I’m not usually into more modern settings for Role Playing Games (and have a particular dislike of Steampunk because everything ‘steampunk’ that is not Thief: the Dark Project is just so disappointing in comparison), but my French Revolution reading has piqued my interest in the idea of a game set in the maelstrom of the French Revolution.
There is so much going on, so many factions, so many possible classes and opportunity for adventure and intrigue.
Rather than “race”, one would fall into one of the political alignments of the day. Ironically “Noble” would not be one of these catagories, because, while by and large members of the 1st estate were royalists, there were members who fell across the political spectrum. Same with the 2nd estate. Higher ranking clergymen tended to be royalists, while the local curates, who were often poor, sympathized with the people.
A character would therefore choose one alignment; these could change throughout the course of the game as events progress, but players would need to be wary that any shift in political alignment could instantly put their character in mortal danger.
Royalists support the Ancient Regime. They are members of the court, nobles, ranking ecclesiastics, officers in the army, or simply loyal subjects. They hate any and all republican factions and will do anything in their power to thwart them. They also hate the constitutional monarchists, but will work with monarchists who are sympathetic to or loyal to the King if it suits their needs or is necessary for their safety or safety of the Royal Family. Royalists may either remain with the court, be in the provinces, or be part of the emigrant army waiting to liberate the Bourbons.
The Constitutional Monarchists wish to do away with the worst oppression of old feudalism, but love the king and feel that a benevolent monarchy is far preferable to vulnerable republicanism or violent and anarchic democracy. For these people, the rule of law, maintenance of peace, and preservation of the kingdom of France are important above all else. These will typically be enlightened nobles, intellectual middle class, and non-noble members of the clergy. The would work with the Royalists if the Royalists did not insist on thwarting their cause. They desire to see the King and his family preserved, despite being hated by the Royals and the Court. They disagree with the Girondists, but fear the violence of the Jacobins more.
Civil Republicans, the Girondists have had it with Feudalism, had it with nobles, had it with the intrigues the court has instigated against the people of the nation and are ready to be done with Kings. They do not, however, advocate public disorder and acts of mob violence, nor do they wish to see the heads of their enemies on pikes. The Jacobins are as much their enemy as the aristocracy, for they threaten the peace and stability of revolutionary government.
The Jacobins are the voice of the mob, anarchists and democrats who have seized upon the chaos and anger of the common man to foment acts of destruction and violence in the name of the revolution. Not content to be rid of Nobles and Aristocrats, Jacobins’ class warfare extends to the rising middle class as well. The Jacobins are the mortal enemy of the Royalists, Constitutional Monarchs, as well as the more moderate republican Girondists. Jacobins’ superior numbers and use of mob violence make them most powerful and dangerous faction, though even within this group, there is a great deal of distrust.
Within these political distinctions, characters would chose roles, whether as delegates, courtiers, courier, commoner/professional, commoner/farmer, demagogue, publisher, soldier, etc. etc. and try to navigate their way through the revolutionary turmoil. Can you survive, or even thrive, in the chaos? Will you end up in a foreign dungeon or sent to the Guillotine? Will you die in your bed like Mirabeau or will you be stabbed in the heart by a hot chick like Marat?