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RPG Mechanics 'Verse

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Weaponsmith: I estimate a 25% increase in attack accuracy, with a corresponding enhancement to damage.
Roy: It's OK, you can just say "+5 sword" here. We do stuff like that all the time.

Initially, it looks like a standard Role-Playing Game 'Verse — but then the characters explicitly start referring to spot checks, hit points in Stat-O-Vision, roleplaying, Always Chaotic Evil monsters, and other Role-Playing Game Terms. Is this an RPG in which the characters' players weave in and out of character and this is represented by the characters themselves speaking, or perhaps a video game which breaks the Fourth Wall more often than usual?

Nope — or at least it is not shown. The 'Verse this takes place in really does work exactly like a tabletop RPG.

Because of the Fourth Wall-breaking implications, this usually happens only in comedies, but in Japanese and Animesque media, it can just be how the world works. Frequently takes place in a Purely Aesthetic Era, especially for Fantasy games.

Not to be confused with: Sudden Game Interface, Deep-Immersion Gaming, Campaign Comic.

Especially in the last several years the genre has seen a spike in popularity, partially gaining interest from the same audience that was interested in series like Sword Art Online, Ready Player One, and The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor. Note that those series are not examples of this trope, as the "verse" in question is understood by the characters to be a game. Following these series, a new subgenre developed and became known as LitRPG. Unlike full examples of this trope, a Lit RPG blends traditional narration with elements of a gaming experience, describing quests, achievements and other events typical of a video game. The narration in a Lit RPG work must abide by the rules of a game while filling it with conflict and drama. While human protagonists are aware of the game's nature (regardless of being able to log out), this trope is in effect for NPC characters controlled by A.I.s. Lit RPG works are set in fictional games, commonly featuring advanced VR technology or outright Brain Uploading. Their use of gaming mechanics and attributes sets them apart from traditional game novelizations.

Not to be confused with RPG World.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai: Despite being a direct adaptation of Dragon Quest, the Trope Maker for the Eastern RPG (and by extension the inspiration for many later examples), the manga is something of an Unbuilt example. Characters appear to have knowledge of classes and stats similar to those in the early Dragon Quest games, but they can't be viewed except with rare specialised tools, nor are they considered that useful for a variety of reasons:
  • Beet the Vandel Buster (which happens to be by the same writer-artist team behind Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai) features experience levels printed on the characters' chest and money for killing monsters. In classic Dragon Quest tradition, keeping track of experience requires regularly visiting someone (an old crone in this case) who keeps track of your kills. Beet got tired of this, and so appeared horribly under-leveled when he first reappeared after the prologue.
  • Magical Circle Guru-Guru features characters who steal objects from random places in homes and badges on their chests which indicate their experience level.
  • Dragon Pink is a Hentai OAV series from 1994 based on a manga from 1990 implied to be set in an H-Game fantasy RPG.
  • The Tower of Druaga has elements of this depending that fluctuate from episode to episode.
  • Fortune Quest (in the OAV at least) has levels which are visible to the characters (some of whom complain about not levelling).
  • Deadline Summoner is a Deconstructive Parody — Mamoru does have RPG powers like a Critical Status Buff and is able to see Event Flags, but he seems to be the only person who treats them like a game, since he's from our world unlike everyone else (and other people may not even be able to see the RPG effects). Also, this world is a perma-death one with no extra lives or power-up potions.
  • Downplayed in Delicious in Dungeon; despite the series revolving around Dungeon Crawling and the occasional mention of monster levels, nobody ever talks about stats or refers to the world as anything other than completely real. Things like mana, dungeon loot, and experienced adventurers are real factors in the world, but they aren’t gamified — nobody ever quantifies mana in “points” and “experience” is just the usual knowledge and skill one gains while learning how to survive a dangerous place.
    • Most of the worldbuilding goes into justifying why dungeon crawling can exist in the absence of RPG rules. Resurrection, for example, only applies within the confines of the dungeon itself and don't work in the world outside of it. One of the proposed theories in-universe being that the dungeon is under the effects of a spell that forbids the existence of death, chaining souls to their bodies after they die, eventually becoming zombies if not treated quickly enough.
    • The food has unquantified "stat blocks" roughly displaying how much of certain nutrients they have, in keeping with the manga's theme of the importance of a balanced diet.
    • The way the dungeon shifts around has some elements of Roguelike dungeon crawlers in how it operates: certain rest stops appear when needed, the dungeon can't rearrange with more than it already has or obtains, and the frequency of monsters changes depending on how much power flows through the dungeon at the time. Chilchuck even works out a pattern in the dungeon's shifting despite its initial seeming randomness. However, this is explained by the dungeon being shaped according to the will of the Dungeon Lord, as well as the desire-granting properties of the Demon's magic allowing basic desires like shelter and respite to be fulfilled.
  • Hunter × Hunter has a story arc in which the protagonists get transported into an in-universe video game. Eleven very powerful Nen users (including Gon's father) worked together to impose the RPG mechanics on an isolated island and tied the island to the video game.
  • The setting of Hero Union BBS contains several worlds that run on different RPG mechanics, many of which (such as level grinding, overpowered bosses, and obnoxious party members) are discussed by several heroes in the titular forum.
  • Downplayed in Superior. The setting apparently has HP and MP, the latter of which depletes at consistent rates according to what spells are cast, but HP depletes according to the strength of a hit, and there's never any mention of levels or other stats.
  • Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle has a number of RPG Mechanics that factor into the plot:
    • The demons are shown actively placing magical items and treasure for the heros to find, and they fight him in a specific order meant to help him get stronger over time, with the Demon King being the Final Boss. Several chapters deal with Princess Syalis meddling with the process by breaking or stealing the items that the hero is supposed to find.
    • Status Effects exist In-Universe; at one point Syalis is given an item that prevents status effects from affecting her (to prevent her from being poisoned) and it turns out to also prevent her from sleeping, as Sleep is also considered a status effect.
    • Death is Cheap; if someone dies they turn into a tombstone, from which they can be magically resurrected. They're only Killed Off for Real if the tombstone is destroyed.
    • The demons eventually discover that the reason the princess is so strong is that she's officially registered as a member of the hero's adventure party, meaning she gains Leaked Experience.
    • When the demons escort the princess to the nearest human town so she can purchase a limited edition pillow, they find that everything is extremely expensive because the nearest human town is, from the humans' perspective, the Hero's last stop before the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, and all the prices are inflated accordingly.
  • Dragon Goes House-Hunting is set in a world where everyone have designated level and corresponding stats, and one is required to show their "Stat cards" when filing official documents. Sometimes, when two parties encounter each other, a typical turn-based battle screen appears, complete with the Fight/Flee/Item/etc. command options.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon: The Series generally avoids game mechanics that clashes with the fantasy realism of the Pokémon world, and adjust the remaining RPG mechanics to feel less like a game. For example, Pokémon in the anime will only use four different moves at a time as a nod to the game's four move limit, only breaking the rule for drama, and Ground-type moves can hurt Flying-types as long as they can make physical contact (which is the logical basis for Ground-type immunity for Flying-types). In Pokémon: The Original Series, it wasn't so clear-cut in the early days as they mention game mechanics like levels, but even those examples are deconstructed by the anime as missing the point of real Pokémon strength.
    • Pokémon Origins is a Truer to the Text anime adaptation of the Pokémon games almost to a fault. Unlike the main anime, Origins doesn't omit or adjust game mechanics to feel more realistic, instead leaving them exactly the way they are in the games. This ironically makes any game inconsistency all the more noticeable, such as a fully healthy Electric-type Jolteon being knocked out by a single Thunderbolt from a Rhyhorn.

