Obsidian Portal – Thursday Feature – You Got Gaming In My Anime

Author: ChainsawXIV

Aside from being things that normals put in the “kids’ stuff” category, tabletop RPGs and anime don’t appear to have a lot in common, so right about now you may be asking yourself, “Self, why is there a blog post about anime on Obsidian Portal?”

The answer to that question is actually pretty simple: anime has been hugely influenced by games over the years, and has ended up with some pretty valuable lessons to teach us about how we organize our games, build our game worlds, and go about telling our stories. Free of physical constraints on action, characters, and setting, it’s in anime that traditional linear entertainment runs closest to the metal of the dynamic, imaginative stories we tell around the gaming table.

If I set out to list off fantastical anime with settings and events you might find in your tabletop game, we’d be here all night as I went through a list of practically all the anime ever made, so instead let’s look at a select few of those that have been most closely touched by games.

Everything is better with elves. (Video: Record of the Lodoss War)

First on this list must inevitably be the classic Record of the Lodoss War. This fantasy adventure was actually written first as a system-agnostic setting for pen and paper RPGs, and is noteworthy as much for motivation as anything else. If an RPG setting background could get turned into an animated classic in 1990, imagine where your own work could go in the future…


Hand me my number seven rod, if you please. (Video: The Tower of Druaga)

But from there we’ll skip forward almost 20 years to 2008’s Tower of Druaga. Not because there weren’t any gaming inspired shows in those two decades – there were, shows like Berserk and Bastard!! certainly fit the bill – but because it marks the appearance of an ongoing trend of shows that are almost but not quite aware they take place inside a game.

Watching the series and its 2009 second season, it’s easy to see the dungeon crawling adventure come to life here. You can even spot some classic gamer archetypes, like the guy who can’t quite get in character and insists that his wizard plays golf, and one of his party members is his caddy.


Every floor of that is a whole dungeon. Have fun getting to the top. (Video: Sword Art Online)

After a few more years, this line of thinking transformed itself yet again, emerging from its cocoon in the form of series which literally take place inside games. Most notable of these are Sword Art Online, and Log Horizon, both of which follow the adventures of players trapped inside their own game – the former focusing on the character drama, while the later gives more attention to the world building and the adventurers’ impact on the game world itself.


Having lost her kingdom in a card game notwithstanding… (Video: No Game No Life)

These literal adventure game series are complemented on the other side by shows like No Game No Life, and The Problem Children Are Coming From Another Planet, which instead follow people transplanted from the “real” world into settings which – rather than being games themselves, are ruled by games and their outcomes.


The Icons, From Left: The Knight, The Hero, The Demon Queen. Awkward. (Video: Maoyu)

There are ultimately countless anime out there which are inspired by games and can provide inspiration for your games in turn – like Maoyu, for example, which started as a play written on a forum and ended up as something 13th Age players may find oddly familiar – so find a show that sounds like fun, and check it out. With any luck you’ll be entertained, and you might just find your next adventure idea or character concept along the way.

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