clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Here’s that post-apocalyptic, cooperative Downton Abbey game you were looking for

Our Brilliant Ruin sounds like a brilliant pivot for Edwardian fandom

A woman leaps from a chadelier inside a crowded ballroom. A maid looks on in terror as she reaches for a masked man in a tricorn hat. She’s wearing red, of all things! (clutches pearls) Image: Studio Hermitage
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

It was just about a decade ago when the Western world became transfixed by Downton Abbey, a potent mix of soapy romance and historical fiction, preceded by a magical incantation from Laura Linney. Now an unlikely trio from Cary, North Carolina will try to pivot Edwardian fandom from PBS to the tabletop. Its first project is a role-playing game called Our Brilliant Ruin. It arrives on Kickstarter Feb. 27, and it sounds rad as hell.

Studio Hermitage, which describes itself as a transmedia company, was founded by Justin Achilli (White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade), Paxton Galvanek (Conan: Exiles), and Andy Foltz (Star Trek: Bridge Crew). Together with Rachel J. Wilkinson (Vampire the Masquerade: Port Saga, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium), and Pam Punzalan (Journeys through the Radiant Citadel), the team has created a rich world ripe for “graphic novels, audio dramas, [...] video games,” and more. Step one is a TTRPG. From the official description:

Our Brilliant Ruin hones in on the relationships and drama of class-based society and the balance between the haves- and have-nots. [...] Players must navigate the social and political machinations of a class-based society while facing the end of the world. Three distinct factions and the families and guilds within them allow players to create fully realized characters to inhabit this doomed world. Investigate an abandoned mansion fallen into danger and disrepair, attend a high-society ball while keeping abreast of the ever-present danger, or confront a deadly chimera that bears an unsettling resemblance to a missing lover. The world is an open book of possibilities… until it ends.

It might sound silly at first blush, but you must understand that this would not be the first time this time period has been adapted successfully into a TTRPG. Shows such as Our Flag Means Death and Bridgerton helped pave the way for games like Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG and Lady Blackbird, two of the eight scandalously good period fiction games we recommended in 2022.

A woman with a claymore and a man with a Tommy gun stand beside three hunting dogs. who are alert, ears up. In the distance bats flee a glowing abbey that rises from the moors. Image: Studio Hermitage

Our Brilliant Ruin was built with unique mechanics, however, that could help it stand apart. The creators call out an original dice mechanic “driven by a character’s emotions and motivations,” which will be paired with graphics inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Human artists include Andy Foltz (Far Cry 4) and Efrem Palacios (Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering). The samples provided evoke elegant balls and violence upon the moors in equal measure, with glimmers of strange and powerful spells lurking in the corners of each frame.

While no additional details about the campaign were given, those interested in learning more can sign up to be notified when the campaign for Our Brilliant Ruin goes live next month.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.