12 Days of Significance (33)
January 2, 2018
One in a 2017–2018 series of posts reprinting stories originally written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors and friends — for Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s 2009–2010 anthropological-literary experiment SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS. See below for more info about this ongoing project.
If you came of age in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably have some sense of what the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons was like. Players became characters — dwarf or knight or wizard — and wandered labyrinths looking for treasure, battling monsters along the way. Dice were rolled, charts consulted. Even if you never played, you probably knew someone who had, a brother of a friend or a nose-breathing cousin who himself resembled a minotaur.
Serious gamers will also recall other so-called roleplaying games that cropped up during this era, such as Traveler, a militaristic science-fiction title with a map of the galaxy; or Gamma World, set in a post-apocalyptic America, in which your character had weird but potentially useful mutations — infrared vision, extra leg. But I don’t know anyone, aside from me and my next-door neighbor, Darren, who’d even heard of Mountains of Moralia, the sole offering of Radon Claw Game Labs.
The cover of the utilitarian rulebook featured what looked like a large gray triangle, which upon closer inspection revealed itself to be the titular land formation, spidered with trails, along which motley caravans of adventurers clashed with trolls, rocs, slavering wolf packs, and sentient malevolent vegetation.
Glimpsed a certain way, one could discern two dark watery eyes and a ragged mouth incised in the mountain itself — the first clue that all was not as it appeared on Moralia. The first section of the rulebook was a 10-page description of some fabled road that all travelers must take to approach Moralia — a text seemingly designed to make potential players chuck the thing in the trash. Darren read it aloud, as fast as he could, and then we turned to the pages concerning Character Generation.
Curiously, one did not play a single adventurer (dwarf, wizard, etc.), but instead took on the character of a huge chunk of land — that is, a Mountain of Moralia. What I’m saying is, you basically pretended you were a mountain. As if hypnotized, we followed the rules to the letter, rolling dice in the strange permutations typical for fantasy games. But this time the results were applied to things like Forest Coverage, Erosion Quotient, and Mammal Population.
Soon we had generated our two mountains. I named mine Epak’s Peak; Darren dubbed his This Totally Sucks. Part Two was a sample scenario in which the mountains… fought each other. Using Land Magik, you flung your rocks, animals, trees, grass, dirt, and so forth at the other mountain, trying to reduce it to rubble. However, as you lost these items, you were reduced, and there was a chance that, say, a boulder flung at your opponent became embedded in its side, thus giving it more mass.
This went on for round after round, hour after hour, and should have been the most boring thing in the world. Yet Darren and I soon found ourselves playing Mountains of Moralia to the exclusion of all our other games.
When Darren finally emerged triumphant, we jumped to Chapter 8, where we learned that we had just finished waging the Battle of Lavache, and that we could send in a certificate, signed by all players, for a free limited-edition trophy.
We sent it in, waited for six weeks. This is what we got. We never played Mountains of Moralia again. When I found this cow figure last week, stored with the fine china, I e-mailed Darren and asked if he still had the game. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about.
SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018). 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE . ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.
CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators