Crossposted at Never in Our Names
Since both of us write roleplaying games (Unitary Moonbat's first two books for the Wildside Gaming System I developed will be coming out next year), you can see where we were taken by the idea. What if we could approach all of the extremes of D.C. culture gone bad, all the evil and heroic resistence of the past six years, in the same way we approach a day of roleplaying? What if there really was foul magic afoot in the nation's capital, and only you had the power to make it better?
When all the comments are in, we'll edit and typeset them, and my publisher has agreed to make it available as a free ebook on the Wildside Game site.
Note: For those who haven't played them, roleplaying games are basically a kind of improv. Each of 4-6 players creates a character (how strong and smart that peron is, what sort of family he or she comes from, what skills he or she has) and then plays that character in a world created by the person running the game, known as the GM. The games are usually continuous - you may play the same character every week for a few months, during which time the character grows and changes based on the events in the game. Creatures - such as other people, monsters, and even Republicans - who your character meets and interacts with are often referred to as NPCs, meaning non-player characters. While this world is written for the Wildside Gaming System (which, naturally, we think all of you should be playing), it's not necessary to understand this or any other system to have fun with this adventure.
Rove: The RPG seeks to move beyond the realm of dragons and dungeons, into the vastly more vicious world of Washington, D.C., in whose labyrinthine halls of power wander creatures far more dangerous than mere minotaurs...
Six years ago, the Capitol City was taken over by the Rethuglican faction of the nobility, who soon consolidated their power behind a figurehead of an emperor. Soon, horrific and terrifying creatures walked the streets, including Rethuglican Guards, Pedophilireps, and Dittoheads. Dissent was crushed, and while many mourned the old ways, few seemed to have the spirit to rise up against the armies and powerful wizards in the service of the Rethuglicans.
The capitol is a dangerous place. Although there are strict limits on weapons (and characters are likely to be arrested for carrying weapons openly), it's a very violent place, and random encounters may happen even in the best neighborhoods. There are also strict racial and class divisions: Even though most of the city outside of the ruling area is very poor, only people who look rich or look like visitors from elsewhere in the country are safe from being randomly challenged by the capitol POLICE FORCE. In addition to the police force, key members of the ruling class are likely to be protected by the SECRET SERVICE, the regiment charged with safeguarding the ruler. Members of the police and secret service will always be armed when encountered (as will any criminals or roving gangs). Others generally will not be armed: Even members of the regular military and militia generally do not carry weapons in the capitol (unless they're guarding a military site), although the military's administrative headquarters is nearby.
Over the years since the Great Usurpation, the Rethuglican Horde has occupied and secured an ever-expanding number of buildings and public facilities in the downtown Washington area; both information and people with respect for American traditions are increasingly difficult for visiting citizens to find. Many of these institutions are now extremely hostile toward your average, run-of-the-mill plebe - the agents of the Dark Emperor are everywhere, and they have done their best to turn the area around the National Mall into a kind of Mordor for the American Dream.
Even worse than the armies, people feared the power of the man behind the throne, a commoner who wielded more power than any of the nobles, a man whose instincts were imputed to be more powerful than even the most fearsome emotionist. Few dared to even question the mighty Rove, and every Rethuglican victory, however unlikely, was laid at his feet.
But now there are new whisperings of challenges, diffuse resistence spreading throughout the empire, inspired by a wizard who even the mighty Rethuglicans feared, at the same time that they reviled him: Markos the Transmutationist.
In the midst of this uncertain time, the characters find themselves on the streets of the Capitol City.
The Adventure Begins...
Once the characters arrive in Rethuglican-occupied Washington D.C., there will be many possibilities for adventure. Life in an occupied city is always unpredictable, with rules shifting without warning even for the natives - much less people unfamiliar with the local customs. But just as in Casablanca, there are also countless opportunities for people who have not yet become enmeshed in local conspiracies, or made local enemies. Here are a few possible situations a GM might use to ensnare the characters into the perils of Rethuglican D.C.
