Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Alternate Paths Towards Running a Girl Genius RPG

I’m trusting that if you’re reading this you’re marginally familiar with the Foglo’s award winning webcomic Girl Genius. (If you’re not, go here: While there is an official RPG adaptation on the way from Steve Jackson Games several years ago I had posited to my player group that I design and run and my own version. I gave them two different options, which I called Gaslamp Intrigue and Gaslamp Melodrama.

Gaslamp Intrigue is looking at the Girl Genius world at the higher level – the PCs are all Sparks of considerable power or potential and, like Agatha and co, are the heirs of the previous generation of Sparks who tried to remake the world. They might BE Agatha, Gilgamesh and Tarvek, be their peers or replace them in the narrative. For this style of game I would repurpose Erick Wujek’s masterful Amber Diceless Role Playing since through this lens there are a lot of similar elements. Bill, Barry, Klaus, etc. take the role of Corwin, Eric, Blaise etc. from Amber while the PCs have the role of their children. The PCs are all more powerful than normal men but stack up well against one another, and engage in their own politics as well as trying to unravel the politics and mysteries of their parents. The Amber rules even have lots of space for the sort of inter-character competitions and conflicting goals that typify parts of Girl Genius.

Gaslamp Melodrama is looking at the Girl Genius world at the personal level – the PCs are a powerful spark heiress and her allies helping her fulfill her destiny. Again they could be Agatha with Zeetha, Krosp and perhaps a couple of others. Some of those allies are close to the heiress in power, the rest are distinctly weaker but have skills she doesn’t, and she relies on them for advice and emotional stability. For this style of game I would repurpose C. J. Carella’s very solid Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. BtVS does a good job of balancing the PCs spotlight time and effectiveness even as it ignores the idea that everyone is balanced in power. The rules have a lot to do with generating and releasing the emotional tension and angst that propelled the TV show and have no shortage inside the Girl Genius webcomic.

The player group selected the Gaslamp Melodrama game, but then that campaign fell through due to player scheduling and life concerns. The idea went onto the back burner until 6 months ago when James Cambias ( and I decided to revive it as a game for him and me to alternate running for each other, our families and friends. We’ve had 4 sessions as of this writing. I’ll be laying out what I did for the first set of rules, how that played out during PC creation and the early games, and how I’m adjusting the rules set based on actual play experience. 

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