The Red Threat: Hack idea

While watching a variety of movies set on the backdrop of cold war era America, I twigged on the idea of using the Infection mechanics and the general BE setup to run games about Commies infiltrating and taking over Middle America. Figure I’d only need to hack Lifepaths, World Burning (“Town Burning”?), and Tech Burner.

Psychology would pretty much just have to go, but that’s no worry. Anything else that would need serious work that I’m not spotting? And I want it to conform more to the idea of “What if McCarthy was right” more than anything that really happened, just so we’re all clear.


Lifepaths barely needs hacking. The sub-index and Commune ones are pretty close already. You’d need to think about how to burn up some commies, of course. Take a look at Under a Serpent Sun for another take on modern LPs.

For world burning, you have a big decision to make. You could burn a town, and do it kinda horror-movie-style, isolate the town and pretend there is no outside world. Or you could burn up your fantasy America as a world, and just set the game on a smaller stage.

“What if McCarthy was right” still covers a lot of ground, and you should talk with your players and pin down exactly what interests you. That could be a pretty literal “McCarthy actually had divine guidance and spoke only truth in spite of having no way to find out most of what he claimed to know,” it could be shorthand for “McCarthy was nothing more than an updated Witchfinder General, but there really were conspiracies like the ones he imagined, just not actually the specific ones he was making up,” or it could be a more realistic “What if the KGB was as effective as we thought it was.” That last would mean that the kinds of high-visibility infiltration McCarthy was interested in would be non-starters, and instead you’d see attempts to suborn secretaries and janitors and translators and draftsmen. That wouldn’t generate the kinds of headlines McCarthy was interested in, but it’d get you a damn sight more real intelligence and sabotage capability than compromising screenwriters…

EDIT: Of course, you could also go no-McCarthy, in several variants. Either replace him with someone who actually knew what the fuck he was talking about, probably someone from an investigative background, or let there be no prophet at all (but that puts a damper on the paranoia). I’m kinda liking a scenario where you have maybe an FBI Deputy Director or the like playing serious, but egged on by J. Edgar Hoover and his press office. That gets you both someone working it seriously and sticking to the facts, but also the kinds of overblown paranoiac propaganda that McCarthy was into.

I know players who used BE infection mechanics for an American Revolution campaign. Ben Franklin was a FON for the soon-to-be Americans, a General (don’t remember his name) for the British.