The Page Dorm - The characters are hired as mercenary outsiders to protect the beleaguered pages from the predations of a rogue Rethuglican nobleman. But pretty soon it becomes clear that the rogue still has powerful friends within the nobility - and that there may be a larger game afoot. What starts out as a mission to protect a bunch of annoying and overpriviliged teenagers turns into Ft. Apache, Capitol Hill; do the characters dare to arm the teenagers to help them fight off the Rethuglican siege? Is one of the pages secretly working for them? Tension and magic flies through the air as the Rethuglicans use illusion and message spells to try and subvert the pages to their evil ends - and leave the characters holding the blame.
Revenge of the Bloggers - Markos, a powerful transmutationist (he has the power to raise characters' leadership and transform their shape) is one of the leaders in the diffuse rebellion that is beginning to challenge the Rethuglicans. When one of Markos's soothsayers prophesies that the gates must fall before the evil empire can be brought down, he sends the characters to D.C. with the cryptic assignment to "crash the gates" - literally. But there are a lot of gates in the occupied city - some of them well guarded. The group will be forced to use subterfuge and manipulation to succeed in bringing the prophecy to fruition. Luckily, what magic and swords can't accomplish, D.C. Metro Dept. of Public Works vehicles can....
The Fearless Leader - Shortly after arriving in Union Station, one or more of the characters go to use the men's bathroom. Inside, they are surprised to be accosted by powerful Rethuglican noblemen Larry Craig and Ken Mehlman. The two noblemen seem obsessive and paranoid; they keep giving vague warnings about "the Big Dog" and some sort of powerful artifact they fear, the "Clenis." But eventually, the characters are able to discern their story: The Rethuglican leaders - who were elevated to power based on promises of compassion - have been taken over by powerful emotionists, and those emotionists - whoever they may be - are watching everyone known to work with the Rethuglicans. Bush used to be their fun-loving drinking buddy; now he's a monster. There's at least one of the emotionists in Rethuglican inner circle - but they're not sure who. Will you help rescue the Bushs - and the nation - from whoever's taken both over? Or is it all an elaborate setup that the characters are being used as pawns in?
The Strangler - there's an assassin stalking the Rethuglican leadership, garroting several of them under the very noses of their heavy security. Naturally, suspicion falls on Don Sherwood, a Rethuglican nobleman himself with a history of strangling his misteresses. But Sherwood insists he's innocent. And he's willing to pay the characters handsomely to prove it.
Readers: Feel free to suggest your own adventure seeds, or to add nuance to these examples
This adventure begins in the Capitol Hill region. Characters will likely also pass through the Mall Museums and Memorials before venturing into the bowels of the White House itself. It's likely that only the bravest Democratic characters will venture into the Downtown region unless they are George Soros-rich or Joe Lieberman-sycophantic; the Spin Demons that occupy the area along K Street are absolutely without mercy, are extremely well-financed, and are utterly without a sense of morality.
Spin Demon - fearsome bloodsucking creatures that were once human beings, spin demons harvest human flesh which they trade with Rethuglican nobles, with whom they have a symbiotic relationship. Any non-noble Rethuglican (or person not under the protection of a noble Rethuglican) who wanders into their territory will be attacked. Spin demons are usually encountered singly or in pairs, but sometimes attack in swarms. They fight fiercely when they have the advantage of strength or numbers, but if the fight turns against them, spin demons will retreat indignantly. Flocks of them descend on Capitol Hill bearing gifts on feast days - such as when health care or energy legislation is being discussed.
table : III (90/60)
fights: +3, poisonous vitriol
Capitol Hill Region
Folger Shakespeare Museum - a smallish-but-imposing-looking edifice with a sign in the front which reads, "Folger Shakespeare Library," this is one area where few Rethuglicans can be found. It's easy to become engrossed in the displays, but the best material isn't on display: ancient spellbooks and runes that may hold the key to reviving the now-lost holy rites of Habeas Corpus. The library's keepers will be friendly but standoffish, and profess professional neutrality; the Rethuglicans have cut their funding, but otherwise left them alone while others were crushed in the takeover.
Supreme Court - Entrance - two large, Romanesque buildings on opposite sides of the street. Many goptrolls are gathered in front of the building to the north, the one with the broad steps and "Law Under Justice" carved above the 16 pillars gracing its west entrance. To enter the Supreme Court, characters will have to pass through a mob of goptrolls, who may or may not be violent.
