Playing with Power: The Authorial Consequences of Roleplaying Games

Michelle Nephew
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This study examines roleplaying games (RPGs) as both a literary and cultural phenomenon, in which the text’s producers take the role of an authorial multiplicity.
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ABSTRACT: Authorship has undergone drastic revision in the twentieth century. A fundamental transformation in literature, wherein the author has become a multiplicity of voices, is evinced by the development of roleplaying games as both literary and cultural texts.

The literary roots of roleplaying games are self-evident, as they draw on writers such as H. P. Lovecraft and J. R. R. Tolkien. However, a consequence of the development of the roleplaying game has been a subsequent departure from these authorial beginnings; roleplaying games have irrevocably transformed the role of the writers who inspired them, altering the authorial position to become a border-blurring multiplicity. Not only do roleplaying game designers reinterpret literary texts as literary games, often borrowing rules material from other designers in the process, in modifying the function of the author from a single creative entity to an empowered storytelling among groups roleplaying games further complicate previous distinctions between author and audience. Players create a fictional world as a group endeavor, authoring a complex structure of fantasy that addresses Freudian concepts of dreams and wish fulfillment.
 

In this way, roleplaying becomes a locus for issues of identity, including questions of performance, spectatorship, and gender construction. And by allowing play in regard to identity, roleplaying games are able to transgressively navigate expressions of difference, encouraging players to subtly work against the traditional split between spectacle and narrative. The thriving fan subculture surrounding roleplaying only emphasizes the transgressiveness of the hobby; this is a social formation that aggressively utilizes new technology such as the internet, through which fans are able to explore culturally subversive methods of authoring in the face of hostility from the surrounding cultural environment. They, too, are active producers and manipulators of meanings, rather than passively accepting dominant ideology.

By fusing the broader perspectives of literary and cultural criticism with personal experiences, this study examines the development of roleplaying games from the fiction of individual writers to the interactive roleplaying based on them, wherein fiction writers, the hobby’s creators, designers, editors, publishers, fans, players, and the cultural environment are all invested with the creative power to contribute meaningfully to the narrative.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Michelle Nephew
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Published on
May 1, 2003
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Pages
253
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Language
English
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Genres
Games & Activities / Role Playing & Fantasy
Literary Criticism / Books & Reading
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Frostmourne.

It was caught in a hovering, jagged chunk of ice, the runes that ran the length of its blade glowing a cool blue. Below it was a dais of some sort, standing on a large gently raised mound that was covered in a dusting of snow. A soft light, coming from somewhere high above where the cavern was open to daylight, shone down on the runeblade. The icy prison hid some details of the sword's shape and form, exaggerated others. It was revealed and concealed at the same time, and all the more tempting, like a new lover imperfectly glimpsed through a gauzy curtain. Arthas knew the blade -- it was the selfsame sword he had seen in his dream when he first arrived. The sword that had not killed Invincible, but that had brought him back healed and healthy. He'd thought it a good omen then, but now he knew it was a true sign. This was what he had come to find. This sword would change everything. Arthas stared raptly at it, his hands almost physically aching to grasp it, his fingers to wrap themselves around the hilt, his arms to feel the weapon swinging smoothly in the blow that would end Mal'Ganis, end the torment he had visited upon the people of Lordaeron, end this lust for revenge. Drawn, he stepped forward.

The uncanny elemental spirit drew its icy sword. "Turn away, before it is too late," it intoned.

* * *

His evil is legend. Lord of the undead Scourge, wielder of the runeblade Frostmourne, and enemy of the free peoples of Azeroth. The Lich King is an entity of incalculable power and unparalleled malice -- his icy soul utterly consumed by his plans to destroy all life on the World of Warcraft.

But it was not always so. Long before his soul was fused with that of the orc shaman Ner'zhul, the Lich King was Arthas Menethil, crown prince of Lordaeron and faithful paladin of the Silver Hand.

When a plague of undeath threatened all that he loved, Arthas was driven to pursue an ill-fated quest for a runeblade powerful enough to save his homeland. Yet the object of his search would exact a heavy price from its new master, beginning a horrifying descent into damnation. Arthas's path would lead him through the arctic northern wastes toward the Frozen Throne, where he would face, at long last, the darkest of destinies.
“Nothing is free, Go’el,” Jaina Proudmoore said. “Your knowledge and skills were bought at a cost. The . . . orc you left behind in your place had done much harm in your absence. If I have heard about what is going on in Orgrimmar and Ashenvale, surely you must have!”

Go’el’s mien, which had been deeply peaceful, now looked troubled. “I have heard, of course.”

“And . . . you do nothing?”

