There are times in history when the echoes of history trail through time. The trenches, battle fields, and nightmares of WWI were rife with the horrors of war depravity in spades. This was a war the likes of which the world as a whole had never seen.
Skirmisher publishing has released "La Baionnette #32," and its like a window into the French collective mind during WWI.
I've gamed in this war a couple of times and its never a pleasant war ever but then no war is.
To understand why this issue is important you have to understand who Louis Raemaekers is and why the world is different because of him and his artwork.
But first what is "La Baionnette"?
According to wiki:
The bayonet is a French satirical weekly which appeared in 1915-1920
Its headquarters was 30, rue de Provence in Paris.
It was originally created as the bayonet At the January 23, 1915 by cartoonist Henriot says Henriot , a contributor toThe Illustration and father of Émile Henriot . It changed its name in July 1915. At first, Henriot provides most of the drawings.
It takes its name from the bayonet and the term "charge with the bayonet," the charge was also her favorite activity by making fun of the "stupidity" of the Germans and ridicule by his caricatures the Kaiser Wilhelm II or Crown PrinceWilliam of Prussia and thus supporting the morale of the French during the First World War . Main illustrators: Iribe, Fabiano, Gus Bofa, Leander, Willette, Poulbot, Métivet, Wegener, Cappiello, Capy and many others.
Wars such as WWI take center stage as the set pieces and background as historic settings for your adventurers whose presence and actions might in some small way alter the flow and ebb of time. But in all of the 'one shots of history' and alternative historical adventures I've run its always the small victories and little events that make the difference to players. World shaping events such as WWI offer some pretty impressive pieces of history to draw PC's into pivot moments of history.
Collections like this offer a snap shot of time and historic events enabling the reality of war to be used as the backdrop for horror, adventure, and weird fiction because the fog of war shakes the monsters from out of the pages of history like no other. This is where these collections come into perfect focus for a DM running anything like an old school time travel adventure or something like Call of Cthlhu where the horrors of the Mythos are perfectly time and fitted into the battles and struggles that the war will obliterate with a hand gesture of war itself.
This issue features the artistry of Louis Raemaekers who is not well known today among Americans, created some of the most vivid and horrifying artwork as well as illustrations of WWI.
His country of Belguim was right in the center of WWI German occupation.
Immediately after the Germans invaded Belgium, Louis Raemaekers became one of their fiercest critics. His message was clear: the Netherlands had to take sides for the Allies and abandon its neutral stance. His graphic cartoons depicted the rule of the German military in Belgium, portrayed the Germans as barbarians and Kaiser Wilhelm II as an ally of Satan. His work was confiscated on several occasions by the Dutch government and he was criticized by many for endangering the Dutch neutrality. The minister of Foreign Affairs John Loudon invited Raemaekers, the owner of De Telegraaf H.M.C. Holdert and the editor-in-chief Kick Schröder under pressure from the German government to a meeting, at which he requested them to avoid ‘anything that tends towards insulting the German Kaiser and the German army’. It was not possible to prosecute Raemaekers for as long as the country was not under martial law. But the pressure on him continued, also from Germany: in September 1915 the rumor even started circulating that the German government had offered a reward of 12,000 guilders for Raemaekers, dead or alive, but proof of an official statement has never been found.
Louis Raemaekers achieved his greatest successes outside his native country. He left for London in November 1915, where his work was exhibited in the Fine Art Society on Bond Street. It was received with much acclaim. Raemaekers became an instant celebrity and his drawings were the talk of the town: ‘they formed the subject of pulpit addresses, and during two months, the galleries where they have been exhibited have been thronged to excess. Practically every cartoon has been purchased at considerable prices.’ He decided to settle in England and his family followed in early 1916. His leaving the Netherlands for London was a godsend for all concerned. Henceforth, the Dutch government could distance itself from the cartoonist and his work in its diplomatic relations, thus stabilising its position vis-à-vis Germany, while Raemaekers himself could cease his hopeless campaign to get the Netherlands to abandon its neutral stance. He may also have realised for himself that his aim of persuading his country to take up arms and thus avoid the fate of Belgium was not very realistic. From early 1915 Raemaekers' cartoons had already appeared in British newspapers and magazines. In early 1916 he signed a contract with the Daily Mail and they appeared in this newspaper on a regular basis for the next two years.
There are three old school gaming systems and their relatives that I've used WWI as the backdrop for.They include OD&D and its retroclone systems, Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer, and White Wolf's Wraith the Great War. The trick with using any gaming material is to pick the historic events and dates that you wish to insert your PC's into. Or to use an alternative historical approach to the material. Most of the time to avoid certain sensitive pieces of history, I've gone in the direction of alternative history. By doing this it enables the DM room to create his own path of 'what if' and this is where resources like "La Baionnette #32" are very important.
These resources enable you to create the divergent points or fork's in the road of time without cheapening the historical events themselves or the bloodshed and horrors that went along with them.
Now I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm obsessed with WW I , I've been to Europe and France seen the battle fields, walked through the museums, watched countless historical documentaries & specials, and ran a Wraith The Great War campaign from White Wolf. This is very grim stuff and its not easy to deal with at all. In no way shape or form I'm I or this collection trying to cheapen the memory of the blood shed, suffering,and agony of WWI. In point of fact its only through understanding the history of the events of the war that we really get a clear picture of how close to the edge the world came from WWI and how the events of the first war led to the center stage of the second.
Do I think that this collection is well worth your money and time? Yes its a true snap shot into a very blood thirsty time, the inclusion of Louis Raemaekers's artwork is a grim reminder of the horrors of our world's past.
[4 of 5 Stars!]