How many rules — how many words — do you need to create a world?


For the past several months, my home page has been James Maliszewski’s blog Grognardia. Though it’s nominally about “the history and traditions of the hobby of role-playing” — Dungeons & Dragons and its ilk — it’s also an invigorating meditation on aesthetics. Maliszewski is an adherent of the “old school” movement, which favors flexible, elegant gaming systems (the original D&D, circa 1974, a.k.a. OD&D, published in “little brown books”) to those that pile on so many supplementary rules and tables that they begin to feel restrictive rather than prescriptive. How many rules — how many words — do you need to create a world? The same question could be asked of literature. Indeed, a session of a role-playing game, or RPG, with its emphasis on character and absence of winning or losing, often resembles a story, collaboratively generated by the players. Reading Maliszewski’s lucid writing — on vintage RPGs, unearthed Gygaxia, the literary DNA of D&D, and contemporary system-philosophy brouhahas — is both a kick of nerdy nostalgia and a satisfying take on what it all means, even if you’re someone (like me) who hasn’t rolled a 12-sided die in ages.

more from Ed Park at the LAT here.