This is a fairly short list of books about role-playing games in general, as opposed to books for particular systems. For a more complete list of publications, see However, that does not have descriptions of any of the books.

Albrecht, Bob. "The Adventurer's Handbook: A Guide to Role Playing Games" 1984 (ISBN: 083590167X)
This is an introduction to role-playing games in general and to Chaosium's basic roleplaying system in particular.
Archer, Peter. (editor) "30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons" 2004 (ISBN: 0-7869-3498-0)
A retrospective on the development and play of the game D&D, with various interviews and essays by authors of the game.
Barrowcliffe, Mark. "The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange"
A humorous autobiography about growing up in 1970s England with the hobby of Dungeons & Dragons.
Bowman, Sarah Lynne. "The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity" McFarland, 2010. (ISBN-10: 0786447109 | ISBN-13: 978-0786447107)
A scholarly study of the psychological and sociological functions of RPGs, based on ethnography of 19 participants of table-top, live action and virtual games. It endorses role-playing as encouraging creativity, self-awareness, group cohesion and "out-of-the-box" thinking.
Brown, Timothy and Lee, Tony. "Official Price Guide to Role-Playing Games". Ballantine Books, 1998.
This is a handbook for collectors of role-playing game products, suggesting prices for rare items, limited prints, etc.
Butterfield, John; Parker, Philip; and Honigmann, David. What is Dungeons and Dragons?. Harmondsworth 1982-1984, Puffin Books (ISBN: 0446322121).
This is one of the earliest book about role-playing games. It is both a description of D&D for newcomers to the game as well as detailed background notes, hints on play and dungeon design, strategy and tactics.
Byers, Andrew and Crocco, Francesco (authors and editors). The Role-Playing Society: Essays on the Cultural Influence of RPGs. McFarland, February 19, 2016. (ISBN 978-0786498833)
A collection of essays that illustrate the broad appeal and impact of RPGs. Topics range from a critical reexamination of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, to the growing significance of RPGs in education, to the potential for "serious" RPGs to provoke awareness and social change. The contributors discuss the myriad subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways in which the values, concepts and mechanics of RPGs have infiltrated popular culture.
Cogburn, Jon and Silcox, Mark (editors). Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy. Open Court Books, 2012. (ISBN 978-0-8126-9796-4)
Part of a Popular Culture and Philosophy series, this is a collection of thirty essays on Dungeons & Dragons that relate game topics to issues in philosophy.
Desborough, James and Mortimer, Steve. "The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming". Steve Jackson Games, 2000. (ISBN 1556343477)
A humorous look at power-gaming, rules-lawyering, cheating, and other juvenile RPG tricks. While the main intent is clearly humor, the parody is a reflection on RPG styles.
Fannon, Sean Patrick. "The Fantasy Roleplaying Gamer's Bible". Prima Entertainment, 1995. (ISBN: 0761502645)
This is half an in-depth introduction to what tabletop RPGs are like, and half a history of published tabletop RPGs.
Fannon, Sean Patrick. "The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer's Bible, 2nd Edition". Obsidian Studios, 2000. (ISBN: 0967442907)
A revised edition of the previous book. It adds additional material covering new roleplaying games since 1995, and also re-edits many of the original essays.
Fine, Gary Alan. "Shared Fantasy: Roleplaying Games as Social Worlds" University of Chicago Press. 1983. (ISBN: 0226249433)
An academic study of the roleplaying subculture in the late 70's and early 80's. It is not about the games per se but rather the particular social contexts that the author studied.
Gade, Morten, and Thorup, Line and Sander, Mikkel (editors). "As Larp Grows Up - Theory and Methods in Larp". BookPartner. 2003. (ISBN: 87-989377-0-7)
A collection of essays on RPG theory, published in Denmark in connection with the Knudepunkt 2003 convention. The complete text for this book plus two additional essays are now available online at
Gilsdorf, Ethan. "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms". Lyons Press, 2009.
A pop-culture book on the community of fantasy role-players, including online, tabletop, and live-action.
Guthrie, Wade. "Game Mastering Secrets". Wade Guthrie Press, 2000.
This is a large (8.5"x11") 136-page book which has an assortment of tips for game-mastering. It's emphasis is on first-time GMs.
Gygax, Gary. "Role-Playing Mastery: Tips, Tactics and Strategies", Grafton Books, London 1989. (ISBN: 0399512934)
This book explores the nature of roleplaying games, and defines a number of distinctions about types and styles of games. It's distinctions are different than many later writers, and often specific to D&D, which Gary Gygax was an author of.
Gygax, Gary. "Master of the Game". Perigee Books, 1990. (ISBN: 039951533X)
A continuation of his other book, this focusses on the game-master.
Harrigan, Pat and Wardrip-Fruin, Noah (editors). "Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media". MIT Press, 2007. (ISBN-10: 0-262-08356-6 / ISBN-13: 978-0-262-08356-0)
An academic work gathering a diverse group of writers to consider the relationship between "story" and "game," as well as the new kinds of artistic creation (literary, performative, playful) that have become possible in the digital environment. Table of Contents and sample chapters are available online.
