State of the Conspiracy: The Candidate Release!

It’s been a while since a ‘State of the Conspiracy’ post has incorporated any new material so here’s a big one: A brand new version of the game that has the potential to be damn near complete. Download Project Cassandra: Candidate Release.

I say near complete for the simple reason that with the addition of a couple more pieces of artwork I think it would stand well as a finished game. I like the material, I like the look and it feels like it has everything it has to have.

But… there are a few things that the game could really do with. The first is some proof reading and external playtesting. I’ve been collecting feedback from a few people and playtests as I go but I still feel like it would be great if I was able to find somebody who was willing to pull it apart and make me question / defend what I’ve produced.

The second is that while I’ve run it for a number of groups I’ve not had the chance to get somebody else to run it and I need to know how well it stands up without my presence. Third, Scribus and Acrobat. Yeah, publishing tools strike again. There’s some weird issue with the fonts that I suspect are down to how Scribus is embedding them but on certain versions of Acrobat for Android the text just comes out like this:

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So I’ve got to sort that out, luckily one of the kind folks at Adobe Support is having a look at it for me but in all likelihood it’ll mean running the document through Acrobat Pro but I’m holding off on that until everything is done just to save on subscription costs. Even with those caveats though getting to this point is a great feeling especially with my target release date of the US elections in November.

Then it’ll just be a case of deciding on my next project…

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JFK assassination: Photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald with same type of gun used to kill JFK ‘authentic’

One of the results of working on Project Cassandra is that I’ve been trying to learn more about the central events of the Cold War. Being born in the early 80’s I only vaguely remember the tail end of it, such as the Berlin Wall coming down but the bulk of it is something that I’ve had to learn about. The JFK assassination was something that I studied in school but I’ve avoided diving into while working on the game as I specifically didn’t want to focus on that tragic real world event.

Even so this coming across this article – Photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald with same type of gun used to kill JFK ‘authentic’ – got my attention and has set thoughts moving again, specially this time about the ideas of conspiracies and secret plots while I expand on a few sections of the game, most notably scenario advice for the GM.

Project Cassandra Draft 1

After quite a bit of work and tinkering with the game that’s included more than one rewrite of the system Project Cassandra is finally at a stage where I’m happy to put it out there as a fairly complete document that includes both full rules and mostly complete characters. At this point the core game is, I hope, there and the rest of the work consists of editing, layout and getting some artwork together. Then finally try and spread the word about the game, while just being able to say I’ve written a game was my real goal it would be nice if people outside of my own group actually played it.

Download Project Cassandra Draft 1 (pdf)

Learning the War

As a child of the 1980’s I didn’t personally experience much of the Cold War. Sure I knew of it but it was really a peripheral thing that had happened in the past or was happening Somewhere Else (and despite having a parent in the military that went on tour during the late 80’s I never connected that with a sense of threat). About the only major Cold War event that I really remember before the collapse of the USSR was the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Yes that’s a nuke. That was dropped on America. By accident.

Working on Project Cassandra has, therefore, required a lot of research into the earlier events of the Cold War in order to gain a wider understanding of what drove the war for so many decades. Not unsurprisingly fear, hate and jingoism played a large part. World War II had demonstrated just how low we, as a species, could fall and now the populations of both sides were being told the new enemy was even worse. It’s no wonder that people were paranoid.

Focusing on specific events however two got my attention recently, both directly connected to the threat of nuclear war that hung in the air for so long. The first was new information from recently declassified documents relating to the accidental release of two hydrogen bombs in early 1961. The accident occurred when a B-52 broke up over Goldsboro, North Carolina releasing the two M39 hydrogen bombs it was carrying. Each of the two warheads carried a nuclear yield over 250 times that which was deployed at Hiroshima but at the time the authorities stated that there was never any danger of detonation due to the presence of multiple failsafes. The recently released information significantly changes that story, indicating that for one of the bombs of the six triggers required to fully arm the bomb only one had not accidentally activated. A single switch was all that had prevent detonation of a weapon with an estimated 100% kill zone of 17 miles. Had it gone I wonder if its detonation would have led to some sort of nuclear strike against the USSR, the US forces would have had little time to realise what had actually happened and nuclear doctrine was heavily weighted towards the need for quick and decisive action.

