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Tabletop Game / Victoriana RPG

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Victoriana is a fantasy tabletop RPG from Heresy Games and later, Cubicle 7, set in Victorian London. A few things are different from our history books. Well, a lot of things. Queen Elysabeth was an Eldren, the Royal College has a Guild of Sorcery, and some of the lower classes really aren't human.

This tabletop RPG provides examples of:

  • Beast Man: The titular Beastfolk (or even more titular Beastmen, prior to 3rd edition), who are most characterized by the symbolism of the animal they resemble; strong and noble lions, devious and quick rats, and so forth. They're most notorious for the fact only 1 in 4 beastfolk are female. They tend to cop some of the worst Fantastic Racism, although the 2e sourcebook "Darwin's Catalogue: Beastmen of Britain" notes that there are more than a few brothels that keep beastwomen working girls for "select" clientele. Some scientists have speculated that beastfolk were created by magic. The beastfolk suffer the most extreme racism in Victoriana after the orcs, and as such have become increasingly involved in movements such as anarchy and communism.
  • Classical Cyclops: These single-eyed giant-kin from Patagonia in South America are renowned for their minds over their bodies, being smarter even than oni and with a natural knack for engineering of both the mundane and magitek varities.
  • Council of Angels: The Heaven of the Aluminat (the local Expy of Christianity) is run this way. It's even possible to have an angel appear before you in answer to a plea for divine intervention. It's usually a bad idea, however.
  • Disposable Vagrant
    • Supplement Faces in the Smoke Volume One: The Secret Masters. The Ancient and Holy Order of Sulis Minerva performs Human Sacrifices using members of the lowest classes of society because they're unlikely to be missed.
    • Supplement Faces in the Smoke Volume Two: Shadows and Steel. The Fellowship of the Red Pharaoh performs necromantic experiments on the corpses of the teeming, anonymous masses of the poor of London.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: Faulkner's Millinery and Miscellanea. The magical Mirrorcane can create three illusionary images of its wielder to distract opponents.
  • Earth Drift: Inverted. Each successive Edition makes the setting more like the historical Victorian Era. The 3E Corebook even lampshades it in a sidebar.
    The First Edition firmly set Victoriana in a fantasy world which resembled our own, but collapsed together many events that took place throughout the Victorian era, planting them in a fictional 1867. The Second Edition took a harder approach to actual history but left the original anachronisms intact. With the Third Edition, we wanted to pay homage to both previous versions; we wanted to present the world that the First Edition gave us while strengthening its ties to actual history.
  • Evolutionary Levels: It's been proposed by anthropologists in-universe that orcs may represent the ultimate evolutionary endpoint of humanoids; this explains why all interbreeding between orcs and other races just produces orcs, and further explains the hostility that most humanoids offer orcs. An equally viable alternative theory not brought up in-universe is that orcs may actually represent the original Homo Sapiens root-stock from which the other races diverged and specialized.
  • Fallen Angel: The Eloim. No wings left, and getting tossed out of Heaven is about as mind-destroying as you'd expect. The few sane ones are actually pretty nice, though...
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Beastmen, Ogres and Halflings can never be part of the upper class in England. Admittedly, the reasons vary... Ogres are completely gullible, Halflings are known thieves... but Beastmen are simply NOKD... Not Our Kind, Dear.
    • Orcs get hit with all of their traditional "enemy for all things!" baggage... despite the fact that orcs in Victoriana are actually very much not an Always Chaotic Evil race, instead being more of a stand-in for abused indigenous peoples.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: With a dash of Steampunk for flavor.
  • Golem: The Mechanical Men "race", which debut in 2nd edition's "Marvels of Science & Steampunk", are a collection of clockwork or steam-powered automata granted true sentience by the presence of a "spark of life", which could be an elemental, a captured mortal soul, or even a bound fiend.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Zigzagged: although the precise mechanics depend on edition. For the most part, though, it's subverted. Whilst all of the humanoid races can interbreed, with fertility being impaired the more greatly divergent the races are, the child will only belong to one subspecies — usually the mother's.
    • In 2e, however...
      • If two individuals of the same subspecies who both have family histories of interbreeding with the same secondary subspecies mate, there is a chance that they will produce a child of the second subspecies. The royal family of Britain has produced 5 elf children from human parents, due to the frequency with which they interbreed with elves.
      • If an orc mates with a member of any other race, the child will always be an orc.
      • Despite all of that, it does occasionally happen that a woman impregnated by a male beastfolk will give birth to a child that is of her subspecies, but which bears an animalistic physical or psychological trait.
