Sunday, November 25, 2012

Life During Wartime

Every time I listen to "Life During Wartime" by the Talking Heads, I can't help but think that it would make an awesome movie, TV show, or (since I don't blog about those other things) role-playing game.

I love this song because it embodies the urban spirit that the Talking Heads capture so wonderfully in their music and it also evokes a vivid picture of the chaos of 1970s militancy. According to a book about the Talking Heads (fine - I found the quote on Wikipedia...), David Byrne was thinking about Baader-Meinhof (Red-Army Faction), Patty Hearst, and Tompkins Square in New York City when he wrote it. I don't think he'd object if I say that the song takes my imagination elsewhere, and that's where I think it would be awesome to run a campaign.

Whenever I listen to "Life During Wartime" I always think about the civil war in Lebanon and what would happen if something similar were imposed on the United States. It would be like West Beirut in an American context. If I were to run a campaign with this as the inspiration, the basic scenario would look like this:

In the near future, the United States is engulfed in a low-intensity civil war. Secessionists angry with Washington have taken up arms in their states and localities. While entire states have not seceded, local revolts have popped up in nearly every state. The country is divided along a spectrum, ranging from those who support independence for local areas to those who want to crush any disloyalty to the government. Incidents of terrorism and guerrilla warfare have become commonplace across the nation.

Democrats and Republicans are no more. Instead there are three new parties (As I've mentioned before, I love me some factions):
  • The Democratic-Republican (National Unity) Party - Most political leaders have rallied together against the secessionists and are working to resolve the problem, though without much success.
  • USA Whig (USA - Where Has It Gone?) Party - The new Whig party is the political wing of the secessionist movement. It works in Washington and in state capitals to directly further that cause and to obstruct policies that would otherwise bring about an end to the revolt.
  • The Liberal Unionist Party - On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who believe in no compromise with the Whigs, no mercy for secessionists, and a strong, unchallenged federal government.
The campaign is set (or begins) in Washington, DC and the player characters are college students trying to live their lives amid the chaos, politics, and fighting that has engulfed the country. It doesn't really matter what system it gets played on, but I totally think that players should get bonuses for incorporating lyrics from the song into their characters (e.g. "Got a van that's loaded with weapons;" "Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto;" "We've got computers, we're tappin' phone lines."). Any player who is David Byrne also gets a massive bonus.

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