Troll Lord Games
by Mike Stewart
Editor: Steve Ege
Art: Peter Bradley, Jason Walton, Christopher Walker
Art Direction//Layout/: Peter Bradley
Cartography: Peter Bradley
Produced by: The Chenault Brothers
The title of this article says it all and I really don’t have to write much else. Victorious is not about new at all. It’s about merging a lot of excellent together to make something different, though. What really sets this system above the rest is its ease of gameplay – without being overly simplistic – and it’s setting. The setting of Victorious is in the Victorian era of Earth. However, there are a number of superheroes who have, for various reasons, travelled here from the future of the 21st Century. Through their influence, inadvertent or deliberate, technology has had a jumpstart and a series of advancements based on steam-driven technology have arisen. The player character rises up in this new history, an arrival from the future, or through circumstances brought on by those who have.
About the Author
Mike Stewart has participated in the analog gaming community for fifteen years. Victorious won the Three Castles RPG Design Award for 2017. Mike also worked with Troll Lord Games on Castles and Crusaders contributing to multiple books within that RPG system. He wrote regularly for Crusader magazine from issues 3 to 21 and co-founded dragonsfoot.org, a site for free, professionally designed material for the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons RPG system. Mike has published several roleplaying modules for various systems which won him several awards and helped him to become well versed in multiple game system mechanics.
Mike’s secret identity is a mild-mannered professor of American and European history focusing on the Victorian era and both World Wars.
Many of the mechanics in the game are familiar to longtime gamers. Victorious draws on several different game systems and integrates them into a very well-organized arrangement that fits the setting well. These mechanics are based on the multi-genre Siege Engine game mechanics. Aggressor and defender roll a d20, add bonuses, and the highest roll wins.
Six basic well-known Attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are the basis for all other mechanics in the game. The creators have tweaked these to fit a more superheroic theme that allows even humans to advance beyond the normal 18 maximum.
Skills and Powers
Skill mechanics are the same, though the enumerated skills are more appropriate for Victorian-era England than a medieval fantasy time period.
Drawing in spirit from games like Heroes: Champions, the powers section of the game is one of the defining sections of the game rules for characters. These are not just amped up feats. Powers are truly supernatural abilities that set the character far above the normal everyman. Victorious includes flight, super speed, exceptional strength, absorption, elasticity, and all the favourites. As the character grows (levels) so do their powers. Yet these powers are not nearly as complicated to incorporate or implement in Victorious as I found the Champions system to be.
Victorious also include shortcomings or weaknesses to the heroes, real disadvantages that their arch-nemesis can discover and use against them time and again to thwart the hero’s attempts to prevent the villain’s nefarious schemes. Not only does this provide tools for the GM to keep the story going in the right direction it also provides a framework for players to earn experience for their characters for playing those weaknesses well.
Experience itself is part of a well-defined reward system that is far more than killing monsters and looting dens. The focus of Victorious is definitely on the story, which is why I like this system so much.
Finally, a word about Victory Points. These are points awarded judiciously for major effort on the part of the player. Players may use Victory Points later to modify rolls, give that little extra needed to succeed when it is absolutely necessary, or even to cause another character to fail at just the right moment. They are rare, precious, and should be earned and spent accordingly.
Story & Characters
Victorious’ setting is 19th Century Earth with all its wonders and foolishness. In Chapter 4, Mike sets out a wonderful, succinct picture of what the world was like then. He pulls no punches and faithfully represents all that man achieved during the time, and all his stupidity as well. Racism and sexism are rampant right along side advancements in communication and transportation that made the world truly a much smaller place. Victorious even provides a year by year chronology of the Victorian Era up through 1901.
Chapter 3 presents prominent governments and major organizations in terms of game mechanics. Victorious draws from both real such as the CIA, ONI, and Secret Service and the imagined like the Moriarty Family. In the companion book, the Phantasmagoria – a host of playable a non-player characters are outlined with rich backstories, powers, and goals within the Victorious world.
One of the more entertaining and varied aspects of the game system, the Bestiary in Victorious provides a multitude of critters and villans for the hero to vanquish. The Bestiary categorizes these foes into sets: Creatures of Earth – elephants, sharks, tigers, and bears…oh my!; Horrors Out of Time – dinosaurs, yeti, and Morlocks; Horrors of the Undead – ghosts, vampires, and mummies – a Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff dream…er, nightmare; and Horrors of Nature – true monster in the vein of mythical fantasy such as Werewolves and the Jersey Devil.
Furthermore, given its nature, Victorious can seamlessly incorporate monsters from other Beastiaries both in terms of mechanics and storyline. Out of Time, Fantastic, Mythological, and Other Dimensions are all a part of the Victorious game world. So…who wants to see Superman* fight a Tarrasque*? I know I do!
*Superman and the Tarrasque are both copyrighted characters and are not officially part of the Victorious RPG system.
Character creation is largely familiar to long-time analog gamers but easy enough for those new to the game that it is not daunting. Decide what kind of hero you want to play. Roll attributes first using the standard 4d6, drop the lowest, then assign accordingly. Choose one attribute as the primary. Players choose skills next followed by powers. Shortcomings round out the character creation process. Once the player has selected all of these, final touches are made including shoring up the backstory to explain things selected during creation.
I will definitely be adding Victorious to my library of gaming material. My twins already know the d20 basics and love superheroes. Not only will this be fun to play, but I can also continue to use roleplaying as a sneaky-parent homeschool teaching tool to cover history. We already use it for math, science, economics, and language studies.
Victorious is a well-thought-out system that pays attention to detail without getting bogged down. Mike and his team did a remarkable job bringing this particular vision together and I absolutely recommend it. I certainly can’t wait to play it with my kids!
Rating – G+
If you’d like to catch the interview by Game School, you can check it out here:
To find out more about the Victorious RPG system go to: