Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pre-Communist Russia as a setting

Part of my accidental series of Google Doodle plot ideas, marking the 450th anniversary of St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, the most recognisable landmark in Russia.

I'll freely admit that when I think about dramatic events in Russian history, I generally think of the Revolution and Communist era, like the Civil War, Yuri Gagarin and just last week Rasputin, because it's the era I know best, having studied it as a historian, and also because it was a science-fictional time, going from a peasant backwater to sending a man into space in a lifetime, while parts of it were still a peasant backwater and utopian ideals clashed with the depths of human depravity.

I'm not alone here, the TARDIS Index File only lists two events before the 20th Century across Who media. (Although it doesn't mention the Master sharing a name with Koschei The Deathless in the New Adventures.)

But I have GURPS Russia and Mythic Russia on my game shelves, and something like St. Basil's has plenty of history going for it. Just that article on the Google Doodle alone points out "Saint Basil was an unorthodox saint infamous for his naked walks around Moscow in the bitter cold, shoplifting and for his open mockery of Ivan the Terrible, who feared Basil as 'a seer of people's hearts and minds'."

Russia has plenty of historic events, battles, betrayals, revolts, and its share of legends, heroes and monsters, as well as a vast number of amusingly cynical proverbs to quote.

Ride with the Bogatyri against the forces of Baba Yaga, queen of witches! Flee the Cossack purge of Ivan the Terrible! Marvel at the beauty of the new city of St. Petersburg!


Example: Blood And Ice
1770, and Catherine the Great rules Russia, but far from unopposed. Her opposition of serfdom has drawn the ire of a number of powerful noble families, some who would see her son on the throne instead, and one of them is happy to plot with an outsider against the crown. That outsider hails not from another European power, but another world, an agent of the Frost seeking to destroy humanity as winter descends...


  1. (Although it doesn't mention the Master sharing a name with Koschei The Deathless in the New Adventures.)
    I always thought that Rasputin in The Wages of Sin would turn out to be the Master, as it was a McIntee novel and he's got a particular fondness for that character, but no, apparently not.

    I do wish he'd written more of the Master in his Koschei days, though. I was predisposed to think of him as "evil" in The Dark Path, which probably wasn't fair.

  2. Seeing as I have practically every GURPS sourcebook, I really could (should?) do an all-historicals season some time.

  3. Or if you just need one, close your eyes and point to the shelf at random.

    (Just be sure to remove GURPS Horseclans before trying this if you happen to have it...)