...is a 1986 roleplaying game by Greg Costikyan and West End Games (who made the first Star Wars roleplaying game), about playing freedom fighters battling to save America from a Soviet occupation.
I think it is pretty good. Especially if you are old enough to remember the cold war with a bizarre sense of nostalgia.
I think it has a lot to offer Star Wars roleplayers, especially in the department of really selling the idea of being a Rebel to your players and fostering a pleasing sense of righteous indignation in them as they take on the Evil Empire.
Below are a series of extracts to demonstrate:-
Yesterday came the President's announcement. He said the obvious: the Russians' "Star Wars" defenses make them impregnable. They can destroy America whenever they want. They've demanded total American disarmament - and the traitor agreed! "As Commander-in-Chief, I hereby order American forces wherever they may be to lay down their arms. American military aircraft will be grounded. The Navy will return to port. All nuclear submarines will surface. All landbased missiles will be removed from their silos and laid on the ground for satellite inspection. All military personnel will report for demobilization."
There's been chaos in the streets since then. There are, at max, a few thousand Soviet spies and plants in the U.S., and It's going to take a while for them to ferry over any substantial number of troops. At the moment, It's anarchy in the streets.
According to the news, patriots are working to dump every data base they can before the Reds show up. The Department of Motor Vehicles is burning files by the truckload. The F.B.I. is shredding day and night. There are more cops at 1 Police Plaza dumping files than on the streets.
Supermarkets and stores are doing a land-office business. Everyone is trying to stock up on necessities. Some merchants are demanding payment in gold, though; and everywhere, prices are rising like a rocket.
The TV is full of Soviet spokesmen claiming there's no cause for hysteria. The President came on to call for calm and cooperation with the occupying authorities.
There's a lot of looting going on. There are people fleeing for the countryside. Occasional gunshots can be heard.
You've brought together your closest, toughest friends - men and women you know you can trust with your life. You've got to figure out what to do next.
In the near-future world of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, the Soviet Union and Its client states have achieved nuclear supremacy and use it to conquer the world. America is now nominally ruled by a quisling President, but in fact by the Communist occupiers.
As the game begins, Communist troops Soviet, Cuban, Nicaraguan, Vietnamese, East German, Czechoslovakian - are landing all over the United States and Canada. You have only hours or days before they take up positions in your city.
As the game progresses, life will change as Soviet control becomes firmer. If you wish to remain alive and free. you must learn how to cope with these changes.
The Soviet Union is the very embodiment of tyranny. lt denies the most fundamental liberties to its own citizens. treats them as resources to be used, abused and disposed for the benefit of the state. The corpses of hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens lie under the tundra of Siberia, worked and starved to death because they thought or spoke unwisely. Dissent is classified as neurosis, and treated by the most severe of psychiatric methods - including electroshock therapy. Only one voice is allowed, the voice of the Party, disseminated through its organs the press, radio and television. Some claim there is a moral distinction between Communist Russia and Nazi Germany; there is not. One murdered millions for racial reasons; one murdered millions for economic reasons; but murder Is murder.
Throughout its existence, America has stood for liberty and the rights of man. The struggle between America and Russia is not one between two superpowers of more or less equal moral weight. but between freedom and slavery; between Light and darkness; yes, between good and evil. There can be no real peace until one triumphs, or the other. The world cannot live half slave and half free.
A totalitarian state Is monomaniacal in the pursuit of its goals. lt builds its military, probes for weakness, bides Its time until it may triumph. Democracies have short memories. The call to vigilance is repeated. again and again, to decreasing effect; people become inured to the struggle. Budgets are cut; the military becomes complacent and incompetent; academics and intellectuals belittle the threat. Society becomes fat and happy, unmindful or forgetful that its wealth and liberty Is enviously coveted and religiously hated by an enemy whose enmity never wavers.
America has been betrayed by traitors in its very midst - stabbed in the back by pusillanimous cowards, delivered into the hands of its foes.
In this, its darkest hour, America needs heroes - men and women who, without recompense, motivated only by the noblest of emotions, will rise and lake up the struggle against the Soviets.
Already, their troops are landing. Soon will come the internal passports, summary executions, psychological torture, death camps, mass starvation, all the humiliation, torture and agony that comes with being the subject nation of Communists.