“I have another path,” he said. “You have seen the results of that path. A threat that—”

“Go’el, I hear this, but now that task is over. Garrosh is stirring up trouble between the Alliance and the Horde—trouble that didn’t exist until he started it. I can understand if you don’t wish to undermine him publicly, but—perhaps you and I can work together. Form a summit of sorts. Ask Baine to join us; I know he has no love for what Garrosh is striving for. I could speak with Varian. As of late, he seems to be more reachable. Everyone respects you, even in the Alliance, Go’el. You have earned that respect because of your actions. Garrosh has earned nothing but mistrust and hatred because of his.”

She indicated her cloak, which had blown about with the wind he had sent to bear her to shore. “You can control the winds as a shaman. But the winds of war are blowing, and if we do not stop Garrosh now, many innocents will pay the price for our hesitation.”

***

The ashes of the Cataclysm have settled across Azeroth’s disparate kingdoms. As the broken world recovers from the disaster, the renowned sorceress Lady Jaina Proudmoore continues her long struggle to mend relations between the Horde and the Alliance. Yet of late, escalating tensions have pushed the two factions closer to open war, threatening to destroy what little stability remains in the . . .

Dark news arrives in Jaina’s beloved city, Theramore. One of the blue dragonflight’s most powerful artifacts—the Focusing Iris—has been stolen. To unravel the item’s mysterious whereabouts, Jaina works with the former blue Dragon Aspect Kalecgos. The two brilliant heroes forge an unlikely bond during their investigation, but another disastrous turn of events looms on the horizon. . . .

Garrosh Hellscream is mustering the Horde’s armies for an all-out invasion of Theramore. Despite mounting dissent within his faction, the brazen warchief aims to usher in a new era of Horde domination. His thirst for conquest leads him to take brutal measures against anyone who dares question his leadership.

Alliance forces converge on Theramore to repel the Horde onslaught, but the brave defenders are unprepared for the true scope of Garrosh’s cunning and deceptive strategy. His attack will irrevocably transform Jaina, engulfing the ardent peacekeeper in the chaotic and all-consuming . . . TIDES OF WAR
A brand-new novel set in the universe of the record-breaking, internationally bestselling video game World of Warcraft!

WAR IS COMING.

Vol'jin, courageous leader of the Darkspear tribe. His strength and cunning are unmatched even among the Horde's most exalted champions. Now on the legendary continent of Pandaria, the troll chieftain faces his greatest trial yet, one that may redefine his purpose in the…

WORLD OF WARCRAFT®

Warchief Garrosh's assassins strike at Vol'jin, leaving him at death's door. But fate smiles on the wounded Darkspear leader when renowned brewmaster Chen Stormstout transports him to the safety of an isolated mountain monastery. There, Vol'jin wrestles with old hatreds smoldering between the Alliance and the Horde as he struggles to recover alongside a mysterious human soldier.

Yet this is only the beginning of Vol'jin's worries. Soon, he becomes embroiled in an invasion of Pandaria launched by the Zandalari, revered trolls driven by dreams of conquest and power. This ancient tribe offers Vol'jin a chance to seize the glory that is the birthright of all trolls…an offer made even more tempting after Garrosh's brazen treachery.

Amid these troubling events, Vol'jin is rocked by intense visions depicting his race's grand history. As he questions where his loyalties lie, he knows he must make a choice about his own destiny that could save his people or damn them to languish under Garrosh's heel in the…

SHADOWS OF THE HORDE

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In the wake of the Cataclysm, conflict has engulfed every corner of Azeroth. Hungering for more resources amid the turmoil, the Horde has pressed into Ashenvale to feed its burgeoning war machine. There, acting warchief Garrosh Hellscream has employed a brutal new tactic to conquer the region and crush its night elf defenders, a move that will cripple the Alliance’s power throughout the World of Warcraft.

Unaware of the disaster brewing in Ashenvale, the night elves’ legendary leaders, High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind and Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage, conduct a summit near Darnassus in order to vote the proud worgen of Gilneas into the Alliance. However, resentment of Gilneas and its ruler, Genn Greymane, runs deep in Stormwind’s King Varian Wrynn. His refusal to forgive Genn for closing his nation off from the rest of the world years ago endangers more than just the summit: it threatens to unravel the Alliance itself.

Varian’s animosity is only one of many unsettling developments in Darnassus. An uneasiness creeps over the once-immortal night elves as the first of them fall victim to the infirmities of age. While they cope with their mortality, tensions flare over the reintroduction of the Highborne, formerly the highest caste of night elf nobility, into their society. Many night elves are unable to pardon the Highborne for the destruction unleashed on Azeroth millennia ago by their reckless use of magic.

When a murdered Highborne is discovered on the outskirts of Darnassus, Malfurion and Tyrande move to stop further bloodshed and unrest by appointing one of the night elves’ most cunning and skilled agents to find the killer: the renowned warden Maiev Shadowsong. Yet with all that is transpiring in Darnassus, the Alliance might be powerless to stop the relentless new warchief Garrosh from seizing the whole of Ashenvale.
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