Science fiction was invented by Mary Shelley on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816. (Sort of. There were precursors but let's ignore them for a minute.)

Tabletop RPGs were invented by wargamers on the shores of Lake Geneva in the late 1960s. (Sort of. There were precursors but let's ignore them for a minute.)

There's an interesting alternate history where the two swap. Where Shelley invented a new pastime for the bored poets, where they imagined themselves Gothic heroes by using funny dice.

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Frankenstein was written because Dr. Polidori suggested a story-writing contest, which is already halfway to an RPG of the Baron Munchausen variety.

It's a different Lake Geneva, obviously, but I find the coincidence amusing.

The Appendix N of this hypothetical would be filled with Gothic fantasies like the Castle of Otranto, Vathek and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner instead of pulp fantasy.

Romantic poets were already the equivalent of goths and nerds and metalheads of the 1980s and 1990s that embraced D&D, so you could imagine the game catching on quickly among that sort of crowd.

200 years later, the RPG field would have grown in sophistication and variety in ways that are hard to imagine, as scifi has done.

It turns out that there actually were several proto-roleplaying games and collaborative storytelling games that existed in the late 18th and early 19th century. So this alternate history might be more plausible than you would think.

@nickwedig I feel compelled to post a link to my 200 word RPG "Wittgenstein's Monster", which is partially a joke about Frankenstein and TTRPGs.

@nickwedig trying to grow the RPG field in that direction is an exercise in frustration. Most players just want more weapon and monster stats, and are not interested in fluff.

@WanderingBeekeeper I tend to agree, but I think most attempts to grow or change the RPG field are doomed to failure.

Perhaps in a world where RPGs began with Romantic poets instead of wargames, things might be different.

@WanderingBeekeeper I know >.< I do a lot of online RPG, and there's one player who's now been with me in quite a few game. Every single time they make a powergamed powerhouse ... and then gets upset that I don't like to run combat.

You'd imagine that one of these days they'd make the connection, no?

@melindrea they never do. Shortly before I left FASA, I threatened to cancel all the sourcebooks and adventures in the pipeline and just do two books of 100 stat blocks each and title them GUNZ and MOAR GUNZ. I had players actually respond positively, which convinced me that I had not found the right audience and needed to move on. Nobody wanted deep worldbuilding and actual queer history in their steampunk, they just wanted dirigibles and big guns and Great White Heroes. Fuck that.

@WanderingBeekeeper that is one of the things that I really like in the group I am, though. While there's a few who are very much powergamers (in the annoying sense), we have a lot of queer, neurodiverse and other bits of folks in the group.

And then the one that has now built the same character four times and doesn't get why no one likes it.

@melindrea we had one of those. didn't matter what the system or world was, he built Crazy KungFu Guy. did not work out well in an Earthdawn campaign that was mostly about international diplomacy, mystical quests into other planes of existence, and draconic scheming. And family life, with small children to raise in a very different set of cultures.

@WanderingBeekeeper @melindrea Mood. I have a friend who is fine as a person, but sees every system as a problem to be solved and always tries to make the most efficiently powerful character whose backstory is shored up against any attempt to create a plot hook out of it, no matter what the GM does. And he's always bored and doesn't get why.

@kirby Lord Byron wrote that after Dave Arneson set their hotel on fire with a flare gun.

Oh, man, it's so extra. If you know Russell you know what to expect. It's probably my favorite Russell film.

@nickwedig Science Fiction would suck on the other hand, in that universe I mean. Gygax 🤬
@nickwedig But I agree how awesome a Mary Shelley helmed RPG woulda been ♥

@nickwedig different author, but... Are you aware of the "shared fantasy world with characters that write one another letters in-character, etc" the Brontë siblings used to play?

It really sounds a lot like a precursor of stuff like freeform forums/lands (or epistolary proto RPGs).

It's featured rather prominently in Gillen's DIE comic.

@renatoram This I was aware of, and it makes for another interesting 'what if' starting place for alternative rpg history.

@jburneko Trick taking games such as Whist were popular in that sort of time frame, so I could imagine it taking this sort of form.

I think that game-design-wise it might benefit from a tighter connection between the card game and the narrative, but it's an interesting start.

@nickwedig I don't know, I rather like that the card game merely resolves mounting tension and passes focus (that's all the cards do in my primary inspiration Spione). I think those people very much would have just "bantered" until someone got mad and challenged someone to a duel -- I mean of hand of cards. This is an attempt at Shelley's more sensible refinements upon reflection after the more chaotic play of that weekend.

@nickwedig meanwhile I'm now sitting around rewriting the lyrics to "Smoke on the Water"

We all came down from St. Paul
To the Lake Geneva shoreline
To roll some dice in a basement
We had a lot of time
Dave & Gary and some others
Were at the best place around…

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