Sympathetic Protagonists

edited August 2011 in Story Games
Is there any situation where players could find themselves taking on the roles of Nazis (not gestapo gas chamber assholes, but Nazis) without the game having to resort to camp to reconcile the players' actions.

I wonder how many Time Travel stories will never be told from the Nazi perspective of... if we can get back to [A] and find that damn [B], we can stop the Allies from [C].

Note. I'm not a Nazi lover. I'm just exploring a weird idea at 3am.


  • edited August 2011
    (I'm ignoring the whole "German soldier does not automatically mean Nazi" matter here, let's take that dicussion elsewhere.)

    Sure, it should be playable, I'd love to play that. I think I'd start the game with some flashbacks, or other events happening before the war, to show the characters as humans, not only faceless baby killers.

    There's this old movie with Rutger Hauer called Soldier of Orange (minor spoilers for that movie follows), that shows what the war did to a group of friends. Most of them were "good guys" who fought in the resistance in various ways, but one of the characters joins the other side, and his destiny is just as moving as that of the others. Probably because we get to see him as he was before the war.

    I'd stay clear of the Holocaust, unless the game was written to make a specific point somehow. No matter which point of view was taken. Not to say there aren't interesting stories to be found there, I have seen many movies with that back drop, but it would make me feel somewhat uncomfortable I think. (And not in the good Montsegur 1244-way uncomfortable.)
  • edited August 2011

    I think you could do a FULL METAL JACKET, 9th COMPANY (russian version), SOLDIER OF ORANGE, etc. film about "group of friends" who go to war and let people place it in any war they want to.

    I just wonder if in gaming Nazi will ever be taken seriously as a viable game environment that doesn't involve wacky super solders or pulp adventure or stupid occult items. Could you really play the other side in Grey Ranks, for instance? The quesiton may be worth exploring, albeit so long as the players accept that this experiment may (and most likely will) go horribly wrong.

    And yeah. I think a Holocaust game needs to just be a Holocaust game. If anyone could actually stomach that.
  • Wilhelm and Jim, I've been down this road a little. I played a couple of games of "Puppetland" transparently inspired by suicide bombing attacks, where the PCs were on the suicide bombing side. The games were intense but we didn't really talk about them right afterwards, which I think may be important. We did come back to them days, and even years, later, but I feel like it was important to just walk away from the game at the instant.
  • For non-game resources, check out The Keep (old Michael Mann flick) and the Jason Lutes comic novels (still being written) Berlin.

    For in-game, I think you're asking for an awful lot of nuance, if you're thinking about anything published. I'm sure there are tables that would (and even have) done exactly what you're talking about. But I suspect the Unwashed Gaming Masses would not react usefully. Feel free to ask the question on and see what happens there.
  • I played in an WWII game of AFMBE where we were in the was all pretty messed up and the reveal was [whitetextspoiler] that there were no zombies to the scenario, we were the monsters, so the GM was fucking with our expectations as players for their to be something supernatural going on [end spoiler]

    I was the captain of the squad and did some pretty messed up stuff. I wouldn't say it descended into camp. We had players throughout the spectrum of morality/opposition to what was going on. It was a weird experience, especially as a Jewish person.
  • DorkThoughts,

    Thanks for that. It is my fear that this kind of gaming (which I've had notes on for years) could descend into camp, or offend someone of a certain persuasion. When in actuality, I'm purposely pushing the boundaries to explore the limits of what the medium will do. Shock is boring. Discomfort is healthy (in my artistic opinion).
  • If the goal is to explore the (in)humanity of those events, perhaps focusing on a narrow theme, I think that could be okay. By choosing to set the game as playing Nazis your explicity associating the characters with what was done, even if indirectly. Art has already shown us that it can be approached respectfully, and a realistic portrayal can stay respectful.
  • The hard part is doing it respectfully and viscerally at the same time. It's a very dangerous knife edge to walk, to be honest.

    The game would be about more than nazis, but about uncomfortable acts from all walks of life. I just chose the Nazi angle at the beginning of this thread because

    a) it was 3am
    b) it is probably the big "taboo" and of all the things I would write about — the most to draw fire — even if, for instance, there was also a serial killer in the mix, or a human trafficker... and so on.

    Anyway. Food for thought.
  • edited August 2011
    Posted By: jim pinto
    It is my fear that this kind of gaming (which I've had notes on for years) could descend into camp, or offend someone of a certain persuasion. When in actuality, I'm purposely pushing the boundaries to explore the limits of what the medium will do.
    I have been running Montsegur 1244 a lot at cons lately. And it is definitely a game that can offend people, or worse IMO touch upon traumas from the past since it contains strong themes including sexual abuse and cause genuine and highly undesired discomfort or anxiety. Yet, I don't think that we should shy away from such games but instead be very clear about what the games are about, so that everyone can make a choice of whether to participate or not.

    Every game of Montsegur I run is preceded by an "antipitch", where I explain that the game contains mature themes, I give some examples, and suggest that we play another game instead if anyone even hesitates a little. This weeds out the players that would not enjoy the game, and it also makes a clear statement of what is expected of the players that play the game.
  • It could be that removing the game from "nazi" and into the general realm of "totalitarism" would open up the field. Nazi comes with a lot of connotations, and most of them may act as stumbling blocks to the intuitive characterization such a game would depend on.

    I had some players participate in a war-scenario once, and by making small choices in liege with the military orders they were being dragged, little by little, into an ethic field that left them with a really foul taste in their mouths. The great thing about it was that none of the players/characters could flee from the responsibility of their own choices. They had seen the consequences of total war, and had held the swords themselves. Made for a pretty damn effective rpg-session.
  • It's not a roleplaying game, but it does hit some of the stuff you're talking about, Jim, and it's one way to approach the Holocaust in games: Train, by Brenda Braithwaite.
  • Check out 24 Game Poems; one of the games in it has the players playing the role of Nazi soldiers in a bunker on the French coast. On D-Day.

    Haven't played it yet but totally would.

  • Posted By: Hans c-oIt's not a roleplaying game, but it does hit some of the stuff you're talking about, Jim, and it's one way to approach the Holocaust in games:Train, by Brenda Braithwaite.
    F**k me. That's brilliant.

    Someone once wrote, "Those who play to win, only play half the game."
  • I completely agree. First read through on the thread I was already imagining the word Nazi as a stand in for any despicable human behavior.

    Two things I would suggest to help maintain respect, first is to never let the characters off the hook. This doesn't mean they need to be punished in the story, but rather we must be reminded what it is they've done that makes us look down on them. Their acts of evil should be in full view and directly associated with them.

    Second, I would consider blocking out time to discuss the events of a session after it is over. Time to discuss the themes and events, how they relate to the same or similar events in real life. The impact they had on the victims and the importance of all this to the participants in the game.

    There is a documentary series I would recommend, Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, both for some direct relevance to a Nazi game and also for a potential format of after game discussions.
  • Wilhelm,

    I think I love Montsegur so much because it takes me out of my comfort zone. I love that feeling in the pit of my stomach that says... this isn't D&D. These aren't orcs. This isn't "adventure." We are going somewhere unsafe, people.
  • jim,
    yes, me too! But I will only inflict that experience on someone who asks for it (not saying that you would, just that I am very careful when I set up games).

    A very interesting feeling came to me when I played Montsegur and got the Inquisitor story card, and got to play the "Nazis" of the the game for a while. A dude who acted in good faith and with good intentions, yet from the view point of the other characters was a horrible person. The change of perspective, suddenly threw my compass of Good/Bad out of alignment. And the situation wasn't black and white any longer. That was very cool, and is very much a part of why I like Montsegur so much.
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