The “Minneapolis Ties to Gaming” panel that I mentioned before went pretty well. We went through local gaming history pretty much chronologically, starting with boardgames published in the area nearly 100 years ago and ending with the potential future of gaming, as it’s being created here.
We addressed the local genesis of RPGs, including in-world Diplomacy play reports, Braunsteins, Dave Arneson’s innovations and other threads that led to Chainmail and D&D. There were asides about what exactly a Braunstein is, references to Playing at the World and discussion of various influential and innovative RPGs and RPG products published in the Twin Cities (Tekumel, Ars Magica, Whimsy Cards, Dread, Chronica Feudalis, Heirs to the Lost World and more). We talked about Fantasy Flight Games, one of the biggest and most enduring game companies, and based in the Twin Cities. We talked about local authors who got their starts writing RPGs (Steve Brust, Pat Wrede and others), prompting me to remark that, when people say it’s impossible to do well by writing up your RPG campaigns, I’ve grown up thinking it’s impossible not to do well! I managed to work in references to Chirine’s upcoming Tekumel Braunstein game, and we gave Tekumel a few good minutes of general discussion. We finished with a discussion of Fantasy Flight’s innovations (integrating computers into games, in particular) and how the future of gaming might be created here. The panel ranged wide and far, probably a necessity when there’s so much history around here.
In particular, we talked about the Minneapolis Dungeon, a game I’d only heard a few hints about. It looks (from searching) like Playing at the World doesn’t mention the Minneapolis Dungeon, but the blog for the book does. (Edit: As pointed out by Mr. Peterson in the comments below, his book does mention the Minneapolis Dungeon, just not using that specific phrase.) In that post, Peterson describes the publishing history of Craig van Grasstek’s Rules to the Game of Dungeon. But he doesn’t talk much more about what happened outside of publishing, nor what those games were like. (To summarize his points and those that came up in the panel: the Minneapolis Dungeon was created when Blue Petal decided to run something similar to D&D, but without D&D rules or dice. Other people started GMing it, too, and it took on a life of its own. It eventually got mostly supplanted by other games in local popularity, but no game ever dies.)
We discussed this a bit more during the panel, and later that night, one of the original Minneapolis Dungeon GMs ran a session of it. It was certainly interesting from an anthropological/historical point of view to see how the game went. Everyone got to choose a special power for their character, and all resolution was (it appeared) via 2d6. It also looked very close to freeform, with a lot of GM interpretation required to decide how a given action worked. And it seemed that a good portion of the time, the GM was deciding what happened with little input from the players, and that the GM was consulting his own records without letting the PCs know what was going on. In other words, it seemed very freeform but also very railroady and subject to GM caveat. Freeform can be great, but GM caveat is not my playstyle. So, probably not something I’d enjoy very much.
Still, it’s good to have seen what the Minneapolis Dungeon is like. I feel like I’ve got that extra piece of the puzzle now.