lundi 16 septembre 2019

Ampersand, Assonances & Alliterations : The Shape of Dungeons & Dragons's Name

Stylistic devices in « Dungeons & Dragons »

The name « Dungeons & Dragons » contains :
  • an ampersand (&) ;
  • three and a half  alliterations ( DdD  nn  ss  + j-g ) ;
  • an assonance (with « on »),
  • a paronym (gathering 2 words which look alike) ;
  • a troponym (gathering 2 words from the theme of adventure and underground fantasy)
  • two allegories (the dungeons are places to explore, the dragons are mounstruous antagonists to defeat) ;
  • a binary form (with 2 consecutive and balanced words) ;
  • an aphorism (because it summarizes the content and the objectives of the game with very few words).


History of the name « Dungeons & Dragons »

With his Blackmoor campaign, Dave Arneson was the inventor of the gameplay of the first tabletop role-playing games (Peterson, 2012 ; Kuntz, 2017 ; Graves et al, 2019). In 1973, Gary Gygax decided to edit the mechanical rules and to streamline the game experience. He also decided the name of that game.
    « Dave Arneson was up in St. Paul and not with me when I wrote down two single-word lists of possible titles for the game. I did ask my player group which they liked, also queried my family. My youngest daughter Cindy, was adamant that I must use “Dungeons & Dragons.” As a number of others were in agreement with that choice, and I liked the alliteration, that’s what I went with when I took the mss. I had written to the printer in early December 1973. » (primary source : Gygax, 2002)
    « Gygax paired random mythic words like fantasy, adventure, swords, and sorcery until he came to one his 4-year-old daughter Cindy approved of. “Oh, Daddy,”she said, “I like Dungeons & Dragons the best!” » (secondary source : Kushner, 2008)

From the moment of the first publication (1974), the name Dungeons & Dragons belonged to the two co-authors. Dave Arneson left TSR in 1976 and kept receiving royalties on D&D products as co-author. Later, Gary Gygax wrote a new edition, changing the name for « Advanced Dungeons & Dragons » without paying royalties to Dave Arneson who filed 2 lawsuits (Appelcline, 2015a, p. 32). After Wizards of the Coast bought TSR (1997), his CEO Peter Adkison definitely solved the property of the name with both Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson to secure the name « Dungeons & Dragons » and to abandon the word « Advanced » (Appelcline, 2015b, p. 145).

Original Woodgrain Edition Dungeons & Dragons Box Set (1974).
Crédit photo : BlackGate, 2016.


Legacy of the stylistic devices


Trade dress ?

The name Dungeons & Dragons is copyrighted and it is a registered trademark ®.

The trade dress is another concept of intellectual property designed to protect what make a product unique : special fonts, layout of covers, of texts, of figures, etc. It seems that the stylistic device « ____ & ___ » cannot be claimed as trade dress. For this point, I lack of sources and expertise and I think it can change depending on the cases. For example, after been fired from TSR, Gary Gygax said he couldn't publish a game named Dangerous Dimensions because of the initials "DD", so he renamed it Dangerous Journey (Sacco, 1999).

[Digression: rpg-module by Michael C. Davis for LaTeX reproduces faithfully the layout of the modules of the 80s. I used it easily. I just dicovered TeXBrew which gives a imperssive outcomes for D&D 5th].


In TSR and WotC products

The stylistic devices « ___ & ___ » were not reused a lot by the others TSR and WotC products. Hypothesis : to distinguish D&D from its supplements or from other product lines (Star Frontiers, Gamma Worlds, etc.).
  • Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976).
    • Supplement no. 4 to OD&D.
  • Swords & Spells (1976).
    • Supplement no. 5 to OD&D.
  • Deities & Demigods (1980).
    • Supplement to AD&D.
  • Legends & Lore (1984).
    • Supplement to AD&D. Renamed, maybe because of the moral panics of the 80s (Appelcline, 2013) or for other reasons (Hartlage, 2019)
  • Legends & Lore (1990).
    • Supplement to AD&D 2nd ed.
  • Deities and Demigods (2002).
    • Supplement to D&D 3rd ed.

