Abraham Lincoln

Episode 123: Freemium Democratic Regime

January 16th, 2015 | Robin

Verily and anon, adopt the cloak of darkness as Ken ducks into the Elizabethan tavern that is the Gaming Hut to discuss his School of Night GUMSHOE setting.

Violence and mayhem disrupt the tranquil comfort of the Food Hut as we examine America’s Whiskey Wars and riff some dystopian futuristic equivalents.

Should that scene end with a jump or a slide? How to Write Good mulls the art of transitions.

The Conspiracy Corner situates itself in a hotel room—the so-called Illuminati hotel room at Houston’s Hotel Zaza. We spitball the sinister plotlines that might spin from this weird location.

Attention, class! Anchor sponsor Atlas Games wants to enroll you in Mad Scientist University, the card game of evil genius, insane assignments, and unstable elements. Act now, Ken and Robin listeners, and they’ll throw in the Spring Break expansion set for free. Shipping within the US is also free.


14 Responses to “Episode 123: Freemium Democratic Regime”

  1. hüth says:

    You don’t want any knockoff Goofy-class destroyer schematics floating around.

  2. Fun episode, but:

    The link to the vice article is broken, I had to edit it to get to the site.

  3. mr. luxembourg says:

    It was a special treat today to find KARTAS covering weirdness in my hometown of Houston.

    A couple of other possibly evocative things about our Hotel ZaZa: It was originally the Warwick Hotel, and was decorated, Xanadu-like, by its owner, oilman John Mecom, who imported a LOT of furnishings from Europe to decorate it in the style of a medieval castle.

    Also, across the street is a statue of Sam Houston. He’s on horseback and is pointing in the direction of the battlefield of San Jacinto (~20 miles away), where Texas won its independence from Mexico.

    (And while I’m here, I enthusiastically cast a vote for a full-blown hardback treatment of The School of Night.)

  4. GB Steve says:

    I remember greatly enjoying David Pownall’s The Catalogue of Men about the School of Night, although I don’t remember any of the detail.

  5. RogerBW says:

    If you want an actual historical murder hotel, look into H. H. Holmes and his activities in Chicago. Wikipedia has the basics.

    For one set of consequences of aggressive rights management, I recommend Benjamin Crowell’s story Into the Ether (published in Asimov’s September 2013 issue, and in last year’s Hugo voter packet).

  6. Ben says:

    I’m very excited about The School of Night, since it was mentioned on an earlier podcast, but I was disappointed to see that the fencing rules didn’t make the page count. You can consider my money yours if an expanded edition includes these rules.

  7. Phil Masters says:

    Would it really be totally inconceivable to run a Whiskey Wars campaign with the PCs on the side of the law? Law enforcement isn’t a very common career in RPGs, I admit, but there are precedents (and I have a lot of fun running Discworld City Watch demo scenarios at conventions).

    I’ve never actually heard of “The Untouchables: the RPG”, which is the obvious better-known analogue, but it surely wouldn’t be an impossible pitch, for either a tactics-heavy game or something along Drama System lines.

    • KenH says:

      Spoken like a man who’d tax our tea and stamps and tug his forelock to the Queen.

    • RogerBW says:

      Well, there was TSR’s Gangbusters. I don’t know anyone who played it, but they produced five adventures and a second edition, so I imagine someone did. (It’s focussed largely on combat, as one would expect from the era, but some of the adventures do a surprisingly good job of being more than mere chains of fights.)

  8. Cambias says:

    I ran (too briefly, alas) a “School of Night” game, and worked out a wonderful solution to the Shakespeare problem. Every masque, play, seditious pamphlet, anonymous love poem, etc. in the game was the work of the extremely prolific young ghost-writer Will Shaxper from Stratford.

    The Whiskey Wars put me in mind of F. Paul Wilson’s short story “Lipidleggin'” (link:, about illegal fat and cholesterol dealers. When he wrote it the story was absurdist satire; now it’s almost indistinguishable from a news report.

    And finally the ZaZa hotel room reminds me of the “Objective Room” in Lewis’s _That Hideous Strength_. Perhaps the purpose of the room isn’t as a ritual space but rather the freaky decor somehow programs (or at least primes for programming) anyone who stays there. The heroes, for whatever reason, are immune to the effect and so are a little perplexed when their new Illuminati handlers show up to assign them targets for their “deranged lone sniper” attacks or whatever.

  9. Ironicus says:

    Please Mr. Consulting Occultist, tell me all there is to know about Vril.

  10. Christoph says:

    The Illuminati hotel room reminds me of a very cool, but cancelled series . Check it out for awesome reference using this idea.

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