DOI: 10.30687/mag/2724-3923/2023/02/002 ISSN: 2724-3923

A Preliminary Geography of the (Mega)Dungeon Spatial Practice and Tabletop Role-Playing Games

Asa Roast
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance

The dungeon and megadungeon are imagined spaces of a complex and interconnected network that emerged in fantasy tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) from the 1970s. As a space distinctive to early TTRPGs it is characterised by asymmetry between the dungeon as an object of design, and the dungeon as a practice of play. The discourse of games manuals, independent publications and blogs emerging from the TTRPG scene tracks the origins and evolution of these procedural and labyrinthine spaces, and the distinct spatiality of the megadungeon as a geographical object. The space of the megadungeon can be mapped onto a Lefebvrian triad of spatial production: it exists as a representation of space produced by a dungeon master or algorithmic generation that forms an infrastructure of play; it exists as a spatial practice emerging out of the unique experience of players traversing the megadungeon; and it forms a space of representation by seeking to imagine the megadungeon as a living fictional world, intersecting with the assumptions about spatial norms and relations originating in tropes of fantasy fiction. Surveying these trends in conversation with recent insights from human geography illustrates the distinct spatiality of the megadungeon that is derived from its origins in TTRPG play. This brings forward important questions for the utility of the megadungeon as a metaphor for digital media ecologies, and asks whether the metaphor could be extended to enrich conceptual debates in human geography.

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