[Good Society Actual Play]

*Finally* got a group together to play a demo of Good Society, the Jane Austen collaborative storytelling game. None of them had ever played a story game, much less a *diceless* game, but had all played D&D, so they were comfortable with the concepts of "roleplaying" and "game mechanics" (and, since they'd signed up for a diceless game, at the very least they were open to learning new things). I'd never played the game before, but had watched the Storybrewer YouTube actual plays, and had some experience with diceless systems (eg Amber).

We had only two hours, so I'd pre-generated main characters, supporting characters, and starting situation (in a full game, these would all be done collaboratively, in session zero). While this did mean we got started quickly (20 minutes of introduction to Regency England and the game system), it also meant that the players 1) struggled to identify with their supporting characters, and really interacted with only 2 of them out of the eight that existed, and 2) didn't really hit any of their reputation tags. I had similar problems (see below for "things that didn't work").

The play itself went well, with the players diving into the opening situation (one character wanted another's forgiveness at any cost, a third character wanted to marry that same character, and a fourth looked for how to turn all of that drama to his own advantage). Good Society setups really aim the main characters at each other, and so the players were gleefully trying to outmaneuver each other in the social sphere within about a half hour of play starting. Out-of-game bonds might have helped, though - two of the women were good friends, and the other man and woman were a married couple who also knew me quite well, so I'm not sure how four random strangers would have done in this almost-PvP environment without more prep.

Things that worked:
1) the character archetype, desire, and relationship cards gave information in discrete chunks that were easy to digest. Kudos to the game designers and layout artists. The players were able to grasp their motivations and start play almost immediately.
2) using D&D as a "language" to explain game concepts ("you spend a story token instead of rolling a die")
3) coaching the players, especially early on, with explicit suggestions ("you could spend a Monolog token on her right now - it'd be fun to find out what she really thinks about your proposal"), as they tried to accomplish goals without their usual tools of character class and equipment list.
4) Part of the setup is laying out and explaining the X-card. I guess that I assumed that "everyone knows about the X-card" (thanks to the SG community!), but the concept was brand new to all 4 players. They all approved, though, with two commenting that it was a really good idea, and thanked me for it (for reference, it was never invoked, but I think they appreciated having it there).

Things that didn't work:
1) in my hurry to start play, I didn't have a chart of all the main and supporting characters in one place, so often struggled to remember who was related to whom, or who had which reputation. This proved to be a real handicap, and was my only source of stress during the game. The game does comes with a Public Information Sheet to record this stuff, but I didn't start using it until we were nearly done. Next time I'll blow it up and mount it on a wall for everyone to use from the get-go.

Next steps:
Recruit for and run an actual full play of the game, over 3-4 game sessions, including a full-blown session zero.


  • I'm always interested in Good Society APs because I'm curious about how well the token economy works for other people--in my games I've generally seen people accumulating a ton of tokens that don't get used, probably because it's hard to tell when something is framing a scene or something is a "yes, and" response that doesn't require a Resolve Token. So I'm curious to see how other people get it to work.

    I did a 4 session run of Good Society that used "War and Peace" as its foundation rather than Austen, but the principles remain mostly the same :)

  • edited May 2019
    The token economy didn't really impact us during the demo because it was so short, but I'm starting a 4-cycle game next week, which I hope will give me better data. I'll keep an eye on that and report back.

    Ideally, I'd like token scarcity to be a thing, too, so players are motivated to accept tokens from others (or, in the "Pride and Prejudice and Practical Magic" supplement, to deliberately mess up a spell in order to get a token).

    Your game looks v cool, btw. :)
  • It’s great to see an “actual play” write up like this. I’ve missed these!

    A great way to learn a little about new games and also makes it more likely we’ll play successfully when we play them ourselves. Thanks!
  • Played this a few months back at Dreamation and I totally loved it. It was a group of strangers but maybe we just lucked out, because all of the “PvP” and drama elements worked very well. I have to chalk up a good deal of that to good game design, though.

    I found the token economy very satisfying. We were throwing tokens all over the place and using them to push the story in all kinds of fun & interesting directions. I think part of the reason that nobody hoarded them was that the facilitator prompted us with frequent suggestions/reminders of when & how to use them, which I liked.

    I think you’ll have a better time keeping track of all the characters in a full playthrough. Taking the time to, with the players, set everything up from scratch keeps everyone on the same page about the whole relationship web.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed this game and I’m glad to read about others’ positive experiences with it.
  • Longer story, session zero and session one.

    The same group who played my demo (see above) returned for a 4-session longer game last night. Being as ambitious as I am, I offered them the core game or either of the two supplements (Pride and Prejudice and Practical Magic, or Swords and Sesibility). Luckily for me, they chose the core game - I wasn't really prepared for the other supplements, although once I get more experience with the core game, I might take a crack at them.

    Collaboration and Backstory took about an hour (we play for two hours, once per week). We used "playsets in part", where they had free choice of which Role and Origin sheets they wanted, but were restricted to four Desire/Relationship pairs (I used the "Romantic Comedy" playset for four players from the core book). This went fairly quickly, as they were familiar with all the game components from the demo only the week before. Connection generation took the most time - it was the first new element, as I'd made all the connection for the demo ahead of time - but no more than a half hour I think, and as you pointed out it is well worth it, @DBB. Player identification and interaction with minor characters went much better.

    We still had an hour, so went ahead with the first Novel Chapter (a Novel Chapter is what we would call a classic roleplay session), set at a garden party at one of the main character's mansions. I wasn't planning on significant plot developments, more of a "let's show the folks how the characters work" session, and that was accomplished. Again, I think the players' previous experience with the demo helped - the first Novel Chapter of the demo took twenty minutes to get going, but this time they dived right in with minimal prompting. Play flowed well - we had to stop once to debate who should be getting a particular resolve token, but that was about it - with the mood ranging from Romantic Comedy to Farce (at one point, the New Arrival attempted to invent baseball, using the croquet mallets and some lawn bowls, which everyone seemed to be enjoying so I let it slide).

    Notes: token economy still not impacting play, as far as I can tell. We'll see what happens as the cycles progress. It's early yet.
  • Hey, good game seen from there. How many NPCs and/or connections were handled, please ?
  • We created the standard two connections per main character, so there were eight connections (NPCs) all told. I ran 4 of the NPCs, and each of the four players ran one NPC, in addition to their own main character. This is the usual setup for Good Society, but we can add more NPCs if required (ie, one of our players just realized that her character needs to convince his father about something, so we'll need to create and run the father as an NPC).
  • A whole troupe ! Thanks
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