March 5th 2018

Some of you may have noticed that OGMA is peppered with little references to RPG mechanics. The idea of quests, little numbers representing health lost when damage is taken, and so on. All of that can be blamed squarely on my fondness for a relatively new genre called LitRPG or GameLit. Basically, stories built around worlds that follow game mechanics.

It started gaining steam in Russia, and in the last few years it's hit its stride in North America. A lot of the stories revolve around characters who interact in virtual reality, though there are some other variations that don't quite follow this trope. Either way, I've been listening to them on audiobook for a few years now, and it's really seeped into a lot of what I create.

Since (I assume) you guys enjoy OGMA, we figured you might also appreciate some of the books I've particularly enjoyed in this genre. Keep in mind that my personal recommendations only represent a narrow slice of what's out there - and since the genre is primarily driven by indie, self-published authors, there's new titles coming out all the time (both good and... not so good).

My personal taste leans towards stories that focus on the interactions of the characters, working through whatever problems they may have in their own lives, against the backdrop of a much more fantastic and adventurous world. It's the juxtaposition of someone just like one of us and their alternate selves that really gets me going, and I like books that balance both sides. On the flipside, I'm not as fond of books that focus too much on the quests the players follow inside the game as the primary driver of events.

Because I've enjoyed these titles so much, I really want to do everything I can to support these authors. You'll see banners for my personal recommendations displayed every now and then on the right side (if you've got ads visible). I've listed the same titles below as well, along with a brief description of what I like about them.

Happy reading (or listening),

Continue Online

Stephan Morse

Continue Online is a story about a middle aged man who's managed to keep moving (if only just) after losing what was most dear to him. It isn't until he's effectively forced try out an immersive virtual reality mmorpg that he gradually learns to start living again.

I'm not sure why or how, but this one - especially the first book, "Memories" - really touched me. It was definitely on the slower end, but it had this gentleness to it that felt like being wrapped in a warm cloak while being taken on, for lack of a better word, a mild adventure. People say that it picks up afterwards (the series consists of 5 books), and it certainly does. That first one though... It's hard to beat.

The Dark Herbalist

Michael Atamanov

This story had a habit of making me feel extremely clever through the actions of the protagonist. He's made to test out the viability of weird race/class combinations in an extremely popular vrmmorpg, and his employment and ultimately his survival (as well as that of his game-savvy sister) depends on it.

I think rather than the main character, it was the resourcefulness of his younger sister that I found to be the most engaging. In general, I felt a great deal of attachment to these characters - even the NPCs, who in most stories I'll find flat and uninteresting.

Atamanov does a great job here of capturing the special rush of player-versus-player conflict. I think that's one of the best things about LitRPG - it strikes a balance between a self contained fantasy (or in other cases, sci-fi) world but somehow balances it against the inevitable idiocy of other players. Rather than breaking the immersion, it turns the whole setting into something new and engaging.

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