A Guide to Hacking Good Society: Part 2

This guide is adapted from the content of Good Society: Expanded Acquaintance. If you want even more detail about how to hack Good Society, you can grab the book or PDF for the full guide.

In Part 1, we talked about the process of hacking Good Society. In this post, we’ll be talking about the elements of Good Society that exist within its framework, which you can alter to fit your essential experience. You can use these changes to tell different kinds of stories without changing the flow and feel of playing Good Society.

The changes you make to create your hack can either involve working within the framework of Good Society, or altering or changing that framework. We recommend that you start by making changes within the framework, and only alter it if needed. 

The Elements of Good Society

Here are the elements of Good Society that you can change to create a completely different feel for your hack without altering the game’s framework.

  • Setting changes
  • Collaboration changes
  • Creating new character roles
  • Creating new family backgrounds
  • Creating new desires
  • Creating new relationships
  • Creating a new phase

Setting

Setting refers to the context in which your game is set. Your setting could be as broad as the Edwardian era, as narrow as a single space station, or as specific as the world of Elfhame (The Fae Courts expansion setting).

Collaboration

Collaboration is one of the most important tools in Good Society, so take the time to consider how it affects your game. There are two aspects of Collaboration you’ll need to think about:

  • Do I need to change the default Collaboration options to reflect the essential experience I’m aiming for?
  • Do I need a new Collaboration section that lets players define important aspects of the setting?

Character roles

Character roles are the archetypical character types found in the stories you want to tell through your game. When creating new character roles, think about the role they play in the story and the drama—not merely their label.

The best character roles have both external and internal tension built into them. External tension exists between that character and those around them, while internal tension focuses on the conflict that rages within.

A good example of this is the Good Society character role of the Hedonist. The external tension is that the Hedonist wants to enjoy the pleasures of life, while those around them want them to take responsibility. The internal tension is that the The Hedonist battles with the guilt that their self-indulgence hurts others.

Family Backgrounds

Family backgrounds illustrate a character’s place in society. It can determine their status and importance (or lack thereof), but it also determines the expectations that society puts upon them. The best family backgrounds guide the kind of characters that players create, and also put the weight of expectation on characters during the game.

For example, a character from Humble Origins will be created with their family’s lack of wealth in mind. During the game, they will also face pressures to appease those of higher wealth and rank than themselves.

Remember, family backgrounds describe a character’s history and circumstances (and not the character themselves).

Desires

Creating new desires for Good Society requires extra care and attention. It is often hard to tell if a desire will work before you playtest it—but as a useful exercise, imagine what a player with this desire might do to pursue it and what drama it may cause.

Desires should be:

  • Suitably dramatic
  • Hard to accomplish, but not impossible
  • Connected to at least one major character (including the character who holds the desire)
  • Something that can be achieved through the actions of the major character who holds the desire

The best desires also:

  • Involve multiple player characters (whether directly or by necessary implication).
  • Contain an inherent conflict, or at least the potential for conflict. Desires that require something difficult or significant from another major character will always fall into this category.
  • Affect the push and pull between the needs of the different player characters. This can often be as much about the playset you’re designing as it is about the desire itself.

Relationships

Creating new relationships is fairly straightforward, as they will often be an obvious consequence of a desire. For example, the desire disinherit your older sibling requires the Sibling relationship to operate.

New relationships can also help evoke the essential experience of your game. For example, Downstairs at the Abbey has the relationship Superior & Junior. Superior & Junior isn’t tied in to any particular desire, but it’s an important part of exploring and understanding the relationships between the downstairs characters.

Phases of Play

Creating a new phase for the cycle of play can be a great way to highlight an important element of your essential experience. In fact, almost all of Good Society’s expansions have additional phases for this reason.

Creating a new phase involves two questions:

  •  What is the focus of this phase? What do I want to see play out? (e.g. rooftop duels, servant downtime, the passing of time)
  • Can this phase work the same way as a novel chapter, but with additional context or framing (e.g. rooftop phase, Sunday phase), or does it need its own mechanics to achieve the desired focus (e.g. passage of time phase, interview phase)?

Hopefully this guide has helped inspire ideas and paved the process for you to create your own hack or penned to Good Society game! Enjoy, and please do let us know about your creations!

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