The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor is a Korean light novel written by Nam Hi-Sung (남희성). Due to its incredible popularity, it was then adapted into a manhwa, illustrated by Kim Tae-Hyung.
At the moment, the series has over 50 volumes that are being translated by a variety of different translation groups on and off. The manhwa has been adapted into three seasons thus far. Season One consists of chapters 1 to 52 adapting up to the 7th chapter of Volume 2. Season Two consists of chapters 53 to 117 adapting up to the 4th chapter of Volume 5, and Season Three consists of chapters 118+ continuing beyond where the previous season left off.
Lee-Hyun, the protagonist of the story, is a stingy, greedy, but hardworking young man suffering a life of poverty and debt after the untimely death of his parents. Forced to work throughout his childhood and adolescence, he's gone through a rough lifestyle that has made him completely devoted towards making money to take care of his sister and sickly grandmother. This dedication to profit was also reflected through his one hobby, an immensely popular game known as "Continent of Magic", where his in-game character "Weed" rose through sheer grinding to become the most well known and feared.
Lee-Hyun's luck begins to turn around however on his 18th birthday, where his decision to auction off his Continent of Magic character in a Real Money Trade and focus on working (now that he can do it legally), sparks a bidding war that concludes at 3,090,000,000 won (about 3,000,000 usd). While most of his earnings go to Loan Sharks to finally pay off the last of his family's debts, Lee-Hyun realizes he can use online gaming to fund his family's future, and soon jumps into the new virtual reality game known as "Royal Road" to build up the legacy of "Weed" once again.
Unfortunately once again for Weed, his initial plan to get rich by gaining a legendary hidden class soon gets him stuck with the "Moonlight Sculptor" class, as "art" classes are famous for being terrible at gold farming of pretty much all types. Undeterred, Weed vows to grind twice as hard, hunting for hours on end, practicing production skills of all types, and do whatever it takes to make even one more gold coin.
Thus begins the adventures of Weed, The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor.
This series provides examples of:
- Anti-Hero: Weed walks the thin line between this and being a Pragmatic Hero, as while he's somewhat well meaning, he's also driven by a near infinite greed, and generally only sees being "good" as useful tool to trick people into helping him get more wealth.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Averted. While there are a number of girls crushing on Lee Hyun (even though they are aware he's a money grubbing miser and a scammer), the reason they like him is because despite his bad qualities he's the ultimate family man who's willing to sacrifice anything for his loved ones, knows how to cook, clean, repair appliances and houses, and do all other household chores, and is always ready to help his friends in a pinch.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: In-Universe; his fame as Weed and notoriety as Lee Hyun give way to this:
- Weed is at first seen as a Non-Action Guy and Jack-of-All-Trades; he's trying to keep his combat mastery a secret to prevent the horde of enemies that would go after him.
- Later, depending who you ask, he is either an Omnicidal Maniac or The Paragon. The Non Player Characters in particular venerate him due to his reputation and selfless acts even if most of those acts are just him pretending to be a good samaritan.
- Regularly played for laughs as well, as Weed's close friends are regularly shown figuring out among each other just how the latest altruistic action everyone is praising Weed for is clearly actually a plot to trick the massses out of money, loot or free work.
- Artificial Intelligence: In a rare example, AI control each and every NPC in the game, and yet this trope is not a plot device. AI is merely to create a world that is as real and living as possible. The concept is non-intrusively explored at many moments.
- Weed treats the AIs just as he would any other player... whether with a silver tongue as a Manipulative Bastard, or with a rough hand as The Dreaded.
- The entire game's contents are run exclusively by the game's goddess-like AI. Unicorn does not even manage the game directly, as the AI does this for them. The AI is not shown to have any agenda other than the game and AI's creator's goal: to find/create an emperor of the game's continent. This may explain why many different barely mentioned characters and Weed himself are given quests that oddly steer them towards creating or aiding an emperor ship no matter their previous playing background, for example, sculpting.
- Multiple times, the game, because of its AI, is remarked as allowing any skill or play style to become a player skill; the game's overarching AI seems to allow or sometimes aggressively drive players towards enhancing their capabilities, even when the player's behavior would otherwise hurt their chances at progress.
- Seoyoon is a mute solo-player which would otherwise hurt her chances of leveling. Instead, she finds herself with the berserker class, which combined with her play style enables her to play alone. At some point her lonely play style and odd sense of empathy for both monsters and animals leads her to be given a skill to talk with animals.
- Weed is a solo-player who is overly-suspicious of all other players. He won't join a guild for help in completing truly large quests, but the game seems to leave hidden ways for players like Weed who take complete advantage of everything the game has given them to succeed in these quests.
- Back from the Dead: As a reward for completing an epic serial-quest, Weed unlocks the Necromancer class for players, and is rewarded with a high-level, as of yet unknown power called "The Power to Reject Death" "What it does", you ask?