Are you ready to pay THE PRICE OF FREEDOM?
A number of features distinguish THE PRICE OF FREEDOM from other roleplaying games.
Tone: The predominant tone is one of grim patriotism. That's because the world of FREEDOM is a grim one. When playing your character, think of war movies, hardboiled detective stories, film noir, and stories about the French Resistance. Surviving In the world of FREEDOM is tough, and you have to be tough to survive. But you hope, at least, to do more than survive; you hope that, through your efforts and those of others, America may be freed from its oppressors.
Grimness is only one side of the game. The other side is this: fundamentally, roleplaying games are power fantasies. In other roleplaying games, players have the fun of slaughtering dozens of orcs or aliens, or defeating incredibly powerful supervlllains. In THE PRICE OF FREEDOM. you get to slaughter lots of Reds. Think Rambo. Sergeant York, or Red Dawn. The system is purposefully designed to make a player character the equivalent of several Soviet soldiers; the typical player character is a supersoldier facing a horde of spear carriers.
Setting: The setting, in as much as possible, is identical to the real world. Visualizing the world of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM should be easy; physically it is the same as our own. Emotionally, it is a far darker and more desperate place.
Opportunities for Mayhem: One of the most enjoyable aspects of roleplaying is that it lets us release, in a socially acceptable way, the negative emotions which society forbids us (for good reason) to act upon in everyday life. Basically, this means making things go "boom" - gunfire, explosions, violent action. THE PRICE OF FREEDOM offers unparalleled opportunities for mayhem. Not only are modern weapons deadly, but there is a clear and morally unobjectionable foe - the Communists. Furthermore, since the world of FREEDOM is so similar to our own, players will have the fun of blowing up buildings, people and things they know personally - without the messy possibility of a lawsuit, being arrested, or personal retribution.
Killing your boss is a bad idea - but no one can object to killing the foul Commie invaders who are systematically destroying the American way of life. Blowing up the public library is a bad idea, too - unless it's the local KGB headquarters. The opportunity for catharsis is immense.
A note to liberal readers
Okay, we know that some of you are going to be uncomfortable with the premise of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM. We didn't do the game to offend your sensibilities; we did it to give you an enjoyable roleplaying experience. And we see no reason why you shouldn't enjoy the game without compromising your political beliefs, whatever they may be. Here's why:
You, personally, don't have to believe the average Soviet soldier is a bloodthirsty killer, or that the Soviet Union could occupy the United States in the next five years. (We don't, either.) THE PRICE OF FREEDOM is a fantasy roleplaying game in the true sense of the word; its fantasy is the right-wing nightmare that America is delivered into the hands of her enemies.
You don't have to approve of secret agents blowing up everybody they take a dislike to to enjoy a James Bond film ...
Think of the game as The Lord of the Rings meets William F. Buckley: the Evil Empire of the East ... uh, that is, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ... masses its troops to assault the last remaining Citadel of the Sons of the Morning ... oops. the last bastion of liberty in an unfree world. Only you stand between the forces of darkness and world dominion; you, the valiant freedom fighter, must strike a blow for liberty. The question isn't whether or not such a terrible thing could happen, but whether or not you could enjoy pretending it has.
Roleplaying works best when everybody involved suspends disbelief and lives the fantasy. The world of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM is remarkably easy to enter:
You play yourself or someone you could reasonably expect to meet on the street. No problem imagining yourself in either of those roles.The setting is modem-day America. Again, no imagination problem.
You defend your home, your family and your friends from real enemies. You and yours are not being threatened by aliens from Proxima Centauri, or some other hypothetical creation from the pages offiction, but by the armed forces and secret police of America's sworn rival. They'll kick your dog, they'll reduce Baskin-Robbins' 31 flavors to 3, they'll cancel Moonlighting ... and then they'll take away your basic human rights. But only if you let them.
That's saying it flippantly, but forget the politics: THE PRICE OF FREEDOM is a dramatic game. Villains are destroying you. They're taking your house, your car, your VCR; they're threatening your family; they're teaching lies to your children. The situation is so intolerable that the only possible response is rage.
