“I thought life was going to be a brilliant comedy, and that you were to be one of the graceful figures in it. I found it to be a revolting and repellent tragedy, and that the sinister occasion of the great catastrophe, sinister in its concentration of aim and intensity of narrowed will power, was yourself stripped of the mask of joy and pleasure by which you, no less than I, had been deceived and led astray.” (Oscar Wilde)
Upstairs and Downstairs
Keystone’s characters are divided into two main groups: DOWNSTAIRS, the Servants attending to daily service of their masters and mistresses, and UPSTAIRS, the wealthy members of the High Society. They will enjoy a different gameplay, although similarly various and satisfactory, and dedicated settings.
Specifically, the Servants will be expected to perform the various duties needed to run the residence, such as preparing the rooms, rekindling fires and filling up the lanterns, prepare and serve food cooked according to period cookbooks (with the help of the staff), and more generally, answering to the extravagant demands of their employers. (That is why Servant characters are entitled to a cheaper participation fee).
“In the darkest of nights, a lamp can attract both the wanderer and any kind of insect. The wanderer 'utilizes' the light to 'fix' the direction of his journey. Insects, on the contrary, fly randomly 'towards' the light and, buzzing, some end up circling around it with no direction or purpose. But, circling and circling, some others end up burning in the 'heat' of the flame.”
In a lively age filled with possibilities, the High Society’s favourites, hidden behind a façade of bigotry and morality, pursue anything novel and fulfilling for their ambitions. Sunday is for Church, but then there are night receptions dedicated to art and occultism, to new literary and philosophical ideas, where reckless political scheming is just another mean to fight boredom.
The innovative rush of the industrials is colliding with the pride of the old landowners, and so a various, lively environment is formed, filled with outstanding characters, an environment where the gilded light of the luxurious parlours hides the shadows of corruption and perversion.
Among the rich and powerful the greed for more power is strong, and many aspire to join secret societies that guarantee privileged positions in the political and cultural life. The fascination for occult and the powers it can grant sparks the greed of some, and the morbid curiosity of others: discussions about mysteries, esoterism, and freemasonry, can be heard quite often.
Women, trapped in the role of housewives, start to dream and loudly ask for a place among the important people, with the clear intent to abandon their role as “society decoration”.
Some, tired of being subject to their husbands, support the feminist claims of the suffragettes from overseas.
Others aim for a subtler and millenary power, the one of those that silently rule behind the curtains of History.
The nobility and gentry members are thus influential and renowned characters.
In a setting of excess and lush, skittish Lords and Ladies of the old aristocracy are contending for the most influential roles in the society with greedy bankers, smart entrepreneurs from the Indies, or famous Colonels of the Empire. Among this colourful group you could find a noble Baronet used to handle the schemes of politics, a rich intellectual with a love for science and the new technologies, a renowned artist or a famous explorer of the wild lands.
Chaste, puritan and repressive, and still sensual, unconventional and voluptuous. This is the double-faced soul of the Victorian Era.
Remarks on the Choice of an Upstairs Character
If you wish to play a character used to luxury, with a fancy costume respecting the fashion of the time, and tempted by great and small ambitions; if you are interested in playing a real historical character; then a UPSTAIRS character is what you are looking for.
Ambitious, elegant, spoiled and power-thirsty, these fancy people are the right choice if you want to join political scheming, intellectual debates, esoteric research, and face difficult and ambiguous themes.
“When I think about the years I spent in service, I often ask myself why was our job so poorly considered. Why, for instance, they were calling us 'Servants'. Maybe, I told myself, it depended by the intimate nature of our duties, all that serving and respecting people who were absolutely able to care for themselves, and still we were almost expected to feed them. In some ways we were not better than slaves, as the masters ruled any aspect of our lives: timing, dresses - on the job, obviously, but in many ways also when we were outside. Even the few hours we had for ourselves was dominated by the thought 'You have to be back no later than ten o' clock'. We were definitely NOT free.”
The Servants are a group of women and men who know very well how life works.
They know life comes down to: effort, work, and few pennies. Although their personal freedom is more or less that of a slave, the role of servant is longed for among the masses of poor that crowd the streets, as it guarantees a meal, a clean bed, and the possibility to save money for the old age. Besides, for the most traditionalists, to serve a noble family or a rich bourgeois is a honour and a privilege, that elevates them to a nobler and higher world, creator of order and progress. For the most modern thinkers, servitude is lived in a conflictual way, and perceived as an injustice.
However, it is still a lighter, cleaner, and better paid job than being a factory worker. Among them there is the loyal butler, the servant vexed by a Lord’s avances, the strict and traditionalist housekeeper, the God-fearing maid, the artist-minded valet and also those who secretly support new revolutionary ideas.
The Servant chambers are rich not of wealth and power, but of secrets, aspirations, blackmailing, ambitions, denied feelings, loyalty and betrayal. Normally the Upper Class consider the Servants as loyal dogs, or deaf ornaments, and in their presence they speak freely of intrigues and passions. For this reason the kitchens, launderettes and the servant’s rooms are filled with gossip, huge or embarrassing truths that are whispered, with a mixture of envy and disapproval.
