Notes on the Dark Continent,
Part II: Heart of Darkness - A Colonial Role Playing Game
BY Howard Whitehouse, (Webified by Chick Lewis)
Editor's Note: Part I of this series presented some detailed background and personalities of the Dark Continent around the time of the Scramble for Africa. Now that sufficient interest has been generated in this area, part II of this series try to give you all some gaming ideas. Two major "Games" are detailed here: The first one is a role-playing adventure game titled: Heart of Darkness, which includes a subgame titled: Picking a Man. The second one is a more traditional war/political multi-player game called: Buganda
Ed. originally Howard wrote this series of articles as a supplement ,for GDW's Space 1889Role-playing game. The pro project got canceled, so Howard's material ended up in S& S. Although it is written for Space 1889, it can easily be adapted to your personal use.
For those of you not familiar with Space 1889, it's a science fiction role-playing game with similar mechanics to D&D (with a gamernaster who's like God, and inflicts mayhem on unsuspecting players). Unlike D&D however, Space 1889 can he used in a purely historical setting. There's even a set of miniature rules that works in conjunction with it titled Soldier's Companion (which contains some of the best campaign rules for the colonial era ).
Heart of Darkness is written as a scenario (campaign if you dislike Role-playing jargon) for Space 1889. The scenario details an expedition into the interior of the Dark continent. If you liked watching old Hollywood movies like "Stanley and Livingstone", or more modern ones like "Mountains of the Moon", this game is for you. It lets you have total control of a African expedition: Getting financial backing outfitting the crew, negotiating with native chiefs, fighting against hostile tribes animals/diseases, looking for lost cities or treasures, or dealing with rival expeditions. The possibilities are endless.
If you are a die-hard miniature gamer and disdain any mentioning of the word "Roleplaying", keep reading. The genre of roleplaying playing games do not necessary mean infantile adolescent boys playing with make believe dragon-slaying/orc bashing/devil worshipping. In (another context it could be a historically detailed simulation that teaches you something about the scenario being portrayed (or games for infantile grown men playing with toy soldiers as I choose to call it). Besides, l do not know any good role-playing adventure that does not involve a good number of set piece battles, where traditional table top games can be carried out.
If you have always played with "tradi-tional" wargames where both sides lined up their troops and have at it, and you would like to try this "role-playing game" but don't know where to start, keep read-ing. l am sure all of you have played in table top games where the gamemaster sets up a scenario, but not all conditions are dis-closed to the players? (e.g. "The Zulu players get a four Impi reinforcement that comes in in turn 4 behind the British rear, but keeps those figures hidden, since the British players do not know it yet!" ) A roleplaying game is like that, except ALL conditions are kept in the mind/notes of the game master, and the players only get to find things out if his character actually happens upon them. (e.g. The scout you sent upriver has just been ambushed, but .since you are not there, the gamemaster wouldn't tell you until two miles later you see his decapitated body hanging from the top the a tree...).
Running a Role-playing scenario does involve more work on the part of the gamemaster player, who has to design a believable "world" where the player characters venture. The world must be historically accurate (If you have an encounter with the Masai in a scenario set in Western Nigeria, the players might get upset), the challenges faced by the players must be neither too harsh (or they all get killed off too early and the game is over before they get to your lost city that you spent I00+ hours to create), nor too easy (the players will get bored). Most important of all, be imaginative about what makes the world you create believable (speaking with a stiff upper tip when you are portraying aBritish sergeant, or a Swahili accent when portraying a Zanzibari merchant will definitely make the game more memorable) (Ed. I know for a fact that Hans puts on a mean Arab camel trader accent, and I heard that Messr. Whitehouse is no slouch either when it comes to native tongue).
The worst thing that can happen is that the players get tired of this "role-playing" stuff, or if you (the gamemaster) run out of good material, their party can always encounter "a party of 4 Zulu Impis", then you can set up the table and have a traditional Sword and Flame miniature game. See how easy it is?
For those hardcore wargamers still not convinced; the following rules and information are very much applicable to punitive "military" expeditions into the interior carried out by King's African Rifle, native constabulary forces, German Schutztruppe, or Belgian Force Publique, or what have you.
I f you would like to get more information on Colonial Role-playing games, check out Space 1889, and Howard Whitehouse's Science Vs. Pluck (a role-playing game set in the Sudan). The best thing you can get your hands on is a board game called "Sources of the Nile", published by Avalon Hill. It is already discontinued and therefore hard to find, but it's an excellent Role--playing game very much like this one. I f you have a computer, you might want to check out "Heart of Africa" by Electronic Art.