The second event that has specifically got my attention is, thankfully, a much more positive story though again it demonstrates how close the world came to accidentally finding itself in World War III. Stanislav Petrov was an officer in the Soviet Air Defence Forces, responsible for monitoring data coming in from early warning satellites. On 26th September 1983, during a period of strained relations between the Us and USSR (triggered by the USSR shooting down a South Korean passenger jet), Stanislav’s computer systems detected the launch of an American missile, followed up by four additional launches. If he had followed protocol Stanislav should have notified his superiors of the launch. Instead he waited, suspicious that the alert was the false alarm it proved to be. When confirmation from other early warning systems did not arrive the launches detected were put down to malfunctions in the computer system.

It’s unclear how close the world came to nuclear war that night as following protocol a retaliatory Russian strike would have required confirmation of an American launch from two independent sources. However, given the tensions between the respective nuclear blocks and strain on the Russian system at that point in history it could have been easily decided that a single source was sufficient and the world as we know it would have been very different.

Both of these stories highlight the sort of fears that I want the players of Project Cassandra to face while trying to save the President. I want them to feel like the fate of the world might hang in the balance of their actions and be aware of the paranoia that permeated through the world during the second half of the twentieth century. The fear of all out nuclear warfare is something that the world has done it’s best to collectively forget about but for the game I’m writing, intrinsically linked to the Cold War, it’s something that should always be their, even if it’s just that niggling fear at the back of the mind.

Project Cassandra: Introduction

The cold war. For almost 50 years the world teetered on the brink of destruction as the economic, political and nuclear forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact vied for control of Europe. The war may be over, but its secrets are only beginning to emerge. Secrets such as Project Cassandra, conceived as a remote viewing experiment with the goal of uncovering threats to national security.

A success beyond expectations. Led by Dr Joseph Mercher, a pioneer in his field, Project Cassandra identified and recruited a group of 5 exceptional candidates. Over a period of 18 months, and under the guidance of Dr Marcher, each developed the ability to accurately predict future events. To quote from an early report:

“While each subject possesses a remarkable and unnerving talent to forsee potential outcomes all are limited in the scope, capable only of anticipating incidents closely associated with their own experiences”

A threat from within. On November 2nd of last year the unit housing Project Cassandra was completely destroyed by a fire started from within the main research laboratory. Examination of the surviving reports from that week identified two alarming events, which appear to have been suppressed prior to reaching the offices of the Joint Research Division. Firstly, numerous reports of vague but growing predictions of an impending assassination attempt targeting POTUS (Designation: SHORTSTOP EVENT). Secondly, that each of the subjects was in the process of developing secondary talents, the full extent of which remains UNKNOWN.

Investigations into Project Cassandra and SHORTSTOP have reached the following conclusions:

  1. SUBJECTS PREDICTED AND REPORTED PREMONITIONS OF ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS AGAINST POTUS.
  2. FACTIONS WITHIN JOINT RESEARCH DIVISION SUPPRESSED REPORTS AND ATTEMPTED TO DESTROY ALL EVIDENCE OF PROJECT CASSANDRA BY MEANS OF ARSON.
  3. THROUGH LUCK OR FOREWARNING THE SUBJECT GROUP ESCAPED UNHARMED.
  4. HAVING ESCAPED, AND WITH KNOWLEDGE OF IMPENDING EVENTS, THE GROUP ATTEMPTED TO INTERVENE IN SHORTSTOP.
  5. THEIR STATUS AND WHEREABOUTS REMAIN UNKNOWN.

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