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Old 03-21-2016, 06:39 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Default 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae]

My latest game is set in northwest Aroostook County, Maine at the end of December 1988. GoogleDrive folder.

Premise and PCs.

1988 wasn't that long ago, but the more one examines the differences, the more foreign the past seems. Cell phones existed, but were huge and impractical, not to mention fairly useless outside urban areas. Personal computers were on the market, but the Internet didn't exist.

I'm told the young were not as bitterly divided on the Wham-Duran Duran Question as I'd been led to believe; shoulder pads, miniskirts, leg warmers and fingerless gloves were in; and President George Bush was about to take office as the liberal successor of Reagan, supporting federal legislation banning discrimination, having no opinion on abortion, being comfortable with same sex marriage and banning the importation of 'assault weapons' by Executive Order during his first months in office, only three months after my game is set. Not to mention that only three years before, THIS happened and we all let it happen!

I would like to keep things period accurate, not to mention featuring some characterisation and atmosphere in the form of actual brand names, real technological and social factors, etc. Unfortunately, I was five in 1988 and I certainly did not spend my time in northern Maine at this time. I have visited the US in the 80s, but some of my trips were made in utero and the rest were to New York, Boston and Florida, which are not northern Maine. Also, neither at this time nor during the early 90s was I allowed to play with cars, guns, beer, bourbon, tactical communication gear or even multitools, to name a few things relevant to adventurers.

Accordingly, I thought I'd request assistance from forumites. Ideally, if not otherwise noted, I'd like answers focused on things that would be common/available/popular in northern Maine, but I'd rather get answers about broader areas, i.e. Maine/New England/East Coast/US/North America in general, than receive no answers.

I'm after all sorts of details, even if they have no game mechanical application. Even if a military-issue Colt M16 made in 1967 and a sporting weapon from Bushmaster made in 1988 may have the same game stats apart from ROF, it can make a major difference to characterisation or even clues in the game, where and when a gun was made.


1) What would be a 1986-1988 equivalent of a luxury Hummer civilian vehicle, i.e. something a spoiled college boy from a rich family owns in order to drive off-road and over bad roads without sacrificing comfort, performance on better roads and the ability to tell chicks how rich he is without having to state it outright?

2) What is a high-quality luxury SUV made before 1989 that a mature wealthy man who lives and works where he must occasionally go off-road might own? Assume that the man enjoys nice things, powerful engines, reliable performance and comfortable interiors, but is not insecure enough to need to flash his wealth in quite the vulgar fashion his son does. American-made by preference, but will import if a foreign-made vehicle is clearly better for the purpose.
Edit: Background.

3) What are some popular four-wheel drive vehicles within a comfortable middle-class budget in the period?

4) What are the best economy vehicles made in the 1970s and 1980s to use in the northwest part of Aroostook County, Maine, assuming that the ability to drive in snow and over bad roads is sometimes required?


5) What were good options for sights or mounted optics on deer rifles for hunting in the North Woods of Maine? Presumably the same as hunting whitetail deer pretty much anywhere in the eastern US, but what were the most common, best buys, etc.?
--5a) What were good top-of-the-line scopes for deer hunting in the late 80s?
--5b) Were night-vision scopes sold commercially in any numbers before the arrival of vast quantities of surplus Soviet gear in the 1990s?

6) What are some 1980s hunting rifle brands and models that mark the owner as having good taste, some degree of knowledge and enough means to indulge when it comes to hobbies?
--6a) If an upper-middle-class hunter from Massachusetts, with a cabin in northern Maine, were buying several fancy new guns for hogs, deer, elk and bear at the end of 1988, what would he be likely to be buying?
--6b) What kind of hunting gun bought in 1986-1988 would mark a man who had more money than sense?

