History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Six 2011-2012)
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ROLL LIBRARY USE
I’ve been running a fantasy setting with steampunk elements for about six years now; the previous campaign in that setting lasted four. I’ve also run and played in a handful of other Victoriana and steampunk games. I’ll admit that probably love the historical bits and references more than most of my players. I enjoy reworking rw facts and details for the campaigns. Lifting makes the world feel richer with minimal effort on my part. But I love reading history books and campaign building gives me an excuse to do that. Most modern Victoriana RPGs provide a bibliography of some kind- many extensive and overwhelming. Here are the five books I’ve returned to when working on Victorian-style games.

Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: Jess Nevins gives us the roots of steampunk, pulp adventure, fantasy, and modern sci-fi. A great sourcebook for characters, stories, and ideas. Filled with tons of weird concepts. Also worth reading are his annotations of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics.
The Making of Victorian Values: This book considers the attitudes and philosophies of the English of the era. More importantly, it shows how they developed and came about. That’s important for getting inside the heads of NPCs and characters. I’ve gone back to this book again and again.
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: There’s a reason this appears on just about every list of references. It offers a fun and easy to read collection of details on life in the era. Probably the first book any GM should read before tackling a Victorian game.
Victorian London: The Life of a City 1840-1870: Author Liza Picard has a formula and it works for her. She gives a thorough presentation of city life in the period. If you want a resource to pull details from, this is it. There are other “everyday life” books, but this remains one of the easiest to find and work through.
The Birth of the Modern: Sets up the origins of the Victorian era and shows how later events spun out of crucial developments in this period. A solid and fun read- worth picking up anywhere just to browse through. Makes a case for running a game in the often neglected earlier part of Victoria’s reign. Paul Johnson has a political philosophy which some object to and feel comes through too strongly in some of his later work. I didn’t really feel that in this volume.

NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR
Since we’re at the end of the lists I’ve gone through and roughly broken down the 121 games and products into some rough categories. I hope these might help people looking for a particular flavor of Steampunk or Victorian gaming. They’re subjective; I’ve tried to figure out the main focus of the play or setting. Items are arranged pseudo-chronologically here- basically by how they appear on the eight lists.

Pure Victoriana/Gothic: Victorian Adventure, London by Night, Cthulhu by Gaslight, Holmes & Company, Dark Continents, Aventures Extraordinaires & Machinations Infernales, Private Eye, Masque of the Red Death, The Golden Dawn, GURPS Age of Napoleon, d20 Past, Imperial Age, Victoria
Scientific Romance: Space: 1889, Forgotten Futures, Terra Incognita, Adventures and Expeditions by GASLIGHT, The War of the Worlds, Full Light, Full Steam, The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries, Pytheas Club, Space 1889: Red Sands, Verne, Leagues of Adventure, Stars of Empire
Fantasy Victoriana: For Faerie, Queen, & Country, Castle Falkenstein, Midgard Abenteuer 1880, Age of Empire, GURPS Goblins, Sunset Empires, Victorian Age: Vampire, Victoriana, Oktoberlandet – Hammaren & Trollspöt, Passages, Fabulas, Legacy of the Rose, Magicians of England, Ghosts of Albion, Agents of the Crown, Gaslight Victorian Fantasy, The Kerberos Club, Příběhy Impéria, This Favored Land, Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein, Finsterland, Historia Rodentia, Mechanika: Empires of Blood and Steam, Victorian Lost
Steampunk: Wooden Suits & Iron Men, GURPS Steampunk, Broken Gears, Gearcraft, Sweet Chariot, GURPS Infinite Worlds: Britannica-6, Lady Blackbird, Brass, Blood and Steam, Hardened Heroes & Fiendish Foes, Steamfortress Victory, Edison Force, Steamfunk, Über RPG: Steampunk
Steampunk with Magic/Fantasy: Gear Antique, Ecryme, Deadlands, Iron Kingdoms, Terra the Gunslinger, Mecha Compendium, Rippers, Etherscope, Tenra War, Queensguard, Wolsung: Magia Wieku Pary, The New Epoch, Steam, Savants and The Kandris Seal, Brass & Steel, Noggle Stones, The Widening Gyre
Fantasy with Steampunk: Discworld RPG, C-13: The Thirteen Colonies, Children of the Sun, Absinthe, Sorcery & Steam, Doom Striders, DragonMech, Eberron, OGL Steampunk, Steam and Steel, Exil, Runepunk, Steampunk Musha, Steamworks, Clock and Steam, Elyrion, Opus Anima, Steamworks, Sundered Skies, Engines & Empires, Carmine, Zeitgeist, Radiance, Tephra, Zobeck
Weirdpunk: Tradition Book: Sons of Ether, Planescape, Mechanical Dream, a/state, Perfect, Unhallowed Metropolis, Warsaw, La Brigade Chimerique, Clockwork & Chivalry, OZ: Dark & Terrible, Abney Park's Airship Pirates, The Cog Wars, Arclight Revelation Tianmar, Eidolon: The Electrodyne Opera

