Remember that we are English… every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies.
—Henry Tilney, in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
As you play, you will see scene breaks; one bit of action or drama in one place is over, and another begins elsewhere. At these breaks, anyone may call for Gossip. Take a momentary break, and discuss the scene that just happened as though you are the people in town, or the audience, mysteriously privy to all that happened. Each player may ask about any of the reputations on their character sheet, and the rest of the players (including the Host) should decide together whether that character expressed or upheld that reputation. If they did, give them a role token.
As the quote from Henry Tilney above suggests, privacy is somewhat of a fiction in this time and place. You live a life surrounded by others: the rich have servants, the poor have family and neighbours, and everyone has their noses in everyone’s business. Gossip travels up and down the social ladder, and while something done in purest solitude may, under normal circumstances, be kept secret, in this Regency, there are people who speak the languages of the stones, the trees, and the birds. Unless you can swear them to secrecy, every secret eventually finds its way out. Even then, a town where everyone knows a secret but everyone is sworn to keep it is not uncommon!
Any reputation that has had all four boxes checked is replaced with the bad reputation in brackets, and can no longer provide role tokens. So for example a Gentleman who has checked all four boxes next to “display good judgment” has earned himself a reputation as a fool, and can no longer gain role tokens for displaying good judgment.
Once a bad reputation has been earned, it can under some circumstances be recovered and changed. See Recovery, Growth, & Change.
How to spot a scene end§
As the Host, you should in particular keep an eye out for the end of a scene, and remind people to call for Gossip.
Knowing where to cut a scene is a lifelong practice, but there are a few things to watch for:
- A revelation.
- A changed relationship.
- A decisive assertion of power.
- A decisive upset.
A scene with the main characters Miss Bellamy and Ben Cull, and the supporting character Jane Cull has just come to a close. Miss Bellamy was talking furtively with Jane near the kitchens at Longford, when Ben came up to confront his sister Jane. Miss Bellamy leapt to her maidservant’s defense, and Ben told her he knew just as well what she was up to, speaking with fairies an’ all. She reminded him of his place, and told him he had better keep quiet, and leave his sister alone, as who would believe a groom over the Squire’s granddaughter?
The two players involved in the scene each go over their reputations, asking the table whether they lived up to them. First, Miss Bellamy: “Did I assist the family proper?” Everyone else at the table discusses:
“Well, you were sorting out a disagreement between the servants, and that’s helpful.”
“But would the family have even noticed if two of their servants, a groom and a chamber maid with airs, were having trouble? Would they care?”
“If Miss Bellamy hadn’t stepped in and put her foot down, there’d be talk in town, if someone saw Jane red-eyed or worried later.”
That last decides it: Miss Bellamy gets a token for helping the family.
Next, “Did I do as I was told?” Well, the table agree quickly that she did not, not least of all because there was no one socially her superior to tell her what to do. Same with being “seen and not heard”: she very much asserted herself.
Now, it is Ben’s turn: “Did I do as I was told?” There’s a laugh of agreement at the table, “Absolutely you did, you backed down when she reminded you of your social status. Take a token.”
“Did I keep a confidence?” The table murmurs. “No, it didn’t really come up, but if it had, threatening to tell what your sister and the Squire’s ward are up to would hardly count, even if you don’t carry through on that threat.”
“Did I put my own needs last?” This is a hard one, and after much discussion of what Ben’s needs actually are at this moment, the table decides that he did, by conceding to Miss Bellamy, though it was clearly under duress. Still, he gets another token. Getting two tokens to Miss Bellamy’s one isn’t a bad trade-off for failing to get what he hoped for in the scene.