Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Traveller “Coup Box”

My reading habits as an early teen were pretty far-ranging (if not as obsessional and eclectic as my current ones). Beyond the standard fantasy/sf obsession and the low-hanging fruit of approachable literary books for that age (Huxley, Salinger that sort), one of my well-trod genres was the nexus of thriller, military adventure and espionage novels inexplicably dumped these days into the Mystery shelves of bookstores.

And of those books, the novels of  Fredrick Forsyth, Alaistar MacLean and John LeCarre held a prominent place. LeCarre survived and thrived in my re-readings as an adult, the other two seemed...well...rather badly written. A few dips back left me cold—--there's a slow punchline here--until recently. 

Randomly discovering the incredibly stunning story that one of those Forsythe novels, the Dogs of War, was in fact highly likely to have been a only-vaguely fictional retelling of Forsyth's own leading role in a real-life, mercenary-led (and failed) coup in Equatorial Guinea in 1973.

The highly-detailed, methodical, near-tedious novel—seriously, almost 80 percent of the book is given over to the logistics of preparing for the operation--suddenly made a great deal more sense and came onto my gaming radar screen. Reading it in that light with all the shenanigans of running guns, smuggling, exploring underworld connections, scouting the site and the final crescendo of the actual raid made me want to play it so bad.

So where and how to set it? Traveller with its wide-open supporting mechanics (hell there is a whole half a book on how to run mercenary companies) and military-oriented characters comes to mind

Long-time readers may remember a million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, blogs sucked less and landline telephones were still in use that I ran a Classic Traveller mini-campaign called imaginatively enough the Space Cantons. There was one news hook that the party never took up that seems to fit the bill perfectly for this kind of thing:
“A long-anticipated four-sided civil war has begun with a formal shaking of hands and credit-coin toss on the Novo Marlankh moon Freedonia . Tensions between the League for a Micro-Balkanized Moon, ROFF (a Dogoid-rights party), the Maximalist Party, and the Brotherhood for the Maintenance of the Ways have been mounting over the last year. The Cantonment Navy has announced that it will be maintaining an interdiction against gun-running to the moon with 'occasional rigorousness.'”
The Autokrator, what a dick

So here's the set-up for the “coup box”, a sandbox bounded by a single mission to overthrow the current government by any means necessary and a strict micro-geographical setting. In this case, I am going to go with a single city-state in the twilight zone of that moon, a miserable place called Novo Kraldeset (or just Kral by the locals) ruled by a neutral but authoritarian and batshit crazy warlord called the Autokrator.

The players will be either hired guns, scoundrels or idealistic recruits brought in by an ineffectual, yet affluent group of dissidents, called the Ten, who simply want to stage a coup and put themselves into benevolent power. In other words it's “here's a situation, players, go for solving it.”

I'm highly likely running it on Google Plus on Tuesday nights for six players as a two or so session palate cleanser for the main Hill Cantons campaign (that's been a bit star-crossed as of late). If you are interested, drop me a line and some details on the actual situation report will appear here by Friday.  


  1. Oh! I'd be interested in this... where do I sign up?

  2. Replies
    1. I have a related idea to pitch to you. Wanna be the "NPC" Minister of Security?

    2. Absolutely!

      Also, if you want to game out any sci-fi tank battles in 6mm scale, I can hook you up :)

  3. Interesting. The idea also sort of reminds of the Dr. Who story "War Games" with the 2nd Doctor (Patrick Troughton, not that Tennant chap). That episode features an autocrat known as the War Chief (and I'm strongly resisting the urge to spoil who he really is!).

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  5. The Dogs of War is a great book for adapting to RPGs: scouting, scheming, shopping, shooting. And Traveller is perfectly suited for that kind of plot.

    We ran a short campaign based on Dogs of War using the old Top Secret SI rules back in the 80s, and another loosely based on it as part of a D&D campaign in the 90s. Good times!