American gamers—like all Americans, really—have been soaking in the folklore and history of the Revolutionary War all their lives. The struggle for independence is so suffused in our culture that it often takes profound study to separate the folklore from the history. It was an exciting time in the North American colonies, full of spies and secret missions—and the world’s mightiest military force against a literally rag-tag bunch of partisans who were often more elusive than effective.
The setting features small groups from all walks of life, bound together by a common goal. The dramatic stakes are high. The historical setting details are abundant. Yet for some reason, the Revolutionary War gets short shrift in gaming, with a few memorable wargames but not much else.
Enter the kickstarter for Revolutionaries—American War of Independence RPG. The crowdfunding campaign launched July 4 (of course), and $30 plus shipping gets you the boxed version of the game. Thirty bucks!
I’m honestly not sure how they’re making that price point work, because the game looks sharp, and the pedigree of the designers is top notch. It’s a big team, but I’ll highlight two names of interest to grognards like me: managing director Mark Rein•Hagen (he still uses the dot, right?), designer of seminal stuff like Ars Magica and Vampire: The Masquerade, and creative director C.A. Suleiman, who’s contributed to a ton of D&D and World of Darkness books (full disclosure: I think we may have contributed to some of the same 3E D&D books back in the day).
The game wisely focuses on the “secret history” of the Revolutionary War, using the real-life Culper ring as the inspiration for the default protagonists. (RPGs tend to work better with strong defaults for who the PCs are and what they’re doing.) If you wanted, I imagine you should nudge the game into the horrific (it’s New England, after all, home of Lovecraft and King) or magical (maybe into Seventh Son territory).
The other reason I’m enchanted with Revolutionaries is that the PCs are going to be fighting against an unjust authority. That’s something I think a lot of RPGs have lost along the way. In most games and in most genres, the PCs are agents of the lawful authorities—maybe technically independent, maybe not. The patron, boss, or other authority figure tells the PCs about a threat to the home society, and the PCs go out and quash it.
I for one am tired of that. I want more stories about sticking it to The Man. Early RPGs were replete with those sorts of adventure setups, but now they’re the exception, not the rule.
Side note: I realize this sounds like a Trump thing, but it’s been nibbling away at me for a good five years now. Not that I don’t have feelings about politics! But this ain’t about that. It’s more that I worry gamers are getting too heavy a diet of “agents of lawful authority,” and on balance it’s more fun and more dramatic to be the righteous underdogs, blowing stuff up in the name of freedom.
That’s why I’m all in on Revolutionaries (and why my own writing tends to have the PCs as rebels). You’ve got until August 1 to join the Kickstarter campaign, though it wouldn’t shock me if you saw a retail release for this game at some point, too.