1982 - Legendary creatures and small game playing culture: Medieval lore in contemporary roleplaying games

by David Jeffs published 2022/11/12 09:27:25 GMT-7, last modified 2022-11-12T09:27:25-07:00
Fine, Gary Alan (1982). Legendary creatures and small game playing culture: Medieval lore in contemporary roleplaying games. Keystone Folklore, 11-27. How RPG preserves folklore and generates its own within individual game groups. 17 small pages.


Medieval Lore in a Contemporary Role-Playing Game

Gary Alan Fine


Often when we think of legendary characters, we think of them only within the confines of the legend itself. However, some legendary creatures, as a result of the popularity of folk narratives, popular culture productions, or elite cul­tural forms, transcend their original locations. Popularity implies that aesthetic creations are the subjects of dis­cussion and debate, and that they are incorporated into social interaction. The argument is that folklore is not only grounded in texts, but is part of ongoing interaction.

For example, from high culture, an active tradition derives from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a fre­quent expressive symbol, even though the title is now taken to refer to the creature, rather than to the perpetrator.

A similar example from popular literature is Count Dracula. Carlson describes how the Dracula motif, given impetus by 8r8JI Stoker's Dracula, had roots in numerous popu­lar literary sources. Today Dracula is a common reference even by those who have never read about vampires and undead creatures. Another source of legendary creations for the popular imagination is J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Although Noel noted that many of Toikein's crea­tures are derived from folklore, the hobbit was created by Tolkein. Hobbits and more traditional folklore creatures described by Tolkein are now part of American and British culture as a result of his writing.

Finally, legendary creatures enter social conversation through folkloric paths. The stories that circulate about ghosts or ghouls in American culture are generally orally transmitted; the vanishing hitchhiker4 is one example of this genre, as are stories about mass murderer Gein.S Legendary creatures may also become part of the conversa­tional resources of a society. When someone is described as an "ogre" or "ghoulish," we do not find this an unusual refer­ence, and in the process these terms may acquire a shared symbolic meaning substantially different from their original implications.   It is this folkloric issue -- how creatures are transferred from legends to informal conversation that is the topic of this article.



For a period of eighteen months I attempted to examine how individuals use traditional folkloric material in social interaction. To do this I participated in and systematically observed several groups which play fantasy role-playing games in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition to this observation and participation, I conducted lengthy in-depth interviews with some two dozen members of this subsociety and read publications and rule-books published by and for this group.

Fantasy games are an outgrowth of wargames.  Wargaming is an attempt to simulate on a map the conditions of a mili­ tary encounter.  Although war games have been described as descendents of chess and go, 1811 is the date of the first game, Kriegsspiel, explicitly designed to simulate warfare. By World War II, wargaming was employed by the major global powers as a means to train their officers in military tactics. Wargames became commercial in 1953 with the publication of a board game, Tactics, based on the simulation of a hypothetical conflict.

During the past three decades, the wargame "industry" has expanded from its humble beginnings, and many battles and political situations have been simulated. However, the emphasis on historicity and on complex tactics has proven limiting to some, and, as a result, there was room in the gaming market for other games more directly based on players' fantasies and on the flexibility which comes from not having to relive history. Fantasy games eliminated the traditional hexagon-grid board, and replaced the rule-based structure of the game by the control of another player, the referee, who constructs a game scenario using the rulebook only as a guideline.

In 1974 the first of this new breed of games, Dungeons & Dragons, was marketed; TSR Hobbies describes the structure of their best-selling game as follows:

While one of the participants creates the whole world in which the adventures are to take place, the balance of the players -- as few as two or as many as a dozen or more -- create "characters" who will travel about in this make-believe world, interact with its peoples, and seek the fabulous treasures of magic and precious items guarded by dragons, giants, werewolves, and hun­dreds of other fearsome things. The game organizer, the participant who creates the whole and moderates these adventures, is known as the Dungeon Master, or simply the DM. [In other games this person is called the Game Master, or simply the referee.] The other players have game personae -- fighters, magic users, thieves, clerics, elves, dwarfs, or what have you -­ who are known as player characters. Player characters have known attributes which are initially determined by rolling the dice••••These attributes [e.g., strength, charisma, intelligence] help to define the role and limits of each character••.•there is neither an end to the game nor any winner. Each session of play is merely an episode in an ongoing "world"••••Each Dun­geon Master runs a "campaign," the series of connected adventures, for his or her participants•••D&D is basi­cally a cooperative game where the group teams to defeat the hostile environment developed by the Dungeon Master••••[A] typical expedition to explore a dungeon labyrinth has a Dungeon Master narrating to players what they see••••The entire game board is seen only by the moderator, players having to create their own as they go along and "see" and "experience" the dungeon and what lurks therein.