Serving in a elegant household means to work in kitchens and caves, endure hard fatigues the whole day and always be ready to satisfy any request from upstairs. Everything has to be done following a strict code of conduct that often forbids relationships with the opposite sex or having admirers or visitors. Servants must always look tidy; posture and education are a must even in the most liberal households, and in the old-fashion parlors it is forbidden to speak to the master if not asked to. Failing even one of these rules could mean to be immediately fired, and could give a bad name and subsequent difficulties in finding another job.
Reputation and loyalty are more valued than effective competences. A good conduct, including modestly accepting the avances of the master, but not mingle with the rest of the personnel or the mailman, could elevate the servant, socially and economically.
Very few do not aim for prestigious or leadership roles, as warden, housekeeper, personal maid or valet, butler, that allow social redemption and the entrance in a hierarchically organised world, mirroring the one of the High Society. The Servant’s rooms are just a mirror of the luxurious parlours: a traditional world where class division is neat and there is huge gap of culture, language, economics, and freedom.
Remarks on the Choice of a Downstairs Character
If you want to play a character with a hard life, living the theme of class division or social injustice, that doesn’t need a fancy costume and is free to meddle in every plot thanks to the invisibility of its social role; or if you just want to pay less, then a DOWNSTAIRS character is right for you. As Servants are expected to perform real duties (for instance, helping in cleaning, cooking and serving the meals), to make the larp more realistic, we considered a reduced price for these characters. All the DOWNSTAIRS characters will receive a part of their costume: an apron. Women will also receive a maid’s headwear.
Additional Informations on the Characters
You will be able to choose the character from a public teaser
, and later on you will privately receive further informations reserved only for you. This material includes a short background, relationships with other characters, personal ambitions, and some cues and informations to start or enrich your play.
To allow a credible experience, the character choice will be bound to vague age limits:
(“Young (player must be 34 or less)”, “Adult (player must be 26 or more)”, etc.).
Moreover, players will be expected to pick a character whose gender matches their real-life gender expression*(that is their appearance and mannerisms). Players whose gender identity is not fully or exclusively captured by either the "female" or "male" labels, will be able to sign up as "other gender" and will be able to select any character. However, players whose gender *expression does not match their character's will be expected to use costumes and make-up so that their characters' gender is easily recognizable by other players, and fitting for the genre's aesthetics.
A small amount of characters will also have some notes that specify characteristics, attitudes, needs or skills needed that will have to be followed by the player. (It would be somehow ridiculous if the chef of the house didn't know anything about cooking or food presentation).
Some characters will be defined as Hardcore
, meaning that the player is willing to play intense, hard and peculiar scenes, that might be unpleasant or embarrassing for some people, but that will never be obscene, illegal, or dangerous. (read more on the Safety
Read the Character’s Description
When the Teasers will be published, all the characters of Keystone can be found here. From the end of June, every player will be able to choose their favourite characters fillig a google form, then an algorythm will sort out the matching aiming to make the majority of people happy.
Characters and Character Sheets
Once you have been cast, you can read the complete character sheet on the Portal. Please remember to upload a picture, or the tool will not let you see the character sheet.
The character sheet is for your eyes only and contains the following informations:
Personal informations: A short tale about history and psychology of your character. Who are they? What do they want? How did they become whom they are now?
Cues and Hints: a series of cues for the interpretation: some specific actions that we think are enjoyable to play, or appropriate for your character. These are only suggestions, treasure them if you feel so, but don’t feel compelled.
Relationships: detailed bonds and relationships with other characters, including dirty secrets and incriminating informations.
Context: what your character knows about their social class, their fellow citizens, their colleagues and friends, and about other social groups they belong to. Also these informations are personal and top-secret.
Upon arrival at the venue, you will receive a personalized booklet for your character, made of four pages.
Do not open it: each page is the prologue of one of the Acts. Before the beginning, read only the first one, for the first act. You will read the following ones before the next act, during the breaks. Each prologue may contain 3 kinds of informations: Introduction, Fate, Epilogue.
Introduction: this is what your character knows about the next act: hints and suggestions on what to do at the beginning, secrets or other informations.
Epilogue: it is a cue on how you could end the act for your character, a suggestion on how to progress in the dramatic arc. Be inspired by it, but do not feel compelled!
Fates: These are the only “compulsory” indications. Not all characters will receive a Fate, but if you receive one you have to do your best to follow the instructions and make them happen. These are indications from the Staff needed to push the general story, or to make situations happen, that regard other characters.
Often they are not justified in the fiction, but are “interesting coincidences”. For instance, your character could receive the fate “at 1 a.m., go and take a walk in the yard”. This means that, probably, something will happen in the yard, and your character will be a random witness.
Hardcore scenes: These are compulsory Fates reserved for the characters defined as Hardore, and they explain to the player the specific scenes that will take place in the following Act. Some Hardcore scenes may require a short briefing with organizers in the offgame time right before the Act.