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In thread in Soc.History.What-if about earlier RPGs during the Great Depression, Earlier Role-playing Games, there was speculation as to what form an earlier RPG would take.

My own take is that companies like Parker Brothers wouldn't stray too far from what they would be comfortable with: Boards, cards, playing pieces. They would keep the board, find a way to use the cards and the playing pieces would be for the little theater play the players would put on. Oh and dice, gotta have dice.

But they wouldn't use terms like "non-player characters" and "game master". No, the terms would come from fiction and plays: Actors, Director, Extras, Antagonist, Protagonist. You'd have Sets and Scenes, and of course the Plot.

The players would take the roles of the Actors, each given a set of motivations and goals. The "Director" would be the player who gets to read the plot and play the extras in the game, and layout the sets and scenes. The plot would be broken down into scenes, each with a specific goal for the actors. One actor is designated as the Antagonist, and leads the scene. The Protagonist will try to prevent the Antagonist from succeeding in reaching his goal. The other actors will try to help or hinder the Antagonist, based on their own goals and motivations.

There are also the cards. They could provide clues, special events, other items for the current story.

So each of these games come with cardboard flats for scenery, lead figures for the actors and extras, and a set of cards for that game. The plot could be divided into ten or more scenes, with each scene taking an hour or more to complete.

So how would the game work? That's what I'm not sure about. More thought on the actual mechanics later


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