Dungeons & Dragons is based loosely on the European Middle Ages -- one source claimed that it represented England in 1185 -- but the external social order is vaguely defined. More important are the adventures of characters in the under­ world, killing and being killed by a variety of monsters, many of whom derive from traditional mythologies.

With the success of Dungeons & Dragons, other role­ playing games, exploring other settings, followed -- including Traveller, a role-playing game based on space exploration, and Chivalry & Sorcery (C&S), based on "warfare and wizardry in the feudal age." Although Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular game nationally, C&S was most popular in the groups I observed.

Chivalry & Sorcery consists of a 128-page rulebook, which details the rules of the game and the structure of Medieval Society on which it is based. The rulebook (and sub­sequent supplementary material) provides much information of interest to folklorists, such as magic, clerical miracles, and legendary monsters; from this information a game is fashioned.    One could use the rulebook as the basis of analy­sis -- to understand how the creators of the game drew upon folk traditions in the construction of their world. Such a project is akin to determining the extent to which any author employs folk traditions in his/her writings. However, this is not my aim, and, if attempted, would miss much of the significance of the fact that I am examining a game. Both in theory and in practice the "rules" of fantasy role-playing games are not absolute prescriptions, but guidelines for play:

Chivalry and Sorcery provides the guidelines by which players may easily create the kinds of worlds they want and does not attempt to "dictate" in any way what must be.

The rules are not rules in the conventional sense of board games, where deviation is equivalent to cheating. This means that the players have a strategic role in the creation of the game structure. The referee has the primary responsi­bility for determining how the rules are to be interpreted and it is he'll who role-plays minor characters (non-player characters) whom characters meet while adventuring.         Generally the referee is one of the older and more experienced players because this position requires a knowledge of the game rules and the ability to create an imaginative game scenario for the other players.

The games which I observed and participated in were for the most part played on Friday evenings in the co-Unity room of a Minneapolis police station -- a central location which was available without charge. At about 7:00 p.m. players begin arriving, and a number of individuals announce that they are willing to referee or are talked into it. Once an indivi­dual announces that he will referee a particular game, a group of players join him at one of the tables set up for this purpose. Depending on the referee's desires, the attendance that evening, and the game to be played, anywhere from four to twelve players participate in the game. Players then create their characters for the evening or select characters previously created -- a decision which does not seem to effect the game structure, other than in continuing games characters may be more fully developed because they have been played longer. Among the attributes of characters created in C&S are: race (human, elf, hobbit, and dwarf are the usual races), sex, size, strength, voice (inarticulate to orphic), personal appearance (hideous to handsome), intelligence, wis­dom (witless to visionary), charisma, alignment (saintly to diabolic), carrying capacity, command level, personal combat factor, horoscope, mental health (a wide range of phobias and ailments are possible), age, social class, and father's occu­pation. This is, it must be emphasized, only a partial list.

After this has been completed, the referee explains to the players the nature of the scenario that he has construc­ted for them -- a task which requires a lively imagination. Sometimes the scenario is rather simple, such as exploring un-mapped areas or hunting for treasure in a dungeon. On other occasions it may be considerably more complicated and may parallel traditional tale types, such as a quest by one character to discover his lineage or the attempt to free a Duke who has been imprisoned by evil forces. Players then outfit their characters with armor, weapons, rations, magical amulets, and organize into a party in order to begin the adventuring. The rest of the evening consists of playing out this scenario.

Each player ideally (although not always in fact) speaks as his character might or vocalizes the actions his character might take. This is an oral game and is not based on acting out one's role. Actions in the game are determined through dice rolls -- either by the referee (when the outcome must be kept secret from players) or by the players, as when deter­ mining the outcome of armed combat. The game continues until it reaches a conclusion or a breaking point, or until the referee or players are not interested in continuing.




