When I was a kid in the late 1970s, my brothers introduced me to a Dungeons & Dragons knock-off called Tunnels & Trolls. Like Marvel at that time still positioned itself as the younger, hipper version of DC comics, T&T was an RPG with an attitude, and a sense of humor which was absent in its rival.
T&T originated out of Scottsdale, Arizona as a mail order RPG where their DMs would play games with folks in far-flung areas by mail. Campaigns took some time, I can tell you. To more easily facilitate game play for those who did not yet have a cohort of players they created the “solo adventure,” like a non-lineal book that took you from one page to another, back and forth, by a roll of the die.
For the record, the first T&T solo adventure, Buffalo Castle, predates the first Choose Your Own Adventure book by at least a year, in case Netflix wants to use that in their defense in the Bandersnatch lawsuit.
The version of Here Be Dragons I have read is a draft version, one currently in process, but it is an exciting concept with a troubling premise, and one I hope the playwright pursues and takes to greater extremes. The “game master” character presents the audience with several opportunities to either alter the outcome of certain circumstances, or to see exchanges from varying points of view, through the use of dice, or other decision-making devices.
The subject is toxic masculinity within the gaming community. The bros have always lorded over alternate worlds (much as they have this one) often with tragic results. My first solo T&T adventure was Lee Russell’s Labyrinth. The cover art features a muscular hirsute Minotaur holding a maiden by the wrist. She is wearing a dress featuring a breast-exposing bodice, and her face is turned away. I first played this game when I was ten.
This is an intriguing narrative, not just about abuse but complicity, and the kind of mania which can overtake an individual when an imaginary world holds more interest, excitement -- and safety -- than reality.
Who should I read tomorrow?