Other publishers

On the other hand, the stylistic devices « ___ & ___ » was used at least by 20 other publishers for games or perdiodicals. It could have been motivated by : homage, tribute, parody, pastiche, competition or collaboration.

Publication year Ampersand Alliteration Assonance
Tunnels & Trolls 1975 x x
Alarums & Excursions 1975 x

White Bear and Red Moon 1975

Owl and Weasel 1975 x x
Bunnies & Burrows 1976 x x x
Chivalry & Sorcery 1977 x x x
Villains and Vigilantes 1979
x x
Jeux & Stratégie 1980 x x
Power & Perils  1983 x x
Privateers & Gentlemen 1983 x

Mutants & Masterminds 2002 x x
Blood & Honor  2002 x

Vast & Starlit 2003 x x x
Mazes & Minotaurs  2006 x x
Tranchons & Traquons 2007 x x x
Swords & Wizardry  2008 x

A Song of Ice and Fire RPG  2009

Secrets & Lies 2009 x

Mazes & Perils  2011 x

For Gold & Glory 2012 x x x
Plurals not included

Venn diagram for the variations on the name « Dungeons & Dragons »


New items I discovered since the first publication of this post in French in May (with the help of Reddit):


    • Shannon Appelcline is author of the notice as Product Historian.
  • Appelcline, Shannon. 2015a. Designers & Dragons: The 70s. 2e éd. Silver Spring, MD: Evil Hat Productions.
  • ———. 2015b. Designers & Dragons: The 90s. 2nd ed. Silver Spring, MD: Evil Hat Productions.

Databases & tertiary sources used

mardi 25 juin 2019

Structure of the source code for the tree of tabletop role-playing game designs

Acknowledgment: the source code is an adaptation of the code created by Todd Lehman for his “TeX Family Tree”.

I made a simple template of the code (rendering here). Don't hesitate to use it for your own project.

Part 1 : Preamble

  • Metadata.
  • Advices to compile the code.
  • Parameters of the graph.

Part 2 : Timeline

  • From 1950 to now.

Part 3 : List of TTRPGs

  • Grouped by series, by publishers, and by genres.
  • Listed elements : year of 1st publication, ID of the item, label (name of the game and edition), immediate link to a previous element in the same series.
{ rank = same; 1977; dndholmes [label="Basic D&D [Holmes]"]} odnd_whitebox -- dndholmes ;
  • Options of the label : country or langage of publication (default = English US) : uk, fr, es, dk, it, pt, il, jp, sw, ...
  • Options for the tags in #comments.
    • #t000 : references (see below).
    • #Q1375 : Wikidata id number.

Part 4 : List of innovations in game design

  • Each element is described as following : ID of the innovation, label (short summary of the innovation), immediate link with the TTRPG that created this innovation.
{ identicaldices [label = "Sets of identical-dices values in dice pool"]} godlike -- identicaldices ;
  • Option of the label : start with «1st» if original innovation.
label = "1st critical hit\n['lucky hit']"

List of categories of innovations

Innovations are grouped by categories. Each category is colored differently.
  • Miscellaneous historical innovations
  • Authority on fiction: gamemaster roles vs players roles
  • Campaign, adventure
  • Design
  • Resolution system
  • Critics & level of success
  • Dramatic modifiers to resolution
  • Saves
  • Use points to influence success (aka Meta-currency)
  • Health
  • Group
  • Sheet
  • Character generation
  • Character advancement
  • Magic
  • Morality, Alignment, Personality, Sanity
  • Literature / Genre Emulation
  • Rolls & Randomizers

