Emma French


Research title: Dungeons and Dragons as transformative fantasy

Research Summary

My research is focused on the intertextualities between literary fantasy and the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Rather than presenting D&D’s relationship to literary fantasy as solely derivative, I instead argue that this roleplaying game provides a pro-active, or interactive, way for different communities of practice within fantasy readership and wider transmedial fantasy fandom to challenge the established traditions of fantasy’s literary canon. While D&D has often been presented as consolidating and securing the mores of fantasy-as-formula, the multiple modes of collaborative authorship present within the game structure instead manifest readers’ transformative responses to genre.

My project will examine contemporary fantasy through the lens of assemblage theory, and its wider context as a participatory culture. To exemplify D&D's transformative mode of authorship, I will be utilising actual play media texts such as Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, and Dimension 20.



Emma French (2022) 'Dimension 20’s The Unsleeping City: Fantasy and Play as Means of Claiming Agency in Modern Dystopias’, Utopia on the Tabletop. [https://vector-bsfa.com/2022/09/30/dimension-20s-the-unsleeping-city-fantasy-and-play-as-means-of-claiming-agency-in-modern-dystopias/]



  • Roll for Armadillo: Diverse possibilities within TRPGs. Event Chair. Conspire 2021, Online, June 2021.
  • Research Across Media Roundtable. Panellist. GIFCon 2022: Fantasy Across Media, Online, April 2022.
  • Materiality and Liveness. Panellist. Fan Studies Network – North America Virtual Conference: Inside Voices, Online, October 2022.
  • Tabletop Roleplaying Games Roundtable. Event Chair. GIFCon 2023: Boundaries & Margins, Online, May 2023.


Conference Papers

  • Orientalism in Dungeons & Dragons’ Monk class, and its Revision Within Actual-Play Media. Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations 2021: Beyond the Anglocentric Fantastic, Online, April 2021.
  • Detoxifying Male Fantasy: Genre-Savviness and Desire in the Worldbuilding of DIELGBTQIA+ Fantastika Graphics Symposium, Online, November 2021.
  • Playful and Critical Subversion in D&D and Dimension 20’s Escape from the Bloodkeep. Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations 2022: Fantasy Across Media, Online, April 2022.
  • From Game to Podcast to Comic: the Transmedial Communication of Play in The Adventure ZoneCurrent Research in Speculative Fiction Conference 2022, University of Liverpool, June 2022.
  • "The Summer of Aabria": Levels of Canonicity in Tabletop Roleplaying Games. Once and Future Fantasies, University of Glasgow, July 2022.
  • "The Summer of Aabria": Marginal Identities, Accessibility and Transformative Storytelling in Actual Play. When It Changed: Women in SFF since 1972, Online, December 2022.
  • "You were not born with venom in your veins": Actual Play’s Transformative Revisions of Race in D&D. 'Exploring High Fantasy: Race & Sexuality in D&D', Wiscon 46, Madison WI., May 2023.


  • D&D as Transformative Fantasy. Games and Gaming Lab, University of Glasgow Arts Lab Showcase, University of Glasgow, June 2023.


  • D&D and Fantasy Fiction: Giants in the Oerth. Interview with John D. Rateliffe, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, University of Glasgow, January 2021.
  • D&D in Focus. Workshop, Games and Gaming Lab, University of Glasgow, December 2022.


  • MLitt in Fantasy: Fantasy Across Media (guest speaker)


  • English Literature 1B: The Novel and Narratology


  • Fantastic Texts and Where to Find Them: Fantasy International Summer School (2023)

Additional Information

Organisational Committees

  • Committee member of GIFCon (2019-Present)


  • Founding member and Editorial Board Member of Mapping the Impossible: Journal for Fantasy Research