Rosemund "Rosie" Raleigh is a young alchemist and adventuress for a Blades in the Dark role-playing game set in a strange fantasy world that resembles a slightly magical version of Victorian Britain more than that game's default setting of Duskvol.
Rosie's setting is not Victorian Britain. The various links below to historical information are intended to provoke wonder and curiosity about history, not imply additional setting details.
In some ways Rosie's setting is much nicer. For example, the sexes are more nearly equality in opportunities and before the law.
In other ways it is much grittier. For example, in true Blades in the Dark fashion the capital city has a median lifespan of 40 years, and more than 5% of the population of that city is sick in a cholera epidemic. In contrast, actual Victorian London had a mean lifespan of 40 years (even poor people who survived childhood usually lived to age 55 or 60), and cholera affected a much smaller percantage of the population in more geographically localized ways.
As the adventure begins, Rosie is on a ship traveling to a new colony. What is her background? How did she get there? What are her hopes and dreams?
Although Blades in the Dark embraces the philosophy of "Play to Find Out" my personal ignorance about Victorian life led to writing a backstory with numerous loose details. Our game's setting is not Duskvol, and within an uncreated and vague world I could not sufficiently place myself in Rosie's mind to imagine her strengths, weaknesses, regrets, and yearnings. I aimed at details both flavorful and flexible, hoping to support "Play to Find Out" with minimal yet evocative shape and structure.
Rosie's father is the Baronet William Raleigh, a brilliant and ruthless chemist. A decade ago, when Rosie was six years old, his invention of aniline dyes earned him his title and propelled him up the ranks of the Royal Society. With his increase in wealth he has moved his family to a manor house safely distant from the problems of the capital city.
Rosie's mother, the Baronetess Gertrude Raleigh, died eight years ago due to arsenic poison. She adored clothes dyed green, and falsely believed that she had taken sufficient precautions when wearing them. Perhaps she as also the victim of some of Lord Williams' secret experimentation?
Rosie's father remarried, but the new Baronetess Myrtle Raleigh has not had children. This means Rosie may some day inherit her father's title, since the monarch normally approves such transfers.
Since becoming a Baronet, Lord William has always employed a manservant who serves as both secretary and valet. Unknown to anyone else, this person is also one of the people on whom Lord William tests alchemical concoctions. The current valet is named Jeeves Jasper. Lord William's current experimental process has caused Mr. Jasper to emit calming pheromones. Rosie has tried to befriend Mr. Jasper because being around him feels pleasant, calming the many tensions she feels as a teenager navigating the conflicting social mores of Victorian life and her family's increasing social status. Mr. Jasper has noticed, and attempts to politely distance himself from Rosie's attentions.
Rosie has many friends among the young women of similar social rank whose parents are also part of the Royal Society or have parents have other types of social connections with her father. Now that Rosie is traveling she wishes to remain a pen pal with her best friend, Lula Lyman.
Rosie's closest friends are her mentors who belong to the Dyscrastic Coterie. This group of women alchemists is hesitantly accepted by the Royal Society and other scientific groups in the capital city. However, their focus on poultry and human blood makes them the "black sheep" of the larger alchemical community. Two significant mentors are Emma Eaton and Alma Alford. Rosie also has some long-distance friendships with members of the Dyscrastic Coterie with whom she corresponds to discuss research, but has never met in person.
In this setting alchemy has reliable metaphysical practitioners, the medical theory of four humors can actually work, sometimes with magical potency. Not only does human blood in a vial congeal and separate into four liquids of distinct colors, but their hues and ratios can provide a doctor with information about a patient's health. Moreover, details of how the blood is drawn, handled, and stored can imbue the liquids with magical potency.
The top clear layer, named phlegm, can cause things to become cold and wet, and cause people to become thoughtful, reserved, low-spirited, or forgetful.
The second red layer, named sanguis, can cause things to become hot and wet, and cause people to become friendly, mirthful, active, carefree, and naive.
The third yellow layer, named choler, can cause things to become hot and dry, and cause people to become intelligent, bitter, daring, ambitious, or aggressive.
The bottom black layer, named lugere, can cause things to become cold and dry, and cause people to become intently persistent and willful, irritable or fearful, and agitated or depressed.
A generation ago the founders of the Dyscrastic Coterie studied eucarstic alchemy: how to best balance these four liquids in people. However, those experiments ended in tradgedy and madness. Human blood (but not animal blood) turned out to be necessarily out of balance, as if its clearly proper balance instead fits a different world.
So the Dyscrastic Coterie now studies dyscrastic alchemy: how to use the four liquids independently or in purposeful imbalance to cause dramatic effects. Usually the blood of poultry is studied. Human blood is known to create similar reactions with greater intensity.
The Dyscrastic Coterie has noticed that Rosie is a gifted alchemist, and has given her much more attention, training, and friendships than usual for a young woman her age. Emma Eaton has taught her secrets of lavender, laudanum, and lilac. Rosie is able to decoct several perfumes, dyes, and medicines from those and other chemicals. Alma Alford has taught her nursing and surgery. Rosie is skilled at using libraries, correspondence, and favors to further her research, and at using her knowledge or skills to accrue favors.
