Friday, June 18, 2010

What Would Jung Have Said? Afterthoughts.

A while back I was discussing travel plans with a client of mine who happens to be a Jungian psychologist. I told her how I was interested in returning to some caves I’d explored in the past, and how I hoped to join some others there to play D&D in them. Being twenty years or so older than myself, she was familiar with the game’s name, but not with what the game was about. I did my best to describe it to her - role playing, dice, pencils and paper, and technically no way to win.

After visiting the caves and having had the chance to play in them, I went out to see her again for some more computer work she needed at her office. She asked how the trip had been and though there wasn’t any back and forth questioning about it that could be called analysis, I realized later that the simple fact that I’d talked to a psychologist about it made me want to re-examine my motives for undertaking such an adventure in the first place.

I’d been wanting to return to those caves for years. In fact, I was planning on returning there even if I had to go alone, though my wife may have (properly) vetoed any solo cave exploring.

What stood out for me when we were playing in the caves was how much less gaming "equipment" we could have brought and had the same game experience. Granted, we never had combat take place and didn’t need dice for its adjudication, although Telecanter did have to roll a saving throw for someone. At the time, I was immersed in the experience and simply enjoying it. Now that some time has passed, I can see more clearly how what we’d been doing there was something that at its root was very primal - prehistoric really. There we were, making up stories together in a cave.

I would venture that all of us have a need for something like this (though clearly some of us more than others.) There's a need to return to our beginnings and share in the myth making process. It’s part of what makes us human. D&D didn’t inspire me to go into a cave and play it - our “playing games” in caves long ago led us to re-create a framework so that we could experience it again today.

In light of this, the return of old school gaming makes more sense to me. Many of us are trying to strip our games down to the basics that we can each live with as the minimum we feel necessary for our game to feel complete. Telecanter recently writes of his attempts to increase portability of play. I’ve been on the same quest myself, being continually drawn to index cards, less dice and rules (OD&D/WhiteBox), one page dungeons, etc. “Receding rules” indeed! The ultimate end of such a quest being telling stories to one another in a cave, I suppose.

Still, if there'd been some bones down there, I swear I would have made dice out of them.


Marcelo Paschoalin said...

As a Psychologist--but not a Jungian--and as a roleplayer, I know exactly what you are talking about. And I must say any rules light system, but one with a theme/setting related to our way of gaming (i.e., fantasy games for D&D players, sci-fi for Traveller gamers, and so on--yet don't consider this as a rule written on stone), could do the job.
In fact, considering this, I'd say Swords & Wizardry and Barbarians of Lemuria are two games that would fit nicely the return to the primordial cave to live the hero's journey... but this is just my humble opinion.

ze bulette said...

Thanks for the comment Marcelo. Mazes and Minotaurs might also be of interest.

Telecanter said...

Great post. For some reason it brings to mind the feeling I got hiking in the Sierras above the tree line. It is so odd to be without trees, so bleak, I was envisioning a lich living there. Not a primordial place I would really want to visit, but when we get away from all the trappings of our civilization it reminds you why some of those old frightening stories exist.

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