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Soldiers of Pen and Ink



Please do not read on if you intend to play/run the game as this post contains some thoughts on possible additions/changes to the scenario to make it run better.


I've recently played through this scenario with my group and we thoroughly enjoyed it. While preparing for the game, I was a bit concerned about the disaffection/hope rules: I did not like the idea of running it mechanistically, in a tit for tat overt way of using theology/politics spends that the players would presumably need to announce, so I wanted to see if the characters themselves will be able to pick up during the flow of the game that politics is a way of protecting their own and other people's sanity. this did happen but only towards the very end of the scenario, after one of the PCs had gone permanently insane, become Disaffected and then got shot by the other PCs as a traitor (conveniently, that PC was the only Trotskite, the rest were Stalinists). This shook them up quite a bit and after that they regularly sang communist songs and made proclamations to maintain their own stability. But in terms of "solving" the problems posed by the scenario, my group went along with working for the Soviets to find and eliminate 5th column agents "the Author", "the Radiooperator", and "the Kinematographer".


One thing I realised while running the scenario was that I should have perhaps not given my 4 players a choice of the characters they want to play and then just given them the characters as they are: they chose Meyer, Thomas, Fellowes and Bennett, but this left them without some crucial skills for collecting clues as Kovar has medicine/pharmacy/biology and Schepens has electrical repair,craft and photography. Crucially, these are the only two characters that have psychoanalysis. In retrospect, I should have redistributed these skills among the other characters before running the game and perhaps in that case my group may have followed a more psychological approach to the scenario, instead of the political take they took. Finally, physics and occult could also be added to some pregen PCs, as both are important skills for obtaining clues.


now when it comes to the scenario, it all played out fairly well and i only added or changed a few things to do with the background feel and historical accuracy. i had to do that as some of my players are quite a bit into history so i did not want them nagging about whether hemmingway was or wasn't there.


Ramon: I fleshed out his background in order to make him more controversial at the start. I named him Ramon Beltran Alfonso de la Huerta y Osores, with his father being the Duke of Mandas and Villanueva. This is a region where Carlism is rife. His brother is a colonel in the Carlist army outside of Madrid. I also changed it so that he was in LA and not NY, as that's where the film moguls were, and made him an associate of Karl Lemle from those days (Lemle was pronouncedly anti-Hitler). I also made it that he worked for TASS as a translator, as that seemed more logical.


Instead of Hemmingway, I used Andre Malraux. He led the "Spain" squadron while wearning a haut couture uniform, spent time in Russia in 1934 hanging out with Stalin and was an adventurer and mythomaniac, so he seemed like a perfect addition to add some desperate colouration to the game.


For a bit of atmosphere in the hotel Florida, I added the Yankee squadron pilots Bertrand Acosta, Eddie Schneider and Frederick Lord. They were Malraux's buddies.


For Dos Passos, I changed it so that he is writing Ramon letters about what his friend Rables has learned while working as a translator for Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko, the Soviet consul general in Madrid. This involves the Stalinist/Trotskist conflicts and will require Rables to be purged as well as he's learned too much.


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Sounds good. I need to finish reading the book so I can figure out whether / when to run it.

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There is one obvious gap in this scenario for me: Dolores Ibarutti "La Passionara" the communist orator who invented the phrase "No pasaran!" and whose radio broadcasts stiffened and maintained the morale of the Madrilenos is not mentioned. Now given the use of politics to maintain sanity and the importance of propaganda to the scenario, her presence would seem de rigeur. I think that she needs to be introduced into the scenario in some way.

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yes! la pasionaria would represent an ideal backdrop under which you could have the emergence of the new, toxic propaganda, with her own slogans gradually replaced by the quasi-royalist but in fact "king in yellow" defeatism.


if i played the adventure again, i would also try to build in ercole ercoli aka alfredo aka palmiro togliatti, who ran the whole comintern show from the shadows and according to some sources also wrote some of the famous speeches by diaz and la pasionaria. according to some sources, he was clandestinely in spain already in 1936.

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