Why the 30s is the only valid decade to set a game in

edited March 2010 in Story Games
I've been trying to come up with a way to express this idea as it pertains to my game, Dark Days. A faux-1930's is the perfect setting for what I'm trying to do with my game, but really, the 30s are probably one of the most awesome decades to set a game in. Join me in celebration of this magnificent era.

Zeppelins. Dude. Awesome flying machines are always awesome. You can eradicate planes from your setting and have all transportation be zeppelin-centered for an alt-history vibe.

Don't like Zeppelins? The 30s is the time of Amelia Earhart and her awesome accomplishments. Pilots are flying planes across oceans and shit!

Less awesome: The Dustbowl.
During the drought of the 1930s, with no natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds. At times the clouds blackened the sky reaching all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic Ocean, carried by prevailing winds which were in part created by the dry and bare soil conditions itself. These immense dust storms–given names such as "Black Blizzards".
Still, a great source of drama and atmosphere.
Have you watched Carnivale yet?

Swing music rises in popularity. Come on, Swing is awesome. There's still Jazz if you prefer that.

The Radio is the dominant mass media device. There are radio mystery shows and all kinds of wacky stuff going on.

Hemingway, Faulkner, Chandler, Steinbeck and other bad ass dudes are doing their things during this decade.

Although it's not strictly within this decade, we also have dudes like Capone and Dillinger running around robbing banks.

There's also a bunch of really depressing stuff, like the rise of Nazism and of course the Great Depression, but let's stick to the awesomeness yeah?

Comments

  • Here, look at the pretty pictures.

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  • Posted By: northerain
    The Radio is the dominant mass media device. There are radio mystery shows and all kinds of wacky stuff going on.
    Sold. RPGs are the natural continuation of 1930s Radio Dramas. I'd love to see a game where actual play had to sound like an episode of The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly or The Creaking Door.
  • I thought that this was going to be about the indepdendence for Ecuador, Greece and Belgium, the Polish insurrection against Russian rule, The Liberator, the Nat Turner slave rebellion, Darwin's voyage on the Beagle, the Black Hawk War, the June Rebellion student uprisings in Paris, the analytical engine, Kaspar Hauser's stabbing, the first electric car, the Great Moon Hoax, the Texas Revolution, the Great Fire of New York, Oliver Twist, the Institute for Colored Youth, the Broad Street Riot, the daguerrotype, the Trail of Tears, the invasion of Mexico by France, the Central American revolutions, the Amistad slave revolt, and the First Opium War.

    Ya know, the thirties!

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  • edited March 2010
    Posted By: lordgoonPosted By: northerain
    The Radio is the dominant mass media device. There are radio mystery shows and all kinds of wacky stuff going on.
    Sold. RPGs are the natural continuation of 1930s Radio Dramas. I'd love to see a game where actual play had to sound like an episode ofThe Shadow,Fibber McGee and MollyorThe Creaking Door.

    Couldn't agree more. I will without a moment's hesitation dig out my credit card and purchase the game than can reliably deliver Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, the RPG.
  • I don't agree, but it does give me some great ideas for A Dirty World.
  • Because I do love to role-play me some oppression: sexism, racism, fascism, colonialism ... - take your pick!
  • Posted By: Nathan WilsonBecause I do love to role-play me some oppression: sexism, racism, fascism, colonialism ... - take your pick!
    No kidding! Awesome, ain't it?

    Helluva lot more interesting than whacking orcs and stealing their pie!
  • Right. Genocide is my favorite too.

    I meant it more as a "Hey, yeah it's great that things are great for affluent white people in RPGs in our nostalgic history" less of a "It's great that these things are no longer practiced! Viva la multicultural neoliberal utopia!"

    That is, I adore Lovecraft but he's as bigoted they come. That terror, fear and hatred permeates most of his writing and gives it a certain edge. However, when I play CoC, it's as a lesbian torch singer tormented by lesser evils and not as professor white-bread hunting evil orientals.

    I don't mean to derail the threat or hate on the OP. I suppose I'm just being reactionary against any sort of rose-coloured nostalgia and genre romanticism - particularly of the Dirty '30s.
  • I'm still waiting for a great game set roughly between 1955 and 1975.
  • What's between 1955 and 1975?
  • Are you guys serious?
    Why don't you got burn copies of Spirit of the Century and Call of Cthulhu or something, if you can't contain your outrage.
    Do you also hate every film or book that deals with the past? Do the awful things that happened during the 30s or the 20s or the 40s overshadow everything else that happened in those eras?
  • The 1930s are a fantastic game setting.

