A lot of people are celebrating holidays this week, so there’s no better time to review the magical supplement for Good Society. While Sense, Sensibility, & Swordsmanship explored combat and duels in regency storytelling, Pride, Prejudice, & Practical Magic looks at Georgian-era tales of sorcery and mystery in the vein of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Shades of Milk and Honey. Get ready for social climbing and magical cottages!
The first part of getting a game of P, P, & P started is figuring out the world. This is a familiar stage, the first part of a Good Society game where you answer questions in order to shape the version of the regency era you’ll be playing in. Starting on page 32, Good Society prompts the group with a series of questions to see what’s important in gameplay: “What tone should the story hage?” and “How will we treat the gender power balance?,” for example.
In Pride, Prejudice, & Practical Magic it’s the same sort of situation but there’s the mystical element to consider. The players talk together to decide what magic looks like in the world (Flashy? Silent? Swirling?) and what it requires (Wands and stuff? Crystals and potions? Songs and gestures?). Next, each player describes a famous act of magic as a little vignette, something like the time Mr. Norrell enchanted the cathedral. This is a chance to narrate a little of what the world is like and a way to make sure everyone is on the same page. “Wait, that’s what you were thinking with ‘flashy?’ OK, then let’s back this up a bit.”
Next, you start getting into the deep and mysterious stuff by answering what magical beings are out there (good neighbors or jerk loners?), the old-fashioned and new views on magic (you pick both of these from the same list of nine phrases, and probably write your own too), and the factions that will appear in the game. This last one utilizes four prewritten factions, the first of which is always the College of Wizardry (the traditionalist stronghold of old magic in the world) and then you pick one from the others: the philanthropic Local Witches Association, secretive Hidden Order, and the strange and enticing Otherworldly. This is a pretty good list of faction options but also every faction sheet is mostly the same material with different adjectives and story flavor. That means it should be fairly easy to make your own… Incidentally, keep your eye on this space for new factions in the future!
Magic and Spellcasting
In the same vein as dueling in Sense, Sensibility, & Swordsmanship, spellcasting in this supplement is straightforward addition to the game. There’s no testing to see if you cast the spell or list of magic that your character knows: you’re playing a spellcaster and you should feel free to use magic to enhance the story whenever you want. It just might cost you.
When you use magic in a way that changes the story significantly you consult the Table of Magics (dun dun duuuunnn!!). This is less formal than it seems and not even really a table. Basically you cast the spell and decide whether the magic really improves things for you (in which case you pay a resolve token) or whether it carries some hefty drawbacks (in which case you take a resolve token). This isn’t necessarily “does your spell succeed or fail” but rather what the outcome is in the story. The target of the spell (or the Facilitator in the case of the NPCs) chooses a question for you to answer about the magic based on your choice and you propel the narrative that way. Because you don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, other players can refuse to let you obliterate their characters and such, so you typically negoiate the outcome.
For example, let’s say that your gentleman-wizard is trying to impress the object of your desire by creating for her a magical illusion of a galloping unicorn. You decide you want this to go pretty well and so you conjure up the silvery image of a beautiful magical creature in front of her, paying a resolve token to have it go well. The lady’s player looks at the list and asks “What does the magic demand from you, or what does it make you promise?” You think it over and decide that this particular illusion was something taught to you by a fey magician and you know that they are going to visit you later this evening to check in, bringing trouble in their wake. But at least you cast the spell and this wizardess is seriously into you!
On the other hand, you might decide that this spell carries some downsides and you take a resolve token instead of paying it. In this case, the lady’s player looks down the negative list of options and asks “What significant sacrifice do you make to cast this magic?” You have the same idea of a fey instructor but now you think you’ll take it farther. This fey magician is showing up but that’s because you promised that using moonlight-magic like this would signal your willingness to repay the blood debt that you owe him. He’ll be in your home at midnight and you’ll have to do something truly terrible as payment… But this was the only way to impress her!
We talked about what the four magical factions in the book are, but now let’s talk a bit about what they do. You describe the factions along with describing your characters, and the factions should be a big part of the story. After you establish the backstory for your characters you detail what the factions are like. Use the Connection cards to establish the leaders of each faction and decide which character belongs to which faction (or no factions). Player characters could even come to lead a faction, they could be expelled, or they could ask the faction for a favor they couldn’t otherwise handle. Factions are more than story elements, though, they’ve got their own projects and goals too.
Just like characters in Good Society have desire cards that represent their narrative goals, factions have their own desire cards that makes them an additional force in the story. There are ten faction desire cards in total, four of which are specific to one of the factions, and it shouldn’t be too hard to write up more. They also have their own version of Reputation, called Influence, and it has a numerical value that rangs from +4 to -4. From +1 to -1, the Influence of the faction is neutral and they are just seen as part of society. Below -2 the faction is disgraced and that might make it illegal or despised or otherwise ostracized from (heh) good society. On the other hand, an Influence above +2 is a faction that is authoritative and seen as a pillar of society. This also means they can make Decrees which shape the narrative setting.
Your faction’s Influence can offset your Reputation: if you aren’t well respected but your faction is then you can ride on those coattails, though the reverse situation is also true. Likewise, the behavior and actions of faction members taken into account during the Reputation phase will also impact the factions’ Influence, which is a cool idea. You could be the reason that the fussy old guard wizards’ college falls!
Another home run from Storybrewers. This expansion to Good Society is amazing and truly opens up the world to fantastic options. Even more than the swordfighting expansion of Sense, Sensibility, and Swordsmanship, this expansion makes me want to play Good Society for hours on end. In the future I’ll find some time to go over Storybrewers’ advice for combining both expansions together, as well as the other options they’ve got coming down the pike!