In today's post will I will move you to the Chicago of speakeasies and Thompson submachine guns because I will offer the review of the supplement Chicago Wet City (in print and in pdf) for the game Omertà, el poder de la mafia (which I reviewed in this post of 2012), written by Pedro Nieto and Andrés Ramos and published by Holocubierta, as well as a set of links to resources which may be interesting for referees and players eager to plunge into Chicago of twenties and thirties of the past century.
this supplement offers the following contents:
First part of this book is devoted to explain how Alphonse Capone, son of a Napolitan emigrant family gone to live to New York, became the main head of Chicago mafia through the criminal syndicate known as The Outfit and got rich with alcohol smuggling during the time of the Prohibition due to the application of the Volstead Act in 28th of October of 1919.
Capone went into the business thanks to Johnny Torrio, becoming his bodyguard and henchman and inherited the Outfit control after his mentor decided to retire in Italy in 1925 after the failed assassination orchestrated by Giuseppe Aiello. After Torrio's departure the organization grew significantly and continue to infiltrate Chicago's social fabric spreading its tentacles through blackmailing, menaces, extortion and rival killings using attacks like the famous Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, this allowed him to fully control alcohol distribution and obtain benefits from activities like gambling, vice and ballrooms as well as other criminal activities, which made Capone millionaire.
To stop him the Federal Government of the United States created a special unit headed by Eliot Ness and depending of the Department of Treasury, which became known as The Untouchables due to the incorruptibility of its members. The actions against Capone's dirty businesses was carried out using the direct attack against the production, distribution and selling of illegal alcohol (distilleries, convoys, illegal taverns) as well as inquiries in his finances, wich precisely allowed Capone to stand trial for tax evasion during 3 years and declared guilty in 18th of October of 1931 and condemned to prison for 11 years and the payment of a $50,000 fee, $30,000 trial costs and $215,000 due tax interests.
As well as the rise and fall of Al Capone there's also information about the Bureau of Prohibition internal organisation during the years it was operating (1920-1933).
Chicago Wet City offers biographies and gaming stats for the main protagonists of those years so, besides Al Capone and Eliot Ness, there's also the following Untouchables:
- Martin J. Lahart: Irish sport lover (boxing, football, baseball, jiu-jitsu...) who was a previous Ness collaborator.
- Samuel M. Seager: A stony faced individual, tall and strong who had previously worked as a Sing Sing death row guardian.
- Bernard V. Cloonan: A very tall Irishman, a true giant, with a healthy look and easy smile.
- Lyle Chapman: A college student willing to be a writer (he considered that his experiences with the Untouchables would give him enough inspirational material) and who designed the modifications of the truck used by the agents to batter the doors of clandestine warehouses.
- Thomas Friel: Former Pennsylvania policeman, fibrous and wiry and very shy with women.
- Joseph Leeson: Originally from Detroit and an ace at the wheel, able to follow anybody.
- Michael King: Originally from Virginia and with a sharp mind, able to see even the most trivial details.
- Paul W. Robsky: Aerial photographer and pilot during the Great War, very skilled tapping phones.
- William Gardner: Son of a White and a Chippewa indian, he soon distinguished himself as a football player with Carlisle Indians and became his coach. He was in the Great War and was the only Indian to achieve the Captain rank in the Army.
- Frank Basile: Reformed inmate who, after serving his sentence, was a close associate of Ness being his assistant and personal chauffeur and also drive the reinforced truck used by the Untouchables to bounce into clandestine warehouses, his killing by the gangster Tony Napoli infuriated Ness and strength his decision of sinking and publicly humilliating Capone.
|Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith
and other Prohibition agents who started to act before Ness men:
- Isidore Einstein: Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1880 he was shorter than 1.60 m. with a weight of more than 210 kg., but this didn't keep him from using his wit to enter illegal taverns frequentlly using all kind of disguises.
- Moe W. Smith: Born in New York in 1887, he was as heavy and shorter as his friend Isidore and shared with him his dgree of intelligence, so both became very known characters appearing in all newspaper covers and all radio stations.
- William H. Thompson: A rude, violent and corrupt policeman who didn't hesitate to use his truncheon and twist the arm of detainees to obtain their confessions.
- Earl Corwin: Thompson associate as well as violent as him.
AS weel as the following members of the Outfit:
- Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn: His real name was Vincenzo Antonio Gibaldi and was from Sicily, when he became a boxer changed his name because Irish pugilists had more chances of fight and earn money. In 1926 he joined the Capone mob and was one of the authors of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.
- Anthony Accardo: Born in Chicago in 1906, bodyguard of Capone and thought to be one of the perpetrators of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, he take control of the Outfit when Capone was incarcerated in 1931.
- Louis Campagna: Born in Brooklyn in 1906, he knew McGurn, Accardo and Capone in the Five Points Mob of Manhattan, becoming his second best bodyguard (the first one was Accardo) after leaving prison in 1924.
- James Belcastro: Killer in the payroll of the Outfit and presumed responsible of, at least, 100 deaths during the second half 0f the 20's decade tahnks to explosives used to blow up bars not willing to buy Capone's beer.
Chicago Wet City also offers the information players need to create characters being agents of the Bureau of Prohibition, and does it following the steps for creating characters of the basic book, allowing to choose a previous profession of that book or those new ones appearing in the supplement: Felon, Federal, Military, Secretary and Telephonist (these two latter ones only for female characters).