Goptroll - inhabiting one of the lower echelons of Rethug society are the goptrolls, mindless automatons who protest upon command. They are usually found in the vicinity of television cameras, moaning loudly about how nobody's listening to them. Like their Internet counterparts, goptrolls seek to disrupt discourse and monopolize conversation. They are impervious to irony-based attack and sarcasm-based defense, but use their own Bellow attack to "get the message out" at +10%. If there are enough goptrolls present to form a Rally, the group may launch a Mass Berate attack, in which the victim will be surrounded and shouted to the ground, rendering him immobile for 1-6 rounds.
Goptrolls generally prefer to shout and chant insults in a large group, but they will occasionally be moved to physically attack their arch-enemies, "the libruls" (the chance of such an attack occurring increases dramatically if the goptroll's adversary mentions anything that the goptroll construes as a "Democrat talking point"). When they attack, goptrolls will use either their bare hands, or will employ placards with aborted fetus pictures or "God hates fags" slogans as clubs.
table: I (100/50)
fights: +1; bellowing
armor:5; immune to irony
If they make it through the goptrolls, the characters will find the Supreme Court building unlocked. In the entry foyer, the ghost of John Marshall appears before them. In a haunting, 1800s-orator kind of way, the great Chief Justice moans from beyond the grave:
"Go ye not any further into this place!"
Presumably, the characters will ask why they are being warned off. If they do, proceed with the dialogue below. If they do not, and rudely push past or ignore the ghost, then skip ahead to "The Chamber of Justice."
"The scales are broken! They tilt to one side only! That which restrained evil is no more!"
The conversation could take many turns at this point; the GM should be prepared to ad-lib from the perspective of the ghost of the man who first found in the Constitution the concept of judicial review - i.e., mournful and gloomy about the present state of Supreme Court affairs. Marshall's focus is on the now-missing Writ of Habeas Corpus. If the characters are looking for other information, they'll only get it if they can convince Marshall's ghost that it will help to restore the missing right. While conversing with the shade, the GM may impart any, all, or none of the following tidbits:
What's going on the Court Chamber is unspeakably horrid; the ghost will implore the characters not to go any further into the Supreme Court building.
He will intimate that the documents that once protected our great nation do so no longer, that waving scraps of paper in the faces of their enemies will do no good. "The only ideas that will rescue the Writ and save the Republic are the ones so important that our sculptors have carved them in stone."
As suspected, the Writ is being held in an undisclosed location - i.e., a bunker beneath the White House.
"The ivory towers may provide things of usefulness, but tarry not in the halls of Congress, for what good once dwelt there was sold long ago."
"Go ye not to the Offices of the Republican Congressmen, especially if ye be a strapping young lad, and avoid those of the Democrats, for they are castrated, and are held in thrall by men meaner and baser than they."
"Go ye not into the Offices of the Senators, for it is peopled by quack doctors and spineless panderers. The cause of liberty will find no help there."
Supreme Court - Court Chamber beyond the cavernous doorways where the 6 1/2 ton bronze doors once stood (the doors were themselves melted down and forged into cannon, spear tips, and swords for the Rethuglican Guard) lies the Court Chamber. Here, a 5-headed Hydra has strapped 4 Justices to the Bench, and is waterboarding them upon it.
A Hydra, especially a Court-unbalancing 5-headed one, is an extremely dangerous creature. In addition to its bulk and the waves of condescending illogic than emanate from it, each of the Hydra's heads has a special power:
Alito - uses the "Vancufulo" attack, in which it hurls invectives in foreign languages
Roberts - sneaks up on characters by unobtrusively lying in wait and biding its time, then appearing out of nowhere to be named Chief Head (though it did once play second fiddle to Harriet Meiers, and it's still very pissed about that). It will then bludgeon characters with out-of-context interpretations of the Federalist Papers.
Thomas - spouts opinions that cause confusion in characters; save vs. spell or be immobilized by the breadth of the nonsense flowing out of this head's mouth
Scalia - the most dangerous head, it can actually stop time and thereby alter the course of all subsequent events. This was last seen in Florida in December, 2000, but this head is so full of itself that it would not hesitate to use its terrible power if the opportunity again presented itself.