Fantasy games provide an escape for players from their mundane reality: it is an opportunity for imaginative specu­ lation, expressed socially.        As E. Gary Gygax, a creator of Dungeons & Dragons noted:

Our modern world has few, if any, frontiers.  We can no longer escape to the frontier of the West, explore Darkest Africa, sail to the South Seas. Even Alaska and the Amazon Jungles will soon be lost as wild fron­tier areas. Furthermore, adventures are not generally possible anymore•..It is therefore scarcely surprising that a game which directly involves participants in a make-believe world of just such nature should prove popular.

One young player commented:

I think the fantasy•••you're trying maybe to be things that you're not. So if you just lived your same character [real self] over in the game, it wouldn't be as enjoyable. (Personal interview)

Portraying legendary creatures such as hobbits, elves, and dwarfs is seen as particularly rewarding for players in that they transform the player into a fantastic adventurer.              Like­ wise, "meeting" traditional monsters transforms one's routine daydreams into dangerous tests of one's new self.

It has been well recognized in folkloric studies that belief in monsters and other legendary creatures can affect behavior and direct interaction. Evidence from a variety of settings confirms this effect of traditional lore. Stromback, for example, has indicated that Scandinavians believed that water demons (nixes) drowned people. This belief was linked to the believer's everyday reality: "In the accounts for the city of Stockholm from 1607 it is said that a cooper was wounded by the nix when he visited the privy at the eastern shore of the city-islet.1117 Other research in Europe has demonstrated that elves, lycanthropes and fairies affect talk and action.18 Tanl9 reports a case of hysterical contagion from Malaya in which schoolgirls became hysterical and fainted as a consequence of "seeing" ghosts.  In modern Ameri­can culture sightings of ghosts or flying saucers, connected to traditional folk beliefs, suggest the relationship between legendary belief and personal involvement.

Even more frequent, and more directly relevant to the world of fantasy gaming, is the "playful" acceptance of legen­dary creatures. One need not accept the existence of a creature to enjoy talking about it. Credibility may be of secondary importance as co pared to the entertainment value of the discussion. As Degh and Vazsonyi20 have recognized, belief is not an essential component of legend-telling.

Telling a good story can be an end in itself. The truth of the assertions are bracketed in favor of the thrill of fan­tasy, as one finds audiences engaging in a willing suspension of disbelief.  Legends are now seen less as texts by folk­lorists, and more as topics of discussion or action, which may be collectively constructed.

Modern legends are particularly susceptible to involve­ment. Gallehugh describes the case of a vampire beast supposedly discovered near Bladenboro, North Carolina in 1953. Local mass media reports of this beast brought reports and curiosity seekers into Bladenboro for a "good story." A simi­lar phenomenon occurred in the 1951 "sighting of the Jersey Devil in Gibbstown, New Jersey. Gutowski noted a parallel bracketing of belief in townspeoples' reaction to the Turtle Days festival in Churubusco, Indiana. This event commemorates the "Beast of 'Busco" -- a giant turtle-like creature which supposedly resides peacefully in a lake outside of town.

Whether the creature corporally exists, its "presence" pro­vides the town with a symbol around which community pride and boosterism can be focused.25 These communal uses of folklore suggest that content and performance are intimately connected

-- a symbolic representation may be used by many individuals for their own ends.

Creatures encountered in fantasy gaming have similar functions in that they provide topics for discussion, although in gaming they are treated as if they actually exist, but there is no pretense of sincere belief. The bracketing of disbelief is explicit within the game frame. Within the con­fines of the police station, dragons, balrogs and harpies are regularly dispatched by elves and dwarfs, and within the game this killing is treated as real. Key to the understanding of the position of these creatures within the game is the reali­zation that belief is suspended. Players, if asked, would contend that they do not believe the "real world" existence of these creatures. However, this question is never asked and is a foolish question, much as asking a child ifs/he believes in fairy tales. Only when players are role-playing, do they accept the existence of these creatures (and indeed they had better, for otherwise their characters will "really" be killed and they will be excluded from the game). Their belief is only relevant within the boundaries of this situa­tion -- boundaries set by the beginning and ending of the game. The belief, like belief in legends, is situated in a socially defined context.

