Sunday, March 15, 2015

[Guest Post]Differences between Victoriana and SteamCraft

In my previous post, I indicated that Victoriana and SteamCraft come the closest to matching what you think a steampunk rpg would be.  That is both games tend to have dystopian instead of pulp elements and both have elements of the steam aesthetic/technology level.  In this post, I will cover the differences in the Victoriana editions and how SteamCraft compares to them.  Before I begin, I will point out that all of these games are skill-based games instead of class/level games. 

Victoriana 1st Edition released in 2003 (Proto-Steampunk)

The first edition is based on the FUZION system.  The first edition of Victoriana laid the groundwork for what is now popularly labeled as steampunk.  However, much of what we think of as steampunk items or attire do not exist.  It is perhaps, proto-steampunk.  Magic is a key component of generating what we would think of as steampunk items.  There are also non-human races.  It is set in 1867 but is very anachronistic with its history. The basic setting, however, is the same between the 1st and 2nd editions.  As you will see, there are going to be some major differences to the game and game world between these two editions.  

Victoriana 2nd Edition released in 2009 (Victorian Fantasy)

The second edition changes the game system to the heresy game engine.  The game tries to be more historically accurate.  Additionally, Victoriana became a Victorian RPG not a steampunk RPG.  What I mean by that is that the game emphasizes the fact that it is a Victorian setting.  At the begining of the setting section, it refers to the time period as the Victorian era and society.  It refers to people as Victorians.  Part of this is certainly that we refer to this time period as Victorian, but it really appears that the Core Rules want to make the case that it is a Victorian RPG.  For example, most of the artwork is clip art reminiscent of the 19th century.  It also uses old photographs.  The setting rules, for example, emphasize that women don’t wear pants.  It stresses class warfare and it stresses conflicts between women and men.  Social etiquette is of paramount importance in the second edition.  The major themes are from the Victorian period.  You are not going to see anything like airship pirates or a fashion trend of wearing goggles in the 2nd edition.

The second edition of Victoriana, at least in the core rules, lacks much of what we would consider steampunk.  For example, there aren’t fantastic weapons nor are there really airships available.  Instead primary method of air travel wyverns.  The airships are available all are reserved for the very rich.  Items such as clockwork lambs are only available through the guild the guild is an organization that controls all magic on the planet.  It’s the guild the provides us with mostly items that we be consider steampunk.  This is done either through direct magic or the use of magic to enhance technological items.  It should be of note, that with the rise of the use of steampunk and other RPGs calling themselves steampunk, Victoriana 2nd edition has put out supplements making the case that it is a steampunk rpg. 

Victoriana 3rd Edition released in 2013 (Steampunk)

The third edition of the Victoriana uses the same game system as a second edition.  One major change is to character creation.  It is designed to make it easier and faster to build characters.  Especially ones that will fit with the new setting and themes of the third edition. 

The third edition drastically alters the game world.  First, the game year changes from 1867 to 1856.  In doing so it returns to the roots the first edition by adding additional anachronisms and playing fast and loose with historical events.  Next, it abandons the sexism of the Victorian age.  This is done to bring in line with the other steampunk RPG’s that came about after the second edition of Victoriana.  Third, this latest edition of Victoriana, has abandoned being a Victorian era RPG and instead argues that it is in fact a steampunk RPG.  The beginning of the book refers to the world as a world of sorcery and steam.  On page 262 it says that steampunk was left to supplements, but now they are in the core rules.  But, if you want more fantasy you can leave the steampunk out.  Additionally, the artwork is no longer clipart but instead has gears and goggles that are prominent in other steampunk RPG’s.  C7 commissioned new art and removed the clipart.  The new art dresses up the characters in quintessential steampunk attire. It also embraced a different method of explaining the game world.  For example, it now tells at history using in person writings from historical figures or prominent NPCs of the day.  Additionally it has added newspaper clippings. These elements are in other steampunk games that came out after Victoriana 2nd edition. 

The third edition of Victoriana has made changes to the magic system both in terms of rules and the setting.  The magic system is tweaked from the second edition to supposedly make things easier.  Additionally the guild is no longer a global organization but instead adheres to either national boundaries or religious boundaries.  Because of this, the use of magic and machine has become more common enabling more powerful items than with the use of either magic or technology alone.  In other words, magic has made its way to mass-produced items.  Because of this, airships are more common and electric guns are available.  There are automatas (robots) that work plantations.  However, such a creation would not have been available in the 2nd edition core rules. 

While the third edition does mention class distinction, it does so in a different manner than the second edition.  The second edition used class distinction, social strife, economic exploitation, and sexism as major themes in the core rules.  All of this is either removed or downplayed.  In fact, it seems it is only a nod to the past editions that communism is mentioned. 

