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You are here: Home --> Forum Home --> General Forum --> Gaming surveys --> Roleplaying is Scholarly!
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    Messages in Roleplaying is Scholarly!
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RDI Fixture
Karma: 22/5
513 Posts

Roleplaying is Scholarly!

So I am going to be doing what is called an "English Senior Project" next semester, where I write a 40 page thesis on a subject of my choice. I decided that I would do mine on the literary merit of tabletop roleplaying games: how DMs and rulebook creators all use certain literary concepts when making their adventures.

So far, this is what I have written down for a work-in-progress outline:

The main focus will be the literary merit of the table-top gaming society; that is that people who play/work for Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, White Wolf, etc. do more than just play games but rather integrate intertextual and archetypal theory, as well as character and plot summary into their game sessions.

Will address three sides of this argument:
1) “Scholarly” literature may be composed into gaming/playable format.
2) Game literature may be formatted into readable literature.
3) Certain aspects of games may be derived explicitly from “Scholarly” literature

Examples of 1st argument:
1) Beowulf: Grendal’s mother as a Sea Hag (Pathfinder Bestiary)
2) David and Goliath: fight scene into game format

Examples of 2nd argument:
1) R.A. Salvatore’s “Legend of Drizzt” series
2) Blog sites

Examples of 3rd argument:
1) Black devil to Dante’s Inferno – classic literature
2) Orcs derived from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – obscure history, obvious connection
3) Succubus from Catholicism – religion
4) Jabberwock – Lewis Carroll’s monster in Pathfinder Bestiary II

As you may note, I am working with Paizo's Pathfinder franchise. However, I may be able to allude to D&D 3.5 as well (since they both use the same style of d20 modern system). If anyone has ideas on what else I could do for this paper, I am all ears.

I will be sure to post my work at the end of December 2011.

Posted on 2011-03-16 at 15:58:30.

Occasional Visitor
Karma: 8/1
47 Posts

Sounds like a good start

Looks like you have a good beginning. Though I think an important note should be that Drizzt was never converted to tabletop play. R.A. Salvatore never wrote a character sheet for him. Maybe a better example would be the Dragonlance Chronicles which are a record of their game sessions. Or did I misunderstand the point?

Posted on 2011-03-16 at 16:47:19.

RDI Fixture
Karma: 22/5
513 Posts

Actually gamergirld20...

I have seen the stats for Drizzt in a Forgotten Realms book. I could easily coincide the stats sheet with the books... I will read up on your suggestions however: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Posted on 2011-03-16 at 19:21:26.
Edited on 2011-03-16 at 21:55:24 by Shades331

Sage of the Realms
Karma: 44/9
1024 Posts

Another suggestion

I would also like to suggest the possibility of mentioning the reading comprehension skills that the game can teach, both by reading the rulebooks, and on the part of GMs, reading and interpreting rules and adventures.

It can also help simple math skills, problem solving and other things, but it seems you want to stay focused on the English angles so it may not pay to mention those despite their "scholarly" applications.

Posted on 2011-03-16 at 19:26:06.

I'm doing SCIENCE!
RDI Staff
Karma: 163/50
1835 Posts


I think it's pretty clear that a long-running tabletop game is nothing more than a novel with 3-6 authors writing in real time.

Here's my take. First off is this high school or college? I'm assuming college since that's a hell of a task for a high schooler. My Thesis for college was about 40 pages.

From what I learned in college, and I do have a literature/language degree (granted not in English but the principles still hold), is that the 5 paragraph essay is HOT right now. For a while teachers were steering away from it but it's back now. Of course you can't do 5 paragraphs over 40 pages, but you can keep the same structure.

Structure is almost always more important than content, at least from a grading standpoint. Your arguments can be poor and your structure good and still get a B or even A.

So start your essay off with a broad statement, then narrow, then narrow, then narrow, then boom him them with your thesis.

