Thursday, July 1, 2010

Are Germans Really That Scary?

I am, of course, NOT speaking about their soccer team, which is scary-awesome.

[yes, despite the USA and Mexico losing over the weekend, I am still watching World Cup action...I'm rooting for Die Mannschaft at this point, or La Furia Roja should they win out in the semi-finals]

No, I am talking about this tendency in RPGs to cast the Germans as the heavies/antagonists in their games. I mean really, are these makers of fine automobiles the epitome of a soulless scourge of evil?

I guess it's the whole Nazi, those guys are never going to live that down. I mean it's not like the English and Spanish and Portuguese and French and Dutch and Italians didn't wipe out whole civilizations all around the world during their Imperialistic/Colonial periods, right? You Africa and Asia and the Americas and the Caribbean and Australia and the Pacific Islands, etc.?

But noooo, "Nazis" are the big bogey man, since they had the gall to bomb developed western nations. Well, and they did systematically murder millions of people (as opposed to the Russian pogroms only semi-systematically murdering hundreds of thousands or the French Revolution killing tens of thousands). However, as those murdered (for the most part) were German citizens, one would think the main people to fear the Germans would be, well, Germans.

Okay, sure...Nazis did awful, awful things. There's really no getting around it. But do Germans ALWAYS have to be associated with Nazis?

Recently, I've been sniffing around the Tannhauser board game, because it has all the kind of crazy ambience I totally dig and riff off for inspiration. Tannhauser is an alternate history type action game that throws steampunk and demons into a World War setting. Basically, you are acting as heroic Allied forces blowing demon Nazi soldiers all to hell with big guns...and trying not to get sucker punched with sorcery or a stick grenade.

Except that the alternate history is that the Tannhauser war is an extended WWI...and there weren't any "evil Nazis" in WWI.

At least as far as I know...I'm not a World War historian. I just like the ideas of trench warfare and barbed wire and gas mask goggles and bayonets and sharpened know, all that Charge of the Light Brigade stuff? Or maybe, I should say All Quite on the Western Front stuff...yeah, the Germans were at odds with MY country back in the day (that's America) but does that mean they were "Evil?" Or were they just on "the wrong side?"

I suppose I'll have to do some research on the subject. Right now, I'm pretty good with Nazis = Evil. But I'm not so sure I want to cast Germans as the Big Bad all the rest of the time.

And why am I bringing this all up? Well, maybe 'cause I'm working on a couple-four new games right now. Yes, the television watching has been quite a work-out (FINALLY finished Battlestar Galactica last night and the World Cup starts up again tomorrow), but there is some hope over that something might be coming out of La Casa Blackrazor (a.k.a. Beaglehaus) sometime in the very near future. I know I've been developing this TERRIBLE habit of over-promising and under-delivering, but I really REALLY plan on giving y'all some good stuff in the very near future. Hopefully, within the next 24-48 hours even...we'll see.

All right, gotta' run...


  1. I think it's because the Nazis happened so recently, just as mass media, mass communications and so on hit off, so they've become part of the pop culture in a way that the colonial powers did not, due to the distance of history.

    I'm not sure how the Cup is going to go from here. Brazil will probably get it, but Spain are the better team, they're just underperforming. But then Uruguay look like they could have some surprises up their sleeves.

  2. Really? I'm not a fan of Brazil (sorry Marcelo!) but this year's team doesn't look nearly as strong as those of the last couple tourneys. And Spain looked like they were playing with a "bit of fire" the last couple games I watched (though I may have been half asleep). We'll see how it goes.

  3. It's not JUST the Nazi thing. Read some turn of the century British fiction (Bulldog Drummond, 39 Steps, that sort of thing)... esp. if you like steampunk... there were a lot of people who saw Germany and the Kaiser = The End Of Civilization from about 1880 onward. They were the rising power and since they threatened Britain, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, etc. I think it seeped into the Euro-American imagination. But of course WWI & II certainly did nothing to put to rest any of those fears!

  4. "those murdered (for the most part) were German citizens..."

    I think more of them would have been Soviet citizens. See for example

  5. @ Anarchist: true, or Polish anyway.

  6. i think kelvingreen has got it spot on. there are people still alive who suffered at the hands of the nazis. there is no historical distance at all. that coupled with the rise of mass-media makes up most of their "bogey-man"-image today, i believe. everyone has seen pictures from concentration camps.

    in a few centuries they will most likely be just one of many "evil" regimes.

    nazis = evil? obviously, it's tough to think of anything worse. russia under stalin might come close (they killed about the same number of people), but at least they didn't "justify" their killings with racism.

    germans = evil? equally obviously not. nationalism and antisemitism were the norm in europe at the time. add depression, a lost war and a charismatic leader e voilà... nazism (a bit simplyfied of course). could have happened everywhere (at least in europe) i guess. japan had a similar ideology, if i am not mistaken. japan = evil? i guess not.

    a lot has been published about "the average german" in nazi germany. they were just that... average. normal people (at least the vast majority). a frightening though indeed.

    the fact that the inner circle of the nazis had some weird occult shit going on makes it easy to link them to deamons in a fantasy game, adding even more to the evil-factor.

  7. @shlominus: Actually, I'm pretty sure that the Japanese were pretty close to the Nazis on the "evil" scale at the time, and before (their history of raping their way across mainland Asia probably contributed to that).

    As for the Germans being the big baddies, I think it's a combination of the fact that their genocide was done specifically as genocide (we hate XXX), rather than a lot of the Russians' "We're killing our own political enemies." Furthermore, Germany's a little country in the middle of Europe, and twice in fifty years managed to fight the entire world to a standstill. That's scary as crap.

  8. Yes, yes they are.....

    Even the Romans feared the Hun!