Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spirit of '77: J.J. and the Firebug


J.J.'s official theme song. 

Last night I got together with Mike, Steve, Scott, Jeff and Pete to embark upon our latest adventure in roleplaying: Spirit of '77. Conceptualizing the game is pretty easy: imagine a world in which 1970s action/adventure television - shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, B.J. and the Bear, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Charlie's Angels, S.W.A.T., Starsky & Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard and so on - were real. Nixon served two full terms, Gerald Ford is president in 1977 and Saigon exists, West Berlin-like, as an American enclave in Vietnam. Against this backdrop, 1970s archetypes such as ex-cops, ex-cons, private eyes, glam rockers, good 'ol boys, vigilantes, gonzo journalists and others pursue their hopes and dreams while sticking it to The Man and, perhaps, uncovering the truth behind the vast web of conspiracies that are the foundation of 1970s America.

Our first session served as prologue to the actual gaming sessions to come; without rolling a single die, we worked together to craft our characters and their interrelationships. It played out very much like a really good improv session, and by the end of the night I'd come up with a character I'm pretty proud of: Johnny James Columbia, a good ol' boy, former stunt driver, now paired up with a talking VW Beetle. Here's an extended version of the introduction to the concept I rattled off last night (imagine this as voiceover narration to a typical 1970s adventure show):

"My name is Johnny James Columbia, but my friends call me J.J. I used to be a stunt driver in Hollywood. But then I met O.S.CAR - a souped-up VW Firebug who thinks he's the next big thing. Now we drive across America. I test his limits. He tests my patience. That's why they call us J.J. and the Firebug."

J.J. himself is a lanky, cocky twenty-something from California, chasing thrills and chasing women without asking too many questions about F.I.S.T., the shadowy organization that hired him to put the Firebug prototype through its paces. Never seen without his trademark mirrored sunglasses and leather bomber jacket, J.J. has an uneasy relationship with O.S.CAR, (Operating System: CAR, voiced by Vic Perrin) the artificial intelligence incorporated into the Firebug. O.S.CAR takes the form of a bulky 1970s style PC mounted on the Firebug's console - think a beige box with a low-resolution six-inch amber CRT. O.S.CAR is annoyingly self-assured and full of himself; F.I.S.T. engineers claim they're still "working the kinks out" of the personality algorithms.

The Firebug itself is a black 1975 VW beetle with a sweet flame paint job. Aside from being faster and tougher than the typical bug, the Firebug is also submersible and comes with a full set of ejector seats.

Once a week, J.J. must report in to Colonel Oscar P. Oscopy of F.I.S.T., a military man with a personality eerily similar to O.S.CAR. J.J. is somewhat frustrated that F.I.S.T. won't even tell him what the name stands for, let alone what they're going to do once the Firebug trials are complete. But J.J. is happy as long as he gets to put the car through its paces.

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun coming up with this ridiculous scenario, and I look forward to playing it out with the guys over the course of the next decade or so. 

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