“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (Arthur C. Clarke)
Historical Atmosphere, not Accuracy
Keystone is a historical themed larp meant to portray the taste and the atmosphere of the Victorian age, not playing reality back. Etiquette and social manners will be simplified - see the servants' position.
Characters and facts will follow historical reality but many romanticized and novel-esque exploits will add spice to the storytelling. Don’t be surprised if historical characters are not exactly by the books. We suggest you to study a little bit the historical context, philosophy, facts and trends of the age but we’ll trick you with many unexpected implications rewriting the Keystone history with you.
Foreign Languages: a “Dubbed” Larp
We have characters from many countries: Italy, England, France, Germany and others. However, the larp will be played in English...no matter what language your characters are likely to speak. The larp is in English and all the characters get to understand each other like in those movies with no chosen language.
You might use foreign accents if you prefer- some people appreciate, some people don’t - but you are not forced doing it. Do what you like!
We encourage you to use specific titles and epithets to put the characters’ nationality in evidence. For example: Milord/Milady for the English, Monsieur/Madame for the French, Herr/Frau for the German and so on.
Economy and Currency
Simplifying, for game purposes, the monthly wage is: 2 pounds for a hired hand or a maid, 10 pounds for a non-commissioned officer, 50 pounds for a true professional. The cost of the lifestyle is almost as much as the wage for each social class. A tenant gentleman owner of a 20000 pounds estate will have a annual income plenty for providing for family and servants.
1 pound is worth 20 schilling. 1 schilling is a little bit less than a servant’s daily wage and is considered a sizeable tip. 1 schilling equals 12 penny which will not be represented or used in the larp.
1 pound is thus half of a monthly wage, and it’s a good amount to corrupt a servant - of course a honest and loyal servant will not be an easy deal.
Gentlemen take little or no money with them and they are rarely seen handling it. They are more likely to deal with credit by papers or agreements. They use credit notes, checks and notes worth tens or hundreds of pounds - a real estate property can be worth even thousands.
In game we will use old metal coins for the small amounts a Lord can charm a servant with, and paper documents representing the true riches that will make a wealthy gent jump off the chair.
1 Italian 10 lire coin equals 1 schilling. A generous tip or a nice wage for a good service.
1 Italian 200 lire coin equals 1 pound which is plenty to corrupt a servant or pay for illegal services.
To make things easier we’ll ignore other values like French Francs, Dollars and so on.
Remember the census gap between Lords and Servants is bigger than nowadays. Think of the western tourists on vacation in poorer countries: their pocket money can be worth a monthly wage for the guide who’s going with them.
Time Period and Politics
It’s the sunset of the 19th century, but the old Europe’s destiny seems to approach the bright dawn of a new order. The Franco-Prussian war is over and Italy has reached Unity choosing Rome as its new Capital City. The governments make deals and agreements to preserve peace. After decades of decline, the Ottoman Empire stopped being a threat, so the Nations have taken an oath to make the Mediterranean a protected zone. Alliances are sought not only along the coasts, as shown by the Triple Alliance between Italy, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The new time of peace pushes the old European super powers to clutch their hands on faraway countries to quench their thirst for power. Rulers obsessively study the maps, routes, territories, and the frail balances between state governments, in order to extend the power of their nation. The Pacific Islands, Africa and India are colonized. The industrial capitalism and the liberalism are the dominating economic paradigm, and are the root of a positivist philosophy that relentlessly believes in progress and in the superiority of bourgeoisie.
Men explore every road of this buzzing world: the unexplored borders of exotic colonies and the murky paths of exotic mysteries. Rich men and women are into the most bizarre exotic trends and some of them find new paths of intellectual discovery. The elite members of secret associations plot the foundations of the future society. Powerful industrialists and enlightened philosophers follow together the dream of a city modelled on the celestial utopia. Ancient magic traditions come to life again in the rich European parlors.
Very little of this is under the eyes of majority of people: the streets are full of beggars, workers, writers, alcoholics, prostitutes and artisans. The air is as black as the sooth from the industrial factories, the streets are dirty with the desperation of the poor. Proletarians and intellectuals, women and youngsters unite to challenge the power of the privileged and prepare weapons and stones to begin the fight.
The Old World’s society has never been so rich, fervent, populated and full of heavy contradictions as it is at the end of the Century: Europe is caught in an orgasm, in a arson of powerful excitation like a furnace about to explode, hanging in the balance between the triumph of human kind on his own destiny and the unavoidable ruin of all the peoples.
Class Struggle and Women’s Condition
For some people the new course of industrial development and progress means nothing but injustice and disparity: the power and wealth of the bourgeoisie are based on the poverty and submission of the poor, the proletarians, the working class, and for those people the ideal of Progress means something very different.
Fed by Marx and Bakunin’s theories, inflamed by the success of Paris’ Commune, barefaced among the streets as well as in the secret rooms of intellectual circles, revolutionary groups fight all around Europe to stop the totalitarian ascent of the masters.
Social conquests are being made with endless fights, as fast as the industry grows.
Labor unions and the right to strike have been granted and the dignity of the lower classes is now unalienable, but the power seems untouched and more extreme actions are now necessary.
In 1881 the Zar Alexander II was killed by an anarchist. This was not a fool’s isolated act, but the first glimpse on a new rising sun on the European society.
A particularly subaltern role, that can’t wait to be overturned, is the one of women.
Women are the bourgeoise family’s core, but at the same time are completely subordinate to their husbands, to the point that they’re nothing without men. In the social scale, a woman can’t find any other place than beside a husband, and a girl’s life is directed to reach that goal.
