Methods of play
The tools of the game
To make all this possible we have a number of different play techniques that we have invented and borrowed from other larps, blackbox games and table top role playing. These will be explained and practiced with you before the game begins and we will make sure you are familiar with how and when to use them. Some of these methods are still under development and everything below is subject to change in the time up until the larp starts.
Poetry is an important part of regency England. It is a time of great poets writing about nature, love and human nature. We wish to use poetry to connect our play to the early 19th century but also to explore your character's feelings and views.
Our regency England is a society where more is felt than is said out loud and where friends can share their inner feelings but men and women seldom meet and interact in confidence and openness with one another. We want our larp to stick to this decorum at the surface but at the same time be about strong feelings, romance and drama.
This is done by using poetry as a technique for short monologues that seamlessly blend into the larp. When someone decides to read poetry for others this act is begun by reading a few lines of actual contemporary poetry like Keats or Blake. After these lines the “reader” moves over to describing their characters inner feelings at that moment. This could be apprehension over meeting a loved one later that day, it could be about the joy of sitting beside the man of your dreams or anything your character is feeling at the moment. When the “reader” is done it is ended with a few final words of written poetry. All the players will then have heard what the other character felt and thought but their characters have not. They will go on as before, ignorant of the emotions tumbling inside the “reader”.
We will provide these short poetic intros and outros that you can read. They can be in you pocket, in a book on the table or someplace else.
There will be one Game Master for every 8 players. These will act as facilitators of the family and romance groups and help with the development of the drama in each group. They will push, inspire, lead and help you with your character and its relationship with the others during the daily off game workshops.
When we are in game the Game Masters will both have characters as the staff of Primrose Park and be involved as facilitators in the Black box and the Game Master room. They will also occasionally play “extras” as needed. The staff at primrose will host activities designed to inspire interaction between characters and drive the stories further.
Your characters will make many life changing choices, who to marry, who to spurn, what connections to make and what relations to stay away from. We want to give you a chance to explore the consequences of your choices and therefore we keep a black box/meta room available all through the larp.
This is a space where you can go and with the help of a Game Master explore your character's possible futures - happy or unhappy. Some characters have backstories like a secret engagement, a seduction or an abusive parent and these pasts can also be visited, re-lived and explored in the black box.
To make this space into something that is part of the game and where you can go while still in character we will have Englands most brilliant Fortune Teller at Primrose Park. The famous Fortune Teller have set up shop in one of the buildings and anyone who wants to know about their future or past can visit.
Inside you will have your palm read or your life displayed before you with divining cards while you tell the Game Master playing the Fortune Teller enough of what you want the black box to give you. After this you will be invited to enter the blackbox with the Game Master and others that you need for your future, memory or other scene and the meta game will begin.
Allt this makes it possible for your character to talk to others about what the Fortune Teller told you would happen if you married the man of your dreams or did not marry the girl you made pregnant last night. The Fortune Teller technique will bring the black box closer to the game than ever before.
At Primrose Park there are a lot of activities happening. The main purpose of them is to help the players push their stories forward. We will do this by having the Game Masters hosting the activities with a constant focus on making all activities be about creating play and drama. The activities will be things like poetry-reading (the can be loaded with strong feelings when combined with the monologue-meta technique), rehearsing a play, painting a portrait of someone you love or bible studies about ethics.
The secondary purpose is to involve the entire body and get away from the "talking heads"-larping that historical larp's sometimes risk ending up in. We want you to move and feel the story in your body. This could be dancing, archery, croquet, battledore (badminton), shooting etc.
There will be a program of all the actives. You as a player can decide with another player before the act that your characters should just happen to run in at each other and the portrait painting, and even if the characters despise each other the hosting Game Master might push you together to paint each others likeness and drama will enfold.
How to be a part of the story?
To simplify we have decided on a streamlined system for naming and titles. The idea is to have one name for each character that is used by almost everyone. Close family and kin can if they want to use a more personal name, but most characters will only have to remember the one name.