    • 3e differs from 2e mostly in the finer details; a child with at least one beastfolk parent is almost always a beastfolk, and mixed breedings with eldren rarely produce eldren children — it happens most frequently with humans, and even then happens about a quarter of the time. The eldren-blooded humans can still have a chance of producing eldren offspring. Also, it's noted that the data for orc genetic dominance may be biased, since only female orc/male non-orc pairings have been studied.
  • Heinz Hybrid: An unmentioned possibility to explain orcs is that they're the end result of sustained and unregulated interbreeding between all of the various humanoid subspecies; thusly any orc/X crossbreeds produce more orcs because the orc lineage is so racially mixed that a comparative extra drop of a particular race means nothing. It's even noted in "Darwin's Catalogue of Outsiders", the 2e splatbook that introduced orcs as a race, that they seem to mix traits from all of the other races:
    Like the Dwarf, the Orc is stocky and strong, although his build tends toward, but not quite reaching, Ogre size. He has the cat-like pupils of an Eldren, but his eyes are built for night vision like a Gnome’s. He has the tawny skin and high birth rate of a Beastman, and the wanderlust of some Halflings. Finally, the Orc has a spiritual side and belief in the Divine that rivals that of Humans.
  • Hobbits:
    • Huldufolk, called Halflings prior to 3rd edition, are a short, hyperactive and inquisitive people; a portly frame is considered evidence of good luck, as it's a sign that a member of this traditionally nomadic and active race was able to stay in one place for a considerable length of time. Unlike in your typical Dungeons & Dragons settings, Victoriana huldufolk balance out their fertility with short lifespans, averaging about 50 years of age.
    • The 2e sourcebook "Marvels of Science & Steampunk" features the Naacal, which sit somewhere between Polynesian halflings and frogfolk. They're an oceanic and island-dwelling people native to the South Pacific Ocean, industrious and with a knack for salvage and recycling — and an unfortunate reputation as thieves.
  • Humans Are Special: Humanity dominates the world of Victoriana; they make up the largest percentage of the population and in general the upper classes are drawn exclusively by rank. However, mechanically, Humans Are Average, and humans are also found amongst the middle and lower classes as well.
  • Human Subspecies: In 3rd edition, it was retconned in that the different fantasy "races" are now called "subspecies", with the change being explained as one part Darwin's theories being accepted (which, logically, means that all humanoids must be part of the Homo Sapiens family, since they can all interbreed), and one part to avoid confusion, since real-world races are an acknowledged thing in this world. The 3e corebook races even have distinct Latin names; Beastfolk are Homo Sapiens Bestius, Dwarfs are Homo Sapiens Montis, Eldren are Homo Sapiens Aetheris, Gnomes are Homo Sapiens Noctis, Huldufolk are Homo Sapiens Furpes, Ogres are Homo Sapiens Magnus and Orcs are Homo Sapiens Agrestis. The fact they share a world with multiple civilized humanoids has led to humans being named Homo Sapiens Communis in response.
  • Mars Needs Women: Justified. Among Beastmen, three males are born for every female, so they really have to look outside the line...
  • Oni: A mysterious race from the Pacific Rim, oni are similar to ogres in enough ways that they can easily pass for them, but they are far smarter than any ogre will ever be, and lack their distinctive gullibility. The relationship between the races is unclear; some believe oni to be ogres who evolved through sustained interbreeding with a now-unknown race, others believe that ogres are a naturally or magically degenerated strain of oni. And others think they're completely separate races. This race appeared in the 2e sourcebook "Darwin's Catalogue of Outsiders".
  • Our Angels Are Different: Classical white-winged angels are around, but they're in the minority; most angels look nothing like them. In fact, most angels of the Aluminat look more like a Clockwork Creature than a servant of goodness and light due to having become tarnished by dogma.
  • Our Demons Are Different: While nearly every kind of demon can be found in the Pale, from Eldritch Abomination to the classic horned and hoofed, most demons appear rather humanoid. This includes a large selection of seductive succubi... after all, given the sexual mores of the Victorian Age, plus the classical sorcerer tendency not to have much experience with women, how better to tempt someone?
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The industriousness of the dwarfs means they often rise to become wealthy, but still, they are unable to climb higher than the middle classes. Hardworking and with a talent for skilled labor, dwarfs dislike eldren for their reluctance to get their hands dirty (and extend that disdain to anyone with similar views).
