Core elements of a Steampunk game

megoman

Registered User
Validated User
#1
I have already a great game with great setting, but want to add a small steampunk twist to it. This got me thinking, what really make a Steampunk game. From top of my head, I cannot think much. It more or less seem to come down to just descriptions/accessories/trappings, but that can't be it! So I ask from you ...

What are the core elements of a Steampunk game? What is that characters do in Steampunk game? What specific game mechanics should be in a Steampunk game?
 

azimaith

Retired User
#2
Well first thing to figure out is if you want a Steampunk or Victorian retrofuturism. Steampunk generally has elements of very old ways of doing very advanced things, but the "punk" part shouldn't be forgotten. It indicates an attitude of disdain or rebellion, against authority that is central to the settings theme.

If your just talking about the goggles and brassy contraptions its really Victorian era retrofuturism. Still there's more to that than the trappings. The era setting generally focuses on a clash of old world and new world. You still have powerful aristocracy and vast differences in income, but work that used to be done by artisans and craftsmen are now being made by huge numbers of less skilled laborers. There are real growing pains as the world transitions from old to new.

With the invention of the telegraph and steam train, the world that was once very large is shrinking quickly, and many are enamored with the now available exotic that would have previously been impossible to attain.

At the same time, there is also a swelling feeling of hope or wonder at the world and what humans can accomplish. Technology is becoming more complex and many people are involved in advancing and altering the way people live their lives.

To set a proper tone, you'll need to be able to mix the dehumanizing aspects of the industrial revolution with the wide eyed wonder of a newly opened world and the promise of amazing advances in technology.

So its more than top hats and monocles as a genre, but if you just want the style without the baggage, there isn't really anything wrong with that.
 

gtroc

Jacob Possin
Validated User
#5
Hi, Mego!

Check out this link from tvtropes.org - The Steampunk Tropes Index - you should find it very helpful.

You might also check my list of Steampunk RPG Games down below, in my sig!

Neat list, though it is missing Jadepunk.

To the OP, Ryan Danks and I had huge discussions about the core of Steampunk. Much of it is anachronistic tech, allowing for sci-fi types of stories to be told about the Victorian era. It lets you play with tropes and themes that would fit in modern day settings but with a differing layer of style about it. Steampunk is uniquely oriented toward activism. At least that is where we ended up for Jadepunk.
 

Doctor Crunch

Registered User
Validated User
#7
I have a question...

Where did Steampunk come from? Is it from a literary source or something?
Yes. The term was originally coined by K.W. Jeter to describe his novel Infernal Devices along with similar works by Tim Powers and James Blaylock. The term was a twist on Cyberpunk, and most of the authors had their roots in the cyberpunk genre. Gibson and Sterling soon followed with The Difference Engine.

I'd say that the defining aspects of Steampunk are
-Victorian or Pseudo-Victorian setting
-Retrofuturist technology
-Themes of rebellion or resistance to authority
-A certain thread of hopefulness
 

Mawdrigen

The Warrior Reborn
Validated User
#8
Victoriana
Steam or cog powered technology
Social injustice
Making things for yourself

The latter two tend to get left out but I consider them important
 

Noclue

Registered User
Validated User
#9
Yes. The term was originally coined by K.W. Jeter to describe his novel Infernal Devices along with similar works by Tim Powers and James Blaylock. The term was a twist on Cyberpunk, and most of the authors had their roots in the cyberpunk genre. Gibson and Sterling soon followed with The Difference Engine.
That really cuts to the heart of the issue. Cyberpunk is punk because it's tends to be about what it means to be human in a dystopic future. Steampunk is just a throw away term that Jeter used when asked what to call this new stuff he and his friends were writing.
 

Doctor Crunch

Registered User
Validated User
#10
That really cuts to the heart of the issue. Cyberpunk is punk because it's tends to be about what it means to be human in a dystopic future. Steampunk is just a throw away term that Jeter used when asked what to call this new stuff he and his friends were writing.
I actually kind of disagree. I think there's an element of using retro-futurism as a way to rail against an awful past/corrupt present/bleak future that's sort of inherent to the genre's appeal. It actually reminds me very much of The Ramones hearkening back to a simpler and more primitive form of Rock and Roll as a rebellion against the music of the Disco era.

Now a LOT of later steampunk flat out ignores the social elements in favor of doing straight Victorian Retrofuturism, but I think the first wave stuff was being written by writers who were trying to use the retro-futurism for a purpose. The better modern stuff I think does the same.
 
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