All male characters are called Mr <surname>. If there is a need to differentiate males with the same surname the following name can be used Mr <first name> <surname>. If a male carries a title like Sir, Reverend or Captain that title will replace the ”Mr” in front of the surname. Friends and family can call a male by first name only.
All unmarried female characters are called Miss <first name>. This is not historically accurate but fits our story and reduces name confusion. Friends and family can call a female by first name only.
Married female characters are called Mrs <surname>. If her husband is (or was) knighted she is called Lady <surname>. Friends and family can in some cases call a married female by first name only.
We have tried to use these naming rules in the Romance groups to show you how it is supposed to work. It is probably not entirely consistent but you get the idea. These are also the names that will be printed on the discrete magnetic name tags that everyone will be wearing during the larp.
Names and titles
Fortune and income
How rich are we?
This is a time when the world is ruled by British empire and the empire is ruled by the upper classes. Wealth is streaming into the British Isles from all over the globe and we will be playing the rich and contented capitalists of this land. We will be the landed gentry who owns the land, the money and the given right to position and respect. This position is maintained by Fortune.
Who much money do I have?
As part of the gentry you got access to education, reading, interests and all the finer things in life. Having money also enabled you to have servants, which made your life easier. Servants of that day could be considered as equivalents of modern household convenience: add a servant, add a convenience - hot water, central heating, a cook, a dishwasher or washing machine and so on. If you couldn’t afford enough servants, you needed to do it yourself or live without.
£100 per annum - you would get a single young maid servant who you’d pay a very low wage. The only luxury you could afford was maybe a card to the circulating library. Poor curates, clerks in government office and prosperous tradesmen lived on this income. It is an income that is not worthy of a gentleman and a family on such an income would not produce offspring with the education and refinement worthy of being gentlemen in their own right. Mrs and Miss Bates from Emma is likely to live on this income, and to ease their situation their more prosperous neighbors sent them food.
£200 per annum - you could get a better maid, a maid of all works with a higher salary. Jane Austen’s father supported a family on this, and found it wasn’t enough so he took in students to increase his income.
£300 per annum - brings two servants. Col Brandon in Sense and Sensibility says this is a comfortable income for a bachelor, but it cannot enable you to marry. It is said in the same book that not even the young couple Elinor and Edward was so much in love to believe they could marry on £350 per annum.
£400 per annum - brings a cook, a housemaid and maybe a boy. This income starts to approach the comforts of genteel life, but not really. For example, Isabella Thorpe breaks of the engagement with James Morland in Northanger Abbey partly due to that she finds out he will only have £400 per annum.
£500 per annum - brings three servants, two women and a man. This is what the Dashwood women in Sense and Sensibility live on, as well as Jane Austen herself with her mother and sister towards the end of her life.
£700 - 1000 per annum - At this income you will have a few more servants, but the most significant status marker would be that at £700 you could afford to own a horse and a carriage - and the servants to look after them. This meant that you could travel longer than you could walk, which made life nicer. In Emma Mrs Elton boasts about her owning a carriage - to mark her level of income.
£2000 per annum - A comfortable gentle life with servants and a carriage, but it does not allow to too many journeys or extravagant pleasures. This is what the Bennet’s in Pride and Prejudice lives on.
£4000 per annum and above. At this income you live a very comfortable genteel life, and probably have a house in London as well as an estate in the country - both with servants looking after them. According to contemporary wisdom, to spend more than £4000 per annum a man “must go into horse-racing or illegitimate pleasures”.
Above £4000 you enter a realm of unlimited genteel comforts.
Your fortune becomes your income
A lot of you have large fortunes - and hence you can live on the interest from your fortune and therefore not work. The yearly interest was generally, and will at the larp always be, 5%. If you for example have a fortune of £20 000 pounds you could live of the 5% interest of £1000 per annum. At the larp we will always talk about yearly incomes to compare how rich people are.