After choosing this preofession players can roll in a table to randomly see the events affecting them during these years acting as Prohibition agents (for a maximum of 6 years), so they could be affected by the consequences of their work (even they can be hurt) or acquire new skills and experiences.
It's also possible to have female players willing to create female Prohibition agents (a fact which didn't really happened), but if you take into account that during this era the FBI had its first female agents (Alaska P. Davidson, Lenore Houston and Jessie B. Duckstein) all it's possible if referee and players agree to it.
In this section there's also the description of three new skills characters may use:
- Electricity: Used to repair any electrical device or address issues related to electricity, it can also be used when a character wants to tap a telephone.
- Command: Used in hierarchical organizations to ensure subordinates' obedience (if in the Army or the Police it also will be useful to recognise ranks in these forces and its importance).
- Pilot: Allow to manage and know the specifications of a given aerial craft (skill points must be alloted to each type).
This supplement also offers an expansion of the ruleset of the basic game to deal with the following subjects:
- Resistance of doors players want to take down (how long they will need and the chance of people inside the buiding or room hearing them and flee or prepare to meet them).
- Advanced use of Fight skill and how to use it if it's a favored skill in the previous profession of the character (like in the case of boxers).
- Stats for two new vehicles: The armoured cadillac of Al Capone and the truck of the Untouchables.
the information about the Thompson submachine gun (Wikipedia | Internet Movie Firearms Database) appearing in the book deserves a special mention because marked a before and after regarding firepower Capone's men could deploy.
This submachine gun, designed by John T. Thompson, was designed to be used in trench cleansing during the Great War, but the end of the conflict meant that first prototypes were not sent to Europe to be test in combat. During 1920's decade it was sold to the Marine Corps among others and also to the civilian market, although not many people could afford the luxury of paying $200 cost of one of these weapons (think that a Ford car cost was $400), however someone like Capone, millionaire thanks to alcohol smuggling and other dirty bussinesses, had enough money to equip his men with such a deadly weapon, a fact which soon forced Law forces to buy Thompsons to keep up.
For players and referees to get under the skin of their characters it's important to know the slang of the time and place in which their adventures happen, it's for this reason why the authors offer 97 words or phrases (many of them, of course, coming from Italian), so you will know Sicilians consider Ace of Diamonds as the card realted to death and its customary to put it over their victim's corpses or that a speakeasy is the name of the local where alcoholic beverages are sold to put a couple of examples.
The actions carreid out by Eliot Ness and the Untouchables to jail Capone ahd been adapted to television series and cinema films taking as a base the book The Untouchables which Ness wrote with Oscar Fraley and which was published in 1957, shortly after Ness died due to a heart attack at 54.
Below there are some videos fo series and films I'm sure will inspire referees and players and tou probably already kow about.
Chicago Wet City also offers a pair of adventures:
- Nerodia Sipedon: This adventure happens in Creekville, the fictional city where the adventures of the basic book of the game take place, and have as protagonists members of the mafia tasked with doing a little job...
- La Criba (The Sieve): Ths adventure is designed to serv as a prelude to the campaign Capone Empire: Dry Agents which will be published by Holocubierta and which will be starred by future Prohibition agents who will go into action under orders of Eliot Ness.
As I said at the begining of this review I also have thought about giving you a set of links to resources to help referees and players to understand and visualize the city of Chicago and the events happened during Prohibition era, theses will be useful to help referees willing to create adventures in these setting and, surely, for the campaign Capone Empire: Dry Agents.
First let's consider the city of Chicago, to know more about it you may visit its entry in Wikipedia and the related articles linked to the entry devoted to talk about more extensively about themes like the history of the city.
Other websites tou may read are Encyclopedia of Chicago, Forgotten Chicago and Chicagology, these having very interesting information about Chicago history and its urban layout, if you also need historical maps you may see links to the following collections:
- Old Maps Online.
- Encyclopedia of Chicago.
- Forgotten Chicago.
- Chicago in Maps.
- Historical Maps of Chicago.
- David Rumsey Map Collection.
- Government Maps of Chicago in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s (The University of Chicago Library).
- Social Science Research Committee Maps (The University of Chicago Library).
- Volstead Act (Wikipedia).
- Prohibition in the United States (Wikipedia).
- The exhibition Spirited Republic and its e-book guide (NARA).
- Documents and photographies which can be seen online in the catalogue of The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
- Thedocumentary about Prohibition of the PBS channel.
- Al Capone (Wikipedia).
- Al Capone (Chicago Historical Society's History Files).
- My Al Capone Museum.
- Al Capone (Alcatraz History).
- The IRS investigation about Al Capone (Wikisource).
- Chicago Outfit (Wikipedia).
- Chicago Outfit (American Mafia History).
- Capone Era at Chicagology (part 1, part 2 and part 3).
- Eliot Ness (Wikipedia).
- Eliot Ness (FBI).
- Eliot Ness (ATF).
- The Untouchabless (Wikipedia).
- Isidore "Izzy" Einstein (ATF).
- Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith (Smithsonian Magazine).
- Izzy Einstein, the Littlest Prohibition Agent (Today I Found Out).
- Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith (Wikipedia).
- Prohibition images (Io9).
- Prohibition images (Chicago Tribune).
- The free downloads of The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, having among other aids telegram models and theID of a Prohibition agent.
- Free 20s Jazz Collection (Internet Archive).
- 78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings (Internet Archive).
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