Review – By the Author of Lady Windermere’s Fan

By the Author of Lady Windermere’s Fan is a story game by Lara Turner (http://www.eddlyt.com/) about improvisationally acting out an Oscar Wilde play. The play’s opening night at the Westland Theatre is a month earlier than it should be and the theatre company is not just under prepared, they don’t even know the name of the play they’re meant to be performing. All they’ve got to go on is that it’s a play by Oscar Wilde. The objective of the game is put on a ridiculous farce for the audience whilst making sure your actor stays in the limelight. All of this is deftly introduced by a play script introduction. I’m not usually a fan of in character fiction at the beginning of a book, but this avoids the usual pitfalls as it is well written, gives great personality to the characters and immediately conveys both tone and objective of the game.

The core of the book is the instructions on how to set up the game, as the company improvises with whatever they have to hand. The first starting point is the sets, which are created privately by the players based on what plays they think the company has previously performed. From the sets they choose to use, the players as the actors then pull together what setting and genre the play will, as well, of course, as being a farce about social mores.

The characters played by the actors played by the players are the dramatic heart of the game. In addition to being upper class twits, they have a vice, a tragic history and a circle of relationships with the other characters. You are encouraged to go big with the costumes so that the audience in the back row can recognise you. Each character takes their turn under the spotlight, once per each of the three acts of the play. The spotlit character is forced by the conversation and wit of the others to first complicate, then exaggerate and then finally reveal a most unpleasant lie they have told.

That’s essentially it in terms of game mechanics. There are rules and guidance about where to stand on the stage and what you can do when your character is off stage but these are there to help those without theatre experience place themselves in the scene. The threat of failure is present in a token system called audience favour. Stall, stutter or stop for too long and you lose these tokens as the audience becomes bored with the play. Should the company run out of tokens, then the play comes to a halt in front of empty seats. Players can award audience favour to each other if they feel particularly amused or inspired by their contribution.

The book makes a sensible use of white space and keeps the layout clean and simple in a single column. The break out boxes are clearly delineated but could have benefitted from a more Victorian border. The typeface is clear and readable and the pdf contents page is hyperlinked. I very much like the public domain Victorian engravings. They feel evocative of the era Wilde was writing in.

The book contains 8 quick start settings that provide sets, props and characters for you to start with. 12 pages of acting guidance and actor archetypes are provided that will serve as highly very useful prompts on how the actor playing the character in the impromptu play will perform.

To Conclude

Hands free seat of your pants meta level acting with detailed and supportive setup guidelines. Get this game if you like Wildian humour and free form story gaming.