“The city of Berlin, I recognized, had a definite color of its own; it had, plainly, become a world metropolis… now Berlin had acquired an authentic entity. It resided in the young, and was
composed, mostly, of a direct recognition, a faintly bitter but undisturbed acceptance, of all, all, the realities of existence. It was an attitude nowhere, that I could see, irradiated by hope. The
customary optimism, the romantic confidence, of youth, were absent in Berlin… So much, the bearing of the young showed, had failed them, turning out false or hypocritical or insubstantial, that they had concluded all the celebrated reassurances and rewards were lies.”
—Joseph Hergesheimer, Berlin
Berliners have long been notorious for their idiosyncratic qualities. The dichotomy of being both an industrial arsenal and center of culture during the 18th and 19th centuries left an indelible mark on the city’s character. In the 1920s, at a time when one out of five Londoners and one out of three New Yorkers attend church
The Berliner attitude is not unlike the stereotypical American: disdainful of the pretenses of authority, slightly cynical and crude, and playfully anti-authoritarian. The sharp wit of Berliners is legendary; they are said to possess a Berliner Schnauze, a term that signifies not only their accent, but also the fact that the city’s inhabitants are always ready with a barbed comment or a bit of gallows humor.
To other German-speakers, the Berlin accent is distinctive—a sort of side-of-the-mouth drawl that places an emphasis on short, sharp sounds, yet turns the hard “g” into a soft “j,” contracts compound words to near-unrecognizable briefness (viz. “Kurfürstendamm” to “Ku’damm”), and readily adapts foreign terms and customs, particularly Anglo-Americanisms.
Beginning in the mid-1920s, Berlin is positively swept up by a mania for all things American: slapstick comedies, boxing matches, Ziegfeld Follies dancers, crossword puzzles, and the beautification regimens of Hollywood stars.
Life in Berlin is tough, and for much of the population it takes a certain “savvy” just to make it from day to day. Characters from the lower classes and poor immigrants who have been living in the city for a while soon learn to make the most of the skills they acquire on the mean streets if they are to survive.
Such streetwise investigators should look to Spot Hidden, Listen, and social skills (Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate, Persuade), as well as making use of Know rolls and their suggested contacts to figure out where the best underground dives are located, which charities and garbage bins to scrounge food and drink from, and to get a sense of what’s going on down at the street level. Have the police been raiding lately? Is trouble brewing with the Reds or the Nazis? Have folks been disappearing in the Friedrichshain again? And so on.
Forging and developing ongoing relationships with the contacts they need to get by makes for excellent roleplaying opportunities, which can then be backed up with the aforementioned skill rolls to keep the plot moving, as required. Suggested contacts are found for various occupations. This message was last edited by the GM at 03:26, Thu 03 Nov 2022.
GM, 23 posts
45 years of RPGs
Ich bin dein Freund.
Thu 3 Nov 2022 at 02:58
Setting - Berlin 1928
Sex is the business of the town. At the Eden Hotel, the café bar was lined with the higher-priced trollops. The economy girls walked the street outside. On the corner stood the girls in boots, advertising flagellation... The nightclub Eldorado displayed an enticing line of homosexuals dressed as women. At the Maly, there was a choice of feminine or collar-and-tie lesbians. Collective lust roared unashamed at the theater; in the revue Chocolate Kiddies, Josephine Baker appeared naked except for a girdle of bananas
Berlin is the place where anything—anything—may be had for the right price. It is both a city of sin and a city of Betrieb (variously translated as “business” or “bustle”). Its streets overflow with prostitutes, disabled veterans, destitute immigrants, and political agitators, all rubbing shoulders with buttoned-down businessmen, working girls, scholars, and artists.
The city also develops a reputation for danger. In just the first three years of the new republic’s existence, the gutters run with the blood of dozens of political assassinations.
Street violence is not uncommon, as Communists and Nationalists clash with each other and with the police. An overall “moral indifference to violence” develops among the populace.