Fortunes could belong to either sex and if you had the money they were yours no matter if you were male or female. As Emma in the novel Emma puts it on the topic of old maids: “A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! -- the proper sport of boys and girls -- but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else.”
The women in Austen’s novels is described by how much their dowry or prospected inheritance is - for example Emma has £30 000. This is her inheritance and with an interest of 5% it will give her £1500 a year. To make it easier to compare we will talk about the ladies’ fortunes as income per year as well.
Income from other sources
There are other sources from where your income can originate than interest of your fortune, we will specify them below. In the larp we have given all characters a yearly income, and we do not usually specify exactly from where it comes. If you play a character with both a fortune and an earned income you can decide for yourself how much is from each.
The Gentlemen's income
The Landed Gentry
The most proper way to earn an income was to be a landowner. This would give you a substantial income each year from the land. Running an estate could take work and leadership, for example both Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Mr Knightley in Emma takes good care of their estates, while as Sir Walter Elliot of Persuasion trusts his stuart to take care of it and just spends his time spending the money from it. All estates usually has a stuart or estate manager so the owner doesn’t need to be present at all times. When the owner dies, the oldest son takes over the estates in its entirety and thus generations continue.
If you were a younger son, or wasn’t so lucky as to inherit an estate, you had a few other options open to you.
You go into the clergy and live off your parsonage. If you later became a reverend you could live of the income of your rectory - that is the tax that the people in your rectory paid you to take care of the spiritual oversight of the church and community. How much you earned from a rectory varied, but generally it’s from £100 to £1000 a year. In Sense and Sensibility Edward in Sense and Sensibility gets a rectory of £200 a year. Austen’s father who was a vicar who when he married earned £100 a year, however he succeeded to increase that later in life.
A rectory often belongs to an estate, so the family could give it to younger sons to support their livings, for example Edmund Bertram get one in Mansfield park. This also illustrate how closely the landed gentry and the church was tied.
You could also join the great navy that rules the seas of the world and get riches from plunder and success in war. Captain Wentworth in Persuasion makes 25 000 pounds in a few years of war. Sir Walter Elliot objects to the navy in the same book: “as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honors which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of.”
If you joined the army it was harder, but not impossible, to make big money. The rich army characters we see in Austen’s novels inherited their money, for example Colonel Brandon and General Tilney. Even so it was always good to join the army for status reasons, but you needed to have other money as well, both to buy the commission and to maintain an officer's standard of living during it, since the pay wasn’t enough.
You could also work in London as a solicitor of the law, in politics, or possibly become a doctor. These were acceptable professions for a Gentleman if you became successful and lived in a large city. Mr Knightley's younger brother in Emma is a successful London lawyer. A simple country solicitor or village doctor was not considered as fine.
You could also earn your money in trade. This was considered less gentlemanlike, but of course if you earned a lot of money you were still part of the club. Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice has £100 000 earned in trade by his late father and he is thus seen as a perfectly acceptable companion to Mr Darcy. Mr Bingley also intends to buy an estate and thus wash away the “ugly” trades money and become a part of the fine landed gentry.
What you have is what you get
A central theme of both the larp and Austen’s books is that it is very hard to increase a gentleman's income. You cannot as today simply take another job, or get lucky somehow. A suitor’s prospects are limited to the income of the suitor and its family. You have what you have inherited from your parents, and when you die your children will inherit from you. You better just live on the interest of your fortune and not spend it. Your characters are capitalists and the most gentlemanlike thing to do is to live solely on inherited money that has no known origin other than “previous generations”. To have no profession is the finest you can be.
The Ladies’ income
As a woman of a good family your options are even fewer. You are expected to marry and live off your husband. If you don´t you will end up being a financial burden on your family and, just like Jane Austen, hope that your brothers will take care of you. If you are lucky enough to have your own fortune you could live off that, but few women has that luxury since most inheritance goes to the male offspring.
