Content and themes

I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards.

Garth Marenghi, author, visionary, dreamweaver, plus actor

This game includes some themes that we feel are key to the politics and social dynamics that make the setting an interesting period of social history.

We’ve split the themes into three categories, based on how much exposure players can expect to them.

Core themes

These themes will be very hard to avoid entirely. We may be able to cast you as a character who’s less affected by a theme. For example, fertility will probably be discussed because of how important it is to produce heirs, however there are plenty of characters whose personal fertility is not important to the story. There will be space to indicate this on the casting form.

  • Rigid expectations and limits of role, power and agency based on gender
    Characters’ gender roles are binary and set at birth.
    There will be discrimination based on character gender.
  • Fertility/infertility in male and female characters and the social value attached to it
  • Class conflict, especially between old nobility and ‘new men’ from the universities
    There will be discrimination based on class
  • Mediaeval Christian religion, particularly discrimination between denominations
    (there will be no derogatory treatment of other religions)
  • King Henry using his absolute control of England abusively both politically and personally
  • Homophobia
    Our page on sexuality goes into more detail
  • Discrimination based on nationality/loyalty of the character
    (not race/ethnicity or the nationality of the player)
  • Incest
    Particularly with respect to historical accusations against Queen Anne and also arranging noble marriages
  • Serious long term illness, ageing and impending death

Possible themes

You are welcome to engage with the themes below. You should be aware that some people might prefer to avoid them. If you’re roleplaying with these themes, please be careful to give people space to use our safety mechanics to ask to change topic, or make sure they can leave the space gracefully.

  • Consensual sexual contact
    There will be no close actual physical intimacy beyond what you might expect to see in a public place in Britain. We will use the “It’s not what it looks like!” mechanic.
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth, infant mortality and infanticide
    These may be topics of discussion, but none of them will happen to characters or NPCs during the course of the game

Excluded themes

These Excluded Themes should not appear in the game in any way. They will not be in backgrounds or briefs, and players should not make any reference to them as part of their roleplay.

  • Racism/discrimination based on skin colour/ethnic origin/racial identity of the player or character
  • Sexual violence and non-consensual sexual activity*, physical abuse, sexual activity with minors
  • Cross dressing/suggesting that characters are not actually the gender they present as
    All characters are the gender they present as
  • Insensitive portrayals of mental illness, mental distress and disability, particularly avoiding any ‘Hollywood’ portrayals**
  • Discrimination on the basis of any attribute that applies to the player rather than the character
  • Eating disorders (such as anorexia, bulimia, etc), self harm, suicide
  • Negative portrayals or discussion of real-world religions other than medieval Christianity

The list of Excluded Themes is not exhaustive, and is based on our experiences and best judgement which is never going to be perfect. If there is something you would like to discuss with us that we could add to this list to make your game more comfortable, please email us and we’ll see what we can do.

*Unsurprisingly, there are some incidents of historical non-consent in this era. These did not happen in our version of the history. There are also some historical people who will just not be appearing in the game due to what we know about their behaviour.
All the relationships portrayed feature unequal power dynamics, particularly along gendered lines, and we’re explicitly leaving those in the game. However, for the purposes of this setting, any sexual activity in the characters’ history included the engaged consent of all parties.

**We’ve written no characters with mental illness or disability as a required character trait, but we understand that disabled people may want to play this game. To be explicit – you are very welcome and you do not have to hide mental illness or change how you present to the world! We want to avoid insensitive or insulting portrayals.

Race, nationality and the Tudor court

There were People of Colour in England at this time, living lives, doing jobs, going about their business. Some were at court such as John Blanke the trumpeter. More examples are covered in Onyeka Nubia’s book Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England, their Presence, Status and Origins, in David Olusoga’s book Black and British: A Forgotten History, and others in Miranda Kaufmann’s book Black Tudors: The Untold Story.

For the purpose of our setting, Queens, nobles and court-members can be of any skin colour, race or ethnicity and this is totally unremarkable and should not be a topic of roleplay. Character nationality and national loyalties could be relevant, but these have no relation to the real-world characteristics of the player. For example a remarkable thing about Anne Boleyn is that she was brought up in the French court and may have French sympathies, regardless of any other characteristics of the player.

We are aware that we are two white British people writing this and we know we won’t have come up with a perfect approach for everybody who might want to play. If there are changes that we could make to make the game more comfortable for you and you’d like to discuss it, please feel free to drop us an email.