Monday 14 July 2014

D&D Meets the Literary Bigtime

This article in the website of record -- the New York Times -- uses the generic form "D&D" but I have to give special props to Junot Diaz. In his Pulitzer-winning novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao*, Diaz gives shout-outs to the obscure 80's majesties of Fantasy Games Unlimited (Villains and Vigilantes, Aftermath!), Rolemaster, and holy shit Tekumel and Skyrealms of Jorune. A fuller set of annotations to all the roleplaying, sci-fi and Latin American references, though not as complete as the author-annotated excerpt on Litgenius, is here.
Junot Diaz (photo: ALA)

And here we don't even touch the "role-playing backwash" into fantasy literature I mentioned before. As more or less realist authors, the literati in the NYT article instead are reminiscing about the effect of the real game on its real players. One way to answer the question I previously posed -- "What would literature that draws on role-playing be, without role-playing that draws on literature?"

I also have to say that in a well-run campaign, the experience is literary in a way that cannot be reproduced in a novel. It is a collaboration-through-roles, lived but not written down. As an example, the current metaplot in my 2 1/2 year Band of Iron campaign comes from a new mid-campaign player's starting magic item improvised from two randomly drawn spells (Strength and Hand of Doom), an iron hand which the player then gave a backstory to (discovered exploring an ancient mound), which then fed into the campaign backstory as its purpose as a larger set of iron bodily parts was revealed, and so forth. All developed in real time into a world-pounding mega-plot that has also grafted in third-party adventure modules like Matt Finch's Tomb of the Iron God and Monte Cook's Ptolus.

And oh yeah, as usual New York Times about 4 years late to the trend.

*cover tragi-cluelessly illustrated in the UK edition with a photo of an East Asian youngster (Oh yeah, Wao, sounds Chinese) even though the protagonist is a Dominican-American of Afro-European extraction, who gets his sobriquet through a slurring of "Oscar Wilde."


  1. The New York times is a horrible, horrible newspaper.

  2. O ho ho ho did I say the NYT is most fogeytrending? Clearly it is the BBC.