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The characters act in an episode emulating an RPG, either Tabletop Games or a console or MMORPG. Either they're playing as characters, having some imaginative dream sequence, or the normal Medieval European Fantasy sequence gets derailed by it. While obscure homages provide Fan Service in some Anime it seems an almost universal requirement to reference the extremely famous Dragon Quest series in some way or another.
Possibly because the generation of writers hasn't caught up, MMORPGs haven't gained quite the notoriety. Back to Japan again, most examples will reference a handful of popular titles, such as Ragnarok Online or Final Fantasy XI. Seems to be a particularly common trope for Anime, likely because console gaming in Japan has always been slightly more popular than computer gaming.
Note this is different from a show adapted from an RPG (that's The Anime of the Game, of which the west has one example, the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon), or a show like .hack which revolves around a fictional MMORPG.
Anime & Manga
- Hunter X Hunter has a fake RPG arc.
- The second episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi pulls this off wonderfully, and it's one of the few shows where not only is this episode fully canon (none of that "it's a dream" crap), it's also totally important to the plot.
- Welcome to The NHK, where the main character's newest bad habit was playing
Final Fantasy XIUltimate Fantasy ("Welcome to the Taru Taru").
- Gaming Otaku Hare in Hare+Guu gets sucked into playing one, figuratively and literally, dubbed AmeQuest III.
- Love Hina did a dream sequence version, where the RPG roots were more emphasized in the animated version.
- Mahou Sensei Negima
- Some of the magical mechanics are explained this way to the students. The newest adaptation is especially fond of these, replacing Hexagonal Speech Balloon sequences with dungeon maps complete with status screens.
- In fact, the manga tends to have many refernces to RPGs, particularily when Haruna learns about magic. She often mentions wanting to up her level and in one part complains that a monster is too high level for them to fight.
- The Mundus Magicus feels a lot more like an RPG than perhaps is good for it, and the overall concept is evocative of the plot from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. In some regard, this could be called an example of an RPG series.
- Paranoia Agent did an entire episode where the suspect for Lil' Slugger sucked the two investigating policemen into his delusion that the entire world was a Dragon Quest videogame, complete with Akira Toriyama-based Art Shift.
- Hayate the Combat Butler
- In a filler episode, those three girls are sucked into an old RPG and forced to find the final boss.
- Volume 6 of the manga also had an RPG mini-arc where Hayate, Nagi, and a few others entered a dungeon beneath a church to find a medal to help Hayate get his "butler" status back after losing a race. Yukiji-sensei came along, actually claiming to be Deedlit.
- This showed up in the second series as well.
- Here is Greenwood ran its cast through Here is Devilwood an obvious RPG pastiche (which made it as one of the OAV episodes). Though it was explained that they were making a movie.
- Gestalt OAV 1. The main character can, for a while, speak only in RPG-style blue text boxes.
- In the manga (and the "Season Zero"), Yugi and Friends were playing a Tabletop RPG against Bakura (or, as it turned out, the evil alter-ego living in his Millenium Ring, who became a literal Killer Game Master).
- The anime has a short story arc lasting roughly three episodes in which the main characters played a virtual reality game against the "Big 5" Board of Directors for control of Kaiba Corp.
- There's also a full-fledged RPG Arc at the end.
- Ghost Sweeper Mikami has an episode where the protagonists are sucked into a possessed RPG.
- Suzumiya Haruhi
- The episode "Mysterique Sign" only has a scene like this, but it includes turn-based combat, attack calling and all the characters standing spaced out in a line. Lampshaded when a scarab flies by and heals the "boss" (a giant sort-of-cave cricket) with a text box showing up and everything.
- This trope is played out in its entirety in the novels with the short story Haruhi Suzumiya Theater.
- Similarly, an RPG scene is featured in the Lucky Star OVA, primarily notable for making Konata/Kagami fans go Squee (hint: Kagami plays a healer and Konata is injured)...
Tsukasa: Skill points?
- To Love Ru's "Trouble Quest" arc. The girls end up with decent classes, but Rito, ever the Unlucky Everydude, gets Florist. It has its advantages.
- Excel Saga had an episode emulating a dating sim being played by Il Palazzo, whose decisions in the game affected te show's characters.
- One of the SD Gundam OAVs features the main characters from the first three Gundam shows in a parody of fantasy RPGs. It even shows the characters HP going down when they get hit. The later Knight Gundam OAVs are basically a slightly more serious version of this.
