Episode 118: Investing in a Plausible Scotsman

This month, Roger and Mike revisit British history: this time, the Napoleonic Wars and the Regency.

We mentioned

Troika Worlds (until 3 October) and Apocalypse Engine 5 (until 10 October) at the Bundle of Holding, Blades in the Dark, the Esoteric Order’s actual-play recording of Monsterhearts, the TV show Mike was thinking of, The Americans, Spire,

“The Georges”, George III, George IV, The Madness of George III, Hornblower, Sharpe, (Michael meant that Hegel expressed himself obscurely, not that he was someone you would never have heard of), Citizens, Good Society, Georgette Heyer, GURPS Age of Napoleon, GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel, Reign. Weimar: The Fight For Democracy, The Peterloo Massacre, The Bavarian Illuminati, The Age of Wonder, and Jenny Uglow’s The Lunar Men.

Michael would also like to recommend The Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain.

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com, and Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel, performed by St Matthew’s Concert Choir, Giromella, cc-by-unported.


Regarding Napoleon, I’m intrigued by the idea that autocrats can create meritocracies beneath them. Not because I’m pining for a philosopher-king to ‘solve’ all the political problems of today, but more because I want a Political Structure generator that’s more nuanced than Traveller’s ~14 types. Perhaps an adjective-noun approach would be fruitful.

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I suggest that you read C. Northcote Parkinson’s The Evolution of Political Thought, which in addition to considering examples and evidence from outside Europe, also examines how the prospects for endurance of each type of government varies with the administrative problem that it has to solve and with the justification on which it founds its legitimacy. An interesting read.

Apparently their reading of Parkinson informed the decision by Niven and Pournelle that the government of the interstellar state in their book The Mote in God’s Eye might be a monarchy, and that if it were it ought to have a state church.


There was a narrative skirmish wargame released at the end of last year called the Silver Bayonet. The theme can easily be rolled into a RPG, with a good excuse for a range of different characters to be bought together to investigate horrors and hunt down monsters. Blurb from the book pasted below:

As the wars of Napoleon ravage Europe, chaos and fear reign and the darkness that once clung to the shadows has been emboldened. Supernatural creatures - vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and worse take advantage of the havoc, striking out at isolated farms, villages, and even military units. Whether they are pursuing some master plan or simply revelling in their newfound freedom is unknown. Most people dismiss reports of these slaughters as the rantings of madmen or the lies of deserters, but a few know better…

The Silver Bayonet is a skirmish wargame of gothic horror set during the Napoleonic Wars. Each player forms an elite band of monster hunters drawn from the ranks of one of the great powers. Riflemen, swordsmen, and engineers fight side-by-side with mystics, occultists, and even those few supernatural creatures that can be controlled or reasoned with enough to make common cause. The game can be played solo, co-operatively, or competitively, with players progressing through a series of interlinked adventures with their soldiers gaining experience and suffering grievous wounds, and their units triumphing… or falling in the face of the shadows. It is a game of action and adventure, where musket and sabre meet tooth and claw

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Which reminds me of Flintloque, fantasy-Napoleonic skirmish wargaming which I think eventually grew a set of RPG rules - definitely rule of cool there though.


Flintloque is still going. It’s an interesting take, all your typical fantasy races transposed to a Napoleonic setting (similar to Shadowrun and Cyberpunk in that regard).

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Wikipedia has a page on the Napoleonic Wars in fiction which is essentially a fair-sized list. There’s a lot of literary fiction using it for background, but not very many French examples of the “honourable junior officer at war” sub-genre. I guess it’s harder to do swashbuckling right when you’re scheduled to lose.

Apparently, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing wrote an alternate history (sorry, counterfactual historical novel) about the Retreat from Moscow going better.

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The upcoming book of mine which Roger mentioned and in which Mike was interested is Boundary of the Darkness. It should be out next year, when Pelgrane have finished dealing with their pandemic backlog.

I’m not sure which other period figure Roger was trying to remember from The Age of Wonder (there are so many from which to choose), but it may well have been Sir Joseph Banks, my own favourite historical Rich Idiot With No Day Job (note: Not An Idiot), as memorialised in every other garden in the country.

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Yes, Banks, the Herschels and Davy are the principal subjects.

(And I still regret the two generations that didn’t get anæsthesia because the licentious reputation of Davy’s nitrous oxide parties meant no serious experimenter would go near it.)