Kennedy - this head pendulums back and forth, never knowing quite where it is going next. Its unpredictability will most often slam into the characters (75%), but occasionally it buts heads with one of its colleagues, too (25%).
If the characters defeat the Hydra, they can rescue the imprisoned Justices who will gratefully impart the following:
Souter - the two is the power of the mind
Breyer - the five the power of liberation
Kennedy - the one the power of leadership
Ginsberg - `ware the fifty, for it is the power of power
In addition, the bedraggled, berobed judges give to the characters the Gavel of Justice, which, when wielded by Americans of sound mind and good judgment - and who understand the intent of the framers of the Constitution - dispenses ground-breaking waves of justice whenever it is used to broaden human rights.
The Library of Congress - Science Collection - regrettably, little of this great institution's remarkable collection survived the Grate Intilekchooal Realinement that the Dear Leader began shortly after the Usurpation. The Science collection, in particular, has been gutted - should the characters dare to venture there...
Amidst a pile of gasoline-soaked books on evolution, genetic engineering, and modern medicine stands none other than His Spongebobiness, James Dobson. Dobson will attack on sight, using his Media Machine (like a shockthrow) or, if engaged hand-to-hand, will attempt to Thump (3 out-of-context interpretations of Ancient Israelite law/round - save vs. Bullshit or be paralyzed for 1-6 rounds) characters with his Bible.
The Library of Congress - Law Library - The entire first floor of the Law Library is covered with crap, which is being spewed from the large reading room's central chandelier by a bloated figure who has somehow jammed an office chair - specially designed for sufferers of polinoidial cysts - into the fixture. The man holds in his hand a golden microphone; from it, bullshit spurts and splatters, obscuring the historic documents and the titles of the legal texts.
In the knee-deep filth covering the marble floor dance 13 dittoheads, who catch and hurl the Bullshit back at its master, who greets each "ditto" with gurgles of praise. The dittoheads are fiercely protective of their drug-addled master, and will begin shambling toward the characters as soon as they are noticed by the Oxified One.
The madman in the chandelier is Rush Limbaugh. Upon sensing the presence of a non-dittohead, Limbaugh will use the Golden EIB Microphone to launch a Partisan Bullshit attack (characters must roll d% below Sense - failure results in the character being trapped for 3d6 rounds). Characters who find themselves immersed in Limbaugh's Bullshit have a cumulative 1% chance per round of being overcome by the lobotomizing fumes; should this occur, the character will be converted into a dittohead, and will begin parroting Rush lines at the nearest liberal.
Dittohead - a mindless automaton in service of Rush Limbaugh. Once far more numerous (back before the Maharushi's nasty little business with doctor-shopping and pill-procuring became public knowledge), dittoheads are nevertheless so slavish in their zombielike apologies that the represent a significant threat when gathered in large enough members. They attack by means of Repetitive Bullshit, simply repeating the same lies over and over again until their adversary either concedes and leaves or is driven batshit insane.
An important thing to note about dittoheads is that they can be re-converted; contrary to many a family legend it is possible to guide one back to the reality-based community. This is not recommended, of course: the process is long and tortuous as the poor creature is carefully weaned off the Bullshit that once sustained its ideology.
table: I (100/60)
Should the characters defeat Limbaugh and the dittoheads, they may recover the following magical items:
The Golden EIB Microphone - though currently used for evil, this device is, in and of itself, simply an amplifier. If used by a Progressive, it will emit a "Kum-bay-ya" that Paralyzes any lower-order Rethuglican who fails a sense resistance roll for 3d6 rounds. Note that Rethugs emerging from such an induced paralytic state will be twice as enraged as they were before the hippy music started.
The Attila the Hun Chair - adds 25% to Ego- and Bullshit- based attacks, and spins around, just like Dr. Evil's.
The Rule of Law - though the Ultimate Weapon against the fascist menace could likely be reconstructed from the contents of this room, cleaning it up and rebuilding a faith in the ability of humankind to govern itself will take 1-3 generations. The characters simply don't have that kind of time.
The Rest of the Library will be of no help to the characters. All the books on all the stacks have been replaced by TV Guides, Bibles, and old issues of People magazine.
