The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Matthew Barton

Second Advisor

Judith Dorn

Third Advisor

Bradley Chisholm

Keywords and Subject Headings

Games, Theory, Literature, Analysis, Narrative


The purpose of this thesis is to provide a new angle to the research of roleplaying games by providing a structural analysis of the functionality of role-playing games themselves. By approaching role-playing games as a published set of rules, the game mechanics of role-playing games become the forefront of the study. Though many role-playing games deviate greatly from the original design of Dungeons & Dragon ·, at least seven characteristics are shared by each of them. Some games focus on one or many of these characteristics, while others have chosen to alter or shift the context of certain characteristics. Either way, e ery role-playing game contains one or more of the following: (I) Players: the people playing the game. (2) System: the body of rules and regulations of the game, (3) Conductor; the referee in charge of maintaining smooth gameplay- sometimes known as a "Dungeon Master," ( 4) Characters; The fictional personas the players adopt in-game- and sometimes out, (5) Setting: the fictional environment or realm the Characters exist in, (6) Theme; tone or mood of gameplay, and (7) Narrative; the combination of plot, meta.plot, and story, and the ultimate goal of Role-Playing (but not neces arily the players). Best and worst practices are also included at the end of each section explaining how each characteristic adds to the gaming experience in specific ways. The best and worst practices section will argue how either the neglect of or the focusing on one characteristic can fundamentally alter the game play in creative ways.


To Caitlin: For your patience through this caffeine-induced emotional rollercoaster

To Mom and Dad: For your unwavering support.

To my Aunt and Uncle Thayer-Hart: For keeping me on the path.

And to Gary Gygax: May the halls of your afterlife ring with the tumbling of d20 's.