RPG Blog Carnival: Gaming in the Universe of…. Steampunk
This month’s topic of Steampunk & Klockwerks is being hosted by Mad Brew Labs. I’m currently running Reality Blur’s Rune Punk as a Stargate Scenario for my Friday night game group. This is a quintessential Steampunk setting that goes into quite a bit of detail. We’re enjoying it, but I will admit that Steampunk is not my first choice when it comes to gaming scenarios. I prefer High Fantasy (D&D) or SF (Star Trek, Stargate). However this month’s topic got me thinking what it is about Steampunk that appeals to so many folks.
Before I started writing this post I didn’t think I was very familiar with the genre. So, I started with a search of Steampunk on Google and came across this list of American films that utilize Steampunk:
(1958) The Fabulous World of Jules Verne
(1979) Time After Time
(1999) Wild Wild West
(2001) Atlantis: The Lost Empire
(2003) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(2004) Van Helsing
(2007) The Golden Compass
I’ve actually seen and enjoyed a few of these films. Maybe I’m not as much of Steampunk noob as I thought. As I pondered this list I though of something I like to add to this list, the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Although Chitty is not strictly speaking a steampunk setting, Caractacus Potts is clearly a steampunk inventor.
I have seen four of those films Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Atlantis, and Van Helsing (five including Chitty) and have enjoyed each of them. Wild Wild West could easily be played using the Savage Worlds Deadlands. Van Helsing can be dropped into a D&D campaign with no difficulty. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is begging to be run as a Mutants and Masterminds game. Carracticus Potts can be dropped as is into your steampunk setting. Admittedly, the search for Atlantis is something I’d probably run as a campaign instead of a setting.
What it is it about steampunk that appeals to some folks but not to others? Few of the films on that list (except Chitty) was ever considered a hit. In fact Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Van Helsing were all planned as a series of movies but the poor box office showing of the originals scuttled planned sequels. I have discovered that as a general rule my fellow bloggers really enjoy these films in this genre (Wild Wild West being an exception).
Why as a general rule are RPGers able to suspend their disbelief more for this Victorian Sci-Fi as opposed to the mainstream audience that cannot? It cannot be the sci-fi angle as there have been many true science fiction hits. My belief is that we as RPGers are able to disassociate alternate realities. We are constantly playing in altered or alternate universes. We as a group aren’t “tied” to history, the general audience cannot let go their perceptions from “what happened” to enjoy what is being depicted on screen or in your game.
Because RPGers are constantly placing themselves (and characters) in alternate realities, we have no problem imagining a world where Jules Verne actually invented the things he wrote about. We can wax eloquent on how current technology could have been built using clockwork gears and steam power. This, I believe is why Steampunk is more of hit amongst RPGers than it is amongst the general public. As such I present the following Savage Worlds Wild Card NPC.
Van Helsing, a Steam Punk Fighter/Cleric
Name: Van Helsing
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d6, Driving d8, Fighting d8, Guts d8, Knowledge (Arcane) d8, Knowledge (languages) d6, Notice d6, Shooting d8, Stealth d8, Survival d6, Throwing d8
Charisma: 0; Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5;
Hindrances: Heroic, Code of Honor
Edges: Combat Reflexes, Arcane Background, Arcane Resistance
Gear: Large variety of items used in fighting the supernatural