IN OTHER REALMS
This period saw a number of video games which lifted steampunk elements, perhaps most notably Dishonored. But Bungie released Crimson: Steam Pirates and Paradox Gettysburg: Armored Warfare. Other games simply used bits and pieces echoing the elements like Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Gears, Alice: Madness Returns, Torchlight II, and Gatling Gears. Victoria II: A House Divided offered a historical game, expanding the popular Paradox product to cover the Civil War in depth. On the board game side Leviathans finally saw release. A few others also borrowed elements like Hemloch, Wiraqocha, Steam and Steel, and 011. Of course Smash Up included steampunk as a faction of its own.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING GAME
You can find an explanation of my arbitrary labels on the first list entry. I’ve focused on core game lines or supplements offering a significant shift or change to the setting. So if one module offers some steampunk bits, I’ve left it off the list. To keep the lists manageable, I don’t list exclusive self-published or free pdf rpgs (with some exceptions). Some not listed below include Steampunkfitters, Brave the Impossible, or Newsies & Bootblacks, Thief: The Role Playing Game, Anarktica: Fate of Heroes, A Night in the Lonesome October, Beyond the Ӕther, Heart's Blood, Steampunk Crescendo, By Gaslight, and Fin de Siècle. Westward was also announced and expected in 2012, but didn't arrive. I welcome discussions and suggestions as I work through these lists. I've arranged the items chronologically and then alphabetically within the year of publication. I break the time periods down arbitrarily, trying to keep the lists manageable.

History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part One 1983-1996)
History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Two 1997-2003)
History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Three 2004-2006)
History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Four 2007-2008)
History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Five 2009-2010)
History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Six 2011-2012)
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1. RPG Item: Abney Park's Airship Pirates RPG [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:6043]
RPG Item: Abney Park's Airship Pirates RPG
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Steampunk) I have to admit I'd never heard of Abney Park before, but I was unsurprised that there's a Steampunk band. I was a little surprised that there would be an rpg based on their body of work, but stranger things have happened. The premise has the band transported back to 1906, at which point they cause a calamity to the timeline. They then arrive forward to 2150 to a post-apocalyptic, steampunk, neo-Victorian world with dinosaurs. Like Etherscope and Unhallowed Metropolis it sustains the Victorian tropes into the far future. I'll admit I haven't had a chance to look through the full book, but I trust the creators, Peter Cakebread & Ken Walton, who've done some amazing things with Clockwork & Chivalry.

Instead of going with a variation on BRP, Airship Pirates uses a variation on Victoriana's mechanics, the Heresy Engine. This is an simplier, d6-based system. The game itself seems pitched to gamers hunting for a lighter system to do wacky steampunk-flavored adventuring. Imagine Gamma World meets Steampunk. The complete core book comes with an adventure, and Cakebread & Walton have also released a adventure for the system- Ruined Empires- and a setting sourcebook- Underneath the Lamplight. As wacky as this looks, it might actually be appealing to my ahistorical group.
 
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2. RPG Item: Brass & Steel [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Brass & Steel
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Victoriana/Steampunk) A game set in an alternate reality with weird tech and magic. New substances define the tech. Hotaether offers an energetic steam, Slack a non-flammable light-than-air gas, Physicane a restorative, and so on. I like the definition of the tech through pseudo alchemical/scientific materials. The setting also offers magic of varying powers, called Arcanism and Lucid dreaming for explorations of the unconscious. The world itself still appears Victoriana, despite the set date of 1905. In this world, the strengthened British, with other allies, is set to embark on a conflict with Germany and its allies. The game system itself is custom- using a mix of d20 resolution and tarot cards. It is notable for being built as a hybrid tabletop and LARP game. That's a nice touch and makes it stand out from the crowd. There's a free quickstart adventure, Brass & Steel Quickstart, available for those want to check it out.
 
