"This is our reality."
- – Opening narration of the anime
"Database, Database, just living in the Database, woa-hoa!"
- – lyrics from the main theme
Log Horizon is a Light Novel series written by Touno Mamare (the same writer of the Maoyuu books), which eventually was adapted into several manga, a two-season anime series, as well as its own TRPG. It is counted as an Isekai series, of the "trapped in a Video Game" variety like Sword Art Online. Not too unsurprisingly (given Mamare's preferences), Log Horizon focuses more on economics and socio-politics than the one-man heroics that typified the latter.
- 1 The Plot
- 2 The Setting
- 3 The Classes
- 4 Overskills
- 5 The Playable Races
- 6 Members of Log Horizon
- 7 Akiba
- 8 Susukino
- 9 Minami
- 10 The TRPG
Long-running non-VR (the distinction is VERY important) MMORPG Elder Tale (an old-school game partially based on real-life MMO Everquest) had just rolled out a major update and expansion Homesteading the Noosphere (mistranslated as Novasphere Pioneers in some places) to revitalize its player base. Curious to see the additions to the game after not playing for a while, engineering student Kei Shirogane logs with his Enchanter character, meets up in-game with his old buddy Naotsugu, catch up on old times, and check out the new maps for a few hours. Standard stuff.
Then something weird happens.
It begs repeating, Elder Tale was not a VR-game, but one that was played via keyboard and mouse in front of a standard monitor-and-tower setup. This meant that, for many people around the world, they were looking at their computer screens one moment, then living in the game world the next. As peopled tried to "log out", they soon found out they were unable to do so. In what would soon become called The Catastrophe, mass panic then unrest followed, as the-now trapped player base has to grapple with their new existence in a world that was, a few moments ago, just a game.
Shiroe and Naotsugu, being chill dudes, didn't panic, but at the same time they were at a loss at what to do now that they were their level-90 endgame avatars. After they hit up another of Shiroe's in-game pals Akatsuki, solve the latter's gender problem (Akatsuki was a female player stuck in a male avatar), and faff around fending off bored Player Killers, the trio gets hit by the PLOT, as they have to journey far north on behalf of another of Shiroe's old-time friends Marielle to rescue a newbie member of her guild now stuck in a very VERY hostile and chaotic hub town.
What follows is an adventure through crumbling area-transition dungeons, newbie rescues, fights against edgelord player killers, and lots of TASTY food (which becomes an actual plot point later on). Later books focus Shiroe and his friends' part in trying to stabilize the situation in what was the Akihabara server, create a stable and sustainable society for the trapped players, even MORE food, playing nice with the local nobility, some inter-city intrigue, and what happens when the players forget a seasonal quest, and its repercussions now that everything is now "real". Whoops.
The world of Log Horizon called is called Theldesia, which is really just Earth in the far-off future, where civilization has somehow clawed itself back to late-Medieval to early-Rennaisance levels of technology after not one, but TWO apocalypses: a mundane nuclear one that ended "modern" civilization, and an empire built on the ashes of the former, discovered magic, proceeded to do magical eugenics to breed demihumans for slave labor, then imploded spectacularly when it grew corrupt and decadent.
Most of the action described by the light novels occur in Yamato (which was also the name of the Elder Tale server), aka Japan. Specifically they happen in and around the hub town of the Akihabara ruins, though later books feature locations north in Hokkaido and south close to where Kyoto and Osaka are located in the "real" world.
The native people of the world are termed "People of the Land" or "Landers" for short. These were the NPCs that the players used to interact with, and with the change of Elder Tale into something very real, PCs now have to come to grips that they were now anything but, and the Landers are now people with histories, hopes, dreams and problems they have to deal with every day.
Hilariously this works both ways -- from the Lander's point of view, it's the Adventurers that had changed. Before they were mechanical and acted rather incomprehensibly (picture your typical MMO tavern or town plaza, with AFK PCs dancing, walking around naked, etc. and you get the idea). Confusing though their behavior was, they would reliably do whatever work the landers offered them, until one day they suddenly stopped and now they're acting like individuals.
