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I am a massive fan of history - particularly the 20th century. Of course, the Second World War is massive and fascinating specter of this era. Are there any pen and paper RPGs based upon this conflict?

I don't want to play a system that I can "adapt" to WWII, as this would take up too much of my already limited time with research. I would also like if the game featured the ability to roleplay the Eastern Front.

If there are fantasy/sci-fi elements, that is fine, but only if they relate directed to the mythologies of the participating ideologies. As in, no external threats to the participating powers of the war, such as Zombies, capricious Gods, etc. But occultic Nazi forces, American super soldiers, or Soviet experimental warfare would all be acceptable as they play into the mythological ideas surrounding the war itself.

Above all, I want a WWII roleplaying game that is ready to go from out of the box. I'd like the campaign setting to be specifically centered upon WWII as a whole. No hours of making up stats and descriptions of era-specific weapons, areas, forces, etc. I'd appreciate if that were included and ready for play right of the box.

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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

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Can you give some specifics about the kind of games you'd like to run, please? IE: infiltration/espionage, trench warfare, punching Hitler in the face? –  BESW Mar 25 at 7:25
    
As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible. –  Jonathan Hobbs Mar 25 at 8:45
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ComradeYakov, please do convey exactly what you want to be doing in this system. All answers to this question would be equal, given they merely meet the WWII criteria. That makes it a list question, in which our format breaks down. Better would be you expressing what you'd like to do in this system, so that people can suggest WWII-themed RPGs that actually do what you're after. –  Jonathan Hobbs Mar 25 at 8:48
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Discuss question validity (inasmuch as it doesn't get turned into a proper game rec) on Meta here. –  mxyzplk Mar 25 at 21:57

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I went through a spate of WWII game buying a number of years ago. Here's the ones I own personally. Your requirements haven't actually narrowed it down from "all of them," so here goes.

Behind Enemy Lines - an older classic WWII game; I have both the first version by The Companions and the second version by FASA (1982). The latter is a larger boxed set, very much like adding some light roleplaying to Squad Leader. It is very detailed crunchy rules (there's a table of body thickness per body weight, for example). I have a module for it, Guns of Navarone. Use this if you're mainly wanting a tactical wargame and just want people to do some interstitial roleplay. May be hard to find.

GURPS WWII - I only have some of this massive line. GURPS is a slightly newer but also very crunchy ruleset. The variety of source material available, Eastern and Western front, is huge. Very simulationist. Straight up, no supernatural stuff (though you can certainly add it from the copious other GURPS lines). This is better if you want to be able to have a larger campaign focus than BEL (and/or have a large discretionary RPG budget). Around here you can find sourcebooks for it at Half Price Books pretty readily.

Weird War II - a WWII game that incorporates zombies, werewolves, ghosts, etc. I have the original d20 version; it's also available in a Savage Worlds version and actually a GURPS WWII expansion as well. It was good and had a number of expansion books, including Hell Freezes Over for the Eastern Front. The weird stuff is mostly caused by Nazi occultism and experiments, there's a teutonic rune magic system for example, or is otherwise based on real world myth (gremlins, ghost planes) but it's pretty pervasive. You get your choice of systems, which is nice, and you could certainly just use the core rules and make your own not-supernatural adventures just fine. And d20 or Savage Worlds means more PC survivability than these other games.

GODLIKE - worth mentioning even though it has extrinsic supernatural elements just because it's one of the best game designs of the last decade. Well, ok, 13 years, man the time flies. Uses the One Roll Engine (ORE) and is a super gritty take on WWII where superpowered men have just started to emerge. But it's one talent per person, and a bullet will kill a flying man or invisible man or super-strong man as dead as anyone else. Just a dynamite game.

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I would enthusiastically recommend the Savage Worlds version of Weird War II, which I have both run and played on numerous occasions.

The setting book has extensive rules for all aspects of fighting in the second world war, including air, land and sea combat, all of which stick to the Savage Worlds mantra of being Fast, Furious and Fun.

The rules extend Savage Worlds, with sections for character creation into the different service branches and specialisms and a large number of setting specific Edges and Hindrances, rules for awards, medals and promotions, supplies, buildings and fortifications, battlefield hazards, fire support and artillery, close air support, disease, parachuting, piloting, dog fighting and naval operations.

