On Stack Exchange and Scholarly RPG Papers

For those of you looking for a great Q&A site across a wide variety of topics, try Stack Exchange. For those of you looking for a great Q&A site specifically about Role Playing Games, take a look at Stack Exchange’s RPG site (RPG.SE for short). I’ve been a member since March, but other demands on my time have diverted my attention lately. No matter when I visit, I always find at least one interesting question posted, and some of the discussions give me a very different perspective on the gaming community.

One of the most highly-rated contributors to RPG.SE is named Brian Ballsun-Stanton - take a look at his site to find out more about him. He’s a PhD student from Sydney, Australia studying the philosophy of data, database design, and human computer interaction. Come to find out, he’s written a couple of papers about role playing games that I can only describe as scholarly. Compared to a blogging hack like myself, these papers smack of academic rigor and scientific method, and they bring up some great ideas for discussion. These papers will take some time to read – they’re not one-page blog material by any stretch. If you’re interested in his other research papers, visit his profile on Mendeley.

Clerics, Magic Users, Fighters and Thieves : Theoretical Approaches to Rules Questions on the Role-Playing Games Stack Exchange (171K PDF) - Brian posits that the four traditional D&D classes translate to archetypical approaches to the rules themselves, and analyzes some of the answers on RPG.SE in light of these archetypes. For instance, Clerics (which Brian dubs Jurists) will look for answers to rules questions within the rules as a more or less closed system, while Fighters (Realists) will look to the real world for answers and apply that realism to the rules.

Constrained Optimization in Dungeons and Dragons : A Theory of Requirements Generation for Effective Character Creation (152K PDF) - This paper focuses on character creation. Brian breaks down characters into a series of underlying criteria, each of which can be plotted on its own axis. These axes imply different things under different rules systems. If you want a character with high Durability, you’ll lean toward fighters in D&D but spend more points on Body and Defenses in Hero, for example.

Feedback and opinions on these are welcomed. If you’d like to leave a comment, we’ll make sure Brian receives it.

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