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
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
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
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
Heresy System (d6 dice pool)
Magic is key to making steampunk items
Magic and machine are at odds
Euro-centric primary setting
Larger sketched setting
Smaller detailed setting
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