Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Published by Storybrewers, it's a heavily narrative focused game (as befits it's subject material) about wealth, status, security and affection. The players will in essence play through a Austen Novel, trying to guarantee their reputation stays in tact while perusing happiness, money, social capital, or some combination of the three, for themselves, their friends, or their family members. Also, there will be a lot of irony, bonnets, and balls.
Players take the role of Regency Era Gentry, living in the countryside while they attend dances, go to tea, maneuver socially, and seek marriage. Each player has control of a single Major Character, with their Role as their 'class': an archetype from Austen's works be it a wealthy Heir, a spirited Dowager, a good natured Meddler, or one of the many others. Each Major Character has a Desire (their burning objective throughout the game) and a Relationship with another Major Character (be it a secret fiance, bitter rival, old flame, or something else). Each player also takes control of one or two Connections, minor characters who complicate the lives of Major Characters, be it another Major Character's friend, suitor, family member, protege, tutor, etc. The Facilitator (Game Master) takes control of all the other Connections and NPCs, as well as sets the scene, creates complicated situation and keeps the plot moving and structured. They can make a Major Character as well, and if there are too few players are encouraged to do so.
If you are expecting to roll dice, you will be disappointed: the game is wholly narrative focused. It's main mechanic is Resolve Tokens and Monologue Tokens. Resolves Tokens can be used to change the circumstances and orchestrate the fortune and misfortune of other players or yourself: you either trade it to another player in exchange for causing them trouble or putting them in a tough spot, or the Facilitator if you are just causing general mayhem. The Facilitator can also bribe players with Resolve Tokens to have their characters commit folly, walk into a tight spot, or adopt a sudden and foolish viewpoint (like desiring to flirt with that nice gentleman who is defiantly not a cad just after your money). Monologue Tokens can be tossed at other players to have them give insight into their characters thoughts by monologuing what's going on their heads.
Most play is done in 'novel chapters': either a collection of scenes between the various Major Characters, a single large event, or a mix of the two. There are several other 'phases' of game play, most notably Rumor and Scandal where the players devise the rumors flying around society (or spread them) and Epistolary where the players can can narrate letters in which they might reveal their thoughts, arrange parties or business, and generally twist circumstance- in the last session it will also serve as the Epilogue, the letters being written in the distant future.
There is also the Reputation Phase, where how the characters have acted comes back to haunt them: if they disgraced themselves either mildly or majorly (for example Emma Woodhouse slighting Miss Bates in Emma or Elizabeth showing up in a mud stained dress at Netherfield in Pride and Prejudice) in a Novel Chapter they acquire a Negative Reputation Tag which determines the preconceived notion of any but your closest friends. At three Negative tags you face a nasty consequence(from loosing your inheritance to being unwelcome in your own home). But conversely comport yourself well and you might gain a Positive Reputation Tag, which colors how you look in the eyes of others and at three of those you gain a great boon (from a wealthy relative coming out of the woodwork to your family suddenly thinking you can do no wrong). Players must balance their Major Character trying to pursue their Desire and maintain their Reputation, or face being tossed from good society forever.
In July 2020 Storybrewers released Good Soceity: An Expanded Acquaintance, a collection of four major expansions and two mini expansions which add new rules, themes, and settings that can change the game completely. They are:
- Pride, Prejudice, and Practical Magics, which adds fantasy elements, including rules for spellcasting, magical factions, and general supernatural happenings.
- Sense, Sensibility, and Swordsmanship, where in addition to living out as gentle men and women of the time, each character also has a hidden identity, be it as a spy, vigilante, thief, or some other daring masked figure.
- Downstairs At the Abbey: Which shifts the focus to rest equally on the servants of the house. Each player takes a standard Gentry Major character AND a servant character to play, and thus two intersecting parallel stories play out.
- Emma, Forget Me Not which adds rules for time skips and sweeping stories of rising and falling careers, with characters changing drastically over the course of the story.
- The Fae Court a mini expansion for Pride, Prejudice, and Practical Magic, which emphasizes the fae and their endless power struggles.