Botanic Gardens - once an idyllic display of the finest American horticulture, the Botanic Gardens were sold to a corporate coalition during the first year after the Usurpation. Today, the group is headed by a triumvirate made up of Monsanto, Scott's, and Archer-Daniels Midland, whose scientists have combined their talents to create an horrific proving ground for their unholy theories.
Upon entering the once-beautiful, once-shimmering limestone-and-glass Conservatory via the North Entrance, characters find themselves in a long hallway, which stretches off to the left and right several hundred feet toward sun-drenched Gallerys (q.v.). Before them, blocking access to the interior of the building, is an information booth staffed by a Wingnut Priest. The Pseudoscientific Priest will try to Convert the characters as it pleasantly explains the layout of the building and its points of interest. Though it holds a PhD in Applied Miracles from Bob Jones University, the Priest is impervious to fact-based attacks, and will pleasantly but firmly ask the characters to enjoy their stay if they attempt any form of Conversion of their own.
The Garden Court is a long, broad hall with 2 rectangular, algae-filled reflecting pools in the center of both the east and west wings. Through a hidden sound system, the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace" is looped continually at a softly haunting volume, and the high humidity and warm greenhouse atmosphere have the effect of casting a sleep spell on unwary characters. Beside each of the pools stand 6 Guard Trees, which will use their abilities to try to lull the characters into hugging them.
Wingnut Priest - comes in two varieties - ecclesiastic and pseudoscientific - which are very similar in both purpose and thought pattern. Both stubbornly insist on the rightness of their worldview to the complete exclusion of any other perspective; in this lies their power. WPs attack with Dogma, are capable of Conversion, and are impervious to Fact-based spells and arguments. Given the sort of rote-memorization and denial-of reality training they undergo as acolytes, WPs are extremely resistant to Conversion, and will usually launch a series of Repetitive Circular Argument spells when they find themselves confronted with irrefutable logic.
table: II (90/70)
armor: 5, immune to logic and science
Guard Trees - developed as a defense against hippies who might chain themselves to old-growth trees in a forest slated for destruction, Guard Trees employ a complex pheromone (it smells like patchouli trying to mask the odor of pot) to lure the unsuspecting into giving them a hug. When a person or creature does so - indeed, whenever more than 30% of a person's body is in contact with the GT - a fissure will open in the trunk, the branches will swing suddenly down and inward, and the unfortunate victim is thrown into the tree to be slowly crushed and digested.
table: III (80/50)
The Jungle - In the center of the Conservatory lies what was once the institution's pride and joy, now gone completely feral and riotous with growth after years of fertilizer and chemical dumping by the pseudoscientist researchers. If the characters enter or pass through this area, they may encounter any or all of the following:
1. A small patch of Guard Trees. These attack at +3 due to the effects of the fertilizer mixture present in the soil, but they are also 10% more susceptible to fire.
2. 1-3 Mad Pseudoscientists. Once trusted researchers, these men and women have drunk from the leech field/reflecting pool in the center of the jungle, and now wander the room swearing that it tasted like Kool-Aid. In addition to Dogma, these madmen and women are also able to use the Conspiracy Theory (Right Wing) attack.
3. 6-8 Refugees. These are coca workers who have escaped from the Shrub Garden (formerly the Meditation Gardens). They just want to be left alone.
4. A Pediophiliarep (q.v. description in Capitol Hill section) has taken up residence at the edge of the Jungle bordering on the Children's Garden. If confronted, it will declare itself an alcoholic and check into rehab.
5. 6-8 Goptrolls (q.v. description in Supreme Court section) are protesting the inability of their scientists to develop a tree that produces Holy Communion as a fruit. They will attack on sight.
6. A cherry tree, the last surviving direct descendent of the tree chopped down by George Washington, calls out to the characters as they pass. The toxic sludge has given the tree supercognitive abilities, and it begs the characters to end its existential misery and chop it down. If they do so, they will find a 1754 silver dollar amidst its roots.
1754 silver dollar - looks, feels, and weighs like a normal 18th-century silver coin, but when thrown, is capable of traveling enormous distances with great accuracy. The coin does not require throwing skill to be thrown, and penetrates armor like a crossbow bolt.