Part 5 : meta-links between elements

(not released right now)
Basic links already exists between TTRPGs (in part 3) and between TTRPGs and innovations (part 4). In this part, other kind of links are weaven between TTRPGs.
  • Same author
eotpt -- eotpt83 -- eotpt87 -- aot1992 -- tita2002 -- eotpt2005 [headlabel = "M.A.R. Barker"] ;
  • Direct citations to another TTRPG
{dnd0 -- tnt1} -- runequest1 ;
  • Same publisher, same rules, same universe, etc.
pathfinder -- starfinder ;
{ orientaladventures ; l5r2 } -- orientaladventures2 ;
agameofthrones -- asongoficenfirerpg ;
tombofhorror -- returntombofhorror -- tombofannihilation ;


References to specific sources are listed in a separate document ( The ID of the references are unique and they are pointing to 3 types of source. Examples :
  • #p001 : source no. 001, a primary source
  • #s045 : source no. 045, a secondary source
  • #t078 : source no. 078, a tertiary source
The general information sources are listed too.

mercredi 15 mai 2019

Citation Practices in Games. Why Citing or Not Citing ?

Listing the citation practices in boardgames and tabletop role-playing games for the On the shoulders of Dwarves project.

Why citing ?

What are we citing others authors and sources ?
  • to pay homage ;
    • to acknowledge we are not the original author ;
    • to put ourselves in filial relationship ; 
    • to position ourselves in opposition [3] ;
    • to be protected by the person we dedicate the works ;
    • to explictly ackowledge an adaptation, an imitation, a remix, a mash-up ;
  • to display our erudition ;
  • to help assess the original idea [1] ;
    • to support the veracity of an idea with factual informations or call to expert authorities ;
    • to show the angle of the study (which field, which method, etc.) ;
    • to help understand the context of the birth of an idea ; 
    • to help assess the impact of an idea (calculating the number of citations, publications, etc.) [4] ;
    • to track or understand the evolution of an idea [1] ;
  • to create an asynchronous space of conversation between reasearch of the world ;
    • to web a social network of documents ;
    • to list a curated selection of sources on a topic ;
  • to help the reader to re-use an original idea (CC).

Why Not Citing (sic) ?

Here is a list of reasons why people don't cite.
  • « The type of document I am writing doesn't need to cite. » 
    • ex : an home-made rule, an invitation card to a private convention, etc.
  • « The type of document I am using in my own work doesn't need to be cited. »
    • ex: a sentence said by a game designer in a panel of a conference, etc.
  • « I don't know a thing in copyright, plagiarism or intellectual property. »
  • « I was inspired by a work but I want to show the original ideas are coming from me. »
  • « Everything come from me. »
  • « Newton and Einstein didn't cite much. Me neither. » [7]
  • « Citing will burden or confuse the reading process. »
  • « It is not esthetically beautiful. »
  • « There is no place to put all these informations. »
  • « I don't want to explain my method, I just want deliver the results. » [6]
  • « Some authors, who re-use copyrighted content, were legally prosecuted, even if they cited well theirs sources. »
    • Ex: Cease and desisit of the Tolkien Enterprises vs. TSR, leading to abandon all references to Tolkien in the 6th print of D&D (1977).
    • Ex: Cease and desist of TSR vs. Grimoire Games (Arduin) ;
    • Ex: Agreement between Chaosium and TSR about Elric of Michael Moorcock and the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft ;
    • Ex: Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate vs. TSR (Warriors of Mars wargame) ;
    • Ex: TSR vs. Gary Gygax's Dangerous Dimensions [8];
  • « Game authors who used to cite, doesn't cite anymore. » [5]

Lyrism on citation practices

« It is textual DNA. » Dan Martin, 2018.

« The references and the bibliography ? They are the documents' social network. » Pascal Martinolli, 2018.