A few other things about Landers are that they can also gain levels in the Adventurer classes, but at a much more lower rate. Having 30 class levels is already a near-heroic feat for them, so obviously the things that endgame-level (90 and above) Adventurers like Shiroe can do are miraculous. Then there's the fact that, unlike Adventurers, when Landers die, it's permanent; no manner of resurrection will bring them back, as their spirits return to the land, so to speak.
There are twelve available Classes to choose from upon Character Creation in Elder Tale, plus a whole gamut of subclasses- there are currently 127, with more being developed all the time. These, along with the race a player chooses, determines what Skills can be learned.
The twelve classes are further split into four groups, based on the expected roles that they would serve in a typical party. The Tank-DPS-Healer MMO trifecta is of course present, but Elder Tale also adds the Weapon-based classes into the mix as the main source of physical DPS.
Finally, each Class each has a few well-known builds associated to it. The characters in Log Horizon typify many of these builds, often to highlight their differing playstyles and preferences even in the same class.
The tanks of the game. Their role is to take damage and manage aggro. They have high HP pools, can equip heavy armor, and can use most weapons and shields.
The Guardian has three main builds:
- Fortress: Traditional Tank type, equipping heavy armor, shield, and a one-handed sword.
- Scarlet Knight: Auto-attack type. Forgoes a shield for a two-handed weapon with HP drain and other HP drain equipment.
- Juggernaut: Skill spam type, to create a damage spike on targets. Requires cooldown-reduction and mana drain/regen equipment.
A regional class only available in the Yamato server, it replaces the Pirate. Can use Japanese-themed equipment, can also dual-wield. While it can chain several high-damage abilities, said abilities have long cooldowns, which means its better suited for short skirmishes. The class has two popular builds:
- Sword: The standard build using two-handed swords and heavy armor. Otherwise plays the same role as the Fortress Guardian.
- Vengeance: Build focused on battlefield control, using stances and counterattacks. Requires cooldown-reduction and recovery items.
The hand-to-hand class, the Monk has the highest HP pool of all classes, a high resistance to Special Attacks, and the highest evasion rate. Add to this, its skills have low cooldown times, which give it the capability to quickly chain special attacks. In return Monks can only equip light armor, and cannot use shields. The class is popular among solo players.
The Monk has two popular builds:
- Kung-Fu: Standard Monk build, focusing on punching and grapples. Often used as an off/evasion tank.
- Kicker: Build focusing on kick attacks. Relatively uncommon, as it is less capable of taking on large mobs.
The main physical DPS class, Assassins are stealthy glass cannons, with almost no defensive skills. While they can equip most bladed weapons, as well as ranged weapons, but can only use light armor, and primarily depends on its stealth skills and Evasion to survive fights. Because of their skillset, Assassins can also serve as spies and scouts.
Assassins have three main builds:
- Shadow Blade: Sneak attack and melee build. Popular among solo players, it uses the Assassin's stealth skills to do infiltrate close to enemies and deal burst damage.
- Sniper: Ranged status-dealing build. Uses bows and crossbows to deal burst damage and status effects, and movement skills to get away from aggro.
- Sword Dancer: Dual-wielding skill-spam build. A more front-line build that relies on chaining damage skills to take down enemies.
A melee class that specializes in dual-wielding and fighting multiple enemies at once. It does relatively less damage than assassins, but in exchange its skills allow for varied attack combinations. While it is limited to light armor, it can use most bladed weapons, and has the best defensive abilities of the weapon-based classes.
The class has at least four known builds:
- Dual Blade: Considered the standard build, using dual-wielding to overwhelm enemies with weight of attacks. There's some variation depending on the weapon used, with rapiers emphasizing speed, while other weapons focus on bigger direct damage.
- Single Blade: Uses a one-handed weapon two-handed and focuses on increased damage skills. Favored by solo players.
- Sword and Buckler: Swaps out the additional rapier of the dual-wielder with a buckler to allow additional defense. Can serve as an off-tank, though it's not as good as Warrior-class, and its DPS is obviously lower than the other builds.
- Throwing Weapon: An extremely rare build due to costs involved, becomes viable once returning weapon enhancements become available.
Musical class, uses songs to buff allies or hinder enemies. The class can only equip up to leather armor, and use light weapons as well as musical instruments. Their musical buffs last until they are cancelled, and higher-level bards can have two song effects active at the same time.
