mercredi 21 mars 2018

What if... TRPGs were created before 1971 ?

Tabletop role-playing games allow us to explore counterfactual thinking, ie. asking ourselves « what if… » and simulating the consequences of a modified fact in the past.

Olivier Caïra asked the question « why was it not invented during the Antiquity or during the Renaissance, but instead in the middle of the 1970, during the boom of the audiovisual leisures. » (Caïra, 2007, p.143-144).

His hypothesis (OC), with the one of McKay he cites (Mc) and mine (PM), are that a culture needs :
  • to be deeply embedded with common cultural references shared in a community (OC)
  • to accept to play with these references (OC, Mc) :
    • By absorbing them, accepting them, recycling them, putting a distance with them (ie. being active and not passive) (OC, Mc, PM)
    • By serializing them (Mc, PM)
  • to support a pleasant and entertaining sociability among equal peers (PM)

So « Let’s Have a Dream » (purely counterfactual)

Year -379, at the bottom of the Aeropagus, some old philosophers who knew Socrates are replaying the events that led to his poisoning. They are using a free-form system solely based on rhetoric to honor their master. After 37 simulations (all ended by a TPK, a total philosopher kill), they finally agree that if Socrates has not been that stubborn, he would be 90 years old by now.

Year 803, in the gardens of Isfahan, law school students are playing One More Night where they continue the 1001 Nights of Scheherazade with rules derived from Tavla boardgame.

Year 1236, in the Lérins Abbey, four monks are passing their recreation time to chivalry search for the Holy Grail. The abbot is not officially informed but he is listening them from the next room because he was a fan of Chretien de Troyes in his youth too. He would like to interrupt them to tell them they are all wrong on Perceval.

Year 1612, in a tea house of Nanjing, bookstore owners are gathering to play Further to the West because they want to keep going on the hexcrawl adventures of the Monkey King and his party. They are often arguing on the use of I Ching as randomizer: is it narrativism or simulationism ?

Year 1883, in London, young insurance traders are meeting at Gryffin Club to solve new cases of Sherlock Holmes with statistical and actuarial tables. Their Crime Master is inventing mysteries much more complex than the ones in the magazines but they don’t give up. They come back home late, it's much more interesting than the family parlour games.

« In real life » (purely factual)

May 22, 1971: Dave Arneson threw an invitation to his wargaming friends to play at his place an heroic fantasy game based on the principles of Braunstein.
(source: Three Line Studio blog, Kuntz, 2017)

Caïra, Olivier. Jeux de rôle: les forges de la fiction. Société. Paris: CNRS, 2007.
Mackay, Daniel. The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001.

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