New Project in the Works -Steampunk- and a Question of System

I’m a huge fan of Steampunk and I decided that after I did my update of Wrath of Zombie Survival Horror RPG v3 I would take a crack at creating a steampunk setting.

If you’ve been following the development of my Vornheim campaign you may remember that I mentioned that I wanted a dirty steampunk game. I wanted to focus on the “punk” and the dystopian aspects of the genre rather than the shiny “enlightenment” part of it.

So I’ve been putzing around with ideas and etc for a couple weeks. Here is my rough notes on the setting:

World Name– Hubris: An Adventure into Cogs, Sex, and Steam.

World– Dystopian feel.  Religion, government, and nobility crushing the masses.

Inspiration– French Revolution.

Races– Human and Beastmen of the north.

Races have been at work for years with no real victor until Steamtech was invented.  Human government then slaughtered many of the beastmen and displaced the tribes throughout the highlands.  The humans didn’t want the tribes to regain their strength so they slash burned much of the trees, or took them as material for their own resources.

The beastmen are now little more than indentured servants in the human lands.  They work mines, farms, factories, etc.  Very few make any sort of solid living and hardly any become citizens.

Magic and Technology– Through the miracles of science extraordinary achievements have been made.  The tireless work of Sprocket Jockey’s (Weird Scientists) have created Coggers (mechanized creatures that create a labor and armed force), firearms, airships, cog armor, cog appendages to replace those lost in battle, among other amazing things.

There are two types of magic in Hubris: Divine and the Witch.

Divine magic comes from the blessings of the God or Goddess above or the Heathen below.  This power is only gained by humans, which has lead to many arguments that the Beastmen are evil creatures.  Spells are cast by praying to the God or Goddess for help or the Heathen below.

The Heathen below exacts a price on those calling upon his favor.  Eventually a person may be consumed by his corruption.

Those who show outward signs of corruption are put to the flame before it overtakes them completely.

The Witch uses their own life energies to cast spells.  This practice originally was discovered by the Beastmen and was their main strength against the human armies.  Eventually humans living in the north with the Beastmen were taught the ways of the Witch and the knowledge has spread over the years.

Generally Witches are mistrusted in the human lands and in some territories the practice is out right illegal.

Originally I was planning on doing this in Savage Worlds (and I’ve already done some work for that- see below), but then I thought it might be cool to do it for Castles and Crusades (although the work involved does make me weep a little).  If I have time I may do for both.

The way I’m trying to approach this book is by only giving very light setting descriptions.  Enough for the GM and Players to get a feel of the world and what’s going on, but make up everything else.  I really am tired of campaign settings that are tomes (that is just my preference).

So what setting would you choose: Castles and Crusades or Savage Worlds?

Here is some of what I’ve done using Savage Worlds Deluxe:

Humans-

Humans start as described on page 21 of SWDX.

Beastmen-

  • Large: A Beastman is roughly 8 feet tall. They receive +1 to their Size.
  • Way of the Beast: A Beastman can tap into their bestial side and become fearsome opponents.  When a Beastman calls upon this power they must make a Vigor Trait test at the end, failure means they take one level of Fatigue.  A roll of 1 on the Vigor die, regardless of the Wild Die means that the Beastman is exhausted and cannot call upon this power for 24 hour and have gotten rest.  Way of the Beast duration is 1 plus half character’s Spirit.  This can be ended prematurely if so desired.

When a Beastman brings forth the Way of the Beast their features become more feral and their muscles more taunt.  Claws protrude out of their hands (Str+d6 damage) and they receive +1 to Notice Rolls for sight, smell, and hearing.

  • All Muscle:  Beastmen are lean and muscular.  They start with a d6 instead of a d4 in Strength.
  • Not Human: There is still much distrust and dislike for the Beastmen of the North.  Most humans treat them as something beneath them and as such, life for a Beastman in human lands is full of hardship.  A Beastman has the Outsider Hindrance.
  • Just Don’t Touch That: Beastmen are not familiar with the ways of technology.  They are learning slowly, but it is a constant uphill battle.  A Beastman has the All Thumbs Hindrance.

Arcane Backgrounds

The Divine-

Arcane Skill– Miracles

Starting Power Points: NA

Starting Powers: 3 + *Void Summons.

The Divine call upon the powers of the God and Goddess Above or the Heathen Below to grant them amazing powers that they utilize for protection, attack, or healing.  However if Deities feel you are unworthy of their blessing you may end up paying more than you bargained for.

The power of the Divine is only gained by humans, which has lead to many arguments that the Beastmen are evil creatures created by the Heathen.  Spells are cast by praying to the God or Goddess for help or the Heathen below.