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3. RPG Item: Carmine: A Role Playing Game of Alchemical Fantasy [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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(2011, Steampunk-esque) I recently picked this up through the Tabletop Drop promotion. Carmine offers a stand-alone fantasy rpg system clearly inspired by d20. I've seen the setting mentioned elsewhere in steampunk round-ups and it comes in as a corner case. Subtitled "A role-playing game of alchemical fantasy," the game offers a little bit of magically based pseudo-tech. It has some lost developments, firearms, and ariships, but generally feels like a classic fantasy setting.
 
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4. RPG Item: The Cog Wars [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
RPG Item: The Cog Wars
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Steampunk) This actually dates to 2008 when it was a Runner Up for Most Innovative Game in the Indie RPG Awards. It had an electronic edition released in 2011, but that's no longer available from RPGNow. The site for the publisher, Amagi Games, appears to have vanished. The game takes place in the city of Tiran, with a more exotic world hinted at beyond. The city has machine men, called Cogs, and Mad Scientists, called Masterminds. The city's vast and varied, a wonderland of pulp adventure. Players fight against the forces of villainy as a Kid, Geezer, or Cog. The setting sounds fun and interesting- if you can find a copy. There's an excellent and incredibly thorough review of this on RPGNet.
 
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5. RPG Item: Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Victoriana/Steampunk-esque) You'd be forgiven for mistaking Dark Harvest for the earlier game Rippers. Both have a Victorian-era setting, alt-history trappings, and the idea of grafted body parts as a key element. In DH those parts are what keeps the elite in power in an alternate Romania (called Promethea) ruled by Victor Frankenstein. The publisher's blurbs and materials focus on setting description (and the fact that the book includes an anthology of stories set there). The default campaign frame has the players acting as a resistance to Frankenstein's rule- internally or sponsored by foreign governments. That's a great concept. The timeline's interesting in that it sets itself in 1910, a little after classic Victorian era and just before the Pulp. The rules are also compatible with Victoriana (2nd Edition). A extensive supplement, Resistance, more fully details the struggle between the players and Frankenstein, both political and physical.
 
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6. RPG Item: Edison Force [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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(2011, Steampunk) A setting supplement for QAGS (Quick-Ass Gaming System). It bears no connection to the movie of the same name. Instead it takes place in the early 1900's with various industrial barons teaming up to fight off weird-science threats. It reminds me more than a little of Matt Fraction's Five Fists of Science from 2006. I'm also a little weirded out with Edison as a heroic figure, given his treatment in other popular media like The Prestige and Atomic Robo. That's not even to mention Henry Ford's antisemitism. As I've mentioned before in connection with Victoriana gaming in general, when you start digging into the period you often ending up looking at some hidden (and not-so-hidden) awfulness.
 
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7. RPG Item: Ein kleiner Gefallen [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
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(2011 Victoriana, Steampunk) A German-language rpg. The title seems to translate as Dark Country or Dark Land. several products out but not in database. The Google-translated pu8blisher blurb states,

"The old Emperor is dead, the new young and inexperienced, the electors are greedy for power. The civil war has left the country Finster in a chaotic state. The common people cling to their old values, but also below the increasingly rapid technological development forward. The corset of social pressures threaten to shatter, while new forms of society come into fashion. Huge airships and the smoke of the factories darken the sky. Powerful mages, greedy politicians and secret conspirators - each faction trying to get the biggest piece of the pie. In the darkness awakens an ancient evil. This time needs heroes!

Play dramatic hussars or jaded veterans, brilliant detectives or cracked master thieves, mysterious mage or talented engineers, charming dilettante, dazzling robbers or bizarre Machinatoren! Create a character and let them enjoy an epic adventure!

Dark Land is a newly published role-playing game for three players, and more. It takes place in a world that the Europe of the 19th and 20 Century is similar, but includes magic, monsters and revolutionary technologies."

The core book has two supplements- a magic and a technology sourcebook.
 
