We're still hard at work on the Third Edition of Victoriana, (now well into layout) a favourite with gamers and Cubicle 7 staffers alike. We've again dragged Victoriana Line Developer Walt Ciechanowski away from his keyboard to answer some more questions.
Oh this is the good stuff! Character creation!
Yes, it’s definitely the most important part of the game for players! For third edition, we’ve retired ‘gutter runner’ in favour of the more broadly applicable ‘adventurer,’ as the game now casts a wider net.
This part contains all of the rules necessary to create Victorian adventurers, from factory worker revolutionaries to aerostat pilots to magic-using hermeticists.
And who are adventurers likely to be? It’d be fun to talk about some examples! There are more than just humans in play, right?
Just to be coy I’ll say ‘yes and no.’ Third edition keeps the classic spread of races, but they are more firmly defined as subspecies within the overall species of humanity. We’ve also upgraded the orc (which suffered from unfortunate implications in first edition) to a core subspecies.
As with the previous editions, adventurers are people that have decided to make a difference, whether that is to overthrow an unfair social order, explore the blank areas of the map, protect the Empire from outside threats, or hunt supernatural monsters in the city sewers.
One of the biggest changes is that we’ve brought technologists to the core, so adventurers can start play with ‘steampunk’ gadgetry, including mechanical limbs.
One of the big challenges open world games like Victoriana can face is why are the party together? Why do these people know each other? How does Victoriana answer these questions?
For Third Edition we decided to employ ‘backwards design.’ We start with an Association, which represents the type of campaign that the players and GM have decided to play. This association suggests appropriate skills, privileges, and assets that the adventurers should take.
From there, the player works backwards through Background and Breeding. For example, if the association is ‘the Cobblestone Club,’ then the adventurer is part of a revolutionary group. The player then determines her Background (vocation and childhood experience). Revolutionary is an obvious choice for vocation, but maybe she’s a socialite that is tired of the inequities she sees. This vocation is upper class, so when she decides what her Childhood Experience was she sticks with upper class ones and comes up with personal tutor (who may have been the person to spark her revolutionary spirit). Finally, she determines her Breeding (social class and subspecies). By this point, social class is usually obvious, in her case upper. She determines her species to be Eldren (or elf, in more common parlance) as they tend to be upper class.
So we now have a very well-defined adventurer and we haven’t even gotten to the mechanics yet! This is intentional; we want players to decide who their adventurers are before they start picking attributes, skills, and other traits. It’s a much more organic process. Perhaps more importantly, the adventurer is already attached to the other adventurers through the association.
Whilst Association is clearly going to drive characters to some degree, what else do characters do in Victoriana?
By and large that’s up to the GM. Traditionally Victoriana penny dreadfuls have skewed towards the investigative adventure, where the adventurers take a case and try to solve it, but we’ve also thrown open the doors to other types of campaigns as well, such as monster hunting, world exploration, espionage, intrigue, and war.
So mechanically speaking how is a character measured in Victoriana? Looking through the book there seems to be an enormous amount of choice in how you layer things up?
Let’s pick up the mechanical side. Our tutor-educated, socialite Eldren revolutionary gets a few points to spread amongst her attributes (Strength, Wits, etc) which is modified by her subspecies. She then gets a number of skill points to spend on the skills offered by her Association, Vocation, and Childhood Experience. She then picks traits, which are talents (beautiful, thaumaturgist), privileges (like knighthood!), and assets (country villas, clockwork limb). If she needs more points then she can select complications, which are hindrances during the game. Sometimes complications are suggested by other choices; an adventurer with a clockwork eye and leg likely has the Distinctive Features complication.
In the character section we also get all the lists of possessions, equipment and weapons. Something that people have asked about is firearms. With the setting being dialed back to the 1850s how do firearms shape up?
Interestingly enough, the First Edition firearms list, which Second Edition largely kept, is more appropriate for the 1850s than the 1860s (offering yet another reason for setting the Third Edition more firmly in the 1850s). One of the visuals I loved about first edition was the proliferation of pepperboxes, which actually fired faster than revolvers until the double-action revolver came along. With the mechanics slightly favouring pepperboxes, they are much more prevalent in Third Edition.
Faulkner’s Milliner and Miscellanea and Marvels of Science and Steampunk introduce 1860s firearms, but these can easily be introduced as the work of technologists or ‘hot from the factory’ models, should a Gamesmaster decide to include them. In the end, it’s all a matter of style.
There’s a lot in this section of the book. Did we miss anything that you’d like to highlight?
One of the new tweaks in Third Edition is the inclusion of Build Packages. These are completely optional pre-builds that make most of your Talents, Privileges, Assets, and Complications for you. We put this in to make adventurer generation quicker and to help a player make suitable choices for her adventurer concept. To build on the above example, our Eldren revolutionary might choose the Dilettante build package, which leaves the player with only attribute and skill points to allocate. As these Build Packages are tools, a player can tweak or ignore them as desired.
I’d also like to point out that Third Edition is just as open as the previous editions. If you want to disregard Associations and Backgrounds and just let the players choose Breeding and then launch into the mechanics then you can certainly do so! We made the changes we made to enhance Victoriana’s unique flavour, not to straightjacket the players into certain roles.
Thanks again, Walt! We'll be back with more questions, and a look at what we can expect to see in the next section of Victoriana in the very near future!