the world works and who’ll he’ll become in this new world.
The first 13% of the novel is an introduction to the game mechanics of the world and quick instance of combat. Then there’s an odd shift in the story after Michael makes his first kill and he passes out. He finds himself in a wagon about to be enslaved. The story becomes about slavery in this fantasy game world and the main character’s quest to free himself and the group of slaves he’s with.
The clear explanations on how the game mechanics of the world work. The character gets and raises his skills by doing things. Learns magic spells from a teacher or spell book. There’s the standard character stats, health, mana, and stamina. Lot’s of clear numbers that tell me how the character is progressing and becoming more powerful.
Reputation matters - The mechanic of reputation and being able to get people to trust him is the main characters best ability. Without the support of the other people enslaved he wouldn’t stand a chance at freeing them on his own.
At about the 57%- a romantic storyline develops between the male main character and a male noble. There’s no sex but definitely there's sex jokes and romance. Well done foreshadowing didn't make this development a surprise.
Good alchemy/herbalism descriptions. I’m a suckered for crafting.
The abrupt shift from rat hunting to being trapped as a slave. Small thing.
As a matter of personal tastes I would have liked more action. This is not a combat centered story. A few dungeon runs but not much else in the action department.
At the end of almost every other chapter there is an exhaustively detailed character sheet which includes descriptions of all the spells and skills the character knows. I’m all for detail, but I only need a spell/skill description once. That information could have been included in a glossary at the end of the book and some of the repetitiveness would have been eliminated.
I had fun reading this story. The thing I liked the most about the story was the attention paid to the game mechanics, spell system, and crafting stuff. Very well done. You can tell the author put a lot of thought into this part of the story.
I would have liked to have seen more happen than ‘the great slave escape’. Thankfully, the end of the story hints at a larger experience in the next book. Maybe with some town building/city management game mechanics.
Score: 7 out of 10.
Spectres & Skin: Exodus
Imagine the look on everyone's faces when I tell them that I'm not the intended chosen one -- that the gods would never have picked a loser or an outsider like me -- I just happened to apply the right cheat code at the right time. And now I have to save the world.
When the biggest game developers on a dying Earth create their latest VRMMORPG, it takes on a life of its own. Impossible to control, and even harder to predict, the game world in Spectres & Skin is officially classed as a parallel universe, and people clamor to escape the horrors of overpopulation and pollution by moving over.
Recent graduate Matthew Blake is down on his luck. A climbing accident has robbed him of the use of his legs, his best friend is better than him in every way, and he just cannot find a job. VR is his only escape from a life he can't stand. When he is invited to peek into the exclusive new game world, he can't resist. Is his luck about to change?
No. No it isn't.
My Opinion: 416 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The world is dying, so Matthew Blake and his better looking best friend try out the best full immersion fantasy game, Spectres & Skin. Even though Matthew struggles to see himself as anything other than a sidekick he somehow ends up the chosen one for one of the factions in the game. Will Matthew be able to find a way out of situation or will he rise to the occasion?
The story reads much like portal fantasy because the game mechanics of the world aren’t explained all at once. Instead they’re dribbled out as the main character discovers what they are and how they work for himself.
The story takes a little while to get going. You don’t learn about most of the game’s mechanics or get to the ‘chosen one’ part till you’re about 30% into the story. Even by the 50% mark the main character has only gone on a few quests and gained a few skills. However, after that the stories pace picks up and things get more interesting. You finally get to see how magic works, other factions enter the story and the story generally feels more focused.
I had a hard time connecting with the main character and getting a feel for the world in general. There’s not a lot of description of the environments. The main character, at least early in the story, seems to mostly stumble through the events around him and complain about how he well he thinks his friend is likely doing.
A bit more explanation early on in the story about the game mechanics of the world would have been nice. I get that part of the story is that nothing is handed to the MC, he has to do everything the hard way in the world. But it shouldn’t take 30% of the story to explain why the game is called Specters and Skins. I respect the author's choice in how he reveals the game's mechanics but it was hard for me to maintain an interest in the story when I didn’t understand how the world worked and nothing particularly cool was happening.
