Thursday, September 04, 2014
#RPGaDAY #7 Most "Intellectual" RPG Owned -- My Answer Might Just Surprise You
For the seventh entry in his #RPGaDAY project Dave Chapman (aka +Autocratik aka @autocratik) asked the members of the gaming community to answer what the most "intellectual" RPG we owned were. Dave's own answer set the tone when his response was non-ironic. He wanted us to share the game that we legitimately thought was most intellectual -- though some people still answered the game ironically with responses like "Marvel as it has the most super geniuses." In the non-ironic responses there were references to Nobilis (Dave's own choice), Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth, Mage: The Ascension, and other games from the "avant-garde" or "artiste" era of role playing game design.
In many ways, I think that the listed choices does a disservice to the many games that preceded the games of this era, not to mention many games that came after these admittedly intellectual games. When I think of intellectual, I tend to think of it in two categories. The first is "thought provoking" in the philosophic sense and the second is "well researched" akin to a dissertation or research paper. All of those above qualify by both standards, but so do many others.
One cannot deny that Chivalry and Sorcery by Ed Simbalist and Wilf Backhaus wasn't a well researched role playing game, or AD&D for that matter.
Steve Perrin and Ray Turney's Runequest is a mythopoeic marvel - especially in its use of Greg Stafford's Glorantha setting - that provide interesting intellectual fodder regarding the origins of faith.
Tom Moldvay's Lords of Creation touches on many of the issues that the later "artiste" games cover. Being a "Lord of Creation" in that game is to be a game master who makes new worlds.
There are many others of the classic era of gaming - I didn't touch upon Empire of the Petal Throne for example - but there are also more recent games like Lacuna, My Life with Master, or the controversial Vampires by Victor Gijsbers. Vampires is an attempt at a deconstructionist roleplaying game, but requires an explanatory essay. The essay and the conversation around the game are thought provoking though and all three of the games mentioned are story telling games of the post-modern school.
I own all of the games mentioned above, but not one of them is the game that I believe to be the most intellectual game that I own. That game - a game that combines scholarship, mechanical innovations, and is thought provoking - is Joseph Goodman's Dungeon Crawl Classics. The game was inspired, and is informed, by the author's intellectual desire to understand the literary inspirations that influenced Dungeons & Dragons. Goodman read the entirety of Appendix N for the purpose of learning about D&D and this led him to desire to create his own RPG. Given the length and breadth of Appendix N, that's a pretty scholarly effort in my opinion and worthy of praise. His game balances mechanical innovations and nostalgia. It also fosters discussion as to what exactly the purpose of role playing is.