    Comic Books 
  • Scott Pilgrim, kind of. For the most part it's the real world, if surreal and videogame-like, but Scott occasionally talks about his allocated skill proficiencies, gains experience points and levels up. He acts as an Audience Surrogate, though, as he doesn't seem to know the most basic rules of his world such as SavePoints and OneUps. It's based on the mechanics from River City Ransom specifically. So if it isn't a full RPG Mechanics 'Verse, it's at least an RPG Elements verse.

    Comic Strips 
  • Nodwick would occasionally dive into this in earlier joke-a-day strips, though the print comic arcs tended to be fairly straight-laced Role-Playing Game 'Verse.
    Nodwick: I guess the 'Lawful Good' in your ad was a typo, right?
    Yeagar: Our cleric placed the ad; she's a bit of an idealist.

    Fan Works 
  • The Games We Play is a The Gamer × RWBY crossover in which the protagonist discovers that his Semblance allows him to affect both himself and his environment as if he were a RPG character.
  • In the Alternate Universe of Harry Potter and the Munchkins, all wizards are players and the schoolbooks are detailed enough that they can be used as RPG core books. As discussions of maximizing feats and stats are everywhere, Harry takes a correspondence course in Personal Optimization to get the most out of his growth. He also spends some semesters having teachers analyze the odd merits appearing on his Character Sheet - Potter Family Curse and a Mother's Love.
  • The main character in Harry Potter and the Natural 20 comes from one of these, and still works on Dungeons and Dragons rules logic while in the Harry Potter verse, causing confusion and occasional terror for everyone involved. He's also a Munchkin.
  • Hermione Granger: The Witching Hour: As it happens with any The Gamer crossover, the main character is able to interact with the world this way. Hermione has access to a video game interface that allows her to keep track of her skills, stats, relationships with other people, and perks; as well as to gain experience to level up. She also has to relentlessly grind any spell and ability she could've mastered in less time in her previous life.
  • The Tabula Avatar Universe kicks off with the Scoobies being uploaded to Baldur's Gate 2 when the Trio find the unbroken memory crystal from 'Tabula Rasa'. Xander's aware of how Dungeons & Dragons' magical weapons scale with pluses and minuses. When he proves it as a working model, it's named after him. That certain enchantments work differently between the first story and Neverwinter Nights due to the edition change is Lampshaded by the characters.
  • Pony POV Series: In the Finale arc, Discord's endgame plan involves Rewriting Reality so that all stories and rumors printed on the Foal Free Press come true. It's more horrible than it sounds, since most of what was printed was horror stories. Fortunately, Havoc saw this coming and had Button Mash spread RPG rules. As a result, the world now runs on RPG rules as well as horror story rules, allowing the protagonists a chance to defeat the monsters spawned.
  • There are God knows how many Naruto fanfics where Naruto discovers his life is an RPG video game (usually Groundhog Peggy Sue stories, to allow him to repeatedly die and restart or load his save), to the point that they're practically a subgenre unto themselves. Naruto: Game of the Year Edition is probably the most prominent. There is a significant overlap with the Sudden Game Interface trope. The key distinctions are abilities like save/load, checkpoints or outright contact with the GMs.
  • The Swarm of War contains a minor example, with the Zerg capable of absorbing the Life Energy of their kills to evolve into stronger forms. Later, the Overmind designs a device that can make an entire planet work according to StarCraft rules (conveniently placed resource points and spawn times in the seconds to minutes, that is)... very temporarily due to the steep cost.
  • Shinobi: The RPG is a Naruto SI, which later turns also into a Fallout crossover of a kind.
  • (Злоключения) is a Russian web original inspired by God and Devil World by Zi Chan Bao Zeng, with a few twists. Here, the zombie apocalypse happened and most of the survivors got game interfaces. The main protagonist, however, has been caught by the game interface during an involuntary Brain Uploading. Said upload was set to go into a character of some VR game. Thus the protagonist left his body and finds himself magically grafted into the now real body of a chainsaw-wielding magical girl. The new gamified reality is also connected to a few well-known game realities. Note that the work is strictly NSFW due to strong inspirations from art by supersatanson.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Not a true example, but Cloak & Dagger (1984) briefly flirts with this in its opening sequence. It begins with superspy Jack Flack infiltrating an embassy and dispatching a bunch of colorful ethnic archetypes with an arsenal of James Bond gadgets, then escapes down the street when a gate closes in front of him. Suddenly, a pair of giant numbered dodecahedrons roll towards him. Cut to two kids playing a board game, the boy yelling triumphantly, "Jack Flack escapes!"
  • Being an adaptation of the graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World also runs on video game logic. Scott earns points for defeating people or for solving things in his life (for instance, patching things up with Kim). It also seems that people in that universe have coins for blood, since Gideon coughs up a coin when injured and people burst into coins when defeated.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level have the protagonists sucked into a video game. They have three Extra Lives each and all the Non-Player Characters they meet can only say what's on their Dialogue Tree. Each of the characters become assisted and limited by their In-Universe character stats, gaining abilities like martial arts, weapon usage, and knowledge of animals they don't have in the real world, as well as weaknesses like severe allergies towards mosquitoes and cake — it doesn't matter if you're male, female, young, or old, you get the body and all the stats and physical / mental benefits that come with it. In one example, a terminally ill elderly man gains the body of a horse, and while he can no longer speak he is now healthy and can fly: he chooses to stay in Jumanji rather than go back to his failing human body.

  • Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest: People can check their stats, skills and job thanks to a card-like device attuned to the user. Unfortunately, they are relics and no one knows how to make more, so they cannot be given to everyone. They are however in such abundance that its possible for Adventurers to purchase them from either a Guild or the Church.
  • Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody: Everyone can learn their level and basic stats thanks to a magic stone. The main character, Satou, has the unique ability to have an almost infinite Bag of Holding, and his accidental destruction of a dragon army has given him enough loot and experience to make him the most powerful person in the world, but he hides this to be able to travel the world (relatively) unmolested.
  • Fate/Zero, being a prequel to Fate/stay night, also makes use of the stat sheets found in the Visual Novel. Several of the passive skills and stats listed there also come into play in the plot.
  • The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious: All characters, including the gods, have their own numerical stats and specific abilities. This is deconstructed when Seiya hits the level cap and finds that no matter how hard he trains, he'll never be able to stand a chance against Gaeabrande's Demon Lord in a straight fight. Not helped by the fact that Seiya refused to create the Infinity +1 Sword that would've overcome this deficit, because the only way to do so would be killing an innocent child.
  • Deconstructed somewhat in How Not to Summon a Demon Lord where Diablo wonders why everyone is weaker in the fantasy world than they were in his favourite MMORPG back on Earth. He realizes that fighting monsters to level up isn't popular in a world where people only get one life.
  • Isekai De Kuro No Iyashi Te Tte Yobareteimasu lets the main character access many video game like screens, letting her see other people's levels and skills. She also has a radar to see friends and enemies around her.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is based on an universe that looks like an RPG than anything else. For starters, the character's stats can be seen by their respective god/goddess when they update their status, which can then be recorded on a piece of paper for the adventurer to see, as their blessing is imprinted on his/her back. Yes, characters have their stats literally etched on them.
  • The universe of I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level is this, power being measured in numerical values, levels, and stats. As the name implies, our protagonist Azusa accidentally became the highest possible in all respects.
  • KonoSuba: Kazuma's new world runs on this principle, down to its denizens' abilities being gauged by certain parameters (such as Kazuma's ridiculously high Luck and Aqua's crippling deficiency thereof).
  • Log Horizon, despite its numerous lighthearted elements, is very thorough and analytical in analyzing the implications of having The Game Come to Life. Players aren't normal folk: they possess Resurrective Immortality and the ability to summon a Diegetic Interface, causing the (now sentient) NPC characters to freak out and often distrust them. Stats, levels and mechanics become everyday language among everyone. Everyone has to learn how to use their class abilities from scratch (Calling Your Attacks is useful but not sufficient). Formerly meaningless Flavor Text becomes Language of Truth. Assorted Acceptable Breaks from Reality in RPGs like Inexplicable Treasure Chests turn out to have an in-world explanation, and eventually players discover the ability to alter the rules of the world and create GameMods of sorts, as long as internal consistency is maintained.
  • Overlord (2012): A player of the fictional MMORPG Yggdrasil becomes trapped in the body of his Elder Lich avatar Momonga and transported to a new world, along with his guild's Elaborate Underground Base and its (now-sentient) NPC guardians. While Momonga and the guardians still follow Yggdrasil rules and speak of them frequently, things for the natives are a bit more loose: Their abilities can be broken down into Yggdrasil classes with sufficient examination, but they frequently exist in impossible combinations, and they have no awareness of game concepts like Character Level (at least not in a concrete sense). In addition, they are capable of learning "Martial Art" skills which exist outside the level progression, and which game characters like Momonga cannot learn regardless of effort. Momonga theorises that, while no one in the new world is as strong as a ''Yggdrasil'' character, they also do not possess a level cap. The magic system of the new world is the same as Yggdrasil's, but its inhabitants are capable of inventing new spells which players could not use. It's heavily implied that most of the similarities between the new world and Yggdrasil are the result of players who arrived in the new world centuries before Momonga and taught their magic to the locals, causing it to partially displace the world's native magic in the fabric of reality.
  • The world of The Rising of the Shield Hero has character level, which the main character can see. When the weapon merchant upgrades his armor, he calls the upgrade +1. Demihumans like Raphtalia are able to rapidly age from a child to an adult when they level up enough. The world also even has events where experience from killing monsters is boosted like in an MMORPG. Although some of the heroes make mistakes based on expecting the world to work like a video game in ways that it doesn't, such as one hero who accidently caused a village to get sick by failing to dispose of a dragon's corpse: thinking that the corpse would just despawn after some time.
  • Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out So I Teamed Up With A Mythical Sorceress! takes place in one of these universes, with stats being a pretty important plot point: in order to face Ryan's party in the tournament, Tanya's party has to be Rank C or lower, with ranks being decided by the party's average stats. But in a twist, Tanya and Laplace's stats are far, far too high.
  • The world of Small Medium actually somehow transitioned to RPG Mechanics a few decades past in the story's history. Over the course of the series, it's hinted (and revealed to the reader) that the world really did become an MMORPG somehow(or always was one), and for some reason, a few Players have become trapped in it.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What?, a girl gets transported into another universe and into a monster's body. She then has to quickly get used to the experience/level up system and figure out how to quickly become stronger so that she'll avoid becoming food to other monsters. The story has a Skill System that applies to humans, demons, and monsters alike. Skills are solely combat-focused or supplementary to combat; there are no skills for crafting, arts, etc. The system is so ubiquitous two separate religions have popped up around it. Later, it's revealed that the System is a stop-gap magical matrix created by the Administrators after the world was nearly destroyed. It prevents additional loss of souls and energy while the world is being repaired. Experience is energy taken from souls of the defeated, spells are essentially programs that only work when interfacing with the system, and skills directly modify the souls of the user. As for why the System works like an RPG? Because Chief Administrator "D", in addition to being the Evil God is also a Gamer Chick and she thought it'd be more fun that way... for her, not for anybody else.
  • Sword Art Online: While earlier storylines are simply The Game Come to Life, the Underworld arc blurs the line with RPG Mechanics 'Verse: Kirito is trapped in a virtual world used as an incubator for true A.I.s, where they live and die as humans. However, this world was based on the Virtual Reality MMORPG engine "The Seed", and uses many RPG conceits for the sake of making things easier to simulate (including things shattering when they reach 0 Life) which its inhabitants grow up thinking of as normal. The programmers of this world even state that the only reason they included magic was so that they could Hand Wave odd physics with A Wizard Did It.
  • Played with in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. The world has a skill system that wouldn't be out of place in an in-depth RPG. Skills work like programs that people can learn and evolve under the right conditions. The main character Rimuru has an Exposition Fairy in his mind that acts like an AI. Monsters and even humans can evolve into higher level beings by being given names, titles, or through rigorous training and passively absorbing magicules in the environment. Equipment in this world is also classified by various "tiers" of grade (Normal, Special, Rare, Unique, Legendary, and Mythical/God) depending on the quality of materials and the skills of the blacksmiths. However, there are no "stats" or "levels" in the videogaming sense (aside from Evolutionary Levels) to really speak of, and "experience" doesn't exist in the videogame sense either (Rimuru gains "experience" from beating enemies only because most of the time he's outright consuming and absorbing them to add to his own powers) and is effectively just good old training and learning from combat while also coming to personal revelations and growth to fuel skill acquisition and evolution.
