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Isekai’d, part 3: That’s Not Fantasy!

Isekai’d, part 3: That’s Not Fantasy!

Isekai is a genre of literature and media that revolves around characters transported to another world. 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. This series looks at bringing isekai concepts and tropes to your roleplaying game!

Catch up on the Isekai’d series from the beginning!

On the surface, most isekai fantasy looks like any other bog-standard fantasy setting. And you can definitely run an isekai campaign in an established fantasy setting such as, say, Midgard without no changes.

However, many isekai worlds contain anachronisms that change the nature of the world and the situations and characters that appear within them. Many GMs poo-poo including modern concepts on purpose, but roleplaying games have included them for years. For instance, bar counters, so common in RPG inns and taverns, were not thought to be in use until the 19th century, and no reliable historical documentation exists of iron maidens being used as torture devices during the Middle Ages.

Both of those aspects of fantasy settings are fun! It doesn’t hurt to have them around either. Before you turn your nose up at them, consider these common anachronisms that appear in isekai anime and manga.


Adventuring guilds are well established concepts in other fantasy fiction. However, their importance to the isekai genre is disproportionately large.

In many anime and manga, the adventuring guild is the hub for the region’s heroes, and every adventurer worth their salt is a member. Whole industries can be built around adventuring, and in some instances, local law requires guild membership before embarking on quests.

An aspect of adventuring guilds in the isekai genre is the modern way in which they are presented and organized. Different adventurers often hold ranks or levels based on their fighting ability. Attractive receptionists hang around to respond to adventurers’ questions. And MMO-style quests wait for PCs to accept them; the quests are discrete and clear such as killing a dozen slimes or similar creatures for ludicrous reasons.


Many isekai anime and manga have a decidedly modern flavor in the clothing people wear. Modern-looking underwear and outer clothing are common and often risqué, and armor often looks unusable or highly elaborate. Many isekai would not be the same without clothing like modern underwear, as any fan of the Konosuba series can attest.

As with everything else, the degree to which the setting follows this anachronism is completely up to the GM’s tolerance for it. In a world filled with elves, dragons, wizards, and other fantasy tropes, fantastical clothing and fashion might be the norm rather than the exception, while in a setting based on 15th-century England, even the slightest deviation in clothing stands out.


While rare even in the isekai genre, modern anachronisms like maid cafes and idols do occasionally appear, serving much the same function as they do in our world. In a campaign based on a popular Korean MMO, this is generally more acceptable than in a gritty campaign featuring savage vikings and lots of dirty peasants, and the more light-hearted the campaign world, the easier their inclusion becomes.

You don’t have to abandon verisimilitude. Presentation can allow this anachronism to maintain integrity with some minor changes to fit the locale. A maid café could become a tent full of alluring elves serving wine to paying customers, while an idol becomes a young, charming bard with a gaggle of adoring fans.


From communication that replicates the internet to horseless carriages, isekai worlds are filled with technology that seem out of place in a medieval fantasy setting. Often, the arrival of the protagonist precipitates this change, as is the case with isekai like Ascendance of a Bookwormor How a Realistic Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, but sometimes these anachronisms are already in place.

In a magic-is-everywhere setting where magic is freely available to almost everyone, magical technology can replicate many recognizeable modern conveniences. However, the ways that this technology is used often mark an isekai setting as different. For example, while a kingdom may keep in touch with its citizens with a chain of linked magic mirrors, an isekai protagonist might use them for advertising purposes or to hold a music concert, something the kingdom’s traditional rulers would never consider.


A smartphone is a complex technological devices of modern society that almost everyone owns, and it occasionally shows up in the isekai genre. Perhaps the most famous example of a smartphone in isekai is the aptly named In Another World with My Smartphone, where the protagonist owns a smartphone that retains many functions and magically recharges.

Below is an example of such an object brought to life in a fantasy world.


Wondrous Item, Legendary

This small rectangular piece of metal, glass, and plastic is treated as a magic device. A magic smartphone has 10 charges. You can activate each of the following functions for 1 charge:

Flashlight. The smartphone emits bright light in a 10-foot cone and dim light for an additional 10 feet. Every hour using this ability expends 1 of the phone’s charges.

Take a Picture. You can use the smartphone to photograph an object, place, or creature accurately. The camera in the smartphone can be fooled by invisibility and optical illusions but is otherwise accurate. The phone can hold up to 2,000 photos.

Unlimited Library. The smartphone grants you access to a nearly limitless supply of information about your home world or the world you are transported to (GM’s choice). It takes roughly 1 minute to find basic information on a topic and 10 minutes to locate highly specialized information. Every 10 minutes you spend using this ability expends 1 charge from the phone. Certain subjects may be beyond the phone’s capabilities at the GM’s option.

Unless otherwise specified, the magic smartphone cannot make phone calls or send text messages unless it can connect to another magical smartphone on the same plane of existence.

Once the magic smartphone has no more charges, it powers down. It regains all expended charges at dawn when its alarm goes off.

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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