I didn't actually see a Thesis statement in your post. You need a single statement that you will defend. That was the single hardest concept for me to grasp, and took half of my first semister to comprehend. Not sure why, but I still have trouble with it.

I like the 1/3/3 rule. Your 1 Thesis has 3 arguments (body paragraphs) to support it, and each body paragraph has 3 pieces of "evidence" or support to back up the argument which in turn backs up your Thesis. For your project though, you probably want something like a 1/5/10. The most important part is to ask yourself after every paragraph "Does this defend my Thesis and advance my arguments?"

If no, then mark it for later revision.

Anyway, it's hard without seeing a Thesis, but it looks to me like 1 and 3 are the same argument.

2) Game literature may be formatted into readable literature.

Hell just about every system out there has novels. Warhammer, Shadowrun, etc. etc. I'm not really sure this would argue in favor of RPGs being scholarly, but rather that authors are able to use games as an inspiration. It would show that there is a connection between the two, but you could just as easily argue that movies, video games, or TV shows are scholarly since they have also spawned novels. This argument doesn't apply only to RPGs. Something to think about.

3) Certain aspects of games may be derived explicitly from “Scholarly” literature

The Once and Future King
Brave New World (as Cyberpunk)
Lord of the Flies
The Bible
Hordes of Greek/Latin Literature (Hydra, Medusa, etc.)

Hope this helps. I remember when I first started brainstorming my Thesis I had zero real direction. It wasn't until I had my first draft (2 months in) that my professor looked it over and told me what utter crap it was and that I should really re-do the "right" way lol

Good luck!

Posted on 2011-03-16 at 20:55:12.
Edited on 2011-03-16 at 20:59:04 by Admiral

RDI Fixture
Karma: 22/5
513 Posts

Actually Admiral...

I can see where points 1 and 3 may appear to be the same: they may very well be addressed in the same section of my paper.

However, point 1) plays with the concept that a vague idea (such as the "Sea Hag" found in the Pathfinder Bestiary) may be applied to a work of "classic literature" (such as Grendal's mother from Beowulf). In essence I wish to state that Roleplaying games plays with/ creates archetypes that can be applied to books you read that have nothing to do with the table-top gaming world.

Point 3), on the other hand, does not work with the simple/broad concept of the archetype, but rather with specific concepts that originate from "classic literature" itself: There was no such thing as a "Jabberwock" before Louise Carroll wrote about it in Through the Looking Glass and in most cases, this has not been used since as a archetype (Though the Jabberwock uses the archetype of the 'dragon' in a heroic ballad). So for Paizo to use such a creature in their bestiary reflects their interest in actually researching specific articles in the literary world and applying them to their own cannon.

In summary: point 1) deals with Archetype, point 3) deals with Allusion.

Thanks for talking about it, I am sure that this will be a very important point that I will need to clarify in my actual thesis... it is college by the way, so I am expected to do a ton of research before I have a finished product.

So if anyone has ideas on extra points I could use, sources that might be good to look at, or any questions: please do not hesitate and ask away. I am going to have to present/defend this article at the end of next semester anyways.

Cheers y'all!


Posted on 2011-03-16 at 21:54:46.
Edited on 2011-03-16 at 22:33:51 by Shades331

RDI Fixture
Karma: 22/5
513 Posts

Actually Steelight...

I may quickly talk about the math required, but as you pointed out, it is not really what the English department will be interested in for this thesis.

However, thank you for pointing out that reading comprehension and integration that is required. It was on the back burner but was not really established on my writeup. I will be sure to figure out how to integrate this into my paper in some way shape or form if it is permissible!

Posted on 2011-03-16 at 21:58:58.
Edited on 2011-03-16 at 21:59:34 by Shades331

Occasional Visitor
Karma: 8/1
47 Posts

Considering modern fantasy's roots

As far as allusions and or examples go you might want to take an extensive look through Norse Mythology. I've heard some pretty good arguments that modern fantasy is based on Tolkien and his books are based off Norse Mythology.

