11 May, 2011

My RPGs, Right-wing or Wrong

Last week I posted an account of our first game of The Price of Freedom (played in Oct ’10), I had intended to present some of the vehicles and minis I’ve amassed in a sort of Victory Day Parade homage, but the last few days have been rather hectic.  I have a new son – arrived one month early but healthy and cute.  Additionally my wife, daughter and I all have a strange flu-like cold, making any activity, beyond sleeping and watching Top Gear, rather strenuous.  Instead of the show of military force… I present a few thoughts about the ridiculous conservative crap my group found in The Price of Freedom.
To start with, in the game books are little asides, text boxes topped with Federal eagles.  In one is the quote:
“My Country, Right or Wrong.”
A long-time favorite bumper sticker of arch-conservatives, such as these douchebags:
What was wrong, Alex.
There is the small fact that the quote is taken completely out of context. I know, shocking, right?  For the record – here is the complete quote:
I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’
Carl Schurz, “The Policy of Imperialism,” Speeches, 
Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz,
  vol. 6, pp. 119–20 (1913)

It is not surprising that conservatives have taken the wise words of a liberal and completely twisted them to suit their base purposes.  This is what keeps Jon Stewart in business.
My gaming group is a bunch of commie, pinko, tree-hugging, liberal fags.  Several of us are militant, commie, pinko, tree-hugging. liberal, fags – that’s why we love action movies like Red Dawn, and war-based RPGs.  That said, The Price of Freedom contains probably the most ridiculous setup for WWIII put to print.  That includes John “I ain’t calling him ‘sir’” Hackett’s The Third World War.
I read a lot of WWIII fiction.  The Third World War, The Third World War: The Untold Story, Red Storm Rising, Team Yankee, Cold War Hot, First Clash, Kibun wa mou Sensou manga, Bomb Comic’s World War III manga, and Red Army.  Of all of these Red Army is my favorite.  All WWIII fiction tends toward “Carter was a pussy / Reagan was a badass.”  Hackett’s work is particularly critical of Carter, presenting a second Carter administration as the death knell for freedom.  Yet in these stories – despite the liberals’ treasonous cuts to military spending and research – we kick the USSR’s ass.  Red Army is different.  The Soviets win.  Now that is a lesson – “fear the USSR, because they can kick our ass unless we are prepared.”
TPoF reads like it was a pamphlet from the John Birch Society.  Those are the guys who said: “Could Eisenhower really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes.”  I checked the box and the title pages of the game but I didn’t see their logo.
“Lets go kill some Russkies!”
Still In just passing out the characters, the intensely right-wing setting/writing furrowed eyebrows and caused eyes to roll.  Jordo’s near-fascist personality combined with being a blonde, blue-eyed German-American was noted upon as being particularly tasteless.  Interestingly the drawing of Jordo looks nothing like his description – much more like Ozzie Davis.
I read through the suggested campaign time-line with my players – where the American government (insinuated to be Democrat controlled) is lulled into signing START II, thereby allowing a belligerent USSR to achieve nuclear supremacy by developing a ballistic missile shield.  Murphy the (most likely Democrat – how many Irish Republicans are outside of the PIRA?) president surrenders and Soviet forces arrive to occupy the US.  Without wasting your time – it makes Red Dawn seem like a Noam Chomsky / Howard Zinn collaboration.  Oddly it is months after the occupation starts before the Second Amendment is abolished.  I’m a panty-waist liberal and I know I’d shoot me some Russians if they came marching down my street.
Um… nearly exterminate the human race.
Ironic how START I and START II ended up being signed by a Republican president.  And that Carter did a better job of keeping NASA funded vs. inflation than H.W. Bush did.  Indeed several of the [mis]steps in the time line are things that did come to pass under Republican administrations – without precipitating a Soviet invasion.  Huh… funny how that works out.  Historically it was Reagan’s anti-communist rhetoric that scared the Soviets and kept the Kremlin in the hands of the old guard.  This nearly had disastrous consequences in 1983 when the Able Archer exercises nearly resulted in a nuclear exchange.  The world was not saved by Reagan – it was saved by Podpolkovnik Stanislav Petrov who disobeyed orders to initiate a retaliatory strike.  Gorbachev is the architect of the downfall of the Soviet state, Reagan may have extended its life.  I recommend the BBC Documentary 1983: Brink of the Apocalypse and the ZDF film Der Dritte Weltkrieg, a counter-factual documentary highlighting the importance of Gorbachev.
The last page of the Player Book has an appeal entitled “A Note to Liberal Readers.”  As I said above, it suggests that the game is a parody of a Right-wing nightmare.  That is probably true – the various character profiles include socialists and liberals and athiests as the good guys.  Greg Costikyan’s website doesn’t read like that of a wing-nut… his Facebook page lists Andrew Coumo as a like and he does have a penchant for extremely off-color parody (Violence: The RPG of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed).  It seems clear that The Price of Freedom was written as a parody of the ridiculous fear-mongering and posturing of the conservatives in the 1970s and 1980s.  The problem is that with the rise of douche-nozzles like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dinesh D’Souza, Jerome Corsi, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin et al, what was once a ridiculous joke, now reads like a lead off story at Fox News.  The broad strokes of the plot are reasonable (for an RPG), the detail is crushingly paleoconservative – and like the Colbert Report proves, the Right-wing nuts don’t get parody.  They revel in the message – oblivious to the sardonic undertones.  Given the daily barrage of crap from real-life conservatives – my group and I don’t want it in our escapism.  Christ, the symbol of the resistance in TPoF is the Gadsden Flag – forever tainted by its appropriation by the Teabagger Party.
An image forever tainted
Anyway – the setting detail may be (a parody of) ignorant, wing-nut, bigoted, cracker crap, but the game mechanics are great!  Perhaps I just need to tweak it… change the timeline… add tough freedom fighter NPCs who are a married, biracial gay couple.  Things like that.  I am more tempted to use the Freedom Fighters video game setting, with everything going alternate because the Republicans kept us isolationist during WW2.

