Roleplaying Games in the Digital Age

Essays on Transmedia Storytelling, Tabletop RPGs and Fandom


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About the Book

The Digital Age has created massive technological and disciplinary shifts in tabletop role-playing, increasing the appreciation of games like Dungeons & Dragons. Millions tune in to watch and listen to RPG players on podcasts and streaming platforms, while virtual tabletops connect online players. Such shifts elicit new scholarly perspectives. This collection includes essays on the transmedia ecology that has connected analog with digital and audio spaces. Essays explore the boundaries of virtual tabletops and how users engage with a variety of technology to further role-playing. Authors map the growing diversity of the TRPG fandom and detail how players interact with RPG-related podcasts. Interviewed are content creators like Griffin McElroy of The Adventure Zone podcast, Roll20 co-creator Nolan T. Jones, board game designers Nikki Valens and Isaac Childres and fan artists Tracey Alvarez and Alex Schiltz. These essays and interviews expand the academic perspective to reflect the future of role-playing. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Stephanie Hedge is an assistant professor of English and the director of the writing program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches classes on digital literacies, the intersections between English Studies and emergent technologies, and the ways that words do work in the world.

Jennifer Grouling is an associate professor and the director of the writing program at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She currently studies writing assessment and teacher preparation.

Series editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell teaches American studies, anthropology, and writing at Pace University in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Stephanie Hedge and Jennifer Grouling

Series Editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 241
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos (19 in color), notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7686-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4201-7
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Studies in Gaming

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction: Structure to the Stories
Stephanie Hedge and Jennifer Grouling 1

Part I—Analog Meets Digital
Paratextuality and Transmediation in D&D Board Games
Jennifer Grouling 18
Gateway Game and Kickstarted Community: An Interview with Gloomhaven Creator Isaac Childres
Jennifer Grouling 30
The Quest for More Yarn: Fiber Fictions as Transmedia Narratives
Shelly Jones 35
Cultists, Apps and Player Choice: An Interview with Mansions of Madness Creator Nikki Valens
Jennifer Grouling 51

Part II—Gameplay Experiences Meet Digital Affordances
Dungeons and Digital Affordances and Dragons: “Extremely Online” TRPGs
Stephanie Hedge 58
Multi-Windowed Play Commitments: The Virtual Tabletop Role-Playing Game
Noémie Roques 74
The Unexpected Responsibilities of Managing an Entire Ecosystem: An Interview with Roll20 Creator Nolan T. Jones
Jennifer Grouling 91
Roll20, Access and Rhetorical Agency in Digital Game Spaces
Daniel Lawson and Justin Wigard 99
Creating Canons in Tabletop Role-Playing Games Played Online
Maria Alberto 113
Off the Rails: Convergence Through Tabletop ­Role-Playing Modules
Colin Stricklin 126

Between pages 142 and 143 are 8 plates with 19 color illustrations

Part III—TRPGs Meet Fans
The Adventure Zone as Transmedia Stunt Spectacular: An Interview with Griffin McElroy
Stephanie Hedge 144
The Fandom Rushes In: Multiplicity and the Evolution of Inclusive Storytelling, Through Fan Participation in The Adventure Zone
Michelle McMullin and Lee W. Hibbard 156
The Limits of the “Infinite Imagisphere”: Collaborative Storytelling and Audience Participation in The Adventure Zone Podcast
Kira Apple 171
“Is It Thursday yet?” Narrative Time in a Live-Streamed Tabletop RPG
Emily C. Friedman 187
Building on Resonances: An Interview with TRPG Fan Artists
Stephanie Hedge 205

Conclusion: “How do you want to do this?”
Stephanie Hedge and Jennifer Grouling 215
About the Contributors 221
Index 223

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “…a necessary and timely intervention into studies of transmedia role-playing games and fandom.”–Paul Booth, author of Board Games as Media and professor of media and cinema studies at DePaul University
  • •“As platforms, fandoms, and transmedia all push hobbyist gaming into the mainstream Roleplaying Games in the Digital Age provides a clear vision of tabletop role-playing games as narrative media in the digitally afforded 21st century.”—Evan Torner, associate professor of German and film and media studies, University of Cincinnati