An RPG about existence in a Soviet GULAG. The point is to survive as long as possible while clinging to one's humanity. If escape is even an issue, it should be so laughably unlikely that it would never be attempted in 99% of games and would most certainly not be the main subject of the game.
Been done before?
The vilest deeds like poison weeds
The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison air.
It is only what is good in man
That wastes and withers there.
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate
And the Warder in Despair.
It's an interesting idea, but as written, it'd be too monotonous. Why do anything, in your game? Inject absurdity, humor, and/or adventure.
What if the game shared some aspects with Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, in which the guests of a dinner party find themselves unable to leave? Let your characters "escape", but only in ways in which they are still further trapped, even if only in increasingly crazy ways. Make the point of the game not escape itself, which will be impossible, but to be able to stare down impossible situations with bravery and verve every single time.
Consider making the game properly Kafkaesque. You can increase the feeling of paranoia and imprisonment by taking it out of the mundane. It's one thing to be told that you are forced to dig coal, or else you will be shot. It's another to escape through a wide open gate, only to find that everybody you know is slowly turning into the old guards and inmates, and all the physical spaces you remember are slowly turning into all the old parts of your prison. And maybe all their friends and loved ones would *know* that they were being turned into the PCs' old captors and fellow inmates - and that the only way to prevent the "turn" would be to voluntarily surrender oneself back to the prison...
If i want to see depressing shit and/or a history lesson, i have the real world right here.
Where the fuck do people even get these fucking ideas to play about concentration camps or gulags.
is not the same as a gulag
a) there were millions of people dying, and death was at the best of times something you could only hope to avoid.
b) if you set it during a period when most people sent there died, you will have a very high chance of the PCs dying. I don't know about you but from my experience players generally don't play RPGs to roleplay them being helpless abused people who will most likely die in the end no matter what they do, having accomplished nothing.
c) it's pretty fucking depressing either way, because if the player characters are not brutal rough people, they will die. If they ARE brutal rough people then the setting as well as the player characters themselves are pretty shit and the story will most likely be the same too.
>It's another to escape through a wide open gate, only to find that everybody you know is slowly turning into the old guards and inmates, and all the physical spaces you remember are slowly turning into all the old parts of your prison. And maybe all their friends and loved ones would *know* that they were being turned into the PCs' old captors and fellow inmates - and that the only way to prevent the "turn" would be to voluntarily surrender oneself back to the prison...
Jesus fucking christ what's wrong with you.
Why not just have a game where the player characters are already mortally wounded and you just watch them die in agony, succumbing to their wounds?
roll for deathrattle
If I may, a game where your only goal is to survive could get very boring very fast unless theres an escalation in difficulty over time.
My suggestion would be to include escape as the ultimate goal, achievable only through means of a well thought out plan bringing together numerous resources which must be amassed over time. Give the pcs a goal other than survival and watch them have to balance survival with achieving this goal and remaining undetected.
For extra fun, include a humanity/sanity score which decreases unless the person works to right wrongs they witness in so far as they are capable. If it diminishes to nothing, the person becomes like a monser, perfectly fit for survival in the Gulag but dimly aware that they would be reviled and hated anywhere else and thus intent on remaining inside rather than leaving.
>If i want to see depressing shit and/or a history lesson, i have the real world right here.
Yeah, that's why there aren't any sad books or movies. Schindler's List? What's that? Some avant-garde indie bullshit? Everyone knows Adam Sandler is considered the genius of quality cinema.
Not everyones tastes are the same as yours dude.
I think the lads point was ''I play ttrpgs as a way to escape the bullshit of reality, I dont understand why youd want it in your game'' which is pretty valid.
God knows I rarely decide to play as an unnaturally pale overweight dude with asthma.
That's at least educational and about heroic real life people.
Watching a movie is also not the same level of identification with the characters as playing a RPG is.
My problem with this is that not even Fate-fags could argue that it would be system friendly. It would end up as a totally narrative, uni-directional, story told to the "player."
Why not just read some Gogol?
Seriously. The Overcoat is available for like a dollar. They make those "Dover Dollar" editions of it. Making it into a game is just an abuse of the medium.
I wouldn't play it. Doesn't mean it's a bad idea.
I just prefer regular power fantasies to escape the depressing reality that is around us all in our daily lives.
The problem with real prisons is that they either don't allow for much game, either because the guards are in charge, or because they're dominated by gangs. Individuals or small groups can't compete with either one, and the ability to manipulate and influence the environment is based on a level of analyzing circumstances which are too complex and shifting to be portrayed in a game.
In general I'm against trying to make socially complex real life situations into games. Games and gaming can never simulate real life. What you can do is try to break situations down thematically or conceptually, and create an exaggerated and unrealistic situation built on those themes and concepts but without the trappings and complexity of real life.
