Victoriana.

22 01 2008

Quite some time ago I was invited to produce some extremely short fiction snippets for Victoriana 2nd Edition, produced by Cubicle 7. I did, and they were included in the core rule book, which is currently awaiting a reprint after selling out.

Well, Tamsyn and I decided to combine our evil powers and work on live-action rules for the game. This is all very speculative at the moment. The idea is to come up with a LARP system that is so fabulous it woos Andy, the line developer, and convinces him to give us the green light that’ll enable us to rush away and write the whole book.

Primarily, and understandably, Andy’s concern is the system. And it’s been a long, long time since I last wrote an RPG Tabletop to LARP conversion.

Tamsyn and I have decided to work separately at this early stage, then pass our ideas to each other, cherrypicking the best of both sets of thoughts and smooshing them together into one cohesive whole. Thus I’ve been spending a good deal of time familiarising myself with Victoriana 2nd Edition, as well as re-reading published LARP rules and my own old conversions. Alas I’ve reached a rather troubling epiphany.

Most LARP rules… Well… They just don’t work, do they?

Admittedly I quite like the Mind’s Eye Theater system. There’s clearly a reason it’s been at the forefront of LARPs for a decade or so. It’s relatively simple, and requires the player carry nothing more than his character sheet. But the sheets are often so complex that a player’s whipping the sheet out every few minutes to consult with it, and if all you want is a one-off scenario for an evening’s gaming, you’ll lose precious time while this goes on.

Then there’s Maelstrom. Another great game, and great set of rules, but these guys put games together on a national scale, and they hire out whole locations in which to play, so their rules allow (nay, encourage) physical representation (i.e. twatting each other with imitation swords). With the exciteable nature of most police forces around the world coupled with the near-1984 level of surveillance within the UK, I suspect we should shy away from this kind of LARP too. Even if one hires a venue, there’s no guarantee that someone across the street won’t dial 999 because there are a bunch of people dressed as Victorians waving swords around and punching one-another.

So where else do you turn for inspiration? Well, there’s that great stalwart, Cthulhu Live. Except the rules are actually surprisingly fiddly. Players should be out there playing, and not having to call the GM over for every little thing.

Ultimately I suppose that I have to admit it: what I’m looking for is the Live-Action answer to Dogs in the Vineyard, a game where the GM can sit back and trust the players to work together (purely on an out of character level, obviously) to make the game fun for all, with as few rules, statistics, and challenges as possible to get in their way.

There’s another spanner just waiting to be thrown into the works. Victoriana is a game that is very strict about Social Class. If you’re a pauper, you will simply be ignored by aristocracy, and sneered at by the middle classes. If your aristocrat wishes to investigate something and the trail leads him to a dockyard, nobody there will talk to him, because it’s far below their station to do so. You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?

Yes. Fifty characters in the same room, all of differing social classes, refusing to interact.

Still, never let it be said that I’m not one for a challenge…

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