The class has at least three popular builds:
- Concert Master: Focuses on Support songs at increase their allies' combat ability. Not expected to fight on the front lines, and relies on auto-attack in combat.
- Prima Actor: Focuses on Attack songs, increasing the amount of attacks done by allies as well as their damage. More effective against groups, and less effective against single enemies.
- Virtuoso: Focuses on Curse songs. Weakens enemies with their songs.
The stereotypical support healer. Has the highest burst-heal capability of the Healer-classes. The class can equip up to full plate armor, giving it excellent defense, but in return it has few offensive options.
The Cleric has two popular builds:
- Armor Cleric: Frontline healer, this build uses full plate armor and a shield for protection, and a mace or sword for offense. A variant of this build uses two shields instead. Popular with solo players due its durability, though most often seen during dungeon raids as well.
- High Healer: Backline healer, usually eschewing armor for robes and weapons for staves that modify support skills. Usually has a higher MP pool as a result.
The localized version of the Medium class, and stylized after the Japanese miko, it is a class that focuses on spells that reduce or prevent damage on a single ally or a whole party. These barriers last until a certain amount of damage gets dispelled. Aside from these, the class has a limited if weak amount of healing as back up. The Kannagi can equip up to chain mail, and can use Japanese swords and spears.
The class has three popular builds:
- Prayer: Focuses on defensive shields to protect allies. Most common build used by players.
- War Priest: Offensive build, using a katana or naginata to attack, defensive skills cast on self for survivability, and Exorcism skills for damage.
- Bow User: Similar to the War priest, except uses a bow for offense. Has less use for mobility, as they're often in the back line, and can focus on support and healing.
A nature-based healing class, druids specialize in spells that heal-over-time instead of a single burst of recovery. Aside from this, the class features a fair bit of defensive and offensive skills, making it very well-rounded. Its main weakness is that, because of its need to constantly recast spells, its fairly MP intensive.
The Druid has a three popular builds:
- Witch Doctor: Focuses on regen/heal-over-time spells, with some instant heals sprinkled in.
- Shaman: Focuses on offensive elemental magic, with some elemental debuffs, while keeping few healing spells.
- Absorber: Melee build focusing elemental attacks and pet summons to assist in damage dealing.
A spellcasting Class that uses powerful elemental spells to do massive damage. In return, the Sorcerer has the lowest available HP pool and defensive options of all classes.
The class has two popular builds:
- Battery: Magical field artillery, use combat spells and equip wants to blast enemies from afar.
- Rage: The opposite of the Battery, this build emphasizing getting close and personal to nuke opponents.
A spellcasting Class that summons monsters to aid them in battle. To balance out the fact that whatever they summon remains until dismissed, had only 1/3rd the strength of the original creature, and a Summoner can only have one summoned creature available at the time.
The class features a few popular builds:
- Elementaler: Specializes in summoning elemental spirits. Has found surprisingly mundane use post-Catastrophe, such as in cooking or cleaning.
- Necromancer: Specializes in summoning and controlling Undead.
- Puppeteer: Specializes in summoning constructs like Golems.
- Beast Tamer: Specializes in summoning phantom beasts like the Carbuncle or Unicorn. Can serve as a sub-healer in a pinch.
A spellcasting Class that specializes in buffs that assist allies, and debuffs that hinder enemies. Has the highest MP pool of the game, but in return has little offensive or defensive capability on its own. This makes it unpopular with solo players but a key force multiplier in top raid groups. High-level Enchanters are thus quite rare and know each other by name (akin to top group leaders in a certain other game).
That said, for such an unpopular class, it still has a few known builds to it:
- Enhancer: Focuses on helping allies via buffs and hindering enemies via hexes.
- Crowd Controller: Revolves around confusing or outright controlling large amounts of enemies with spells.
- Mana Controller: A dungeon raid build, which focuses on spells that restore MP for allies.
- Sprinkler: A rare offensive build, using the low cooldown time of the Pulse Bullet spell plus mana-reduction items to spam an otherwise weak damage spell up to thirty times a minute.