But the true danger
At the same time there occurred a demonization of anyone seen as feminine or feminized. This meant not only women in general, but also homosexuals, Jews, and prostitutes. Consequently, there was huge anxiety and hysteria that accompanied several highly publicized cases of serial murder--or of sexual murder, Lustmord--in Weimar Germany. The "sexual" homicides often took that label mainly from their systematic choice of victims, such as women or homosexuals. Like Jack the Ripper, who preyed on London prostitutes, the German killers often seemed to be enacting a vendetta against those who were seen as different.
It's persuasive to trace much of Weimar's "gender trouble" to Germany's unprecedented defeat in World War I. In the 1920s, German males felt emasculated by their military subjugation and invented a "stab in the back" theory to explain it. The rank-and-file soldiers positioned themselves as victims or martyrs who sacrificed for the fatherland and then were betrayed by the women who stayed home and supposedly took over the labor force. Women became the enemy. You repair the trauma by killing the feminine.
-- from Barry Paris's biography of Louise Brooks,star of Pandora's Box, a film based on the play by Frank Wedekind:
Babylon Berlin, set in 1929, first of Volker Kutscher’s Gereon Rath novels
Babylon Berlin, the Netflix series based on Volker Kutscher’s novels
Metropolis, set in 1928, chronologically, the first of Phillip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels This message was last edited by the GM at 01:36, Fri 04 Nov 2022.
GM, 24 posts
45 years of RPGs
Ich bin dein Freund.
Thu 3 Nov 2022 at 03:00
Setting - How Did You Spend the War?
For Germany, the Great War was a catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale. Over two million German men, most in the flower of youth, marched off to war never to return. Another 4.2 million returned home as casualties of war, suffering long-term chronic physical ailments. The number of veterans also grappling with the psychological effects of the war is beyond counting.
Meanwhile, the British blockade and other disruptions caused by the conflict led to an estimated half-a-million civilian casualties from malnutrition and disease. Whole swathes of the German middle class were effectively wiped out by incipient poverty that led families to sell off treasured heirlooms and ancestral houses just to put food on the table.
Eventually, when the material assets ran out, many German women turned to selling the only thing they had left: their bodies. The Great War fundamentally changed the solid roots of Wilhelmian society, breaking down many social barriers but also leaving average Germans scratching their head, wondering what had happened to the world they grew up in.
Due to the all-pervasive nature of the war, German-born investigators, men and women alike, need to decide how they spent the war years, for the conflict touched everyone’s life.
For German men of military age (those born in the 1880s and 1890s), there is a 40% chance that they served under arms in some capacity, although this needn’t necessarily mean service in the trenches of the Western Front. For one thing, there was the sweeping war on the Eastern Front from 1914–17, encompassing territories from the Baltic to the Balkans.
Albin Grau, the creative impresario behind 1922’s classic Schreckfilm (horror movie) Nosferatu (dir. F. W. Murnau), got the idea to do a vampire movie while serving on the Eastern Front, where he met a Serbian farmer who claimed his father actually was one! Germany also fought abroad to protect its colonial holdings, particularly in East Africa, and characters may have served in the equatorial tropics or in the Far East.
Alternatively, there is service at sea, either as part of a ship’s crew (many of whom were instrumental in leading the uprisings that forced the Kaiser’s abdication in 1918), or in the clanging, claustrophobic chaos onboard a U-boat.
Or perhaps the war was spent in the air? Tales of modern-day knights aboard their colorful wood-and canvas “steeds,” twisting and turning in aerial dogfights high above the trenches and battlefields of the war, captured the imagination of the public and made national heroes of aces such as the Richthofen brothers, Ernst Udet, Werner Voss, Oswald Boelcke, and Hermann Göring. Life expectancy was generally measured in days, but glory awaited those who took to the air, unlike the poor Landsers in the trenches.
Also, keep in mind that military service does not necessarily imply front-line duty. It takes a great number of rear-echelon service personnel to power a modern army, from field surgeons to quartermasters to entertainment and morale-boosting operations such as theater troupes and
For those who didn’t serve, and for female investigators, it’s a good idea to give some thought to how the war impacted their personal lives. Did they lose a loved one in the war? Did they lose their livelihood or fortune? Germany suffers territorial losses due to the Treaty of Versailles—were the investigators forced to pick up stakes from Alsace or Western Prussia and move to Berlin with only what they could carry on their backs?