Instead, the 3rd edition focuses on themes more in common with steampunk rpgs. Thus, it focuses in on technology, horror, and investigation.  This replaces the societal conflicts that are in the 2nd edition core rules. 

In all, I would say that third edition Victorian is to second edition Victorian what NWoD is to OWoD. Similar rules, but a completely reworked setting.

SteamCraft RPG released in 2012 (Steampunk)

Shadowrun is to cyberpunk as SteamCraft is to steampunk.  SteamCraft creates a world based on what you think steampunk would mean.  It has steampunk attire, airships, goggles, and fanciful steam and gear based technology.  To this, it introduces non-human races and magic.  However, magic is returning to the world after an absence and magic and machine do not mix.  The result is usually disastrous and is banned in the civilized world.  Those who do manage to mix magic and technology are called technomages.  Their creations tend to result in malign creations such as clockwork beholders and zombies with mechanical limbs.

Unlike most other games, SteamCraft is not set on Earth.  It is on a different world influenced by Earth, but with many differences.  The main setting of the book is a new world situation.  That is, it is centered on countries founded on a new continent instead of existing ones.  Instead of having an entire world sketched out with such minimal detail it is useless, SteamCraft provides you a small detailed area to set your adventures.  There is history and significant setting material provided, but without being bound to Earth or a well developed area, this frees the hands of the GM and players to make the game world their own.  The setting is also less Euro-centric.  While the settlers of this new continent are influenced by what we would think of as Europe, Middle-Eastern and East Asian influences are represented.  The dominate nations of the world are not England and France, but are what we would think of as East Asian. 

While racism does exist, it is not a cultural norm or legally established.  The biggest issue of racism is between playable races and non-playable humanoid races that are deemed more like animals than people.  Sexism does exist, but it more akin to the mid-1960’s than the 1860’s.  Women can be educated, they can hold jobs, they can be adventurers, and they can wear pants. 

Some of the major dystopian themes are: the weakening of the nation-state by foreign corporations, corporations exploiting the population, a push back against technology, religious conflicts, potential communist rebellion, potential civil war, and conflicts between the security forces of various companies.  Additionally, the game can go more in the pulp direction through the exploration of uncharted lands, ancient tombs, and being airship pirates. 

SteamCraft uses a percentile system.  It contains rules for item creation that allow players to attempt to build almost anything they can think of.  It contains rules to making alchemy items.  It has rules for airship creation and airship combat. 

Victoriana 3rd
Anachronistic Earth
Heresy System (d6 dice pool)
Magic is key to making steampunk items
Magic and machine are at odds
Euro-centric primary setting
Multi-cultural setting
Larger sketched setting
Smaller detailed setting
National conflicts
Corporation conflicts
Just beginning mechanical computer age
Mechanical computer closer to 1960’s ability


Clacking (hacking analytical engines)
Steamships/trains primary method of travel
Airships/trains primary method of tavel

Sunday, March 1, 2015

[Guest Post] Decoding ‘–Punk’

Over the past few years, the number of ‘punk’ games have started to increase.  In addition to the long established cyberpunk genre, there is steampunk, dieselpunk, clockpunk, biopunk, and even stonepunk.  Unfortunately, there is not a clear usage of most of these terms.  This makes it difficult to know what you are buying.  What follows is a brief history of the usage of ‘punk’ followed by a decoding of what these different words means in terms of games.

Cyberpunk is the granddaddy of all of the other usage of punks.  It refers to a specific literary genre that began in the early 1980’s.  The ‘cyber’ portion of the term refers to a technology level and aesthetics.  It denotes an advanced level of technology, but not one too far ahead of the current level.  The cyber often refers to cyberspace and sometimes cybernetics.  The setting is urbanized artificial landscapes filled with glowing neon lights.  The Shibuya district in Tokyo is often used as a reference for the city’s aesthetics.  The ‘punk’ aspect refers to the dystopian nature of the setting.  International corporations sometimes take over government services or are more powerful than governments.    Those who have money and are favored by the corporations live comfortable lives.  Others are marginalized, persecuted, and treated as criminals.  They live in high crime areas filled with urban decay.  The protagonists in these stories are antiheros.  They are outcasts from society who never seem to come out ahead. 

