Fantasy, as we know it, is an ever-evolving genre. It’s wild, sprawling, and impossible to pin down for any length of time. It’s the beauty of the genre.
At the present, though, I believe we’re seeing a relatively unique evolution in progress.
In recent years, the genre of LitRPG has exploded on the indie and small press scene – and is now reaching into traditional publishing and media. For those that don’t know LitRPG, there are a bunch of definitions, but the one that’s always helped me is this: LitRPG is any story where the characters go into a video game OR the story takes place in a game world OR the story takes place in a world where game logic and mechanics replace physics.
As with the definition of all genres, exactly what is and is not LitRPG is hotly debated. For the sake of this piece, though, I just want to focus on the mechanics aspect of the genre and how it’s affecting Fantasy. (If you’d like a longer genre definition, check this link.)
Hard magic systems – where magic has solid, set-in-stone rules – is nothing new to Fantasy. Think of Brandon Sanderson’s work. LitRPG often follows a similar system, seeing as the magic in those stories is a product of the mechanics of the game world.
Lately, I’ve noticed a rise in what a lot of us in the industry call “Progression Fantasy,” but what I suspect a lot of readers know only as Fantasy. To me, what’s interesting about this sub-genre (or sub-sub-genre?) is that it borrows a lot of rules about its magic systems from LitRPG mechanics. In a way, it feels very much like its merging the best of both genres. You take LitRPG’s rock-solid mechanics that govern spellcasting, and mix it with Fantasy’s incredible world-building and climactic stakes. The result? A satisfying new form of Fantasy where we can visibly track the protagonist progressing and becoming stronger, while exploring an exciting and vast fantasy world.
Obviously, there’s more to progression fantasy than the small sliver I’ve touched on here, but in this respect at least, I think the sub-genre is a beautiful mix of its two forebears.
Once again, Fantasy evolves and adapts with the times – a trait that keeps it forever timeless.
Alex Knight’s latest audiobook, Rise to Glory is out now, published by Audible in North America and in the UK. Here’s the synopsis:
Welcome to The Glory — the world’s biggest VR tournament.
In front of millions of viewers, teams compete in a battle royale where they clear dungeons, complete quests and slay other players in a race to score the most points.
The winners are instant celebrities, and it’s time Bash the Berserker joined their ranks. One win away from going pro, his dreams of fame, fortune and that iced coffee sponsorship are finally coming true…until he’s kicked off his team mere hours before registrations close.
With everything on the line, Bash manages to cobble together a new rag-tag team. A washed-up semi-pro who hates his guts, a talented analyst who’s never actually competed and a streamer whose ego is only surpassed by her love of throwing swords.
Oh, and if they want to earn their glory, Bash will have to trade in his war hammer and play as a three-foot-tall, tree-hugging elf…