I haven’t talked about Good Society in a while but it remains one of my favorite games on the market. It’s so wonderfully written and easily lines up with the genre. There’s more to offer, though, and Storybrewers’ Expanded Acquaintances book with many different additions to the game.
This supplement contains six different expansions for Good Society, two of which I already took a look at: Sense, Sensibility, and Swordsmanship and Pride, Prejudice, and Practical Magic. These introduce several new elements to the game to evoke a specific genre, and doing it in a slim 50-100 pages. The other four supplements are on the shorter side but they still contain new playbooks, cards, and rules to make your Good Society game different and customized. There’s also some advice for hacking the system yourself at the end! Let’s get started.
Downstairs at the Abbey
This expansion of around 60 pages is for fans of Downton Abbey, Longbourn, and Girl with a Pearl Earring, the “upstairs, downstairs” genre of pairing aristocratic drama along with the more prosaic concerns of their servants. Usually, these stories are about large households, the rich owners, and the working class that makes it operate. The expansion, then, includes a collaborative manor creation process alongside the collaborative worldbuilding of classic Good Society. You’ll need a name (comes with a generator to help) and then each player adds a detail about the whole place or descibes a specific space in the manor. There’s a separate sheet for manor creation that lets you map things out in detail while keeping it abstracted in a theater of the mind.
Players also make two main characters, an aristocratic one according to the rules in Good Society core as well as a servant one. Servants don’t have roles or backgrounds like their employers, but they come with secrets, inner conflict, and certainly go through the reputation process. I wish there was a little more structure for these characters so they don’t occupy such a secondary role, but there’s certainly enough structure to include them in the game. The new servant Relationship cards are half connections to other staff and half connections to the wealthy characters. The new connection cards are also a great source for inspiration and the “World of Downstairs” section provides a strong look at portraying Regency-era servants.
The cycle of play in Good Society is amended to include the upstairs staff as well as the downstairs characters, including a Sunday phase (focused on the servants during their day off) that follows the novel chapter phase and a Household Gossip phase following the Reputation phase to look at the aristocrats’ actions through the lens of their valets and maids. It’s a few more steps but, importantly, you’re not looking at twice the phases even though we have twice the characters.
Emma, Forget Me Not
This is a shorter expansion (around 40 pages) which also has a focus that’s not as concrete as the others. Pride, Prejudice, and Practical Magic includes sorcery in your Good Society game and Downstairs at the Abbey adds the undercurrent of servants’ lives, gossip, and scheming. By contrast, Emma, Forget Me Not changes the scope of the game to a longer period of friendships shifting and fortunes changing. It draws its inspiration from books like Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, and the Poldark series… and surprisingly not Emma. I’ll be honest, I was hoping that this would be a light-hearted expansion about arranging romances and it’s sort of the opposite. Emma, Forget Me Not drips with melancholy and longing and makes Good Society into a fraught game where your characters might crash and burn.
To add to the Desires deck there are seven new Desires that are more long term. Things like “reform your older sibling or get rid of them” or “ensure the happiness of one you love, and wait for the opportunity to express your feelings.” These are more slow burn than your standard Good Society goals and can span years if not decades. That’s why this expansion introduces the Passage of Time Phase which happens after two Novel Chapter Phases and jumps the plot forward a while. You pick as a group how extreme each Passage of Time jump is so depending on your preference and the length of the game you’ve picked, this might be 2-4 years or 10-30 years.
Players also take a long view with their characters and write Pivotal Moments that they’d like to see happen. Maybe you want your character to lose their fortune when their father dies suddenly, or you might have your naval officer be tried in a military court only to be vindicated and returned to his position. You’re encouraged to be bold and dramatic, then the group tries to look for ways to make these events come to pass. When they do, you also will have written what Changing Fortunes affect your character (losing your fortune leads you to your true love, returning to your naval command means you’re sent to war against France) so these Pivotal Moments also propel the narrative themselves.
Obviously, these are heavy themes and we’re also shown Weather Interludes (thematic soul-searching during an Epistolary or Passage of Time Phase) which add to the heaviness. This expansion isn’t for everyone and I’d definitely classify it as advanced for groups that have played some other Good Society games and don’t mind crying together. On the other hand, these are some packed forty pages and it might be the most powerful expansion in this bunch.