We could have done it with a right-wing coup in Washington or mind-devouring alien spore pods - but a Soviet takeover is far more powerful precisely because the Soviets have been our antagonists for so long.
Rage is important; the fun part of the game is its release. You can see yourself grabbing a deer rifle and heading for the hills. You can see yourself as a bloodthirsty Rambo, charging through all adversity, crying, "Do svidanya, tovarisch." as you machinegun down rank upon rank of the godless Communists who wish to destroy the American way.
That catharsis is fun. Let's face it, we'd all like to blow things up. We'd all like to crush our enemies. Fortunately, society forbids us to act on those impulses. THE PRICE OF FREEDOM releases those emotions. And as a result, it can be a gas.
Blow it up! Blow it up real good! Eat hot death. Commie dog!
That's the ticket!
Atmosphere and Mood Setting
As gamemaster, you must maintain an atmosphere - a tone. Each game has Its own tone; THE PRICE OF FREEDOM's is that of a grim world populated by despicable villains and desperate heroes.
Jingoism. In the world of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, patriotism is not a falr-weather sport. When, in our world. someone says something like, "The struggle between Soviet Communism and American liberty is a struggle between freedom and slavery," there is a temptation to smile. Even if true, it seems overstated. The New Hampshire license plate says, "Live free or die;" in our world, the choice is not so stark. In the world of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, it is. The characters of that world take these things very seriously; you'll help your players get in the right mood if you talk about events and characters in the right way. Look over the eagles and quotes throughout the game; they should give you an idea of the note we want to strike.
Grimness. The world of THE PRICE OF FREEDOM Is a bleak one, enlightened by desperate heroism. When describing things, use adjectives like run-down, grimy, shop-worn, haggard. dull-eyed. The world Is grey; whatever color it contains is in the posters, uniforms and flags of the occupiers. Thlnk of the players as shivering, ill-clad men and women standing outside the door of a house where gaiety and celebration reign; the Communists party while America sinks into decay.
Heroism. What brightness there is shines from the light of liberty, burning fiercely in the breasts of a few, scattered men and women. Use words like courage, determination, and heroism when describing that. Bleak; desperate: courageous; opposed by innumerable foes: that's the world in which the player characters live. You'll have to work to make it real to your players.
Characters have to have a reason to pursue a goal. To make your plot work, you must give the players an incentive to pursue its objective.
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM Is a game with villains who are trying to destroy the American way of life. It's a game of violent struggle against those villains. You want your players to try to defeat the villains, to want badly to do so.
Simply telling your players about the situation - Reds occupying America - is a start. But you want to make it personal.
Here's a failsafe: at the beginning of each adventure, have the villains do something completely despicable, evil and wrong. The player characters should either be watching and unable to Intervene, or be told of this horrible act from a sympathetic NPC (e.g., a little girl they've adopted as their mascot), That should outrage them - and the emotions engendered will carry them through the adventure.
For example: the Soviets rip a family asunder. As the PCs watch helplessly, a heavily-armed squad of Soviet soldiers tear the weeping children from the bosom of their mother and pistol-whip their father when he tries to intervene. The parents are loaded onto a pickup truck, and driven away to "reeducation" camps in Alaska, while the mother holds her arms out pitifully to her children.
Or: the Soviets have orders to confiscate every cow In the county - "for emergency food supplies to halt the famine in Arkansas." A farmer tries to prevent them, and is shot dead. Because he tried to stop them, they burn his house and farmstead down - leaving his wife and children standing Silently in the rain.
Or: the Soviets decide to rechisel Washington's face on Mount Rushmore Into Lenin's.
Or: one night, a squad of drunken Soviet soldiers break Into the local Catholic church, remove anything made of gold (monstrance, candlesticks, etc.), and savagely beat the priest when he tries to intervene.
Anything that affects individuals personally has emotional impact; so does the desecration of a national symbol; so does a particularly brutal killing. Any use of violence against the innocent or helpless will suffice.
If you're running a campaign (see section 4), using a character's background is an especially effective device. Seeing an elderly couple turned out of their home Into the bitter December night to make room for a Soviet colonel's headquarters is bad enough; when the elderly couple are your parents, It's something considerably worse. The effect is particularly strong if the player characters have met the parents and talked with them several times over the course of previous adventures - if they know the characters.
