What's a good definition of LitRPG?

Discussion in 'All Things LitRPG' started by Conor Kostick, May 17, 2017.

  1. Matthew James

    Matthew James Blind Beholder Beta Reader Citizen

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    Well I'm pretty sure the 2 rants (the first post was made separate from the next two) was more of a reaction to specific stuff brought up in the newer posts and not necessarily meant to take on the rest of what the previous posters arrived at for their definition of LitRPG before more recent contributions. A definition which is a vast improvement over what it was before, but that I think can't be hurt by hammering away at the topic to provide a larger umbrella for the genre. Because right now with the current def the "Meta Aware" perspective relegates the least game-like portalworld stories that an author themselves might consider LitRPG to a fantasy, sci-fi, or science fantasy definition.

    Games of the future meant to provide a zero UI environment with todays game "Query" features built into game-play, would literally be indiscernable from fantasy in a medieval setting with a world traveling protagonist possessed of a "Modern Perspective." Any sufficiently advanced and immersive gaming experience becomes a non-game... which isn't the case at all. Stories that explicitly take place within a Game World aren't LitRPG according to Ramon Mejia because of "implied game mechanics", and in part that failure of too-simple definition used by Ramon and others comes about because of a "jump" in logic that isn't even supported by the RPG game worlds they love. Take a look at any RPG games cutscenes compared to its gameplay, and of course there are going to be differences between both the quality of the character movements and the detail of the environment. Most noticeably missing from every cutscene example that I can think of are floating numbers and unnatural turn based combat, as our RPG game mechanics are meant to provide an experience approximately fun and thrilling to that available in a reality where such player actions were actually possible. Ramon and others like their gameplay descriptions with floating numbers, or viewable damage available for review in a UI window.

    Diablo 2 for example doesn't have floating numbers, but it does have a separate window showing weapon damage and player stats, a # based character sheet that makes a characters swings more than "implied" game like modifications upon a players choices and outcomes at every pre-programmed point of interaction between them and the game world. As games become more advanced, the relevant information to be derived from such a window becomes exponential, and adding "Game Physics" to the mix, like pushing a boulder off a ledge onto a monster, doesn't mean a flat amount of damage will occur or that a one hit KO will occur, actual physics comes into play checked against a monsters arbitrary game granted boons and weaknesses inherent to their design. The same physics modify player results with weapon swings, armor defense limits, and character traits: most importantly in Diablo, those are all linked to a character's health, "energy", and stamina in a reciprocal way. However a player in Diablo 2 using fire-balls in a jungle hut won't burn down the monster village they're fighting in, but a player in D&D or a VR game might burn down the wooden inn they're fighting in if a player jumps behind the bar and uses improvised spirit filled bottle throws (assuming the DM doesn't nix the attempt by saying, the enchanted bottle full of precious dwarven fire water does not break) to amplify an allies fire attacks, or to cause a blinding explosion from the fireplace.

    Implied game mechanics give way to unimplied results: we know what has happened because of an action, we just don't perhaps know the exact Fire Marshall breakdown of the Inn Fire during the vampire raid. If such game elements like fire can be manipulated by a player using literally their mind and a developed "mental muscle" technique for game mechanics, then that isn't much different from a fantasy story fire magician performing the exact same feat to suppress the Inn fire or to limit its spread while using the wooden villages limited resource as a force multiplier and mana saving boon. Making wooden floors and furniture a part of a fire-magician enclaves culture, to keep intact stone walls while burning invaders, is incredibly game like and logical, but also the same logic that could be used in an interesting fantasy world. Except we can be told its a game world when its a game, but we can't be told the same about a Portal World story meant to be LitRPG but with futuristic VR game mechanics: except by accepting implied game mechanics and tropes (of the future) as equally game-like as todays floating numbers.

    I believe in this thread (or another) I've posted that I consider there to be LitRPG, and LitRPG Lore. Two equal splits between the genre overall and both meant to inform the "Games" genre which may someday soon exist. Life & Death Stakes are what I consider the big divide between the two literary subgenres, and a story like Sword Art Online can utilize the same mechanics for a story with life and death stakes in 3 different games with very different results (won't post spoilers here, but the L&D rules change in every story), while also having stories in the same universe without Life & Death Stakes which are actual game stories. LitRPG where participation in a game-like world can kill a player permanently is what I consider LitRPG Lore, because only its game mechanics, story, and environment could inform an actual game title based on the theme in a "meta-reality", this is true of all games where permanent death results in a respawn from the last save point. If a game were made about Westworld then the stakes from the game obviously wouldn't translate to real life, even if stakes could be made to be disastrous for a gameover, and so the only way Westworld which starts out with a simulated environment could become LitRPG after all the "rules" of the simulation are cast off, is for the game to take place in a "meta game world" while the story itself is relayed in a realistic way, like a games cutscenes: making Westworld potentially (based on its creators desires) LitRPG Lore.