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8. RPG Item: Noggle Stones [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Noggle Stones
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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(2011, Steampunk-esque) A fantasy alternate history with magic, diverse races, and steampunk. Noggle Stones is based on a novel series currently celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year. It also has a board game, audiocast books, and a range of archery products. I have to admit I'd never, ever heard of this before. It has a lighter, almost anthropomorphic look to some of the art. The game itself is apparently equally light and intended for new players. It comes from some of the deisgn team behind Ironclaw and Albedo. If you like cartoon-y rpgs, this might be one to pick up or at least check out the preview for.
 
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9. RPG Item: Steamfunk [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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(2011, Steampunk) Steamfunk's an interesting product with a great name. On the one hand it is designed to be used with Untold, a card-based rpg. But it is also offered as a mechanics-minimal setting for use with most rpg systems. Steamfunk takes place on another world, called Daedelus, where great Civilization Engines crafted centuries ago have begun to collapse. As these engines bicker, decay and collapse threatens the world. Yet individual brilliance and invention has begun to battle against that. The world itself is a close analogue for our own Victorian century despite the vastly different backstory (with its own Tesla and like figures). There's an odd mixture of terminology in the book where they use the term "Titan" to refer to great deceased figures and to the Civilization Engines. The book jumps around quite a bit, making it hard to follow. Despite that the idea of a steampunk world buckling under technological breakdown, smog, and pollution has an appeal and could be easily adapted elsewhere.

However one thing about this supplement bugs me. I love page layout and design- I desperately wish I was better at it. When I see a crafted page that mixes inventive ideas and clarity of presentation, it makes me smile. I'd point to much of Chris Huth's work, especially Night's Black Agents. Then there's the amateur or rough presentation of products I often see with pdf-only products from first time publishers. I can forgive those even as they make reading the books a chore rather than a delight. This book...holy cow. If you've read most modern rpg books, especially White Wolf products, you're familiar with page border graphic elements. These should be subtle and enhance the atmosphere; they shouldn't distract or close in the text. Steamfunk has dense intrusive border graphics which go in two inches from the top and bottom of each page, and an inch and a half from each side. The text is constrained to about a 5"x 6" area on the page, if I'm being generous. Honestly my first reaction was that they were trying to fill space.
 
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10. RPG Item: Über RPG: Steampunk [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:5564]
RPG Item: Über RPG: Steampunk
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Steampunk) An interesting product- offering a new game system tied to a generic sourcebook for running steampunk campaigns. It doesn't come with a specific setting, but rather notes and ideas building building a steampunk world from various elements. The Uber RPG system is clearly positioned as an engine to use in other games, though the publishers have kept their focus on this UR: Steampunk line. The system itself is relatively simple and d6 based. It includes rules for using it as a LARP System. The game has been expanded by several products: Urban Steampunk, a steampunk city guide; Uncharted Steampunk, a sourcebook for the wild places; Über LARP: Steampunk, a fully LARP version; Universal Airship Combat System; and Umbrage of the Automoton, an adventure. While I like rpg toolkits, I also like to see the kind of world-building which other gamers do. The price point on these products in pdf format is a little higher than other games- a consideration when I'm thinking about how to spend my steambucks. I'm also not taken with the cover art style which looks weirdly emo to me.
 
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11. RPG Item: Verne [Average Rating:9.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Verne
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Victoriana/Steampunk) Verne's a steampunk setting for the EABA system that borrows elements from most of the great scientific romances to create a new world. I'm not as familiar with EABA as I ought to be. For a long time I'd assumed it was a direct successor to CORPS and like systems from BTRC. In the early days I associated that company with crunchy gun love and detail (based on the supplements GMs brought into other games). EABA's a generic game engine based on d6s. Verne is a detailed supplement, with plenty of additional rules for the system. While it offers something of a setting, suggesting how ether and strange tech might affect things, it is more a toolkit for building a Victoriana game with these weird science elements. There's a nice electronic character generator for it, as well as a collection of city maps for the period useful for anyone running in this genre.
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12. RPG Item: Victoria [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Victoria
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Victoriana) In a somewhat refreshing changes from most games in this genre, Victoria offers a straight and historical take on the Victorian era. There's obviously fiction at play here, with references to Holmes and Dickens, but generally it offers a way to play out classic narratives in this world- specifically in England itself. Victoria's a complete and custom rpg, with fairly simple mechanics. More importantly it offers a rich and detailed look at Victorian Great Britain. The GM section provides a great summary of the events and people of the era. But other concepts- like clubs and city neighborhoods- also get excellent treatment. GMs wanting to run classic gaslight romances will find a good deal to like here. There's some small material on bringing the supernatural into the game (and a few words on 'Steam Punk') but it is generally historical. That makes it a little odd that the adventure at the back uses some weirdness that doesn't quite fit with the tone of the rest of the book. While I like the book overall, a few things bother me. The author has done a great job of making things feel authentic. The choices of classic art fit and look great here- where in other books they've looked slapdash. But the pseudo-authentic typography wears on me quickly. I have a hard time reading more than a couple of pages without gritting my teeth. YRMV.
 