Rosie has memories of her early childhood in a middle-class section of the capital city. Compared to other nobles, she has slightly less narcissism and aversion to physical labor. Like many women she owns chickens (now primarily cared for by servants), and the money she earns from selling their eggs and meat is her own. She uses it to buy jewelry, which is also considered her own property.
Rosie is skilled at all types of sewing, ike most young women of her age and social rank. She also has skill with raising and caring for farm animals, although servants do the routine labor. Before her father was entitled, she learned shorthand and was his secretary to record his dictation as he did his alchemical research.
Rosie has a lot of experiece with midwifery. Her small hands and lack of squeamishness have made her valuable in helping her family's sheep and horses. After turning fifteen she has also been asked to midwife for people.
As the only child of a manipulative and emotionally enigmatic father, living with servants who keep their own secrets, Rosie has much practice "reading the room" for hidden clues about people's moods and desires, to anticipate trouble and sense opportunities, and acting as the situation requires to be appropriately charming and/or logical.
In recent years Rosie has not been allowed to act the Tomboy as much as when she was younger. But she still enjoys swimming and riding, and when she can will climb a tree or turn a cartwheel.
Rosie has unknowingly acquired habits of narcissism from her father, both active (using people for "narcissistic supply") and passive (with a child-like immaturity acting oblivious to other people's feelings and desires). She delights in being the center of attention and receiving praise, and no longer considers it rude to be manipulative.
Rosie cannot cook. Once she arrives at the colony she will be shocked to re-learn life's dirtiness, and how much effort is required for cleanliness. She is not used to hard work. Her singing voice is pleasant but unnotable.
Rosie is not athletic. Her dancing is acceptable but uninspired. She has sampled the newer sports that women in the capital city enjoy (archery, tennis, cricket, golf, cycling, boating) but found neither talent nor interest in any of them. She is privately embarassed by her lack of athleticism, and openly admiring of women athletes.
Rosie has seen death, including having animals under her medical care worsen and die, her mother's body being ravaged by arsenic poisoning, and members of her household die from illness or infection. But Rosie has been successfully sheltered from violent aggression. She will be horrified the first time she witnesses murder or lethal self-defense.
Rosie's favorite sensation novel is The Perils of Anne the Adventuress. Rosie longs to be an adventuress despite having no idea what a life of adventure might actually involve.
Rosie might overreact when she seems people wearing clothes dyed green.
Perhaps Rosie's father has used her as the subject of some of his alchemical experimentation.
Rosie shares the dominant values of her era and class.
She respects thrift and knows the potential of the middle class. Her family has enjoyed the ability to earn wealth and climb the social class ladder, and suffered from the quiet strife as the nobility try to defend their elitism as social mobility arrives.
She enjoys sensationalism and thrills. She fawns over advertisements with hyperbole in newspapers, posters, windows, and town-criers. She collects entertaining gadgets and widgets. She attends outings to music halls, magic shows, theatricals, walk-through panoramas, waxwork shows, and animal performances.
She agrees that the person of highest social "lead" (the hostess at a home party, the highest rank of nobility in public, the woman if a man and woman of equal nobility rank meet) gets to dictate the proper amount of formality and prudery in that social situation. But she lives in a society that has very loose rules (a group that one weekend acts stuffy and formal when together at a house party might the next weekend all gather to take opium and go skinny dipping at the beach).
She struggles with how to live out a shared ideal of personal independence in a society where both economics and laws still make attaining personal independence very difficult.
Rosie owns sturdy wool clothes, including two tailored and padded jackets and three divided skirts. She could not take much luggage when leaving home, but was able to take her best linen underclothes, two linen nightgowns, her only piece of lace trim (which she transfers to her current jacket), her only cotton print blouse, and her only silk belt.
Rosie always wears her hair up. "Mother taught me to always wear my hair up. Let the world know that you calmly start your day by stabbing something unruly with pins for 20 minutes until it stops moving, and trouble-makers will pass you by."
Like most Blades in the Dark physickers, Rosie wears a bandolier with a collection of dyscrastic concoctions, either openly across her torso or hidden under her silk belt and jacket's lower hem. As her adventure begins she is able to concoct items slightly different from the default list:
The thin and flexible steel boning of Rosie's corset are actually shapes usable as surgical tools, including pieces that when combined with bolts and wing nuts form a hacksaw.
Her bandolier also has one vial that contains her sewing kit (used to transfer her lace trim to her curent jacket, as well as to remove the bottom edge of her skirts for easier washing) and another that contains the smaller pieces of her surgery tools (catgut and curved needles, long lengths of linen as gauze and tourniquet material, and the wing nuts and bolts for assembling her hacksaw).
Rosie desperately wishes to invent a safe green dye, so no one will have to suffer the way her mother did. Perhaps she can also help discover new medicines or perfumes. Her first steps will undoubtedly be to study the flora and fauna of this new colony to develop new bandolier items.