What of the Turnip Winter (1916–17) and the subsequent starving years, when the British blockade finally brought the specter of famine to the once-prosperous nation? What did the characters do to survive? What did they have to give up?
Did they participate in the food riots that swept Germany during the latter half of the war and into the immediate postwar years? By answering these tough questions, players may create more well-rounded investigators while connecting with the trauma that continues to haunt every German gaily drinking and dancing the night away in the clubs of Berlin.
GM, 25 posts
45 years of RPGs
Ich bin dein Freund.
Thu 3 Nov 2022 at 03:00
Setting - Germany after the War
By November 1918, the British naval blockade had brought about food and material shortages that led to the collapse of German industry and four years of grinding stalemate on the Western Front and the influx of American troops brought on the collapse of the Army. The Kaiser abdicated, and the November Revolution established a constitutional democracy in place of imperial order. The Spartacist Uprising in Berlin pitted Communist fighters against the Social Democrat forces and featured gun battles and extrajudicial murders before stability was imposed.
The Treaty of Versailles brought strict restrictions on German military power, ceded territory to France in the West and Poland in the East, and saddled the new government with severe reparations. A period of hyperinflation began in 1922, rendering the Deutschmark worthless, causing widespread business and bank failure and unemployment and impoverishing millions/ It lasted until 1924.
Germany emerged from all this broken and disillusioned. Before long, international investment picked up and the business situation improved greatly. People weren’t afraid to spend. Whether because they wanted to simply forget the trauma of the War or because they realized that such peace and relative prosperity was bound to come to an end sooner rather than later, the German people partied hard, and nowhere more frantically than Berlin.
GM, 40 posts
45 years of RPGs
Ich bin dein Freund.
Fri 4 Nov 2022 at 04:20
Setting - Politics
Around forty political parties are represented in the Reichstag, not counting the many fringe or splinter parties that are unable to win even one seat, nor does it count trade unions, political unions, or paramilitary groups. There are a bewildering number of political groups operating in Berlin—more than enough to accommodate any political philosophy one cares to name.
Prior to 1930, the most common parties are the left-wing Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of Germany) and the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
(Social Democratic Party of Germany)—usually simply referred to as the KPD and SDP, respectively—the centerleft Deutsche Demokratische Partei (German Democratic Party), the socially conservative Deutsche Zentrumspartei (German Center Party), and the center-right Deutsche Volkspartei (German People’s Party.The NSDAP (Nazi) Party seems poised to significant gains in the Reichstag but remains hugely unpopular in the capital itself.
This myriad of options grows out of the tumultuous days following the Great War, when political marches and rallies are in danger of violent disruption from opposition forces. These paramilitary groups are formed under the auspice of providing “protection” for their own side’s rallies, but many quickly take a more aggressive approach and begin targeting “enemy” gatherings, using intimidation and open violence.Street battles are a frequent result.
On the left, the Roter Frontkämpferbund (Alliance of Red Front Fighters) represent the KPD and number some 130,000 members at their height. Their actions against rightwing parties and the Berlin police grow increasingly violent over the decade, culminating in their ban in 1929, an action that only serves to drive their members underground.
The Red Front Fighters most often clash with the infamous Brownshirts of the NSDAP’s Sturmabteilung (SA), but there are other, less extreme right-wing paramilitary groups active in Berlin as well. Most notable is the Jungdeutscher Orden (Young German Order). Inspired by the Teutonic Knights, the order is nationalistic but rejects the philosophies of Hitler and his cronies, aligning instead with the German Democratic Party. Inspired by the ideals of the prewar Wandervogel movement, they grow to become the largest paramilitary group in Germany.
Even the centrists have their own paramilitary groups. The most well-known is the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold (Black-Red-Gold Banner of the Reich). An alliance of factions from the GDP, the Center Party, and the SDP, this group stands against extremism and subversion from both the right and left, and uses its organizational muscle to promote respect for the new Republic.
Among right-wing, anti-Semitic Organizations, Consul was the pre-eminent group in the early-1920s, but has been supplanted by Bund Wiking in the last couple of years ago, which is being rapidly overtaken by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP, the Nazis).