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We all read up on the latest survival-related products and pore over websites that give us new hints and strategies. We clear the vicinity at parties when we "talk shop" with fellow survivalists. Many of us run rehearsals with our family and friends. How about taking a break for fun, and educational gameplay?
I propose that you consider playing role playing games (RPGs) to help you and your family to prepare for emergencies and TEOTWAWKI. Since their "origin" in the late 1970s, RPGs have been used successfully in therapy and in helping with communication skills. RPGs have the potential to improve players' social and problem solving skills as well as being relatively low cost simulation/practice activities. By their very nature, they help improve the cooperative and problem solving skills of the players. What a good, fun, supplemental tool for the survivalist.
For FRPs to be usable for us as a teaching/rehearsal tool requires a few vital features. We all work and have obligations, and little time to study complex rules and matrices. So the rules must be clear and concise. The system must be flexible and speedy enough to allow "what if" scenarios that include various real world elements; it must allow for one's character (game simulacra) to use a shotgun one moment and model the same character's attempt to apply first aid to a party member the next with minimal time needed to game out the event. Finally, the system must be fun.
We have all heard of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D), a fantasy, some what Tolkienesque RPG. Not much utility for the survivalist as it is set firmly in a fantasy mileu and has very complex "combat"and skill rules.
Cyberpunk comes a little closer as it deals with a high tech society with extreme social and financial disruption. The skill and attribute (e.g. intelligence and strength) system is clear and challenges are quickly resolved. But Cyberpunk is less than ideal for survivalists as it is based strongly around implanted technologies and general high tech' and so it will not be ideal for modeling a contemporary disaster situation.
The Chaosium Basic Role Playing system (BRP), and its predecessor Call of Cthulu (COC) fit the requirements for survivalist use: easy to understand rules (practical attributes for character, percentile-based skill proficiencies), very flexible system (built to deal with Stone Age to the far future and fantasy environments), and allows excellent design of characters.
How can you use FRPs in your prep' plan? You and your family could spend a few hours discussing your roles and emergency evolutions/drills or you could play an FRP in which a certain disaster occurs and each person must react to it given their set of skills and available resources. A bit more engaging, especially for the kids.
You and your group could get together and game likely scenarios using an FRP. A good way to identify potential group communication problems before the Big Event (see my post of 27Jul09 below)! You can also identify potential chokepoints in planned movements/bugouts, test exclusion [of outsiders] policies before the Event, and have fun at the same time.
Here's an example of an implementation. I am currently involved in an FRP, called End of Days, which involves our characters trying to survive in the aftermath of a worldwide pandemic of a hemorrhagic fever, in the Portland and Coeur D' Alene areas. The game has been most instructive as our group of individuals try to collect the resources and cultivate the contacts with other survivors that will mean the difference between life and death.
Our group consists of a strange mix of types: the doctor, exhausted from fighting the plague and trying to hold the others to her high moral code; the "drop out" professor of Roman history who possesses many skills for rebuilding a viable society; the drifter jack-of-all -trades who is expert in negotiation and bargaining; the Army sergeant who was an NBC expert, now he must apply his combat skills to defense of the party's retreat; and the White Nationalist paramedic who had a smallholding set up for TEOTWAWKI, he must learn to cooperate with his "enemies" lest all die out.
Through the interaction of the players, key real world issues of cooperation, "creative scavenging" (what items will be needed), and small group dynamics under extreme pressure are all played out in the course of the game.
Setting up to do an FRP is simple and inexpensive. Visit one of the links above to locate sources for rule books. Buy the necessary dice and rule books. One source is www.rpgshop.com I have no connection with them, I have only heard good things about the firm from others.
Consider adding FRPs to your learning tools. You won't be sorry and you'll gain a new diversion which will enhance your necessary skills.