Every Entry in the Penned to Good Society Game Jam – Part 1

We’ve always been lucky to have an awesome community around our games, but in October last year, something truly amazing happened. Chloe (fiercefully on itch) ran a Penned to Good Society Jam. In Chloe’s words, “This jam celebrates Good Society… and the creativity of the people who love it.” The jam could include anything based on Good Society, or for use with the game and its expansions. Everything from full hacks, to new playsets, and extra resources. 

All up, the jam had 15 entries, mostly created by those in our wonderful discord community (and yes, one by us, we couldn’t resist). Obviously I was in a state of extreme excitement to read all the submissions. As I started, I realized it might be useful for me to blog my journey, to highlight the different kinds of submissions for anyone who might want to make use of them (and you should). Two months later, I’ve long read all the submissions but have completely failed to chronicle them. Time to fix that, stat.

For those who don’t know, Penned to Good Society (PtGS) is the name for works created using the Good Society open licence. Prior to the jam, there were already a few excellent PtGS games out there (including Gothic Society and Avalon Society by Martian Machinery), but the jam represented an outpouring of ideas and creativity that was quite touching for me to experience.

Without further ado, the submissions! I’ve sorted these by category, that they might be of more use to anyone looking for Good Society resources. Within the category, I’ve discussed each in the order they were entered into the jam.

  • Part 1 – Full expansions (in this blog post)
  • Part 2 – Supplements (in a blog post here)
  • Part 3 – Desires, relationships, roles, rules modifications and reinterpretations (in a blog post here)

Part 1 – Expansions

Dames with Gams, a film noir hack by Steph Novak

Dames with Gams is a hack of Good Society that evokes the themes, aesthetics, and tropes of film noir. The character roles, desires, and reputation criteria bring out the moral ambivalence and intensity of film noir present in films like Chinatown, along with capturing the genre well. The desires in particular are immediately compelling – they have so much potential for messy drama that I could instantly picture the kind of desperate actions a character might take.

Dames with Gams also adds angles, a group with whom the player is aligned, and whose interests they’re expected to serve – a clever way to put pressure on characters in a world that doesn’t have the same strict social norms as that of the regency gentry.

I can see Dames with Gams being a lot of fun for both a lighter tone (which the game labels as Blanc), along with a more serious and stormy one (Gris and Noir respectively).

Society in the Dark, a game of (dis)organised crime by Medusa Doctrine

Society in the Dark is a PtGS game that supports longform crime stories, like Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. While it uses Good Society as a basis, it has some interesting new ideas that really fit the genre. Not only that, there is a ton of content in this expansion, including seven roles, five “vibes” (these replace family backgrounds) and more than 20 desires and relationships.

One thing I really love about this expansion is the way it reframes the rumour and scandal and epistolary phases for the kind of stories it’s trying to tell. Rumour and scandal is transformed into the police phase, where you generate leads for the police to follow. This puts the threat of the police front and centre in the story, adding pressure and raising the stakes. 

Epistolary becomes the montage phase, a cinematic exploration of the characters’ activities between novel chapters. This allows you to pack a lot of plot and flavour into this space using vignettes. The game even recommends playing music underneath your description to add to the mood.

Carmilla, Forget Me Not, a vampire game by Chloe Sobel

To say Carmilla, Forget Me Not is a vampire game doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s actually the first instalment of Small Stories, an upcoming PtGS ruleset Chloe Sobel is making to delve into the nuances of emotions and relationships – and it shows in the kind of vampire story it is built to tell. 

Carmilla, Forget Me Not captures the relationship between two vampires as time passes, and feelings change. The reputation phase is replaced by a new phase called Remembrance. In this phase players create memories based on the last novel chapter, which can be used in the same way as resolve tokens. I really can see this mechanic shining in long games, where it calls back to the events of previous years (or in this case centuries), to make a meaningful impact in the present. It reinforces the theme of this game very well.

Along with that, while drawing mechanics from Emma, Forget Me Not and Fae Courts, the picklists have been carefully changed to evoke the feel the game is going for. One of my favourite choices is the change of weather interludes into solos – haunting melodies on a particular topic or theme. If you find yourself approaching rpgs saying “can’t wait to be sad” as I often do, I think this may just be your jam.

Bird Society by David Brunell-Brutman

Bird Society is indeed what it sounds like – a Good Society expansion where you play as birds, with their own culture, clothing, furnished homes, and most importantly, pecking order. Beautifully presented and laid out, the expansion contains many a detail about bird society along with seven different kinds of birds to play.

This expansion makes the interesting choice of collapsing character roles and family backgrounds into one sheet, giving each bird its own unique set of values that determine how its reputation changes. This is a really clever interpretation and use of the “this character is…” section of the normal Good Society character role sheet (e.g. the Hedonist is…, or the Careerist is.. become Songbirds are… or Corvids are… and act as reputation criteria for the game.) It’s also a nice simplification for when you want to focus on more important things, like playing birds.

Naturally this expansion lends itself well to farce or even romantic comedy, and it’s fun to think of the various birds in the game (depicted with impeccable illustrations) filled with deep longing for desires such as reuniting with an old flame (perhaps a flame bowerbird?) and aiming to impress their patron.

That’s it for the expansions! Read on for Part 2, supplements.

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