Space & Story: Constructing and Communicating Narrative Space in Dungeons and Dragons
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Designing and communicating spaces is an ever-evolving practice and challenge for the architect who must translate individual and collective experiences of space both to those within the field of architecture, and those outside of it. Drawings of plans, renders, sections, and elevations conspire to make the imagined real in the minds of various stakeholders, treating unbuilt design projects as tangible. In narrative-based tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), a central challenge is translating a sense of space to often non-spatially minded players. This thesis seeks to explore how communication of space works in D&D as it re-interprets architectural methods to articulate imagined spaces, which are further reinforced in D&D by the use of spatial narratives. Research into spatial understanding through narrative has yet to critically examine D&D, which only recently achieved explosive global popularity. While architecture has previously looked to Film Theory, Set Design, or Radical and Speculative Architecture for novel approaches to understanding, rethinking, and communicating space, academic studies of D&D itself typically center psychology, ludology, and education. This thesis identifies where architecture too can learn from D&D’s unique ability to translate sophisticated imagined spatial arrangements to ‘real’ immaterial space, such that a broad range of players can envision it. Through a multifaceted approach that employs written analyses and drawing as research, Space & Story seeks to provide insight to architects on articulating space to non-architects. A literature review on how narrative forms space across multiple fields and media, and the abstraction and representation of space in map-making, architecture, and D&D past and present informs a hybrid design exercise. The production of a short D&D adventure focuses on how elements of story are identified, translated spatially, and then communicated through a narrative experience that is both designed and open-ended. Space & Story engages with D&D’s process of conceptualizing and communicating immaterial spaces and explores how it both utilizes and diverges from traditional architectural methods, beginning to reflect on how preconceived understandings of program, type, and genre play into users’ experiences of space. This thesis is a celebration and commentary on both practices and explorations of creating unique spaces for humans to exist and play within.
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Alison McNeil (2023). Space & Story: Constructing and Communicating Narrative Space in Dungeons and Dragons. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19442
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