>clinging to one's humanity
Good one, OP.
I am pretty sure that when England started using Australia as a penal colony they weren't expecting the prisoners to survive.
man i wish australia wasn't a prudish hellhole with a shit government, shit internet and deadly UV rays. I would enjoy living in a hermetically sealed apartment and occasionally go outside to the beach and surf.
It seems like a fun country
>It seems like a fun country
If you like venomous animals, sure.
PDF related, seems like a cool concept, would require a large amount of planning ahead and discussion with your group to ensure everyone is ok with the theme
>players generally don't play RPGs to roleplay them being helpless abused people who will most likely die in the end no matter what they do, having accomplished nothing.
What is Call of Cthulhu
in call of cthulhu you have a fair chance of accomplishing things like stoppping a cult, or bringing about the end of the world, while also having a chance to escape it all and still be alive
yeah but those are integral parts of the setting OP described.
I'll take redemption for $500, Alex
Would've been better if Spielberg had put it in the movie - that said, part of the whole point of the movie was that Schindler was a louse until he found a higher purpose. Even just in the movie as it is, he's initially depicted as a drunk Nazi Party member who's in it to hustle paycheck to paycheck.
>The First Circle
Also inspired by Solzhenitsyn, except this time the players are all people who possess intellectual skills making them valuable to the state. They receive treatment infinitely better than the other zeky, but are forced to apply their skills to helping the USSR achieve terrible goals (the creation of bigger and stronger nuclear weapons). The moral choice is reversed: rather than the choice to sacrifice what little one has in the name of doing good, it is the choice of whether or not to resist the temptation of doing evil (or helping it be done) to better one's own position.
>Jews in Auschwitz
You're going to do "Despair: The Roleplaying Game" might as well go to the ridiculous end. No real place in which would be more difficult to retain one's humanity in the face of utter darkness.
>Plantation workers in the American South
Once again, the theme is you lead a life of helplessness in which your morality and compassion towards your fellow men is tested. At the mercy of someone who has no real interest in being merciful towards you and powerless to make many choices other than "be selfish with what little there is"/"show compassion and self-sacrifice" and whether or not to try to escape (unlikely). For a supernatural twist, this setting may include elements of Southern black folklore, such as hoodoo.
>A Science Fiction Setting
Some kind of interstellar penal colony, Riddick style. Every game like this needs an alternate science fiction setting.
The players aren't just criminals (or political dissidents) in jail, they are sinners in a deliberately absurd, satirical version of hell. The mechanical twist is that since Hell operates under the law of Satan, players have an incentive to be good (they might just repent and make it to Heaven after all...) but may also want to just be as evil as they can under the guards (demons') radar in hopes of turning into demons themselves and going up the chain of abuse.
I still missed that part of the story. Not that I knew of it at the time or anything, but watching it I couldn't suspend my disbelief at the idea that he'd be able to fool so many Nazis for so long just because he mooned around acting like a big shot and spread a little cash around, when in fact he was able to do it because he had major goodwill with the Nazis after playing important parts in their war efforts. You watch that movie and if you buy it, you think, "why didn't a lot more Germans do that"? Because they weren't intimately involved with the Nazi party like the real Schindler was, and which they fail to portray in the movie.
But this isn't what the works of Solzhenitsyn are about. They're about finding light within darkness. Seeing that even in the coldest, evilest places there will be men who, against all odds and their own baser natures, will choose to sacrifice everything for the chance to do a tiny bit of good. If you die because you've given your meager portions of food to a sick prisoner who wouldn't have otherwise made it, than by Solzhenitsyn's standards you're a far greater hero than if you'd escaped with your life.
>people who possess intellectual skills making them valuable to the state. They receive treatment infinitely better than the other zeky
i think your views about the USSR are a bit distorted.
The intelligentsia was actively hunted especially in the early days, since they were the only ones that could have roused a counter revolution and confronted the people with how the soviets manipulated them and betrayed their own ideals every step of the way.
> No real place in which would be more difficult to retain one's humanity in the face of utter darkness.
Except for the gulags. Lenin had death camps first, and the jews in the camps didn't know about anything except death going on. The whole "industry built on killing humans" was not widely known neither inside the camps nor outside.
>A Science Fiction Setting
which makes things infinitely less hopeless and thus more interesting
>Plantation workers in the American South
This... is actually a surprisingly fun and awesome idea.
Another great idea.
>i think your views about the USSR are a bit distorted. The intelligentsia was actively hunted especially in the early days, since they were the only ones that could have roused a counter revolution and confronted the people with how the soviets manipulated them and betrayed their own ideals every step of the way.
