Fictioval: For the safety of the state

11. September, 2012:

The five men in the room sit silently, unsure how to approach what they have just seen on the television. Finally, one of them – the leader – assumes his role of leadership. Luckily, that allows him to also use the leaders prerogative of delegation:

“So, gentlemen. Your analysis of the situation, if you please.”

The other look at each other. Then one of them clears his throat.

“Well, sir. I would say that the People’s Republic of Denmark has fallen to the pressure of its capitalist foes.”

“Ah. Indeed. And how does this affect our situation?”

“Well, the People have not always been supportive of our mission to protect the glorious People’s Republic. Without the benevolent guidance of the Party, they might decide to take action against us.”

As one, their eyes flew to the door to the next room. Over it was a sign.

“Archive”

In the fall of  2012, as the communist rule of the People’s Republic of Denmark falls, five men sit in the centre of the Ministry of State Security. As the protesters amass outside the Ministry, they try to rid themselves of the evidence of five decades of cruelty, committed  in pursuit of a “greater cause.” But none of them have survived their service of the country without scars on their souls. And as they start tearing apart the archives, they once more face the memories of what they have done for the safety of the state-

This idea originated as a scenario about agents in the Stasi of the GDR in the last hours before they were stormed by an angry mob who wanted to see the archives of the oppressive secretive police. But first of all, I feel like Stasi has been treated quite thoroughly – secondly, I doubt many players could actually imagine life in East Germany before the fall of the Wall. Instead, I figured this would work quite well as an alternate history story, where Denmark became part of an East Bloc that fell far later than it did. This would mean that the players would be reimagining their own childhoods as it would have been under a communist rule, like the one in GDR.

I imagine the scenario as falling in five parts, corresponding to the stages of the Kübler-Ross model of coping with the realization of your own death:

  • Denial: The agents try to belittle the importance of the revolution, arguing that they can cull the rebellion, or that there will still be a need for them in a new regime. Flashbacks will be to scenes of successful missions the team has undertaken.
  • Anger: The agents try to find someone to blame – the Party, the Politicians, the Damned Capitalist, but in the end, mostly each other. Flashbacks are to scenes of cowardly or traitorous activity they have engaged in.
  • Bargaining: The agents start to realise the seriousness of the situation, and start trying to come up with ways of getting out of the mess they’re in. They start destroying records. Flashbacks to missions that they did not feel comfortable with, and missions where they tried to show mercy.
  • Depression: Everything seems hopeless. The archives are massive, and every file condemns them as much as the next. A mob of revolutionaries has assembled outside. Flashbacks to scenes of failures, and scenes that show the futility of their whole project.
  • Acceptance: The Agents realise that they have lost. Some flee, some stay to welcome the masses who flow in and start going through the files. A final flashback to the proud day the five were first assembled as a team.

That’s the outline for the scenario. Characters should be presented as personnel files/ surveillance reports on the persons with grades from universities and reports on the dealings of their families. This might be a bit big, but I like the idea of leafing through a file on your character, trying to build an idea of who he is. The idea is also to not have a definitive answer to who each person is, but to allow the player to assemble his own version. I dislike long characters, but what I dislike most is a long character that you need to memorize – a long character where you are supposed to leaf through, just skimming each page is far more acceptable.

I actually like this idea. For one thing, I have a very clear idea of what goes in here. It is also a very different story than Antihero – rather than a comedy, this is a tragedy, which is something I wasn’t sure whether I could do.

The flashback scenes could be left to the players to decide, but I kinda like the idea of making it be casefiles as well, presenting them with a short summary of the scene, and then opening it up to reveal more about that scene.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Simon James Pettitt on April 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I like it, it sounds like a cool idea. I would downplay the intrige, except for the Anger scene. This is so easy to make an intrige scenario, but it would be so much stronger if it was not, at least thats what I think.

    Also i see the players as small fish, wich I also like the idea of. These are not the big guys, this is the small fish felt behind to take the blame.

    And using the stages of death is a really good idea. I like it.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Elias Helfer on April 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Well, pointing the blame is a part of the scenario – but I don’t see it as the point. The point is the story of the fall. Personally, I like the bitter irony of ending the game with playing the glorious beginning, having just played the shameful end.
    I actually came up with an idea to use another “model” for the players: the so-called “Viable System Model” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viable_System_Model), which says that there must be five levels in an organisation for it to work:
    1: Primary activities (the basic spy)
    2: Regulation and Tactical planning (the handler)
    3: Operation Planning & Control/Audit (the analyst or the legal superviser)
    4: Development, Marketing and Research (the party liason)
    5: Decision-making (the director/manager)

    This would give them each something unique to do, without making them entirely without connections.

    Reply

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