  • The World Is Full Of Monsters Now has an interesting take on this. Yes, the trope is fully in effect, both for human survivors, and the monsters, but only those that have at least one kill under their belt will get to experience it. This result in a Cassandra Truth element when the genre savvy teens try to get help from the adults but the adults, Stubborn Mules that they are refuse to participate, waiting for "real" rescue... that will never come.
  • Elatra in An Outcast in Another World functions under these rules. A world with stats, Levels, Skills, and a system is all its inhabitants have ever known. Rob thinks it’s weird as fuck.
  • The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters (IUDC) is an entire novel (with two sequels) set in this type of world. The RPG in question is 1st and (later) 2nd Edition AD&D.
  • Ulillillia's book The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters pretty much pushes this trope to its limit.
  • Partially RPG, partially crafting game, partially Factorio,, in Factory of the Gods, we get a mix of all those mechanics as the explicit rules of the universe.
  • Not quite an RPG, but two of the universes from Riddle of the Seven Realms by Lyndon Hardy operate by rules reminiscent of geometry-related board games like Go or Checkers.
  • Mogworld is a novel told from the perspective of an NPC in an MMORPG, who has developed sapience.
  • Gamearth Trilogy is told from the point of view of tabletop RPG characters. The world _is_ a hexmap, with visible black borders between the hexes and laws of physics which prevent them from crossing more than so many hex-borders each day.
  • Kryształy Czasu: Saga o Katanie, a Polish fantasy saga-in-progress, is based on its author's tabletop RPG Kryształy Czasu. Aside from its other So Bad, It's Good qualities, it also refers to the game's mechanics, such as spell ranks and effects. Supposedly, the author wanted to show how the game mechanics actually played out in action, but the end result is completely inverted.
  • The Critical Failures series deals with this, where some annoying players are sent into an RPG game world via magic dice and a pissed Game Master. Inside the Caverns & Creatures game world, they are bound by the game mechanics. Examples include getting special once-a-day class abilities back at midnight, consciously making skill checks and having hit points. In one story, one character falls from a height onto his head and realizes that he should have broken his neck — but the game mechanics have no rules for that style of damage.
  • The webfiction Everybody Loves Large Chests universe features stat-windows, levels, jobs, classes, and other game-like features in proper LitRPG fashion.
  • Playing to Live by D. Rus. VR technology in this setting comes with the "take-off" phenomenon, which causes irreversible Brain Uploading to players who stay in too immersive VR games for too long. Some people use it benevolently, e.g. giving terminal patients a chance to live a healthy life. Some "take off" to flee from the law. And the game stops being just a game when for the first time a person dies during the "take off", the NPCs go off their scripts, and governments' black-ops troops start duking it out with fantasy demons. The "take-off" carries more than mere data, moving the immortal souls into the games. Thus, the games become independent worlds of this trope, and the Spark of Creation of the human souls means that the demons looking to march across the boundary and to Earth are now very real.
  • God and Devil World (occasionally translated as System of Gods and Demons) is a Chinese original (also occasionally declared a ranobe) series of 8 books written by Zi Chan Bao Zeng. The premise of the series is that a zombie apocalypse happens, but with a twist — all those not turned into a zombie receive game interfaces, turning the world into a massively multiplayer RPG reality.
  • Small Group Tactics by A. Zaytzev. A pretty large group of random people find themselves transported into another reality, given game interfaces, divided into factions and pitted against each other in more or less a blood sport. This is one of the earliest and of the most recommended works of the genre.
  • Buffer by M. Dulepa. Something happened and now some people have powers straight from RPG games. The protagonist finds himself wielding the abilities of a support class from a game in a rapidly changing world.
  • To the Flip Side by S. Davydov. The world didn't end, it just began to behave like a MMORPG. The protagonist refers to his chaotic life as a "trip down the rabbit's hole".
  • World of Karika. The First Player by A. Yemel'yanov. The gods began a game by grabbing some of the not so decent people from our world and dropping them into another, where reality obeys RPG laws. With a major difference - this "server" has permadeath.
  • Gears of the Apocalypse (More Timber Required!) by Y. Georgievich. Several groups of humans find themselves - and several other species — in a likely artificial world. The world behaves close to the Warcraft series of games (i.e. RTS with RPG components).
  • Dark Paladin. Beginning by V. Makhanenko. Commonly to the Real RPG genre, our world has just suddenly switched gears and is now running like a MMORPG. The protagonist finds himself with a mortal enemy, a class which ignores you and a conga of "from the frying pan into the fire" situations.
  • The Very First by M. Svetlyy. "Congratulations, you have joined the game!" was the message every living human received, and this is about to completely change the world. Notable as the protagonists' declared objective is to find out who is responsible for the gamification of reality.
  • Dirty Games by M. Bulyukh. While "Dirt" started out as just a next-generation VR MMORPG, it has apparently become something more. As Hell and Heaven suddenly find out, when players die while connected to "Dirt", their immortal souls can not leave the game, essentially creating a new dimension. While both Powers-that-Be are inherently interested in claiming those souls, the AI running the game has decided that it would be much better off by going insurgent and taking its own shot at divinity.
  • The Threadbare trilogy follows a teddy bear golem in a world that suddenly started working that way a few decades ago. Figuring out exploits is a major part of the universe because there's Rubberband AI difficulty, but no way to avoid the Level Cap at least until events in the third book.
  • Kill the Farm Boy mostly sticks to skewering fantasy genre tropes from other mediums, but there are a few nods to tabletop gaming. For one, Fia complains after dodging a crossbow bolt that it's not fair to start an encounter without waiting her turn, what with initiative. Likewise, the powers that she assumes Argabella, a bard, has are essentially their class abilities from Dungeons & Dragons. (Unfortunately, she didn't quite finish her training at bardic college.)
  • Felix's power in Super Sales on Super Heroes lets him see an object's stats and then spend points to modify said object. It's heavily implied in book 3 that the series takes place in the Otherlife verse, given that Felix's benefactor's name is Runner Norwood.
  • The Phantom Server trilogy. Apparently, every character in the game is controlled by a person, so there are no NPCs. It's just that they have spent so long in the game that they no longer see themselves as anything but that character, so they have, essentially, become NPCs.
  • Mind Games is an apocalyptic Sudden Game Interface story wherein everyone on Earth suddenly gets a game interface, a "Class" and the ability to perform Level Grinding. Since electronic technology stops working at the same time magic starts working, it's pretty disruptive.
  • Beesong Chronicles: Monsters and humanoid races alike have levels, though humanoids have a more advanced job system. It comes off very much as like living in an MMO, complete with only being able to have ten "active" abilities at once, even if you technically know more (you can change your active abilities with meditation).
  • He Who Fights With Monsters: Several of Jason's powers emulate role-playing video games (looting, party chat, identify, map, inventory and quests). These powers aren't entirely unique to him, but the exact combination is extremely useful.
  • Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World: The world in this story runs on RPG rules, but unlike other examples people don't know the rules, so every piece of information they know comes from trial-and-error experimentation.
    • People can access an identity card-like effect that mentions your class and some personal information. This is used for your own identification and for bounty hunter purposes, as dead people will have their identity card spring out of their left hand after dying. However, it only shows your primary class, which keeps people from learning things such as how to access Prestige Classes.
    • Your class can change if you do certain things: stealing something will make your class Thief, a slave running away will mark you as Bandit, and killing someone with the Bandit class will make you a Hero.
    • Levels also exist, but unlike classes they can't be seen. The only reason people know they exist is that the Explorer class has a Bag of Holding that increases in size in measurable quantities.
    • Michio Kaga has a number of unique abilities that allow him to exploit the system: he can see people's classes and levels, change his general skills at will, he can switch his classes at pleasure, and, most importantly, can do the same with the slaves he owns. This allows him to transform the girls he buys into total powerhouses that can run through dungeons as if there was nothing in them.
  • In Noobtown, Jim learns that almost every world in The Multiverse is like this. Earth was created as an attempt at a non-RPG world.