- Evil Eye: A build that goes all in on hexes and debuffs, with little to no support buffs.
A new development in the wake of the Catastrophe, an Overskill is a unique skill created either through the creative use of an existing skill or spell (for example, creating walkable platforms mid-air simply by casting a Kannagi's normally-vertical barrier spell 'horizontally), or an unforseen interaction between a Class skill and a Subclass skill (Nyanta's Cook subclass plus a high level in the Cooking skill = crafted food that tastes like real-world food instead of just bland biscuits). Once discovered, Overskills can be taught to other players, but the one who wants to learn must meet the skill or subclass combination requirements to do so.
In general, Overskills range from convenient (being able to cook tasty food is always welcome), to useful in combat (being able to create shadow clones that can do actual damage), to absolutely world shattering if anyone else learned about it (Shiroe being able to turn a Lander into an Adventurer as long as he has the rare materials required for the "contract").
The Playable Races
Theldesia has a whole gamut of races populating it at any time. Humanity makes up the majority of the humanoid population, while many of the the "Demihumans" are sort-of supersoldiers created to battle the increasingly-uncontrollable monster threat.
- Human: Baseline human, with no obvious strengths or weaknesses. Much like the real world, but with a more varied selection of hair colors. As a result, they're the most-commonly selected race among players.
- Elf: Standard fantasy long-lived but low birthrate pointy-eared tree-huggers. They have an affinity for Archery and have a bonus to their Willpower. Tied with the dorfs as the second most-selected race among players.
- Dwarf: Standard fantasy hardy and mine-loving bearded stunties. Have bonuses to their Stamina and has an innate high Magic Resistance. Players-turned-dwarves obviously have had some difficulty adjusting to their new statures.
- Half-Alv: Magical humans, the result of the Alvs interbreeding with their human subjects. Outwardly human, the only thing marking them as being descended from the Alvs is a magical sigil appearing on their tongue. Can activate any Alv relic or item, but this doesn't necessarily mean they know how the said item actually works.
- Werecat: Catfolk, with high Agility and keen senses. In-universe one of the races created to combat the increasing number of monsters.
- Wolf Fang: Wolfmen, with a bonus to Strength, ability to still move fast even when in heavy armor, sniff out hidden foes, and a limited self-heal. Yet another beast race created to combat the monster threat.
- Foxtail: Kitsune, who gain more tails as they gain in level and a bonus to magical abilities. They have an racial ability to "swap out" a Class or Race skill every few levels, and replace it with a random choice from another Class. Because of this bit of randomness, the race is generally unpopular with players.
- Ritian: A human with racial magical tattoos that have various abilities. Innate bonus to Magic-related stats and abilities, in return for the lowest HP pool of all playable races. In-universe they're also known for their short lifespans and low birtrates.
Members of Log Horizon
- Shiroe: Real name Kei Shirogane, Shiroe is a socially-awkward postgrad engineering student in the real world, and the main character of the story. An eight-year veteran of the game, and an alumnus of the legendary raid group Debauchery Tea Party, he's infamous for his somewhat shady (even if ultimately noble) way of resolving problems. Unusual for stories of this type, Shiroe isn't a one-man powerhouse capable of soloing raid instances on his own; instead he plays an Enchanter, the LEAST-PLAYED CLASS IN THE GAME, a support caster that specializes in buffs and debuffs with almost no offensive spells. While initially reticent at joining formal guilds, he eventually forms one, the eponymous Log Horizon, when he finally accepts that to be able to make a difference in this new world, he needs to have the influence being a Guildmaster gives.
- Akatsuki: A solo player prior to meeting Shiroe, Akatsuki plays an Assassin, and serves as their party's source of burst damage. Although she's petite young woman in the real world, her PC was initially a tall male, but thankfully one of Shiroe's unused gender-change potions fixed that. Despite at max level by the time the Elder Tale game update happened, unlike Shiroe or Naotsugu, Akatsuki has no experience with endgame content like raid dungeons, and as a result is relatively under-equipped (think just green or blue store-bought or crafted equips). This, alongside with real-world hangups about her height, leads to a lot of these insecurities bleeding into her interactions with Shiroe.