Although a fantasy campaign may incorporate numerous aspects of Medieval life, certain elements tend to predomi­nate because of players' interests. Adventure is the central focus of most scenarios, and a satisfactory adventure involves outwitting and slaying a variety of creatures. While one may encounter brigands, fighting men, or clerics, it is the legen­dary creatures that are the most enjoyable in that they allow the participants' imaginations room to roam. In one game, a party of adventurers was attacked by a gorgon; immediately, the members of the party had to decide what action to take to avoid being turned to stone (in the game frame). By viewing the reflection of the gorgon in their shiny shields and firing arrows, the party survived this encounter and received credit for killing this horrid beast. Such encounters often have a galvanizing effect on the players.    As in natural interaction, much of the game-time is involved in routine encounters (deter­mined by random dice rolls). This can lead players to lose interest in the game, become restless, or talk outside of the game frame, but when something significant occurs attention is redirected and players become attentive. The referee, like the narrator, has a set of techniques by which he can redirect his audience's attention. Thus, encountering mon­sters within the game frame can be a technique for restoring dramatic balance; referees may even ignore the rules or the dice rolls for the sake of their story.                      

A referee noted:

[O]ne time I had Barry, Paul, and Ted meet brigands. I rolled it up. So I said "No more brigands, fighting men, brigands, etc." So I had them meet a pool of water that was coming toward them. (Personal interview)

Referees have a difficult balancing act to insure that there is enough adventure and imagination, without making the odds insuperable against the players. Like a narrator, the referee must learn timing, dramatic balance and the optimal level of tension desirable.               In some cases when hostile creatures are rolled up, the referee may discard them if he feels that the encounter with the creature would inevitably kill the characters, and if the continuation of the game, a pragmatic concern, should outweigh the laws of chance, a theoretical concern. The referee is in a position similar to the narrator who must decide whether to tell the "whole story" even if it bores his audience. While it is generally desirable and exciting to encounter legendary creatures, on occasion these encounters may be disruptive if the party of adventurers is small in number, weak, or inexperienced in fighting -- the nature of the audience makes a difference in the construction of fantasy. One regular Dungeons & Dragons player describes the discretionary powers of the referee in creating or altering monsters:

[T]hey follow the rules, but they do have some leeway. Like they can say that ''No, this monster will kill off the whole party," and, you know, if it's not sporting, they usually won't let this monster go in. And you have what's called a first level character, who is very weak, go up against a very strong monster -- now, some dungeon masters [referees] will say ''No, I won't do this," and they will re-roll and get a different monster. They're [the referees] always supposed to•••if a monster is supposed to be gotten, [the players] get it, but they [the referees] may use their leniency to get a weaker monster, so it's more of a sporting chance. Now, of course, you can also get some, and it may be an alter ego kind of case, where it may be the same dungeon master doing it-­ uh, in one case being nice and giving you an easy monster, and five minutes later you maybe called hill a name or something, or just didn't like what he did, and all of a sudden he's gonna, you know, a monster will come up that is extremely hard, go by the rules, go by how the dice were thrown-- this time he's not gonna take it back. He's gonna say "Yup, you get it." (Personal interview)

Thus, the role of legendary creatures is dependent upon the judgment of the referee. E. Gary Gygax likens the role of the referee to a creator:

Not to be pretentious, but the rules for D&D are like Aristotle's Poetics, if you will. They tell me how to put together a good play. And a [referee] is the playwright who reads these things and puts his play together. (Personal interview)

The best referees attempt to maintain dramatic balance in the game, incorporating humorous, trivial episodes (such as an encounter with a practical joker demon, or with a gigantic chocolate pudding "with whipped cream and a cherry") with others that are more serious. Referees strive, thus, to create an aesthetic game-based fantasy scenario, although the contours of this aesthetic is not explicit. The existence of this aesthetic is suggested in that certain games are con­sidered particularly satisfying and enjoyable, while others are not. Components of this satisfaction appear to include a substantial amount of game-based danger and adventure, powerful characters for players to role-play and identify with, an imaginative game scenario, and a large amount of fantastic detail, conducive to additional imaginative specu­lation by the players. These aesthetic criteria seem to be comparable to those that might characterize any folk narra­tive grounded in fantasy and adventure.

The legendary creatures which are role-played and those which are encountered in the game are not necessarily faith­ful reproductions of the traditional depictions of these creatures. Players have a wide range of knowledge of Medi­eval lore -- with some quite knowledgeable and others much less so. Perhaps the only constant is that virtually every gamer has read Lord of the Rings, and shares a familiarity with the Tolkein myths.  Because of the general unfamiliarity with traditional sources of legendary, the legendary creatures in the game are frequently identified by only a few charac­teristics that appear salient to game players.

