Date Posted: 05-08-2021

Victoriana for 5e: Why the 5e Rules and What Changes are We Making?

Hello, my name is Walt Ciechanowski, Victoriana’s Line Developer, and I’d like to welcome you to another Victoriana update!

Recently we announced Victoriana for 5e and showed off the cover above. It’s been a few years since Cubicle 7 has last delved into its gaslight fantasy world of sorcery and steam — we’re thrilled to revisit our alternate history fantasy Victorian era setting using the 5th edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game!

Art above by JG O’ Donoghue

So, why 5e? Simply put, it’s been eight years since Victoriana’s third edition was released and there’s a whole new generation of gamers who may have never heard of Victoriana. We wanted to make this RPG immediately accessible to them and others by using familiar mechanics that allow players to quickly delve into Victoriana’s awesome setting! As long-time fans will note (and I count myself amongst them, having picked up the first edition when it was on the ‘new rack’ at my FLGS!), Victoriana has always been more about its setting than its mechanics. In fact, no two editions of Victoriana have ever used the same rules!

Cubicle 7 has a proven track record for using the 5e rules in new and exciting ways. Adventures in Middle-earth™ brought the Lord of the Rings and the work of JRR Tolkien to Dungeons & Dragons for the first time ever. Adventures in Middle-earth™ was praised for its travel and exploration rules, shining a spotlight on a previously overlooked part of the game, and went on to win multiple awards. I’ve been on the Victoriana design team since its second edition, and lead the development of the third edition, so you can rest assured that we’ve worked hard to deliver on the gaslight fantasy of editions past, even if you’re rolling a d20 instead of a handful of d6s. 

A typical adventure (or penny dreadful, as we call them) involves a lot of investigation and social interaction. Just like we did with journeys and travel in Adventures in Middle-earth™, we wanted Victoriana 5e to expand on investigation, another oft-overlooked part of the game, while still allowing for thrilling combats and the occasional dungeon (sewer?) delve. After a lot of playtesting, we can assure Victoriana fans that the new edition absolutely still feels like Vic. 

This is no more apparent than in Victoriana’s character backgrounds. In Victoriana, we presume that your character has spent a good chunk of their life in London and their past experiences should reflect that. Rather than a single background, you choose (or roll!) several steps that describe your character’s birth, childhood, and career, all of which grant your character contacts, proficiencies, tools, and give you sources of roleplaying inspiration. Your character, along with the rest of their ‘Associates,’ select an association that informs you of the threats and obstacles your group will face down in the dark streets of the Big Smoke.

We’ve also fleshed out the sleuthing and social mechanics. Your social class, whether bourgeois, noble, or prole, opens some doors for you (and closes some too!) — how you present yourself in social situations has a mechanical impact. The conversation rules are more robust, encouraging roleplay while keeping ability checks where they matter most. We also expand on detective work, including the use of Aha! Moments to enable you to discover a clue you may have missed.

Character art by Runesael Flynn

Race and Class have also been given a fresh look. In Victoriana, fantasy ‘races’ have always been a part of a greater humanity; Victoriana has lineages in place of race. From the aethereal Elderen to the imposing Gruagach, and to the Pucks, who have more bestial features and traits. Classes are now ‘Roles’ (as ‘class’ is a term for social rank in Victoriana), and have been adapted and crafted to suit a gaslight steampunk fantasy setting. The Confidant thrives in social situations, the Sleuth is a master of detection, the Thaumaturge is a practitioner of a dying magic, and the Gadgeteer likes to pretend that they don’t need just a little bit of magic to fuel their designs. While aspects of Victoriana’s Roles will be familiar to 5e players, these are not merely renamed bards and rangers. Each role has been handcrafted to fit perfectly in a fantastical Victorian London.

These are just a few of the ways that we’ve used 5e to enhance the Victoriana experience. If you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. In the coming weeks we’ll be exploring the streets of the Big Smoke and exploring the city of London in the world of Victoriana.

© 2021 Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.