The World of Road to Armageddon
One of the key elements in any RPG is the background – it should be both realistic and believable. In some ways, this is easier for games with a pre-modern setting, as players usually don’t have the background knowledge to really grasp whether it is realistic or not … often relying on Hollywood or fictional ‘knowledge’ (which game designers often do as well) … and so really don’t grasp that the background is completely flawed … which, depending on the game, the players and the GM, may or may not matter.
For modern settings, however, the issue of realism and believability becomes more important – and for contemporary settings, such as RtA, it becomes vital … for the simple reason that even poorly read players are constantly bombarded with at least superficial knowledge of what is going on in the world … and most people have at least a solid basic grasp of key geopolitical realities (even if they don’t understand why those things are as they are).
So, for example, there’s no easy way a designer could believably have China invading the US (despite all those horrible, often self-published, novels that do just that which are on sale on Amazon) … the uninformed general public might believe it, but the general RPG playing crowd, especially those interested in modern military RPGs such as RtA, will generally require something much more believable than is usually presented for such scenarios, and will often reject them out of hand.
So, what’s the background for RtA?
The world of RtA is divided into four major blocs – the Western Alliance, the Russo-Japanese Alliance, the Caliphate and non-aligned nations (who really belong to no alliance, or only to local or regional ones not aligned with any of the big three).
The Western Alliance includes all the usual suspects – the USA, Canada, NATO, SEATO, Korea, the Phillippines, Australia and New Zealand (amongst others), but also includes a still Communist China (sort of – if modern China can really said to be ‘communist’ rather than merely ‘authoritarian’ or ‘dictatorial’ these days) increasingly worried about a militaristic and revanchist post-Putinesque Russia and Japan … on the basis of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’
Pretty standard stuff … and not too unbelievable, even allowing for current tensions between China and regional powers (and the US) over the South China Sea.
The Russo-Japanese Alliance is somewhat more off the wall – and assumes that Russia continues on the path being set by Putin, who is assumed to be out of the picture by the time of the 3WW, who have initially become commercially aligned with an equally revanchist Japan wishing to secure economic advantage through sole access to Russian markets in a move away from reliance on selling to a more protectionist US (and Europe) in a general move to the right for Japanese politics. The US-European response of increased protectionism and/or embargoes aimed at both parties drives them closer together, and drives the Japanese to remilitarising and supporting the expansion and improvement of the Russian armed forces.
The Caliphate. Well. A regional grouping of militantly anti-western Islamic states, mainly in the Middle East, was always part of the RtA background – and I must say that, while I in no way predicted the rise of ISIS/Daesh and its self-proclaimed Caliphate, I am not entirely surprised by recent developments.
In RtA the Caliphate includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan as core territories and Caliphate invasion of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States is a major trigger for the series of events that lead to the 3WW (‘Three Way War’) and the ‘Thirty Minute War’ (aka ‘The Exchange’), the nuclear devastation that doesn’t, not really, end it. Even if it probably does mortally wound the ‘war effort’ on all sides.
The Caliphate also expands into and takes over Libya and Sudan in the active player-participation part of the game … and these events form an important part of the backdrop for the main introductory campaign (as do hints of Indonesian attacks against Malaya, Singapore, the Phillippines, New Guinea and Australia).
Unlike most of RtA’s predecessors, the initial Campaign is not set in Western Europe – nor in East Asia, for that matter.
It is set in West Africa,on the peripheries of the rapidly worsening conflict between the three alliance groups.
Initially, it is set in Equatorial Guinea where a US/CIA funded revolutionary group is about to stage a coup in Nigeria, recreating the post-colonial breakaway state of Biafra in the oil rich SE part of that country in the face of the incipient collapse of the Federal Republic’s institutions in the face of its inability to govern the nation effectively and the rise of extreme Islamic fundamentalist forces in the form of the Boko Haram movement.
Well, it allows the players to gain experience without having to fight through a high level mechanised war … they’re on the peripheries, and they’ll be involved in actions at a much lower level, a level where commando and special forces actions are much more the state of things … just the sort of situation that suits small groups of PCs.
As the campaign progresses, they’ll have espionage/counter espionage, anti-Pirate and Commando missions in Equatorial Guinea, the Gulf of Guinea, and the early days of the Second Biafran Republic … but increasing Caliphate support for a fractured Nigeria (or the northern, Boko Haram controlled, ‘Islamic Republic of Nigeria’) will lead to missions into Cameroon and, eventually, Chad … and, finally, back to Biafra and thence to Equatorial Guinea … the latter after the 3WW escalates to The Exchange …
More later …