- Naotsugu: Another Debauchery Tea Party alumnus, Naotsugu is an easy-going Guardian whose jovial and outwardly perverted persona belies a very VERY competent Tank player (reflected in his skillset choice and equipment). A salaryman and insurance salesman in the real world, Naotsugu is one of the few people who don't have reservations being stuck in Elder Tale, as he has little to look forward to back in the real world but a daily grind in the office.
- Nyanta: Yet another Debauchery Tea Party alumnus, Nyanta is a Catfolk Swashbuckler (sense a pattern here?) as well as a chef par-excellance, and one of his discoveries related to food kickstarts much of the plot of the second book. Although usually quite the cool cat, there is a double edge to his personality. Mizufa was able to provoke him in a duel in the Route 43 arc, and although Kazuhiko intervened to stop him, Nyanta is still the only member of Log Horizon ever shown actually trying to kill a lander outright.
The Guild also has a few "junior" members (nicknamed by the fandom as "Scrub Horizon"), made up of newbies to Elder Tale.
- Minori: A Kannagi, and Tohya's twin sister. She and her brother partied with Shiroe, with the latter helping the two newbies gain their first levels. A short time after they parted ways with Shiroe though, the Catastrophe happened, and finding themselves stuck they were among the newcomers imprisoned and taken advantage of by Hamelin. After being freed, she and Tohya join Log Horizon in gratitude. She has a bit of a schoolgirl crush on Shiroe, and tries to emulate his role as a master strategist, with limited success.
- Tohya: A Samurai, and Minori's twin brother. A newbie like Minori, Tohya's taken the Catastrophe relatively better than his sister if only because, in Theldesia, he can finally walk again (as he was stuck in a wheelchair beforehand). Compared to Minori (who seems to be morphing into a moe Shiroe 2.0), Tohya is much more straightforward and a tad more idealistic. It's not surprising that he and Naotsugu get along very well.
- Isuzu: A Bard, Isuzu was initially one of the more reluctant participants of Elder Tale, having only joined because of a promotional free trial period brought by the new update. Like Minori and Tohya, she was taken advantaged of by Hamelin, but was freed by Shiroe and the Crescent Moon Alliance. She was initially part of Crescent Moon, but joined Log Horizon after the joint training camp.
- Rudy / Rundlehouse Code: The Sorcerer of the guild, Rudy is flashy, flamboyant, and generally odd. Unlike everyone else in the guild, he isn't a PC at all; instead, he was a Lander, and indeed joined the training camp incognito, before Isuzu found out his true identity. As a Lander, any death could have been very VERY final, but thanks to Shiroe he managed to gain the "Adventurer" profession, which bypasses many of those issues.
A few other members join up as well:
- Tettora: A Cleric, Tettora is a perky pink-haired tease patterned around being an idol singer, despite not being able to sing to save her life. Despite first impressions, Tettora is a max level who participated in the Abyssal Shaft raid. Much like Akatsuki, Tettora is someone trapped in a character of the opposite gender (in this case, a male teenager stuck in a female avatar) but why he never took advantage of gender-change potions is a question for the ages.
- Leila and Litka Mofur: A Monk and Druid respectively, they are twin Ancients who were the founders of the Knights of Izumo, the regional military-patrol force. A major plot point in the series is that said Knights have vanished at the same time as the Adventurers and Landers changed, and thus their remaining behind is a part of the deeper mystery surrounding the world. They join Log Horizon after revealing they REMEMBER Tettora from when the world was just a game, further confusing everyone involved and blurring the line on what the world actually is.
This roster obviously lacks one class, Summoner, which is significant. Shiro's alternate character named Roe2, is a summoner with the vampirella subclass. Roe2 resembles a female version of Shiro and was created on the test server (the moon).
Main hub town of Yamato, situated where real-world Akihabara would be. Many of the major Guilds and personalities of the series are based here. It is governed by the Round Table Alliance, a coalition of Guilds
blackmailed ORGANIZED by Shiroe to stabilize the situation among the adventurers there.
Log Horizon: Shiroe's guild. A small guild by choice (Shiroe wants to just have a member representiog each of the 12 Elder Tale classes) with a disproportionate level of influence over the city (again, thanks to Shiroe).
