Steampunk week is now officially over with this post about various role-playing games in the steampunk genre. This is not an attempt to be an exhaustive list but just a listing of links for information about some of the steampunk role-playing games I am aware of.
Abney Park’s Airship Pirates (mentioned by Jamie Hardy)
Airship Pirates is a line of RPG and board game products based on the songs of Abney Park. Information can be found at the Airship Pirates web page.
Broken Gears (accidently omitted on original post by me)
Broken Gears is a free downloadable game of animistic steampunk. The pdf and information are both available at the Broken Gears web page.
The setting mixes high fantasy, swashbuckling pulp, and steampunk items. If you are looking for actual punk in your steampunk, this is not it. You are mostly involved in court intrigue, toppling governments, stopping assassins, etc. The focus is primarily on Continental Europe instead of the English speaking world. The setting info gets repetitious at the start and repeats the same general idea over and over, often using the same words. It describes itself as a cross between Lord of the Rings, Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes, and Grimm Fairytales. The artwork and storyline place the focus mostly on high flying adventures and combating sorcery. Magic comes off as the focus instead of steam, although there are fantastical items and the author probably intended that steam be a major focus.
There are non-humans, I believe that are all called Faeries. There is a Sellie and Unsellie Court. Most of the action, as I said is continental Europe. Imagine Europe in the 18th Century with battles between France, Prussia, Austria, Ottoman Empire, and the U.K. Then add on magic and sorcerers that intervene. Then add on steampunk technology. Now, instead of dealing with the UK and its Empire, you focuses on central Europe where all of the countries are dealing with warfare with each other. With that said, there is a supplement dealing with the Wild West called Six Guns and Sorcery.
The mechanics use cards instead of dice. Overall I would say it was both ahead and behind the times. The production value, even for 1993 seems lacking. The color art does not really give you any type of feel for the technology aspect of things. Card mechanics seem more of a novelty than good game design, or at least design that people want which is why almost no game uses cards. However, it is ahead of the time in bringing steampunk gadgets and technological innovations to the forefront. An aesthetic change to contemporary steampunk looks, adding a dice system, and putting out a second edition 3 years ago would probably have made this the dominant steampunk game instead of an interesting relic.
Eberron is not a stand-alone game but a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Eberron was the winning design by Keith Baker in the fantasy setting search done by Wizards of the Coast back in 2002. Eberron is notable for combining traditional fantasy with magically powered non-traditional fantasy elements such as mechanical beings and skyships. Eberron began under the 3E version of the D&D rules and has been updated for 4E. More information can be found on the Eberron page at WoTC or the Eberron article at Wikipedia.
Jamie Hardy: I see this more as fantasy than steampunk, but I am more restrictive on steampunk than popular culture is.
Iron Kingdoms was originally published by Privateer Press in 2004 under the d20 System. They released a new version in 2012 that changed the rules to a d6 based system that was much closer to their miniature games Warmachine and Hordes. Although the Wikipedia entry for Iron Kingdoms does provide some general information, anyone interested should really check out the details at the Privateer Press page for the game.
Jamie Hardy: This is a fantasy rpg, but if you count Eberron, then you should count this as well.
Lady Blackbird seemed to generate a decent amount of buzz several years ago. If I remember correctly, it was an entry in the 24 hour rpg contest one year; of course, I may be mistaken. Does anyone reading this know for sure? Lady Blackbird is set apart by the fact that is basically a steampunk game in a condensed form - there is very little prep time because the game comes with pregenerated characters, setting information, and a starting situation that will provide the details necessary for one or several sessions of play. Lady Blackbird is available for download at the One Seven Design home page.
Leagues of Adventure (mentioned by Jamie Hardy)
Leagues of Adventure is pulp instead of punk, but since a lot of Steampunk is defined
on aesthetics this might count. More information can be found at the page on Triple Ace Games web site.
Machinations is a free to download one page game with 4 one page supplements. Machinations and the supplements can be downloaded at Gawd 'Elp Us Games.
Pax Britannica is a pen & paper steampunk rpg set in a world described on the website as "an alternate present in which faeries are real, alchemists transmute lead into gold, the world runs on steam power and the sun never sets on the British Empire". If this sounds like an interesting setup to you, there is more information available - including the game as a free download - at Pax Britannica RPG. It seems that they are updating the rulebook but the progress has not been updated in some time.
