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Hot War “Scenarios”

By on December 16, 2011
Gaz Bowerbank

I’ve been asked a few times about creating a Hot War scenario, or the characters, or both, so I’m going to write up a half-baked demo here (done in some spare time this afternoon fag-packet style), to give people an idea about the process. If someone (or several people) want to polish up this starting point to a finished scenario, then great! Please let me know how it goes. The following kind of assumes some basic understanding of Hot War, but not too much familiarity, so without any more preamble, lets get into it:

Start with your basic idea.

There’s (potentially) a nuclear bomb in an underground bunker thought lost to Weird bombardment.
SSG are being sent to retrieve it, where others have failed.
Rumours are that the Soviets know about the location now and so time is of the essence.

Chuck some characters together. Guess at how they may be related to one another. Stick them in a diamond formation on some scrap paper. Its Hot War so they should all be from different factions.

  • An old professor from the BERB seems appropriate.
  • An Army sapper who’s studying with the professor as the factions are in a shaky alliance (lets say)
  • A Naval officer (as foil for the Army, and there to make sure the Navy’s nuclear dominance persists)
  • A Government observer, because this resource is for the good of Britain after all.

Next, in the corners, stick an NPC who could link the two adjoining characters in some, or at least be mutually known, even if the PCs are unaware of this fact. I normally at this point put in some markers for positive and negative relationships both in and out for each PC. One thing to do to help the process is to jot down ideas as they come along. They can always be changed later. In this case it seems appropriate that there should be a Soviet spy. It could be one of the NPCs, but seems much more fun to make it a PC. Lets make it the Army guy. We could equally make the Old School Network guy or gal some kind of love triangle interest or something like that. As ideas come, jot them down somewhere.

  • An “Old School Tie Network” character from public school
  • A Black Marketer sound fun, but the cover is a Trade Union engineer sent along to help
  • An RAF Agent Provocateur (the RAF has little power themselves, but want to play Army and Navy against each other)
  • A member of USCEC, ostensibly helping out professor and student

I can then start putting arrows on for relationships, ticking off a marker when one of that type is drawn (I use these just for PC to PC relationships, you could add more ticks or crosses for NPCs too if you want to keep a track of how balanced you’re being). Ideally each PC will have two or three relationships, at least one of each type, but it rarely works out perfectly. But it’s a starting point all the same.

Once you’ve built up a good web of relationships (it doesn’t have to be complete yet), you can start wracking up the Agendas. I started with Factional ones, and didn’t bother giving anyone an outright “capture the bomb and bring it back” as that seemed to obvious, but they should all be different.

  • Professor – Recover the secret plans and documents (details of other sites, launch codes, whatever you think)
  • Government – Recover the fissile materials from the bomb, giving us stuff for power generation and disabling the military threat
  • Navy – Disable the device and core. Denied to the Enemy. We’re the only ones with a nuclear device, lets keep it that way.
  • Army (Soviet) – Detonate the bomb and cause destruction amongst our enemies

I then considered some Personal agendas – curious this time they started being in tune with the factional ones, rather than rubbing against them, but that could change…

  • Professor – Fire the missile! What’s the point of working for a rocket bureau and never seeing a rocket launch? Besides, it not like there’s anything else in the world left to destroy… (Thinking some more about this, you could tie it in to “Raising a flare” for the USCEC guy to see if any Americans are left out there.)
  • Government – Maybe something about getting the Professor on side, and forget some past transgression involving their “shared” NPC?
  • Navy – (Not sure yet!)
  • Army – Frame the professor for sabotage (he’s been withholding information for far too long, the bastard)

Much like writing a book and constantly rewriting or revising drafts, the magic happens from now on, when you fill in what you can, go away and come back to it later. In between just run through things in your head while your waiting for the bus, in the shower, wherever. If you think of other bits and pieces, write them down or stick them in your phone (obviously not while in the shower).

It might be that as part of the refining process some NPCs change or you have to redraw your relationship diagram (I refuse to say R-Map or other “hip” phrases). But that’s all good. Tweak here and there, turn arrows around, fiddle with agendas, its all fun. Eventually you’ll get to a point where it all fits well enough, or looks interesting. There should be arrows pointing in lots of different directions. E.g. the NPC that links two characters should not be positive to both PCs, even if they’re outwardly positive to both.

The key things are:

  • Write stuff down as you think of it.
  • Don’t worry if everything isn’t perfectly balanced, as long as it looks interesting.
  • Have connections all over the place.
  • Walk away, do something else, come back and look at it again and see what else you think of or want to change.
  • Add or subtract from what you’ve got like crazy.

Have fun!

About Gaz Bowerbank

Founder member of The Smart Party, Gaz has been roleplaying for what is rapidly approaching 30 years, which makes him feel old. On the plus side he'd run and or played just about all the games that were out there, until small press publishing got popular, and now there's never enough time. Roleplaying is only one of an eclectic mix of hobbies, but takes up most of his time and Gaz can be seen at many UK conventions and one or two abroad too, his name's in the odd publication and the list of playtest credits is too big to mention. If you want an opinion or advice (on just about anything) ask this man. Bring beer.

One Comment

  1. Martin Bailey

    12 Jan 13 at 8:52 pm

    I love the relationship map. I have used this over and over again. It’s a great way to get good conflict going in a party.

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