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13. RPG Item: The Widening Gyre [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: The Widening Gyre
Lowell Francis
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(2011, Steampunk) A steampunk setting sourcebook for HERO 6th, in particular Star HERO 6e. It presents a full developed alternate history running from the mid-19th century through WW1. That history includes supernatural elements in addition to the technological changes. Despite an unsuccessful IndieGoGo campaign, BlackWyrm published The Widening Gyre. I've enjoyed a number of their other setting sourcebooks, especially The Algernon Files series. Beyond the setting, The Widening Gyre offers a rich steampunk sourcebook for anyone wanting to use HERO to run a campaign like this. Since we're never going to see a Steampunk HERO, this serves as a worthy option.
 
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14. RPG Item: Zeitgeist Campaign Guide (4E) [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Zeitgeist Campaign Guide (4E)
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(2011, Steampunk-esque) An adventure path and campaign setting for Pathfinder and D&D 4e. Subtitled "The Gears of Revolution." It presents a world torn between the old magical powers of the Unseen Court and the new industrial centers of steel and slums. Players take the role of agents in the Homeland Constabulary of the nation of Risur. They battle conspiracies at home and abroad even as the mysteries deepen. I love the threat suggested by dark old powers beyond the walls and new monstrous dangers arising from the nature of the new cities. It looks to be a well-developed steampunk fantasy world, rather than one of drop-ins and mish-mashes. It comes from the developers of the well-regarded War of the Burning Sky series.
 
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15. RPG Item: Arclight Revelation Tianmar [Average Rating:8.67 Unranked]
RPG Item: Arclight Revelation Tianmar
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Victoriana/Steampunk-esque) As I mentioned above, these lists focus on more formally published games. I leave off free pdf publications except in a few cases. This is one of those case- a game so sublime, so striking, it demands to be showcased as a paradigm-changing event. (NOTE: I'm only saying this because I wrote it. I'm made of lies and I'm abusing what little power I have in making these lists.)

Arclight Revelation Tianmar was created for the 2012 RPG Geek 24-Hour RPG Contest. It takes place in a world still reeling from the Martian Invasion. The Red Weed has not died off, but has insidiously infiltrated the eco-systems and created new threats and monsters. To combat this, scientists have created weapons using Martian tech and new weird science. They crafted "Steamlarks," mecha which can fight these monsters on their own terms. However these can only be piloted by the young. The players take the role of pilots in a secret weapons program- balancing school, social pressures, and the dangers of the Red Lands. ART riffs on anime- including Neon Genesis Evangelion- and steampunk conventions. The system needs work- as you would expect with a 24-Hour game. You can read more about it here. You can also download a copy of the free pdf here.
 
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16. RPG Item: Eidolon: The Electrodyne Opera [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Eidolon: The Electrodyne Opera
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Victoriana) I think throughout these lists I've done a decent job of summing up each game's core idea. At least I've hopefully offered enough that readers can decide if the product's in their wheelhouse or not. I'm going to try to sum up what I've gleaned of Eidolon. I fear, though, that I'm going to do a disservice to the premise. With that in mind, if you're interested in this I recommend you check out the free brief pdf introduction to it here.

Set in 1900, Eidolon offers a more dreamlike take on Victoriana gaming. The game itself seems to be metafictional with stories as powerrful forces and tools. Passages attempted something like this, but even that was much more literal and concrete than Eidolon. It isn't an alternate history but rather an allegorical take on our world and history. There's talk of the Literal Continent, Absolute Enlightenment, dream-fueled technology, narrative power, and Delirium. The tone of the world and play reminds me of a mad mash-up of Nobilis, Houses of the Blooded, and The Fair Folk. if you're interested in wild new ideas in games, you ought to check this out. At least take a look at designer Angelus Morningstar's website for the game or the presentation materials from his successful IndieGoGo campaign last year.