Thus, gorgons turn people to stone and have snakes instead of hair, roes are helpful to humans, harpies exude a dreadful stench, and hobbits are small, tend to be thieves, and have furry feet. This last attribute is frequently a source of amusement, as a common  "torture" for hobbits is to pull out the hair from their feet, especially when caught thieving. The characterizations of these creatures are not as rich as in the sources from which they ultimately spring, but are caricatures, which serve to essentialize or stereo­ type the character. These images serve as a mnemonic device by which players recall how to play their characters and how to deal with other characters. They provide the "kernel" of the character. As mentioned in the case of the hobbit, these salient traits also provide for a set of jocular references to the characteristics of the creature encountered. They serve as points of shared reference from which players can converse, aware that the characters have similar meanings (or "intersubjectivity") for all participants in the game.

Through selective emphasis, many important elements about a character are ignored or down-played. The fact that hobbits have exceptional resistance to disease is not con­sidered interesting and is rarely mentioned, nor is the fact (of which many players are ignorant) that harpies have the torso of an eagle. These fantasy games do not incorporate a complete or complex depiction of European legendary creatures, but rather represent a conventionalized portrayal of these folkloric types.


Game players, utilizing their knowledge of legendary creatures and combining that background knowledge with the game events as unfolded through dice rolls and the decisions of players, develop a unique group culture. This culture com­bines the players' previous information (latent culture) with the game events (manifest culture). This game culture becomes a central mechanism by which group interaction is organized, as it provides for a set of shared experiences and common referents. I have previously defined a group culture, or idioculture, as "a system of knowledge, beliefs, and customs particular to an interacting group to which members can refer and employ as the basis of further interaction1. Members of the group recognize that they share experiences in common, and that they can refer to these experiences with the expecta­tion that other members of the group will comprehend the reference. This idioculture characterizes all social groups. It seems particularly intense in situations in which inter­ action is specifically cultural (as in the fantasy creation of a Medieval game universe), and in which past group events are seen as directly relevant to future action. Regular gaming groups develop over the course of weeks a set of cul­tural elements which come to characterize the interaction of the group.

Since, as an explicit nature of the game, players are actively engaged in creating a culture, the shared culture of gamers is a distinctive feature of this type of interaction.

Ed Simbalist, the co-creator of Chivalry & Sorcery comments:

To play [fantasy role-playing games] is to engage in the creation of a group fantasy, to produce the Grand Illusion of a world ethos by the deliberate suspension of one's disbelief•••• But even as the [referee] spins his web of illusion. the players themselves add to the performance by playing their roles•••The story-telling -- for [fantasy role­ playing in a very real way is a story-telling activity -- becomes a group creation as the imaginary life experiences and actions of each player-character are added to the basic concept provided by the [referee].   The experience is itself the thing, and once begun it becomes a group happening

A considerable amount of this gaming culture relates to past events within the game context. For example, in one gaming group players found themselves in a dispute over con­trol of a pegasus. Obviously a pegasus is a rare and desirable steed for a player (or a mythological hero) to control, and a dispute broke out over to whom the creature belonged. Finally, one member of the party with a "devout" moral alignment decided that he could no longer allow the winged horse to be tied down and to be the subject of acri­monious debate. Acting secretly by passing a note to the referee, this player had his character slash the rope binding the pegasus, freeing it, to the consternation and anger of some members of the party. From that point the incident of the pegasus was a central cultural element of the group -- achieving something akin to legendary status.

Several weeks later, after this player had missed a meeting of the group. a fellow player commented to him: "You were eaten by a were-pegasus" (a comic cross between the winged horse and a lycanthrope).     Similar comments were made on other occasions. and this incident served to indicate to the group that taking action that was opposed to the best inter­ests of another member of the party might be sanctionable even if such action might be something that the player's character would have done.

Another cultural element in this group concerned a dragon which one of the members role-played in his first C&S scenario. This dragon had a lawful (good) alignment and several times during the game had managed to save the party from great danger; for example, killing a gorgon and ten giant mosquitos. and flying the party away from one hundred very angry ores. In future games when this group found it­ self in trouble someone would mention that dragon-character and would wish that he was there to save them. The dragon served as a totemic figure for the group, and shared aware­ness of this character was a means of increasing group cohesion.