Based on the cyberpunk description, it should be easy to decipher the other punks.  For example, steampunk should allow us to say that it is steam era technology.  It will have a certain steam era inspired aesthetics.  It should be urban.  The punk should denote that it is dystopian.  Technology should have made some very well off, and others very poor.  Robber Barons should wield extensive power and government influence.  The protagonists should be antiheroes.  They should be marginalized in society.  The antiheroes should be using technology or perhaps fighting the technology.  However, that is not the case.  This is because the boundaries of what is steampunk were never properly set.  The term steampunk came about as a tongue in cheek reference to a style of fiction that was attempting to replicate the science fiction style of Verne and Wells.  The term, however, stuck and has since been used to refer to various media that have little in common with each other besides a loosely linked aesthetics

Contemporary usage of ‘-punk’ means more like era.  The prefix denotes why type in terms of a technology level.  For example, steampunk denotes an era of steam power where technology based on steam goes beyond what the actual Victorian era had. 

What does this mean for gamers?  If something says steampunk you should investigate beyond that.  I would say that most games are steampulp not steampunk.  Pulp is not dystopian and has storylines in common with the pulp fiction of the early 20th century.  Many games that might be put under steampunk are very different.  Iron Kingdoms is a fantasy game.  Wolsung is pulp.  Victoriana 2nd Edition is a Victorian game.  It plays up the Victorian era themes.  It imposes Victorian era societal rules.  Fantastic technological devices are limited and the ones that do exist only exist because of magic.  Victoriana 3rd edition reworks the game and makes the case that Victoriana is a real steampunk game and jettisons many of the Victorian aspects of the 2nd edition.  SteamCraft does put forth a steampunk game that tries to put both steam and punk into the game.  It tries to be the type of game that someone familiar with cyberpunk game would think a steampunk game is based on the label of steampunk.  Of games still in print that are available at game stores, Victoriana 3rd edition and SteamCraft come the closest to what you would expect a steampunk game to be based upon the word steampunk. 

What does this tell us about other punks?  Well, it is pretty much just a technology level with some aesthetics. 

Stonepunk – This refers to the Stone Age. 
Clockpunk – precursor to steampunk where spring power dominates.
Dieselpunk – post steampunk era.  A narrow definition places it the interbellum period of 1917-1939.  Some extend it from 1914 to 1950.  It was art deco aesthetics.  Clothing tends to be military inspired.  Trains and Zeppelins are common. 
Atompunk – This is after the development of nuclear weapons.  It usually mixes the early nuclear age with the space age in terms of aesthetics.  It covers say 1950-1965.
Biopunk – This is referred to as post-cyberpunk.  It takes up many of the same themes but replaces cybernetics and the internet with genetic enhancements and human experimentation.   

Unfortunately, the change of punk from meaning dystopian to era means that gamers and readers now have to do a lot more research to know what a game or book is like.  It also means that just because you play some game that is labeled as steampunk does not mean that it similar to other games that are also called steampunk.  As odd as it sounds, game makers might soon need to says dystopian steampunk to denote that it stays true to the punk roots of the word. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Regular Posting Returning Soon...

A month and a half has gone by with no new posts here.  I started off 2015 with a buzz but got taken off the tracks by real life stuff happening at the same time and the blog had to take a hit.  There are posts I am working on that will be up soon.  In addition, I also have a guest poster that will be published here soon.  I think his upcoming post has some great content and I hope he will pop in from time to time with more posts in the future....

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

[Trailer] Seventh Son

I have seen this trailer over 12 times in the last two days and I want to see this movie!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Threshold Magazine #1 to #6 Available at the Vaults of Pandius

Just in case some of you are unaware of it, the Vaults of Pandius has six issues of Threshold Magazine available for download so far.  Threshold is a free fan-written magazine that serves to generate continued interest in the campaign setting.  Each issue has a unifying theme and there are other things like interviews included in most every issue.  Head over and check out this resource for the fans by the fans.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Free Town Supplement: Adventures in High Wold

Over on the Original D&D Discussion forum the creator of a free town supplement called Adventures in High Wold has posted the lulu page for his product.  It comes in at 9 pages but offers maps, rumors, NPCs, and more for use in your campaign.  Check it out!   

Do You Have a Dragon Head on YOUR Wall?!

I am sure this video has probably been posted before but I was catching up on some reading at The Piazza when I stumbled across the following video. 

I can not take credit for stumbling across this coolness; it was Havard that originally posted about it on the forums.  He also pointed out the web site of the artist.  Pretty cool stuff!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Little Reorganization & Some Thoughts

I have been pretty satisfied with the posting so far in this new year.  I aim to keep the momentum going and add much more content in the upcoming weeks and months.  Here are a few highlights of the reorganization I have done around here and some thoughts about what I need to do from here on out.

It is almost time to revise the About Me tab again.  The final paragraph could use a little bit of updating but I will probably hold off for a few weeks to see if more changes take place.