07 May, 2011

The PATH to Freedom

Back in October I had my first game of The Price of Freedom (TPoF) with my group.  Present were Eric, Ryan, Geis and myself.  We decided to use the pre-generated characters and play the adventure as written (in NYC), putting off the avatar campaign until we are comfortable with the rules.  Actually we ended up playing a number of Savage Worlds powered games in the months that followed.
Anyway this is what happened back in October 2010:
Characters were chosen as follows:

Eric – Moishe Cohen
Ryan – Billy Bartsow
Geis – Jordan “Jordo” Miller

The initial adventure, “The Path of Freedom,” began with three PCs meeting in the apartment of Moische Cohen – 72 year-old former Polish freedom-fighter.  They discussed the imminent arrival of the Soviet occupation forces and quickly decided to get the hell out of the city.  On the way out they heard sobs from the next door apartment.  Moishe expressed sympathy for the widow within – a fine lady who had also escaped from behind the Iron Curtain – but he did not stop to comfort her.  As they piled into Billy’s pick-up, Moishe asked if they wouldn’t mind stopping by the 14th Street Armory to see if his friend, Westtree, was there, and if he would join them.  With the agreement of the others they started south on 7th Avenue, amid the looters in a city in panic.
South of 19th they came across a makeshift roadblock.  Four street gang members had blocked the road with burned out cars and other debris.  The gangers stopped beating the kid they had jumped and pulled firearms on the truck.  From behind, a gang-painted Cadillac blocked the avenue of retreat and gun muzzles protruded from its windows.  Boxed in, Billy decided to ram the weakest looking part of the barricade, while Moishe and Jordo fired on the gangers.  Between Jordo’s Uzi and Moishe’s pistol, two gangers were killed and another wounded.  The gangers shot the truck up pretty good – blowing out both tires on the passenger’s side – before scattering to find less dangerous prey.  Moishe grabbed the gangers victim and pushed him in the truck.  Then the vehicle moved slowly, on bare rims, toward the Armory.
14th Street Armory
Outside of the Armory was a military roadblock, errected by the loyalist National Guard soldiers.  The sergeant (a reversely-racist Hispanic NCO with stereotypically poor grammar) manning the barricade refused to recognize Jordo’s credentials or admit him.  Miller (as played by Geis) was much less of an ass than written to be so, when faced with Sgt. Morales and his insubordination, he called over the next highest ranking soldier and calmly relieved the sergeant of duty.
Inside the Armory the trio met Colonel Samadi, the unit’s commanding officer.  Rather than lay down arms, the Colonel has decided to shanghai weapons and light vehicles through the Port Authority Trans-Hudson tunnel beneath the Armory out to New Jersey.  From there, the men will disperse throughout rural PA and NY to attack the Soviets, guerrilla-style.  Our trio volunteers to help and is given a pair of CUCVs to repaint and load with weapons.  Stolen civilian plates are screwed on the bumpers and the vehicles are made ready.
The convoy rolls down a makeshift ramp, through passages dynamited by the engineers, into the subway and then the PATH tunnel.  The trip is slow and dark as they move under the river and under Jersey City.  Then a collision up front brings the column to a halt.  As the passage is cleared, word comes back that one of the NG saboteur teams failed to blow the “Communipaw Bridge” (aka Lincoln Highway Bridge), between Jersey City and Newark.  Miller, who has demolitions experience from his days in Vietam, is tapped to take out the bridge.  Doing so will hamper the movement of Soviet forces and buy time for the NG teams to escape and disperse.