 
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17. RPG Item: Historia Rodentia [Average Rating:6.17 Unranked]
RPG Item: Historia Rodentia
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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(2012, Victoriana?) OK, probably not but I had to put this on the list because I can easily see moving this forward a little to make it work more in a later period. Based on the Brushfire wargame, it offers an anthropomorphic alternate 19th Century setting. Written for the Legend system, the rules add options for battle command, politics, and organizations. The art and design looks great- and the sourcebook includes 21 playable species. As I suggested, it looks like it leans a little more towards Napoleonic analogies, but it could easily be tuned to later history.
 
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18. RPG Item: Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game Core Rules [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:852]
RPG Item: Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game Core Rules
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Steampunk) Iron Kingdoms appeared previously on this list with its d20 incarnation. This version rebuilds that from the ground up- with a new house system and integration of the world developments from 11+ years of IK, Warmachine, and Hordes. I like that everything's in one book now. The graphic design and look of the book is excellent- yet I still haven't picked this up. I need to- in some ways it offers the most accessible fantasy steampunk setting out there, with lots of cool bits to support it. My players would easily buy in to the setting. The game system, d6-based, is supposed to be interesting. It is a nominee for Best RPG at 2013 Origins (coming up this weekend).
 
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19. RPG Item: Leagues of Adventure [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
RPG Item: Leagues of Adventure
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Victoriana/Steampunk) Leagues of Adventure is the newest line from Triple Ace Games, who also brought us the excellent steampunk-esque Sundered Skies. LoA is a complete game and setting using the Ubiquity rules. It draws from all of the classic elements of fantastic Victoriana, focusing on action and exploration. The template draws from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with the players organized into a League themselves. A number of other games have done this, but LoA makes it a centerpiece with rivals and enemies from among these other groups. Though the publisher blurb describes it as a "gritty steampunk game" the world appears more four-color. The core book offers open setting and background material- with the sense that it will be expanded in future supplements.

One thing I really appreciate is how well TAG supports their lines. They already have three different adventures, nine mini-supplements (Globetrotter's Guide to Weird Science, Globetrotters Guide to Gothic Horror), and several free pdf add-ons. Triple Ace has jumped into a genre with many competitors, but gives a solid and well-presented take on these ideas. Anyone considering starting a Victoriana game ought to look here, knowing that TAG will continue to support and expand this line.
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20. RPG Item: Mechanika: Empires of Blood and Steam Demo Packet [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Mechanika: Empires of Blood and Steam Demo Packet
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Steampunk/Victoriana) So here's another that's an edge case. In 2012 Xaos Publishing put out a demo packet for Mechanika, subtitled Empire of Blood and Steam. That same year they attempted a Kickstarter which didn't reach their goals. However they seem to be still pressing forward with the product line and have an ambitious list of additional products on their website. It feels a little like a "heartbreaker" steampunk game, given the roughness and typos of the demo pack and claim to a "next Gen. system" (sic).

The premise is interesting, and I assume the core book would follow through with this. Players take the role of agents of the Icarus Detective Agency. The world is a fantastic alternate history, where the dark fae of old ages existed but were put down. Beyond that, the setting seems to be a mix of public magic and some weird tech- neither particularly well explained in the demo packet. It obviously can't offer too much, but a page or two really laying out the world would be great. As it is, I can't tell what elements are open or hidden in the world, what the backstory is at all, and what the compelling difference is between this and other fantastic Victoriana rpgs.

 
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21. RPG Item: Radiance Players Guide [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Radiance Players Guide
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Steampunk-esque) OK, so my first reaction was, "Oh, god another d20 steampunk fantasy setting." And then I saw the illustration on page 4 which is a tech riff on the cover of the AD&D Player's Handbook. Radiance offers a complete game which means it is complete, but also has a good deal of the core book given over to mechanics and rules. The weird thing about the book is sold as "A Complete Roleplaying Game in the Age of Electrotech" and "lets you focus on a fantastia of the late-19th century." But there's almost no specific setting background on offer. The introduction offers little sense of that tehc and what it actually means. In fact there's a feeling that the books a kitchen-sink d20 sourcebook. A page of different campaign themes at the beginning,from Classic Myth to Tolkien to Steampunk, reinforces that sense.

