Roleplaying the Very British Civil War 1938

Along with wargaming the Very British Civil War I have been giving some thought about how you would play roleplaying games in the background. No solid plans at the moment just..well more musing.

Okay..where do I sign up?

For Inter-war roleplaying there is a fine precedent in the form of Call of Cuthulhu,  GURPs has World War 2 and Pulp supplements/ There is a plantiful supply of games mining the deep ‘Indiania Jones’/Saturday Morning Movie Serial/Pulp stories vein. All of which will be fine to use for roleplayig in this vicious scrap over a Green and Pleasant Land.

But what part of this conflict to use asa setting. Naturally I favour the Liverpool front but the comments that follow should be applicable to any theare of the War from Scotland to Wales, Kent to Cornwall, Chopwell to the London Docks. I’m also presuming the PCs are on the Rebel/Popular front sides but given the miriad of opinions present on the Government side from Royalists, power hungry aristocrats, power hungry Conservative ‘men of action,’, Fascist opportunists, national socialist true believers, Men of Duty etc; I belrive the same opportunities present themselves. Personally despite the vileness of many left wing movements or regimes (Stalin for example) I’d prefer to run for characters who naively could be seen as trying to fight the good fight. Plus as Indiana Jones shows us – Nazis make great baddies, Communists less so.

A Roleplaying game campaign, in my experience   benefits from a sense of place, a recuring set of supporting cast and the players actions really influencing the world and its outcomes. Relentless combat can upset the more roleplaying orientated players while drawing room conversation for weeks on end upsets the trigger happy gun-bunnies.  That kinda  removes the grunt level play or senior officer options.


There is an area however which spans this rather nicely. Namely the ‘small, crack squad’ of espionage/commando team. In the Liverpool Free State settign I wargame in we have ALFIES – Amalgumated Liverpool Free Intelligence, Esiponage Service (also known as the Amalgumated Liverpool Free Intelligence, Esiponage & Sabotage – I think we might have a running joke of non-player characters (NPCs) being vague on the acronym.) This is a commando/espionage force  force in small sqauds recruited from across the various militas and forces that make up the Liverpool Free State Forces

The advanatge of being cross-militia is that it would introduce an element of player conflict which can lead to great drama. @theGrampus (podcast co-conspirator) ran a great game based on intelligence operatives from other dimensions and part of the fun was the conflict of believes and customs that came about.  In it’s own small way this presents the same opportunities for interesting player conflict – epscially as they’ll all be reporting back to their ‘home’ organisations be they Irish, Socialist, Communist, local Police, mutninious Army, mutinous Navy or whatever.

Spy characters can also can involved in counter-espionage as well as ‘subtle’ behind the lines operations in The Lakes or Isle of Man, contacting agents aiding isolated resitance units etc; This again leads to variety in scenarios. They migth also be called on to do favours for political or miltiary leaders outside of their normal duties.

Finally the fact that in an ideologically divided City under seige means the players have to watch themselves from rats, informers and fifth columnists lookign to accuse them of treachery. This should give a nice background of paranoia so even the more ‘talky’ scenarios have an element of threat.

Harry Lime feeling at home in besieged Liverpool?

To generate a feelign of ownership if each ALFIE Team names their own unit (I’m thnking names along the street gang macho postering route) it gives the players a nice sence of ownerhsip.

I should mention for VCBW players I do prefer my VCBW more viceral or dark than many but in my defense it’s in the style of a Spagehtti Western than a effort at approaching any war is hell reality.


Now and again however it’s nice for a change of pace. Therefore a lot of my RPGs have featured a secondary bunch of characters (such as the below decks crew in Captains of Atlantis.) In this background I though of how the spies could get behind enemy lines – aviation seems a natural solution. therefore how about a ideaologically mixed ‘Flying Circus’ made of pilots who’ve turned up with their own (or stolen in the case of RAF mutinieers) to aid the cause? This ‘Magnificant Seven’ type crew could provide a lighter chnage of pace and also be the ones charged with getting the spooks and assassins well behind the besigers’ lines.  For balance the best pilots would probably have the poorer planes.

If some of them are stolen prototypes so much the better; a few ideas on aircraft follow:

I’m thinking maybe a  de Havilland Dragon Rapide http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Dragon_Rapide and or a Catalina as the main transport workhorse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PBY_Catalina

The prototype Vickers Venom  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Venom

The bizarre two hander Boulton paul Defiant  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulton_Paul_Defiant

the push prop prototype Vickers Type 161  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Type_161

More British options here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:British_fighter_aircraft_1930-1939

From abroad ?

The ‘Rata’ Soviet hero of Spain will undoubtedly get a look in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polikarpov_I-16

Maybe a German could have defected from the BUF’s advisors with something like this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Bf_110

Any yanks could have all manner of bizareeness but I’d love to see one of these used as a lightly armed fighter…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gee_Bee_R-1 or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gee_Bee_Model_Z

But if I was being sensible http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_F3F maybe?

There’s nothing to stop a bunch of ideologically mismatched champers/beer/vodka swilling hotshot pilots having their own adventures within wartorn Liverpool or rescuing downed colleagues etc; but with an overall lighter touch than that of the spy/commando characters.  Again encouring the players to name the unit will give it as sense of ownership and style and artistic players can have fun with aircrafts paint schemes, nose and tail decoration as well as Squadron symbols etc;


6 comments on “Roleplaying the Very British Civil War 1938

  1. Very interesting.Will you make the Dumfries event.

  2. Excellent article, would you consider writing a piece for Irregular Magazine looking at role playing the VBCW.

  3. No problem..good luck with the role playing idea, will be interested to see how you get on with the idea. Have you decided on a set of rules yet?

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