Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Queen and Kaiser - Some Thoughts

I know - I have lots of projects to work on, but when the muse kisses you on the forehead, you have to put pen to paper or risk forgetting everything. Thus, some notes on Queen and Kaiser.


Theme: Full-throated Victorian adventure. All the characters in a group serve a government - their success turns into success for that country in terms of expanding its empire, inventing new devices - etc.

Influences: Jane Austen, Bronte sisters, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hughes, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelly, Charles Dickens, Flashman (of course)

Replace the concept of "race" in most games with class - Low, Middle or High - maybe - might make the rest of the character creation concept too complicated

No classes - characters shaped by random experiences - kind of like Traveller.

Game set circa 1890

Roll experiences based on age of character - different tables for Youth (i.e. school days), 1881-1890, 1871-1880 and 1861-1870. Whatever age range you choose (youth, mature, middle-aged, old), you roll up to three times on a table, declaring the number of rolls before making the rolls.

The basic experiences involves adventures in Victorian England / France / Germany / Russia

One “experience” is called Bend Sinister – this sends you to a different table concerning crime and the underworld, a table one may never escape

One “experience” is called Foreign Service – this sends you to a different table concerning foreign affairs – spying, wars, going native, etc. This table can send you back home to the basic table

One “experience” is called Supernatural – this one goes into Victorian horror and science fiction – one roll, then back to the basic table and no more dips into the supernatural pool – can be ignored if the Referee does not wish to use this material in his or her game

Base the different eras on the literature and historical events of that period

Might restrict the characters in the basic game to English or German, maybe adding different groups in NOD articles - i.e. French, Russian, American, Japanese, Dutch, Ottoman

Characters can be male or female, though experiences might be different

Ability Scores – roll as normal for Target 10

Vigor (strength, fortitude, courage)

Dash (dexterity, quickness, flair for the dramatic)

Study (knowledge, learning, ability to think things through, common sense)

Charm (manners, etiquette, courtship)

You have “hit points” based on your Vigor and “charm points” based on charm, etc. to allow for different forms of combat – Dash can help in all of these things

Hit Point combat is normal fighting

Charm Point combat is about combat in the social sphere- getting the best of a person through being witty, using innuendo, out-talking people – wins people to your side

Horsemanship (riding tricks, charging, increasing daily movement, polo, steeplechase)

Fencing (swords, axes, spears, walking sticks, knives)

Ballistics (rifle, shotgun, pistol, maxim gun, light cannon)

Fisticuffs (boxing, wrestling)

Archery (bows, crossbows, slings, spears)

High Society (contacts in high society, waltzing, manners, witty conversation, negotiation, waltzing)

Sports (rowing, cricket, football, rugby, darts, billiards, bicycles, croquet, lawn tennis, roller skating)

Command (leading troops, morale checks, military contacts)

Climbing & Leaping (acrobatics, scaling walls and cliffs, leaping over chasms, balancing)

Decipher Scripts (decoding codes, reading ancient tongues)

Detection (finding clues, noticing things, sensing motivations)
Skullduggery (sneaking, cheating, lying, picking pockets, forgery, underworld contacts)

Occultism (uncovering frauds, divining the future, hypnotism, sixth sense)

Prestidigitation (escaping bonds, card tricks, sleight of hand, use of magical props)

Physician (first aid, more complex operations, etc)

Soldier (marching, camp life, cooking, resisting fear under fire)

Scholarship (basic knowledge from university life)

Invention (working with electricity, magnetism and chemicals)

Engineering (working with mechanical objects, building and repairing, clockworks)

Native (local customs and mores, finding one’s way, survival in the environment, native contacts)

Domesticity (managing books, managing servants, cooking, cleaning, first aid, contacts in the shops, commanding others)

Woodcraft (tracking, stalking, knowledge about flora and fauna, survival in home environment)

Husbandry (controlling animals, training animals, taming wild animals)

Seamanship (sea legs, climbing, swimming, gunnery, navigation)

Advance through skills as follows:
- Start at Acquainted (+1)
- Then move to Practiced (+3)
- Then Expertise (+6)
- Finally Mastery (+12)

At expertise, you may take one element of that skill set and advance it to specialization +9 (i.e. with expertise in soldiery you could become a specialist at resisting fear)

At mastery, your previous specialized skill becomes legendary (+15)

Foreign adventures and schooling tutor people in languages. For languages, it goes:
- Smattering (+1) – brief commands and a few words
- Conversational (+3) – can speak with others with no problem
- Literacy (+6) – can read and write in the language
- Fluency (+12) – can write well, have a knowledge of their history and lore and count as having a smattering of all related languages, including ancient dialects

The skills give variable incomes for expertise and mastery, based on the perceived value of the profession – this can be used to procure supplies for expeditions.

Each of the episodes in a life has a dark side as well, requiring one to make an ability check (DC 5, usually) or succumb to an injury, phobia, or some other flaw. The final character may be skilled, but will have some baggage he’s pulling around. Hopefully this makes the character breath and live in the mind of his player!

How about a war wound table?

- Lost limbs – major reduction of movement or dexterity
- Lost eye
- Wounded limbs – reduce movement or dexterity and such
- Permanent hit point loss (no more than 1) – minor wound and scar
- Dengue fever – yellow fever – malaria – reduced Vigor

The game concerns the adventurers being sent on expeditions by the Queen / Kaiser / Czar, etc.

Guides for different adventurers, but always focused on accomplishing a goal (first person to climb a mountain, discovering a lost city, recovering a stolen item, stealing an item, securing a fort, mapping a river, forging diplomatic ties with an aboriginal king or influential noblewoman, etc.)

There would also be a map of the colonial possessions of the empires of the period, and tables for how the world situation changes as adventurers succeed or fail at different tasks. There could always be the threat of a Great War, and the changing political climate could itself spur new expeditions (i.e. "After losing their hold on Rhodesia to the Germans, the Queen's government has decided they need to obtain the plans for the latest German cruiser which is now stationed off the coast of Tanganyika.)

Drawn from the archetypes of Victorian fiction, but also from the Gothic romances and horrors, etc. Lions, tigers and bears, of course. Wells' Martians, maybe.


First two images from Wikipedia

Strongman from the aptly named Olde Strong Men blog. No, I wouldn't have ever known it existed if I hadn't searched Google.

Waltz image from the Victorian Web.


  1. Great idea! Love those ability scores...

    Jane Austen?

  2. Naturally - there's more to Victoriana than King Solomon's Mine and the Charge of the Light Brigade.

  3. Have a look at Space: 1889 if you can. It has a good list of Victorian adenturing types. Also the game Source of the Nile.

  4. Change Sport to Games - I can't recall a single instance of the word being used unaccompanied in period literature.

  5. What about the Badminton Library of Sports & Pastimes?


  6. The Flashman series would be terrific inspiration for this game (it's obvious, but I was reminded of it by the Tom Brown's School Days cover).


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