Rosie misses the nice food and clothing she left behind at home, as well as her horse and favorite pet rabbit.
Rosie has a collection of praxinoscope animations sold as souvenirs or accompaniments to sensationalist novels and shows. Will anyone on the colony create these entertainments? Will the friends she corresponds with send her new ones?
She has enjoyed her family's rise in wealth. She longs to some day own more cotton prints, more silks clothes, more lace, and perhaps even some draped-sewn gowns. She similarly dreams of eating imported desserts (such as dates) and collecting imported trinkets (such as faceted glass beads).
Of course she wants to own more jewelry, which will remain her personal wealth even after she marries.
She wishes to marry, but not too soon! Her father would not stoop to the socially unacceptable lows of sending officers of the law to bring her home. But he might hire a woman agent to retrieve Rosie. Being married at the colony would safely secure her away from her father's reach. Yet it would also require her to perform the many duties involved in running a wealthy home, which would impinge on her ability to adventure and investigate alchemy.
Rosie wants to establish her fortune through her own energies. But she hopes afterwards to also, some day, inheret her father's title, patents, and wealth.
The Dyscrastic Coterie became suspicious when Rosie's father arranged to have Mr. Jasper travel to a new colony. A reliable secretary and valet is too valuable to send on such an errand! So Emma Eaton arranged for Rosie to be the traveling companion of an elderly widow on the same ship.
The Baroness Suzanne Blair is one of the founding Coterie members, and among those who went mad while developing eucarstic alchemy. The Baroness is famous in the capital city for her novels and poetry, which became increasingly strange and perplexing as she aged. (Her alchemical discoveries have been hidden from public knowledge.) Publicly, she is traveling to the colony to spend a year with her son, the famous big game hunter Otto Orlando Blair. Secretly, the Baroness's madness is progressing beyond what the Dyscrastic Coterie can soothe with known medinines, and their last hope to allow the Baroness to continue aging gracefully is some new medical discovery using the colony's flora or fauna. Even more secretly, the balance inherent in eucarstic alchemy did make Baroness immune to disease, and when she dies far from the intrigues of the capital city, perhaps secretive Coterie agents can discover in autopsy how to transfer that benefit without the correspondent madness.
Rosie shares a cabin on the ship with the Baroness, prepares her medicines daily, and serves as her assistant, secretary, and valet. The moments when the Baroness loses lucidity frighten Rosie, who has only heard vague summaries about what that first generation of Coterie members researched.
Rosie has been told that once she arrives in the colony she will be met by other members of the Dyscrastic Coterie. She has not been told that the Dyscrastic Coterie is curious about Mr. Jasper, or that he is also on her ship. Will she see him before they disembark at the colony?
As a Physicker Rosie may Tinker with bones, blood, and bodily humours to treat wounds or stabilize the dying, and may Study a malady or corpse. Everyone in her crew gets +1d to their healing treatment rolls
Hunt 0 to gather information about a target or attack with precision from a distance.
Study 1 to gather knoweldge by scrutinizing or researching a person, document, or item.
Survey 1 to examine a location or situation to understand what's going on, anticipate trouble, or sense opportunities/exploits.
Tinker 2 to create, modify, disable, or repair mechanisms including locks, safes, and traps.
Finesse 0 to use subtle misdirection or sleight-of-hand, or handle a vehicle or mount.
Prowl 1 to move unseen, ambush, and traverse obstacles by climbing, swimming, or gymnastics.
Skirmish 0 to engage an opponent in close combat, or assault/hold a position.
Wreck 0 to sabotage or destroy a place, item, or obstacle, or create distractions and breach defenses.
Attune 0 to use magic and spirits.
Command 0 to use intimidation or leadership to cause obedience.
Consort 1 to use connections from her heritage, background, friends, or rivals to gain access to resources, information, people, or places.
Sway 1 to manipulate someone with charm, rationality, guile, or seduction, to alter attitudes or behavior.
Rosie's vice is endulging in sensationalism. She tries to value thrift, but too willingly spends her money on outings and optical toys.
Our game's setting uses custom playbooks. Rosie's special method of earning XP is from the Leech playbook: when she confronts a challenge with technical skill or mayhem. She has the standard limited methods of earning XP when she expresses her beliefs/drives/heritage/background, or struggles with issues from her vice/traumas during the session. XP is also earned in action attributes each time she rolls a desperate action.
As part of a crew, Rosie also wants to contend with challenges above their current station, develop her crew's reputation, ande express the goals/drives/nature/internals of her crew.
Rosie's next worldview development will probably be acquiring the special action Daredevil (when she rolls a desperate action she gets +1d to her roll if she also takes -1d to any resistance rolls against the action's consequences). Then perhaps she will mature from independence to the type of teamwork most natural to her narcissism by acquiring the special actions Expertise (when she leads a group action using Study she will suffer at most 1 stress) and Synchronized (when she performs a group action, she may count multiple 6s from different rolls as a critical success).