7) When did American police departments, specifically the FBI, but data on others would also be nice, begin to pack slugs along with buckshot as standard if they had shotguns in their cars?
[I know that slugs have been used for special purposes by the FBI almost from the first days of the Bureau, that FBI training videos from 1972 teach their use and in 1992, a police spokesman speaking about shotgun slugs referred to them as 'commonly used by the FBI'. I also known that modern FBI shotguns are often packed along with both slugs and buckshot shells. But I don't know when this started and in the 1986 Miami Shootout, no FBI agent involved used slugs.]

8) What models were Bushmaster Firearms making in Bangor, Maine (1973-1976) and Windham, Maine (1976-1988)?
--8a) When did they stop manufacturing the Bushmaster 'First Generation' rifles?
--8b) When did they start copying AR-15 designs? Was it before 1990?
--8c) What would be the most 'Tacti-Cool' Bushmaster model available in 1988?


9) What are nice complicated 80s gadgets for a young female FBI agent from California to own in order to characterise her as 'modern', 'rich' and lacking in real-world experience?
--9a) I'd like some sort of bizarre 80s multitool, preferably with electric components and far too big for the intended purpose, but including a lot of nifty things that a geek might enjoy having on them at all times. It can be something for a purse, not a pocket, if necessary.
--9b) Would there be any consumer electronics that might be given to a young woman leaving home to become an FBI agent (or received as gifts after leaving, as her parents continue to treat her warmly, indulge her and wait for her 'rebellious phase' to blow over)?
[She's from a very rich family, her father is the founder/CEO of a fast-growing defence contractor who makes guidance chips for missiles and she had every adventage growing up. She is a total wunderkind, baby ballerina, music recitals, gymnastics and straight As in everything, but no time for friends or normal socialisation, only organised extra-curricular activities. Computer Science degree from Stanford. Is now suffering from late-onset teen rebellion which is expressed on one hand through seeking a 'lowly' government job and on the other, through her trying to develop a 'hip', 'street' demeanour, mostly from MTV.]

10) What communication equipment would FBI agents have access to in their daily jobs?
--10a) What model radios are in their cars and how do they work?
--10b) Do they have some form of mobile phones in the cars and if so, how do these work?
--10c) How far outside a large city can they go and still have pagers function? Can they use their pagers in the St. John's Valley of Aroostook County, Maine, if they are 2-3 hours from the large towns in that county and the nearest town has around 4,000 people (30 miles away)?

11) How are records of things like criminal convictions, arrests and gun ownership likely to be stored in Maine at the end of 1988? Paper? Microfiche? Early computers?
--11a) How long does it take for someone at the Maine State Police to look up what guns are registered to a certain individual in the state? What about criminal records?
--11b) What is the chance that records from the late 1950s and early 1960s would still be in paper form? Assuming that those chances are good, what are the odds that those records are mostly haphazardly arranged in a way that made sense to the Sheriff and/or Lieutenant of State Police at that time and extremely difficult to sort through for anyone else?

Consumer Goods

12) What is the most popular soft drink in northern Maine at this time?
--12a) Are the PCs more likely to find Coke or Pepsi for sale in diners and gas stations?
--12b) Is there some local soft drink which is really common in Maine, but not elsewhere?

13) Are there any types of candy, delicacies, soft drink, bubblegum, cigarettes or other consumer goods that are characteric of 1980s America, New England or Maine?

14) What are characteristic Canadian (New Brunswick or Quebec) consumer goods that might be imported?

15) What are the popular local beers?
--15a) Are there noteworthy brands which make a statement about a character who drinks it?

16) What strong liquour do locals drink?
--16a) What is the bourbon of choice?
--16b) What do middle-class and over 'cultured' men drink?

17) What goods are highly taxed on the Canada-side of the border, but lightly taxed in Maine (or within driving distance in New England)?

18) What goods, if any, are subject to strict regulation or high taxes in Maine or the US, but are easily available and cheap in Canada?

See this post for questions 19-20, about outdoors/hunting clothes and accessories.
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 12-13-2016 at 06:34 AM.
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