Last week marked a week of firsts. It was my first time traveling to Ottawa (our nation’s capital) and it was also my first time holding a Ross rifle. Patrick and I had the opportunity to visit the Canadian War Museum to conduct research on the Ross Rifle, take photos of artifacts, and discuss the content of our game with a Collections Specialist at the museum. Under the supervision of Eric Fernberg, we were given access to a Huot automatic rifle, Mark III Ross rifles (one with a Warner & Swasey scope), a Mills #5 grenade, a trench club, an entrenching tool, an identification bracelet, and a small box respirator (SBR).
Of all of these artifacts, perhaps most interesting to me was the simple aluminum identification bracelet. Inscribed with H.M. GORE R.F.A. C.E., this tag belonged to a member of the Royal Canadian Field Artillery branch of the CEF by the surname of Gore. What proved to be most interesting was that this was an unofficial form of military identification. During the First World War, soldiers wore both official and unofficial identification tags to identify their bodies in the event of death. Fearing that the official tags worn around the neck would be destroyed in the event of an artillery strike, soldiers often made their own “backup” tags to wear around their wrist. This quickly became gifts given by loved ones to soldiers preparing to go overseas. Later that evening during our playtest session, I decided that the character I made would have a similar identification bracelet. Knowing this interesting and often overlooked aspect of WWI history greatly informed how I roleplayed my character. He was a conscript who carried a wrist tag – a somber gift from his loving family – into his first battle.
We spent 3.5 hours behind-the-scenes in the museum’s collections with Eric. His knowledge of the artifacts and the context of their use was impressive, to say the least. The majority of our time with him was spent chatting about the birth of the Ross rifle – from the political drama between England and Canada during the Second Boer War to the aspects of the rifle’s design that made it unsuitable for widespread use in trenches. Not only was the discussion enlightening, but it also filled us with confidence. Everything that we’ve written up until this point was correct, and there’s something special about having a military historian confirm all of the minute details of your research.
Aside from the museum itself – which was absolutely beautiful and engaging – we had a productive trip with regards to the development of the Ross Rifles ruleset. After our day at the War Museum, we ran a playtest of an upcoming battle scenario at a local store called Kessel Run Games. Two members of the local gaming convention/publishing scene, alongside two other gamers, came to our session. Afterwards, we had a long discussion about the Ross Rifles rules, what aspects were unique and compelling, and where there was confusion. Later that evening, Patrick and I stayed up late discussing and digesting the feedback we received. It was later implemented into the updated rules we’re going to be testing at Breakout Con next month. Needless to say, that was a VERY productive 17-hour work day.
Exactly a week later, we ran a public playtest of the updated rules at our local gaming store – 401 Games. We made changes to the “Fatigue” and “Harm” systems by combining them into a single track related to “Shock”. The “Vigilance Moves” system was also expanded – with 4 additional options. Character creation was also modified. We gave the “personal item” actual mechanical utility in the game. But don’t worry, the Quickstart we released is very much still in the spirit of the game and is only slightly different. It’s still playable! We’re constantly looking to improve Ross Rifles. The best way to help is by joining us at conventions and local playtests to try out the latest builds!
We also appeared on the latest episode of +1 Forward, a podcast dedicated to Powered by the Apocalypse engine games. This was our first media appearance as DWG! You can listen to the episode here.
Sign up for our playtest games at Breakout Con HERE!