History of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs (Part Six 2011-2012)
- Lowell Francis(edige23)United States
Indianaexplanation does not equal excuse
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)
- [+] Dice rolls