Other encounters with legendary creatures are referred to in order to make a point -- the encounter with the one hundred ores is used as an example of great danger to game characters, and the same incident is used as an example of a bloodthirsty referee. Another group referred to a player who convincingly role-played a Uruk-Hai (a large, mean, ore­ like creature) whenever a player had to role-play a monster to indicate that non-human role-playing could be successful.

These examples suggest the salient position of legendary creatures in the game structure. Major encounters with such creatures have the potential for being legendary (or more properly, the basis for anecdotes and memorates) for the group of American males that "encounters" them. While not all encounters become "legendary," they are treated as impor­tant events while they are occurring. Depending on the out­ come and the means by which this outcome was achieved, these encounters may provide the basis for group culture. In this sense encounters might be conceived of as having a similar effect to the telling of those legends in which these crea­tures occur -- they serve to rivet and channel human imagina­tion.

Because encounters with legendary creatures increase satisfaction with the game, the incorporation of these events into the culture of the group can be seen as establishing the cohesion of the group. Such cultural elements indicate to members the existence of shared experiences and provide posi­tive reinforcement by reminding players of exciting and involving game events. That these legendary creatures are encountered in social interaction gives them a special charac­ter, which differentiates them from legendary creatures embedded in folk narratives. What one loses in detail is compensated for by personal immediacy. What one loses by the absence of a creation that has been honed to an aesthetic per­fection is compensated for by the input of the audience (players) in the construction of the encounter and the explicit situated meaning with which such creatures are imbued.

The distance that is permissible in a legend teller's audience is replaced by social involvement. In a social sense players have ''llet" these creatures, although the fear that might otherwise have existed has been transformed into imaginative delight and vicarious anxiety.           Although the participants do not fear for themselves in these contacts, they are actively involved in the outcome of these encounters through their identification with their characters.  Because all members of the adventuring party are in danger in encoun­ters with hostile creatures, the vicarious anxiety is a shared emotion. This shared emotion strengthens the bonds between group ■embers. It provides content for the continu­ing group culture, which, as noted above, increases group cohesion by providing a set of references with common evalua­tions.




The model of folklore proposed in this article focuses on interaction, rather than on narrative. The twentieth century has, in industrialized nations, witnessed the decline of many narrative traditions. The focus on the performance of a single individual seems to have been supplanted by a collective construction of meaning. This change reflects itself in the decline of fairy tales, mythic narratives, epics. ballads, and chants. Concurrently we find an apparent increase in jokes, collie riddles, and rumours.

While much of the material on which the games are based derive from popular cultural renditions of folk traditions, these traditions are discussed and negotiated in the informal interaction of the game. This material is shaped and chan­neled by game events, which are created by an urban folk group -- role-playing gamers -- who, while playing, rarely refer to printed sources. Once game-related events enter the culture of the group, they have again returned to oral tradi­tion. As in many contemporary performances, it is difficult to separate popular culture roots from those grounded in folk­ lore. However, it is evident that whatever the ultimate roots of this material, its usage is within the purview of folkloric study. Through this game we can observe the con­struction of a folk culture as robust in its way as many "traditional" cultures.

Legendary Creatures and Small Group Culture


In understanding the development of the cultures of these groups, we must be willing to bracket traditional story content dealing with these creatures, and must attempt to examine usage in the context of interaction.    With a focus on conversation as folklore, we can transcend the limitations imposed on our discipline caused by the decline of single­ person narration as a major focus of entertainment.


1, "Popular Culture and Social Interaction: Production, Cons1.111ption, and Usage," Journal of Popular Culture, 11 (Fall 1977): 453-66; John L. Caughey, "Artifi­ cial Social Relations in Modern America," American Quarterly, 30 (Spring 1978): 70-89.

2M.M. Carlson, "What Stoker Saw: An Introduction to the History of the Literary Vampire," Folklore Fonua, 10 (Fall· 1977): 26-32.

3Ruth Noel, The Mythology of Middle-Earth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977).

4LydiaFish, "Jesus on the Thruway: The Vanishing Hitchhiker Strikes Again," Indiana Folklore, 2_ (1976):   5-13.

5Roger Mitchell, ''The Press, Rumor, and Legend Formation," Midwestern Journal of Language and Folklore, (1979): 5-61.

