When it comes to tabletop RPGs, I didn’t always have the criteria I outlined in my previous post, but I actually gained this insight by picking up a game and then…well I never got to play it.
I frequently test the waters and do world-building by playing tabletop RPGs, and when I began my journey into Cloudrunner I didn’t originally intend on using Fate Core. I went out and bought a copy of Victoriana, as that seemed like the best fit at the time for steampunk.
Ultimately, both my players and I passed on the game, and I instead ran it in Fate Core, and that was a decision I’m glad about. But why did I veto this game?
I leafed through the book at the hobby game store I frequent, and I enjoyed the artwork that it had. Never underestimate the power of good art, it can sell a world so effectively that books without much in terms of artwork can feel stale by comparison. But when it came time to actually sit down and write a character, there were issues.
The first of which is the front-loaded lore, which took up until page 67 to finish. Victoriana uses the alternate history common to steampunk but also ends up throwing in fantasy races like orcs, elves(eldren), and beastfolk. It’s kind of jarring to see historical figures stuffed into fantasy races. By contrast, Fate Core starts off with the rules and the Player’s Handbook begins with character creation.
I did manage to sit down with one player and create a character, but we ended up going back and forth a lot through the book. I also noticed that referring to things wasn’t very easy due to the layout. I had heard reviews that praise the game, but in the end, I felt like the game just wasn’t going to be as fun as running it in a system that I knew better.
But there was something else that tipped my hand, and it was something that existed outside of the rulebook itself.
When I looked on publisher Cubicle 7’s website, I remember having to dig around for Victoriana. It was absent from the main page and from their current product lineup. In order to get to the product page, I had to click on the text link.
Things didn’t improve once I checked the page. The game had the core rulebook, and three additional products available for it: Streets of Shadows, Liber Magica, and Concert in Flames. That’s it. I also checked for a community, found nothing. You could find a stray post about it on an RPG forum, but it was clear that there wasn’t anything resembling a coherent community.
Why does this matter? Well, it was because it was clear that Cubicle 7 doesn’t really care about the product, they’re putting their work into The One Ring and Dr. Who. Clearly, those are more profitable. I can count all the material for the game on one hand, and it’s hard to justify an investment into a system if it’s clear that there isn’t going to be anything else released for it.
Is Victoriana a good game? Well, I don’t know. I felt there was a lot of stuff missing that I wanted to include and I just didn’t care. Maybe I could play it when I go to a convention, but with all due respect, I’d rather just play Fate Core or D&D.