- Lady Susan, PI the other mini expansion, which reframes Good Society as a murder mystery, in which the players are all suspects.
This show provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Averted if you play a mother of another Main Character or a Connection, but if a parent is one of your Connections...
- Big Fancy House: Expect to live in one, as even the poorest landed Gentry likely have a decent mansion and estate.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Socialite can be played this way, and weather or not they are unpleasant if they gain enough Negative Reputation Tags, society might believe them to be this.
- Blue Blood: If you have the Peerage background you have a specific title (options are listed), but even characters with the Humble Origins background are either simply low-income Gentry or have came from a place of no money originally, but are now in a decent situation.
- Gold Digger: Many of the Desires are focused on obtaining wealth, meaning you can play this trope absolutely straight, but interestingly only one desire actually stipulates you need to gain wealth via marriage...by marrying off your son or daughter (rather then yourself) to a person of fortune or one of the Peerage.
- Good-Looking Privates: The Careerist who is in the military, or any character with the Military background.
- Gossip Evolution: A game mechanic in the Rumor and Scandal phase. Players are encouraged to just make stuff up, or twist around real events when spreading rumors to create maximum problems.
- Contrived Coincidence: Common in the Romantic Comedy and Farce playsets, and you can also pay a Resolve Token to make them happen.
- Everyone Is Bi: One of the possibilities during Collaboration is to turn the gender power imbalance off, which in addition to granting women full rights (meaning they can have careers and inherit estates) and opening being House Husband up to men (as well as the 'feminine' pursuits), means that people of any gender can get married and have romantic courtships, with no social stigma. You can also reverse it completely (rendering men dependent upon good marriage and women the only ones permitted careers) or simply go with the standard British Patriarchy of the time.
- Heir Club for Men: The default, though it can be averted (if you turn Gender Power Imbalance Off) or Inverted (If you reversed the Power Imbalance). Also there is noting stopping you from making a Heir who is simply the daughter of a estate not entailed.
- Hidden Depths: Part of the reason the game has Monologue Tokens is to encourage this: players should try and be opaque as any Austen character would be without the narration telling us what's happening in their head, unless they've had Monologue Token tossed at them.
- Inter-Class Romance: Though everyone is Landed Gentry, there is still a wide range in that, as exemplified in the Source Material many times. Relative low-class Gentry might still be Gentry, but they can toe the line with losing everything and ending up in poverty...unless they marry rich.
- I Was Quite a Looker: The Dowager, in his or her youth.
- Karma Houdini: It is entirely possible to be vile, mean, and loathsome...but if you maintain good enough manners and are sufficiently cunning, you can still come out the other side with your own happy ending.
- Love Dodecahedron: The game can quickly twist into one between all the old flames, secret fiances, new courtships and arranged marriages.
- The Matchmaker: The Meddler, true to it's inspirations Emma Woodhouse and Mrs Bennet, longs to be one. How successful they are is...up to the player.
- Marry for Love: A central conflict. Love vs security is a common theme, of course depending on how cunning you're willing to be and how idealistic the tone of your game, you might get both money and happiness.
- Only Sane Man: The Cornerstone gets to be the responsible one among...well. Everyone else.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Conflict between characters is largely fought with words, but those words can get vicious. Rumor and Scandal will usually start off tame, and become more and more full of venom and fire in later cycles, which is exactly the point.
- Proper Lady: Most female characters are expected to be this, but The Heiress most of all. (The Dowager can get away with a lot because she is rich and old).
- Rich Bitch: Again, the possibility is there for most female Major Characters, but especially the Heiress.
- Self-Made Man: The New Money background allows for a Major Character to be new to high society, though just as wealthy (or even more so) as everyone else.
- Shipper on Deck: The Meddler is outright encouraged to be this for other characters.
- Unable to Support a Wife: A possible challenge for any lower Gentry would-be-suitor, especially The Dependent.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Any less-then-good-hearted Major Character, as well as a possibility for the Big Bad of Sense, Sensibility, and Swordsmanship
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final Epistolary phase is this, as through letters long into the future you see how your Major Characters turned out.