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

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