7 SF&F Literary Role Playing Game Novels to Try

NOTE: This post first appeared in the Roswell Daily Record.

January can be time for new things and I’ve decided to try reading a new-to-me genre of cyberpunk science fiction known as LitRPG.  The name stands for “Literary Role Playing Game” and is fiction combining science fiction/fantasy elements set in a world resembling a computer game, often with the characters scoring points, levelling up and having to operate within the rules of the ‘game’ they’ve found themselves in. I think it’s a nice merger of storytelling and game playing, where the reader watches the characters play but isn’t participating.

The genre has been around since 2016 (and is also sometimes known as GameLit) and is definitely on a popularity upswing, with many titles being released each week. I’ve been watching it and curious about it and so when I saw Golden Girl Gamer Book 1 by Rachel Ford, who is a favorite scifi romance author of mine, I decided to dive in. Here’s the plot: “Barbara Callaghan assumed she’d spend her retirement peacefully, playing bingo and babysitting her grandson. Not fighting giants and wrangling unruly gods. But when she finds herself the victim of a digital scam, trapped as a barbarian brawler in a game world generated from old Earth mythologies, she knows she will either adapt or perish. And Barbara has never been a quitter. To survive this harsh rendering of Midgard, Barbara must win the patronage of one of the Asgardian gods. With the help of her disloyal companion Carwyn, an elven NPC with more warrants out on him than coins in his purse, she seeks out Asgard. She discovers a world in turmoil, with powerful gods at each other’s throats, rogue giants causing chaos at every turn, and dwarven craftsmen at war with one another. A world that needs the practical, no-nonsense touch of a grandmother—and the occasional brute strength of a barbarian.”

I enjoyed the book and definitely had the feeling of being trapped in the game with Barbara. It was a quick read and ends on a successful note but of course since she’s still trapped in the game, another challenge presents itself immediately for the next book. So it’s not a cliffhanger exactly. There’s no romance and I really miss that element in my reading. There are scifi romances whose authors bring their vast experience in gaming to their plotting and while the books don’t explicitly set forth the game principles the way a LitRPG does, a reader with game familiarity can see the influence. Tiffany Roberts excels at this, as does Regine Abel.

I’ve picked out my next LitRPG adventure already – Domestication (Battle and Mage Farmer Book 1 by Seth Ring. This book which has over 5000 ratings/reviews on Amazon, is the first in a four book series. I was intrigued by the plot concept as described in the blurb, which begins thusly:  “A world on the precipice of the apocalypse. A secret forged in the flames of war. A chance to start over. For John Sutton, only one of those three things matters. Retired from a decade of brutal war, he wants nothing more than a quiet pastoral life while he does his best to stem the steady increase of his Doom Points before they hit 100, signaling the start of the end. He’s been given a small farm on the outskirts of the empire as a thanks for his service, but no matter how far he travels, it’s impossible to escape the war’s devastating effects on the world…”

Others I considered which sounded good to this scifi & fantasy fan were The Primal Hunter series by Zogarth, which stands at four books and all four have thousands of positive reviews and high ratings. The basic concept is that an ordinary office worker is suddenly plunged into an entirely new world as the universe itself levels up and he has to adapt or die. He’s on his way to becoming an apex hunter, with all kinds of adventures and challenges along the way.

The Artificer’s Chronicles by E. M. Hardy is a classic tale of a young man waiting and waiting to find out what his destiny in life will be, what skills and talents he has while all his friends seemingly advance and surpass him. Turns out he’s an Artificer and highly skilled at inventing useful new things so off he goes on adventures.

An author by the pen name of Shirtaloon has a highly regarded series going with He Who Fights Monsters and the eighth book in the series was recently released. The hero in this collection of books is a former office supplies manager who wakes up one morning in a new world with – you guessed it – all the rules and structures of a fantasy game with monsters and other creatures galore to battle. The twist here is that Jason’s powers as he acquires them and fights to survive appear to be evil in nature. (I haven’t read it yet myself so I can’t be any more informative.) Quite a few reviews mention the touches of humor in the novels as well.

Unnatural Laws (The Whispering Crystals Book One) by H. C. Mills is the first book in a four volume series featuring a female protagonist, a college student selling hot dogs at a major fan convention who gets sent into another world and must adapt to the rules and structure to survive. She’s been a gamer but it’s quite different having to actually exist inside a game and level up. From the reviews, she has an Artificial Intelligence sidekick and also finds romance along the way. This is an LGBTQ F/F romance, well reviewed.

Siphon (A touch of Power) by Jay Boyce is another LitRPG series featuring a female protagonist. Terminally ill in our world she wakes up to find herself in another place, healthy but way behind the curve on mastering the magic which rules this fantasy world. Currently there are four books available in the series.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this genre but hopefully I’ve tempted you a bit.

Most of these LitRPG books are also available as audiobooks.

Here’s hoping you don’t wake up tomorrow to find yourself trapped inside a game…!

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