The players arc stalwart European (or American) adventurers who gathered at Zanzibar, ready to venture into the African interior in search of fame and fortune.
The Gamemaster (GM) should come up with a detailed biography of each player. A player's background can often spice up the game and create side plots that are of interest (e.g. Captain Smyth's liaison with Governor Wilson's daughter causes the Governor to withhold crucial reinforcements for his expedition...).
A specific goal might be devised for the players (e.g. Her Majesty's government decided to send an observation team to investigate the source of the Nile). The goal can be anything from geographical, military, religious, financial (in search of the city of gold), rescue (find Livingstone or Emin), or maybe even Hollywood (In search of Lord Greystoke).
The process of starting up an expedition into the "Heart of Darkness " consists of' several stages.
1) Choice of companions if any for the journey.
Outfit your expedition
Give your players a budget for shopping before the game starts. They should make a detailed shopping list and buy/haggle them with local merchants, or for more hi-tech items, gel them from England. The same budget is used to pay for your porters, askaris, etc. Thus the players arc forced to make financial decisions that can affect how they conduct the expedition.
PURVEYORS OF EXPLORING EQUIPMENT
The following fine merchants are recommended by Mr. H.M. Stanley
and by several Serving Officers:
For bolts of 'Amerikani' cotton, old flintlock muskets and cowrie shell necklaces, the adventurer must risk the rat infested cellars of the Zanzibar trade houses.
Keeping track of what equipment the players have can be important. If the bearers carrying all the ammunition fall off a cliff, that will definitely affect the outcome of the next table top game!
Selection of porters and askaris is a straightforward business; you pay a Zanzibari merchant to its assemble the right number of men. Choice of the specialists - headmen, guides and interpreters- is more complex, involving interviews and credential checks. A hurried decision may mean the wrong man is hired, while taking too long to pick may delay the expedition, and might also mean that somebody else takes on the best candidate.
Picking a man: A Game
The game consists of three rounds of interviews, each round lasting one day of game time. For each interview, the Referee will give the players a first impression of the candidate. They may then select the men they want, or ask for a second meeting with one or more of the' interviewees. On a roll of 1- -3 the candidate is no longer available for hire. Second interviews also Take one day per category, so that the whole hiring process may take up to 6 days, during which no other work can be done by the PCs involved. There arc no third interviews. PCs who find themselves saddled with corrupt/inept/sickly employees may fire them on the understanding that they will have. to replace them from among the porters - who wouldn't be porters if they could do anything else, would they? (See Hiring table below)
Ed. This game is similar to Howard's camel purchasing game published in S& S before, which was an astounding success. Native accent and plenty of alcoholic beverages help a lot.
A DAY ON THE ROAD
The only effective way of transporting huge quantities of equipment and goods across the vast expanses of Africa is to hire porters. Camels and mules perform pack duties in the desert zones, while on the great veldts of the south the Boers drive huge covered wagons hauled by teams of 16 or more oxen. In between, across the torrid belt of the equator, the sleeping sickness wipes out all beasts of burden except for the humble human carrier. A respectable expedition might expect to hire 100 bearers, though the frugal Livingstone thought 60 a luxury. Deserters, sickness and trouble on the road might, however, mean that on a long and arduous journey almost all would fall ill or run away; the notoriously hard-driving H. M. Stanley left Zanzibar in 1874 with 356 followers and reached the mouth of the Congo three years later with 114.
The experienced hunter, soldier and traveler Hugh Chauncey Stigand lists the different groups of porters:
Of porters there are two distinct types: (l ) The professional porter who makes his living by carrying loads and who, directly he has blown the pay accruing to him from one trip, writes on for another.
(2) The unprofessional porter, who is run in for a month's work or for several months just to make enough to pay for his hut tax.
The best porters are undoubtedly the Wanyamwezi, a race of professional porters who carne from Unyamwezi in German East Africa. Tall, broad-.shouldered men, with deep bass voices, they form ideal porters. Not too intelligent, and yet intelligent enough to tumble to the ordinary duties of camp life, cheerful, willing and untiring.
Next come the Manyema from the Congo, generally short, sturdy men, strong and plucky, but quarrelsome and truculent.
Lastly, come the ",Swahili "porters, men of mixed African slave races perhaps with a little Swahili blood in them, who come from the coast.
