What is LitRPG and GameLit?

Some people use the terms interchangeably. For most, they’re at least a little different.

  • LitRPG, at its core, involves a portal fantasy (like Chronicles of Narnia) where the other world the characters travel to is either a video game or a world with game-like elements.

    • Many books use VR (virtual reality) immersion as the means by which the characters enter the alternate game world. Some readers consider the VR trope to be overdone, and it is certainly a common theme in many series.

  • Many people give the distinction between LitRPG and GameLit to be the dependent on the amount of stats present. A novel featuring a character sheet and stat changes in each chapter would be LitRPG. Heavy use of stats is considered to be ‘crunchy’ (think about crunching numbers). A book set in a game with little or no stats would be considered GameLit.

  • What types of LitRPG exist? There are many, many different sub-genres, and the definitions people use for them can change. Here’s a basic rundown of the types:

    • Crunchy = lots of stats

    • No-logout = the character has little to no interaction with Earth

    • “OP” = the term can refer to the main character or others in the story, but it always stands for ‘over powered’ meaning the character is far beyond the strength / power level of other characters

    • Dungeoncore = the main character is an actual dungeon luring adventurers in to be killed

    • Dungeon-builder = the main character runs a dungeon and manages the development

    • Town / Settlement-builder = the main character runs a town or starts a new settlement and manages the development

    • Crafting = the main theme throughout the story revolves around crafting. The usual suspects are blacksmithing, enchanting, and other fantasy professions

    • Grimdark = elements of horror throughout the story

    • Harem = the main theme of the story revolves around romance or erotica. Many harem stories feature a single male main character surrounded by 10+ women who repeatedly have sex with the main character

    • LitFPS = instead of the typical epic fantasy setting, the story is more sci-fi and follows a modernized or futuristic character. ‘FPS’ stands for first person shooter

    • NPC = not a novel categorization at all, but a relatively standard term that’s present in most LitRPG stories. It stands for non-player character, typically meaning a game character created within the game and run by artificial intelligence or code

  • Other categories and designations exist, many in regards to setting (like cyberpunk or sci-fi, for instance), and the choices are nearly limitless. Let’s take a look at 3 different series and the keywords associated with them:


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Killstreak

An epic fantasy setting with no logout. If you’ve never read LitRPG before, this is a good place to start. If you like playing games similar to Skyrim, World of Warcraft, or Assassin’s Creed, you love Killstreak.

The characters exist in a game-like world where everyone has stats and gains experience points, and only some of them are from Earth originally. Part of the main character’s quest involves trying to understand and possibly reverse whatever it was that took him to Agglor, the game world.

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Forsaken Talents

A grimdark LitRPG with lots of dungeon building and town management. If you like playing games similar to Civilization, Starcraft, Warcraft, or any tower defense games, you’ll love Forsaken Talents.

The characters in Forsaken Talents voluntarily enter a game world with their own physical bodies, very unlike the standard VR tropes. Things take a rather immediate turn for the worst, and lots of horror elements are brought into the story. Throughout the main character’s transformation, he also becomes extremely evil.

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Realm Online

A portal fantasy LitRPG where the main character is accidentally summoned to the game world by an NPC.

The main character in Realm Online is the only person from Earth who exists inside the game, and he must adapt to the world in order to survive. He does not know if death in the game means he will die on Earth or if there is any way to get back home.

While Realm Online is most certainly not a harem novel, it has a couple erotic scenes.