The trio of men commandeer a vehicle from the front of the column and load it with the required supplies.  They then move out of the tunnel and through bumper-to-bumper traffic toward the Communipaw Bridge.  Once there they quickly set the charges and take up positions in a factory warehouse on the Jersey City side of the river.  The bridge is jammed with civilian traffic as panicked people try to escape the city.  Unwilling to harm the civilians the team decides to wait for the arrival of the first Soviet troops.  It is hoped that they will clear the bridge for their own uses, and once that is done – the destruction of the bridge will include a squad or two of Soviet forces.
“Communipaw” aka Lincoln Highway Bridge
The Soviets arrive in commandeered vehicles and begin sweeping the bridge.  However they begin to examine the bridge before it is completely free of civilian traffic.  In order to divert attention from demolition charges and expedite the evacuation of the civilians, Barstow snipes at the Soviet officer on the Newark side of the bridge.  He hits and wounds the man.  Most of the Soviets panic and are pinned, while their comrades search for the source of the fire.  In this way Barstow is able to loose a few more shots before taking any fire.  As the Soviet soldiers move to the edge of the bridge over the outlet, Jordo sprays them with AR fire, wounding several.  Barstow kills another before taking a wound that could have been very serious (hero point used to reduce wound to light).  As the last of the civilians clear the bridge – increasingly intense fire hits the factory building.  Moishe pushes the detonator and the bridge and 15 Soviet troops go into the water.
With the objective achieved the trio hightail it back to the Path tunnel, retrieve their vehicles, snag a few more goodies from a grateful Colonel, and disperse to continue the fight against the Soviets.
In all a great game.  Combat works well, with a believable level of lethality, and a smooth game mechanic.  The only thing we disliked was the widespread panic of the opposition.  Soviets must roll for nerve every round, which makes them a bunch of pussies.  The Soviet Union was a highly militarized society, with all children receiving weapons training.  While conscription was for two years, it was based on this preformed military knowledge.  Indeed the photos of back-flipping shovel throwing soldiers doesn’t jibe with the Keystone Cop feeling engendered by the panic rules.  They will have to be adjusted.
In all, we want to play the game as we envisioned it – a Red Dawn RPG.  The background provided in the game books is patently ridiculous, and sometimes offensive.  Soviet invasion of the US is a pretty far stretch to begin with, but I believe Red Dawn‘s chain of events is eminently more believable – or my own idea of a Soviet move to decapitate and secure America’s nuclear arsenal before it can be used against Russia (a preemptive defensive invasion ala Iraq 2003) – or the setup presented in the Freedom Fighters video game (it even allows for cool modern Russian toys!).  We intended to play a few more games with the pregen characters, in order to get comfortable with the rules before starting an Avatar campaign in one of those two settings – but real life and other games took over.

05 May, 2011

An Unscheduled Update…

Since my last post the world has changed a little bit.  Osama bin Laden was shot twice in the face by DevGru SEALs in Pakistan on the 2nd.  The circumstances of his death were a testament to his life, he died a coward’s death using his wife as a human shield.  After confirming his identity, his body was prepared according to Islamic custom and buried at sea – far better treatment than he offered any of his victims.
There is news on the gaming front as well.  I am pleased to have found a copy of TPoF Gamemaster’s Pack, which is currently on it’s way Wayne’s World of Books – hopefully arriving later today.  This will complete my TPoF collection, giving me hardcopy access to all materials for the game.  The second copy of the box set arrived, and I was very pleased to find it a near mint condition copy – all data annexes, map and books in great condition, chits unpunched and original d20 intact.
Also on the way via various postal and delivery services, are:

