The Price of Freedom (1986)

This is The Price of Freedom (1986). The game begins as Soviet forces begin their occupation of America. I don’t know why so much of this stuff came out in 1986, but they did (I mean, obviously they draw from Red Dawn, but it’s weird to have all of them in one grouping like this).

I do not know who this game is for. On the surface, it seems aimed at the same conservative-minded, Red Scare-fearing folks that Year of the Phoenix was aimed at. Certainly it was marketed toward them. The designer, Greg Cosikyan, though, was a liberal New Yorker (he considered himself a left libertarian at the time). I’ve seen him claim it was an experiment, I’ve also seen him express embarrassment over it. But this is also the guy who wrote Violence, Paranoia and Toon. I can’t help but see this as a send-up, or perhaps a Trojan horse.

The cover art is perhaps a good Rorschach test. I can see how that image would both unnerve and appeal someone under the spell of the Red Scare. But to me, the looming Lenin, the headbands and the lady (wrongly) carrying the massive RPG scream farce. The liberal use of “commie” in the text similarly undercuts the seriousness for me (Paranoia, which does something similar, came out two years prior).

The game is D20 and skill based. Its tightly designed, veers towards wargames for its action and is fairly unremarkable mechanically. There isn’t much in the rules about roleplaying, really, but the pre-gens have a lot of roleplay cues that support the idea that this is meant to subvert the conservatism the game appeals to. Maria is a Trotskyite Marxist, Billy’s hero is Bruce (no last name given, but of course it means Springsteen). Jake idolizes Bernie Goetz (keep an eye on Jake, jeeze), Johnson’s passion is money. Its a big spectrum of American personalities united against the commies, including some commies!

Added bonus: the intro scenario takes place on the Communipaw bridge connecting Kearny to Jersey City, making it the only RPG I know of that takes place in my good old hometown.

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