So what is "steampunk" about this? Well it has lots of bits thrown in amongst everything else- often with little explanations. Warmechs exist as one of the twenty-four playable races. Artificers and Gunslingers appear alongside Barbarians and Monks as classes. Steamgear and electrotech appear in the equipment, with little sense of their context. Void ships, moon rockets, and the like are lumped in with all of the classic fantasy bits...again with little discussion or explanation of where these fit. It feels like an attempt to capture everything possible, which results in more a laundry list than a coherent game. Still there are a few interesting ideas here and the illustrations are pretty awesome. As of this writing, the Radiance Players Guide is available for free from RPGNow. If you're at all interested in the genre, you should pick up a copy of this 286-page rulebook.
 
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22. RPG Item: Stars of Empire [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Stars of Empire
Lowell Francis
United States
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Indiana
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(2012, Victoriana/Steampunk) Stars of Empire takes a new approach to the concept of star-faring Victorian Empires (seen in Space 1889 and Full Light, Full Steam). in previous lists, I've been bothered by games set in the future which keep Victorian trappings (Etherscope, Unhallowed Metropolis). SoE instead has the developments which lead to interplanetary travel occurring about 150 years earlier. That leads to an alternate history version of 1892 with these colonial powers beyond the earth but still at each other's throats. It does an excellent job of keepig the feel of the late 19th century while at the same time building the logical changes required of this kind of world.

The additional shift comes from the breakout of The Hive, an extra-planetary organism threatening humanity's existence. That larger conflict ties this game into a larger set of steampunk concepts and publications from Aerolyth Enterprises. Called Hive Queen & Country, it includes The Hive and the Flame miniatures rules, the Flying Machines of the World Sourcebook, and The World Beneath the Clouds: Steampunk RPG Venus Sourcebook. This last item is just wrapping up a successful Kickstarter. The Stars of Empire core book is a complete system. It uses a homebrew system, called Hacktastic, based on d20 resoltuion.
 
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23. RPG Item: Tephra Steampunk Roleplaying Game Playing Guide [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Tephra Steampunk Roleplaying Game Playing Guide
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Steampunk) Another Kickstarted rpg that handily smashed past its modest goals. It offers a fantasy world which has been affected by increasing technology. It has many of the classic steampunk elements: swashbuckling, sky pirates, and clanking robots, but it also offers bio-mutations and other forms of weird science. The setting offers several races- classic Elves, Gnomes, and Humans- but also Satyrs, oceanic Ayodin, and angelic Farishtaa. The world and background is fairly well-developed and rich. The core book is complete, offering their own Clockwork system which uses a single d12 for resolution. They have a forthcoming adversary book, as well as several pdfs available.
 
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24. RPG Item: Victorian Lost [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Victorian Lost
Lowell Francis
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(2012, Victoriana) I'll admit I was skeptical when I heard about this. Changeling the Lost remains one of my favorite settings- I like the tension of existence and the hints of PTSD in the game background. I feared that moving the concepts back to the Victorian era would obscure things- double mumbo-jumbo. However the book's interesting and makes a solid case for running CtL in these times. I've seen a couple of Victorian Lost campaigns and enjoy the elements of the fantastic they bring to the table. You can see my full review of the supplement here.
 
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25. RPG Item: Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder Edition) [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder Edition)
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(2012, Steampunk-esque) Technically, this actually ought to appear on an earlier list. But 2012 saw a revised and expanded version of this fantasy steampunk city for Pathfinder. This comes from the Midgard setting, though the supplement can apparently be adapted to other fantasy settings. I love a well-crafted city and Zobeck stands in the tradition of the best of them: Lankhmar, Sanctuary, Umbar, Waterdeep, Kaiin. The setting itself is high fantasy, lightly dusted with steampunk elements: schools of clockwork magic, the Kobold Ghetto, gritty tools, and the Gearforged. This setting has been expanded by several supplements Streets of Zobeck, Alleys of Zobeck, and Tales of Zobeck, but the larger elements can be found in the Midgard Campaign Setting.
 
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