28x 40mm UltraModern Miniatures from HLBS Co.
1x   3rd Special forces group/CIA civvies gear (4 figs to be used as PCs)
1x   Motor rifle troops (4 figs)
1x   VDV airborne (4 figs)
1x   VDV Airborne II (4 figs)
1x   MVD Interior Ministry troops Grozny (4 figs to be used as Spetsnaz)
1x   Guards with LMGs (4 figs to use as Motor Rifles)
1x   Dismounted armoured crews (4 figs)
2x   DeAgostini diecast UAZ-469/469B (1/43)
13x Maisto diecast Ford Crown Victoria (1/44)
1x   New Ray 1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
2x   Kitech BTR-70 APC model kits (1/48)
1x   Kitech T-80U MBT model kit (1/48)
1x   Kitech M1A2 Abrams MBT model kit (1/48)
1x   Kitech M2 Bradley IFV model kit (1/48)
1x   Maisto diecast HMMWV (1/40)

The Crown Vics will be repainted and used for police cruisers, unmarked/civilian cars, and taxis.  The Cadillac was purchased specifically for an appropriated command car ala Red Dawn.  The car in the movie was a ’64 Caddy Series 62… this was as close as I could get for $7.  The Kitech kits are cheap models that can be greatly improved visually with a little work.  The Maisto HMMWV is labelled 1/40 but is closer to 1/48 in size.

02 May, 2011

May Day Parade

It’s May Day…. the day unions, socialists, communists and leftists demonstrate and celebrate the toils of the laborer. It also means that the Victory Day Parade is just over a week away… the time when the Soviet Union used to show its military might to mark the anniversary of German capitulation and the end of the Great Patriotic War.
Ah, Soviets… I miss the Soviet Union.
Round about 1992, I bought a copy of West End Games Star Trek: The Adventure Game, which included in the box a WEG catalog. Many WEG games interested me, they had the Star Wars RPG and Ghostbusters. But what caught my eye 19 years ago was The Price of Freedom (TPoF) – what sounded like a Red Dawn roleplaying game.
“In The Price of Freedom, you play an American who chooses to resist the Communist occupiers. You must find the weapons and leadership to resist effectively. The invaders have absolute nuclear supremacy; regular military opposition is impossible. The only way they can be defeated is to make the occupation of America so costly that they must withdraw. But remember; no occupied nation has ever liberated itself without outside help. And we have no one to help us. The fate of America is in your hands.”
It’s now nearly two decades later and I have secured myself not one but two copies of the main box, the supplement Your Own Private Idaho as well as a PDF edition of the Gamemasters Pack.  The first set is in good repair and only seems to be missing some of the data files, notably Data File A, my hopes are that the second set will fill these missing holes – but it is still in transit. I’m still happy with the original purchase from a Canadian seller – oddly the second copy is also on its way from Canada…
Last fall I stumbled over out the blog Cold War Hot Hot Hot, and the work there inspired me to look into this type of gaming.  I initially thought of using some of the 1/72 scale military models I’ve collected over the years, and began repainting several Bravo Team vehicles I snagged at Target last year. However the idea of 15-20mm gaming doesn’t appeal to me as much as larger scale gaming.  I have some Ameri-Towne buildings, a number of larger diecast cars from a superheroes campaign (run using Heroclix), and have ordered a few HLBS 40mm UltraModern Russians and some Russian diecasts.  Maybe some of these will get here in time for a mini Victory Day Parade.
Things Cold War have begun to appeal to me again recently – and with no campaigns panning out since my 3 year Deadlands campaign ended, I hope a TPoF avatar campaign might pan out.
Fingers crossed.
Campaigns and I have not been agreeing lately – I tend to go for big-idea games that I never really get off the ground. I had very much wanted to do a Crimson Skies RPG using the Savage Worlds system, but several attempts at simulating air combat with those rules were not fulfilling. Indeed constant running of Savage Worlds powered systems over the past few years has got me looking for something else.  An initial game of TPoF back in October played well enough – though the arch-conservative wing-nuttiness (more on this later) of the presented campaign was tiresome.
My hopes are that the games will be mindless fun – and keep me focused on modern gaming to get the collection of cars and buildings I have collected into something pretty.