Holmes, John Eric. "Fantasy Role Playing Games". Hippocrene Books, New York 1981. (ISBN: 0882545140)
A semi-official book which describes roleplaying games to non-players, authored by a TSR writer.
Jacobs, Jonathan. (editor) "Open Game Table, The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume I". Lulu, 2009. (ISBN 978-0-578-01474-6)
A collection of 47 articles from 32 top-quality RPG blogs, aiming to bring these to a wider audience, including a foreword written by RPG luminary Wolfgang Baur. The articles are often specific to Dungeons and Dragons, but include a range of topics.
Laws, Robin D. "Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering". Steve Jackson Games, 2002. (ISBN 1556346298)
A comic-book sized 32-page guide on gamemastering techniques for established gamemasters. It concentrates on categorizing players and tailoring your game and game preparations to satisfy them.
Laycock, Josep P. "Dangerous games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds". University of California Press, 2015. (ISBN 9780520284920)
A book divided into two parts. The first part is a history of the moral panic in the 1980s over role-playing games. The second part is about how role-playing games resemble religions and how religions resemble role-playing games.
Livingstone, Ian. "Dicing With Dragons: An Introduction to Role-Playing Games". Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982. (ISBN: 0452254477)
An introduction to role-playing games, which includes a complete solitaire adventure using a system it calls "Fantasy Quest." It was first published in England in 1982 by Routledge & Kegan Paul. It was reprinted in America by Plume the next year and again by Signet in September, 1986.
Lowder, James. (editor) "HOBBY GAMES: THE 100 BEST"
An anthology of essays where designers, authors, and publishers in the hobby games field write about the most enjoyable and cleverly designed games of the last fifty years. These include board games, collectible card games, and miniatures games as well as role-playing games.
Mackay, Daniel. "The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art" McFarland, 2001. (ISBN: 0786408154)
This is a very academic analysis of role-playing games as a performance art. The author uses a theoretical framework of theater studies. His data is primarily from a long-standing AD&D campaign that he played ran for several years.
Montola, Markus, and Stenros, Jaakko (editors). "Beyond Role and Play: tools, toys, and theory for harnessing the imagination" Solmukohta 2004 partners, 2004. (ISBN: 952-91-6842-X)
A collection of 28 essays on the theory of role-playing -- drawing on many disciplines, ranging from psychology and theater studies to anthropology. It is primarily from writers in Scandanavian with an emphasis on live-action role-playing events. However, much of it is widely applicable.
Nephew, Michelle Andromeda Brown. "Playing with power: The authorial consequences of roleplaying games (H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien)". The University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 2003. (ISBN: 0-496-61656-0)
A doctoral dissertation on role-playing games as an aspect of modern literature. It suggests that as a group endeavor, players author a complex structure of fantasy that addresses Freudian concepts of dreams and wish-fulfillment. In this way, roleplaying addresses identity, including questions of performance, spectatorship, and gender construction. It can be purchased online through UMI ProQuest as Publication AAT 3114163.
Nexus, Johnny. "Game Night"
A humorous novel based on role-playing gaming, set in a fantasy world where the gods have decided to play an RPG.
Peterson, Jon. "Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People, and Fantastic Adventures from Chess to Role Playing Games". Unreason Press, 2012. (ISBN: 978-0615642048)
This is a history of both wargames and role-playing games. It starts from eighteenth-century strategists, and covers RPGs as the "signature cultural innovation of the late twentieth century" that combines the literary concept of character, fantastic adventure and the principles of gaming.
Plamondon, Robert. "Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook". Reston Publishing, 1982. (ISBN: 0835976874)
This was written as a practical guide to running an RPG campaign. It covers creating and playing characters, creating a game world and game-mastering, hosting a good game session, common pitfalls and how to avoid them, and even painting miniature figures.
Rilstone, Andrew. "Interactive Fantasy: the journal of role-playing and story-making systems". Hogshead Publishing, 1994-1995. (ISSN: 1356-6520)
A short-lived journal of academic-style essays on role-playing theory and practice. It had four issues, the first of which was entitled "Inter*Action" but legal difficulties forced them to change the title.
Schick, Lawrence. "Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games", Prometheus Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 1991. (ISBN: 0879756535)
This is primarily an enormous catalog of most RPG items to date, including not only the basic RPG systems but also their supplements. It has occaisional notes on the history and definition of RPGs from selected authors.
Stark, Lizzie. "Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games". Chicago Review Press, 2012.
A pop-culture analysis of live-action role-playing games that delves into gamers' lives and the games' connection to larger issues. It looks broadly from historical games to a glimpse at the Nordic larp scene, but is primarily about larp in the U.S. Northeast.
Swan, Rick. "The Complete Guide to Roleplaying Games". St. Martin's Press, 1990. (ISBN: 0312050607)
This is primarily an enormous catalog of short reviews, with some general notes about what RPGs are.
Torner, Evan, and White, William J. (editors). "Immersive Gameplay: Essays on Participatory Media and Role-Playing". McFarland & Company, 2012. (ISBN: 978-0786468348)
A collection of academic essays on the experience of immersion in larp and tabletop role-playing.


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Wed Aug 8 15:47:08 2012