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RPG THEORY

         This page covers various attempts to describe RPGs in general terms. There are many sources for advice on role-playing games, but most of these try to promote a "One True Way" of playing. Rather than telling you how to roleplay, this is a collection of articles on what the different ways are -- and the pros and cons of different choices. Many of the articles here were inspired by discussion on the newsgroup rec.games.frp.advocacy, discussion on the web-based bulletin board The Forge as well as the RPGnet Forums, and ideas from a number of RPG blogs (see the Blog Links of my journal).

PURPOSE AND DEFINITIONS

External Links:
The Hidden Art: Slouching Towards A Critical Framework for RPGs by Robin D. Laws
On The Vocabulary of Role-Playing by Phil Master
An Introduction to Recreational Roleplaying by Mark Grundy
A Glossary of Selected Role-Playing Terms by John Mack
Australian Convention Roleplaying Glossary
On Roleplaying Games by Joshua Macy
What is a Game? by Bernard Suits (added April 9, 2005)
Theory Topics Wiki (added May 9, 2005)
I Have No Words & I Must Design by Greg Costikyan (added September 15, 2005)
Role-Playing Games: An Overview by Andrew Rilstone (added September 15, 2005)
Where We've Been, Where We're Going by Greg Porter (added September 15, 2005)
My Eyes Glaze Over: Roleplaying theory for short attention spans by Allen Varney (added July 3, 2006)
the Play's the Thing by Mark Wallace (added July 25, 2006)
The Provisional (Forge) Glossary by Ron Edwards (added August 30, 2006)

SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL CONTEXT

External Links:
Seriously Considering Play by Lloyd P. Rieber (added November 27, 2004)
EdGames on "Seriously Considering Play" by Monica Veinbergs (added November 27, 2004)
Game Playing and Value Theory by Gwendolyn Bradford (added April 9, 2005)
Game Styles, Innovation, and New Audiences: An Historical View by Greg Costikyan (added September 15, 2005)
Creating a Level Playing Field: Improvisational Play and Collaboration in Education by Tina Blaine and Brenda Bakker Harger (added September 15, 2005)
Reconstruction 6.1 (Winter 2006) Games, Gamers, and Gaming Culture (added September 20, 2006)
The Infamous Five by Ron Edwards et al. (added December 29, 2006)
Cheetoism Wiki by Kyle Aaron (added December 29, 2006)

HISTORY OF ROLE-PLAYING

External Links:
A Brief History of Roleplaying: Part One, Part Two, Part Three by Shannon Appelcline (added July 25, 2006)
The History of RPG Companies (RPGnet column) by Shannon Appelcline Where We've Been, Where We're Going by Greg Porter (added September 15, 2005)
The Evolution of Munchkin by Monte Cook (added December 22, 2003)
Death to the Minotaur (Part 1) by John Tynes
Death to the Minotaur (Part 2) by John Tynes

MODELS OF ROLE-PLAYING

External Links:
The Forge Articles primarily by Ron Edwards
Breakdown of RPG Players by Sean K. Reynolds (added November 29, 2003)
Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs by Richard Bartle
Morality in Campaigns: An Interaction Model (archive) by Brian Gleichman
Real Men, Real Roleplayers, Lunatics, and Munchkins by Jeff Okamoto, Sandy Petersen, et al.
Situationist Gamemastering by Bruce Baugh
The Evolution of Munchkin by Monte Cook (added December 22, 2003)
The Meilahti School by Jaakko Stenros & Henri Hakkarainen (added March 8, 2004)
System Color: A typology of RPG mechanics by Fabian Nioles (added March 8, 2004)
What is Real? Reality in RPGs? by Marco Chacon (added June 24, 2004)
Facets: 5 Motivation Factors for Why People Play MMORPGs by Nick Yee (added December 7, 2004)
The Process Model of Role-Playing (added April 9, 2005)
Channel Theory of Role-playing by Larry D. Hols (added July 25, 2006)
The Turku School of Roleplaying by Mike Pohjola (added July 25, 2006)
The Daedalus Project: the psychology of mmorpgs by Nick Yee (added July 25, 2006)
Why We Play Games by Nicole Lazzaro (added July 25, 2006)
The AGE Model by Brian Hollenback (added August 29, 2006)
Theory 101: System and the Shared Imagined Space by M. Joseph Young (added December 22, 2006)
Theory 101: The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast by M. Joseph Young (added December 22, 2006)
Theory 101: Creative Agenda by M. Joseph Young (added December 22, 2006)
Design Patterns of Successful Role-Playing Games by John Kirk (added May 3, 2007)
Games Research Project by Brant Guillory (added June 1, 2007)
The Art and Theory of Immersive Roleplay by Matt West (added July 1, 2011)