Unmarried women are looked upon suspiciously. Pregnancies outside marriage are hidden under a veil of shame, and the unlucky young mothers are marked with the euphemism of “lost girls” and kept prisoners in Magdalene’s Asylums.
Braver and more valiant than the explorers who venture in the darkest regions of Africa, some women are convinced by the echoes of freedom all around Europe and, challenging the patriarchy, protest for their rights. Suffragettes movement fights tirelessly to achieve political, social and ethical equality that the rest of the world still struggles to accept.
These modern heroines don’t surrender to arrests, beatings, threats, and armored with their dignity and their fierce sense of justice, keep challenging the male class.
“For also knowledge itself is power” Francis Bacon
As the industrial age grows faster -guided by an unscrupulous bourgeoisie- the philosophical discussion leaves the high disquisitions on romantic idealism and focuses on more concrete subjects as scientific progress and utilitarianism. The new trend of Positivism becomes the ideological expression of the dominant class. The scientific method is applied to every aspect of knowledge and existence.
Anything can be explained by Mistress Science and her servant Technology; because of them humanity can achieve its wellness in the future societies.
With this optimistic spirit, scientists and inventors develop the most amazing variety of prodigies that technology has ever provided to mankind: from the small machines that help in daily life as the typewriter or the telephone, to the still unexplored possibilities offered by electricity and radio.
Every citizen embraces the scientific progress with excitement, in the houses and in the circles -where incandescent lamps still bring astonishment- as well as during the great Universal Expositions, where all these works of Art and Technique are celebrated in front of the collectivity, from the most humble lightbulb to the majestic Tour Eiffel, everything points to one great ideal: Progress.
Positivism perfectly represents the dominant bourgeoisie in its unbreachable belief of having explanations and power on everything.
Nature itself is enslaved by men, who dissect it to understand it, and seize it to control it: bacteria are being isolated, electricity harnessed.
Darwin’s new evolutionary theories prove that nature itself is oriented to self improvement, and men can’t help but indulge in this glorious destiny, accelerating with their own actions this process of selection. Things that are not understandable are hidden in places that only look science-related: psychiatric institutes where the sick are imprisoned like criminals, and where scientists break their subjects’ minds in order to study their illnesses.
Also social phenomenons are rationally observed, as the popularity of Lombroso’s studies on Criminal Anthropology or Galton’s bold theories on eugenics and racial superiority show.
These are just some of many examples of how scientific thought would confirm and justify dominance of men upon other men, and the superiority of the enlightened few on an ignorant mass of people.
Exploration and Exoticism
After getting over with the wars on the European soil, the industrial powers look beyond the seas to find new markets and new wealth.
The colonies offer a huge amount of resources. What was just a simple economical exploitation becomes a wide and complex political power scenario. The eyes of all the powerful men of Europe are pointed on the maps of the globe to study new commercial and dominion strategies on a scale that has never been seen before.
The sovereign states dictate their force on the African, Indian and Pacific Islands territories: faraway mysterious and fascinating lands and simple playing cards on the imperialists tables at the same time.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the rich European bourgeoisie incarnate in a new human figure: the explorer who has no fear to travel to unexplored lands, face terrible risks and reach the heart of darkness of remote places.
Some are noble men going to adventure and glory, some are nothing more than a new kind of businessmen. Intellectuals and researchers go to the adventure as well, with their books and notebooks, hoping to become protagonists of new scientific discoveries or to study unknown phenomena. Some are forced to go out of poverty, fleeing from something or someone, searching for new opportunities far from a world that made them outsiders, hoping to build a new life hidden in foreign shadows - and maybe one day come back to their homeland.
At home, on the newspaper and scientific magazines everybody waits for the results of those quests. Though the commercial success makes rich buyers richer, there are new marvels to behold for everybody: new kinds of animals that have never been seen before, refined artisanry, museum pieces, priceless jewelry and stunning stories for the parlors’ guests. Maybe the biggest loot is that feeling of excitement and greed that makes who came back willing to go there again, and pushes who stayed home to go on adventure.
However, who comes back often brings invisible passengers with them: traditions that should stay untouched, unforgettable tales of bloody atrocity, curses cast in unintelligible languages but still biting their heart even in the safety of their home.
Secret Societies and Occultism
As the Enlightenment Age brought with it dark shadows of superstitions and exaggerated sentimentalism, so one century later the triumphant positivism bears the seeds of irrationality. The seek of knowledge and power of the dominant classes extends to all directions: in industries, colonisation affairs and politics as well as in fascination for mysticism and theosophy, esoterism and occultism.
Masonry has now gathered all the most powerful and influential minds of Europe and can guide to the Great Design all the branches of the political society: politics, finance and war.
However this thirst for expansion coincides with an explosive crisis: a big schism happened between the Premier Grand Lodge and the Grand Orient de France. The latter wants to open up at women and politics, and to become unbound to religion and the Cult of the Supreme Being. England wants to preserve the traditions while southern Europe wants to open up to modernity.
A newborn interest for magic cults from the East created a new variety of esoteric interests. Genial thinkers and charming wise men bring secret societies to life and pass on forgotten mysteries.
The esoteric mysteries break the traditional vision of body and pleasure, crushing the chains of the Victorian morality and open men and women’s minds to new inconceivable sexual practices. In the bourgeoise parlors all sorts of eccentric events are hosted: ambiguous feasts and rituals, séances, bizarre scientific experiments, searching for the afterlife or conjure on Earth powerful and monstrous entities. There are many plans of existence holding dark sources of power, that many men and women are willing to take possession of.