The Collected Posts tab at the top of the page is gone.  It had grown bloated and messy so I split up the contents.  There is now a separate tab for Adventures in Fantasy and Perilous Journeys instead; of course, the contents of those tabs correspond to their respective labels.  The other information that was previously contained in the tab is still available on the blog but I just took this opportunity to clean up some of the clutter.  

The Adventures in Fantasy tab will see some expansion with posts covering the AiF Restatement project.

The read through of Perilous Journeys is complete but that is not all I have planned for the game.  Expect posts covering new resources such as magic items, new flaws, new edges, and other resources.    

I have added links to two posts focused on religion under the Toldara tab. The other posts covering religion will be added upon completion.  My goal is to offer something more than "there's a religion that people can join" by giving some actual details.  I fully expect a lot more information to be added to this tab over the next year.  There should be plenty of details on a Swords & Wizardry adaptation to come.  

The Projects & Downloads tab has several things listed that I need to get completed.  In no particular order, the SteamCraft character creation reference and the MicroToldara rules are the two I am aiming to complete first.

That is a pretty good summary of what has taken place so far and what is coming up.  The only other additions I can see that I need to mention are that I am going to start posting Steampunk Saturdays at some point and the Robotech Posts are probably going to start with the extras DVDs. 

It is time to wrap this up and get back to reading posts by all of you...


[Toldara] The Revivalists

This post is an expansion of the information originally posted in The Fractured Faith of Humanity.

Fair warning - this post is related to my campaign world Toldara but contains absolutely no game stats whatsoever.  I have always had all of these ideas in my head for expanding the information on the world and one way to do that is to detail some of the religious movements.  In real life, I am absolutely fascinated by religions and comparative religion in particular.  I thought I would combine my interest in real world comparative religions and my role-playing hobby in a series of posts.  This is a first pass but I also wanted to keep the information short to give a general idea of the particular faith in question.  I am sure that there will be additions - symbols, relics, etc. - to this material as time goes by and players interact with these groups.  Just to be clear, this is information for use in a fantasy role-playing game and any similarities between this information and real world groups or beliefs is entirely coincidental and unintentional.  I am just putting down information that seems to fit together for game purposes.


The Revivalist Church
The Revivalists are a grass roots movement among the faith of humanity seeking a return to an early, more primitive form of their church.  This movement sprung up due to opposition to all the pageantry that has overtaken other forms of the church.  The main focus of their adherents is showing reverence and respect for THE ONE in contrast to formulaic rituals and gaudy ceremony of other faiths.  Their meetings are often held the houses of members if it is a small group or in an open spot outside large enough for the group.

General Membership
Membership is open to all that respect and revere THE ONE to the exclusion of all other gods and spiritual entities.  This faith does not have multiple tiers of membership such as priests, acolytes, etc. with varying levels of responsibility.  There is only one body of general membership among their believers.  It is difficult to get an estimated membership count because although this faith is large it has no central governing body.

Priests and Officials
The Revivalist Church has no priesthood level of membership.  In effect, all members of the faith are considered priests and priestesses of THE ONE.  All are free to speak to the members at any meetings or services.  That does not mean there is no structure to the organization.  A coordinator is elected every year for each local group.  This coordinator ensures that the other members are aware of all meetings and is responsible for passing along other information and coordinating efforts with other groups in other locations.

Other Information
The membership looks to their holy scriptures and the writings by renowned past members of their faith to guide them.  They believe that the other branches of the faith have corrupted the teachings of THE ONE by concentrating on ceremony, grandeur, money, or other areas other than reverence.  They do not encourage animosity to the members of these other branches but try to emphasize that it is not too late to correct their path.

The Revivalists adhere to a book of scripture called THE WORD OF ONE.  It is their belief that this book was recited to early members of the church by THE ONE.  Although there are several translations available, they only acknowledge the original version as authentic and strictly use it for reading and study. 

The Revivalists believe that they are rewarded for a life spent in faithful service and reverence to THE ONE by transitioning to a spiritual paradise plane upon death.  All who enter will have restored perfect bodies, live in harmony, and want for nothing.

Currently, there is much debate among the membership about the status of non-humans.  Many believe that THE ONE will reward all sincere followers of any race into paradise.  Others believe that non-humans will be admitted to paradise upon the basis of how well they satisfied the requirements of their own respective religion.  A small faction of the faith believes that just as non-humans are separate from humans in life then they will also be separate from humans in paradise.  Without a central governing body there is no official answer on this topic and Revivalists are left to study their scriptures for the answer. .  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Freebie: Shores of the Dead Book 1: The Rising by Josh Hilden

If you are a reader and like zombies Amazon has the ebook version of Shores of the Dead Book 1: The Rising by Josh Hilden for FREE at the moment.  Just spreading the disease er, uh...word!