Hey there; I’m in position to have Internet reliably again, to think about games and such again, and to post here again. That’s great!
I’m also in position to talk about what I’ve been up to for the past week in my off time. Well, week and a bit. I’ve been working on a game, and it’s very close to going into playtesting, as soon as I wrangle up some people. I know, I ACTUALLY intend to do some playtesting, rather than just cobble together mechanics which seem like they look good and move on with my life. That’s how you can tell I’m serious.
Y’see, a while back I said to myself that I don’t know that I’ve ever played a good Steampunk game. Not as an RPG, or a video game, or even a themed board game. I’ve played a few bad examples, and I’ve played good nearly-steampunk games, and I played the heck out of Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, which is an absolutely fantastic CRPG, but is also very much a fantasy/steampunk, and I don’t want that. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I want… I want something drawn more off the pulp-adventure vibe, in a universe that is mundane but for the power of Science!, and that means no magic, for me at least.
Moreover, what I want is a game which is based around the fundamental aesthetic of steampunk. Or at least, what I see as the fundamental aesthetic. You see, it’s not about a Victorian ideology, although that’s certainly relevant. It’s not the tone of scientific advancement or the genre-specific setpieces or the subtle commentary on the dangers of progress run amok. It’s not airships or atomatons. No, man, steampunk is about STUFF. It’s about carrying COOL STUFF that has more COOL STUFF glued to it. It’s about having gears on your hat because it’s awesome. It’s about goggles. THAT’s what steampunk is to me… it’s cosplay, so whenever I approach a steampunk game that puts some sort of limitation on what you look like, it feels wrong to me. That’s what I’m currently trying to remedy.
So, I’m going to share of it with you. Just a few piecemeal bits as I make them up, and I’d like to get comments or criticisms as need be, but I’m going to hold off on major mechanical discussions until some more testing has happened. But I do want to share a little, because, well, that seems like a useful thing to do.
The defining aspects of an Adventurer are not his skills or attributes… he can be assumed to be skilled at most tasks and blessed in all ways. His profession is important, as is his stature and his interests, but are they fundamental? Again, no. An Adventurer’s defining features are his Props–these are those objects he carries wherever he may go. His electronium top hat, or her father’s antique welding-goggles with the adjustable focus… his steam-augmented greatcoat or her spring-loaded grappling pistol. These are the objects an Adventurer ALWAYS has on hand, for to be without them even a moment would be unapproachably gauche. Those most dear to an Adventurer are tied directly to his capacity to act; when a scientific problem comes along, an Adventurer does not think “Well now, what is my Science skill?” No! She says “Aha, a scientific problem is before me; let me look at it through my welding-goggles, for those are the Tools of Science!”
So too, a hat may be the Tool of the Mind, and a weapon the Tool of the Body, and an appealing outfit the Tool of Charisma. But this need not be the case! If you wear a cape not to impress, but to better hide in the shadows, then it is your Physical Prop, and your Social Prop may be whatever you most associate with interfacing with others. If you only think straight when you have your pipe, then THAT is your Mental Prop. If you are of a mad sort, your Science Prop may be a photonic-lance pistol. While an Adventurer must have at least four Props–Mental, Physical, Social, and Science–it is her own place to determine what they are, and how it is they have come to represent her.
It’s a game about props, you see. Next time, I’ll talk a little about gluing steampunky crap to your props. Current working title: One of Them Steampunks. That probably won’t stick; dear friend Aaron has suggested Gears and Gadgets, which might. Time will tell.