The intermingling of science fiction, fantasy elements and socialist reality was the main reason I fell in love with the setting of The Red Star. Especially when turning one’s eyes towards historical events this combination not only proves to be immensely practical but also allows for a nearly infinite variety of campaigns, ranging from revolutionaries following Imbohl, over simple soldiers fighting in the Great Patriotic War or military advisors in the Kingdom of Jade, to Red Fleet veterans out to build a criminal empire in the WTA.
„The Ghosts of Aragon“ is my attempt to combine this epic setting with one my historical fetishes: The Spanish civil war.
What began as a simple setting description with a few minor conversion notes, grew over time into a veritable behemoth of necessities and rules adaptions. Especially, as the Aragonese contranationalists are different from their Red brethren in more than just ideology.
What follows, therefore, is the attempt to reconcile all of this and allow players and game masters to play campaigns not only during the era of the original civil war but also in modern Aragon, troubled as it is by constant bombings and insurrections.
» The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles «
Despite being separated from the URRS by thousands of miles, the histories of the peoples of Aragon and the Lands of the Red Star share a number of similarities.
Once upon a time, the Aragonese peninsula was a collection of small kingdoms, warring with one another in ever changing alliances. This changed only when the Almuds came from the south and conquered large swathes of the peninsula. The invaders brought with them not only culture, science, and medicine, but also the Law of the One True God.
Confronted with rulers, who were seen as devil-worshippers by the majority of the population because they rejected the only true religion of the Risen Son and practiced dark arts like alchemy, anatomy and the peaceful coexistence of religions, the people of Aragon waged a bloody guerilla war against the Almuds, until they were driven back across the sea. The peninsula was cast back into a dark age, where reason and compassion were swept away by a wave of blood and religious fanaticism. The Aragonese Inquisition brutally cleansed society of dissidents and foreigners.
It was Aragon whose ships discovered a new world beyond the horizon. It was Aragon whose conquistadores began to “civilize” the indigenous peoples who would later be completely exterminated by the WTA. And it was Aragon whose war hosts and armadas led remorseless wars of conquest against their Gallic and Lionist rivals.
By the time the Reds rose in their Great Revolution against the Ancient Dynasties, Aragon already was left with no more than a shadow of its former might. Countless rebellions and military setbacks had robbed it of its colonies and their wealth, and most of the populace barely had enough t survive. All power was held by nobles, priests, and wealthy landowners. Any and all outside developments were scrutinized and only allowed into Aragon, where they served the economic purposes of the ruling classes.
When the bourgeoisie landed a – mostly – bloodless coup against the powers that be and declared the Aragonese Republic Union, they promised that the lot of the disenfranchised classes would also improve dramatically. Soon it became clear, though, that this had merely been a ploy to rally a majority of the people behind their cause. While they were granted many personal freedoms, the proletarian multitudes were still kept in a state of economic dependency by land owners and factory directors, backed by the church, and not much different from the feudal structures of pre-republican times.
Spurred on by the internationalist revolution and the birth of the URRS, a growing portion of the populace began to organize in solidary unions to fight oppression and exploitation. They developed their own brand of internationalism – the ideology of contranationalism. Faced with police and paramilitary forces in the pay of their oppressors, who ruthlessly suppressed all strikes and marches, the contranationalist movement had to develop its own weapons for the ongoing class struggle. They broke with the big taboo of Aragonese society – the use of magic, which in Aragon was held to be the domain of the Adversary of the Risen Son. Similar to the Reds’ development of military-industrial sorcery, the contranationalists stripped magic of its anachronistic and mystical trappings and implemented a politico-scientific paradigm in their stead – turning magic into just one more tool like wrench, sickle, or rifle.
Consciousness determines being.
Spiritual dialectics’ use of protocols is similar to military-industrial sorcery, though these are oriented towards the subversive necessities of contranationalist actions and thus lack the epic grandeur of their internationalist counterparts.
Spiritual dialectics use the same rules as sorcery, though the available protocols and sorcery specializations are different.
Mainly in the heavily industrialized southeast of Aragon, where factories and large tracts of arable land exist side by side, did the contranationalist cause take root and eventually culminated in the founding of the ContraNationalist Association (CNA). Right from the beginning the CNA struggled with an internal rift right down its middle, though. On one side were the so called platformists, who wanted to expand the Association into a general union and mass movement and who swore on educating the workers, furthering culture and peaceful protest as their weapons of choice. On the other side of the schism, the so called insurrectionalists stated that the revolution had to be fought for with any means necessary, including sabotage and militant action. The faction created the “Bandera Negra” (Black Flag), which served as the militant arm of the CNA. The Bandera Negra was responsible for a series of political assassinations, bank robberies, and bombings, which shook the fragile structure of the young republic and culminated in the murder of Don Raoul III, heir to the throne.
»Land and Freedom!«
Before, the reactionary forces of Aragon had viewed the republic with utter disdain but nevertheless participated in the political system. All that changed with the death of Don Raoul III and the election of an internationalist-leaning coalition. An alliance of ultranationalists, dynastists and religious fundamentalists took control of several northern and eastern provinces in a coup supported by the military. They declared the end of the republic, suspended civic rights, and began once more to brutally suppress the disenfranchised classes. Supported by the Volksreich and the ultranationalist government of Tuscan, the Aragonese National Front (ANF) declared war on the republican provinces.