- Badass Crew/ Badass Army: Geomchi's dojo, 500 martial artists training in the way of the sword who only joined the game so they'd have somewhere to test their skills without getting in trouble with law enforcement.
- Badass Normal : Lee Hyun is this in real life due to extensive martial arts training. Weed starts out as this in the game until he gets his unique profession with its extra perks. Also, Geomchi.
- Battlecry: Lion's Roar, a skill Weed gains from completing the Beginner Training Hall. It is decent for scaring off weaker monster, but it really shines in large-scale battles, where it boosts his comrades and pushes Weed's leadership stats through the roof, allowing him to command entire armies.
- The Berserker : Seoyoon has the Berserker class, which makes her stronger and stronger the longer she fights, and gives greater and greater buffs the lower her health becomes, until she's become a completely uncontrollable killing machine.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: Most, if not all of the portrayed battle sequences, such as weed and 500 swordfighters rushing an army of the dead and two reanimated dragon corpses on the roof of a fortress.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing : If Lee Hyun / Weed is being nice to you, and you are not his family or one of his close friends, you better get ready for being ripped off, exploited and then discarded at his earliest convenience... assuming he doesn't decide he wants to exploit you even more later. And the worst part? You probably won't even notice until after the fact.
- Blood Knight: Weed and Geomchi's group are the most prominent, as they constantly want to find life and death battles in Royal Road. Even Cha Eunhee, a psychiatrist, and Seoyoon, an actual berserker think they are abnormal.
- Cult: An organization named Grass Porridge Cult that has an oath to blindly follow Weed
- Cute Mute: Seoyoon is an incredibly attractive woman who spends volumes of the story unable to talk due to her psychological issues. Her growing relationship with Weed as the story continues eventually helps her start to talk again though.
- Determinator: Weed, full stop. He spends a month bashing scarecrows at level 1 for the free stat points just to get a leg up on other players, regularly fights enemies way stronger than him in solo for the extra experience and does so while at critical health for even more free stat points.
- His companions to a lesser degree; you have to be one to hunt with a Blood Knight willingly and on regular basis.
- Dramatic Irony : Most of Weed's adventures count, where it's revealed decisions Weed has made earlier in his latest adventure have actually made things even harder for him than the quest was intended to be.
- Drama Bomb: A lot of it. Such as when Seoyoon find Lee Hyun "dead" in the living room after losing a major battle, minutes after she mourned and cried he suddenly wakes up; he's just sleeping on the floor after eating too much
- The Dreaded: Several, examples include:
- Bard Ray and his guild "Hermes", a bunch of PK Jerkasses who gang up on every one who doesn't bow to them; just like most big guilds, but theirs is the largest/strongest.
- Seoyoon becomes this for Weed; it's all in his head, ironically, as to her, him being her only friend, protecting him becomes one of her highest priorities.
- Weed was this in "Continent Of Magic", as the "God of War" who single handedly dismantled the guilds of thousands of players just to improve his grinding speeds.
- In Royal Road however, he tries to keep a low profile, which is helped by the fact that multiple people register with the same name as him. Once that fails, his actions before and after being discovered make him highly respected, almost to the point of worship.
- Dreadful Musician: Weed has several times shown that his singing will make enemies of all his listeners, no matter how much sweet talking he has done. When posting one of his battles on the internet while transformed into an orc people think it is a parody of how the they have no culture. He is completely unaware of how bad he is.
- The odd part is that his horrible singing becomes very popular.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good : Weed isn't so much evil as really greedy, but he can't understand Seoyoon at all
- Although to be fair, it might not be that he doesn't understand good so much as he doesn't understand women.
- Glass Cannon : Weed considers his non-combat title-class to be this, he calls his class a "glass sculptor" as his unique attacks do a lot of damage, but because he is a crafter class, he cannot equip heavy armor, and does not receive the ordinary damage reducing skills of, say, a warrior. Until his persevering, has the game award him with the occasional defensive ability; the new abilities just allow him to place himself in even more precarious situations.
- Greed : Weed's main motivation, as a means of security after a childhood of poverty.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power : Most of the "art" classes end up having massive benefits in combat and adventuring.
- The Sculptor class. High level sculptures can not only grant long-lasting buffs to anyone in the vicinity, they can literally change the world around them, such as permanently weakening monsters in the area or stopping rivers from flooding, and eventually grants highly utilitarian unique skills that allow the player to create NPC followers, temporarily change into almost any race or class, control the weather through sculpting, and so on. Sculpting also allows Weed to constantly increase his stats little by little through hard work, making him stronger than characters dozens and later even hundreds of levels higher than him, and max out other production related skills with their own unique benefits (since blacksmithing, sewing, painting, etc. can be part of making a sculpture).