    As well as planes, everyone's trying to break speed records on land and water. So you get ridiculous rocket-powered cars and boats. Zeppelins, as you mention, are also about.

    As well as the radio, we have the launch of television. Sure, nobody had televisions, but you can't argue with big antennae broadcasting pictures.

    There is the whole murder mystery thing. That's 1930s. So that's about faded grandeur: people trying to live like Edwardians, but with the money running out. The 1930s were the last days of the country house (shortly before they were requisitioned for the war).

    It's the last days of Art Deco. And, although there was poverty, there was also conspicuous wealth. The Bright Young Things, in London, were tearing up the town with ridiculous parties.

    In game terms, there is quite a lot of weird science. You've got Tesla's big electric guns and electric cars. Nazi weird science also seems to be something of a gaming trope.

    Graham
  • Posted By: migoWhat's between 1955 and 1975?
    Roughly (give or take a few years), in no particular order:
    McCarthyism, spies, Cold War, Bay of Pigs, Gladio, Hell's Angels, Beatniks, Hippies, Charles Manson, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Summer of Love, Beatles, Nixon, Mad Men, Keruac, Ginsberg, William S. Burrougs, H.S.T., Gonzo, Malcom X, M.L.King, JFK, pseudoscience, Vietnam, Zodiac, Son of Sam, LaVey, Bowie, Bay of Pigs, Berlin Wall, Sputnik, Moon Landing, Richard Alpert, Barthes, Derrida, Lacan, Focault, Leary, Ballard, Debord, B.F. Skinner, Heinlein, Herbert, Pynchon, Boys from Brazil, Yom Kippur War, Munich Massacre, first microchips, feminism, situationism, neoism, discordianism, Weather Underground...

    There were all kinds of crazy going on. The question is, what can you do with in in terms of a rpg? But that's for another thread I guess.
  • edited March 2010
    Posted By: TeataineI'm still waiting for a great game set roughly between 1955 and 1975.
    Spione is set in Berlin between 1952 and 1989.

    Carry is set during the Vietnam War.
  • Every time is fascinating and game-worthy, especially the times no one pays any attention to.
  • Posted By: northerainAre you guys serious?
    Why don't you got burn copies of Spirit of the Century and Call of Cthulhu or something, if you can't contain your outrage.
    Do you also hate every film or book that deals with the past? Do the awful things that happened during the 30s or the 20s or the 40s overshadow everything else that happened in those eras?
    For me, the editorial voice in favor of those awful things often can overshadow everything else in a piece of art. I try to go "product of the times" but I'm not always successful.

    As a result, when playing in the "good old days," I can't hardly ever avoid the impulse to point out how fucked things were from our perspective in a lot of ways.
  • Gregor:
    You really love The Bay of Pigs. :-P

    Robert:
    I heartily agree. When I run "era" games, I try to make them like Mad Men: All the motifs and awesome parts, but then also point out how rough it was for the people living in that period. Of course, I try to tone it down when running two-fisted adventure pulp, but otherwise, everything is ripe for the highlighting.

    Noah
  • Posted By: Robert BohlPosted By: northerainAre you guys serious?
    Why don't you got burn copies of Spirit of the Century and Call of Cthulhu or something, if you can't contain your outrage.
    Do you also hate every film or book that deals with the past? Do the awful things that happened during the 30s or the 20s or the 40s overshadow everything else that happened in those eras?
    For me, the editorial voice in favor of those awful things often can overshadow everything else in a piece of art. I try to go "product of the times" but I'm not always successful.

    As a result, when playing in the "good old days," I can't hardly ever avoid the impulse to point out how fucked things were from our perspective in a lot of ways.


    That's awesome too. It's part of the era. I illustrated what I thought was awesome about it, but there's plenty of space to discuss all the fucked up shit that took place. Hell, in my game, it's more about the bad shit (corrupt/inept police force, crooked politicians, poverty, etc) than zeppelins, but I couldn't classify all that as ''awesome''.
  • I enjoy games set in the 1930s because of the awful things that happened then. A game where I get to fight against rampant racism, imperialism and genocide feels great. If the game asks me to simply accept the 1930s as some kind of wonderful time to live, though, that I just can't stand.
  • Definitely. This is why I included the Dust Bowl and referenced Carnivale above. A game set in that time and place would be really interesting to me.
  • Lots of great crime stuff in the 30s. Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, assassination attempt on FDR, the Lindbergh baby.

