Edit: This came out on the eve before the official PDF of Good Society has hit backers! If you are interested in the game, you can pre-order at this time at https://storybrewersroleplaying.com.
Good Society, Great Game
Back in July I got to play Good Society at GoPlayNW, run by friend and fellow Gauntleteer Yoshi (with players Gene, Corrin, and Paul). It’s Jane Austin, the RPG. Hayley and Vee, the designers, have been working on the game for a few years now, and had a wonderfully successful Kickstarter. There’s a number of actual play videos out there for those curious.
Although we only played a one-shot game, as you do at conventions, I was struck by how powerfully full of politics this game was. The most memorable aspect was the cycle of scene types that continuously escalated and snowballed the intrigue and drama: phases that include role playing scenes, a phase where you collaboratively take turns creating rumors and scandals, and an epistolary phase where characters write letters to one another (performed by just speaking the letters out loud). None of the game involves any dice, by the way.
The crown jewels of the game, however, is the monologue token. With this little genius piece of mechanic, a player can have another player instantly go into monologue mode, and show us what their main character is truly thinking, in that scene. The only downside is you have one to spend, and must wait for a full cycle of scenes before getting another.
I really, really didn’t think that I’d be that entranced by a Jane Austin RPG, but I was completely wrong. It was one of my highlights of that game convention.
…Add a Touch of Magic
So, add to that: an expansion to the core game that introduces wizards, and witches, and all the magic bullshit you want in your game. I just finished a 3-shot series playtest of Pride, Prejudice, and Practical Magics, run by Hayley with fellow players Ryan, Sid, and Vee, as part of The Gauntlet’s slew of amazing games being run by the ASPAC crew. Hayley and Vee wanted to do some more playtesting, and all I had to do was make the slightly awful Pacific local time that this entailed.
We spent the bulk of the first session doing character and setting generation, as well as a ceremony by the Wizard’s College to nominate two prospects to be voted on to follow the matron on her retirement. We had long-term curses, disowned characters, and inter-wizardly-association politics, in addition to all the high court and gentry drama.
It was really the second and third sessions where we started to hit a stride, however, and got to go through all the phases, ramping up tensions, solidifying various factions vying for power and control of the Wizard’s College, a lawsuit between wizarding families, and family hierarchies. In the end things didn’t land where you’d expect, but we had a couple of relatively happy endings, among the super sad memory loss (of a sort) that was a consequence for a promise broken. The second and third session also had a ton of self-indulgent fantasy bullshit of the type that all of us were clamoring for (three cheers for the Wishes procedure, and the real world magic it produces).
We did some great debriefs after the fact (not recorded), and it was pleasant to additionally see that the game testing produced actionable changes that Hayley and Vee found useful for improving the game. I also have to give a shout out to these amazing players. Holy crap, everyone was just very attentive to each others narratives, and Hayley did an upstanding job facilitating this game, pushing us when we needed to be pushed (often using Resolve Tokens, as you do in this game).
I’m also happy to also know that friend Gene (who also got to playtest with Vee facilitating a similar set of Good Society + magic games) is actively learning how to run the game by using some friends as guinea pigs, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to play it further with another competent crew in the following months. I’m seriously looking forward to this a great deal.