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Villainy for Fun and Profit

I’m using Edward Luttwak’s Coup d’Etat for RPG instruction. See, the campaign is titled “Bastards!” and we’re all to play bastards of one stripe or another: people denied inheritance of once kind or another and determined to win it back by any means necessary. I intend to play a conquering hero closed out of the highest ranks of command by a touch of the alien Vile. (Compare Richard III.) He’s aiming high: a military coup, but only with the best of intentions, namely to lead the kingdom to victory over the Vile, which can only happen with his military genius at the helm.

Problem: I don’t think I have the chops to make a coup happen, even with a bit of game fudging. So I borrowed Coup d’Etat—subtitled “a practical handbook.” (This is the GM’s book, which means he’ll know my plans. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to bear in mind…) And practical handbook it is, full of solid historical examples to emulate or avoid.

Sometimes. The thing is, Luttwak offers hard advice on the easy stuff. Given a particular structure of troops and police, how do you neutralize the structure with a minimum number of subverted individuals (each subversion effort presenting a risk to the security of the coup)? Piece of cake. Any body sufficiently far from the capital can be cut off as long as you control the transport. Otherwise, large, homogenous bodies require the actual leadership to be subverted. Complex, technical bodies can be neutralized by subverting its smallest necessary component. Optimization theory is my forte.

Politics, now, that’s a different matter entirely. Focus on the layer at which command decisions are actually made, fine. But how do you identify the layer at which actual decisions are made? Tell potential recruits what they want to here, okay. But how do you know what they want to hear? The book is a little vague on the details. “Convert officers to your cause using the usual arguments.” What arguments? Unspecified. Which doesn’t do me any good. Despite what Teen Talk Barbie might have you believe, optimization theory is easy; interpersonal relationships are hard. And, when individuals are so critical to the success or failure of a coup, “a practical handbook” isn’t all that practical without practical advice on the psychology of the coup on the individual level as well as the national level.

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