  • Dragon Road song apparently describes such an OOC-verse:
    They all jumped upon us because we were lawful good.
  • The lyrics to the Morlocks song "Hardcore" contains the line "What's bad for you is good for me, I've got less than five in Humanity", a reference to Vampire: The Masquerade.
  • Vocaloid: "Party X Party" by Hitoshizuku X Yamaka features the Crypton Vocaloids (Hatsune Miku, the Kagamine twins, Kaito, Meiko, and Luka) as RPG characters, and the lyrics make reference to stats, classes, and even Level Grinding.

    Video Games 
  • Disgaea characters are fully aware that they're in a turn based-strategy RPG, and thus will occasionally make comments about character levels, critical hits, save points, and whether or not the final boss has an additional form that grants him stat bonuses.
    Valvatorez: That wasn't his full power! We can expect at least three levels of transformations, with additional power multipliers every time!
  • Fallout 2 invokes this from time to time, which is no surprise, given how flimsy the Fourth Wall is. Some party members even comment, "Hm. I feel that I've reach an arbitrary experience threshold and gained some new abilities," upon leveling up.
  • Subverted for laughs in Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism. If you play as Marisa with Alice's assist, they spend the entire storyline sassing each other and discussing the quest in terms of RPG tropes. They're also hilariously wrong, since SA is a Bullet Hell-style Shoot 'Em Up like most Touhou Project games.
  • The Fargarthians of Sunset Overdrive believe they live in an RPG due to trauma caused by the mutant outbreak occuring during a LARP session. As such, they'll send you on quests (although quests were already a normal part of the game), talk about gaining levels (which act as social standing), and yell "I'm losing HP!" when they get hurt.
  • Undertale is both a parody and a rather chilling example of this. The game starts out pretending to be a rather normal RPG, but very quickly you find out that the completely normal ability to save your game is nothing less than the superpower to mess around with time and rewrite time lines. And that's only the tip of the iceberg; not only can certain characters either remember these time resets, or have learned to recognize them in people's behaviour, but it even turns out there has been in-universe scientific research into the power that allows you to do that.
    • EXP and LV are acknowledged in-universe. It turns out that EXP stands for "execution points," a measure for the amount of pain the player has inflicted upon others and LV stands for "Level of Violence," a measure of how capable the player is of hurting other people. Like in other RPGs, you gain EXP by killing monsters... but in this game, the monsters are just regular people who aren't especially out to hurt you, and killing them provokes an understandably negative reaction from others.
    • Besides that, the game parodies and plays around with all RPG game mechanics. Apparently, in the Underground, it's perfectly normal to turn into a floating heart to fend off attacks.
    • The game also plays around with its user interface, both to diversify boss fights (one boss destroys the Mercy button to make a Pacifist Run solution less obvious) and simply for comedic effect. One very notable parody example is the date with Papyrus, in which the game tells the player to "Press the (C) key on your keyboard to open the dating HUD", which summons a completely nonsensical set of meters, statistics, minimaps and random items.
  • Brief example in Persona 4. Occasionally characters will explicitly state that they've leveled up after gaining enough experience.
  • Wizard101 provides a minor example. According to a throwaway joke in one side quest, the turn-based card game system is just how "the ancient laws of magical combat" work.
  • Played for laughs in No More Heroes III, when Sonic Juice decides to duel Travis Touchdown by turning their Hack and Slash action game into a turn-based RPG, much to Travis' great annoyance. He relents and removes the RPG mechanics after enough turns have occurred (either by reducing his health to zero as normal, or attacking the interface itself), which triggers the next phase of his fight.