If the pacing in the first half had been a bit better or I got the information about what made the game world so interesting earlier, the novel would have gotten a better score. As it is, I feel like the story doesn’t really start to get interesting until after the halfway point.
Score: 6 out of 10, a bit better than ‘meh’.
Corpse Run: A LitRPG Adventure (The Crucible Shard Book 3)
It's not easy being King
Becoming King of a virtual nation was just the start of Liam’s problems. Unreliable allies fill his castle and skilled foes surround his lands on all sides. While the pirates on the coast have been dealt with the former King of Galea has been raised from the dead and musters an army.
An expedition deep into the desert sands
The lands to the east are a harsh and unforgiving desert. Home to high level enemies and fiendish traps the sands also hold the secrets necessary to hold onto the throne and protect his growing alliance.
An ancient threat
When the Goddess Yvera urges him to release a force of catastrophic power, Liam must choose what is truly important. To listen to friends and allies that preach caution, or to trust in the Goddess who has promised to be his destruction.
My Opinion: 171 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
An adventure to free the goddess of artifice. Travel to the desert. The group loses some of the power they gained in book 2 so it still feels like they’re being challenged. There are no airships full of pirates to save them, and no OP abilities. It’s the three main group members on an adventure, killing monsters, getting treasure, and trying to stop Liam from humping every lady he meets. All the stuff I like about the series.
The story is a bit shorter than previous novels in the series but sometimes smaller is better. After all it’s not the size of the novel that matters but the motion of the emotion. I had a good time reading it and enjoyed it a lot more than book 2.
Score: 7 out of 10
Delvers LLC: Obligations Incurred
Henry and Jason somehow survived being kidnapped to Ludus, a monster-filled sword-and-sorcery world. They managed to make friends, pay their rent, and they even founded their own adventuring business, Delvers LLC.
Unfortunately, by overcoming the odds and creating a reputation for themselves in such short time, monarchs and nobles have taken notice of the two men from Earth. Foreign, deadly struggles may be unavoidable for Delvers LLC.
Henry and Jason are about to discover something even more dangerous than murderous monsters on Ludus: Politics.
My Opinion: 468 pages, $5.98, Not available on Kindle Unlimited
Last 8% of the novel is a sample of the author’s other LitRPG story Secrets of the Old Ones, Luck Strategy
Henry and Jason were whisked away from Earth by a powerful entity and given powers so that they could be part of an upcoming experiment/contest. Just as they think they’re getting the hang of how things work in this new world everything is turned upside down. Their friend is murdered and now they’ve been conscripted by the local government as agents. They’ll still get a chance to get revenge for their friend’s murder but now they also have to deal with larger nation spanning issues. Oh, and they have a boss now too.
The cultural consistency of the Mo’hali. The group of cat-people have a full rich culture with their own ways of viewing the world. I’m a big fan of how much detail the author puts into making this group feel real and not just making them a flat stereotype.
Includes so many different types of people. Some of whom are very different culturally. About 40% into the story there’s a section where **Spoilers** Delvers LLC rescues two people who were recently transported to earth by Dolos, one of whom is a hysteric hispanic woman and the other a man in drag. Instead of taking the easy path of having everyone magically accept the person in drag, the author shows a variety of logical reactions to the character. Each reaction is explained not only from an alien cultural perspective but also from the viewpoint of the main characters. Some people may not like this part of the story and I agree that it may go on a little too long. However, it makes sense within the context of the world that people pulled from different worlds would not have the same views. It doesn’t make anyone bad or good but there’s an inherent culture gap that has to be crossed if all these people are going to work together.
Great action scenes. They’re brutal, interesting, and chaotic.
New intelligence agency introduction is a little forced but I’ve read worse ways to give the main characters the information they need to advance the story. Otherwise they’d spend an entire book trying to find out who was responsible for killing their friend.
Not much happens. The main characters expand their powers a bit, we’re introduced to a few new people, there’s a section on cultural relativism, and one really big awesome battle. There are some interesting plot twist that I won’t spoil but that’s pretty much it. I was hoping for a few more battles and for the group to get a little farther than they did.
Overall, I had a good time reading Obligations Incurred. While I’d hoped for more advancement in the story it was still a good action filled read.
Score: 7 out of 10.
That’s it everyone!
You can follow us on
If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support
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