Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Someone Always Has to be the Nazis

Over on Facebook there was a thread talking about being the bad guy and eventually someone chimed in “Someone Always Has to be the Nazis.” Think about that for a moment. Someone always has to be the Nazis. That’s…pretty damn profound if you think about it – at least for storytelling and game design. Let’s break it down a bit:

What is the Metaphorical Nazi?
Let’s just ignore the historical nazi for right now and go with a generalized pop culture version of them: they are sneaky, zealous, fanatics who embody evil. They kill anyone not like them and they destroy anything that doesn’t glorify them. They conquer nearby lands and spread ever outward like a plague. In short, they’re the ultimate bad guys. There is nothing about them we can readily sympathize with and that makes things cut and dry. It allows us to dehumanize the already near-inhuman antagonists and treat them the way they’d treat others without any guilt. In essence, killing a “nazi” is like putting down a rabid dog, not only should you do it it’s your duty to do it so it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Ironically, this also makes those who deal with the nazis nazi-like themselves.

How Do I Use them?
Nazis are perfect for RPGs because it allows the PCs to distinguish black and white morality without any overlapping greys. Furthermore, nazis don’t have to be human. Arguably, Tolkien’s Orcs are “nazis” as are the Jaffa from Star Gate (even though they look kind of human, they aren’t). Sometimes this is played straight (e.g., Stormtroopers) and sometimes it’s a bit more subtle.

Nazis work best as mooks or at least high-caliber henchthings. Moreover, since they are effectively interchangeable creating a single statblock for them is a cake walk. Something like this…

Nazi Henchthing
ST: 11            HP: 13           Speed: 6.00
DX: 11           Will: 10         Move: 6
IQ: 10            Per: 10           Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 11           FP: 11            SM: 0
Dodge: 9       Parry: 11        DR: 0

Firearm (13): Typically a 9mm machinegun (p. B278), which does 3d-1 pricing or assault carbine (p. B279), which does 5d piercing.
Kick (11): 1d crushing; Reach C, 1.
Punch (13): 1d-1 crushing; Reach C.

Traits: Bloodlust (12); Bully (12); Callous; Extreme Fanaticism (Ideology) [-15]; Total Intolerance (Those not of their ideology) [-10]; some might also have Overconfideance, Sadism, or any other sort of nasty disadvantage. Elite troopers have Combat Reflexes and other combat-enalbing advantages like Gunslinger or Weapon Master.
Skills: Brawling-13; Guns (two appropriate)-13; Soldier-10; Stealth-12; Wrestling-11.
Notes: Absolutely loyal to their cause (whatever that is).

Should I Use Them?
Using a “nazi” foe really depends on two things: how campy you play up the uber-evil angle and how realistic a game are you running. For the first, it’s a matter of taste: are all antagonists evil and thoroughly irredeemable? Or are there shades of grey? For the second, it’s going to depend on the genre of the game you are running and your own GMing style. Some genres lend themselves easier to explaining why a mono-ideological organization/group might exist. For example, supers, space opera, and even post-apocalypse are fertile ground for explaing away such things.

Picking Over the Bones
When you need someone you love to hate you gotta have a nazi. Seriously, for sheer dislike and instant acknowledgement of that dislike you cannot go wrong with the nazi. People know them and this allows you to hang an idea on shared popular culture in such a way that you don’t really need to explain anything. “These guys are like nazis except they hate all non-elves with a passion and kill them on sight!” Building on a shared popular culture consensus allows you to rapidly jump start a scene or campaign, but that’s a topic for another day.

Posted in Gamemaster's Guidepost and tagged , , .


  1. I'm tempted to reply in a longer post. I think the right analogy here is less the rabid dog (it's not the dog's fault he's rabid) than the virus or disease-causing bacterium.

    You don't become a nazi by prescribing anti-virals or giving antibiotics. You become a doctor, or a surgeon. Someone that has a prestige job, almost universally acknowledged as a do-gooder, who will never face moral approbation for his work.

    What does that mean for the "nazi" type?
    * Can't be redeemed. They will never stop until they've done what they do. Ever. They won't feel pity, or remorse, or change their minds. Ever.
    * They're mostly faceless and with limited personality.
    * The social structure will be either non-existent or programmatic. At the very, very deepest it'll be like families from Equilibrium that are on the drugs. At the shallowest they're basically killing machines, and may well be created or synthetic. The orcs go back to their war camp, they do not go back to Mrs Ork and their seven orklings.
    * They should probably be cannibals. No one likes a cannibal.

    You can probably dial it back a tetch without becoming the Nazi your self, but not too much. Anything else and you really are "simply" dealing with conflicting ideologies, though one may wind up being pretty regressive/wrong/evil.

  2. My present problem with "nazis" in my campaign is half the party is fine with treating them like generic bad guy fodder (which was my intent) but the other half of the party wants to reason with them

  3. My present problem with "nazis" in my campaign is half the party is fine with treating them like generic bad guy fodder (which was my intent) but the other half of the party wants to reason with them

  4. You know, for a sufficiently creepy campaign and under the heading of 'when you stare into the abyss it also stares into you', You might want to make them SO 'devoutly' nazi that they are persuasive. Play DOWN the racisim (just a bit), and play UP the relentless efficiency. 'Look at all we've done. All we've conquered and accomplished. Look at how our people thrive and how much safer they are now. Look at how much happier they become as their nation grows and builds, all under the watchfull eye of a strong and efficient ruler.'

    ….Then run the Quick Contest for Persuasion….

    It will discourage other players from trying to persuade the unpersuadable, let them 'game it' so they feel like they have a shot (and they do!) but likely the outcomes will be

    You try to talk to him, but all he spews is violence and hate.
    You try to talk to him, but he refuses to hear reason.
    You try to talk, and begin to see the efficiency and power in unity, but its nothing compared to Freedom and Respect.
    You try to talk and realize he has some good points, a Hugo Boss uniform and his own Volkswagen. You realize that you might benefit from a change of side.


  5. Adolph Hitler (Austrian) was able to get the German people to unite against the "evil" jews. The Nazis were the "good guys" in their eyes.

    Don't forget point of view. The generic nazi in a campaign are doing the right thing in their eyes. Whether it is by the will of (insert diety/deities here) or righting a perceived wrong.((insert minority group here)) are the source of our (insert problem here) plight.


Leave a Reply