[1] King, Peter, & Andrew Arlig. « Peter Abelard ». In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Fall 2018. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2018. Part 7.
[2] Anderson, Elizabeth, 2011. “Democracy, Public Policy, and Lay Assessments of Scientific Testimony,” Episteme, 8(2): 144–164. [read in]. Part 3.
[3] Deslauriers, Marguerite. « Lucrezia Marinella ». In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Spring 2018. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2018. Part 6.
[4] Nickles, Thomas. « Historicist Theories of Scientific Rationality ». In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Summer 2017. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2017. Part 1.6.[5] Vianney, & Manuel. « Qui possède le game ? » Ludologies, du jeu sous toutes ses formes, 2019. at 00:56:01.
[6] Jean-François Dortier, Descartes : Pouvoirs et limites de la méthode, Sciences humaines, no. 308, 2018, p.55.
[7] Jean-François Dortier, De Socrate à Foucault, Les philosophes au banc d'essai, ed. Sciences humaines, 2018.
[8] The Ultimate Interview With Gary Gygax. Interview by Ciro Alessandro Sacco. The Kyngdoms, 1999.

mercredi 10 avril 2019

Cultural influences on TTRPG citation practices

Which cultures and subcultures could have influenced the citation practices in the TTRPG hobby subculture ?

Religious authority

Religious cultures are ancient and holistic. They rely heavily on the citation of sacred or semi-sacred texts. Citing the right source can give value to an idea, making it closer to the truth. The citation has to be exact and attributed to an akckowledged authority. These citations are found in liturgy, sacred texts, song sheets, buildings, comments, etc. An acknowledged and cited idea can also create a community.

Religious song with biblical citation in epigraph, Elliott C., Woodworth LM & Bradbury WB. XIXe century.

Storytelling and authors

Most of the stories, oral or written, are attributed to an author. For oral storytelling, citing an famous author or witness means more credits to the story. Sometimes, two versions by two different authors are competing for attention or for truth [1].
A lot of written fictions or essays have explicit references to past works : in dedicace, in epigraphs, in the text, with the bibliography. Gérard Genette classifies them in paratext (epitext) and metatext (smoking literature theories).

Épigraph in Combinatorics and Graph Theory by Harris, Hirst, & Mossinghoff, 2009.

Academic tracking of citations

Mostly for the purposes of verifying and understanding, academic publications have to track back the sources of ideas, facts, theories, etc. Failing that rule is a major issue in the ethic of research : plagiarism.


In 1979, Gary Gygax added his famous Appendix N to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules in the Dungeon Masters Guide (p. 224), listing the major literature fictions that inspired the game.
All the books cited in the Appendix N. Crédits image : Goodman Games.

In the 1980 and 1990, Casus Belli magazine was the first french mainstream media of the TTRPG community. In some of its articles (eg.: daylife in the Dark Ages, heraldry, crime in the 1920s, etc.) and in somes of its scenarii, there were small bibliographiess, epigraphs, glossaries, etc.
Bibliographies, epigraphs & glossaries in articles and scenarii
by Anne Vétillard, Casus Belli, no. 37. 46 et 50, 1987-89.

The academic culture and its citation practices are the reasons why the ludographic references are extremely precise in Vade+Mecum, a TTRPG by Romaric Briand.

Sampling & Do it yourself

Music sampling technique extracts a piece of music, modifies it and replays it out of its original context. Legal issues of this hip-hop technique influenced the popular culture from the 1970s to the 2000s [4].

The 1980s were also influenced by the Do it yourself (DIY) culture. For example, the punk movement claimed the values of hacking, tinkering, personal experimentation, out of the mainstream networks, low-cost resourcefulness, rough draft, non-judgemental and artistic honesty attitudes [5,6]. But the movement wasn't always clear on the original inspiration attributions.


The first publications of Dungeons & Dragons were incomplete and confusing. The dungeon masters had to tinker their own rules and their own dungeons (until the popularity of Judges Guild modules).
Actually, in TTRPG, all the ludic system is calling the DIY : from the ad hoc animation of the game master to the creative answers of the players, with the collaborative worldbuilding and campaign design.

There is also a lot of self-publications and fanzines. This culture of hack is still going on as a very common practice. For example, recently a lot of games « propelled by the Apocalypse » are hacks from the original game system Apocalypse World. 