The Divine can use all SWDX Powers even if it is above their rank.  They must pray to one of the Deities of Hubris to grant them their powers.  A Divine caster must make a successful Divine Skill Roll with an attached negative modifier depending on the Spells Rank; -2 Novice, -4 Seasoned, -6 Veteran, -8 Heroic, -10 Legendary.

The Divine can cast all but the following spells: Drain Power Points, Fly, and Grow/Shrink.

Depending on which spell the Divine desires to cast determines which of the three Deities of Hubris they pray to and the cost that will be extracted should they displease the Deity.  Some powers are under multiple Deities, this is to represent the way in which the power could be wielded and also to show that not everything is black and white.

The God (Knowledge, Protection, and Healing)– Armor, Barrier, Boost/Lower Trait, Deflection, Detect/Conceal Aura, Disguise, Dispel, Divination, Fear, Greater Healing, Healing, Intangibility, Invisibility, Mind Reading, Speak Languages, Stun, Succor, Summon Ally, and Warrior’s Gift.

 

The Goddess (Vengeance, Bravery, and Nature)– Beast Friend, Blast, Blind, Bolt, Burrow, Burst, Damage Field, Elemental Manipulation, Entangle, Environmental Protection, Havoc, Pummel, Shape Change, Smite, Summon Ally, and Wall Walker.

The Heathen (Lust, Control, and Death)– Banish, Blind, Boost/Lower Trait, Confusion, Darksight, Detect/Conceal Aura, Divination, Entangle, Fear, Invisibility, Light/Obscure, Mind Reading, Puppet, Quickness, Shape Change, Slow, Slumber, Speed, Summon Ally, Telekinesis, Teleport, and Zombie.

Divinity Rolls operate the same as the rules lined out on page 94, save for the Backlash rule.

When a Divine is casting, the player specifies whether they are praying to the God, Goddess, or Heathen.  If a one is rolled on the Divine die, regardless of wild die the following effects happen.

The God– The god gives knowledge and protection and he also takes it away.  Angering the God means the Divine goes down one die level in Smarts and is unable to pray for any spells that the God resides over for one day.  If the Divine ever falls below a d4 smarts they are reduced to a mumbling vegetable permanently.

The Goddess– The Goddesses wrath that follows her displeasure is frightening.  A golden light will surround the Divine who has angered her and on the next round explode out causing 3d6 to the caster and 2d6 damage to all in a large burst template.

The Heathen– The Heathen below exacts a price on those calling upon his favor.  Eventually a person may be consumed by his corruption.  Those who show outward signs of corruption are put to the flame before it overtakes them completely.  Each time the Heathen is displeased a Divine’s Spirit is reduced by one die type, however they are also given a “gift” so as to entice them to continue to rely on the Heathen.  When the character’s Spirit goes below d4 they are lost and have become corrupted; a twisted and mutated monster that serves the Heathen Below.

Roll on the following table:

1) Raise Strength one die type.

2) Raise Agility one die type.

3) Character eyes turn to that of a cat.  They can now see in the dark.

4) Character gains the Very Attractive Edge even if they do not meet prerequisite.

5) Character gains the Berserk Edge.

6) Character gains the No Mercy Edge even if they do not meet prerequisite.

7)  Raise Smarts one die type.

8 ) Raise Vigor one die type.

The Witch-

Arcane Skill– Pacts

Starting Power Points: NA

Starting Powers: 3 + *Void Summons.

Witches uses their own life energies to cast spells.  This practice originally was discovered by the Beastmen and was their main strength against the human armies.  Eventually humans living in the north with the Beastmen were taught the ways of the Witch and the knowledge has spread over the years.  Generally Witches are mistrusted in the human lands and in some territories the practice is out right illegal.

To cast spells a Witch will roll a pact check and follow the rules of No Power Points outlined on page 95.  The effects of Success and Raise are as normal (however if no additional effect is stated in the spell, the Witch can make an extra attack or movement without suffering the -2 multi-action penalty).  Failure means that the Witch takes one wound.  A roll of 1 on Pacts skill die, regardless of wild die, the Witch takes two wounds.

Witches can cast all SWDX spells except Drain Power Points.

Note: Witches cannot heal themselves.  They are able to cast heal on others but the Pacts and channeling of their own life force makes it impossible to heal themselves. 