    Visual Novels 
  • BAD END THEATER takes place in a theater playing a Heroic Fantasy story, and it is explicitly mentioned how the Hero of the story gains experience points and becomes stronger from killing demons, and ends up "low on health" when fighting the Overlord. Since the game is not actually an RPG, these mechanics are only mentioned in the narration and do not show up in actual gameplay.
  • Actually played completely serious in Fate/stay night. All Heroes get a viewable Character Sheet that explains their skills, stats and abilities, even how many turns an area spell lasts for.
    • In-game as well, more than once the characters quantify mana, and then spend the rest of the scene treating it literally like MP.

    Web Animation 
  • The Adventures Of Ledo And Ix seems to take place inside an old-school RPG, with the titular pair being aware of things like their inventory, the existence of points, the difference between "people" and NPCs, and their extremely truncated and half-assed backstories. Given that the series' objective is to use "the visual vocabulary of retro video games to explore the human fear of both the unknown and the known," it may count as a Deconstruction of how creepy it would be to live in such a place.

  • 8-Bit Theater does this, although it's generally only Red Mage who thinks this way. For example he was once able to survive an otherwise fatal fall by "forgetting" to record the damage. However, it appears Red Mage is only right when it makes for a better joke. He also accesses his items by speaking the menu options out loud.
    • A one off joke horrifically subverts part of this concept. All Red Mages believed the world ran on RPG rules. Because they considered themselves scientists this had to be tested empirically. Sadly they began by trying to determine hit points and ended up slaughtering each other For Science!
    • At first, even Black Mage seems to minorly operate on this (well, more Video Game mechanics than anything else, really), and reads a game guide to Final Fantasy (the game upon which the comic is based). He gets over this relatively fast, though, leaving RM as the only "metagamer" in the series, although he apparently still has the thing on him.
    • Thief likewise displays such Medium Awareness early on, as seen by the line "Your GP or your HP."
    • One example of the thing obeying the laws of the game it's based on is when they notice it only became night and then morning when one of them stayed at an inn.
    • Red Mage has fun with it, telling Thief how interrogation is just emptying "pockets" of information from a victim's mind, and you can just remove a lock from a "pocket" in a door.
  • Adventurers! takes place in a console RPG with characters that are well aware of the game mechanics, and one repeatedly complains about how ridiculous they are.
  • Awful Hospital: Mrs. Green's stay in the Inert Vessel is structured like a JRPG, with movement on an overworked map while combat moves to "combat screens", a turn-based battle system, character stats and specialized attacks, and a party system. Ms. Green gets used to this, as even when she returns to the hospital she approaches combat this way.
  • A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe is an unusual example — the setting operates this way, but only for the protagonist. He has a Hyperspace Arsenal, stats and, when he is hurt, he loses hit points and can recover immediately by eating food, but other people manually carry items around and, when they are hurt, they begin bleeding like normal people and heal at a realistic rate. This serves as one of the primary hints that the protagonist isn't actually a regular human.
  • By the Book: The main characters became adventurers simply by reading a copy of the "Adventurer's Handbook, v.3.5" and filling out character sheets.
  • Captain SNES: The Game Masta has a few of these, due to the fact that said universes are actual video games. It even goes further: items like the Reality Stabilization Belt allow characters to carry over their RPG mechanics to other worlds. When Crono, who has a really fast ATB gauge and is used to fighting on the overworld instead of after a Fight Woosh, came to the world of Final Fantasy IV, he became essentially a killing god.
  • Corgi Quest uses Pathfinder rules for everything, and the author keeps up-to-date character sheets for the main party available.
  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything:
    • Aside of capable of improving the user's stats, X's phones provide interfaces like quests, profiles and an item shop.
    • It's heavily implied that everyone has "stats" that are predetermined before the person is born, by the soul rolling a giant die before the Reincarnation. Dongtae's poor life is explained by his stats all being ones.
  • Dragon Mango: The universe frequently functions similarly to a video game with references to stats, Hit Points, item drops, Character Levels, Save Points, and an Arbitrary Headcount Limit, though they are treated more like gags than consistent rules.
  • El Goonish Shive never goes all the way, but it does lean into some RPG-like mechanics for the function of various spells.
    • Early on, Nanase mentions that she "gains experience" and "levels up" as she practices using magic, which will unlock new spells eventually. This earns a Lampshade Hanging from Sarah, who sarcastically wonders to herself if Nanase is a video game character. This is generally true for all magic users, but it's more subtle than Nanase makes it sound. Rather than literally gaining experience, your capacity for magic increases with each spell cast and the Will of Magic bestows more spells as users become more proficient.
    • Diane has a Compelling Voice that makes her slightly more believable when she lies. The actual mechanics of how that works in-universe are explained in detail, but the overall effect as pointed out by Tedd is that she has a +1 to her Charisma.
    • After magic changed, Cheerleadra gained a literal stat sheet that Elliot can put points into to optimize her various abilities. For now she's much weaker than she used to be, but Elliot can gain additional stat points through training that can eventually allow for greater specialization. However, the stat sheet is purely for human comprehension - magic decided it will no longer hold users' hands, and the stat sheet is just a way to visualize how Elliot can manipulate his own magic.
    • Played straight in the "Parable" EGS:NP storyline. It's a parody of Fable, complete with experience points, clothing-based stats, NPCs, DLC, unskippable cutscenes, and a moral mechanic. Unlike other NP video game parodies, Parable is 100% canon. Specifically, it was a shared lucid dream created when a wizard and a unicorn got their Dream Weaver magic muddled together and got tangled in Grace's overactive imagination.