TYPE BURDEN DESERTION RATE
Nyamwezi 75 Ib. -3
Manyema 60 Ib. -1
Swahili 50 Ib. 0
unprofessional 40 Ib. +2
Nyamwezi and Manyema are always available in their homelands in numbers to 100 can be had for a roll of 3-6, up to 200 for 56. Nyamwezi can be found in Zanzibar for 5-6 (up to 50) and `6' (up to 100j. Manyema can be found in the Eastern Congo forests - the Stanley Falls area- for the same scores, but at double pay rates only, since they have been spoiled by the generosity of the Arab slavers in those regions. Swahilis are available in any number at Zanzibar, and in quantifies of up to 50 in any of the coastal cities. Equal numbers of the rather questionable `unprofessional' can be hired at the same places.
Porters are entitled to rations, either in the form of maize meal to make a porridge known as 'posho' (1 Ib. per day, cost 2d) or in the form of trade goods - lengths of metal wire or strips of cloth - at 4d per day, to purchase food from local markets.
Roll a D6 per week for every 25 porters. Die score +/- modifiers is the number who desert.
+l for any of these: continuous rains, short rations, within 50 miles of home, Arab caravan in vicinity, marched more than 80 miles this week.
-1 for any of these: beyond 300 miles of home, Tribal warband in vicinity, marched less than 50 miles this week.
Roll a D6 per week for every 25 porters. This is the number that fall sick, +/- these modifiers:
+l for any of these: continuous rains, short rations, marched more than 80 miles this week, passing through swamps or rain forest.
-1 for any of these: marched less than 50 miles this week, within 50 miles of flowing water supply (river etc.).
10% of sick will die. 30% will have to be left at villages along route - half will catch up next week if column marches less than 50 miles, all if less than 20. Remainder will continue with expedition but be unable to carry loads. They recover over the course of the next week.
Porters are not generally the cream of East African society. The following typical behaviors -none of which are easily remedied by the efforts of PCs are guaranteed to cause maximum consternation at all limes.
* Stealing livestock, food and - this always causes trouble- attractive young women from villages along the way.
* Sleeping on watch duly.
* Selling their loads - especially weapons and ammunition- for food or alcohol. Arab merchants are particularly inclined to accomodate any porter inclined to follow this course of action.
* Eating strange or uncooked food and falling sick.
* Getting drunk and fighting amongst themselves, or with villagers.
* Getting drunk and celebrating all night, then being unable to work in the morning.
* Deserting with the most expensive and attractive pieces of equipment, preferably bits of the Bwana's personal kit.
* Running away and spreading tales of mythical disasters that have befallen the expedition in order to cover for their own desertion.
* Manyema porters - cannibals to a man have the good grace not to eat fellow porters or their employers, but may not be so fastidious with anyone else they come across.
The intrepid traveler has four options when considering the security of his party:
1) Trust in the prestige, heavy weapons and obvious powerful magic of the Europeans.
2) Arm some or all of the porters with firearms, at a cost of 20 lb. weight per man.
3) Hire `askaris', African soldiers drilled at least to some degree: - in modern methods and expected to serve as both an armed escort and to maintain discipline in the column. The very best of these are black Sudanese troops of the old Egyptian army, available in small numbers in Cairo, Alexandria and Aden. Hausa troops from well Africa and Somalis are also well regarded. Askaris of the cheapest kind can be found, of course, in the bazaars of Zanzibar.
4) Make arrangements with tribal chieftains to borrow bands of their warriors as escort while crossing their lands.
Askari weapons: cost
"Brown Bess" (SM) 8s
Enfield (RM.) 10s (from manual - I think 15s more likely)
Remington (BLR) 2L
Africans provide their own spears, knives etc.
One month's pay is expected at the start of the expedition, with the remainder due at the end. Widows and dependents of lost or deceased porters will receive their back wages. Deserters get nothing.
RATES OF PAY in English shillings per month: wages in Africa arc miserably low for "natives", making the British private soldier's "shilling' a day" seem magnificent.
cooks & servants 12s
Headmen arc responsible for disciplining the porters and ensuring that all transport duties are carried out properly.
Interpreters translate languages, and are expected to know Swahili and 3-4 African languages. They are, however, unlikely to know much English.
Guides arc employed to select the route, scout the way ahead and make contact with local tribes.
REQUIREMENTS OF A "SAFARI"
Each European will require l-2 personal servants cooks/grooms etc.
TROOP TYPE Morale Fieldcraft
Sudanese Veteran 2
Hausa/Somali Experienced 2
other askaris Trained 2
armed porters Green 1
Tribal levies Trained/exp 3
These are `rough guide' figures: difficult terrain or expected hostility will demand greater strength. Famous Explorers with RGS (Royal Geographical Society) or newspaper backing will call for large, well equipped expeditions, while penniless adventurers often venture out with a handful of men, and sometimes return safely.
All Safaris will be accompanied by African wives & children to the number of half the porters; refusal to permit them to come will double the desertion and sickness rates!