- Macademi Wasshoi had one that even had an Art Shift to little 8-bit sprites for the characters.
- In episode 2 of the Kujibiki Unbalance OAV, one of the contests is a dungeon crawl, complete with Role Playing Game Terms. In a Shout-Out to Nethack, one of the teams is accompanied by a cat, who at one point eats a dead enemy.
- Pani Poni Dash! lampoons everything else, so why not RPGs? The art changed to a more chibi, Dragon Quest-ish format complete with text boxes and fake stat gains in silly statistics.
- The series does this during the Owee arc where they're in a virtual reality RPG. Gintoki gets poison and can't move while Kagura goes to fight the Final boss... just to get a generic flower for said poison. Did we mention they were using NPCs as weapons, and when they actually removed the helmets Gintoki saw they pretty much nearly killed the audiance and was choking Shinpachi.
- The Yorozuya get their RPG on again to fight a virus infecting Tama. The Party meets the Leukocyte King and finds out that getting turned into an 8-bit pixel sprite is probably one of the worst things that could possibly happen.
- Episode 13 of Chobits features a MMORPG played by Hideki and friends.
- Superior has a chapter where Exa must climb a tower in order to obtain a new sword while defeating/running away from the chasing skeletons (Hilarity Ensues). In the first chapter the monster the group encounters have their HP displayed for comedic purposes (HP 1/1).
- First part of the second half of the anime, Kaze no Stigma does this both in canon and as a plot point, except it's actually people summoning and binding demons onto themselves under an internet page telling them that it's a real-life MMO. Who says LARPing is for sissies?
- In the '80's, Jack Chick, a maker of So Bad It's Good extremist Christian Comic Books came out with one entitled Dark Dungeons. Though ironic worship of Jack Chick in general has developed into a cult of sorts, Dark Dungeons, specifically, has inspired countless parodies within Geekdom. Google the phrase and you'll see.
- This is the plot of the Umineko fan novel, "Witches and Woodlands". A major theme of the story is how being a good Game Master means not just knowing the rules, but also being able to craft a rich, compelling game world for the players to enjoy.
- Done in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic Ponies Play D&D.
- Similar to Dark Dungeons, the slightly less silly novel Mazes and Monsters by Rona Jaffe and the TV Movie adaptation sought to impress on us an Aesop about getting too wrapped up in fantasy. Jaffe based the novel loosely on a true story. While James Dallas Egbert III was indeed a player of Dungeons and Dragons, the tunnel event was totally unrelated to the game and actually involved his first suicide attempt due to depression from academic pressure and drug addiction.
- Similarly, Hobgoblin shows a boy who gets too wrapped up in his roleplaying game and the effect it has on him. Like Mazes and Monsters, it implies that All RPGers Are LARPers.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- In season six, the Nerd Herd first decided to embark on a life of crime while in the middle of playing Dungeons & Dragons. Their abuse of their many talents calls to mind power-gamers.
- There was also a scene in one of the last episodes where it sounds like the characters are planning out their attack and it turns out that they're playing D&D.
- D&D figured into a couple of Angel episodes as well, with the rich guy Angel helped in season 1, who was also a big time D&D player.
- In the Crossing Jordan episode "Strangled", Jordan and the gang solve a historical murder by role-playing it. This was in season two, of course, when that sort of thing happened every week -- but not usually for the entire episode.
- In Freaks and Geeks one of the cool "freaks" finds out he likes to play Dungeons and Dragons with the "geeks". The geeks, in turn, feel they have their very existence validated by this discovery.
- One episode of How I Met Your Mother has Ted ask a girl out while playing World of Warcraft. They showed a bulky knight in armor talking to a girl in a bikini. The joke is that Ted's character is the girl in the bikini.
- Lizzie McGuire has an episode where Gordo became addicted (almost literally) to an RPG called "Dwarflord".
- An interesting version happens on an episode of Community called "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" where Jeff and the gang try to help clincally depressed Fat Neal by playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with him. Almost the entire episode consists of the gang sitting around a table playing the game; there are no actual fantasy sequences, but there is epic music and a narrator.
- The main characters of Warehouse 13 find themselves in a virtual-reality version when Fargo is trapped within the game. In an interesting twist, the events of the game prove to be affected by the thoughts and fears of the players.
- The Big Bang Theory:
- "The Barbarian Sublimation": Penny gets hooked on Age of Conan. When she gets too into it, Leonard enters the game and tries to reason with her. She chops of his head. Penny finaly quits when she finds herself going out with Howard's character.