Your last resort is to become a governess, since you are an educated woman you could teach your skills to other young ladies. Being a governess is often a lonely job, you are not part of the family you serve, and not part of the servants, but find yourself in between. As Jane Fairfax in Emma puts it when talking about the governess trade she is about to join: “the sale—not quite of human flesh—but of human intellect”
If you as a woman outlive your husband and you have previous lived on his external income that income will disappear at his death and you will be forced to trust on the generosity of your family to take care of you.
Money in the larp
In the larp you will all have a name tag with your character’s name and how many pounds you have per year. This amount is the one in your character description. You don’t have the name tag as your character, but rather as a player giving meta-info to other players. In Austen’s books, all characters magically know each other's income, and at a larp we cannot possibly remember all - so we help you with a name tags. It is also to stress the importance of fortune and money in the game, and marrying someone without it will give your character a hard life.
Some characters in Austen's novels do make mistakes about the income of others. Like the Tilney family mistaking the prospected fortune of Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. This can create good drama and complications and to recreate this in game we will put a special symbol by the income of characters whose income is unclear or unknown to most.
In some cases, the young female or male income is an alimony that their parents are paying to their children each year. If they should misbehave their parents could easily withdraw that alimony. You can discuss within your group where the money of the children in your group comes from. Is it their own, or is it an alimony the parents can choose to withdraw it if they want to? What would create the best story and drama for you?
As a married couple, you combine your incomes and live together. However, you still may have separate incomes depending on what you brought into the marriage, and who’s the money was from the beginning. If your spouse should pass away you would still have what is specified on your name tag. That is the income you can depend on. As part of the marriage contract the parents of the newlywed may want to give their children an increase of income and standard of living. In game, you can do so by searching out Primrose’s lawyer and then decrease your own income with what you want to increase your child's with. Both your name tags will be changed to reflect this. You as players are not allowed to invent new money or move large sums within the family at any point, all transactions need to go to the Primrose lawyer who will consult with your Game Master. Remember that to keep the family fortune intact, and the family name held high, one would usually give almost all to the eldest son and heir.
Proposals, marriages and elopements
Since proposals and marriages are such a central theme in Fortune & Felicity we have set up a simple procedure for this. We do not take into account all historic complexities and variations, but rather have a simple set of social rules to promote play.
Before proposing a gentleman should have taken these three steps:
Give flowers to the lady
Dance with the lady
Recite poetry when the lady is listening
There are no limits on how close or far from each other in time these are performed or in what order. The poetry should be recited using the poetry monologue technique.
By this procedure a lady might start to understand where’s a man’s wishes lie. If he performs one or several of the steps to you he might be interested. You can of course never be really sure what a flowers means, it could be just a flower, or is it the start of something else? As a lady who want to encourage a gentleman you can of course also innocently ask for a poem, a dance or flowers.
As a male characters you can give flowers to a lot of women, to have several flirts and options open, or just focus all on your special lady. The social norm for a gentleman is to do these steps, but just as with any social norm this can be broken. If your character is socially inept you can break the rule. It might make the lady less inclined to accept your proposal and what will all her friends say about your conduct.
These can be used to publicly show one's interest by insisting on giving beautiful flowers to your love interest in a public place. But they can just as easily be very covert by placing a single flower and a card under the ladies pillow. Since you can’t enter her room, it requires you to ask her female roommate to do it for you.
This procedure is not historic correct, and the purpose is to create interesting game and help you as players by ritualising the flirting. It also gives the other characters a possibility to participate in the flirting by helping out or watching the signs of flirting. We see a lot of options for you to create misunderstandings, drama and strong feelings from this and hope you will have fun with it.
How to propose
When you have done the three social rules from above the gentlemen is ready to propose to the lady in question. This is always done kneeling down, on one knee or both. No matter what character you are, you as a player should always kneel down. This because it looks cool, and other characters will understand what is happening. The wording is his own but the question needs to be clear and put before the lady to be answered by her in her own time.