Space: 1889 (mentioned by freddyboomboom, Jamie Hardy, &Studio Arkhein)
Space 1889 was actually the first well known steampunk rpg; it was published from 1988 to 1991. More detailed information can be found at the Wikipedia entry. There is also much more information at http://space1889.org/. Apparently, Heliograph did some reprints in the 2000 - 2001 area and information can be found at Heliograph's Space 1889 Resource Site. Finally, there is a kickstarter going on right now to get Space: 1889 reprinted and it has raised just over 3 times the amount they were seeking. Interested parties should go read the Space: 1889 Kickstarter page.
SteamCraft is the latest offering from Perilous Journeys Publishing and is the only steampunk game that I own. The SteamCraft page on their web page describes the setting as "a universe that mixes the scientific wonder of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells with elements of gritty, futuristic cyberpunk...a world inspired by a 19th century Earth...where both the industrial and informational revolutions occur at the same time.". The book is well made and is all you need to play the game. There is a wealth of world information on nations, religions, events, etc. without the reader being overwhelmed. SteamCraft is available in pdf or print form and there is a free GM screen available. An expansion is planned for later in the year. I regularly talk with the author of the game and have probably bogged him down with all sorts of silly questions related to the business side of gaming but he always answers pretty quickly and eagerly. SteamCraft is also supported by a message board on their site and I am a regular poster at those boards.
Steampunkfitters is described as "steampunk your way" on their blog which has been active since late 2011. The game is available for download and there are updates to the rules in the blog posts. The art is appropriate but definitely has an "indie feel" or "indie look" to the illustrations on the blog. I have downloaded the rules but I have yet to give them a thorough read through.
Tephra is the result of a hugely successful kickstarter campaign done by Cracked Monocle. Their home page is full of information related to the game. I do not own the game so I can not give any thoughts on the system or world but there was a recent post at Rather Gamey that does a fine job detailing the poster's personal experience with Tephra. Please, read his post because I got nothing over here but a link to the designers.
Jamie Hardy added: Tephra has its fans, but people should really look more into the system besides the d12 as well as the setting. You can read about the combat system and some of the mechanics here:
If you want to read about the setting you can check out this review:
I would like to note that the last review indicates that Tephra has fantasy elements. The creators do not believe this to be the case. The non-human races are mutants that have something to do with I guess some type of contamination from toxic waste, or bombs or something like that. There is no magic in the world. In other words, while there are fantasy trappings, they really do not think of the game as fantasy and have rejected things like magic.
One final note for those interested in purchasing the game. The game was funded in February of 2012. They have yet to fulfill all of their kickstarter rewards. You can see this for yourself in the comments section of their kickstarter page. They still owe most of their international backers books. The indication from the October update is that they do not have the money to send the books out. Further, they are still obligated to produce another book which seemingly they do not have the money.
This places consumers in a quandary. Do you purchase the game and help them out so that they can get the books to their backers? Or do you not want to support people who cannot meet their kickstarter rewards after 18 months and yet still spend money to travel to conventions to promote the game? I can see people going either way on that. Helping people out who are in over their heads, or
wanting to stay away from them. Since people not fulfilling their KS rewards is an issue among gamers, this is something people should be aware of.
Uber RPG: Steampunk (accidentally omitted from original post by me)
The tagline for Uber RPG: Steampunk is "welcome to a world of mad, inspirational wonders and wild scientific theory wrapped in fog, run by gears, and lit by gaslight". If that catches your interest, then you need to visit the Uber RPG: Steampunk web page; it was down for maintenance earlier but you can also get more information at the Amazon listing.
Victoriana (3rd Edition) (mentioned by Jamie Hardy)
Victoriana is currently in the third edition of the rules. The first two versions were Victorian and not so much steampunk, but the third edition in tone, layout, art, and tweaks to the game world has jumped on the steampunk bandwagon. I think seeing the success of other steampunk rpgs they have decided to push that angle. The last couple of supplements for 2E were about convincing people that the game was steampunk. The fantastical creations, however, still rely on magic to make them work as in the previous 2 editions. More information can be found on the Cubicle 7 web page.
Wolsung (mentioned by Jamie Hardy)
Wolsung describes itself as Steam Pulp. It is a Polish game that was translated and brought to the US. I read that is has 100 pages of character creation, but I haven't seen it in a game store to verify that. More information is available at their web page. You can get a free test drive of the rules and world tour of the setting pdf from their site.
The list of steampunk role-playing games is much more complete now. I would like one more round of feedback from anyone reading this.
Is any of the information above just completely wrong?
Are there any games I should have included?
Are there any games that I should NOT have included?