    Maybe describing what I consider LitRPG Lore as "Cutscene Stories" might work better, but I'm aiming for accuracy... or accurately aiming if eventually others agree with my opinions... which is a bit circular and very much a case of winning the argument to win the crowd. Which doesn't really mean I'll have accomplished my goal of making my own vaporware stories qualify as LitRPG.

    cont in next post......
     
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  2. Matthew James

    Matthew James Blind Beholder Beta Reader Citizen

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    cont...

    All that stuff I wrote about zero-player games is justifying an aimless simulated world with game options within it as a Game World rather than a simulation, though it still needs to be cleaned up. It might seem like a meaningless designation, but within a games "Meta-reality" we already accept a lot of things like save-point respawns, and forests that don't burn down. Because the "fun" is an approximation of an experience that could only be thrilling and frustrating if lived in reality. A lot of what we consider fun in a game would be less so in a fully realized game world with 1:1 experiences of pain, which is why I consider stories with such features as LitRPG Lore, as its unrealistic to think that people want to experience fully having their genitals maimed or being eaten alive. That right now there is an audience for such work doesn't mean anyone would want to play that shit. It also doesn't mean such games wouldn't be possible in places where the law didn't touch. But recognizing that salient point would be relegating stories to "realistic" categories and "unrealistic" ones, and the realistic ones are by virtue of their fuddy-duddy PTSD preventing methods boring and bureaucratic. Factoring in real world monetary connections with all these stories and anything accurately done for an international game (like implementing in game lottery systems connected to certain countries having to be regulated by those countries gambling laws) will result in explanations that only a bureaucratic futurist could love. "Tell me about the future!" becomes "Tell me more about your times annals starting with my time!" Our time being the logical point of "orientation" for an author interested in realism, and which is an orietnation that will most often always be wide of the mark in a lot of ways.

    Including our current interest in Augmented Reality.

    Recently Michael Phelps raced a virtual shark (with zero interaction between himself & the simulated swimmer), but in the future augmented reality might make it so athletes could perform actual game-like feats in a watery arena with a great white. Enhancing both strict sports and providing entertainment if intelligence or cunning allowed players to succeed or fail. There is a book called The Devils Teeth which features a bay area diver who collects from a thriving untapped urchin population found at the Farallon Islands, which was well known at the time of the writing for being host to previously mentioned great white sharks, and untapped for the same reason. In the story the diver hides beneath his cages while a female great white repeatedly "tests" him, eventually leaving him alone, though he describes the shark as toying with him. By combining spectators with an "augmented" perspective, and combining tools and terrain to survive a shark attack, a game could be made to feature simulated shark attacks on players who have to collect urchins for a grand prize.

    Perfectly implementing such a game in reality might be more tricky than doing so in a Virtual Simulation, but as of today the hurdle for the VR game of the same scenario remains the more popular (and farther off) option as opposed to actual reality through a lens. The desires of LitRPG fans who have made stories featuring VR rather than Augmented Reality more popular aren't surprising, as until recently AR games weren't considered an intermediate step between the games of today and the games of the future. Except Michael Phelps racing sharks got us data on one of the best human swimmers on the planet compared to one of the oceans most prolific species of carnivores. VR and Portal World LitRPG stories insisting that we use overt and non-implied game mechanics haven't resulted in any story element that I could see being implemented in a future game or even in a current "meta reality" title, because in my opinion there is a "leap" in writers and readers views about game systems. One not supported by games cutscenes, nor supported by the earliest literary D&D successors, Guardians of the Flame & Quag Keep (not sure if thats the spelling) that would qualify as LitRPG if not for the fact that they fail to adhere to the standard made decades after their appearance. Both stories meant to approximate a game system limited by imagination and DMs moods. (That enchanted bottle thing was realistic but totally bullshit call!)

    Designer Limitations in regards to game physics and their own imaginations, and the moods of the game managers and players, will remain the larger part of what informs the games of the future, and its why AR is now on our radar. Even if AR is considered a fluke and totally adjacent move in the future.

    So this isn't any more bite sized than anything I've written before, but if its equally a turn off compared to my rants, then I can't really help that.
     
