February: Unraveling 2017
Here's a February update, one day early! January has been a very frustrating month for me, personally and Copperhead County-ally, and I am glad to be rid of it. But even though 2020 is looking pretty dour so far, it hasn't been a total flop, and I have been working on some stuff I can write about today.
Upcoming Text AP
I recently started a new playtest campaign that I plan to record via AP posts on the official Copperhead County forum. So far, we've had a Session Zero, and half of a Session One (which we unfortunately had to cut short due to schedule conflicts), but even our half-session was a fun little self-contained job. Once we finish that storyline and have a little downtime and get to know our PCs more, I'll wrap it all up into an AP post, with more posts coming for future adventures. I should have that ready around this time next week.
This is a useful test for me because, although I have an ongoing campaign that sees everything I'm working on, I hadn't actually done new crew creation since we started that game. We're also exploring some new territory in this one—we're playing an Outfit and intentionally leaning away from the regular drug-war kinda stuff that has characterized my past campaigns, and leaning into more white-collar, sneak-around kind of stuff. Our heroes are, so far, very wrapped up with the reality-TV faction Below the Line Productions as they try to get an upcoming Netflix series Unf#ck My Truck off of the ground. So we're getting into some kinda Elmore Leonard-ian, low-rent showbiz kinda stuff that will be very fun to play and read about. Stay tuned.
Another thing I wanted to test in the new game was setting the campaign in the year 2017.
The timeline of Copperhead County has been on my mind for a while. This setting has been a long project for me, since my first very embryonic playtest in mid-2016, when the game consisted of very early playbooks, a factions list, and a very poorly drawn map. At that time, when I was conceptualizing the world of Copperhead County, I was drawing on the recent history of the late Obama era, and imagining the world set around the same time. In fact, every campaign I've run, until now, has been, by agreement of the various players, set in 2014. That's why describing the game as set in "201X" seemed like the right idea—it felt like it hit that nebulous zone between 2012 and 2016, characterized by the draining malaise I felt living in Tennessee during the waning Obama years.
Of course, certain events transpired in late 2016, and in the long days since, that have changed the tenor of the country, the South, and the game. In 2020, the year 2014 doesn't feel that recent—it feels like it was six hundred fucking years ago. As we've grown more distant from that era, chronologically and spiritually, I've worried about the setting sliding into irrelevance. So I started thinking about making 2017 the defined start year, and making sure the game still felt true to our current chaotic era and included what I had to say about it. I mean, this is a game about crime and political corruption, and now we're witnessing what may be the most criminal and corrupt Presidential administration in history. I mean, just last fucking night, the impeachment trial of our mobbed-up President was derailed by the cowardice of... a Senator from Tennessee!
There are a couple other reasons this feels right. 2017 was the year that, after 30+ years of living in Tennessee, I moved to Oregon (a move that may well reverse itself in the coming years), so that feels cosmically apt. I've also mentioned in public a couple of times that I'd like to complete an alternate setting chapter which takes place in 1977 (currently on the backburner, but with some work done), and since 2017 is 40 years after 1977, it's easy to make those timelines sync up and make both settings more cohesive.
So that's something I'm keeping in mind as I finish and polish game text. I've also been working on some faction revisions which don't necessarily reflect this change, but which I'm running out of space to talk about. Maybe I'll do another February post once that's all sorted out (I also have a lot of new faction art to show off at some point).
Another big inspiration to my recent thinking has been my favorite band, and the patron saints of Copperhead County, the Drive-By Truckers. Now, I've said a lot about how The Wire and Breaking Bad (and Better Call Saul—have you seen that new trailer!?), but really, DBT might be the biggest inspiration in my soul.
They have a new album out today, and it's fucking tremendous. DBT got a lot of accolades after their last album, American Band, because it included a few straight-up protest songs (although they've always been a very political band). But the new album goes even further and they have definitely responded to our current age in a very direct manner. And though my humble indie crime RPG is a lot less cool than America's best rock band, I wish for my own creative output to be half as honest as theirs.
If you're at all interested in the political and musical underpinnings of Copperhead County, listen to The Unraveling!
That's all for now. I really want people to use the official Copperhead County forum more, so sound off over there if you have any questions or comments!