6P. YoW1g and J.P. Lawford, Charge! Or How to Play War Games (London: Morgan-Grampian, 1967), p. 3.

7J.D. Reed, "Wars People Play," Horizon, 21 (May 1978): 64-67.

8TSR Hobbies, "Understanding Dungeons & Dragons." Pamphlet. (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR Hobbies: 4 pp.); see also David Axler, "'I Was Only Playing My Character•:               An Exami­ nation of Role-Playing and Perfomance in the Game of Dungeons & Dragons", Wlpublished manuscript, 1980.





9Ed Simbalist and Wilf Backhaus, Chivalry & Sorcery: Warfare & Wizardry in the Feudal Age (Roslyn, N.Y.: Fantasy Games Unlimited, 1977), p. 1.

10, "Fantasy Role-Play Gaming as a Social World: Imagination and the Social Construction of Play." In Para­ doxes of Play. ed. John W. Loy, Jr•• (Corning, New Yorlc: Lesiure Press, 1981), in press.

11Less than 10\ of the participants in these games are female, and I do not know any females who referee these games, although some now do.

12The age range of participants in this group is wide: from children ten years of age to a few middle-aged players in their forties. The referees usually are in their late teens or older. One survey of the readers of a gaming magazine

found that the average age of respondents was 21 years old (see , "Simulation as Leisure," Simulation & Games, in press, 1981).

13DennisK. Benson, Coleen McMahon, and Richard H. Sinnruch, ''TIie Art of Scenario Design," SimulatiOn & Games, 2 (Dec. 1972): 439-463.                                       -

14 Games generally last anywhere from four to eight hours, and gaming evenings have been reported to continue until break­ fast the following morning.

15, "Oscillating Frames: Fantasy Games and 'Real' Reality." Paper presented to the American Sociologi­ cal Association annual meeting, August 1980, New York, New York; see also Axler, - cit.

16E. Gary Gygax, "Dungeons & Dragons: What it is and where it is going." The Dragon     (Feb. 1979): 29-30.

17Dag Stromback, "Some Notes on the Nix in Older Nordic Tradi­ tion." In Medieval Literature and Folklore Studies: Essays in Honor of Frances Lee Utley, Eds. Jerome Mandel and

Bruce A. Rosenberg (New Brunswick, N.J,: Rutgers University Press, 1970), p. 252.






18KatherineM. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature (Chicago:     University of Chicago Press, 1967); Robert Eisler, Man Into Wolf (London:        Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951); John J. Winberry; "The Elusive Elf: Some Thoughts on the Nature and Origin of the Irish Leprechun," Folklore 87 (1976): 63075.

19E.S.Tan, "Epidemic Hysteria," Medical Journal of Malaya_!! (1963):  72- 76.

20Linda Degh and Andrew Vazsonyi, "Legend and Belief." In Folklore Genres, Ed. Dan Ben-Amos (Austin, Texas: Univer­ sity of Texas Press, 1975), pp. 108-110.

21Linda Degh, "The 'Belief Legend' in Modern Society." In American Legend, Ed. Wayland D. Hand (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1971), p. 63.

22Joseph F. Gallehugh, Jr., ''The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro," North Carolina Folklore Journal 24 (August 1976): 53-58.

23James F. McCloy and Ray Miller, Jr. The Jersey Devil (Wall­ ingford, Pa.: Middle Atlantic Press, 1976), p. 92.

24John Gutowski, ''The Proto-Festival: Local Guide to American Folk Behavior," Journal of the Folklore Institute 15 (May­ August 1978): 113-132.

25R. Richard Wohl and Anselm Strauss, "Symbolic Representation and the Urban Millieu," American Journal of Sociology, 63 (March 1958): 523-32.

26DanielCrowley, I Could Talk Old-Story Good: Creativity in Bahamian Folklore (Berkeley:   University of California Press, 1966), pp. 13-27.

27see Howard S. Becker and Blanche Geer, "Latent Culture: A Note on the Theory of Latent Social Roles," Administrative Science Quarterly 5 (1960): 304-13, for a full discussion of this point. -

28, "Small Groups and Culture Creation: The Idioculture of Little League Baseball Teams," American Socio­ logical Review 44 (1979): 734.

29Ed Simbalist, "Fantasy Role Playing," Different Worlds 1 (1979):    23.


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