Again, read "The First Circle" by Solzhenitsyn. Intellectuals may not have been liked politically but the State understood that they needed them to get a military and technological edge. Solzhenitsyn describes something called the "Sharashka" system. The State knew that, for all the danger they posed via their intelligence, these people were more useful to them in a technical capacity (i.e. using their skills to build atom bombs) than by logging in Siberia. They offered them a Faustian bargain: cooperate with the government you likely despise (as the intellectuals tended to be opposed to the regime), and receive luxurious treatment - in fact, you'll probably live better than most USSR citizens OUTSIDE prison at this time period (plus, if you work REALLY hard, you have a very real chance of being granted a special, secret pardon by Stalin himself). Refuse to cooperate and stand your moral ground - and you can kiss your hot meals and soft bed goodbye and get sent back into the gulag.
This reads like the description of a pretty artsy, narrativistic game with a system specially designed to promote an extremely specific type of gameplay with very clear goals. I can imagine something like it coming out of The Forge or Story Games.
It's not what most roleplayers are looking for.
Solzhenitsyn getting into the special camp was quite amusing.
When there was a camp survey and inmates were told to state their profession amongst other things, he just thought "Fuck it" and wrote "Nuclear Physicist" into the questionaire as a joke.
>. Intellectuals may not have been liked politically but the State understood that they needed them to get a military and technological edge.
that's what the propaganda was but the actual facts were completely different.
the father of russian rocketry had to be brought in from a gulag when the russians wanted to understand captured german tech.
the options were cooperation and toe the line, or immediately gulag.
He changed what he's saying a bit
He originally went completely by what solzhenitzyn said instead of what actually happened.
That you applied your intelligence to the evil machinations of the state to better your position and because you were treated nicely.
Whereas in fact you were per default treated worse like the rest, and if the state needed your expertise you got a chance at being treated slightly better than the rest.
The person behind the soviet space program wasn't even allowed to reveal his name to the public until he died.
I hear what you're saying, but...
What's framing the story for me is that fact that the last time I saw Schindler's List was in a high school film class. I distinctly remember the teacher having a non-spontaneous class discussion about how Schindler was able to parlay his Nazi connections towards doing some good. I don't remember the movie exactly, because it's been a decade plus, but I distinctly remember the intro showing him drinking and wearing a Nazi button, schmoozing at some party. His character arc is distinctly about redemption: he begins as a louse, drunkenly running two-bit cons to get by, until he discovers an opportunity to do good, which he does with gusto. By the end, he's blubbering uncontrollably, because he realizes only too late that he could have always done more.
It may be that that class discussion had brought that more to the forefront for me - and I wouldn't have minded if Spielberg had been more explicit about how Schindler had not just a louse, but an actively shitty person - and yet, for all that, I would still say that the movie actually does play it pretty straight that he went from a scoundrel to something better.
IMHO, it's one of those things where it's important overall to not Otherize Nazis, etc. What's tragic about the Third Reich (and other evil regimes) is not that they were populated by unwaveringly evil demons, but rather that most of them were thuddingly ordinary people who had allowed themselves to get swept up into something vile, whether it was for the uncaring pursuit of money as in Schindler's case, or whether it was because people can often believe evil things to be good. Many of these people actively made wrong choices. Others may have been buffeted about by forces greater than their own.
Anyway, I'm rambling. I guess my point is, Oskar Schindler had been something bad, until he became something good. The movie shows this story, but it could have (and probably should have) been even more clear.
>I distinctly remember the intro showing him drinking and wearing a Nazi button, schmoozing at some party
Yes, but nobody there knows who he is, he's just there acting like a big shot despite being nobody, and the Nazis are all "who is this man, he must be someone important because of the way he acts, let's bet on him for no other reasons", and then he sort of keeps that line of behavior up without ever getting closer to the Nazi Party itself, like he was able to get away with that much and have that much leverage with only that much involvement (plus the business part that came of it, of course). The worst thing he's ever shown doing is starting a business with cheap Jewish labour, then he starts to feel bad about the Jews and decides to help them. Never is he shown with bad conscience over anything, and when he breaks down crying it's not because he's helped the Nazis before, but because he couldn't help more Jews. In short, he never does anything really worth seeking redemption over in the movie, and he never does anything he has reason to regret. The real Schindler committed morally repulsive acts, for whatever reasons, and then swung around the help Jews, and only because he'd done those morally repulsive things did he have the clout to help his Jews. The movie Schindler did nothing morally repulsive and never earned the kind of clout necessary to get away with helping his Jews.
Honestly I don't think it'd work too well as a game.
In the meantime, since we're talking about Gulags: if you're interested in those, I recommend reading "A World Apart" by Gustav Herling. An ebook is available at archive.org
I'm fairly certain I remember a game about a big spaceship that originally served as a prison, with players being inmates some years after the social order broke down due to some interstellar catastrophe.