Sprocket Jockey (Weird Scientists)

Arcane Skill: Steamtech

Starting Power Points: 10

Starting Powers: 1

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sprocket Jockeys many new discoveries and inventions have been created in this new age of man.  Coggers (mechanized creatures that create a labor and armed force), firearms, explosives, mechanized weapons, airships, cog armor, cog appendages to replace those lost in battle, among other amazing things have all lead to what some are calling the “Golden Age.”  Others fear what these new inventions will do to people and the world of Hubris.

Sprocket Jockey functions exactly as Weird Scientists of SWDX on page 104-105.

New Powers-

Dampen Magic (replaces Drain Power Points)

Rank: Veteran

Power Points: 3

Range: Smarts

Duration: Instant

Trappings: Prayers, Gust of Wind surrounds target, an electric field.

This spell allows the caster to halt another from casting spells or calling upon their god for aid.   The caster and the target make an opposed roll (Miracles VS Pact).  If the caster is successful the target cannot cast a spell for one round.  On a Raise the target cannot cast a spell for two rounds.

Dampen Magic and Sprocket Jockeys- The Divine and Witches cannot use Dampen Magic against Sprocket Jockeys, however Sprocket Jockey’s can use Dampen Magic against the Divine, Witches, and other Sprocket Jockeys.  

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About wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn. View all posts by wrathofzombie

10 responses to “New Project in the Works -Steampunk- and a Question of System

  • James Hutchings

    Have you seen Engines and Empires?

  • shadrackstao

    Sweet idea. I am thinking about modeling a setting around Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinburn books. ‘The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack’ and ‘The Curioius Case of the Clockwork Man’. These books are very steampunk with some neat twists.

    I plan on going Savage Worlds with mine, with kind of a Rippers/Space:1889 mashup for rule backgrounds. Depending on the horror level I might substitute the Realms of Cthulhu Madness scale instead of the Rippers reason rules.

    • wrathofzombie

      I actually just ordered The Strange Affair.. As well as Boneshaker and Johannes Cabal the Necromancer.

      How is the Strange Affair? Looks good.

      That’s the blessing and (in some ways) curse of SW. It’s SUCH an easy system to tailor to anything that it’s just simpler to go with that than dig into something like C&C which takes quite a bit of work and thinking to muddle around with.

      • shadrackstao

        I really enjoyed it (Strange Affair that is). The next one is worth the read as well. Additionally, I really enjoyed Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. It’s been awhile since I read Boneshaker though.

        It seems our reading lists are somewhat similar. You may want to take a peek at ‘Retribution Falls’ by Chris Wooding. (I mean this next bit in the best way possible), It felt like a party of PC’s who all have mysterious backgrounds, got thrown together on a skyship, and then got manipulated into a tight spot. Let the antics begin!

  • Jeff

    Savage Worlds would most likely require the least amount of work and would give you more flexibility in character creation. For C&C you’d have to sketch up all new classes.

    The guy who did the Clockworks steampunk webcomic started posting some SW rules for his game which you might find inspirational. They can be found here: http://shawntionary.com/clockworks/?tag=savage-worlds

    Myself, I’m interested in checking out the new steampunk RPG from Cubicle 7 Abney Park’s Airship Pirates. It has it’s own unique system and setting, which may not suit you, but the preview looked very cool.

    • wrathofzombie

      Yeah. I’ve looked at that, but I’ve been system hoping so much this year that I need to take a break from doing that.

      It’s funny you mention clockworks. I play-tested that for Shawn for awhile. I have session recaps here on my blog 🙂

      It is a possibility that I will keep running clockworks as well. However Shawn has gone on hiatus and it doesn’t look like the full clockworks will be released any time soon.

  • wrathofzombie

    @ Shadrackstao- So out of the three books I mentioned and Retribution Falls (which does sound awesome) which would you recommend to start with?

    I tend to like mystery and hijinx and action. Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Firefly, Harry Dresden, Anita Blake (before it turned into porn), etc.

    • shadrackstao

      1) Spring Heeled Jack
      2) Retribution Falls
      3) Johannes Cabal
      4) Boneshaker – although… there are zombies…

      In trying to take your criteria into account, I flipped Johannes Cabal and Retribution falls from my ‘ranking’. Either way, all really fun reads.

  • >B

    Not to defend Boneshaker, but it reads quickly…the setting is really nifty too. BUT…you could do one better with ‘Whitechapel Gods’ by S.M. Peters…that one captures the PUNK dystopian feel pretty well.

    http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2008/02/whitechapel-gods-by-sm-peters.html

    Less sexy, but more political and higher in historical verisimilitude is ‘The Difference Engine’ (Stirling & Gibson)
    http://www.zone-sf.com/difengine.html

    My roommate left ‘Johannes Cabal’ lying around the other day…I guess I should take a second look at it…

    >Bryan

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