  • Erfworld has a main character recruited from the real world to become a general inside a world that looks like a fantasy-themed Turn-Based Strategy game. Many of the various mechanical simplifications of a turn based strategy game are literally true in Erfworld (for instance, the two sides of the war take turns, and each side's units instantly recover hit points and movement when their turn begins). One of the few places where it is not played for laughs. Well, okay, where it's only sometimes played for laughs. It also reacts a little oddly to certain unexpected loopholes; when all the cities are "awakened" and their main towers gain sentience, the ensuing Genius Locii refuse all orders (while still complying with polite requests), because only units can be commanded, not structures. That and towers apparently have no stats whatsoever. Although it isn't known if it is true or not, some characters think that what afterlife you get when you croak is determine by an invisible stat called a score. Some other weird things is that many buildings in cities are completely empty of workers but still do their function and somehow do their function better when they are visited by a warlord. And because units pop into existence as adults they have no concept of childhood and very little concept of family. Even things like the laws of probability and statistics don't work the same way as they do in our world. Random events are determined by abstract dice which can be manipulated through Luckamancy, however, there is a limited supply of good dice rolls, so blessing someone with good luck steals good dice roles from somebody else. According to Predictomancers and Carnymancers the future is predictable because the game is rigged; you can fight fate, but Fate fights back and it can hit harder than you.
  • 4 Cut Hero: As part of the setting's general parody of fantasy RPG settings. Damage numbers will appear for some attacks, and occasionally characters will have levels and stats shown to give a sense of the situation.
  • The Gamer has an interesting example in that the setting as a whole apparently isn't RPG Mechanics 'Verse; it's more that the main character's superpower is to interact with the world as if it were one. Interestingly enough, the protagonist's ability is contagious.
  • Goblins plays with this, with a "player character" cleric worshiping "the dungeon master" as a god. One character didn't die from an injury until they realized that Mage Armor didn't grant damage reduction. Word of God is that their world runs according to a heavily houseruled D&D ruleset, and that all combat results are legitimate under these altered rules. It's a Deconstruction of life as RPG fodder characters, so it (partially) breaks the rule about comedies.
  • Gold Coin Comics does this all the time. The most notable of which might possibly be when Lance first encountered an actual save point within his own universe.
  • Hael me Plz!!11 happens inside a "non-official" Ragnarok Online server, and all the cast are very aware of it, even if one of the characters managed to bring with him a Flame spell from Lineage 2.
  • Hero Oh Hero: Tobi's world is set in a MMORPG, with dungeons inexplicably appearing in the middle of the desert, characters consciously choosing and levelling up their class, checking the party menu, Stat-O-Vision, and the like. It's even lampshaded at some point.
  • Homestuck:
    • The story combines elements of text-based adventure games and JRPGs, with a strife system that appears to be based on turn-based RPG combat. The Game Within a Game, Sburb, features an "echeladder" that as a parody of an RPG's level system — and since the lines between Sburb and reality are so blurry as to be nearly non-existent, this can be said to apply to the story's "real world" as well.
    • Sburb's Class and Aspect system are a parody of classes in RPGs. Every player has an Aspect — a fundamental aspect of reality — and a Class — how they make changes with or to their Aspect. Some get very useful powers, like Roxy's ability to conjure items from nonexistence, Terezi's ability to see the consequences of actions or Eridan channeling his hope in the form of deadly Black Magic. It's also implied that the job of this system is to invoke Character Development in its players, with both the Aspect and Class "choosing" its users instead of the other way around, so no ability is truly useless.
  • Keychain of Creation uses the rules and setting for Exalted Second Edition, with some house rules thrown in, in a similar manner to The Order of the Stick. The author specifically states that The Order of the Stick inspired the creation of Keychain of Creation.
  • Ledgermain takes place in one of these.
  • Mage & Demon Queen: The author has stated that the world is not an MMORPG, but it operates by most of the same rules. People have numerical stat boxes and inventory grids that pop up as a window, adventurers (though not normal people) respawn after they die if they have the money to pay for it, and you can Level Grind by killing monsters (who are rather pissed at humans over this issue.) Menu interfaces and inventory are all shown to be different kinds of magic.
  • Monsters Can Be Heroes Too: When Shelly casts heal, numbers appear over the target, showing the damage inflicted. And in one piece of artwork not in the comic, Coal steals a high level sword from a display but struggles to lift it because her level isn't high enough.
  • MS Paint Adventures:
  • The Order of the Stick, which operates more or less according to the Dungeons & Dragons rules. As a matter of fact, the very first strip takes place when the D&D rules change from 3rd to 3.5th Edition.
    • Besides the page quote, it's also lampshaded in a dream/hallucination Belkar has about Lord Shojo telling him he needs to play "The Game" (basically that he needs to at least pretend to go along with people's rules) and Belkar briefly thinks Shojo is saying the whole webcomic is a Deep-Immersion Gaming of some players' campaign.
    • They also sometimes measure time in "strips" and "panels", and make direct references to "this comic". That's right — they're not just aware they're in an RPG, they're aware they're in a comic strip that's set in an RPG. One character, the thief, even steals the diamond off her cast page entry when they needed it to fuel a resurrection spell.
    • Played for laughs in a retelling of Romeo and Juliet as acted out by the characters — when "Julelan" goes to kill himself with the dagger, it takes a while because he's a high-level adventurer and 1d4 damage is next to nothing. It takes so long, in fact, that "Haleo" wakes up from her Faux Death before he's finished, and they both live.
  • Prepare to Die is entirely built around a D&D-esque world, complete with character sheets, NPCs, skill checks, and die rolls.
  • RPG World runs on console RPG rules. Cherry was the only character who consistently seemed bewildered by the characters not wondering why numbers appeared over their heads when they were injured in battle, etc.
  • Rusty and Co. features three Monster Adventurers (who saw who had the better deal in the D&D world) working through levels. In the first level (story), Mimic tells Rusty to go ahead and eat the sword stuck in him — there being no rules about tetanus. Plus, of course, having Roxy consult the Monster Manual while Cube is working his way through the bears.
  • Sidequest Story uses elements of this trope, with characters having health bars, and damage and healing being shown with -/+ numbers, respectively.
  • Turn Signals on a Land Raider has elements of this, only with tabletop wargaming instead of tabletop RPG.