    Over in Asia, Mao starts on the Long March and the Japanese invade China.

    Apparently, Parker Bros release Monopoly in 1934.
  • I enjoy games set in the 1930sbecause ofthe awful things that happened then. A game where I get to fight against rampant racism, imperialism and genocide feels great. If the game asks me to simply accept the 1930s as some kind of wonderful time to live, though, that I just can't stand.

    Me, too. I've always wanted to do a game inspired by the Jazz Age Invisibles: a cell of Jazz musicians, poets, authors, and dancers, redefining reality, cuz this one's just too awful.

  • edited March 2010
    Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanI enjoy games set in the 1930sbecause ofthe awful things that happened then. A game where I get to fight against rampant racism, imperialism and genocide feels great. If the game asks me to simply accept the 1930s as some kind of wonderful time to live, though, that I just can't stand.

    Me, too. I've always wanted to do a game inspired by the Jazz Age Invisibles: a cell of Jazz musicians, poets, authors, and dancers, redefining reality, cuz this one's just too awful.

    Man I read a great book you'd like then, called Paris Noir about African-American ex-pats living in Paris during the Jazz Age. It's got a ton of potential to be pulpified.
  • There was only one reason to consider the 20s for Trail, and that was copyright, and that's a publisher, not a player problem. So the 30s were ideal.
  • edited March 2010
    Swing? Jazz? Fuck that shit.

    The '30s was the heyday of the Delta Blues, gentlemen. If you can't get a decent RPG out of that, I pity you.
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    Edit-sorry for the funky image formatting.
  • edited March 2010
    Posted By: migoWhat's between 1955 and 1975?
    1959. The year that everything changed.

    In many ways, this year was when humanity moved beyond civilization.
  • I wholeheartedly recommend a podcast called Welcome to Mars. It covers the very weirdness of 1947 (the year humans broke the sound barrier and the Roswell incident) to 1959. It's awesome.

    Jamey, I've also thought a bunch about roving bluesmen dealing with the Man and the Devil, but Ben Lehman already did that.

  • "That is, I adore Lovecraft but he's as bigoted they come."

    Very true, but he learned better towards the end of his life. That's why it's a bunch of the Catholic immigrants which he spent decades hating and loathing who save the world in "Haunter of the Dark."

    BTW, Gladio? Nobody talks about Gladio. I'd never heard of Gladio till a couple years ago on some conspiracy theory blog. Too cool that you dropped that in, Teataine.
  • Italians talk about Gladio.

    While we're on a cold war nostalgia-gaming kick, Doug Ruff's The Dinner Party is set in November, 1974.
  • Ed, the fact remains that the horror in Lovecraft is that, if black people are like animals, and regular people are like black people, it makes people animals!

    He had all the insight into the human condition that you'd expect from a rich shut-in.

  • I'm not sure I follow you, Joshua, on the summary of Lovecraftian themes. But you don't need to look for racism hidden under Mythos themes -- outright racism aplenty appears all over Lovecraft's work.

    I have read that towards the end of his life, Lovecraft realized, at least to some degree, that what he'd believed and written for most of his life on that subject was terribly wrong. And the story "The Haunter in the Dark" was partly a small gesture of repentance. Even if that's true, he had a lot to repent of. His racism through most of his life was extreme (even for the time) and explicit.

    A rich shut-in? Only barely rich enough to survive as a shut-in rather than ending up on the streets, I think.

    But yeah, he was a hell of a misfit and like many misfits, he compensated for what seemed like failures in his life by recasting them as failures of the world to be what it ought to be. And racism figured into that big time (much as it does for many people today).
  • I don't know about extreme. He did marry a Jewish lady after all.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarEvery time is fascinating and game-worthy, especially the times no one pays any attention to.
    Seconded.

    Re: 1930s... P.G. Wodehouse. I want to roleplay these guys:

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  • I think these people are largely 30s characters:

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  • The greatest thing about the 1930's as far as I'm concerned: lots of stuff from it is now in the public domain.
  • Talking of Jeeves and Wooster, bend your mind round this.
  • edited March 2010
    I think you mean:
    Posted By: GB SteveTalking of Jeeves and Wooster, bend your mind roundthis.
  • Posted By: GB SteveTalking of Jeeves and Wooster, bend your mind roundthis.
    Nice! Alan Moore included a fantastic send-up/mash-up of Wodehouse and Lovecraft in Black Dossier. His use of language from both sources is spot-on.
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