Roleplayer's Library Review: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility

I thought to myself, as I made up my mind to read Austen's two most well known novels: Oh my. Some books about Regency England. More specifically, some books about people trying to get married, in Regency England. Not a gunfight, naval battle or duel in sight. ZZZZZzzzzz....

Yet, as you may expect, I formed a different opinion once I began reading.

To be honest, I laughed my ass off the whole time.

Pride and Prejudice is about the vexations of the Bennet family and their attempt to marry off their two most eligible daughters, Julie and Elizabeth. Liz, the main protagonist, wants nothing more in the world to see her older, sweeter, gentler sister happy, and that means she must marry Mr. Bingley, whom she is fallen hard for.
Unfortunately, Mr. Bingley has a friend: Mr. Darcy, a mean, cold, arrogant, rich and handsome bachelor. And he is standing in the way of Julie's happiness. Liz wont back down that easily though.

Sense and Sensibility concerns a pair of sisters who are very much opposites. One of whom is about to marry someone who is very much a bad match, and the other may see the man she loves taken away...

These books apply to:

Iron Kingdoms
Victorian Age Vampire
Vampire the Masquerade
Any other 1800's type setting, or an analog of such times.
Any game where the conflict needs to be free of violence

A classical education

These books are very educational for the GM, but the knowledge you gain may not be appreciated until much later down the road.

Before I got these books in, I had a rough time of it dealing with the drama inherent in a family. I never had that kind of drama growing up, thank God, so when my game could have benefited, or even required, family infighting, I was stumped.

These books helped on that head. Mind you, these are more of less romantic comedies, so there is not any "real" backstabbing going on, but there is still at least some disagreement. Thus, I kind of got a crash course in how families disagree and what that could lead to. I'm finding it a bit hard to describe just how Austen helped me discover this, but that seems to be characteristic of the arts. 

But Vampire?

An example of the shawls of the early 19th century. Alot of gauzy,
high-waisted dress could be found in this era.

While the subtle sort of "family drama priming" I spoke of is important, there is a more immediate benefit to reading these books. Both serve as a wonderful reference to the time period that they are set in: the brief but important Regency era. Un poco de background.

The Regency in the United Kingdom was, officially, a very brief 9 year time period (1811-1820) in which the Prince of Wales ruled after his father, King George III was declared unfit to rule. Napoleon was Emporer of France in this period, until defeated at Waterloo in 1815. Across the pond, young America was still slowly moving westward, and Britain was doing its best to help Native Americans drive the victorious revolutions out of the land in the war of 1812 (with the goal of establishing a NA "nation" under British auspices).

The Victorian era, which serves as an analog to most steampunk settings that I have seen, as well as the historical background to Victorian Age Vampire, begins with the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837, so the Regency could be said to be the precursor to that period. Thus, with Vampires living as long as they do, its not necessarily a bad idea for you and your players to know what life was like two or three decades before your characters stories begin in earnest. The books can be especially enlightening for preludes.

Things to consider for your Victorian Age vampire's prelude include:

  • When your character was mortal, were they French or had affairs going on in France? If so, were they Bonapartists, or were they loyal to the Bourbons who eventually took France back? Or where they part of the collations that defeated him at Waterloo? Depending on who was ruling, your character might have been imprisoned as a Bonapartist or Royalist spy. If you were a soldier, you might be living better or worse than before the war, depending on how far you made it up the ranks. 
  • The Regency period was a time of extreme gaps between rich and poor: while upper class people, like the characters in Austen's books, enjoyed parties and traveling in coaches, the poor lived in filthy "rookeries": ramshakle apartments with narrow dark alleys, little sanitation, and stuffed with thugs, prostitutes, and murderers. And, if you made enemies, a rich landowner could quickly find themselves in such a place. Where, and how, did your mortal live? Did they see vampires feeding in the rookeries, where finding dead bodies is a part of daily life?
  • The Regency Era, at least according to history, was a rebellious, hedonistic time in between King George III more "pious" era and the "refined sensibilities" of the Victorian. As a mortal, were you one of the ones that was actually rebellious and amoral as the historians say, or was your voice of reason lost in the crowd? How did your sentiments then effect your situation in the stuck up, peaceful, and prosperous times of Victorian England? 
Some typical men's wear. Patent leather (or at least well polished) boots,
white trousers, double breasted jackets, canes and top hats! 

