Unreal Worlds: The Conquerer Aaron Burr


Things are a little crazy around the Great Lodge of the Illuminerdy, as we’re getting ready for a big international move. As a result, this week’s Unreal Worlds is going to be a little brief, and perhaps even sketchier than the usual post in the series.

We’ve previously mentioned the possibilities of setting up an espionage-themed game centered around the trials and tribulations of the early United States, and there are few chapters in that story more interesting than the treason trial of former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. Even more than 200 years later, the details of the plot aren’t completely known, but the outline is well-established. In a series of covert moves between 1804 and 1807, Burr attempted to raise a personal army that he planned to use to conquer the bulk of U.S. territory west of the Appalachian Mountains including the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, and then rule it along with a cabal of wealthy landowners. His fellow conspirators included no less than the commanding General of the United States Army, a U.S. Navy Commodore, the British Ambassdor to the United States, and possibly future U.S. President Andrew Jackson.

Despite his high-level backers and easy access to funds, our treasonous Burr was thwarted by the general disinterest of the local populace in separating from the young nation. According to a contemporary report to the U.S. Congress on the conspiracy:

He found at once that the attachment of the western country to the present Union was not to be shaken; that its dissolution could not be effected with the consent of its inhabitants, and that his resources were inadequate, as yet, to effect it by force. He took his course then at once, determined to seize on New Orleans, plunder the bank there, possess himself of the military and naval stores, and proceed on his expedition to Mexico; and to this object all his means and preparations were now directed. He collected from all the quarters where himself or his agents possessed influence, all the ardent, restless, desperate, and disaffected persons who were ready for any enterprise analogous to their characters. He seduced good and well-meaning citizens, some by assurances that he possessed the confidence of the government and was acting under its secret patronage, a pretence which obtained some credit from the state of our differences with Spain; and others by offers of land in Bastrop’s claim on the Washita.

…and that’s just part of the plot. But it’s enough, perhaps, to serve as a basis for a Night’s Black Agents game, especially if Burr is a vampire. Or at least working for them. At least that’s my plan. More to come!

Kennon Bauman is a professional analyst and lapsed historian who knows the sinister secret history of the little plastic thingies on the ends of your shoelaces. He lives outside Washington, DC with his wife, two children, and dog. You can find Kennon’s bite-sized musings on Twitter @theUniverseGM.

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  1. CarlZog says

    Burr’s story in itself will be an incredibly cool game. But I think it can also serve as a vision for all kinds of exploring/conquering/espionage games. For example, if you replace the American West with the Outer Rim of Star Wars, and envision ambitious mid-level Imperial bureaucrats in the role of Burr, the Fringe takes on a whole new look. Burr’s opportunistic machinations, presuming he was guilty, could be the guile of wide variety of BBEGs. Or not, if he was really innocent and just misunderstood in his methods… The heroes will have to decide.


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