I was super excited to chat with a pair of fellow Australian RPG enthusiasts, and the brains behind Good Society, a Jane Austen RPG. Good Society is running a kickstarter right now to fund Good Society: An Expanded Acquaintance, four expansions to the original RPG.
Tell us about yourselves – who makes up Storybrewers Roleplaying?
Hayley: Storybrewers Roleplaying is Vee Hendro and Hayley Gordon. We design our games together, and I write up most of the text while Vee handles graphic design and layout. We’ve been making games together for a few years now, and have two major releases (Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG and Alas for the Awful Sea) as well as a host of free games.
How did the Storybrewers’ team first meet?
Vee: We met in high school, then university, then we dated for a while, then we got married, then I guess the next natural step is deciding we were ready to raise an RPG baby!
How long have you both been Jane Austen fans? What started the journey to creating a Jane Austen RPG?
Vee: Not as long as you may think; as a high schooler reading Pride & Prejudice, I didn’t enjoy or see the humour and wit in the writing because I was taking it too seriously. Only re-reading it as an adult did I really start to enjoy her works!
Hayley: The journey to making an Austen RPG started while I was rewatching the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. I found myself imagining what I would do if I was in an Austen novel – and when a person enjoys imagining themselves in a particular fictional situation it’s usually fertile ground for a roleplaying game.
I have to ask – what are each of your favourite Jane Austen novels?
Vee: What a terribly forward line of inquisition! Who can say one over another? For it would be sure to cause great offence either way. Heavens me! To ask such a thing! […long pause to sip some tea…leaning in conspiratorially…] But if you truly desire to know, I suppose I would put forward Emma as a name one might consider.
Hayley: I’d pick Persuasion for the feels and Pride and Prejudice for the shade.
Did you find you had to modernise any aspects of Jane Austen’s setting for a RPG?
Hayley: Yes! While we wanted the game to be played in a way that feels like Austen’s works, we also wanted to avoid building the sexism and racism of the past into the game. We wanted to provide players with a level of control over the historical accuracy of the game, the themes, and the gender power balance. We primarily did this through a section of the game called Collaboration where players decide together how to tackle these issues.
Your next stretch goal includes an exciting number of People of Colour as Gentry in your setting. What has the reception for this type of inclusivity been?
Vee: We’ve only heard positive things about this decision, which makes us very happy! But it was also a decision we would have made regardless because it is so important to our own values. It’s also been really rewarding to see similar thinking in other media, e.g. with Mr. Malcom’s List.
Note from the Sorcerer of Tea: This goal has now been unlocked since the interview! The next stretch goal is a guide to hacking Good Society to create your own homebrew.
What lessons did you learn from your previous kickstarters that went into An Expanded Acquaintance?
Vee: For me, it was how to take better care of myself throughout the process. Kickstarters can be a real rollercoaster ride for creators, with highs and lows, and it can be very intense. It’s important to keep yourself from burning out during this period.
Are there any other RPGs you’d credit as an influence in Good Society?
Hayley: Not directly, but we read and play a great many games and we’re always being inspired by the ideas that other designers come up with. In a broad sense I think Good Society was most inspired by on one hand procedural games like the Quiet Year and Kingdom and on the other LARP design like Before the Storm and the Warbirds anthology.
What was the most challenging aspect of creating the game? And what was the most fun aspect?
Vee: It was difficult to synthesise all the ideas we had and streamline them as much as we could. This iterative process takes a lot of time, so you need to be persistent, and be constantly ready to throw one concept out in favour of another. The most fun part of the process is always playtesting. As a designer, there really isn’t anything better than seeing your game being played.
Hayley: For me the most challenging aspect was making the game feel thematic without bogging down play with too many extra rules and procedures. I also love playtesting and find it the most fun!
What should players of Good Society and its expansions expect out of the first time they try it out? What are the key parts of a Good Society experience?
Hayley: Sharing equal authorship in the narrative is one that can surprise a lot of people. Getting to determine the direction of the story together along with other players. And of course that makes working together to create lots of scandal and drama, and more likely than not the chance for plenty of romance as well.
Do you have a favourite house rule you’ve seen made for Good Society?
Vee: Endless monologue tokens! In the game, each player gets one Monologue Token per cycle which they can play on another player to have them monologue in-character. The thought that some groups want to monologue more than this makes me very happy.
Because I’m a huge fan of mythology, tell us about the Fae Court expansion that just got unlocked! What inspired it and what does it contain?
Hayley: I’m really excited about this one. The Fae Court mini-expansion centres around the four Fae courts (Summer, Winter, Autumn and Spring) fighting for power. You can either play an ambitious Fae, or a mortal caught up in the Fae realm.
I’ve always loved the folktales of the British Isles (they feature heavily in our other game, Alas for the Awful Sea), so a lot of the inspiration comes from that, as well as poems such as the Ballad of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer.
Do you ever use props for your Good Society games (costumse, regency music?) Any suggestions for ways players can really deepen the immersion?
Vee: I rarely do. I’ve used background music once or twice, but I’ve never run the tabletop version with costuming as it can be hard for people to prepare and not usually required for a tabletop rpg. However, there is a LARP version of Good Society that would be perfect for people who really want to deepen the immersion!
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to run a Good Society game?
Hayley: As Facilitator, don’t feel like all the responsibility is on you! Good Society is a very collaborative game, so focus on helping everyone else contribute to the story. There’s quite a bit of useful facilitator advice in the book, but the most important thing is to listen, help make sure everyone is on the same page, and be a fan of everybody’s ideas.
Do either of you have a favourite out of the four expansions in this kickstarter?
Vee: It’s hard to say as two of them are still in active development! I find it very hard to pick, but I’ve definitely been on record saying that I’m partial to Pride, Prejudice & Practical Magics.
Hayley: I may be biased but I’m quite fond of all of them. Right now my focus is on Downstairs at the Abbey, and I’m looking forward to taking that into playtesting shortly.
What are you working on next that excites you?
Hayley: Our next major game is called Fight With Spirit, and it is a high school sports rpg, based on anime like Free and Prince of Tennis, as well as sports movies like Remember the Titans. It is a collaborative roleplaying game about a high school sports team growing up together, and fighting for their passion!
Do you have any tips for people aspiring to make their own RPG?
Vee: Start with projects of a scope you can finish. You will learn much more from completing a game, even if it is a small one, than working for two years on something you never finish. It’s also important to read widely and play lots of games, follow other creators who inspire you and engage in the community.
Do you have any final comments for prospective backers?
Hayley: If you have any questions about the game, come ask us! We’re very friendly. Or, check out one of the actual plays on the Kickstarter page.
Supporting the project
You can check out Good Society: An Expanded Acquitance on Kickstarter right now and back within the next 8 days! There are backer options to grab the whole set if you are new to Good Society, or just the expansions if you’re an old fan.