Ashes of Isar, cover

In November, 2019, I began work on a new role-playing game based on World War II espionage. I had read Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton and was inspired to create a game based on the Allies effort to sabotage Nazi Germany’s war machine in general, and England’s Special Operations Executive specifically.

I’ve played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in my day, first with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons created by Gary Gygax and sold by TSR, Inc. back in the early 1980s, and more recently with the 5th Edition rules by Wizards of the Coast, LLC. Other RPG’s I’ve played have been G.U.R.P.S. by Steve Jackson and several others. I wanted something that wasn’t as rules-heavy as D&D, yet still allowed players to take on characters of their choosing and fight bad guys.

I figured the genre and milieu of espionage during World War II, located in western Europe in particular, was a rich environment for role-playing action. The stakes were very high for spies during that time, with capture and execution a likely result of their brave actions. The rewards for successful missions, however, had an outsized positive impact on the war effort against the Axis powers.

I came up with a skills-based experience system that rewarded agents with improved abilities based on experience and training, just like in real life. This is in contrast to games like D&D where the entire character rises in level based on overall experience earned. I added an element of luck to the game as well to represent the way real life can sometimes go your way without any apparent cause, and can sometimes go the wrong way despite your best efforts.

After working on the game throughout the year, it has reached a point where I feel it was ready for release to the public. I have made it available using a license similar to the Open Game License used by Wizards of the Coast. In my case, I am making the rules and player’s guide available free of charge, and am selling missions for a small fee. Players can create their own missions and distribute them as long as they do so for free. I may create a marketplace down the road where players can sell their missions for a small commission.

Details about the game and various downloads can be found at my Ashes of Isar page.

I encourage you to download the rules for free as well as a beginner’s mission, Operation Virgin Snow, and try out the game with your friends (social distancing, of course). Let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it.

By the way, if you’re curious about the name, Germany’s River Isar is a special location in post-World War II history. When Nazi war criminals were caught, convicted and executed, they cremated several of them and spread their ashes in the River Isar to keep their followers from having a grave site or memorial to commemorate their evil. You can learn more here.