Early 1800s games featuring fantasy, storytelling, and role-play

Hi everyone–a friend of mine thought this might be the best place to reach people interested in the history of storytelling games and roleplaying to share some things that don’t seem well-known.

A few months ago, I ran across a storytelling game published in French in the early 1800s (like, from 1801-1867 in at least 11 texts with 5 authors). I couldn’t find where anyone had ever written about this game, and working further through its sources, I eventually found another game that involves role-play–very specific role-play pretty focused on getting people to socialize, but still, a game that in its 1830 edition articulates how it has characters, roles, a situation, and the potential for extending the game to an indefinite length. I don’t know that these games influenced any others, but it’s been fun to think about them.

For both games, I’ve translated all the variants I can find and I’ve posted them here:
Early Collaborative Games of Fantasy and Imagination

I’ve also posted some notes on using Sara Coleridge’s 1837 fantasy novel Phantasmion as the basis for running the storytelling game, some stuff about how to redeem pledges, and a sort of storygame that was probably the basis for a better-known Surrealist game.


Extremely interesting, thanks!


I’m hyped by this info.
The French expert on the topic would be Coralie David, with a pioneer comparative litt thesis. Analog Game Studies will also be interested, and the RPG history channel on NSR discord server.
Do you want to bring the info yourself or me to do it for you?
edit : Come to think of it, french author and player Serge Lehman, who scrounged flea markets for early sci-fi novels, would be interested too.


@DeReel Fantastic–thank you for the suggestions! I’ve reached out to all but Serge Lehman, for whom I have no contact info.

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This makes me imagine an alternate history where RPGs really caught on in the early 19th century, and by 2022 are centuries more advanced that they are now, with wildly different baseline assumptions on what the games might look like.