- Getting the Blacksmithing skill to intermediate and above allows the user to ignore more and more armor and weapon equip restrictions.
- The Sculptor and Architect classes can get access to disaster causing unique skills that are more powerful than any standard magic.
- The Painter class has access to a teleport unique skill that can move you and many people as you want anywhere you can draw. The creator of the game eventually reveals the ultimate skill of this class allows the one time creation of an entire second continent built to their exact painted specifications.
- Hero Ball: Despite being a miser, cheat and trickster, the increasingly high fame stat Weed built up to help him exploit NPCs eventually starts making him automatically accept dangerous heroic quests even when he himself tries to refuse. Weed's hidden plans of drawing in users to his kingdom with low taxes before jacking them up are also crushed when other lords start matching his low tax policies to attract new users of their own.
- Hilarity Ensues : A lot of Weed's schemes work like this because of his bizarre single mindedness.
- Jack-of-All-Stats : Despite putting all his level up stats into dexterity and vitality, Weed uses bonuses he gets each time he makes a high-quality sculpture or other piece of work to boost all his basic stats (dexterity, strength, wisdom, vitality, intelligence) and numerous other class specific stats, including several normally not related to his sculptor class, (art, fighting spirit, endurance, sustenance, faith, charm, charisma.)
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Unlike most (if not all) players that specialize in one field of expertise and try to master it to perfection, Weed has become proficient in numerous professions through sheer grinding that defies common sense. Whether it be cooking, tailoring, blacksmithing, sculpting, or fishing; he's close to mastering them all and has also gained numerous benefits from expanding his repertoire (such as the blacksmith passive that lets him wear top gear armor at a lower level).
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold : Lee Hyun/Weed in a nutshell. He's scamming/ripping off practically everyone, but he does so for the sake of his sickly grandmother that needs money for proper healthcare and to fund his sister's education.
- He even cares for the elderly people in his neighborhood
- He takes a commission for 1 copper coin out of empathy for parents who lost a child. He works on it for a month and in the end walks away lamenting his lack of skill and embarrassed that he could not do the father's request justice, and chooses not to name it, thus losing the ability to gain credit and stats for the work. The work ends up a mythical sculpture. The first person who saw it after Weed was given a title and the ability to gain audience with any noble or king on the continent to talk about the discovery of a mythological work.
- Loan Shark: Lee Hyun's family was hounded by them ever since his parents died, until Weed payed them off with most of his earnings from selling his Continent of Magic game account. The owner of the multi-national conglomerate that runs Royal Road also eventually has them "Oldboy-ed" to a remote location for potentially the rest of their lives when they attempt to blackmail Weed a second time, as they'd ruin his enjoyment of Weed's exploits.
- Manipulative Bastard: Weed and his sister, of course.
- In the Blood: Apparently they can both be outsmarted by their grandmother.
- No-Damage Run : His stream-of-conscious narration states that he is perfectly capable of this in ordinary battles due to his training in martial arts and developing top notch sword skills, his use of dodges and parries are not in-game mechanics... however, he will allow his health to be in the red the entire time he fights as fighting in the red is the game' condition for raising the endurance stat (endurance reduces incoming damage).
- Oh, Crap! : A lot of times for Weed.
- And a few times for other people or his minions/slaves/pets, because he is The Dreaded.
- Sometimes some of Weed's minions/slaves/pets manage to get away from Weed for awhile because their contracts ended or Weed ran off somewhere else on a quest. And while they are happily enjoying themselves away from their evil master, sometimes they find some random guy trespassing on their newfound territory. And sometimes that random guy might just be Weed. Cue frantic backpedaling and failing that, the Suspiciously Specific Denial about who they are.
- Parental Abandonment : Averted, it is speculated early on that Weed is all alone with his grandmother and sister and in debt with loan sharks because of his parents, and it's true, but that's because they died in a car crash after taking the loan. They would have otherwise been able to pay it.
- Required Secondary Powers: Weed is able to remove the massive reputation and stat imbalance costs of the Necromancer class by using the bonuses he gets each time he makes new sculptures to continuously supplement his lost reputation and physical stats instead. This quickly makes him the most effective Necromancer user in the entire game.
- Villain Ball:
- The Hermes guild's fatal flaw. Even though more pragmatic users like Lafaye want to use altruism and internal development to strengthen their empire, they had got to where they were through wars of oppression and enticing users with promises of money and power. As such, many users in the guild are completely corrupt, warmongers, or worse, and thus unwilling to engage in more moderate actions like lowering taxes, helping the npcs, or not acting like a complete villain for fun.
- Bardray gets stuck with this on a individual level on his class's Master Quest, where he tries to select becoming a benevolent president in a democracy, only to be told his infamy is too high from his evil actions so far, and his only option is to become a brutal dictator by killing an increasing number of his subordinates.