Vis Imperium Victoriana – Designers Notes FROM THE GRAVE!

I mentioned that an update of this was in my list of projects. To be honest I don’t know where the notion to do the original ViV came from, though I had always been a Flashman fan I don’t remember any big rush to those books or any other founded in the Rush to Empire of the 19th Century.

It was seen as a “Boy’s Own” style, rather than Steam Punk, but then again it was only 8 sides of A4, in small type at that, so there was a limit to what I could get in.

I decided to see what folk had said about the original, assuming they said anything at all. Some did, and I’d like to answer their points now, even though it was a decade ago and the chance of them reading this is slim, it gets it off my chest, be a bit of cathartic therapy, though obviously without the persecutions and burning people at the stake

First of all Yaghish on Gothic Steam Phantastic
“The rules (a 20-sided die or D20 is needed) are not very inventive, and most rpg-ers will have no problem understanding them.”

They weren’t too clichéd actually in 2000 when they came out, in some respects. The compared success mechanism has changed to make the game flow faster (both roll, highest success wins)

My goal was simplicity and quickness and ease of play. I read a lot of “new systems” with cards and dice pools in the 90s and wasn’t a fan of those. Except the West End Star Wars RPG, but I digress.

“However, the basic rules are more appropriate for a fantasy-game than for a Victorian game. Victorian adventurers didn’t run around with battleaxes, for example, nor would they carry a shield. There are even some magic-rules.”

Victorian adventurers from the West might not start with them, but plenty of people in other lands would, and you never know when the adventurers might find themselves in a lost city or alien environment

To use an example. Imagine there you are, a passenger on a ship of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company). You are ashore in Jakarta when your party are attacked by a gang of Malay and Chinese pirates. One of them has a battleaxe in one hand and a pistol in the other.

Sword and shields were still in use in the 1880s campaign in the Sudan by tribesmen, Mogul Indian cavalry used battle-axes and wore light chain mail.

This time is not only a time of colonial adventure and lost cities, it is the start of scientific romance and John Carter, Warlord of Mars is technically a Victorian gentleman.

Magic is included because of the possibility that the mystic powers of native magicians or Alien scientists MIGHT be real. It was also the rebirth of interest in magic in Europe, the Theosophical Society, for example, was founded in 1875

“What I found a bit out of place was the remark on lady adventurers. Of course, in reality there weren’t that many, but it’s still a fantasy game, especially when you hand them carpet bags and parasols as weapons. I think in a more serious game, a lot more female characters can be used, even without “unsexing” them and keeping them fully ladylike.
Yaghish is not the only one to pick up on this though, Metalman at

“Ladies, if you want to play VIV, be forewarned that it takes few compromises to accommodate you unless you want to play a woman of few morals or one that has substantial money. Otherwise, I hope you have a sense of humor or really can involve yourself in the roleplaying experience. There is little for you here if not.”

So, am I a sexist pig? I hope not. I say in the start of that section, society is UNFAIR. If you wish to portray Victorian society correctly then you have to accept that, else you are not really portraying the society. The unfairness is an obstacle for the female characters.

Having said that, if I was an evil GM, at one point the adventurers would find themselves in an Amazon society where men are discriminated against, or they could always eliminate the unfairness if it offends them.

So adventurous women are more exceptional that adventurous men

This is what I say in my (as yet unpublished) Pulp SF game

“Female player characters are taken to be as much above average as male characters, made of stern stuff, and not to be frightened by a tentacle or three, however many of the sexist males they encounter will probably have to be convinced of their worth proving again the old adage that women have to work twice as hard to be thought of as half as good.”

Yaghish continues
The “natives” are not really worked out either. Maybe because there’s a lot of different kinds of “natives” in the world, but the game would be somewhat more attractive when providing a little bit background on the colonies and how to play natives.”

and again Metalman comments
Rules are given if the player wants to play a half-breed as well. Although, looking at the rules, why anyone would want to play one outside of a challenging roleplaying experiment is beyond me.

ViV is based on Western perception and attitudes. That bias is inherent

As I type this I’ve seen a couple of reviews of C&S Essence, mainly positive, a couple of niggles about linking the scenario to the setting suggestion. I wish I had picked up on that, easily fixed but better to not have made the slip.

So, what did I learn from these reviews? Although I can post explanations of the decisions taken the better thing, as in the reviews of C&S E, would be if I had explained my thoughts and reasoning more fully.

The reviewers aren’t wrong for writing what they saw in the game, at least those ones, are not, because they didn’t have access to my head and thoughts. Possibly a by product of having been on the internet for 14 years, too used to conversations rather than theses. I get one chance, effectively, to say what I am saying, and if I blow it, it’s my fault.

I will put some things into the C&S Essence Apocrypha, which is for things left out and extra ideas, to tie in the scenario and cover some loose ends, and I already knew I needed to do a new character sheet, but it’s good to go into the ViV process with a few nudges already there,

Having said that obviously ALL the info was ORIGINALLY there and Steve editted it all out, the swine. Yes, yes, that was it!

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