Since the 2000, the Creative Commons licences framed the reuse conditions, doing so they helped the tracking of the inspirations. The french author Thomas Munier, a follower the Do it yourself and outsider art movements, is using a lot of citations and references to games and fictions his own games.
Annotated ludography in Inflorenza 2e éd.,
a TTRPG by Thomas Munier, 2014.

Open-source programming

More recently, the culture of open-source code, through different licences, is asking to cite the authors and the institutions of the original code. This acknowledgement lists can be very long and complex.

OGL/GSL of the « d20 sytem » of D&D 3rd ed. was inspired by the open-source movement [7]. The OSR movement and a lot of publish products followed and cited the original game as requested in the OGL/GSL.


Between entre 1980 et 1989, the french magazine Jeux & Stratégies proposed rules variants, different game goals and mini-games to build yourself. Boardgames don't have a culture of citation.

No author for a long time

Crédit photo : Laurence Rabat, 2018.

For a long time, few game boxes or rule booklets were crediting their authors on the cover or inside the game. For example « on the 700 boardgames (from 1930 to 1999) displayed at the Expo Vieux Jeux exhibition, less than 5 % had their author on the cover » said Stéphane Quesnel, curator of the exhibition [2].
To be credited as an author and receive royalties, a person had to be the composer of a text, not the inventor of a new mechanics or a new game system. [3]

Few citations too

Thomas Vuarchex said « Bruno Faidutti was mentioning all the time and explicitly which rule and which mechanic came from where. Now, not anymore.  » [3]


Since their Prussian origins to today, the rules of the wargames are crediting more often theirs authors. Hypothesis :
  • They were published in books or manuals. So they were looking more like essays than games.
  • The culture of the authority in the army.
  • Citing authors can help distinguish the variants.


[1] Trojan wars of Homère or Hésiode.
[2] Expo Vieux Jeux, at Musée Grévin of Montréal, 2018.
[3] Vianney, & Manuel. « Qui possède le game ? » Ludologies, du jeu sous toutes ses formes, 2019. at 00:56:01.
[4] Hess, Mickey. « Was Foucault a Plagiarist? Hip-Hop Sampling and Academic Citation ». Computers and Composition 23, no 3 (janvier 2006): 280‑95.
[5] Torres, David G. « Punk. Its Traces in Contemporary Art ». Mexico, 2016.
[6] Sabin, Roger, ed. Punk Rock: So What?: The Cultural Legacy of Punk. 1st ed. London: Routledge, 2002.
[7] Lecocq, Xavier, & Benoît Demil. « Strategizing industry structure: The case of open systems in a low-tech industry ». Strategic Management Journal 27, no 9 (2006): 891‑98.

mercredi 6 mars 2019

Phylomemetics of boardgames and tabletop role-playing games

Phylomemetics is the historical study of the evolution of relations between cultural objects or concepts. Like with memetics, there is a lot of problems due to numerous (and dubious) horizontal transfers and spontaneous generations. For the living beings and phylogenetics, its mostly vertical transfers and few mutations.

Phylomemetic trees

Hidden level of the exhibition Donjons & Données probantes :
a phylomemetic tree of TTRPG from 1974 to 2018
Some outcomes of this studies take the shape of beautiful trees. Here, a phylomemetic tree of batik patterns.

With my project On the shoulders of dwarves, I started to design 2 trees that I layed down on a timeline: one for boardgames, one for TTRPG. They are coded in DOT language. When they will be mature, I will share them.

Phylomemetic relations 

It is difficult to track and certify a reliable link between two games. For the living beings, we can assess the genes. For the human languages we can assess the words and structure of sentences. But for games, we have very few evidences.

Primary sources

  • The game as object: mobile and fixed items, patterns, trade dress, materials.
  • Text of the rules: mechanics and specific vocabulary.
  • Metadata of the game: author, publisher, publication date, version.
  • Metatext: acknowledgements, credits, epigraphs, bibliography and.... the very rare and precious pearl: the ludographic references citing other games.
  • Interviews and autobiography of the author of the game.

Secondary sources

  • Comments, reviews or critics of a game.
  • Article (academics, biographies) on a game or a family of games.

