Role-playing Game Disaster Tourism

Not many people know it, but the origin of western roleplaying games was, in fact, also the first act of roleplaying game disaster.

In 1969, a young David Wesely attempted to host a new kind of strategic war game in the Twin Cities, it was to be a game where participants played important figures in a town – choosing what actions they would take in isolation by approaching the referee (David) in an orderly manner.

The players widely disregarded this expectation and began essentially LARPing with one another – inventing characters out of their roles and eventually escalating it to the point where it was necessary to improvise rules for a duel.

Since then the role-playing game has been a magnet for disasters both foreseeable and unforseeable. For example there are probably people right now raging that I’ve implied LARPing pre-dates good old fashioned pen-and-paper dungeon crawls.

Currently the two big fiascos I’m obsessed with are:

  1. The TSR / NuTSR Saga
  2. The GiantLands Saga

Largely I think the fascination with this comes from that, due to the nature of role-playing games – the action/reaction, cause/effect of the player actions on the world, the world building required around that and the adjustments made in live play mean that it’s not really possible to comment on a system, a game or an era of the hobby without revealing a lot about yourself.

For the average person, that’s not really a problem, they know who they are and they’re probably mostly okay with it – but for a subset of the community the mentioning of the reveal provokes extraordinary reactions that often result in doubling down and messy meltdowns by terrible people.