And someone may have converted Drizzt into a legendary npc but Salvatore has said that he's never played Drizzt and doesn't intend to in one of his author's notes.

Posted on 2011-03-17 at 00:44:37.

RDI Fixture
Karma: 22/5
513 Posts

To gamergirld20

Thank you for the heads up on Drizzt: I might have wasted some time on that.

If you come by those notes, could you refer me to them? I still may be able to use them!

Thanks again!

Posted on 2011-03-17 at 01:00:51.

Occasional Visitor
Karma: 8/1
47 Posts

Might not have the book anymore

I think it's at the beginning of the IceWind Dale Trilogy Compendium or the Dark Elf Trilogy Compendium. The big one with all three books in it. He talks about how he wanted Wulfgar as the main character of IceWind Dale and then Drizzt stole the spotlight third page in. At the end of that note he mentions that he gets the question whether or not he ever played Drizzt and in fact he has not. It's in one of those books. Salvatore writes very personal while still being business author's notes.

Dragonlance on the other hand played out the Chronicles then branched out into non played books that expanded on character backgrounds and new parties. I think they even played with a couple of the new parties but I know they played through the Chronicles (Tanis, Riverwind, Goldmoon, Raistlin, Caramon, Tika, Tasslehoff, Flint, Sturm, Laurana). Tracy Hickman was the DM and wrote the character sheets but the players brought them to life.

Posted on 2011-03-17 at 01:49:52.

I'm doing SCIENCE!
RDI Staff
Karma: 163/50
1835 Posts


I'm happy to help. I had some others to do mock defenses with and it really helped me during the actual defense.

I see your point, but I still don't think they are different enough concepts to justify two separate arguments. The two of them together though would make for a hell of a section. Could probably get 8-10 pages out of it.

Posted on 2011-03-17 at 02:24:45.

Typing Furiously
RDI Staff
Karma: 176/19
3011 Posts


There are also the novels that don't come from adventures, but come from Campaign Settings.

Dragonlance has already been mentioned, but if you look at Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft, there are novels that are actually referred to in the Settings or Expansions.

In other words, you'd have to have read the books in order to have a clear picture of a history, a character or a place. Reading about Strahd in the Domains of Dread or in I, Strahd and Vampire of the Mists are two different things. They lead to the same character, but with many different nuances. In the setting, Strahd is pretty flat, in the novels, you can almost understand why he became immortal.
Same goes for many other Dark Lords.

And the Forgotten Realms history is ever evolving because it changes with every book Greenwood (and of course others too) writes.

Posted on 2011-03-24 at 19:57:22.

RDI Fixture
Karma: 22/5
513 Posts

Been a while

So it has been a lil' while. Wanted to let all you peeps know that I am now in the midst of writing my 40+ academic paper on the literary merit of Pathfinder, and all tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) by extension.

I know that TTRPGs may not need to be at a table (as RDInn is founded on this principle), but I am kinda writing to a scholarly audience, and I don't see it as being a major detail at this stage - though I may be able to squeeze in there somewhere that TTRPGs do not need to be confined to the medium of verbal speech (this is actually an argument I use anyways - that literature cannot be confined to written text, but can be found in any type of medium and changed to any other type of medium). Pretty neat stuff...

Anyways, I hope I do all us gamers proud! I will be sure to throw the essay somewhere on the interwebz when all is said and done (I got a crap tone of foot notes so I doubt RDInn will be able to format it properly)!

Peace out guys! I am off to write for another 3-4 hours!

Posted on 2011-10-27 at 03:31:12.

Extreme Exclaimator!
Karma: 90/24
4114 Posts

You could possibly ...

..... mention the Red Dragon Inn at some point where players actually WRITE their gaming sequences which has literary value and is most helpful when the gamers spell correctly and also write correctly to make sense!

Posted on 2011-10-27 at 04:30:09.

RDI Fixture
Karma: 36/8
869 Posts


Is that aimed at anyone in particular?

Posted on 2011-10-27 at 20:30:15.

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