    Web Original 
  • Arena: Korean web-novel with elements similar to Terror Infinity (see in Fan Works section).
  • One of the gags in ASDF Movie is a guy leveling up after punching another guy in the face.
  • College Saga is specifically a Final Fantasy-mechanics verse, and to a certain degree runs on Final Fantasy logic as well, played completely for laughs.
  • Dungeon Hunter: A Dungeon Master demon gets transported back in time in order to prevent Earth and human civilization from being destroyed, to kill the other 70 Dungeon Masters, and to become the Demon King. All creatures and monsters in this story have their stat points spread out between Strength, Intelligence, Agility, Stamina, and Magic Power. The total number of base points cannot surpass a certain amount, which is different for each creature and is referred to as their maximal potential. For demons, for instance, it's generally 500, so a demon with 100 base stat points in each category would be at peak of their potential. Aside from the base points, the strength of a creature is also determined by their Titles, Skills, and artefacts. All of these are graded in tiers (Normal→Rare→Unique→Epic) and can grant additional bonus points to the creature's attributes. These bonus points can help the creature surpass the limitations of its basic potential and greatly improve in power, because after the 90-100pts, each single point can make a big difference in power and capabilities. Dungeon Masters can also collect Spending Points in various ways (e.g., by killing "Awakened" humans, killing creatures created in Dungeons of other Masters, killing other Dungeon Masters, completing Achievements, etc.) and use these points to obtain monsters or items either through the Dungeon's interface or during Auctions, which are being organized once a year by dark spirits. Demons don't die with the destruction of their Dungeon, and Dungeons can be conquered after their previous owner’s elimination. Dimensions featured in the story include Earth, Demon World, Heaven, and "Middle World".
  • Evolution Theory of the Hunteris a Korean Novel in which 50 years ago the protagonist’s world suddenly turned into a dungeon crawler, with areas of monsters of various levels of strength, loot drop from monsters, upgradable skills, and deterioration of human rights due to power imbalance between regular people and people who were rich or lucky enough to make themselves stronger using the new system.
  • The novel adaptation of So I'm a Spider, So What?: (see the main entry in the Anime/Manga section).
  • Reincarnator: The entire human population gets gradually transported into another dimension by an unknown Scope IX entity. People there have to fight and survive first against each other, then also against other species. Becoming stronger is achieved by consuming runes and acquiring items that appear when creatures and monsters get killed. The dimensions that humans can travel through are arranged into the following chain: Tutorial Zone (Colorless Zone) → Red Zone → Orange Zone → Yellow Zone → ...etc... → Abyss. Factors that distinguish more powerful creatures from the less powerful ones include Stats, Skills, equipped artefacts, and Traits. Runes (which increase stats) and items of each subsequent zone completely trump runes and items of lower zones. A human has the following stats: Strength, Stamina, Agility, Perception, Mana, Magic, Physical Resistance, Magical Resistance. These can be increased from 0%–100% in each Zone’s tier (e.g. Red 0% to Red 100%, followed by Orange 0% to Orange 100%, etc). The story starts at the point when only 4 humans are left in the world, and the protagonist uses a mental time travel artefact belonging to another species in order to reach 50 years back in time and try to save the human race. Subjects touched in the story include game theory, human greed and selfishness, dilemmas of the lesser evil, etc. In the later chapters of the story the gaming and RPG elements get significantly reduced and out of focus.
  • RPG Parade is set in world with RPG style battles and leveling up, even if it is shot in a life lie world.
  • Jeffrey C. Wells's "The Proving Grounds", is set in a D&D world. One of the main characters is an intellect devourer who was summoned into existence when he got rolled up on the Wandering Monster Table, and didn't exist prior to this, and at one point it's mentioned that Kelli Thunderhold's great uncle responded to a particularly nasty encounter by tracking down the module's writer. By the same author, "Video Game People Do Not Act Like Normal People" (parts one, two and three) is set in a world that operates by RPG video game rules, although the player character is the only person who realises this, and her companions are continually baffled both by her actions and the fact they work.
  • In PATHCO Barry, the ghost haunting Apollyon's shoes, speaks this way when asked for advice. None of the other characters have any clue what he's on about.
  • TierZoo humorously applies this trope to Real Life animals by describing animals as if they were character classes in an MMORPG called Outside and giving viewers advice on how to optimize their builds.
  • In The Adventure Zone, due to character/actor bleed and constant joking around, it's often hard to tell the difference between the players referring to RPG mechanics and the characters doing so. The continual inconsistency of Travis and Clint's in-character accents doesn't help, either - more than once Travis has accidentally described Magnus doing something, but in Magnus's voice, leading to jokes about Magnus narrating his own actions in third-person. For the most part, however, Griffin seems to reject this trope, insisting on the [NPCs] not referencing game mechanics. A notable exception comes with Jenkins, however, when Taako makes fun of him for manually moving suitcases rather than just using magic, leading Jenkins to defend himself by saying that he's saving spell slots, which only causes further mockery from the players.

    Western Animation 
  • The characters of Adventure Time frequently lampshade, invoke, exploit, and even defy several typical RPG tropes because they are aware of their world being a Role-Playing Game 'Verse. The dubious DnD Shout-Out of Finn thinking imagined adventures are lame, The Enchiridion being all but a player's handbook, Jake referring to rocks as "low-level enemies", Finn and Flame King discussing the Flame Princess' Character Alignment as Chaotic Neutral, and then this whole exchange during a quest Finn takes to prove his worthiness as a true, Lawful Good hero:
    Dark Magician: Slay this ant!
    Finn: Is it evil?
    Dark Magician: No!... But it's not good either... Slay this unaligned ant!
  • Code Monkeys has life bars and things like that, though they don't mean anything.
  • Glitch Techs: Glitch Techs get experience points for capturing Glitches, which rewards them with achievements, loot, and upgrades as they level up. It's directly compared to an RPG In-Universe as lampshaded by Miko.

    Real Life 
  • A university professor came up with a revolutionary new method for grading his students: couch grades in gaming terms, and he goes on to suggest that business managers do the same. This strategy is called Gamification and it can be used to motivate and teach all sorts of things such as learning instruments. See here for more information.