Victoriana The Third: Sorcery and Steam

The Third Edition of Victoriana continues to progress through layout, ushered into the light by the safe hands of Paul Bourne. A favourite with gamers and Cubicle 7 staffers alike we're really enjoying putting together this new edition. Once again we've dragged Victoriana Line Developer Walt Ciechanowski away from his keyboard to answer some more questions.


Hi Walt!




So we’re into the section of Third Edition called “Sorcery and Steam”.  One of Victoriana’s key features is that it includes fantastical magic, as well as fantastical technology.  Following on from our previous chats, how does this affect the background?

From aerostats and submersibles to clockwork limbs and goggles, Victoriana has always had fantastical technology in the background, but it was underrepresented in both core books. If you wanted to play an engineer or gadgeteer you were pretty much on your own beyond the loosest of guidelines. Faulkner’s Millinery & Miscellanea provided some technological support, but the setting didn’t get a full showing of its steam side until Marvels of Science and Steampunk.

Art by Andy "Danger" Hepworth

Art by Andy "Danger" Hepworth

With Third Edition we wanted to bring the steam to the core and make Technologist adventurers as an attractive option as magicians. We’ve given better guidelines on crafting new marvels (although the full treatment is still left to
Marvels) and we now have a list of ready-to-play marvels so that a technologist adventurer, like a magician, can begin play with cool stuff!

So this section opens with some words of advice to owners of the previous editions of Victoriana.  Looks like you’ve changed the magic system!  So what’s new?

Actually, it’s more of a case of ‘what’s old is new again!’ I’d mentioned this before; one of the biggest opportunities in our feedback was the difficulty of the Second Edition magic system. Getting off spells was difficult, time consuming, and costly. I actually had an adventurer in one campaign that was well versed in thaumaturgy, necromancy, and demonology take to carrying a pistol around because it was much easier to use and did more damage than the average magic spell!

What we did was put the First Edition and Second Edition magic rules side by side, compare them, and craft a simpler system that incorporated the best of both. Gone are the action costs and variable spell costs (although the latter is cool and I’d like to slip a variant rule into the upcoming Liber Magica). We’ve kept spell costs and difficulties but they’re more manageable – no more blowing a third of your points on a single aetheric bolt!
So can you still use Second Edition Rules if you’d prefer? That seems to be a recurring theme.  Third Edition is backwards compatible?

Definitely; if you prefer the Second Edition magic system then all you have to do is swap out the appropriate talents and then use the Second Edition magic system whole cloth. We did a lot of mix-and-matching during Third Edition playtesting and in all cases the compatibility held.

Art by Scott Purdy

Art by Scott Purdy

Can you tell us a bit more about each of the kinds of magic in Victoriana Third Edition?

When flipping through the magic system probably the most striking change between the editions is the change in magical terminology. When we decided to go with a more historically-grounded Victoriana we felt that using Victorian (or pseudo-Victorian) terminology would enhance the flavour of the setting. So all of the old magic is there; it’s just under new naming conventions.

First we have the magnetists (previously mediums) that have a connection to the aether. Clairvoyants see the future, Spiritualists commune with ghosts, and Goeticists pray for miracles.

Second are the (petty) conjurers, rustic cunning and wise folk that mix natural ingredients and infuse them with quintessence (previously mana). The resulting enchantments can be used by anyone.

Third is sigil magic, which expands second edition rune magic to cover all sorts of magical alphabets. It’s primarily luck magic, as it makes things more or less likely to happen.

Fourth, we come to thaumaturgy, practiced by the hermeticists. This is gentlemen’s (and ladies!) magic) which utilise spells that don’t require anything more than words and gestures. Hermeticists are fully licenced and look down on petty conjuring.

Finally, we get to the Maleficium, or Dark Arts. The two flavours in the core rulebook remain demonology and necromancy and as before each contains the potential for corruption.
Any plans to expand this in future supplements?

Of course! Sharp-eyed readers will note that I’ve already mentioned the Liber Magica, which collects and revises some of the magic systems from Second Edition supplements and offers entirely new ones. I don’t want to get into the details now, but we’re very excited about it!

Art by Scott Purdy

Art by Scott Purdy

Steam! So this is where things get all steampunk!  Victoriana has flirted with steampunk on and off through its history.  With Marvels of Science and Steampunk for Second Edition a solid link was established between Victoriana and steampunk. Does that continue into Third Edition?  How much is Victoriana Third Edition a steampunk game?

There’s definitely more steam in Third Edition, but admittedly that wasn’t a high bar to hurdle. Marvels are primarily the playthings of the middle class, much as magic is to the aristocracy. On the downside, country farms lay fallow as workers migrate to the cities, cramming into rookeries and working in factories. 

In terms of your average session, I think you’ll see a few more clockwork limbs and other marvels, but nothing more than you’ve already seen if you’ve been playing Second Edition with Faulkner’s and Marvels.

Thanks as ever for taking time out of your hectic schedule to let us know a little more about the new edition!

We'll be back again soon with another look at the Third Edition of Victoriana.

Part Four: Cogs and Wheels
Part Three: One's Full Measure
Part Two: Encyclopaedia Victoriana
Part One: Introductions
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