MOVEMENT OF CARAVANS.
The land travel rules in the Space 1889 handbook (pg. 114) apply for small groups of adventurers, the party being able to cover 10 miles per day under any conditions, and 20 across dry, open country. Count 1 extra level on the fatigue roll for tropical conditions, and an additional 1 for crossing mountains, swamp or rain forest.
Larger parties with trains of porters etc. move much more slowly. Even five or ten miles a day might be impossible. A simple way to do this is to roll a D6 x 10 miles per week on safari . If the caravan is led by an Arab, roll one die; if it is led by a European NPC (Non-player Character, controlled by the GM), roll twice, and if the characters are in charge, three times. Pick the highest score, plus or minus these modifiers:
bad weather: -1
It is, of course, entirely possible that the caravan may score a modified result of'-', and not move all week. A forced march adds ID6X 10 miles - see rules for sickness and desertions for the consequences.
Fever is one of the delights of African travel - sec the rules on page 115 of' the. Space 1899 Handbook. Sonic travelers give their impressions of the fevers of the tropics:
ENCOUNTERS IN THE INTERIOR
Ed. The following are a list of "encounters" that the CM can use to spice up the game (e.g. While the expedition is traveling between Zanzibar and your first important planned encounter, you need something to happen in the 300 miles journey to keep the players from getting bored).
A lot of times an impromptu encounter can be the lead of another sub-plot or a completely different adventure.
The biographies of some of the personalities detailed here can be found in Part I of this series.
* A local chief refuses to let the expedition cross his land Without paying double `hongo' (tribute in the form of gifts). He has 200 warriors who are inclined !o agree with him.
* A Scots trader reports that the Masai have attacked a caravan of Zanzibaris, and wants the PCs to join him in a punitive expedition. If they go, they will be attacked by 300 elmoran. If not, the trader will be killed along with two companions and quite a lot of Masai. On inquiry, it will become clear that the Masai attack was provoked by the Zanzibaris kidnapping several Masai women.
* An army of black ants is spotted about a half mile from the PC's encampment. the ants move at 1 mph, devouring everything in their way. Players who have difficulty with the concept that neither shooting nor talking will stop the ants should be rewarded with the immediate consumption of their camping gear.
* A rhino takes a special interest in one of the PC's hat.
* Mrs. French-Sheldon requires assistance when deserting porters steal her palanquin and all her shoes while she sleeps. She wishes to borrow a pair of size 6s and an elephant gun to pursue her erstwhile employees.
* Captain Lugard takes a dislike to the party for no apparent reason, and decides to run them out of British territory. his interpretation of international boundaries seems quite individual.
* Bathing hippos resent the intrusion of the expedition in their river at a point of crossing.
* Masai elders inform the party that, since they understand that all white people arc great magicians, they wish the PCs !o cure their cattle of the rinderpest that is decimating the herds.
* While the party is staying at a mission station, the wife of a neighboring chief throws herself on the mercy of one of the PCs, asking protection from her cruel and vengeful husband, who wishes to have her killed. The missionaries do not know what exactly she has done wrong, but state that unless she is returned to her irate spouse, his warriors will undoubtedly attack the mission and nearby village. If the PCs decide to protect the woman, which will, of course, involve a good deal of bloodshed, she will prove completely ungrateful and will complain constantly.
* A man-eating lion has stopped the building of the Mombassa railway at the river Tsavo, consuming several Indian workers and terrifying most of the others into leaving. The British O.C., Lt. Col. Patterson, needs help in shooting the elusive `Simba' (actually there arc two of them ) who is clearly much smarter than the colonel.
* The 'Eldorado Exploring Expedition' seeks guides who know the region west of Lake Tanganyika. The company, under one Camille Delcommune, consists of the worst collection of European wastrels yet let loose on Africa. The only decent man among them is a Polish steamer captain who calls himself Joseph Conrad,
* Tippoo Tib requests the help of my English friends as arbitrators in a dispute over trading and territorial rights between the Arabs and the CFS. Tippoo appreciates this is no simple task, and offers a huge quantity of ivory as reward for "a suitable conclusion of negotiations."
Heart of Darkness does not give you a complete world for African adventure. It's purpose is to give you some needed information to make an "expedition game" possible. You the game master must fill out the hole with historical research and imagination.
A role-playing game is like a good book or movie that unfolds before the eyes of the players and GM. The synergy between the player can sometime takes the expedition into new and unplanned territory. An ideal role-playing adventure is hard to achieve, but if reached, it can be the best gaming you have ever experienced. (like a good Star Trek episode I guess).
