In Eat the Reich, the players keep each other safe

Safety tools aren’t good enough if everyone at the table doesn't have the agency to change the game.

In Eat the Reich, the players keep each other safe
Credit: Rowan, Rook and Decard. Art by Will Kirkby

When I play games with my friends I rarely use formalized safety tools. Most people reading this probably know that forgoing safety tools entirely isn’t best practice for roleplaying games, so before I go much further: safety tools good. Yes, I should know better than to just handwave this important part of game safety. Any excuses I could make—I know these people, we’ve gamed before (dozens of times), or that we occasionally discuss what we like to see at the table—don’t really hold water. Safety tools can’t keep players safe unless everyone knows what they are, how to use them, and feel comfortable using them. They are imperfect solutions to a constantly-changing problem. 

Eat the Reich (written by Grant Howitt and illustrated by Will Kirkby) is a game drenched in ultraviolence. The book drips with flavor, is full of descriptions and scenery I can chew on, allows for rich storytelling, and has mechanics applied like salt; just enough to bring the juice out. And with a premise to match its punny title—player characters are Allied vampires coffin-dropped into occupied Paris in 1943 with the sole task of drinking Nazi blood, destroying ubermenschen, and exsanguinating Hitler—it’s a meal that might not be to everyone’s taste. It is, without a doubt, a game that needs safety tools, especially at a table with Jewish friends.

Astrid, Iryna, and Flint attend the Hôtel L’Étoile. They sneak through from the catacombs, finding a service entrance and secretly heading to the balcony that overlooks the large seating area. 

“I fancy a drink,” Iryna mutters. “You two can handle this, yes?” 

With that she floats down to the bar, and some glamour about her makes it appear natural. Her order is the opposite of Astrid and Flint: delicate and expensive. 

Astrid primes her machine gun, aiming it up at the massive chandelier. Flint crouches on the railing as she destroys the plaster, the chain ripping from the painted ceiling. As it falls Flint flies up, crawling on the ceiling, watching the socialites scream and scatter. Astrid launches herself off the balcony, her hex-spear in hand, driving it into the twisted mass of glass-and-lightning, charging it up. 

“Oh, delightful,” Iryna chuckles, grabbing the bartender and swiftly removing his throat, tossing the champagne over her shoulder and draining the man into her flute. Astrid charges at two officers as Flint swoops down from above, terrifying men and women alike. “What a dream.” 

Despite this, when me and my friends sat down to play Eat the Reich (both times) I never went over any in-game safety tools, trusting the table to moderate itself. Part of this is laziness; safety tools require time and care to perform properly, and we were working with only a brief window of leisure time. But more than that is the fact that Eat the Reich has safety tools written into the framework of its tone. Even amid the bloody, gorey ultra violence is a system of care, an active collaboration of structure giving players and GMs ways of exploring—and holding—safety in place during the game.