|Roleplaying In the Big Red|
By Evgenie Medvedev
(Publishers Note:- As with all of our country guides, the opinions in this article are those of the author).
Russia is probably the country which has the most misconceptions about it in the collective unconscious of gamers everywhere. I won't bother to list any of them here, they're just too numerous. Instead, to save your reading time, I'll head on straight towards explaining what it's really like.
This country is big. BIG big. Not only is it the country with largest land area, despite the territory losses which resulted from transition of the USSR into Russia and other shards, it is also stretched over eleven time zones and has some hundred different nationalities living all across all this space. For just about anything I say, it is possible to name a time period or a place where it would not be entirely correct. If you just want to add a little Russian spice into your game, hopefully this guide will help you out. For running a serious campaign based in Russia, much more research is required. This guide is written with bigger cities of modern Russia in mind, the period of Communist rule or Tsar's rule before that were greatly different and require their own guides - and sometime I might write them.
Climate in Russia varies widely, and it has just about any climatic zone the planet has to offer. It is NOT always winter in Moscow like Hollywood makes it look! Moscow and St. Petersburg tend to have the temperature range from -20 Celsius in the harshest days of winter, to the +30 in the hottest days of summer, however, you may expect -5 most of the winter, +10 most of the spring and autumn and +20 most of the summer. The other cities vary greatly - some of the southern areas of Russia sometimes don't even have snow at all. Consult an atlas for a climate map for your particular setting.
Architecture and Housing
Most of Moscow consists of 16-story apartment blocks and greenery, except from the old part of city which actually has less and less in the way of housing remaining, being slowly taken over by offices. Streets are usually wide, possibly the widest of any modern European city, while the amount of parks and trees planted here and there exceeds them. Rarely you see a house taller than 20 floors, and no skyscrapers currently exist. There are several particularly tall buildings in the "communist gothic" style built during Stalin's reign, but these don't go over 40 floors. A prominent feature of the landscape is the Moscow TV tower, visible throughout northern part of the city with it's 583 meters of height. It is open for visitors throughout the week.
St. Petersburg has a much larger share of older, historical buildings, and more bridges across various canals than Moscow can shake a stick at, but even less tall buildings. In general, other major cities of Russia have similar features. There are very few cities which do not have any historical buildings in Russia, and the checkerboard layout common for US cities is quite rare.
Do not expect to find private houses within the borders of any city, there aren't any. In fact, living permanently in privately owned houses is only practised in village areas, suburban housing largely consisting of "dacha"s, summer homes of the wealthier part of the city's population. You can normally rent an apartment in Moscow for a price ranging from $200 to $500 a month, and buy one for $30000-90000, this, however, varies greatly. Prices get progressively lower as you get further from Moscow, however, this, once again, varies.
Communication and Computers
In a big city, it is a rare apartment which doesn't have a phone installed, and while just three or four years ago the switching equipment was positively ancient, now it gets steadily replaced by modern optical lines. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the rate war between cellular service providers brought the cellphones within the range of the purchasing power of college students. Paging companies are slowly being driven out of business. Internet is growing in LANs - many ISPs offer to provide a high speed LAN connection for a whole apartment building, which becomes progressively more common. Computers are a common office implement, typewriters being used more as weights than anything else. In fact, an average Russian company has office computers no less powerful than a Pentium, frequently more than it really needs. Actual skill in using a computer is just about as rare as anywhere else. In fact, the jump from technological stone age to the we-buy-only-the-best stage has left a lot of people reeling to this day.
Despite the number of cars in private use growing, all Russian cities have an effective public transport network. (In fact, I'm am avoiding getting a driver's license and a car, despite said things being well within my reach, because the hassles involved in maintaining a car outweigh the problems involved in getting around by public transport.) Moscow's subway is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, decorated extensively with semiprecious stones and mosaics. You can find both buses, trolleybuses and trams going all across the city in any conceivable direction, as well as electric suburban trains. Going to a different city CAN be done by car, but it's always less hassle to use a train, a plane or something else, cross-country highways mostly being taken by large trucks. The railroad network of Russia is the biggest and most extensive in the world.
It is true that a large number of paved roads in Russia are in a state of disrepair. However, these conditions are slowly improving. Horror stories you might have heard do indeed have their basis in fact, but in the last five years most cities have taken seriously to getting these sort of problems fixed.
People and Society...
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Copyright © 2000 Evgenie Medvedev