Eastern Wing - Formerly the Children's Garden, this area is now dedicated to the research and propagation of frankenfoods. There are plots for lasagna-flavored eggplants and other, more grotesque plant/meat combinations. The place smells like a garbage dump, and the atmosphere is made even more unpleasant by the huge number of flies that buzz about and crawl upon the flowers. Many of these seem to go to and fro through missing panes in the dingy glass greenhouse roof, carrying genetically-altered pollen to points unknown.
The only threat to characters in this room comes from a patch of Killer Tomatos just west of the entrance to the East Gallery.
Killer Tomatos - It is not known exactly how these things attack or propel themselves along the ground, but you might as well admit it: You've seen the movie - you know what these things can do.
table: III (90/60)
East and West Galleries - Both Galleries have been turned into science labs, and both will be defended by flask-throwing researchers. In the East Gallery, 7 Pseudoscientists are at work on grafting together a papyrus and a tobacco plant, with the idea being the creation of a plant that grows pre-rolled cigarettes. The patent for a similar (and already successful) marijuana-papyrus hybrid is in a 3-ring binder on one of the sparse bookshelves; it could be worth a lot of money to the right people...
The West Gallery, where 11 Pseudoscientists are performing their voodoo, is home to Rove's personal Soylent Green factory. The Dark Lord is reputed to greatly enjoy salads made of Soylent Green, and it has become a fashionable thing to order at Rethuglican eateries all over town. The 6 cases stored in this room could fetch a pretty penny on the black market...
Meditation Gardens - Now renamed "Shrub Gardens," this is where George W. Bush's private cocaine reserve is cultivated and processed. 1,000 coca shrubs are planted among the winding paths, and two processing facilities lie at the north and western ends of the room. The processing facilities are staffed by genuine downtrodden immigrants from South America. These workers are especially susceptible to the liberal spell Unionization, but getting close enough to lay the word on them could prove difficult, as 6 Rethuglican Guards stand watch over each facility.
Rethuglican Guards - comprised mostly of skinheads and white supremacists, the Guards are the elite soldiers of the Rethug government. They are armed with bronze spears and swords, and desperately wish to think of themselves as some kind of Greek phalanx of righteousness. RGs are extremely aggressive, though those of higher intelligence may listen to reason and undergo Conversion under certain circumstances. While extremely aggressive, guards retreat if resisted sharply, loudly complaining at the unfairness of the attack.
table: I (90/60)
Readers: You get the idea. Feel free to add your own people, places or events in the comments. They should have some grounding in reality, and the satire can be broad or subtle. You don't need to stick to Capitol Hill, either. For instance:
H Street Farmer's Market - held on Saturdays from the spring through the fall on the 600 block of H Street, this open-air market draws farmers from outside the city - but is also a prime place where the servants of the Rethuglican nobility shop. In addition to fresh breads, cheeses, and vegetables, there's often a hedge wizard or two at the market, a wise woman selling not-quite-warrantied potions for way below the usual price (one supposed to change a Rethuglican spouse into a Democrat instead made him into a poodle, and the potion she made for Bill O'Reilly unfortunately changed "love" to "loofah"), and various mercenaries or down-on-their-luck politicians hanging around looking for work or pickpocketing opportunities from unwary player characters.
You can also add people, like:
Keith Olbermann - snubbed by the nobility who pretend he doesn't exist, but a folk-hero to many of the anti-royalists. Olbermann can be aloof, but if the characters are able to engage him in conversation (a knowledge of sports helps) his comments will be remarkably incisive. Though an outsider, he knows who the players are (and who are merely poseurs) in D.C., but if the characters don't impress him as intelligent, Olbermann is unlikely to tell them anything useful.
Mark Foley - master illusionist expelled from the Rethuglican nobility after his pursuit of teenage boys became public, but still has many noble sympathizers. Foley is an illusion-6, though his illusions are often given away by an overly shiny-skinned appearance.
So, feel like writing Matt Drudge, or Ann Coulter? George Felix Allen? Want to tackle the Bush twins? Harry Reid, anyone? The best comments will be edited into the ebook, which will be available for free at the Wildside Game site in a few weeks.
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