As promised (threatened?) in our Gen Con Audio Special, friends of the blog put together a quick survey of a particularly Unreal World — a crowd-sourced Alternate History put together in just under 10 minutes. Andy and Sarah, no slouches, took the skeleton we put together in short order and turned it into an at least slightly deeper background ready made for your game. Enjoy!
We had the genuine pleasure of stirring the great gumbo pot of fact, fiction, gaming and nazis that is alternative history this past Gen Con at The Illuminerdy’s aptly-named Making History panel. Said panel ended, as all of its ilk should, with an open challenge: in ten minutes, give us four elements of altered history, and we will weave you a tapestry of a reshaped world in which they collectively make sense. (For certain values of sense. -Ed.)
1. Nazis (essentially inescapable in the Alt. History genre. -Ed.)
2. A Soviet Union without Stalin
3. A Confederate States of America that survived past the 1860s
4. A human-colonized moon.
So, as promised (threatened? Foretold!) at the end of the panel, here lies the expanded hook for our slap-patched new world order:
The War in Europe
Stalin’s defeat in Russia comes at the hands of Leon Trotsky, who makes his notion of a united front against fascism a reality when Hitler begins the invasion of Poland. Instead of signing a non-aggression pact, Russia meets Germany head-on and fortifies the Eastern Bloc against further incursion. With all the more reason to push west, Germany mows over France and sets its sights on Great Britain (in a place we call “actual history”).
The Divided States
Across the ocean, the next domino falls: the once-United States diverge again, with the industrial Union supporting Germany for the business opportunity (not to mention some similar ideological leanings) while the CSA remains out of the conflict entirely. Unfortunately, since that more or less makes both Pearl Harbor and the Normandy landing a non-event, the American involvement in the war is now very boring, and so we move on.
Redrawing the Lines
Britain falls alongside France, Spain wars with itself, and the Reich makes its home across Western Europe and Northern Africa. With Russia’s aid against a familiar enemy, China holds off Japan, which has little trouble expanding into the Pacific instead and taking a now-independent California. Central Asia becomes something of a haven for those seeking asylum from the Axis powers in Europe, and the scientists who, in our world, fled to the United States instead flee to Trotsky’s Russia, aiding the ongoing arms race and helping to hold the line against a fortified (but starving) German offensive.
Flash forward fifteen years. The World War has largely cooled, with Germany subsuming Italy’s weak leadership and dominating the Mediterranean as well as the Atlantic. The old enemies of China and Russia join an alliance of necessity to safeguard one another from their surrounding adversaries. With their collected scientific might and the inventive momentum of the war, Russia vaults ahead in the space race, making the first successful flight to the moon. Since so many of its citizens are former refugees of an oppressive fascist state seeking a new, safe homeland, the Russians set about colonizing the moon as the ultimate escape from the New Europe’s totalitarian regime.
In short: the children of a Stalin-free Russia colonize the moon ahead of the Divided States of America in order to avoid the shadow the Nazis have spread over Europe.
That’s enough for the history lesson; on to the ‘gaming’ part of this fiasco. Within this fantastical setup, it’s only natural that our hook will center around the Russian lunar base for political refugees. Your players serve as soldiers, mechanics, or scientists on Novy Mir, the Russian lunar colony, which has its fair share of problems as the first long-term space habitation venture.
Among those problems is the impending arrival of the first Nazi voyage to the moon; a military mission to expand the empire and stamp out those they blame for Germany’s former weakness in one swift stroke. It falls to the players to use their wits, courage and what ramshackle parts they can find to protect the colony and its fragile structures against this old, familiar enemy.
Bonus points: use the total eclipse of August, ’71 as an added complication, with the space nazis invading under cover of darkness for an all new form of blitzkrieg.
There are all manner of echoes from the changed world we’ve described above, so don’t feel limited by the hook we’ve described.
• What is life like in bombed-out, occupied Great Britain?
• What happens when German forces try to expand into the unforgiving jungles of Africa, or into the Arabian peninsula?
• Without a unified America, was there a Spanish-American War? Without that, was there a Teddy Roosevelt at the helm? And without him, how different is the Wild West by the mid-1900’s?
There’s no shortage of hooks and stories waiting to be tapped into in this just-left-of-center world, all stemming from a few quick changes thrown together in about ten minutes’ time.
Think of what you could do with a whole game.