As an example of that last section, here are a couple of events from adventures for the game. The first is from the introductory adventure in the core book. The PCs have met at one of the characters apartment to decided what to do. As they leave to go fight the occupation, this happens:-
What're We FIghting For?
Read this aloud:
As you leave the apartment. you can hear old Mrs. Cherzinskl crying next door. A widow and invalid, Mrs. Cherzinskl fled her homeland after her activist husband was killed in the Polish labor uprisings of the '80s. She won't last too long once the Soviets find out who she is.
If the characters knock on her door, she asks who they are and invites them in Upon entering, they find her silting alone in her living room lacing the door, an ancient German Mauser clasped In her hands.
Mrs. Cherzinskl, confined to a wheelchair by arthritis, is fully aware of her fate under Soviet rule. Upon hearing of the United States' surrender. she sent her niece, Margaret, who lives with her, to some relatives in upstate New York. She plans to sit right there until the first Soviet soldier comes to arrest her: she will shoot the soldier, and then herself.
She declines any offers of help with thanks, she is too old and sick. she says, to live through it all again, and this way at least she will be able to strike one blow for freedom before she goes to loin her husband. If the characters tell her they are going to fight the Soviets, she will give them a small pendant from around her neck after removing an old, faded photograph from a hidden compartment. (Melted down, the pendant is two troy ounces of gold.) Kissing the photograph, she bids them farewell with her blessings.
GMing Tip: Setting Tone in an Adventure
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM is about brave men and women struggling heroically against evil. Inhuman oppressors. Unless occasionally reminded of the harsh, brutal world under Soviet rule, players (and often you. the gamemaster) can slip into a Hogan's Heroes mindset - a bunch of fun-loving, happy-go-lucky guys matching wits with those zany Nazis - or in this case, those zany Soviets.
Characters like Mrs. Cherzinski will remind the players what they are fighting for. give them more reason to hate and despise their opponents. and perhaps even set an example of how they should act when facing their own deaths.
This is from a different adventure, and occurs as the Soviets roll in to the PCs home town:-
The Meeting in the Park
At 5PM, the Soviets gather the citizens of Milner to the town park - a large, grassy area in the center of town, where, in happier times, the High School band used to give concerts on cool summer nights. It's getting dark, and they've rigged up spotlights. Any of the PCs still In town attend: anyone who stays home is physically rousted out and force-marched to the park by Soviet soldiers. Anyone who was arrested is brought to the park, under guard.
Finally, everyone In town is assembled. It's cold. Everyone is bundled up, some are shivering. On the periphery of the crowd are a couple of dozen Soviet soldiers. all with automatic rifles.
Colonel Geboshnovlk walks to the bandstand and climbs Its stairs. He clears his throat, and says: "Citizens! By the authority of Act of Occupation 16A-1, I hereby declare the town of Milner to be under martial Law. This means that I have the power of life and death over every one of you:" He pauses.
"In the course of our search. we found several illegal items in the hands of one Lynsie Shaffer, including scurrilous propaganda issued by the enemies of the people. The penalty for this crime Is death." He breaks off and barks something in Russian.
Four Soviet soldiers emerge from the town hall. escorting 18-year old Lynsie Shaffer. Lynsie Is known to all of you - a bright, intelligent young girl. sweetheart of Boyd Johnson - who's now with the rebels.
Lynsie Is barefoot, clad in a torn dress. She walks quietly between the soldiers, head low, eyes unfocused. a steady stream of blood Dowing from her nose. She seems unaware of the cold. One of the soldiers ties her hands behind a "No Parking" signpost infront of the town hall. Then, the four of them line up five yards away.
Lynsle suddenly realizes what Is happenIng, and moves to place the thin, 2-lnch signpost between her and the guards. Geboshnovlk speaks in Russian again; the guns fire.
The signpost offers little protection.
The four soldiers snap to attention.
There Is quiet.
Geboshnovlk turns to address the crowd. "We are not here to destroy you. We have a job to do, and our orders. Do as you are directed, and you will be In no danger. "The following citizens will move to the steps of the town hail." He speaks a long Ust of names - perhaps two dozen.
Edited by ErikB, 02 October 2013 - 08:43 PM.