Strictly Fantasy

The Cultural Roots of Tabletop Role-Playing Games


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SKU: 9781476675718 Categories: , , , ,
Imprint or Series:Studies in Gaming

About the Book

Role-playing games seemed to appear of nowhere in the early 1970s and have been a quiet but steady presence in American culture ever since. This new look at the hobby searches for the historical origins of role-playing games deep in the imaginative worlds of Western culture. It looks at the earliest fantasy stories from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at the fans—both readers and writers—who wanted to bring them to life, at the Midwestern landscape and the middle-class households that were the hobby’s birthplace, and at the struggle to find meaning and identity amidst cultural conflicts that drove many people into these communities of play. This book also addresses race, religion, gender, fandom, and the place these games have within American capitalism. All the paths of this journey are connected by the very quality that has made fantasy role-playing so powerful: it binds the limitless imagination into a “strict” framework of rules. Far from being an accidental offshoot of marginalized fan communities, role-playing games’ ability to hold contradictions in dynamic, creative tension made them a necessary and central product of the twentieth century.

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About the Author(s)

Gerald Nachtwey is an associate professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

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

Bibliographic Details

Gerald Nachtwey

Series Editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 199
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7571-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4347-2
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Studies in Gaming

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
One. “A total fantasy world” 5
Two. “Rapt clean out of ourselves”: Fantasy Literature and Immersion 41
Three. “The belief in luck”: Leisure Culture, Middle Class Adventurers and Midwestern Dungeons 72
Four. “Why are you opening the gates of hell?”: Ritual, Religion and ­­Role-Playing Games 96
Five. “Feigned histories”: Gender, Race and Identity in Fantasy ­­Role-Playing Games 118
Conclusion: “The pleasures of real life” 150
Chapter Notes 163
Works Cited 177
Index 187

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “A seminal work of extraordinary scholarship…exceptionally well written, organized and presented…impressively informative and will prove to be an inherently interesting read for fans and creators of table-top role playing games.”—Midwest Book Review