Tertiary sources 

  • Encyclopedia or dictionary entries on a game or a family of games. 
  • Game directories with indexation of the game mechanics.

Problems to investigate in future posts

  • Only the author of a gameB, citing explicitely the inspiration of a gameA, can prove the link between gameA and gameB [vertical link].
    • Maybe for intellectual propriety, few authors cite their inspirations.
    • Some cultures or motivations can foster citation practices.
    • Recently, acknowledgment of authors and game citations in TTRPG are changing game citations practices.
  • Anteriority and originality of a game mechanics is a sign of possible kinship with a more recent game with similar game mechanics [horizontal link].

mercredi 21 novembre 2018

TRPG Elements to Engage Students in Information Literacy Workshops

I had the chance to participate to a librarian conference in Québec (colloque BES-CPI). I presented 6 gamified activities (3 with TRPG elements) to improve the engagement of the university students in the information literacy workshops.

Download the presentation presented in English at McGill U. one week later : (the original in French
(CC-BY Pascal Martinolli UdeM)

My librarian flavors : Hospitality + Science + Game
(/RPG + Simulation + Science populatization)
Photo: Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf, CC BY:SA
150+ participants came from all Québec province, mostly from higher education (universities, cégeps, engineer & business schools). Exective staff, librarians & technicians. A great opportunity to show how interesting TRPG can be used to design active learning activities (I was cited in the next 3 presentations, so I think I made an impact). The 3 roleplayified activities were :
  • A scholarly character sheet ;
  • Publish & Perish ;
  • Self-driven side-quests.
I will develop these activities in future posts. Thanks to my fellow coworkers at the BLSH for your help and support. Thanks to the participants of the Donjons & Donnees probantes study day where I playtested a part of this presentation.

lundi 29 octobre 2018

How to Organize a One-page Wikipédia Editathon ?

Our library hosted an editathon workshop to create and develop the Wikipédia page Jeu de rôle sur table au Québec (tabletop role-playing games in Quebec). Here is my report of the event.


  1. Use this dashboard to record the contributions and avoid IP address ban. Example.
  2. If the page doesn't exist yet :
    1. Write a short paragraph to introduce the page, without source (keep it for the demo in the workshop).
    2. Create all the pertinent sections and sub-sections.
    3. In the source code of the page.
      1. At the beginning, add the banner
        {{under construction |placedby=username|2018-10-24}}
      2. At the end of the page, add categories and portals.
      3. In Discussion, explain the page is part of a editathon workshop. Example.
  3. Prepare sources (and sourcerers!).
    1. URL in a shared folder.
    2. PDF in a shared folder.
    3. Encylopedias & dictionaries.
    4. Books.
    5. (one or more librarians to help find and assess sources).

Editathon workshop

  1. Receive your guests. Ask them to
    1. Connect with their Wikipédia account
    2. Subscribe the Dashboard with an URL placed in a txt file in a shared folder
  2. Demonstration
    1. Short introduction (max. 5-10 min.) on : how to write, how to cite and how to link pages.
    2. How to cite: Take a source you prepared for the short introduction paragraph. Show how to make an automatic citation + modify to improve it. Cancel. Then show how to make a manual citation. Publish with documenting what was done, insisting it is important.
  3. You are the editor
    1. Ask who wants to edit what.
    2. Ask them to click on Modify for the selected section, not for the whole page (because everybody is on it).
    3. Ask them to compose their text in the notepad software, then copy-paste it when finished to reduce the time the page is on hold.
  4. Go!

Final notes

  • Everybody can come and go and leave.
  • Some people will edit at the same time but remotely, they are mostly admins who supervise and verify what's going on.
  • Thanks to the scanned archives of the BAnQ !
  • Thanks to Catherine Bernier, Raymonde Champagne, Benjamin Constantineau et Mathieu Thomas for your help !
  • After 2h of workshop, the page was born. It weighted 1800 words and 24 sources. The parents are expecting a Featured article ★ status within one year.