BUGANDA: THE PEARL OF AFRICA
Ed. Buganda is a more tradition wargame campaign, where each of four players control a political faction. Political intrigue, diplomacy, and warfare are all options that can happen if the game is imaginatively run. The general backgrounds are given below.
Ever since Speke first set foot in the lands of Mutesa, ruler of Buganda in 1862, this lush, densely populated region on Lake Victoria has gained a reputation as an oasis of order and prosperity amidst the wild barbarism of darkest Africa. Buganda has an elaborate feudal structure of lords and peasants, ruled by the Kabaka (king) with the aid of a prime minister (katekiro) and assembly (Lukiiko). In Buganda the roads are paved, the social niceties arc elaborately performed, and nobody ever uses cow urine as a condiment. This is a civilized country, Almost. Victorian visitors may approve of its legal structure, chamber orchestras and fig-bark togas, but lend to sniff at the random executions and casual use of torture that accompany life at the kabaka's court. Thus Buganda has become a focus for missionary groups well as agents for the European powers now carving the continent up into spheres of influence . During Mutesa's lifetime Buganda was able to maintain its status as a powerful and independent conquering state. Following his death in 1884, conflicting forces have overwhelmed the teenage Kabaka, Mwanga. Civil strife has taken on the strange guise of a religious war.
BUGANDA: THE FACTIONS
Buganda is perilously close to open civil war. This is the result of the inexperienced and inconsistent Mange's inability to control the disastrous division of the Buganda ruling class into four factions based on religion. Each of these parties is fanatically convinced that it alone is right, and so any alliance between factions is purely a short-term measure to bring down the current leader in the contest.
The WaIslami (Muslim) party consists of the Arab merchants resident in Buganda since the 1840s, and their converts and followers.
The WaInglesi ( `English' or Protestants) are the supporters of the CMS, led by the long established Church of England clerics Cyril Gordon and Alexander Mackay.
The WaFransi (`French' or Catholics) are those who follow the While Fathers, an aggressive Jesuit group whose attitudes are those of the sixteenth rather than the nineteenth century. Under the leadership of' Monsignor Hirth - a German speaker from Alsace they are seeking support from the French and German governments against the British-backed Protestants.
The Futabhangi (`Marijuana smokers' or traditionalists) are believers in the old gods of the Baganda. These conservatives had held the upper hand and controlled Mwanga until the young Kabaka's public burning of 3 catholic and 13 Protestant court pages in 1886 led to an alliance of the `new believers' against the traditionalists.
THE BAGANDA ARMED FORCES
The army and fleet of Buganda are, by the standards of Africa, massive. In 1875 Stanley witnessed an army of 50,000 men assembled to put down rebellions in the outlying provinces of Uvuma and Busoga. Shortly afterwards he accompanied a Baganda naval expedition of 325 canoes, the largest of them 70 feet in length, an carrying 150 warriors. Numbers like arc no longer possible, since the nobles are formed into rival factions and the peasant levies that filled the ranks of Mutesa's hosts wish only to stay home and avoid the chaos of a civil war. Nevertheless, each of the feudig parties can put at least a thousand warriors in the field at a few days notice.
The army consists of several classes:
Royal Guards /Exp 2 /muskets & ML rifles /up to 3,000
BUGANDA: 'THE STATE OF PLAY
The merry-go-round of coups d'etat, secret deals and cunning maneuvers that make up the Buganda Game stands as follows in January 1889:
In first place stands the Muslim party having ousted Mwanga in a coup in November with the help of the Christian factions then throwing out their allies in December. A new Kabaka a young man of the Royal line known as Kalema has been installed as puppet ruler at Rubaga.
warriors - 6 000
Canoes -30 + 12 Arab Dhows
Modem Rifles - 20
In second place are the Catholics, hiding out in the outlying villages poised for their chance. Their leaders, the White Fathers, have taken in Mwanga as a refugee and hope to put him back on he throne as their mouthpiece. Catholic sympathy is strong on the Sese isles and on the south side of the Lake.
Modern Rifles 50
In Third Place are the Protestants, who have no past or present kabakas under their control. They do however, have the Katikiro (Prime Minister) Apolo Kagwa, the mission boat Eleanor and a good relationship with the IBEA agent Frederick Jackson.
Canoes 20 + the "Eleanor"
Modern Rifles 20
In Last Place are the Traditionalists, who seem to be effectively out of the game. However, in Buganda things change quickly and in the most unpredictable ways.
Military strength: warriors 1,000
Looking on are the rest of the Baganda. Depending on the flow of event, they may join various factions according to the famous "side with the winners" principle. Up to 20,000 warriors may join in.
(See part III next issue)