There are stats for the common weapons, equipment and vehicles for all of the main combatants in the war (US, UK, Soviet, German and Japanese). With these and the relatively straightforward rules, it is reasonably simple to extrapolate from these to fill any gaps with other nations. (Note, that a few of my players with more extensive and detailed knowledge of the conflict have commented that some of the statistics and attributes for particular vehicles are a little inaccurate, but unless you are obsessive about this kind of thing then it really is not an issue.)

The history section gives a good summary of the conflict as a primer, and there are suggestions for campaigns within the various theatres of the war, including the European Theatre of Operations, the Eastern Front, North Africa, and the Pacific and China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations. There is also a very good random mission generator.

The setting includes 'weird' elements, which are closely tied into the Nazi occult and monsters appropriate to the locale where fighting is taking place. However, these are really easy to strip out, leaving a vanilla WW2 campaign.

As a final note, I believe that the hard copy rule book is out of print and difficult to get hold of. It is available as a pdf document though. In addition to the setting book, you will also require a copy of the Savage Worlds core rule book.

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World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour by Cubicle 7

Note that this is a setting book, you also need the Call of Cthulhu RPG by Chaosium in order to play - and, quite frankly, Call of Cthulhu in itself has excellent mechanics for playing "normal people" and works nicely on its own, if you're willing to contribute the setting information yourself. I've used it myself to create an military campaign set just after WWII.

Seeing as you specifically mentioned the Fascist Occult, I think this would fit that particular bill perfectly.

There's some nice WWII-specific addons to CoC in WWC, including a section on small unit tactics which contains some nice advice on how to get the feel of fighting in a WWII combat environment.

The background section of the book is obviously a mix of historical, fictional-in keeping with history, and fictional-mythos, and covers the majority of Europe, plus northern Africa and the Middle East. There's a decent section covering availability of goods in selected parts of Europe (including using the Black Market.)

Narrative rules for naval and aerial combat are included, and of course there's a decent selection of period weapons. I have to admit I especially liked the way it uses CoC's SAN mechanic within the rules for suppression fire.

Finally, there's a nice campaign so you can get right into the game.

EDIT: With the editing of the question to include "no external threats to the participating powers of the war" that makes this slightly less of an option, but you could potentially just then ignore the Mythos-related stuff, or use it at a "crazy cultist" level while removing the existence of actual Mythos beings. At that point though, better ideas aimed directly at historical WWII play probably exist.

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Dungeon Magazine Issue 97 had V for Victory, a D20 Modern World War II mini-game. It focuses on the infantry-man's view of the war, and can be used to run any theater of the war, from Stalingrad to North Africa. It features several 'classes' of soldier, such as Intelligence Training, Recon Training, etc. It includes a specialized list of Standard D20 skills, plus new (and reskinned) feats. It's got a pretty healthy section on weapons as well.

It doesn't any include any fantasy or sci-fi elements, sticking with the historical facts. It's not 'realistic' by any stretch, though.

The major downside is that it's not a complete game: the entire mini-game is only 40 pages and you'd need a copy of D20 Modern and/or D&D 3.X to play it.

I played two or three sessions of it with some friends and the rules worked adequately. We played captured Allied soldiers in a kind of serious "Hogan's Heroes" type scenario. If you've played D&D 3.X or D20 Modern, it might be worth looking into.

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The Regiment is an Apocalypse World hack.

http://www.onesevendesign.com/regiment/the_regiment_alpha_2_1.pdf

You'd need to have/know Apocalypse World to play.

forums: http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?board=35.0

one-shot: http://www.bullypulpitgames.com/projects/games/regiment/regiment_kommerscheidt.pdf

EDIT: Ah, yes. Apologies. I was in a bit of a hurry and am again. I'm worried less about getting points for my answer and more about not letting this game go unmentioned. I don't know if it will suit the OP, but that's for him to decide.

While I haven't played The Regiment, I've played other Apocalypse games and while they take some effort to master for the GM, they are a step above most other games, imo. It is made for playing in WWII and could easily work for WWI and Vietnam.

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