“When I think about the years I spent in service, I often ask myself why was our job so poorly considered. Why, for instance, they were calling us 'Servants'. Maybe, I told myself, it depended by the intimate nature of our duties, all that serving and respecting people who were absolutely able to care for themselves, and still we were almost expected to feed them. In some ways we were not better than slaves, as the masters ruled any aspect of our lives: timing, dresses - on the job, obviously, but in many ways also when we were outside. Even the few hours we had for ourselves was dominated by the thought 'You have to be back no later than ten o' clock'. We were definitely NOT free.”
The Servants are a group of women and men who know very well how life works.
They know life comes down to: effort, work, and few pennies. Although their personal freedom is more or less that of a slave, the role of servant is longed for among the masses of poor that crowd the streets, as it guarantees a meal, a clean bed, and the possibility to save money for the old age. Besides, for the most traditionalists, to serve a noble family or a rich bourgeois is a honour and a privilege, that elevates them to a nobler and higher world, creator of order and progress. For the most modern thinkers, servitude is lived in a conflictual way, and perceived as an injustice.
However, it is still a lighter, cleaner, and better paid job than being a factory worker. Among them there is the loyal butler, the servant vexed by a Lord’s avances, the strict and traditionalist housekeeper, the God-fearing maid, the artist-minded valet and also those who secretly support new revolutionary ideas.
The Servant chambers are rich not of wealth and power, but of secrets, aspirations, blackmailing, ambitions, denied feelings, loyalty and betrayal. Normally the Upper Class consider the Servants as loyal dogs, or deaf ornaments, and in their presence they speak freely of intrigues and passions. For this reason the kitchens, launderettes and the servant’s rooms are filled with gossip, huge or embarrassing truths that are whispered, with a mixture of envy and disapproval.
Serving in a elegant household means to work in kitchens and caves, endure hard fatigues the whole day and always be ready to satisfy any request from upstairs. Everything has to be done following a strict code of conduct that often forbids relationships with the opposite sex or having admirers or visitors. Servants must always look tidy; posture and education are a must even in the most liberal households, and in the old-fashion parlors it is forbidden to speak to the master if not asked to. Failing even one of these rules could mean to be immediately fired, and could give a bad name and subsequent difficulties in finding another job.
Reputation and loyalty are more valued than effective competences. A good conduct, including modestly accepting the avances of the master, but not mingle with the rest of the personnel or the mailman, could elevate the servant, socially and economically.
Very few do not aim for prestigious or leadership roles, as warden, housekeeper, personal maid or valet, butler, that allow social redemption and the entrance in a hierarchically organised world, mirroring the one of the High Society. The Servant’s rooms are just a mirror of the luxurious parlours: a traditional world where class division is neat and there is huge gap of culture, language, economics, and freedom.
Remarks on the Choice of a Downstairs Character If you want to play a character with a hard life, living the theme of class division or social injustice, that doesn’t need a fancy costume and is free to meddle in every plot thanks to the invisibility of its social role; or if you just want to pay less, then a DOWNSTAIRS character is right for you. As Servants are expected to perform real duties (for instance, helping in cleaning, cooking and serving the meals), to make the larp more realistic, we considered a reduced price for these characters. All the DOWNSTAIRS characters will receive a part of their costume: an apron. Women will also receive a maid’s headwear.
“In the darkest of nights, a lamp can attract both the wanderer and any kind of insect. The wanderer 'utilizes' the light to 'fix' the direction of his journey. Insects, on the contrary, fly randomly 'towards' the light and, buzzing, some end up circling around it with no direction or purpose. But, circling and circling, some others end up burning in the 'heat' of the flame.”
In a lively age filled with possibilities, the High Society’s favourites, hidden behind a façade of bigotry and morality, pursue anything novel and fulfilling for their ambitions. Sunday is for Church, but then there are night receptions dedicated to art and occultism, to new literary and philosophical ideas, where reckless political scheming is just another mean to fight boredom.
The innovative rush of the industrials is colliding with the pride of the old landowners, and so a various, lively environment is formed, filled with outstanding characters, an environment where the gilded light of the luxurious parlours hides the shadows of corruption and perversion.
Among the rich and powerful the greed for more power is strong, and many aspire to join secret societies that guarantee privileged positions in the political and cultural life. The fascination for occult and the powers it can grant sparks the greed of some, and the morbid curiosity of others: discussions about mysteries, esoterism, and freemasonry, can be heard quite often.
Women, trapped in the role of housewives, start to dream and loudly ask for a place among the important people, with the clear intent to abandon their role as “society decoration”.
Some, tired of being subject to their husbands, support the feminist claims of the suffragettes from overseas.
Others aim for a subtler and millenary power, the one of those that silently rule behind the curtains of History.
The nobility and gentry members are thus influential and renowned characters.
In a setting of excess and lush, skittish Lords and Ladies of the old aristocracy are contending for the most influential roles in the society with greedy bankers, smart entrepreneurs from the Indies, or famous Colonels of the Empire. Among this colourful group you could find a noble Baronet used to handle the schemes of politics, a rich intellectual with a love for science and the new technologies, a renowned artist or a famous explorer of the wild lands.
Chaste, puritan and repressive, and still sensual, unconventional and voluptuous. This is the double-faced soul of the Victorian Era.
Remarks on the Choice of an Upstairs Character If you wish to play a character used to luxury, with a fancy costume respecting the fashion of the time, and tempted by great and small ambitions; if you are interested in playing a real historical character; then a UPSTAIRS character is what you are looking for.
Ambitious, elegant, spoiled and power-thirsty, these fancy people are the right choice if you want to join political scheming, intellectual debates, esoteric research, and face difficult and ambiguous themes.