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Isekai’d, part 1: Enter Another World

Isekai’d, part 1: Enter Another World

Anyone familiar with manga and anime probably recognizes the term isekai and its unique place in the medium. However, the term might be unfamiliar to some, especially for those with little interest in modern Japanese entertainment.

This series looks at how to run an isekai campaign for Tales of the Valiant or any 5E-compatible RPG, and play as an isekai character. First, let’s define the term, isekai.

What Is Isekai?

Isekai is a genre of literature and media that revolves around one or more characters being transported to another world different from their own. Usually, the characters’ original world is modern Earth, while the world they are transported to is a European medieval-style world with dragons, wizards, and all the other hallmarks of a traditional fantasy setting. Most of the time, the transported characters gain special abilities or entirely different forms to help them survive.

While this summary covers most isekai, the genre is varied and includes horror, sci-fi, drama, romance, and comedy elements. In short, no two isekai are ever the same, and the best isekai often subvert the genre in unexpected ways. Kind of like fantasy RPG campaigns.

Tales of the Isekai

That’s all fine, but what does it mean for a Tales of the Valiant (ToV) or 5E campaign?

A great way to introduce a new rules system (such as ToV) is by starting fresh. And an isekai setting can do just that. Transporting a group of heroes familiar with 5E rules to a new fantasy world where everything is a little different from what they are used to is a perfect way to justify changing the rules you are using without overly breaking immersion. It also gives the players a rationale for changing from feats to talents or altering basic class abilities. You could start players in a new campaign at Caverns of the Spore Lord, freshly arrived from Earth!

Even without this consideration, an isekai-style campaign enables players to do things that a regular fantasy campaign would never allow. For example, it allows players to play as themselves, with some or all their knowledge of Earth and its technologies. It even allows them to metagame without feeling as if they are cheating the system, especially if the world they are transported to follows the rules of a popular video game or MMO they enjoy.

Of course, some players and GMs may balk at the above suggestions. After all, one reason to play a fantasy game is to pretend to be someone else. This is where the isekai genre shines! It enables players to play as graceful elves, undead horrors, and even monstrous slimes while retaining enough of their human personality to function in a fantasy society. In some circumstances, the players can even play as someone else in their own bodies, portraying the part of a powerful wizard or unparalleled assassin in a “real world” that mixes modern firearms and drones with sorcery and monsters.

Below is a background created using the ToV rules that is designed for an isekai character. You don’t need to take this background to play a character in an isekai game, of course.

Isekai Protagonist Background

You have newly arrived in a world that is wildly different from your own. You retain memories of your previous existence and possess skills honed by your life as an office worker, NEET, or Otaku.

Skill Proficiencies: Choose two of any skill. You also possess a good working knowledge of various technologies, video games, anime, and manga.

Additional Proficiencies: Gain proficiency with a single tool or instrument of your choice. You may also possess secret knowledge of the world to which you have been transported if it is based on an MMO or video game your character has played.

Equipment: You typically start with no equipment other than the clothes you’re wearing. However, the GM may allow you to possess one or more items from your original world, such as a cell phone or small manga collection.

Talent

You are often mentally or physically superior to those around you. This could be because of your greater education, the blessing of a divine entity, or hard work. Similarly, you may be exceptionally lucky or know several languages native to the world you have been transported to. Choose a talent from the following list to represent this experience: Mental Fortitude, Physical Prowess, or Touch of Luck.

Adventuring Motivation

As an isekai protagonist, your life was one filled with the day-to-day drudgeries of living in a modern world as a middle-aged lawyer, an unemployed introvert, or a bullied teenager. You then found yourself transported to a fantastic realm filled with dangers and wonders.

When you begin your adventures, consider the methods by which you arrived in this new world and what steps you intend to take now that you are here.

D8ADVENTURING MOTIVATION
1Adventuring is the only way to make the money I need to survive.
2Adventuring is the key to returning to my own world.
3Adventuring is a way to forget my previous dull existence.
4Adventuring has been forced upon me by a higher power. I’m supposed to defeat a demon king or similar threat.
5Adventuring is something I just fell into when I got transported here.
6Adventuring is a way to gain the harem of my dreams.
7Adventuring is a way to track down my missing sibling or parent, who was transported to the same world exactly one year ago.
8Adventuring is a way to gain power and the respect of my peers.

Additional Resources

Want to know more? There are hundreds of isekai anime and manga to dive into. To get started, here’s a small selection of some of the more famous and popular isekai anime and manga you can find online or at your library:

  • Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero
  • KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World
  • Log Horizon
  • Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
  • Overlord
  • Re Zero Starting Life in Another World
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero
  • The Saga of Tanya the Evil

about Phillip Larwood

Phillip has been writing for Kobold Press and other companies for many years. From multiple articles in the early days of Kobold Quarterly magazine to recent books like Tome of Beasts 2 and Vault of Magic, Phillip is never more satisfied than when he sees his name in print. Something that he points out to his family and friends over and over and over again.

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