GENDER ISSUES

External Links on Gender

NARRATIVE STRUCTURE

External Links:
Games telling Stories? by Jesper Juul
A Clash between Game and Narrative by Jesper Juul
Role-playing Games as Collaborative Fiction by Dariel Quiogue
Playing Stories, Telling Games: Collaborative Storytelling in Role-Playing Games by Lisa Padol
Element-based Role-play by Jonathan Dobson (added February 26, 2004)
Polytropos on "Narrative Paradigms in RPGs" by Nate Bruinooge (added July 16, 2004)
Notes Towards a Semiotics of RPGs: Part 1, Part 2, Part 2A, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, PostScript by Ed Heil (added July 16, 2004)
Literary Vocabulary by L. Kip Wheeler (added July 16, 2004)
Where Stories End and Games Begin by Greg Costikyan (added December 21, 2004)
What It Might Be Like to Live in Viriconium by M. John Harrison (added December 21, 2004)
Do Drama Theory (added April 9, 2005)
Creating Theme by Vincent Baker (added September 15, 2005)
Control and Restrictions in RPGs: A mechanistic approach by Lucian Smith (added September 15, 2005)
Creative Accounting: Role-playing Games, Possible-World Theory, and the Agency of Imagination by Daniel Punday (added April 16, 2007)

PLOTTING & GENRE

External Links:
The Big List of RPG Plots by S. John Ross
Writing and Running Adventures by Dariel Quiogue
The 36 Plots by Loren J. Miller
Improvisation: Game Mastering On the Fly by Todd Secord (added March 8, 2004)
How do you run a Dungeon-free RPG Campaign? by Doug Anderson (added July 16, 2004)
Fault Tolerant Game Design and Execution by Marco Chacon (added April 9, 2005)
Integrated Scenario Design by Marco Chacon (added April 9, 2005)
How to Get Along with Your Players by Heather Grove (added April 9, 2005)
The Adventure Funnel by "Dr. Rotwang" (added February 21, 2007)
Flag Framing by Chris Chinn (added February 21, 2007)
The Conflict Web by Chris Chinn (added February 21, 2007)
The Psychology of GM Prep by Dan Maruschak (added November 9, 2011)
Chokers And Chandlers by Zak S. (added November 22, 2011)
Designing Good Roleplaying Adventures by Mark Cunningham (added February 8, 2012)

CHARACTER DESIGN AND ROLE-PLAY

External Links:
Personality Mechanics by John Mack (added March 8, 2004)
Baiting the Hook by Jeff Gilmour (added March 8, 2004)
Misfits, Freaks, and Weirdos by Jennifer Brandes and Chris Hepler (added March 8, 2004)
Designing Your Team - the Scooby Way! by Lise Mendel (added April 2, 2004)
NPC Template Generator by René Vernon (added July 16, 2004)

SCENES & RESOLUTION

External Links:
Roll Initiative by Andrew Finch (added February 21, 2007)
Tips on getting a game going quickly by Elliot Wilen (added February 21, 2007)
Fighting the Good Fight by Wil Hutton and Edwyn Kumar (added February 21, 2007)