This procedure of question and answer is not to be taken lightly since engagement should invariably lead to marriage. The answer is a woman's only power as described in Jane Austen's own words about marriage:
People that marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. […] Man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; […] it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else.
Next - ask permission
In Jane Austen’s books the lady receives the question first, and so we will do it in Fortune & Felicity. Formal permission of the lady’s guardian is sought after she has received the question, but there is no harm in making discreet enquiries before the proposal, but the formal permission is asked after. It is also entirely possible to wait for a short or long time before asking. Some couples will arrive at Primrose Park carrying a many years old secret engagement.
Since we will not always have a male parent or true guardian available at the larp the adults in each family, no matter of their gender, are guardians for the young female characters. Anyone who is called Miss has a guardian who have a say in who she marriages, while anyone who is called Mrs and is a widow is free to chose on their own.
If the guardian refuses or decides on a very long engagement period the couple can either accept the decision of the guardian or decide to elope.
If the couple chose to elope to get married it is a huge scandal and catastrophic loss of honor and credibility for the family. The only way to get married without your guardian's consent is to go north to the borders of Scotland where churches perform the ceremony. This means traveling to Scotland without being married, and simply that is risking the lady’s honor since it means she could be having sex out of wedlock.
In Jane Austen’s world a more common occurrence is to elope and be found out. Maybe the couple had sex, maybe not, but the important thing is that they could have. The lovers needs to be separated or married quickly before anyone notices.
At the larp each chapter will end in the morning after a ball and if you elope with your lover we recommend doing it late in the evening and staying away during the morning. This will give your relations time to notice that your are gone and take action. If you like you can go to the off game area when you have eloped and we will find you somewhere to sleep.
The purpose of engagement is of course marriage. A regency marriage is a big affair and we will not simulate this during the larp. Instead we will do a short a blessing ceremony in the church for the publicly newly engaged couples at the end of each chapter.
The newly engaged couples will wait outside the church and after everyone else is inside they enter together to mark their engagement. The Primrose Park Reverend will say a few words. To keep the ceremony short no one else will be allowed to speak, but all will be aware of who got engaged this chapter. After this it is up to the players to decide off game during the following Interlude if a marriage has taken place, if the engagement has been terminated or if anything else has changed before the next chapter begins a few months later in game.
As a new couple is formed their combined incomes constitutes the standard of life they will have in the future. If the relatives of the couple want to they can deduct from their own fortune and increase their children’s to give them a better start in life. Do this by searching out Primrose’s lawyer Mr Michael Wimhurst.
We aim for a story to make you feel like a character inside your own Jane Austen novel. You will have romance, realism and an ending to your story. The dramaturgy and feeling we are going for is classic romantic comedy. Most of our characters are quite young, hence all drama is new and exciting to them. Get in touch with your inner teenager in a world when a summer fling decides your future!
Austen loved to make fun of silly social structures and the people who followed them without reflection. Among other things, she mocks sycophants and people who put too much importance on class or money, people blinded by privilege, selfish people and those who let their emotions run away with them. Be inspired of this in bringing out your characters less worthy and agreeable sides into the game.
Jane Austen never wrote bland characters. They are all full and complex; sometimes silly, but always with a personality that was reflected in their actions, as well as providing the reader with justification for their choices and behaviour. Her characters make sense and are fully developed personalities. We will take inspiration from this when writing yours. We will also help you figure out how to be them by doing character workshops on location.
We want you to work with your bodies. Through workshops, activities and dancing our goal is to help you feel the story and the character in ways beyond words.
We also want a playing style where the little things matter, where the surreptitious glance or a quick touch of a hand is the most exciting thing ever.
We want you to have journey of love, pain and humor with a sprinkling of the sour aftertaste of a strict society where finding a fortune in marriage is the way towards felicity in life.
We want you to leave the larp with a warm heart, a melancholy smile and lots of new friends.