When I invent a time machine, the obvious first application is to play D&D with my favorite 19th century writers.
If I were to DM a game for, say, Jane Austen (and I would like to! In fact, Jane Austen, I hereby extend to you a CHALLENGE to play at my table! YOU WILL HAVE FUN) I wouldn’t try to cobble together some 19th-century setting involving dance halls and drawing rooms. I also wouldn’t run a straight D&D game either. I’d play Al-Qadim.
Tolkien revolutionized the fantasy imagination, giving us the dwarves and elves that we now associate with fantasy. But there was been fantasy literature for a long time before there were hobbits.
In the English-speaking world, at least, the Lord of the Rings of the 18th century – the book that directed literary fantasy, juvenile escapist power fantasy, and the hunger for the exotic and sublime – was the 1001 Nights. When 18th and 19th century Europeans thought about evil wizards and magic rings, they also thought about djinni, flying mechanical horses, and trees that grew jewels like fruit. They were so hungry for fantasy that 1001 nights weren’t enough nights for them. They wrote their own “arabesques” – original fantasy literature using 1001 Nights trappings, much of it worse than the original.
Nowadays, rich nerds with too much money build castles. Then, rich nerds, like William Beckford, built arabesque mansions. William Beckford also wrote Vathek, an arabesque copping its style and themes from the 1001 Nights. In a way, William Beckford is the Richard Garriott of his day.
Here’s Charles Dickens talking about 1001 Nights:
Oh, now all common things become uncommon and enchanted to me. All lamps are wonderful; all rings are talismans. Common flower-pots are full of treasure, with a little earth scattered on top; trees are for Ali Baba to hide in; beef-steaks are to throw down into the Valley of Diamonds, that the precious stones may stick to them, and be carried by eagles to their nests, whence the traders, with loud cries, will scare them.
That sounds to me like guy who is going to FREAK OUT the first time he plays D&D and the DM announces that he found a magic ring. OK, Charles, you’re in the group.
OK, so here are the guys I’d invite to my game table:
What celebrities/historical figures/fictional figures would you guys play with?