History Play

History Play

Here is another piece of translation from Jouer avec l'Histoire. I did translate the introduction of this book in Face Mask. Let me translate a few paragraphs from the first chapter that I find interesting.

Since the book got reprinted, I jumped on the opportunity and ordered it. I have just received it and I am happy to delve in its historical meanders.

The paragraphs I have chosen to translate are from the first chapter "Te Deum for a massacre — playing in a painful History". Jean-Philippe Jaworski explains how he built his TTRPG set in the french religion wars (and he admits, the movie La Reine Margot is part of what pushed him to create this game).

The creation of a historical role-playing game requires a different approach to the one taken for a fantasy role-playing game. The creator's imagination is necessarily subordinated to their documentation. The composing of the game require the gathering of sources, followed by a big work of synthesis and vulgarisation. In addition, it is necessary to know how to make attractive a material that often looks, at first sight, devoid of seduction. Paradoxically, this venture is rather close to composing a novel (la composition romanesque), in its most archaic sense.

When the novel (le roman) appears in France in the twelfth century, it is not considered a fiction genre. At that time, the learned culture is transmitted in Latin, but only the clergy uses it. Nobility is looking for an access to knowledge; however, it doesn't read Latin and is often illiterate. Novels are born in this context: they are popularization works, composed in "Roman" (old French) so that they are accessible to the aristocracy and transmit in an entertaining way stories that belong to historical traditions (matter of Rome, matter of Britain)... The novelists (Romanciers) of the twelfth century do what they call "Translatio", it should not be taken in the sense of translation. They rather compile different sources that they rewrite as entertaining stories, and they are not afraid to add here and there more or less fictitious complements.

Even if a historical role-playing game is not a story, in its conception, it seems to me that it is very close from the "translatio" of the novelists. (...)

Like the medieval novel or like the historical novel, the historical role-playing game sets itself multiple goals : escape through entertainment, cultural enrichment, and, why not, the call for reflection. Indeed, the medieval novel, in its interest in Alexander's conquests, in la geste de Guillaume d'Orange, or in the arthurian knights' adventures, often projects its own society in the story, and invites to reflect on its era as much as to enjoy marvellous adventures of the past.