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Old 08-25-2014, 09:23 AM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

I'm setting a new game in Iraq, the Dhi Qar province, at the end of 2011. The setting is based on the real world, but a few years before the start of gameplay, the game world and our real world parted company with the re-emergence of the supernatural.

So far, the supernatural is fairly subtle and the percentage of the population who believe in it is only slightly higher than in our world. Incidence of serious crime in most countries has gone up steadily since the mid-90s, though, with various unexplained mysteries taking place.

What I'm looking for is advice on the non-magical parts of the game. If anyone here has visited Iraq, in particular the parts that used to be the Multi-National Division - South East, can you give me guidelines on how to portray the society, people, language, cuisine, daily life, etc.?

I'm guessing Iraqi food has a lot of similarities to Syrian food, the fast food version of which I eat often. Are there important differences to keep in mind?

Where do you buy meals? Fast-food places with Western brand names? Falafel stands that look like the ones you find in Germany or Denmark? Street vendors grilling meat skewers without any of the modern conveniences I'd associate with a Westernised kebab place / falafel stand?

Do taxis or food vendors accept dollars or do you use dinars for everything?

How widespread is knowledge of English and how good is the English of a random taxi driver or food vendor? How about of the average patrol cop?

As a security contractor there to provide instruction for a software update (and new reporting protocols) for local law enforcement, a job projected to last around a month or two, what are your living conditions like? Do you use a hotel? Rent a furnished apartment?

What kind of housing and comfort do you get for a reasonable amount of money, i.e. something that a corporate sponsor that is not cheap, but not profligate, might arrange for a five man team of technicians and law enforcement instructors?
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:22 AM   #2
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

Part of my Madness Dossier campaign writeup may be of interest, though it's primarily set in Baghdad.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:36 AM   #3
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

I was in Ar Ramadi and Habbinya, Al Anbar province in 2009 (which you know, given that we tried to game via Skype!), but that's the (wild) West Division and the Sunni part of the country.
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Old 08-25-2014, 11:11 AM   #4
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
I was in Ar Ramadi and Habbinya, Al Anbar province in 2009 (which you know, given that we tried to game via Skype!), but that's the (wild) West Division and the Sunni part of the country.
One PC has spent two tours there with Special Forces, as well as having been in-country with the 75th Ranger Regiment during the invasion in 2003, before donning the Green Beret. He's born in Detroit, but has Iraqi immigrant parents and can pass convincingly for a Sunni Iraqi*.

In any case, I imagine that food vendors and taxi drivers might have similarities. Did they accept dollars and speak decent English or did they demand dinars in rapid-fire Arabic?

*Less convincingly the further whomever he is asked to pass as diverges from his actual background, of course. He's had some training in various Islamic theologies and Middle Eastern cultures as part of his Delta training, but he's not a scholar of Islamic theology and his grasp of Mandean or Jazidi religion and culture is very weak.
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Old 08-25-2014, 01:54 PM   #5
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

Unfortunately, I was pretty isolated from the Iraqis. We were a Mobile Assault Unit, so we mostly did vehicle patrols. When we did interact with the locals it was usually an Officer and an Interpreter. Obviously I interacted with the Interpreters (terps) a lot and they spoke English (obviously). I did interact a little with Iraqi police and soldiers who mostly had tourist level English at least. There was an operation that I didn't get to go on (a victim of my own expertise; I was training forward observers) where the Marines lived in a village. Apparently the village store took dollars. The local merchants on the FOB obviously spoke English and took dollars (as well as the AAFX "pogs" that they used instead of coins).
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:09 PM   #6
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

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I did interact a little with Iraqi police and soldiers who mostly had tourist level English at least.
Is 'tourist-level' Broken or Accented in game terms?

I've been a tourist in some countries where I wouldn't even qualify for Broken*, but on the other hand, most tourists I meet seem to speak Accented or better English, which is after all the lingua franca of our times. Of course, some of them are American.

*Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic are good examples of places where I would have been completely lost if it weren't for locals who spoke English or German.

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There was an operation that I didn't get to go on (a victim of my own expertise; I was training forward observers) where the Marines lived in a village. Apparently the village store took dollars. The local merchants on the FOB obviously spoke English and took dollars (as well as the AAFX "pogs" that they used instead of coins).
Most likely vendors accepting dollars is fairly widespread, but getting change might be harder and you have to accept whatever exchange rate the local decides makes it worth his while.
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

Broken to Accented (and usually either trying to sell something or begging for a cigarette or water bottle or something).
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

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Broken to Accented (and usually either trying to sell something or begging for a cigarette or water bottle or something).
One PC will have an Arabic level of none to Broken*. The other two PCs are both fluent, but neither of the NPC experts with them will have more than Broken (at best) Arabic.

So communicating will be hard and the veteran investigator being unable to speak directly to local police ought to add interesting complications. On the other hand, garbled understanding caused by Broken language profiency on the other side is also a rich source of adventure.

I'm mainly wondering if all Iraqi police have taken training seminars conducted in English and so have to understand it fairly well or if mainly the original instructors were ever taught in English and by now instruction is exclusively in Arabic unless it's a specialist subject taught by a foreign expert.
*He's spent 2 x three months there training local police and he'd have picked up a word or three, but we're not sure if the ability to order a falafel and insert the occasional foreign curse word into your English constitutes even Broken level of language knowledge.
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:32 PM   #9
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

Most Iraqi police have trained at least somewhat with US personell assisted by a terp. On the other hand IPs are kind of legendary for being mostly terrible.
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Old 08-25-2014, 03:22 PM   #10
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Default Re: Roleplaying flavour and guide to Iraq in 2011

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Most Iraqi police have trained at least somewhat with US personell assisted by a terp. On the other hand IPs are kind of legendary for being mostly terrible.
The premise does kind of presuppose that no one has any particular difficulty believing that the local Police Chief or someone high up in his hierarchy is complicit in some 100+ murders, as part of a conspiracy to cover up at least $200 million worth of misappropriated funds from a wide variety of public programs.

On the other hand, a senior figure within the Ministry of Defence is privy to the PCs' mission and gets them access to the IPS computers by confirming their cover story. I need to find a plausible figure or create one, I suppose.

And if the PCs find any evidence, they'll call in the Federal Police. I imagine they can get a Federal commando force with a cool name, like Delta, Scorpion or Cobra, to be kept in readiness if the local police should turn out to be involved in something exceptionally nefarious.

While the evidence does point to a previously unknown group of militants being financed from misappropriated funds and killing to cover it up, there are troubling and unexplained complications.

Like the fact that most of the financial shenanigans appear to be inexpert work that hardly conceals blatant criminality, but once the money is funneled through a shell company or two, it always ends up disappearing into the Dubai-registered Crade of Civilisation LLC, apparently a private archeological company operating a dig in Dhi Qar.

And none of the money appears to make its way to anything resembling a militant group from there. Instead, it's spent on actual archeological equipment and exorbitant salaries to genuine experts in Mesopotamian archeology and culture, as well as hiring a very professional PSC to provide security for the dig.
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