Ultranationalist Blood Summoning
Your blood for the glory of the nation!
While spiritual dialectics are the contranationalist equivalent of military-industrial sorcery, blood summoning uses the rules and invocations of Nistaani shamans. The main difference is that the ghosts of Aragon crave blood and suffering. Ultranationalist summoners thus do not suffer non-lethal damage when using invocations. Instead they have to deal lethal damage equal to the damage of the invocation to a sentient being (they may also opt to deal this damage to themselves).
The republicans knew that only together they could withstand the ultranationalist assault. They thus entered into negotiations with the CNA during which they had to acquiesce to contranationalist demands including land reforms, worker-owned factories and expropriations. The republic’s pleas for foreign support largely fell on deaf ears and only the URRS sent supplies and military equipment. From across the globe, though, volunteer brigades came to Aragon to fight the ultranationalist menace. The ANF’s hope of a quick victory was thus doused and the conflict drew out into a bitter guerilla war, where both sides committed daily atrocities.
To counter the spiritual dialectics and Red sorcery of their republican and contranationalist enemies, which proved a major problem for the ANF, some ultranationalists under leadership of Don Francisco took desperate measures contradicting the commandments of the Risen Son. From the blood-soaked soil they summoned the hungry spirits of dead conquistadores and inquisitors and entered into powerful pacts with them in order to secure their direct intervention. Ultranationalist propaganda claimed that the land of Aragon itself had risen to “rid its sacred ground of the cancer of atheism and contranationalism”. Cleansings and mass killings escalated, as they no longer served just the extermination of the political enemy but also to sate the hunger of their new allies.
The Red Council accused the CNA of being transnationalist agents, who tried to weaken the republic with their expropriations, reforms, and removal of formal hierarchies. The council ordered all “true internationalists” to combat contranationalism in all its forms. Following this new doctrine, internationalist forces attacked key positions in contranationalist-held territories. Thus began a civil war within the civil war.
Platformist syndicates tried to negotiate a truce with the internationalists, but the insurrectionalists let slip the dogs of war and reestablished the defunct Bandera Negra. The ANF was able to conquer province after province, while the Bandera Negra hit anyone they suspected of being in league with either the ultra- or internationalists.
This self-mutilation of the republican ranks led to the total military collapse of the ARU just weeks before the Volksreich launched Krieger’s genocidal campaign of total war that was to engulf the entire world.
The Bloody Path to Modern Times
In the wake of the civil war thousands of republicans and contranationalists were massacred, in order to both eradicate their ideologies and to cement the ANF’s victory with further spirit pacts.
From the motley collection of provinces was forged a united Aragonese state. In it all accomplishments of the ARU and the CNA were destroyed, so that the theory of ultranationalism and the teachings of the Risen Son would be the only pillars of society.
When the WTA and its allies finally defeated the Aryan tyranny of the Volksreich, the last remnants of the CNA hoped that the Westerners would now do the same to the ultranationalist regime of Aragon. Their hopes were dashed when the WTA took the ANF under its wings instead.
Having defeated their common enemies, the dons united under their leader Don Francisco “the Liberator”. As long as you were neither part of the disenfranchised classes or a contranationalist, life in this new Aragon could actually be quite pleasant.
All that was about to change again, when the Liberator died. Don Francisco bound a majority of the blood pacts guaranteeing Aragon’s stability to his own life, to discourage assassination attempts from his own people. This turned out to be rather shortsighted, when in the years after his death the strong united nation he had envisioned collapsed into chaos.
Modern Aragon has regressed into a state of scattered regionalism, where local brush fire wars, political murder, and revolts are the order of business in politics. All the while the massacres continue to terrorize the populace and at the same time fuel the spiritual economy. The idea of “regional ultranationalism” is the ideology du jour and the concept of a united state only exists as a gleam in the eye of the most megalomaniac dons.
Aragon wields almost no influence in international politics anymore and only especially crass atrocities find their way into foreign media.
From the underground the heirs of contranationalism survey the situation and plot their eventual return. The platformism of former times is gone and insurrectionalism holds total sway. Culture and education are seen as necessary, though experience teaches that pistols, dynamite and strikes are to be preferred. Already there is talk of newly founded spiritual dialectics’ syndicates, while the first wave of renewed attacks on ultranationalists, landowners, and business men has brought back the old fear of the name “Bandera Negra”.
The city of Zaragona in the province of Catalussa has once more become the stronghold of contranationalism. Hiding in plain sight, guerilleros move against the paramilitaries of Don Cortez and in the factories agitators extoll the virtues of the CNA to the disaffected workers.
That’s it regarding the history of Aragon and the contranationalist struggle for freedom. In the next week, I will return with Part II of the “Ghosts of Aragon”, presenting further rules to play the scenario.
The Red Star and all related characters are ™ and © Christian Gossett. Used with kind permission.
The Red Star Campaign Setting is © Green Ronin Publishing, LLC.
The Red Star und alle verwandten Charactere sind ™ und © Christian Gossett. Verwendet mit freundlicher Genehmigung.
The Red Star Campaign Setting ist © Green Ronin Publishing, LLC.