Various new translations of yet more old games
December 27, 2023 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Various new translations of yet more old games
In the past year or so, I've added several new translations and comments on games that have mostly been left out of the history of roleplaying, story games, fantasy games, etc. Highlights include seven classical mythology games from the late Renaissance (including the mildly LARP-like "Game of Ceremonies," in which players make sacrifices to Venus and Cupid), a translation of the novel Jeux d'esprit written in 1701 by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force (who gave a complete version of the collaborative storytelling game "Le Jeu du Roman," along with other games depicted in the novel), and trying out a new format, "Kriegsspiele, Parlament, and Prince Albert: light roleplaying in German, 1796-1893" (a blog post on parlor games and live action military-themed games with roleplaying elements).
Role: Mediocre translator, etc.
posted by Wobbuffet (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Wow. Other than Kriegsspiel in the context of Dave Arneson, I never really thought about role-playing games in the 1800s and earlier. Thanks for bringing all of this to light!
posted by ignignokt at 8:53 PM on December 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

This is astonishing work. Thank you.
posted by Hogshead at 7:57 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

These are fascinating, the people of the late Renaissance clearly had a different idea of what constitutes a game than we do. It's kind of a mix between LARPing and a pageant, I guess? I can imagine some guy trying to get a Game of Hell started at a party, and being bored as Hell as he tried to explain how to play it.
If it doesn't compromise the meaning of the original text too much, it would be nice to have line or paragraph breaks that made the structure of the games more clear.. I was having trouble keeping track of that in my head.
Very cool, though.
posted by helenoreoax at 5:30 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]

a different idea of what constitutes a game than we do

This is a great question! On the one hand, what constituted a conversation game in the Renaissance could get very, very minimal. A number of parlor game writers mention Castiglione, whose idea of a conversation game could be as minimal as "this evening our game might be that each of us should tell what virtue above others he would have the person whom he loves adorned with; and then, as all must have some blemish, what fault he would have in her ..."

But, on the other hand and skipping a lot--a lot--of detail about other Medieval, Renaissance, and modern pre-20th C. games very similar to that, a shortcut that helps in thinking about simple conversation games as games is they were frequently associated with variants of Truth or Dare that existed from Medieval times to the present day.

We still think of Truth or Dare as a game today, it has rules as complicated as physical games of Catch or Keep Away or Punch Buggy, and in Ringhieri's games, when you make rule-determined errors and pay for them by answering a thoughtful question, you can look on that as either telling a truth or performing a dare to talk about it in a group--in fact, as games that track forfeits, they're directly related to games of forfeits with tasks that are difficult to distinguish from Truth or Dare. Ringhieri's games have kissing components too, e.g. in the Game of the Labyrinth.

It's kind of a mix between LARPing and a pageant, I guess?

Another great question--according to the rules, some were, but without specific accounts of their actual play, all I can do is speculate about how what's described in the rules resembles elite social events, including masques (which were sort of costume balls with brief staged moments where invited nobles would dress up and maybe say a few lines not amounting to a play--in modern terms, I'm most reminded of cosplayers doing a bit for a contest or an idol festival) and things like 'Les Grandes Nuits de Sceaux' (elite Mardi Gras festivals / masquerade balls thrown by a particular social circle in early 18th C. France). The staging Ringhieri suggests for some games isn't even as elaborate as all that, but they're points of comparison for how and when people might have played semi-elaborate games.

But Ringhieri also had much simpler games like the Game of Fish and the Game of Virtues where there's at least some evidence people may have played those two games more informally and many years after they were published.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:27 AM on January 19

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