  • Our Elves Are Different: The Eldren, who are revered and respected by humanity for their magical talents, artistic skills and beauty. They're the only race aside from humans to be found in the upper classes, and the only race not found in the lower classes. They hate the term "elf", and consider it an insult... so, of course, the dwarves love to throw the word around at will.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Rarely seen in the modern era, Giants are perceived of as simply bigger ogres; 20ft tall and hugely strong, with a natural resistance to magic, giants are unfortunately slow-witted and clumsy, and suffer the expected drawbacks of being so big in a world dominated by creatures roughly a quarter of their size. This race appeared in the 2e sourcebook "Darwin's Catalogue of Outsiders".
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Smallest of all the "little people" races in Victoriana, gnomes are characterized by their physical frailty, their nocturnal natures, and their keen minds. They reputedly were once masters of magic, but have lost that power at some point in the ancient past. "Darwin's Catalogue of Outsiders" for 2e features the Karakon (plural "Karaka"), a gnomish subrace from Central Asia that does retain an innate affinity for magic.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They're a common name for "imps" (who are also called "gremlins", "felkin", and a few others), the least type of demons. They inhabit the "Labyrinth", a level of reality between the mundane world and essentially Hell, and look and behave like diminutive, grotesque parodies of mankind with all of the negative characteristics exaggerated. "Steppegoblins", meanwhile, are the Victoriana equivalent of D&D hobgoblins... but are close relatives of the eldren to the extent that, aside from their different magical affinities and the steppegoblin's explosive temperaments, a steppegoblin can easily pass for an eldren with minimal difficulty.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Vilified and shunned for no real reason, the orcs are denizens of the margins, forced to dwell in the wilderness or in the worst ghettos and slums. First debuting in "Darwin's Catalogue of Outsiders" for 2e, then fleshed out in "Marvels of Science & Sorcery" for the same edition, they were upgraded to a core race in 3rd edition. Orcs are strong and tough, but also have a knack for machinery, and a deep spiritual side. Unlike the typical orc of a fantasy world, the orcs of Victoriana are a civilized and peaceful people.
  • Our Ogres Are Different: The Ogre race is the veritable backbone of the European empires; 8ft tall slabs of pure muscle, the ogres are unfortunately cursed with a combination of extreme gullibility and intense loyalty. Because of this, they are a slave race in everything but name, but aside from the occasional rabble-rouser, not even ogres tend to care about how they're treated.
  • Rainbow Motif: Faulkner's Millinery and Miscellanea. Prismatic Powders come in all seven of the colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet), each with a different useful effect.
  • Secret Test
    • Face in the Smoke Volume One: The Secret Masters. A person being considered to join the Silencius secret society is given a mission to track down and kill a renegade magic user. What the potential recruit doesn't know is that the "renegade" is actually a member of the Silencius leaving false clues for them to follow. If the recruit tracks down the "renegade" successfully, they can join.
    • Supplement Face in the Smoke Volume Two: Shadows and Steel. When a member of The Adventurers' Society is under consideration to become a Watchbearer (special agent) of the organization, the member will be asked to deal with some evil situation or entity. If there is no existing evil problem currently available to act as a challenge, the Society will set up a false enemy (made up of Society members and actors) to test the member.
  • Shout-Out: Faces in the Smoke Volume 1: The Secret Masters. The chapter "The Planetarians" is clearly derived from the H. G. Wells short story "The Crystal Egg". The title Planetarians are a group of people studying a crystal egg that provides visions of a high tech civilization, apparently that of the planet Mars. Two of the Planetarians characters in the chapter are named Mr. Wace and Mr. Cave, the same as two of the characters in the short story.
  • Sewer Gator: The supplement Faces in the Smoke Volume Two: Shadows and Steel. One of the Adventure Hooks for the Fellowship of the Red Pharaoh is hunting for a giant crocodile that has escaped from a London zoo and is hiding in the sewers.
  • Snake People: The Naga, a race of serpentine beastfolk native to South Asia. Unique amongst the living races, they cannot interbreed with the humanoid races. They debuted in the 2e sourcebook "Jewel of the Empire".
  • Tracking Device: Faulkner's Millinery and Miscellanea. One possible Complication (drawback) for a magical clockwork limb is a tracer device implanted in it, which allows someone to know where the user is at all times.
  • Vancian Magic: Victoriana uses the power point system.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The lowest of the low among the Beastmen in England are those who resemble rats and weasels; the highest-ranked resemble lions, with dogs close behind (no pun intended). Lampshaded by the rulebook, which points out that the descriptions of the animal races have little to do with what the animals are actually like and everything to do with how they're perceived.

Alternative Title(s): Victoriana