Crescent Moon Alliance: Maryelle's guild. A casual player's guild, its members are also close acquaintances in the real world (like Maryelle and Henrietta being best friends). Due to its part in freeing the enslaved kids from Hamelin, many of these rescuees joined in gratitude, and as a result it had gained a reputation for being a newbie-friendly guild. Considered by reputation to be Log Horizon's sister guild.
D.D.D.: Crusty's guild. A raid guild, with a large number of active members. Organized like a military organization, with sub-commanders leading dedicated squads. Has a very open-door recruitment policy, and will accept any adventurer who is willing to participate in raids regardless of level or equipment.
Black Sword Knights: Isaac's guild. A serious business raid guild, that emphasizes high levels, and a willingness to grind long hours to get geared up to properly tackle endgame dungeons. Has a much lower number count compared to D.D.D., but makes up for it quality of its active members. That said, it's a huge sausagefest, as many of the serious girl gamers have migrated to the next guild instead...
West Wind Brigade: Soujirou's guild. Infamously known as the "harem" guild, due to most of its members initially being either Soujirou's female friends or fangirls. Soujirou initially created it so that some of the ex-members of Debauchery Tea Party can have a place to hang around in.
Akiba is surrounded by the territory of the Freedom League of Eastal, a republic of feudal city states in the mold of Italy in the renaissance. The closest Lander city to Akiba is the Palace of Eternal Ice, built over the site of the the real world Hamarikyu Garden (the old Imperial Japanese state guest palace) and controlled by the Cowen family, who are presently the nominal leader of the Republic's council. The second closest lander city is Cinderella Castle, a literal clone of the castle at Disneyland Tokyo at the same location.
There are several Eastal landers of note to Akiba. Princess Lenessia Cowen travels to Akiba to make a direct appeal to the adventurers to protect Eastal from a goblin invasion. Regan, the Sage of Miral Lake (basically Yamato's version of Khadgar) seeks out Shiroe to exchange knowledge, ultimately helping Shiroe form a theory of how death and regeneration functions sufficient for him to use his powers as a scribe to turn landers into adventurers.
A hub town in Hokkaido. Initially terrorized by the PK Guild Brigandia, these were soon driven out when the exiled raid guild Silver Swords arrived from Akihabara.
Silver Swords: William's guild. A raid guild of the same standing as DDD and the Black Swords, the guild left Akihabara in exile when William decided to not play nice at putting order to the city. They decided to travel north, and settled in Susukino after displacing Brigandia from there.
The Silver Swords are a shadow of their former glory by the time Shiroe and his companions return to Susukino, and out of the 220-odd members it had, only 20 players were in any condition to challenge the new Abyssal Shaft dungeon raid.
The hub town of the Osaka area. Unusual for an adventurer-populated locale, the adventurers of the city are all part of a single guild, Plant Hwayden, which is ruled by its mercurial master, Nureha the Enchanter.
Minami lies within the territory of the Holy Westelande Empire, the former body politic over all of Yamato, and the Westelande nobility still harbor resentment about losing Eastal. After the Catastrophe, the lander nobility was persuaded to support Plant Hwayden in its bid to unify all adventurers, seeing them as a powerful ally with aligned ambitions. Westelande wants war, and Plant Hwayden is both a means to get it and a tool to win it.
- Plant Hwayden: The only guild in Minami, players had no choice but join it, or else have no access to the city's resurrection shrine. It rules Minami and its neighboring hub town Nakasu with an iron fist.
- Odyssea Knights: A bunch of suicidal whackjobs who wander around the countryside carrying a portable resurrection shrine. They believe that by dying enough times, they can return home to Earth.
Log Horizon has its own TRPG based on the story, designed by 7-Sided Workshop, Kinuno Boushi, and Mamare Touno. It plays somewhat similarly to games designed by F.E.A.R. such as Night Wizard!, but adds a new mechanic called "Hate" that represents mob aggro in an MMO.
Along with the Rulebook and Replays, 7-Sided Workshop also publishes the Celdessia Gazette, a free monthly publication that supplies extra scenarios, monsters, and world-building for LHTRPG players.
A translation of the basic rules has been provided below: