Victoriana 3rd Edition: Trials and Tribulations

Victoriana Third Edition is almost complete!  Layout is finishing up, and we have a couple of rounds of proofing just to make sure everything is shipshape and Bristol fashion and then it will be unleashed on the world!

We graciously allowed Victoriana Line Developer Walt Ciechanowski a week away from our questions but now we're back to take a look at the final chapter of Victoriana Third Edition - Trials and Tribulations!

So Trials and Tribulations - the title is of course a clue, but tell us, what is this chapter all about?


Simply put, this is the Gamesmaster’s section. The rest of the book gives you information about the world, making adventurers, and how to resolve conflicts; this section is geared towards helping a GM create penny dreadfuls, or adventures, for those adventurers to play through!

This chapter seems crammed full of GMing advice. The scripting advice in particular seems really solid.  How did you go about putting that together, and what kind of things can GM’s look forward to?

I always enjoy a good GM advice section in a rulebook because it gives me an idea of the kind of penny dreadfuls that the creators had in mind when making the game. The previous editions of Victoriana did this by identifying themes, but I wanted to go a step further and offer some advice on putting a penny dreadful together as well.

The chapter starts with how to craft penny dreadfuls around associations, followed by a section on adding atmospheric touches, such as the social divide, gothic fantasy, industry, history, and the celestial engine.

Art by Andrew Hepworth

Art by Andrew Hepworth

We follow that by offering advice on scripting penny dreadfuls, from setting a goal, to creating challenges, and putting together a supporting cast. It’s basically a window into how I put together penny dreadfuls, so hopefully the advice I give in here is noticeable in our official releases!

Victoriana is a rich background in which to set games - The advice on types of antagonists seemed really good too for ensuring the player’s opponents just all wind up being monocled, mustachioed cliches (much as we love those too!)  Can you give us the run down on some of the advice and some of the options?

In this section we note that the key to many villains is that they don’t see themselves as villains at all. Some of them actually believe they are the misunderstood good guys; others are simply victims of their own curiosity. We also touch on how a villain’s perception of the adventurers can colour her response to them, and how henchmen often have their own motivations for joining the villain.

We also talk about the Rival, a special type of character that, while perhaps not a villain per se, often makes things difficult for the adventurers. As an example, adventurers working for the British East India Company may find their negotiations with Indonesian leaders complicated by ambassadors from the Dutch East India Company. The members of both companies may be civil and actually friendly towards each other, but both are working to further their company’s interest, often to the detriment of the other.

This part of the book also has some guidance on writing subplots and shilling shockers. How do subplots interact with a typical penny dreadful? And what the heck is a shilling shocker?

I always enjoy subplots because they are usually personal to the adventures and the campaign as a whole. It’s very difficult to build subplots into our official releases because we don’t know the make-up of any particular group that is playing through them. It’s the GM’s job, with input from the players, to work interesting subplots into each penny dreadful. We hope that this section gets the GM thinking on how to weave them in.

As for the shilling shocker – historically it’s simply inflation, but for Victoriana we decided that we’d use the term for linked penny dreadfuls, or ‘story arcs’ if you will.  These are overarching plots and subplots that take several penny dreadfuls to resolve.

The section detailing Locations for fights is also really exciting stuff - can you tell us a bit about that?

This is one of the sections that has been a part of each edition and with good reason; it offers GMs advice on how to spice up particular scenes based on the environment. To take one example, if you’re fighting ruffians aboard a locomotive train then you’ll find information on props and cover, common dice modifiers for bouncing cars or high winds, and complications such as slipping off the roof, low bridges, or even other passengers getting in the way.

Art by Scott Purdy

Art by Scott Purdy

Supporting cast - Again this is a very rich section providing loads of options for GMs. How is designing the supporting cast different from building adventurers and are there changes for the third edition?

Personally, one of the biggest headaches for me as a Gamesmaster is ‘statblocking,’ or designing supporting characters. Both of the earlier editions addressed this by using physical and mental competencies instead of separate attributes and skills, with modifiers for ‘signature’ skills. For third edition, we went a step further and added ‘social competence’ while eliminating all of the competency modifiers. All supporting characters now have exactly three dice pools; no more adding up signature skills and related traits (which sometimes lead to outrageously high dice pools). Hopefully, this should make glancing at a stat block easier and take up less ‘real estate’ on the page.


Of course it wouldn’t be right to let this section go by without talking monsters.  So here we find the Victoriana Bestiary.  What’s your favourite Vic beastie, and can we expect many changes from 2nd Edition?

For the most part we’re using the same bestiary that was included in the earlier editions, but we’ve also added a few new ones from other books, such as the automaton and clockwork zombie. These monsters get the same streamlined treatment as the supporting cast.

Clockwork Zombie by Scott Purdy

Clockwork Zombie by Scott Purdy


As for a favourite? I have to go with the clockwork zombie. Zombies are frightening enough as-is, but merging them with metal and steam just brings ‘soulless machine’ to a whole new level!

So that's it for our book-by-book look at Victoriana 3rd Edition. Many thanks to Walt Cienchanowski for taking the time to speak with us about his work on the game.

There'll be more previews to see in the final run up to release.  Stay tuned!

Part Five: Sorcery and Steam

Part Four: Cogs and Wheels

Part Three: One's Full Measure

Part Two: Encyclopaedia Victoriana

Part One: Introductions
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