Mazes & Minotaurs: dice-and-paper RPGs go meta

Paul Raven @ 12-01-2010

Thanks to Cheryl Morgan for spotting this one: it seems that even the humble roleplaying game has achieved sufficient cultural escape velocity to enter the penumbra of postmodernism. Enter Mazes & Minotaurs, a set of RPG rules that purports to be “what the first fantasy roleplaying game could have been if its authors had taken their inspiration from Jason & the Argonauts (yes, the 1963 movie with all the cool Ray Harryhausen monsters) and Homer’s Odyssey rather than from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts & Three Lions.”

Unlike many of the more postmodern experiments one encounters, the Mazes & Minotaurs gang seem fairly upfront about admitting that their creation is pastiche and homage at once. But they’ve made considerable effort to echo the styles and formats of the early iterations of Dungeons & Dragons, with the rulebooks masquerading as reprints of vintage material from the 70s and 80s; for example, the “1972 original rules” were in fact published (for free) in 2006.

M&M is apparently designed to be fully playable, so it’s not just an exercise in nostalgic fan-wank… though whether it ever acquires enough players to become a genuine “scene” in its own right is another question entirely. Perhaps a carefully-made mockumentary a la The Story of Anvil could kick-start a knowingly-ironic retro RPG revival?

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2 Responses to “Mazes & Minotaurs: dice-and-paper RPGs go meta”

  1. ironymaiden says:

    Anvil! The Story of Anvil isn’t a mockumentary. a mockumentary is fiction shot in documentary style. the adventures of Anvil are sadly true.

  2. Paul Raven says:

    I’m not entirely sure that’s the case, ironymaiden. The most successful lie is the one that not only contains as much truth as possible but the one that the listener most wants to believe, and while there’s a lot of truth in Anvil!, the narrative is too perfect to not have been massaged a little bit. Sure, it’s no This is Spinal Tap, but it’s from the same theoretical space as those programs where they send Paris Hilton to live with rednecks for a day – yeah, she’s a ditzy spoiled bitch, but as they know that’s why we want to watch her on screen, both she and the editing crew will play up to it as hard as they possibly can without breaking the fourth wall.