The Fae Courts
Classified as a “mini-expansion”, this clocks in at 30 pages and (unsurprisingly) introduces the idea of otherworldy creatures and societies to a Pride, Prejudice, and Practical Magic game. In that game you include arcane societies to the gameplay, mystical factions within the broader Regency society that must be negotiated alongside the complicated business of balls, high teas, and engagements. In Fae Courts you add in a faerie realm called Elfhame which exists next to your Regency-era England (or facsimile thereof) which adds new social jockeying and relationships to the mix.
The exact nature of Elfhame is decided by collaboration just like your broader setting, though there are some strong suggestions in the chapter. Rather than simply a Seelie and Unseelie divide, Elfhame is described with three courts: the Court of Splendours (extravagance and ostentation), the Court of Signs (prophetic and judgemental), and the Court of Shadows (unpredictable and ambitious). Just like the magical factions of P, P, & PM, there’s not a ton of mechanics associated with these so you can add any that you like. You could even replace these Courts and just make Elfhame a copy of Changeling: the Lost if you really want. Any fae major characters have sheets based on these courts but if you can come up with four adjectives and four reputation markers for the court you’re thinking of then you can add them no problem.
To add to the theme, though, Promises take on a power of their own and fae characters all start with Promises that they’ve made and consequences for breaking them. In general, you can play Pride, Prejudice, & Practical Magic without Fae Courts but, having seen these rules, I would never want to. For me, P, P, & PM is all about making Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell into an RPG experience and this is essential. These expansions together are definitely my favorite version of Good Society so I highly recommend this. You might also make a Labyrinth-style story by using Fae Courts without P, P, & PM but that’s in the niche category.
Lady Susan P.I.
In Lady Susan, P.I. the game of Good Society changes to a single-session activity and the focus shifts from societal obligations to something darker. Murder! (thunder-crash, thunder-crash, thunder-crash!)
This mini-expansion of around 30 pages blurs the line between RPG and murder mystery dinner. There’s a central murder of one Lorder Ernest Walnut, the proverbial Mr. Boddy (which is Dr. Black in the U.K.?!?! Whatever). The Facilitator of the game plays the eponymous Lady Susan, who is the only connection between the other characters. The other players portraying these characters are the suspects who all have relationships to the deceased so the game becomes character development during the Novel Chapter Phase, then the Facilitator asking probing questions during an Interview Phase. The cycle follows along through letter writing and more narrative scenes but then ends with a Confrontation when Lady Susan points her finger to accuse someone.
It’s an interesting idea, a murder scenario which one person is guiding but that person also knows the least about the suspects and motivations. I haven’t tried this option out myself but it definitely seems like it would be a perfect one night game. It’s probably not the best intro to Good Society but it seems like a wonderful option for encouraging collaborative storytelling.
Combining Expansions and Hacking the Game
The last portion of Expanded Acquaintances discusses making the game exactly what you want. Three pages cover advice for combining various expansions (except for Lady Susan, P.I., that’s its own thing) which can be summarized as “pick a primary expansion, pick a secondary expansion, blend together.” The authors aren’t afraid to tell you to not do certain combinations or to change decisions to a better mix.
They also are down on combining more than two expansions and also recommend mixing Sense, Sensibility, and Swordsmanship with Pride, Predjudice, and Practical Magic, or else picking one of those and one other expansion. If your thinking of a magical world (P, P, & PM) with noble vigilantes (S, S, & S) that features fae characters (Fae Courts) and servants (Downstairs) then the official advice is “don’t.” It might not be what you want to hear but that makes a lot of sense since
On the other hand, if you want to create exactly the game you are thinking of, then you want to check out the twenty-page section on Hacking the Game. Basically, if you want to try a general game approach that anyone might reasonably get behind then that’s covered in the previous section. If, on the other hand, you have a gaming group that’s all on the same page with something then you might create a bespoke game. You all might agree that you want to tell the story of fae servants in an English manor house or you might want to create a game of military officers jockeying for position during the wartime dinners that are being held. With these specific visions in mind you can design a specific playset that addresses this particular story.
I get the impression here that you shouldn’t expect to use this for a second game but this process has a lot of guidance and a lot of advice. Once you’re familiar with Good Society with a few different experiences under your belt, this chapter should walk you through getting exactly the experience you want. That’s the best thing about Good Society: at it’s essence, this is a game about feeling and emotion. As long as you want an emotional game with some structure in and out of the story then Good Society can manage it.
This is an awesome game, and these expansions are all great additions to that foundation. Excellent job.