Author Topic: Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe  (Read 151 times)

Serpenthelm

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Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe
« on: March 21, 2019, 12:38:43 AM »
Red Markets is a great system, and I want to run it.  For the game I want to run, though, I'm interested in something different than the zombie apocalypse premise of the core book, and the prospect of hacking the system has me feeling kind of daunted.

My background is in economic history.  Economic history is, with the exception of a few bright spots concentrated in the recent past, a story of economic horror.  I want to make my players viscerally aware that the human condition for most of human existence was of being a bad harvest or two away from starvation.  In particular, I want to run a game that's based on my own research area.  A game where the players are peasants on the Polish-Soviet frontier during the Great Depression.  For a perfect shitshow of reasons, things are bleak.  Grain prices-- and with them, your income-- are down by half or more from the heady heights of 1928.  With the world economy in meltdown, the flow of credit to your backwater has dried up, and old creditors demand repayment all the more urgently.  The government, in its struggle to protect the gold standard at all hazards, redoubles his impositions while shuttering even basic public services.  The large landowner, with debts of his own to repay, ratchets up your rents.  The prices of industrial goods, controlled by the producers' cartels with the government's encouragement, stubbornly refuse to decline.  To salve your desperation, what is there?  Brigandage and political violence against a government that does not hesitate to discriminate against you because you speak the wrong language, practice the wrong religion-- the line between the two is thin.  And the most lucrative prize: braving the border guard and NKVD to cross the frontier into a Ukraine in the paroxysms of Stalin's collectivisation, selling what little you have for more than you could get at home to those with even less to lose than you do-- or the party apparat, who have the means to eat well in the midst of starvation.  You are the dispossessed of the Kresy, the border marches, the wild East.  You do what you must to survive, taking from those who can be made to give.  You are Takers.  And the newspapers, when looked at from ninety years' distance by some cosseted young bookworm, will bear us out: 'We were there.  We did these things'.

Sounds like a setting you want to play in?  I'm hyped.  At the same time, paring away the meat of the Profit system from the zombie apocalypse skeleton it's currently attached to is a challenge, and I'd appreciate any advice you could give me on how to do it.
The hungry gap requires no living dead for its terror.

Did you ever think, as inflation rose, that you'd be better off on gold?

VB3

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Re: Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2019, 08:53:24 AM »
I like it. Getting past NKVD. Why not Western Europe?
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Serpenthelm

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Re: Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2019, 11:26:29 AM »
Partly familiarity to me, partly because of the interesting political context, and partly because the sheer scale of desperation in that particular corner of eastern Europe was unmatched by anything in the West.  It's one thing experiencing the Depression when you had quite a bit to eat, to begin with; quite another when you're already living on the margins of subsistence.  Also the existence of large-scale smuggling, partisans robbing banks, and packs of wolves descending on villages in that area makes for more dynamic contracts than 'you till this field for nine months'.  The national context could make for interesting analogues for Bait, Latent and Immune: the Polish government was attempting to basically internally colonise the eastern territories and dilute the Ukrainian/Byelorussian majority with ethnic Poles; there was plenty of demand for espionage on behalf of/against the Polish government/Ukrainian national movement/USSR; and proximity to the USSR makes vigilante-extraditing exiled counterrevolutionaries a possibility.
The hungry gap requires no living dead for its terror.

Did you ever think, as inflation rose, that you'd be better off on gold?

Freebird

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Re: Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2019, 10:46:35 PM »
I love this idea. Go with it!
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Serpenthelm

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Re: Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2019, 10:23:19 PM »
Brief update - some initial conversions:

Bounty (as a unit of account) is Chervonets, a pre-war Russian gold coin circulating on both sides of the Polish-Soviet border.  It's not the national currency on either side, but you can convert it pretty readily and its value seems to be in the right ballpark for gear and other costs.

With regard to Tight Spots, here is the list I've got.  Adapting these to a world without zombies was nowhere near as challenging as I thought it might be.

"Local" (Lost) - The native rural folk of the Borderlands: Ukrainian or Byelorussian.
Settler (Bait) - Veterans of the Polish-Soviet War, given a homestead to colonise the Borderlands and cement their allegiance to Warsaw.
Osvedomitel' (Latent) -  An informant in the pocket of the NKVD.  Is tolerated on both sides of the border, but is at the security services' disposal.
Emigre (Immune) - Has knowledge of the power structures in Minsk/Kiev and can pass as a Soviet official of some education and status.  Is wanted dead or alive for crimes against the Revolution.
Ideologue (Believer) - Is a true believer in a cause - national liberation, the Communist revolution, etc.  Principles may interfere with doing whatever it takes to survive.
Tajniak (Steward) - An agent of the Second Department of the Polish General Staff, tasked with keeping tabs on subversive elements and the NKVD.
Blatnoy (Hustler) - A hustler, a fence.  Only the name is different.
Border Guard (Fenceman) - Tasked with preventing unauthorised border crossings into Poland or the USSR.  Training, an atmosphere of paranoia, and long patrols in wolf-, partisan- and spy-infested woods has ingrained an instinct to shoot before asking questions.  Possibly rogue or laid-off.
Tradesman (Scavenger) - A small-time tradesman, well-off by the standards of the Borderlands but in need of goods to buy and sell.  Likely itinerant.  One of the few acceptable economic niches for Jews.
Escapee (Roach) - A survivor of the Red Terror/Gulag/collectivisation/the Polish military dictatorship.  Hardy but broken.

Ubiq doesn't exist, but there is the good old-fashioned grapevine, which in the Kresy was sometimes called the Berdycz√≥w post.  If you want to find contacts and jobs, you can do it, it's just a decentralised process involving dead drops, carrier pigeons, and the gryps (secret letter).
The hungry gap requires no living dead for its terror.

Did you ever think, as inflation rose, that you'd be better off on gold?

Freebird

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Re: Setting Hack: Historical/Great Depression in Eastern Europe
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2019, 04:31:14 AM »
I can't fucking wait to read and play this thing.
Ex-Taker. Made it.
General advice: no charge.
Technical firearms advice: reasonable rates.
Freedom isn't free. Drive a hard bargain for it.
https://www.technicaldifficultiespod.com/