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Hope & Glory review and a bit about utopia

THE world is undergoing immense changes. Never before have the conditions of life changed so swiftly and enormously as they have changed for mankind in the last fifty years. We have been carried along—with no means of measuring the increasing swiftness in the succession of events. We are only now beginning to realize the force and strength of the storm of change that has come upon us.(H.G. Wells, The Open Conspiracy, 1928)

40651289_1844226848964225_7031900626594299904_nThe first full review of Hope & Glory is in and it is just great – you can read it here, on the Ars Rolica blog. It’s in Spanish, but as usual Google Translate is your friend.

The review really made me happy and I was particularly happy of the fact that the reviewer started out cautious and a little diffident, but finally was captivated by the setting.

All the elements are perfectly interwoven with each other and, as I said before, once that initial caution is saved, it is very easy to get carried away by the exciting combination of genres that Hope & Glory presents.

… and I thought, we made it!

I am extremely grateful to Ars Rolica for their great and in-depth review of our game; I am sure I can speak for my long-suffering partner in this adventure – Umberto Pignatelli, that had to put order and numbers on my somewhat sprawling world – and the guys that did art and graphics. Thank you, Ars Rolica!

There was also a bit that caused me to pause, and laugh, and then an idea for a post, and here I am…

yes, H&G has a utopian point, almost socialist in some moments

masterThis gave me pause.
Utopian and Socialist? Moi?
Well, I thought, if it was OK for H.G. Wells, I think it’s all right for me too.
After all I am a scientist, an empiricist and an all-around swell guy with what I hope is a progressive outlook.
And I am certain that every piece of writing reflects the politics of the writer, but I was not trying to clobber the readers on the head with an agenda.
And yet…

As I sat down to design the world of Hope & Glory, I was set on imagining a positivist world.
There is this risk, with steampunk, to wax nostalgic about things that weren’t that great – racism, colonialism, discrimination, aggressive politics, the whole packet that hurled the early 20th century into the nightmare that was The War to End All Wars.
White Man’s Burden and all that.
Did the Victorians have a good side? Of course they did.
Only, history went in a different direction, and it was bad. Real bad.

So, I thought, why not design a universe in which the best of people, the highest aspirations and dreams of the futurists got the upper hand? It was not hard, from that point on – I just had to kill off half the world population. Maybe a little more.
This is one of the powers of fantasy writing.51BuF6Dit0L

And then there was Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come a 1933 “novel” that is actually a socio-political treatise in a very thin disguise. It can be boring, if you expect something more character-oriented, but otherwise makes for an interesting read in the field of “future history”.
I also checked out The Open Conspiracy, a non fiction book by Wells that was supposed to be a blueprint for the future revolution, and the beginning of a better word. You can find it here.

William Cameron Menzies made a movie of Things to Come, in 1936, with Wells having a say in the script, and it’s one of my favorite black and white movies. I find it exhilarating and terrifying.

The movie Things to Come, and the books (together with a cartload of other early Scientific Romance), provided a template, and a warning, as I wrote. And yes, possibly underscored some of the socialist leanings that show through here and there1 according to my reviewer.
What I wanted was a world in which individuals are, mostly, decent people, and in which problems (and there are problems, I mean, c’mon… Neanderthal Cossack and the Chinese Psionic Police-State? Yetis and Ancient Masters?) are stared right in the face and tackled, and possibly solved.

To this I added my general faith in individuals and distrust for organizations.
I don’t know if it’s socialist, or anarchist – I think it helps putting the -punk in Hope & Glory‘s steampunk.
And in Hope & Glory the future is a lot less scary than the past, and it’s mostly from the past that the horrors and the troubles and the menaces come.

I like dystopia just as the next guy, but I think it’s nice for a change to show a system that – with all its faults and creaks and drawbacks – more or less works.
So Hope & Glory is a game about utopias.
And most of the nations in the basic books and in the (hopefully forthcoming) future books, see themselves as utopian states.
The Raj is egalitarian, technological and progressive, and Hope and Glory are not just words. It contains the seeds of what might be its undoing, but the characters are working on the side of good.
part of the machineCzarist Russia sees itself as an ideal state, in which happy workers maintain a system that preserves the status quo and are completely provided for by the state itself. Alone of all the nations of the New World, Russia has adapted to the changed environment instead of fighting it. But yes, morlocks and eloi are just around the corner…
China has achieved Heavenly Peace at the cost of millions of lives, and there’s police forces that can nail criminals before they break the law. But it’s a fine line between a Confucian Legalist State and a Police State.
number the braveAfrica is growing without external influences but those the people of the continent have sought out themselves. But old divisions might undermine the march towards a bright future.
And so on.

So things are going more or less fine, there’s margin for improvement, let’s get to work and improve.

Dystopia is usually a genre in which the system sucks, and the individuals want to escape it – either individually or by tearing the system down.
I prefer the sort of cautious utopia that could go pear-shaped at any given moment, but there’s good people working to prevent that.
I like playing in the role of the good guys. Not emphatic heroes, no spandex and capes or shining armors. Just decent people doing what’s humanly good.
I hope my players will like it too.
Hope & Glory is a game about exploring the world, and making it better. Really better.

I must point out that, being an Italian, I saw a Socialist Party at work that was, de facto, a right-wing, neo-liberist party… that can make me confused at times. 
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