One of the features of the new version of Duty and Honour that I am the most thrilled about is the potential to finally create a game that can keep fans of historical adventures in the Peninsular happy, while offering material for those that want to have an alternative take on the themes of the game. As I have noted elsewhere, this has been a bone of contention for ten years now – and it is something that was top of my list to address during this new edition.
I have had some commentary on this issue in the past where people have wondered why people cannot just make the changes on their own accord? So, if you want to have female redcoats in Wellington’s Army, then just do it. And of course, that’s absolutely right. However, there is something more important going on here. As I now see it, it isn’t about simply ‘hacking’ a game to suit your tastes, it is buying into a game where the writer actively supports alternative and inclusive viewpoints; even in a game set in such a historically non-inclusive setting.
I remember, with some horror, the naivety that lead me to believe that producing a Zulu War version of Duty & Honour would have been a good thing! After all I love Zulu so what could go wrong. Oh Neil, you sweet summer child. Everything could go wrong. Whilst the one playtest I ran was fine it left me with a stark realisation that somethings shouldn’t be made into a rip-roaring heroic game, and the invasion and slaughter of an indigenous people on a threadbare military pretence was one of them.
The Napoleonic Wars were a time of great heroics but also of horrific social divides and injustices, of slavery and oppression, of subjugation of women and of people of colour. As much as the battle against Napoleon is generally seen as a ‘good thing’ it was done against the backdrop of rampant British imperialism and the start of the burgeoning British Empire, with all the issues that came with it.
There has to be a way that people can enjoy their Bernard Cornwell-inspired heroics without being forced to play with the other problematic issues as well? So how will I try to do it?
Well, my intention is to have, ala Nights Black Agents, a number of sidebar suggestions and comments about changes that could be made in a ‘alternative fiction’ mode of the game. I intend to get some contributors to suggest drifts for the setting that could be adopted to address some of the issues. I still want the game to be a historical one at its core – and to stick to what it is good at – but I want to include, by design, options and support for those people that would prefer to have all of the adventure and heroics of Duty and Honour but with a more inclusive setting than our real life history can provide. I understand and support anyone with this preference, and so will the game – openly and proudly.