EXAMPLES OF PLAY

FORUMS & SOURCES

Amused in Review: Games by Joshua Macy
A set of essays and reviews on RPGs.
Beyond Role and Play
Information on a book of 28 essays on role-playing theory, published in Finland for the Solmukohta '04 convention.
Blackhat Matt's Role-playing Essays by Matthew McFarland (added December 21, 2004)
A series of some thirty essays on role-playing, with a focus on storytelling and the Storyteller games of White Wolf.
Burning Void RPG (Roleplaying) Resources
This is an extensive set of essays, primarily by Heather Grove, on theory and advice for role-playing.
Collaborative Roleplay
This is a site devoted to the concept of "collaborative roleplay" -- play with no game-master, which is aimed at encouraging participation, unlocking creativity, strengthening the game setting, and making play more flexible.
Critical Miss: The Magazine for Dysfunctional Roleplayers
An online magazine with a tongue-in-cheek style.
Dogme 99: A programme for the liberation of LARP
A Norwegian site which describes a new style of live-action role-playing events and some of the philosophy behind it.
Daedalus: speculative workshop e-zine
A free quarterly e-zine dedicated to the role-playing hobby, started in Fall 2003.
Fill in the Gap (added April 9, 2005)
A notable column at RPGnet by Matt Turnbull, which is full of paradigm-challenging scenarios. Spoiler warning: these are scenarios which you may well want to play. However, I recommend reading at least the first one, "Singular Space".
The Forge
A popular forum for independent RPG design, along with essays and resources by Ron Edwards.
Gamerene.com Writer Index: Beth Kinderman
A series of essays hosted by gamegrene.com, including several looking into gender issues in gaming.
Imazine
A long-standing fanzine run by Paul Mason, with a number of excellent articles and discussion. In particular, he has a focus on "culture games" which convey real-world history and culture.
The Interactive Toolkit by Christopher Kubasik
A set of four essays originally published in White Wolf's "Inphobia" magazine.
Interacting Arts (added April 9, 2005)
A group dedicated to interactive art, notably their concept of Second stage interacting arts (or SESTIA) -- where "second stage" implies that the method focuses on participation (first would be traditional art forms), and "interacting arts" that sestians never specialize within one medium. This includes roleplaying as well as improvisational theater games and some computer games.
International Journal of Roleplaying
An academic journal with articles analyzing role-playing as a phenomenon.
The Key Manifesto
A manifesto based on Scandanavian LARP play which suggests keys for the design of better games.
Knudepunkt 2003: "As LARP Grows Up"
This is a 207-page book on RPG theory, which is available in PDF format. It has essays by many authors, which were written for the international Scandanavian role-playing convention known as Knutepunkt, Knutpunkt, Solmukohta, or Knudepunkt (depending on the language of the country). It is available chapter-by-chapter, or you can download the complete book as a (16MB download).
laiv.org Theory Forum (added May 9, 2005)
The theory forum for the Scandanavian site laiv.org. This discusses live-action role-playing theory. Some articles are in Norwegian, but many are in English.
The Masters' Council
A web forum dedicated to RPG theory and practice.
The Oracle
A website devoted to serious discussion of role-playing games.
Place to Go, People to Be
Another online magazine based in Brisbane, Australia. It is primarily devoted to tips and suggestions for games, but also has some reflection on the hobby itself.
Push: New Thinking About Roleplaying
An annual journal of progressive roleplaying thought, edited by Jonathan Walton, and released in book form.
Realms - Roleplaying Articles
A series of gaming articles, with a focus on "Vampire: The Masquerade" play, but with some more theoretical advice essays.
Redefining Games: How Academia is Reshaping Games of the Future
by Lauren Gonzalez
An article on electronic games, but which may also have relevance for non-electronic role-playing games.
Roleplaying Theory, Hardcore
A series of ten short essays on RPG theory by Vincent Baker of Lumpley Games.
Roleplaying Tips
An interesting site which has many suggestions for gamers, but unfortunately does not in practice acknowledge that ideas that work for some styles of play don't work for others.
RPGnet Forum: The Art of Game Design
A web-based discussion forum for discussion of game design. This is dominated primarily by mechanical design rather than theory, however.
RPG.NET Gamer's Realm: Theory and Morphology
Another set of theory links.
RPGs: Theory and Practice by John Mack
A page with a glossary of terms, notes on personality mechanics, and description of some Australian convention games.
RPG Theory Articles by Fabian Nioles
Articles including "System Color: A typology of RPG mechanics".
RPG Theory Review by Mendel Schmiedekamp
A blog featuring new posts on RPG theory from 2006 to 2008.
Shakespeare Eclectic Science Fiction Interactive Theater
This is a site by Brian Phillips, focussing on the educational use of role-playing games and mature live-action RPGs ("interactive theater"). It includes a long list of dramatic scenarios.
Skotos Tech
An online role-playing site with a number of articles about storytelling and role-playing.
Tastes Like Phoenix Games
A series of articles by Chris Hepler, Jennifer Brandes, and others including suggestions for gaming.
The Turku School of Roleplaying
A collection of articles by Mike Pohjola, including the semi-infamous Turku Manifesto which advocates a highly immersive approach to role-playing.
The 20' by 20' Room
A communal weblog subtitled, "To talk, thoughtfully, about role-playing games".
Uncle Figgy's Guides
A series of advice essays for RPGs in general.
The Vaults of Atreion by Dariel Quiogue
A personal site with a number of essays.
Vi Åker Jeep (Added September 15, 2005)
A wiki of material maintained by a Sweden-based roleplaying game author group including Olle Jonsson and Tobias Wrigstad. This contains an analysis of their variety of "freeform" play with tabletop play and larps.
Ways to Play by Chris Chinn
A series of six essays hosted at RPGnet, describing in practical terms a narrative approach to roleplaying.

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Mon Aug 27 09:23:31 2012