Talks & Events
Talk, Seminar / Conference

Areas Of Effect: Planar Systems, Critical Roles, and Gaming Imaginaries

9 Mar 2024 11am-8.30pm

arebyte Gallery
London E14 0LG


*This event has been postponed to 9 March 2024 due to train strikes, we apologise for any inconvenience caused*

Curated by artist David Blandy and writer Jamie Sutcliffe in association with Strange Attractor Press, Areas Of Effect: Planar Systems, Critical Roles, and Gaming Imaginaries is a one-day symposium on Tabletop Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) with live game sessions.

Forming part of arebyte’s programme The Body, The Mind, The Soul which questions the complex nature of humanity in the realm of technological progress, the event brings together artists, game designers, theorists, and philosophers to discuss these wildly expansive forms of play in which players utilise both their imaginations and chance mechanics (such as dice rolls) to determine the actions of fictional characters and the scenarios surrounding them.

The symposium looks at TTRPGs as the physical interface between the body and the imaginary, addressing the hopes currently instilled in tabletop play to act as a transformative activity. As such, this form of play presents novel opportunities for immersive experience, problem solving, moral dilemma, but perhaps most importantly, communal storytelling.

Speakers at the event include acclaimed RPG designers Emmy Allan, Kayla Dice, Mike Mason, Chris McDowall, Samuel Mui, and Zedeck Siew, alongside writers, historians and theorists such as Stu Horvath, Timothy Linward, Mark Pilkington, and Simon O’Sullivan.

An exhibition of TTRPGs-inspired video games by artists Kitty Clark, Uma Breakdown, John Powell-Jones, Petra Szemán, and Holly White are hosted on computers and available to play for visitors throughout the whole event.

The day culminates in live TTRPG play sessions of the games ECOMOFOS!! by artist David Blandy and SUPERZEROES by TTRPG game designer Samuel Mui, amongst others, inviting the audience to play with a deck of uniquely designed TTRPG playing cards.

The event features a selection of merchandise and publications from Strange Attractor Press and independent London-based bookshop Igloo Tree.

Read more about the event here.

Symposium programme:

11 - 11:15am: INTRODUCTION TO TTRPGS by David Blandy and Jamie Sutcliffe

Starting off the symposium, Jamie and David welcome visitors, introduce the programme for the day and touch upon the world of TTRPGS.

11:15 - 11:45am: ON ROLEPLAYING GAMES by Simon O’ Sullivan

Artist and theorist Simon O'Sullivan will begin the symposium with a keynote talk considering the imaginative spaces and practices of role playing games considered as a distinct form of fictioning.

11:45am - 1pm: BETWEEN HEXCRAWLS AND BIOSPHERES with Holly White, Zedeck Siew, David Blandy (chair)

Exploring the myriad functions of speculative ecology in role playing environments, addressing the creation of flora, fauna and folklore that work to colour and complicate diverse worlds of play in a time of ecological collapse.

1:40 - 3pm: FROM ODD PASTS TO GRIMDARK FUTURES with Timothy Linward, Kayla Dice, Chris McDowall (chair)

From privately imagined locales to vast, communally written megatexts, this discussion will focus on the process and practice of worldbuilding, interrogating the various textures of myth and fabulation asking to what ends our novel worlds might be put.


TTRPG historian and co-host of the Vintage RPG Podcast Stu Horvath introduces his landmark new book Monsters, Aliens, and Holes In The Ground: A Guide to Tabletop Roleplaying Games From D&D To Mothership, published in 2023 by the MIT Press.

3:35 - 5pm: NAMELESS HORRORS! CREEPING FLESH! with Mike Mason, Emmy Allen, Sam Mui, Mark Pilkington

Focusing on the aesthetics, politics, and arresting experiences of horror, this conversation will look to various exercises in the macabre, horrific, and supernatural to test role playing’s capacities for innovative storytelling, moral quandary, and new forms of autobiographical fiction.

5:15 - 8:30pm: LIVE TTRPG PLAY with David Blandy, Samuel Mui

Following these insightful talks, have a go at playing alternative TTRPGs with friends and other visitors! The games will be facilitated by TTRPG experts and game designers.

Throughout the entire symposium, a selection of TTRPG-inspired video games will be free to be play on computers in the gallery. Spanning from ecological utopias to imaginary lives, see below for the full list of games and their retrospective game designers.


Image credits: Illustration by Daniel Locke for David Blandy’s ECO MOFOS!!


Jamie Sutcliffe is a writer, curator, and co-director of Strange Attractor Press. His work explores artistic encounters with science fictive fabulation, the politics of gaming, animation and its multiple entanglements with developments in the life sciences, haunted media, the digital uncanny, and the persistence of myth, all understood as technologies of selfhood. He is the editor of Documents of Contemporary Art: Magic, published by The Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press, and his essays, reviews, and interviews have been featured in Art Monthly, Frieze, The White Review, Rhizome, Art Review, The Quietus, Art Agenda, Bricks From The Kiln, and IsThisIt, amongst others. @intron_depot

David Blandy (1976, UK, Lives & works in Brighton) makes work that slips between performance and video, digital and analogue, investigating the stories and cultural forces that inform and influence our lives. Collaboration is central to his practice, examining communal and personal heritage and interdependence. With research spanning multiple forms of archive, from fandoms to the archive of the body, historic texts to academic libraries, archaeology and ecological theory, twitch streams and film archives, Blandy weaves poetic works that explore the complexities of the contemporary subject. @david_blandy_

Event made in partnership with Strange Attractor Press and Igloo Tree.

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