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  3. VRRanger

    VRRanger Level 12 (Rogue) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I am very interested in your boiled down summary and conclusion. I was not able to quite make it through all 10 pages of awesome discourse due to my own fallacies. That's ok, I will just attempt a restart here :)
    As a table top gamer and a dabbler in dungeon mastery I prefer this definition:
    1) A LitRPG shall, involve a story or character, that exists in a game world or world with obviously stated game mechanics. Ie: damage notifications, status screens, stats, health/mana bars, etc.
    2) A LitRPG shall, the character must progress in some obviously stated way. Ie: levels, skills, abilities, notifications, ranks, etc.

    I do see on the internet it being defined as as the below.
    LitRPG is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy which describes the hero's adventures within an online computer game. LitRPGbooks merge traditional book-style narration with elements of a gaming experience, describing various quests, achievements and other events typical of a video game.

    I like to think of it as the author choosing to set their world either online or in a 'real' world guided by game mechanics.
    Cool Conversation
     
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  4. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member Shop Owner LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Is that Kong's definition? Seems too strict to me!!
     
  5. VRRanger

    VRRanger Level 12 (Rogue) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    lol, apparently :) I didn't realize that it was a Kong specific site but I can't find the definition referenced anywhere else, and boy I'm trying :)
    https://www.litrpg.com/litrpgbooks
    Don't want to restrict it at all; just don't want to constrict it to a video game reality :)
     
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  6. VRRanger

    VRRanger Level 12 (Rogue) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    And I appear to overuse smiley faces on my posts...gonna have to learn how to use GIF's.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member Shop Owner LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    You're about to level-up! ;)
     
  8. Matthew James

    Matthew James Blind Beholder Beta Reader Citizen

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    Quoting myself, "Ramon and others like their gameplay descriptions with floating numbers, or viewable damage available for review in a UI window." I just made another post in the stakes / consequences thread, and I said there what I'll say here, I just disagree this is how things are going to pan out, and I could be totally wrong.

    I don't have a problem everything said before the ie. in both those examples, its the examples themselves I think are the constraints. My boiled down LitRPG definition isn't that much different from the one the others came up with before I came in here with all my home grown ideas from LitRPG purgatory where I thought I was alone. However I have a definition for writers, creators, and superfans, split between LitRPG & LitRPG Lore, for the average reader and enjoyer of well written material they don't really give a shit what genre something is unless it can introduce them to similar novels. For the people that don't make crazy long posts about LitRPG, the imperfect genre description won't become something that bugs them until it becomes something that bugs them, because then they'll have become rabid crazies like the rest of us.

    I can say what my definition does help to clarify what can be claimed as LitRPG and provides a criteria for placing stories: and thats different perspectives (and how they are used and the limitations on them), different "real" game world settings (those that are portal worlds and those that are totally separated from our reality, which feeds into perspective in a big way), and the necessity for todays gaming features of health and mana bars etc. in tommorrows games.

    Honeslty I've typed more around here about that last subject than I do in my "short" summary and in my book. In a more biased way as well because around here I'm both laying out my case and trying to put the argument back on the backs of those who want to keep the genre in deadlock with features that the games and movies they watch don't support as the ultimate result of full immersion. In the book I carry the weight of both, which is the bullshit condition that has made the book necessary in the first place.
     
  9. David

    David Level 2 (Initiate) Citizen

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    Second Life, is a non traditional MMORPG without the "roll of a dice". The Game is Life series by Terry Schott, is also classed as LitRPG.

    If you think like dinosaurs, you'll die like dinosaurs (substitute dinosaurs with king Kong)...
     
  10. Matthew Sylvester

    Matthew Sylvester Level 7 (Cutpurse) Roleplaying LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Yup, I've always wondered how they viewed Second Life as they've only chosen SOME MMORPGs to model their description on. Which, as you say, is going to see their books getting very dated, very quickly.
     
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  11. bwakul

    bwakul Level 3 (Apprentice) Citizen

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    Would anyone be interested in working together to imorove the current Wikipedia entry?

    There was a recent discussion on facebook about the fact that the entry was being used for self promotion and the Wikipedia editors had noted some more improvements that should be made.

    After that discussion someone deleted an offending paragraph that listed North American "top tier" authors in the genre based on goodreads and amazon reviews. This seems somewhat subjective and is neither based on good sales data nor us it inclusive.

    So, does anyone have exoerience with editing Wikioedia and/or have knowledge of the historical development of the genre worldwide?
     
  12. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member Shop Owner LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    As someone who has financial stake, I don't want to be involved, but...

    https://litrpgreads.com/what-is-litrpg

    ...that has some info on the early days. Also talk to @Matthew James who has a non-fiction LitRPG book coming out sometime.

