Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG

Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Good Society is a tabletop roleplaying game currently being developed by Story Brewers, based in Sydney. They’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish the game. Good Society seeks to recreate the feel of Jane Austen’s novels, with a focus on reputation, family obligations, ambition and secret longing.

Good Society has a focus on collaboration between the game master (referred to as the facilitator) and the players. Before the game begins, the facilitator and players work out together what kind of story they want to tell – for example whether the game will be historically accurate or whether it will mess around with regency era gender roles; whether the storyline will be dramatic or comedic.

Players each control a create a main character, but they also control a minor character who is connected to another player’s main character. Each player’s main character also has an established connection with another main character. Part of the character creation stage includes assigning each main a secret desire that they are persuing throughout the game.

Good Society doesn’t use dice, and the mechanics seem to encourage a lot of free roleplaying roleplaying. However, players get a few tokens each session which they can use to direct the story. Players and the facilitator can spend tokens to cause a significant event to interrupt the story. This might create a setback for another player’s main character, although the rules emphasis the importance of the other player’s consent, so as to emphasis collaboration. Players also have the opportunity during to spend a token to compell another player to perform an interior monologue, so that the other players know what their main character is thinking and planning at that moment.

Each session of the game cycles through five phases:

  • the novel phase, when players roleplay a social situation (such as a dinner party, a meeting or a ball) in which main character try to pursue their goals while also minding their manners and protecting their reputation
  • the rumors and scandal phase, when each player gets two opportunities to either start a new rumour or confirm an existing rumour
  • the third phase is the epistlatory phase, when each character has the opportunity to narrate a letter that their main character is writing to another character
  • after the first three phases there is a second novel phase and a second epistlatory phase completing the cycle – although a session of Good Society may consist of more than one complete cycle.

If you’re not so into the Jane Austen theme, I think this idea could also be reskinned as a more ruthless intrigue-type game set in a fantasy city like Menzoberranzan, Kings Landing or Ankh-Morepork. A couple of the stretch goals also add expansions which integrate magic and swordplay into the game which would come in handy if you were attempting this.

You can get behind the Good Society Kickstarter campaign for AU$10. (There’s also a discounted option for folks experiencing financial hardship.) The Kickstarter ends on Tuesday March 6, Sydney time. If you’d like to watch a demonstration, you can find live play videos here and here.