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Torch of Freedom

Introduction and story / Some photos / Links for more


It is the year 1848: the spectre of revolution is stalking Europe. The small, Central European country of Petronia is no exception. The new working class is finding the power to address its grievances. The middle classes are disgruntled that they bear the brunt of taxation while having no say in Government, while a fresh generation of idealistic students sympathises with the workers. The aristocracy struggles to retain its grip on power, remembering what happened in the French Revolution, while trying to settle the arguments between the major families. And the major powers look for an opportunity to absorb this upstart kingdom. Add to this the imminent accession to the throne of Princess Isabelle as she reaches her majority, taking power from Romulus Krell, the man who has ruled Petronia for years as Regent. And the masked vigilantes who stalk the streets of the nation's capital in the service of one faction or another. All recorded and embellished in the pages of Petronia's underground newspaper, the Torch of Freedom.

Archbishop Radulovik crowns Queen IsabelleThis is the setting for Villains by Necessity’s large-scale roleplay game, Torch of Freedom. Over 60 players took part in the game, which ran from Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime. Over this period we schemed and plotted, revolution was fomented, characters fell in love and married, duels were fought, true identities were revealed, vengeance (mainly masked) was taken and, eventually, an uprising was sparked off. This resulted in a pitched battle as the revolutionaries from the Lower City marched on the Upper City and the Royal Palace. Initial success for the revolutionaries was followed by ultimate failure against regular troops, but left the nation divided. A hastily convened Assembly was deadlocked over whether Petronia should continue as a monarchy or a republic until a final, casting vote was made for monarchy. And so Queen Isabelle was crowned, vowing to rule as a constitutional monarch.

As I hope you can tell from the above, the game was great fun to take part in. I played Octavius Klein, proprietor of Petronia's Opera House. And editor and publisher of the underground newspaper! We had an opera production on the first evening of the game (largely organised beforehand) and produced several issues of the Torch of Freedom. But I fled the country after the failure of the revolution. So I spent the last section of the game as Moritz Obelschein, poet and subversive and recently freed from several years in jail.

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My photographs

I took some photos of the event and have put up a gallery of the better ones. Follow the links below to take a look (but note that these pages may take a while to load).

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Links for more information

And here are some links to other people’s pages about the game.

Bruce Glassco, one of the authors, helped referee the game and has some web pages about the US playing of Torch of Freedom.

Steve Hatherley, who played in the US game and helped organise and referee the UK game, has his own pages about Torch of Freedom.

Several of the other participants have made their own photographs available:

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Page created 31st December 2003. Last updated 29th August 2021.
This website produced by Paul Evans. Torch of Freedom logo courtesy of Bruce Glassco.
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