Pick #16: The Eleventh Hour

As today is the day of the Armistice, the end of the Great War - the war that was supposed to end all wars and thus ended up as World War I - since it's today 102 years ago that it ended... I thought it would be interesting to see if there is a World War I role playing game.

Some searching does deliver quite a few wargames, an iPhone app that "features some rpg elements" (called 1951 - World War One, which looks cool), and some silly skills for WWI characters on a web forum. And there's this effort at online writing... at the Second Great War RPG. But I'm not even sure if it's the right war. That's how inside this looks to me. Or you could try this shockwave game Warfare 1917.

But it's still not what I mean. I mean a full fledged, paper and pen RPG. One where you could relive history as a fighter pilot, or in the trenches, or as a spy like Mata Hari. And maybe, just maybe, there would be ghosts there too. A friend once did a series of Call of Cthulhu games set in the trenches, and is was a wild succes. Imagine ghouls and Shoggoths crawling through the subterranean tunnels. The players even visisted some real Great War sites afterwards, because they were both intrigued and horrrified by what they learned in researching their games. It was a gruesome war. Like any war. But worse.

And still, the setting keeps calling. Maybe... just maybe, I should write a WWI RPG for myself. Someday. Beat me to it.

-  Pictures are part from the Imperial War Museum collection and Flickr Commons. Both are in the public domain and gratefully borrowed throughWikipedia.


  1. I'm not too sure a WWI setting would be needed, or fun.
    It's not really needed for the obvious reason that many systems (GURPS, D20, DD) can be easily adapted (or already are) for the technology level of that time - the rest is up to the creativity of the GM. Apart from that, what would you specifically want a player to do in that setting? For the military roles the challenge is that WWI was a sloooow war, and one person was very very unlikely to make any kind of difference in the brief time time they lived, also a wargame/boardgame would be better suited than a rpg to get any kind of satisfying experience. Leaves spies, and for playing those there's probably more interesting settings/periods as well. The period doesn't have much, if anything, to offer for pen&paper roleplaying hence the lack thereof.

  2. Fun might not be the right word. But I've always been intrigued by a huge subterranean setting - such as a mega dungeon - but then in world war I, a very vague war, where you go and do short search and destroy missions into enemy trenches at night. Or steal out to a farm on the other side of the line. Or perhaps try to spy in hospitals, to find a way to force a breakthrough. It's a kind of nightmareland, which you can - as a soldier have to - step into, from a kind of fairy tale green and pleasant land.

    I think WWI is actually a true apocalyptic setting - and also suitable for... a gritty rpg.

    But I do agree with you that joining in a straight charge where your chances of survival are close to nil is not necessarily rpg-suitable. You'd have to give the PC's some sort of edge, or curse maybe, to help them survive such carnage.

  3. There are always ways, it's just too thin for a full setting in my opinion. A time-travel campaign where the group visits pivotal periods in history would have room for a few sessions in WWI which could indeed bring some interesting and different play. Mind you, you'd have to ban players from quoting Blackadder Goes Forth or they'd be at it all through the session, insistently. I know I would be :-)

  4. Too thin? Yeah, I agree that the scope has to be clear. A goal that spans across the whole game.

    But just visiting the setting in a time-travel campaign would be too thin to my taste - don't let that stop you, I would play in it ;-)

    How about this? Think Clash of Great Empires. The British Empire and the Sea powers, dreadnoughts sail out to crush the enemy. Hordes of inspired men go into nightmareland in Flanders. Teutonic Knights fly on their steeds of linen and wood high above. Think also The Forever War. A War where the end is not clear. One that last as long as we remember. Or at least too long.

    Or this? Think Orcs invading Middle-Earth.
    Get a sense of what I'm searching for?