"But Murky, Vampires don't marry!"

As far as using the plots of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, I encourage you to try, because they are certainly not the kinds of plots cWOD vampires would normally have.

Both novels involve marriage, and Vampires don't have as many reason to marry as do the kine. Kine, especially in the time period of Victorian Age and back, found great advantage in marrying, especially the rich kine, as you will see in Pride and Prejudice.

Why? Because money. Elizabeth, the main character in P&P, doesn't really want to marry, and if she does, she will marry for love. Of course, her mother, Mrs. Bennet, might fly to bits if she can't get her girls (and girls is all she has) married off, and soon! Half their neighborhood seems to be marrying their daughter's to wealthy men, and rubbing it in her face. Julie, Liz's sister, seems to have found in Mr Bingley a man she likes and who likes her, but then the dashingly handsome and cruelly cold Mr Darcy gets in the way. How? He's Mr. Bingley's wingman, and also filthy, flithy, flithy rich.

Liz despises Darcy for ruingin her sister's happiness. Mr Darcy sees how much he is hated by Liz, and (spoiler alert) does what comes naturally. He asks her to marry him. Read the rest yourself.

However, as much as I have said vampires don't have reason to get into marriage fits, I have now come up with one!

"It's just one date momma!"

"Marriagable young women",  a potential Victorian Age Vampire plot, inspired by Jane Austen.

A vampire madame has embraced a bunch of beautiful young women in 1811. Why? Because in order for a young woman to be successful in Regency England, all she needs to be is "educated" (meaning know how to read, draw, balance the books and run a household, which while not easy is also quite limiting), polite, and beautiful. Vampires seem to be naturally beautiful, and any girl off the street can be educated by a patient Vampiress, so check, check and check. The whole sunlight business may be a problem, but the vampiress may also use ghouls as effectively, maybe even more so, as vampires. Use ghouls if you think that the girls only appearing at night might raise too much suspicion. If using ghouls, especially as player characters, consider having the madame "reward" her daughter who marry with the "gift" of vampirism.

The madame wishes to have them married off as soon as possible, so that her little brood can start pulling in the dough. Wives of course have access to their husbands funds and properties, especially if they are polite, and can easy extend all kind of benefits to their old mother. After all, a mother in law should be able to stay for 2 to 6 weeks at her sons-in-laws houses, right?

Your chronicle can include a number of potential players in this drama. Perhaps one or more of the young women are player characters, perhaps some of the characters are the innocent male "victims", who may be Hunters or Mages or even Werewolves who might confound the Madame's plottings. Perhaps the Madame has embraced some men for a similar purpose, to marry daughters of powerful men in the Regency, or women who are independently wealthy through a number of means. 

Toreadors, Ventrue, Lasombra and Tzimice clans would get alot of play out of this kind of story. Imagine two Toreador "sisters" and one stinking rich Regency lawyer. It could come down to a opposed Presence rolls to see which girl makes the lawyer "fall in love" first without making his head explode. What if one was a Venture instead? Dominate versus Presence? Or would they use subtler, more "mere mortal" tricks? Imagine the two aforementioned sisters pulling out every trick in the book to snag the lawyer, and then a Tzimice girl walks in. A Tzimice girl who has had some "work done" via Vicissitude. The scandal!

"You get three rings when you get married. First is the engagement ring.
Then the wedding ring. Then, the suffering!"
R.I.P Uncle Jim

And if one vampire madame hatches this kind of plot, who is to say that another vampire can't have a similar one? And if the local Parson, a Society of Leopold member, finds out?  

I just might make up a one sheet Victorian Vampire adventure sheet just for this...

Just use your imagination.

It may be a bit of a stretch at first, using books that are so light-hearted for a game as dark as anything cWOD, but it can be done it seems. Tell me what you think.
And for the next Role player Library Review, prepare for adventure, and count on revenge....

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