    For others ... have at it!

    ::PAL::
     
  13. bwakul

    bwakul Level 3 (Apprentice) Citizen

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    Great link! Who runs that website? A fan or author?
     
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  14. Matthew James

    Matthew James Blind Beholder Beta Reader Citizen

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    Paul gave you a link to his own stuff, check his sig and you'll see the forums and LitRPG Reads are both his sites ;)

    If my book was just the definition of LitRPG it would be way shorter. But still way longer than the current wiki.

    I've tackled the handling of game information (those crunchy combat logs and game prompts & ui interactions that some people require for a story to be LitRPG), a little on NPCs and how different game world settings and genre themes affect their inclusion, a chapter I just butchered in editing on role-playing & participation (which drive the story), the perspectives of the characters and audience reactions is really the only place I deviate from the definition that was made by Conor and others in this thread.

    Instead of requiring Meta-Awareness (the awareness of game-like features) I include meta-awareness as one of several narrative views that can lead to different audience reactions. I use Westworld as the example for this, a Host that doesn't know they are a Host reacts as though their experience of reality is authentic. A Host that is aware of their status as a Host, or just that the world isn't what it seems, has become Meta-Aware. The park guests, technicians, and Westworld support staff are all technically Meta-Aware, but there is no game-like reality for them as there is for the Hosts that are part of the simulation and whom also have simulated humanity.

    So there are different degrees of meta-awareness, different degrees of participation & role playing (GMs and game devs who work on Game Patches would be the MMO Version of Westworld staff, guests would be the players who participate in the simulation with simulated props that affect Hosts differently than humans, Hosts functioning properly are NPCs), and the audiences reactions to all of it from multiple perspectives provides the sort of narrative perspective that defines the story. The audience sympathizes with the Hosts, judges the Westworld guests, and gets to watch as characters reveal the truth of whats going on.

    Stories that I call "LitRPG Lore" are those that have stakes that wouldn't fit into a game type that is likely to get mass appeal today, nor in any future that resembles the current realities of gamers in the First World. So the malfunctioning AI of the human-like Hosts in Westworld would make a LitRPG story more Sci-Fi than game story, and in order for it to remain LitRPG, it would have to change the setting from a real world exactly like Westworld to one that was only a meta-themed game based on the amusement park without life and death stakes. Also without rape and torture, murder might still be acceptable role playing but the requirement of realistic psychic agony on the part of the Hosts would reduce the likelihood of its societal acceptance: or require a reduction in how real the Hosts appeared.

    Thus to keep a LitRPG story as Sci-Fi it needs to become LitRPG Lore - which requires that it remain game-like. The conditions of the simulation couldn't be entirely thrown off, as once that were the case the only thing game-like about Westworld would be the AIs simulated humanity, and its commercial viability would be impossible if the themes written into the story, like sympathy for the Hosts and judgement of the participants, persisted into the future and made a Westworld park impossible with societal acceptance.

    I call pretty much anything other than commercially plausible game worlds "Lore" titles. Because they could either inform a meta-themed game world exactly like the reality of a portal world or LitRPG fantasy/sci-fi story, or because the story is purely fantasy or sci-fi and informs an already existing IP or one that the author intends to base on the "pure" story. The latter example being literally game lore stories similar to in-game cut scenes, or "game adaptation" novels. So I'm of the opinion that for the author or distributors convenience, game lore novels that represent the purest form of what game worlds are meant to represent should be included in LitRPG. I justify that with "sports apparel" being classified as clothing, but clearly and intrinsically related to a sport to those who are aware of what they are looking at when they see a jersey, base-ball cap, or soccer shorts.

    Because of the degrees of Meta-Awareness, there are no easy definitions of LitRPG, and the requirement of it cuts out Game Adaptations and NPC perspectives meant to inform the audience about the true reality of a story (as with scenes from Westworld that only included Hosts): so I have two definitions of LitRPG, one for regular LitRPG, and one for LitRPG Lore. The one for LitRPG Lore is closer to a commercial / author definition that is perhaps too indiscriminate, and I know its absolute heresy to the "LitRPG Community" and their standard. My LitRPG definition is pretty much cribbed from the one Conor came up with but with "perspective" in place of meta-awareness.

    edit: at the top of page 4 in this thread is an old post of mine on what I consider the 3 main keys of LitRPG.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
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  15. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member Shop Owner LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Both! ;)

    Thanks.

