Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gangsters Have Much to Teach Us

Paul Muni as "Scarface," 1932
The best roleplaying sessions I ever played were a GangBusters campaign run by the game’s designer, Mark Acres. This campaign was legendary around TSR. Everyone wanted in, so Mark routinely wound up handling twelve or more players at a time. Understand that GangBusters is a tabletop version of simple, straightforward cops and robbers set in the 1920s. There are no urban arcana-style Elf Capone bootleggers backed by thuggish ogre torpedoes, no private investigators who mix tough talk with magic, no cosmic horrors lurking at the threshold of reality; just crooked cops, honest G-men, brutal racketeers, and intrepid newspaper reporters.

With such diverse characters, GangBusters doesn’t run like D&D. Characters don’t form into a cohesive adventuring party pursuing a single goal. Everyone has his or her own agenda. Gangsters want to set up a criminal empire, bribe politicians, and amass a fortune in dirty money before winding up in the can or a coffin. FBI agents and the police want to pinch the criminals without getting too dirty themselves. Newspaper reporters want to blow the lid off all that crime and corruption without getting themselves clipped from both sides. Private investigators want to scratch out a living without getting set up, framed, and sucker punched too often.

(Read the rest at Kobold Quarterly ...)

1 comment:

  1. I owned it and most of the modules, but I never got a chance to do more than roll up a couple of characters.

    A lot of what you described tends to leak over into pretty much everything I run, however, particularly ABC. I see the Mafia as the perfect represenation of feudalism, and vice versa, so any game-world that's driven by personal duty and loyalty, from 1625 France in my Flashing Blades campaign to the Third Imperium in Traveller, takes a lot of its inspiration from The Godfather.