Joe the Lawyer has put up an interesting thread at therpgsite: If you could play D&D with anyone, real or imaginary, from any time in history, who?
My answer was JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Johnathan Swift and Roald Dahl. On reflection I'd also like to include Jorge Luis Borges. Our games would take place in a Member's club, complete with leather seats, tobbaco pipes, and plentiful bitter served by buxom wenches. We'd have a rotating DM-ship, meeting up every Sunday evening. CS Lewis would grumble about Tolkien's insistence on correct pronunciation of Elvish names ("Not another bloody elf..."); Borges would rile Tolkien with his anti-clerical barbs; Roald Dahl would amuse everybody with his comic creations; and Swift would confound with his unusual 18th Century phrasing.
When China Mieville, M. John Harrison, Richard K. Morgan and Michael Moorcock came in to the club for their weekly game of Dogs in the Vineyard, it would be like the Sharks vs. the Jets. Dice-downs with fistfuls of d12s flying. Bruised lips, bloody noses and black eyes. Finally everybody would settle down and it would be Tolkien's turn to get the drinks in.
It's only very rarely that I look back at something I've written and decide that I like it, and in this case, I do. That piece makes me smile. Although on reflection Mieville, Harrison, Morgan and Moorcock probably wouldn't be playing Dogs in the Vineyard - I've since discovered that Mieville is a Chaosium fan, and I think Moorcock would probably be more of a Lamentations of the Flame Princess sort of person.
Anyway this is a roundabout way of saying that I ended up writing something similar here, except what I wrote was that:
OD&D is sort of like what Michael Polanyi, Friedrich Hayek and Michael Oakeshott would have created if they had been game designers. It was pretty much all generated in a chaotic, emergent fashion through trial and error. And that's what made it crazy but also kind of perfect, in its way.
I don't expect this to be particularly interesting to those of you reading this who aren't terrible pseuds like I am, but anyway, I do sometimes think of the origins of D&D as being a very good example of Polanyi's spontaneous order in action: a couple of dozen people playing around over the course of several years with many different rules, and a set of mechanics slowly evolving and coalescing over that period without any real top-down guidance - until, finally, something like a "game", with a sprawling but lean and quite tightly evolved structure, focused specifically on achieving a certain end.
It reminds me of one of Stephen Jay Gould's old essays, in which he talked about the origin of baseball. Rather than being the invention of Abner Doubleday, he argues, citing a wealth of evidence that proves it, baseball evolved organically over time, without any top-down management: it developed from a number of more primitive games which came from a "a complex lineage, better called a nexus, from which modern baseball emerged, eventually in a codified and canonical form."
And that's really rather like the OSR too, don't you think? Many different people playing different variants of D&D, and spontaneous order emerging through the blogosphere and things like ConstantCon, producing a new structure, and a new way of doing things, quite tightly focused but having emerged through trial and error and disunity, rather than because of the actions of a small group of designers.
Anyway, I like to imagine sitting down with Polanyi, Hayek and Oakeshott for a game of D&D with Tolkien, Lewis, Swift and Dahl. I imagine Polanyi being a paladin, Hayek a mage and Oakeshott a fighter. Tolkien would probably be a druid, and Lewis a cleric. Swift, I'd peg as a rogue. Dahl would be an illusionist. Given their disparate backgrounds and interest in the philosophical, I'd run them through a Planebox campaign, of course. Start them off in the Abyss and take it from there.