    ::PAL::
     
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  16. Dangerhouse

    Dangerhouse Level 8 (Thug) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    LitRPG, as a genre to me, is a sports story where the sport is a virtual game.

    That could mean it's like Rollerball, where the sport is deadly. Or Rudy, where the MC is joining the big leagues to prove himself. The important thing is that the story focus is on how the characters interact with the game, and takes place at least partially in that game. For any sport to be a sport, it needs defined rules, goals, and stakes. Otherwise it's not really a game.
     
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  17. VRRanger

    VRRanger Level 12 (Rogue) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I like this definition. Well stated...makes me think of my novel in terms of it and what meshes and what doesn't. It also isn't set as a mandate, more a state of being....
     
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  18. Michael Lyre

    Michael Lyre Level 5 (Veteran) Citizen

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    I'm a brand spankin' new member, and an unpublished writer, but I do a lot of work in the indie fiction publishing biz (editing, submission reading, covers, and a few other things), so I'm not a complete greenhorn, I've read through about 1 third to a half of this awesome thread, so I've had the benefit of a lot of y'all's careful thought and discussion on the issue already.

    It may be useful to consider the definition form another angle. It's hard to cover every possible angle that any author may come at the genre from, but it seems easier to cover everything from the angle of the reader. I'll just throw this thought on the definition out there and see if it's worth tossing around:

    LitRPG is a genre in which the reader is made aware, at some point during the story, whether in the beginning or in the end, that the MC or MC's are experiencing both life in their actual world and in an RPG world.

    I'll consider if there's any situation which this definition doesn't cover, but I'm sure others will throw in as they see fit.
     
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  19. Yuli Ban

    Yuli Ban Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    After reading several books in the genre, my contribution might as well be: LitRPG is not just "sword and sorcery with stats". That was actually my own misconception going into it as well when I first heard about it and skimmed some covers way back in May (hell, around the time this forum got its start). Though I love the setting, I never really played the old-school High Fantasy RPGs so I felt as if I'd have no connection to a genre where every cover seemed to be screaming 'New Wave of High/Epic Fantasy'. I think a lot of incoming people get hung up on the "RPG" part, think back to all the RPGs they've ever heard of, and invariably come back to Dungeons and Dragons.

    And don't get me wrong, that's definitely a very fantastic starting point (don't start with the puns), but for any who are glancing over these threads wondering how to get started, don't limit yourself to ripping off/novelizing Dungeons and Dragons. Not unless that's what you desire to do the most. The reason why it's such a popular concept in LitRPG is because the High Fantasy setting has dominated RPGs, MMORPGs, MUDs, Roguelikes, et al, and it does so for good reason considering that classes are much clearer in High Fantasy/pseudomedieval settings. There are already perfected standards for RPGs based on fantasy, so if you wish to go into writing LitRPG, choosing a standard fantasy setting is the easiest since much of the work has been done for you. You just can't actually copy said systems lest you want to meet a girl named Sue Lawyer.

    And I think that's another thing that's got a few people angry at "barely-LitRPG" stories— compared to my previous outings in romance where you either hit the beats or got beaten to death like Guitar Hero on Expert+, LitRPG is a genre that's all but fueled by creativity. The most popular works in the genre all break the mold in some major way. So while you're expected to use video game tropes, you can't be too stock with it.


    When it comes to the setting of one's game world, try thinking as a game developer before you think as a writer. It doesn't matter what your world is like— whether there are elves, dwarves, imps, merchants, robots, constructs, aliens, mutants, cyborgs, transhumans, etc.— if you create it first as a literary world and then try forcing it to conform to the standards of a video game. Come up with your story first by imagining it as a video game. Imagine coming up with the ideas on how to make it work. Then imagine the story as it relates to that game.

    Because do you think Chrono Trigger would have been anywhere near as amazing if the plot didn't complement gameplay and vice versa? ProJared did a video a while ago mentioning all this, echoing my sentiments almost exactly.

    Already ahead of you.
     
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  20. Seagrim

    Seagrim Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    This is where it helps to have been or to be an active tabletop gamer. In my times of gaming, I've played, Toon, Gamma World, Rolemaster, Spacemaster, Champions, Gurps, Cyberpunk 2012, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020, Villains and Vigilantes, AD&D, Car Wars, Battletech, Robotech, Rifts, Mekton Zeta, Star Trek, Renegade Nuns on Wheels and Tales from the Floating Vagabond. That doesn't include several homebrew games with house rules.

    The average Gamer has so many personalities, it's fun.

    Yes, I'm a Grognard and I have dice older than some of you kids.
     
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