25 July 2009

Historical Gaming

You know, I have all these historical setting books for GURPS: Middle Ages, Aztecs, Ice Age, Celtic Myth... and as much as I really enjoy history, I can't for the life of me think of what to do with these settings. Perhaps part of the problem is that what interests me about history is the way that people used to live.

There's a museum near my home that has a gallery that is a series of exhibits showing how people cleaned in years prior. There's a section dedicated to laundry, another for vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping, and a section on toilets. This gallery is the most interesting part of the museum to me; seeing how people lived in the past is amazing. The day-to-day basics of things-you-take-for-granted activities, like food and accommodations, are what fascinate me. I've been working over this past month with another museum in town doing demonstrations of how the Romans cooked, and the sorts of food they would have eaten, from the poorest to the richest. There's also a replica Viking village not too far from here that allows people to rent the site for overnight excursions; twice now, I've been able to go out and be a Norseman for a night, and sleep in a Viking house.

19 July 2009


It all started with The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien wrote this epic saga, which captured the imagination of millions. Eventually, this lead to Dungeons and Dragons. Which, of course, spawned a great number of copycat games. Even today, when you use the word "fantasy," it conjures up images of a pseudo-medieval fantasy world populated not only by humans, but elves, dwarves, goblins, halflings, dragons, and a variety of other monsters.

But let's look at the definition of "fantasy:" The creative imagination; unrestrained fancy. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the concept of high fantasy, in a Tolkien-esque setting. I'm just saying that it's not true fantasy. There's no longer anything creative about the typical elves-and-dwarves setting. It was created almost a century ago. Very little has been added to it.

This is one of the reasons I'm so fond of The Dark Crystal. It was new; the world had never before seen Gelflings, Skeksis, or Podlings. This is what I call "True Fantasy," the result of creative imagination, and unrestrained fancy. Rather than reuse what already existed, the creators developed something new.