We've been hard at work on the Third Edition of Victoriana, a favourite with gamers and Cubicle 7 staffers alike. As we approach release (the game is in layout right now) we thought it was about time we drew back the curtain a little and let you glimpse the wonders that await inside this new version. With that in mind we've dragged Victoriana Line Developer Walt Ciechanowski away from his steaming keyboard to answer some questions.
Hi Walt, thanks for taking the time to chat with us about Victoriana 3rd Edition.
Thanks for having me! I’m thrilled to be speaking about Victoriana!
So Victoriana has been a long running and successful game for Cubicle 7, and we have plenty to talk about for the fans of the game. Right now however let's assume our readers have no knowledge of Victoriana. What's the elevator pitch?
At its core, Victoriana is a game of high adventure in an alternate 19th century coloured by fantasy and steampunk tropes. In broad strokes, history largely remains intact, although many of the details are different. Most notable is the inclusion of fantasy races, magic, and fanciful steam-driven technology.
What do players and characters do in the game, and has this changed over the Editions?
The beauty of Victoriana is that it can accommodate a wide variety of adventures. You could investigate supernatural murderers in the back alleys of Whitechapel, ferret out anarchist threats to the Empire, protect British interests along the Indian frontier, or explore uncharted regions in a steam-driven marvel. We created an Association mechanic to help GMs and their players focus on the types of adventures they want to play by highlighting key skills and traits most useful to adventures in a particular campaign.
And before we dive into the deeper details, tell us a bit about you - what gaming related material have you worked on?
It all started with an article in Mongoose Publishing’s Signs & Portents magazine back in 2003 followed by a ton of work for Adamant Entertainment. Since then I’ve worked on projects for Doctor Who, DC Adventures, Dragon Age, Mutants & Masterminds, Witch Hunter, and, of course, Victoriana.
So a third edition? Why now?
The first edition was published in 2003 and Victoriana has continually evolved over the course of the decade. We’ve also gotten a lot of feedback from fans over what the strengths and concerns of the game. When it came time for a new print run, we decided that we wanted to incorporate a lot of what we’ve learned and combine the best bits of the earlier editions into a cohesive and streamlined whole.
Give us the system basics for Victoriana, and tell us how you've updated thing in 3rd Edition?
At its core, the mechanics are simple. Most actions are resolved by rolling a number of 6-sided dice equal to the adventurer’s appropriate Attribute and Skill. Each ‘1’ and ‘6’ is a success, with 6’s exploding into extra die rolls. The GM rolls a number of black dice for the difficulty and each success takes away one of the adventurer’s successes. If the adventurer has at least 2 successes remaining, she succeeds.
I’d say the biggest changes are the inclusion of ‘steampunk’ into the core and the timeline – Victoriana is now set in a more realistically alternate 1856 than the nebulous ‘1867-ish’ of the previous editions. We’ve also included Associations in order to better shape adventurers and campaigns as well as a mechanic for the Celestial Engine (adventurers can lean towards Entropy or Order).
We’ve also taken a hard look at the magic system and streamlined it. One of the biggest concerns from players was how difficult it was to use magic in the second edition; we’d already been modifying it for convention play, so it made sense to incorporate those changes into the new edition.
Finally, we got rid of the Ranks system for experience. It was telling that other RPGs using our engine (Airship Pirates, Dark Harvest) dumped it, and we felt that the Third Edition could do without it as well. Of course, if Second Edition fans liked the Ranks system, they can still use it with Third Edition with minimal fuss.
So will existing fans need to re-buy a lot of Victoriana material?
No, not at all. As perhaps the best example, our first supplement for third edition is Streets of Shadow, is entirely playable using only the Second Edition rules.
As for the timeline change, we decided to ground Victoriana more strongly to a single year in order to enable GMs to more easily apply real historical research. We also wanted to pick a year that had little impact on what we’ve done before. One of our dirty little secrets from previous editions is that much of Victoriana’s world better fit the 1850s than the 1860s (an on-going Crimean War, pre-Mutiny British India, antebellum America) and most of our material was written that way. Our biggest second edition supplements, Jewel of the Empire and The Smoke, can be used as-is for third edition’s1856.
What has it been like, working on such a well-loved game? Sleepless nights?
Sleep? I get to sleep? Actually, it’s a lot of fun. As a GM I love fantastic historical settings and I’ve been a fan of Victoriana ever since I plucked a copy of the first edition off the shelf of my FLGS way back in 2003. It was a thrill for me to be taken on as a freelance writer, and a dream come true to become its line developer. It’s been very challenging at times, especially during the shepherding of third edition, but always rewarding.
It’s also been intimidating at times. As you say, it’s a well-loved game, and I had to take great care with the changes we’d made. We had lots of discussions and re-discussions over the various changes, and for every one that made it in three or four were kept out, sometimes after already being incorporated.
In the end it’s a labour of love and I hope that shines when fans and new players read through the Third Edition.
Once the core book is out what else is in the pipeline for Victoriana 3rd Edition?
First up is Streets of Shadow, a full-length campaign that incorporates three adventures, The Dragon in the Smoke, The Hound of Hate, and The Rise of the Red God, from first edition. We also have The Concert in Flames, a mini-campaign and Continent sourcebook, coming soon, as well as the long-awaited book on Mars, a book on expanded magic options, and other regional sourcebooks. We’ll also be re-launching our pdf line.
Thanks Walt! We'll be back with more questions, and a more in-depth look at what we can expect to see in the new edition in the very near future!
Part Two: Encyclopaedia Victoriana
Part Three: One's Full Measure