- "The Hot Troll Deviation": Bernadette breaks up with Howard because his World of Warcraft character went out with "Glissinda the hot troll". Glissinda turned out to be a fat guy from facilities management.
- "The Zarnecki Incursion": Someone hacked Sheldon's WOW account, and the guys find the culprit and set out to confront him, treating it as a quest.
- The guys are often seen playing the fictional Collectible Card Game Mystical Warlords of Ka'a. One episode has them playing the Expansion Pack "Wild West and Witches".
- Forever Knight had Nick being pulled into an MMORPG in order to find the killer with 'The Games Vampires Play'.
- CSI: NY spent two episodes dealing with a killer who played Second Life. The main episode was 'Down The Rabbit Hole', and Mac had to go into the game to try and find info on the victim and the killer.
- Super Paper Mario
- Somewhat an example, in Chapter 3 Peach goes through a "fake dating simulator RPG" with the Evil Nerd Boss. but none of the options you chose change anything, she eventually gets fed up and blows it up anyways.
- Also, in the Underwhere (yes that's the real name), you face a three-headed Chain Chomp known as the Underchomp. It's fought in traditional, turn-based RPG style as opposed to the rest of the game, which is a cross between an RPG and a platformer.
- Persona 4's "Void Quest" level is a deconstruction of this trope.
- One quest in Fable III has your character (voluntarily) shrunken down to the size of a miniature and placed in the tabletop RPG campaign being run by three nerds.
- The Simpsons Game, along with many other video game parodies, has a level called "Never Quest" where Homer and Marge are in a Fantasy RPG-based world.
- One of the bosses in Kirby Super Star is fought in a way that resembles an RPG. It will attack and become vulnerable based on the on screen text boxes. Kirby even gains experience points after the battle (not that it matters).
- In Wai Wai World 2, one level is titled "Final Twinbee Quest Gaiden!?" The joke is that it's a Twinbee-like shmup level, but set in a stereotypical Eastern RPG World Map and dungeon.
- Bitmap World occasionally has its characters enter an online MMORPG called "Cosmic Dungeon", based loosely on World of Warcraft. Of course, their game avatars look just like their "real" selves, wearing costumes.
- The characters of Something Positive have a set of RPG strips for the holiday season.
- PvP had several of those, both with tabletop rpgs and MMOs.
- Loserz also has this, for both D&D and WoW.
- Sluggy Freelance had an arc involving Torg, Riff, and Zoe's addition to an MMO titled Years of Yarncraft which was essentially an extended World of Warcraft parody.
- One of the levels of Pikadevil's Hell in We Are Our Avatars.
- The Dexter's Laboratory episode "D & DD" involved bad GM Dexter being forced to play a hobbit knock-off when his gaming buddies encourage Dee-Dee to take over running a game of "Monsters and Mazes".
- The Kim Possible episode "Virt-U-Ron" revolved around the fictional MMORPG Everlot.
- The South Park episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft" revolved around the boys' obsession with World of Warcraft, using Blizzard's actual software and one of their developer servers that was being used to develop/test Burning Crusade to film the in-game scenes.
- The Simpsons episode "Marge Gamer" revolved around Marge's discovery of an MMORPG called Earthland Realms, of which her son Bart is the Big Bad known as the "Shadow Knight".
- An episode of American Dad used this one as well, using a different style of animation for the game world.
- Winnie the Pooh features this in an episode where the eponymous character and friends are in the attic. Tigger features as the "Bish-hop of Bounce". Given the use of chess pieces and the oddly arranged terrain, this may also have been a homage to Through the Looking Glass.
- TMNT: Back to the Sewer has a MMORPG example in the episode "SuperQuest", where the turtles enter themselves into the videogame in order to obtain some of Master Splinter's data bits which had made their way into the games core. Once inside, the turtles go on a quest in order to receive a reward which includes said data bits.
- Danny Phantom has an episode dedicated to this: "Teacher of the Year." The trio and Mr. Lancer are all big fans of the MMORPG Doomed.
- The Direct-to-DVD Futurama movie "Bender's Game" revolved around Bender playing Dungeons and Dragons until eventually they find themselves in the fantasy world of Cornwood. The story's based off Lord of the Rings but still counts.
- One of the very first episodes in The Fairly Odd Parents was this.
- Pretty much the entire point of Re Boot's games. Only the characters assume the roles of the antagonists of the games, since the User plays as the protagonist.
- The Duck Dodgers episode MMORPD.