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An alternative way to start the game

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When I first planed to start running a Rivers of London campaign, I was a little worried that there would be some players who be much more familiar with the source material than I am. Those concerns turned out to be mostly unfounded. The Rivers of London series is like a best kept secret of urban fantasy stories.

In my games all the players are unfamiliar with the book series. So consequently they are clueless about the game. So instead to plunging right in with player characters that are practitioners and members of the demi-monde, I started the games with the characters playing members of the public who have been invited to the Folly to participate in Peter Grant's vestigium awareness outreach program. I believe it was mentioned in book 7. The idea is that members of the public who may have come into contact with magic recently will receive training from the Folly to prepare them in the event that they might encounter it again. And of course this happens.

The characters I have had so far include: an art therapist who had a child client that witnessed a child abduction by 'the pale lady', a nurse who had a patient that was attacked by the same pale lady, a driver who's great aunt told him her first husband had served in WW2 with Thomas Nightingale, a professional boxer who had an encounter with a Celtic genuis loci, an American tech industry leader who had helped FBI agent Kimberly Reynolds in the past, and a French law student who was recommended by someone at the Temple Inn bar association.

The main advantage of starting the games this way is, that it is natural that the player characters are uninformed about magic and the demi-monde, so I play the role of the members of the Folly informing the characters about magic in character. It gives the players motivation to learn about magic and whats going on in London. The only downside of this is that, there have to be gaps in the timeline so that the players who wish to become practitioners will have had sufficient time to learn magic without damaging their characters with hyperthalmaturgical degradation.

   Has anyone else had a similar experience?


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I haven't actually ran a game yet, but I think this is a really nice approach to take with RoL, especially with players who haven't read the books (and even with those who have to be honest.)

I think you could work the required downtime into the game fairly easily, having their main duties take up time - nurses or other emergency service workers spending weeks on long shifts or overtime consuming big chunks of time, only leaving enough for sleeping and some light research before the next game session takes place would be a believable example. The boxer having to prepare for a major fight, going off to a training camp could be another.

I'm sure in one of the books Peter talks about his training routine, mentioning a couple of hours practice a day maximum for learning magic forma, the rest being reading, translating stuff from Latin to English etc.. So I think there are definitely ways that you can work their training into the narrative and have time progress for all the characters in some kind of montage effect, with some working while others learn spells and other required skills.



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Yeah, all the "hidden magic" and "masquerade" settings (mostly real-world based) can benefit from this kind of approach.

For the "Dresden Files" RPG (based on the novel series of the same name; another modern-urban-fantasy "masquerade" setting), the system explicitly provides guidance and game-mechanics for this.  They take the metaphors of "in over your head" and "in the shallow end of the pool" &c, extending the metaphor to 4 levels of play:

  • Feet in the Water
  • Up to your Waist
  • Chest Deep
  • Submerged

With each at increasing mechanical power-levels and in-character awareness of the setting; at "Feet in the Water" you're aware that the world has a supernatural component, but probably don't much grasp the depth and scope of it; you may even have some minor powers of your own, but you're a small fish no matter the size of your pond.  By the time you're at "Submerged," you know that the supernatural is ubiquitous, and that some of these entities and groups are literally world-shaking... and you may sometimes be going up against them.

The DF-RPG fandom has further stretched the above categories to include things like "On the Beach" (you're a mortal, who may have had an encounter or two with the supernatural (that you likely still worry is a sign of being delusional:  normal, sane people don't believe in that shit, and magic is something you watch on a screen for fun)), and "In a Submarine" (You are a being of global significance. You have the power to star in legends, change the course of world events, or singlehandedly defeat a small army ), and several other levels.

I find these notions to be VERY useful with this sort of setting!

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Hullo, buckyball,

Thanks for posting this thread up.  This is quite the nice approach to take with the Rivers of London: The Roleplaying Game and one that I had considered in a sense.  Since I'm not familiar with Peter Grant's Vestigium Awareness Outreach Program (having only just finished reading Foxglove Summer this past month), I didn't know about that - and can't remember if it's been mentioned in the game book. 

That said, the player I've been talking about in a separate thread here was adamant about playing a practitioner to start the game, so...

But this is a fine approach to take to creating characters and the campaign.

All that said, you definitely have an interesting set of player characters there.  I look forward to hearing more about them and their case file adventures! 🙂


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One consequence of this approach is that the players are as confused about magic and the Demi Monde as the characters in the books. In my game Peter Grant has tried to explain how magic works by comparing it to objects in an object oriented programing language. So conjuring a formi is like declaring an instance of a class. And adding modifiers to the form or additional forms, is like accessing methods in the class or creating an instance of a new object that inherits methods from different classes. And just like programing a computer you have to do this correctly or you run the risk of crashing the system; which in the case of magic may be your brain. Varvara has a more pragmatic description of magic formi; they are machines made of thought or ideas that run on very very high wattage. So high that it might kill you if you fail to operate the machine safely. Consequently the player characters run around trying to work out how the magic machinery works based on what they were told and have seen, instead of the way the game says it works. They will eventually run into Dr Walid and Dr Vaughn who can drive the point home with numerous brain scans of people who had suffered hyperthaumaturgical degradation. Then we will see if they decide to pursue the forms and wisdoms of Newtonian magic

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