The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in steampunk’s popularity and public awareness. Parody skits from Portlandia and Key & Peele show how widely its imagery and trappings have taken hold. Speculative fiction’s modern love affair with the genre can be traced to Blaylock, Jeter, and Gibson & Sterling in the ’80s and ’90s. New approaches exploded as Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Miéville’s Perdido Street Station garnered wide attention. Both of these bundles capture that lightning in a brass bottle.
If anything, RPGs have been ahead of the curve — embracing the elements, transforming settings, and striking out in new directions. Since the earliest steampunk RPGs — arguably Aventures Extraordinaires & Machinations Infernales (1990) or Gear Antique (1991) — designers have used steampunk in striking ways. These two collections present classic approaches (Victoriana), steam-driven fantasy punk (SteamCraft), alien worlds (Sweet Chariot), and more. They’re spectacularly uncostly entry points for newcomers, and incredible toolboxes for campaigns already under full steam.
1. VICTORIANA BUNDLE [revived from May 2015]The year is 1856. The Crimean War is in full swing, with Russian magicians proving that, whilst waning, the age of magic is not yet over. India suffers under corporate rule. A fractured America teeters on the edge of civil war. Explorers map the globe, uncovering ancient secrets often best left forgotten. Empires expand and many parts of the map are still marked “unknown.”
It is a magical world. Eldren magicians walk the streets with Dwarf engineers, and wyverns fly alongside airships. Spiritualists contact the spirits of the dead, while angels war in Heaven. Aetheric energies fuel monstrous engines, and ancient mysteries lie buried beneath concrete and steel. A magical world — one in need of adventurers.
Originally published by Heresy Gaming in 2003, Victoriana was one of the first steampunk RPGs. The First Edition, designed by John Tuckey, used the Fuzion rules. Cubicle 7 released Victoriana Second Edition in 2007 with a new custom system, the “Heresy Engine.” The Third Edition featured in this offer, published in 2013, updates and streamlines the Heresy Engine. In a test, you roll a number of D6s equal to your Attribute + Skill. Every 1 and every 6 is a success, with a roll of 6 allowing an additional die to be rolled. An average test requires two successes. Black Dice represent adverse or difficult circumstances. These are rolled as part of the dice pool, but for every 1 or 6 rolled on a Black Die, a regular success is negated.
In addition to major 3E supplements like Liber Magica and Streets of Shadow, this collection also included a range of Second Edition supplements that work well with the 3E rules. (And we bring you yet another Victoriana 3E supplement in our companion Steam-Powered Bundle — see below.)
There were four titles in this offer’s Player’s Collection (retail value $53), all presented as DRM-free .PDF ebooks:
- Victoriana Third Edition (retail $25): The complete, current 320-page rulebook. Includes the free adventure The Spring-Heeled Menace.
- Marvels of Science and Steampunk (retail $18): The great technological wonders of the Victoriana world, and how to build more of them.
- Darwin’s Catalogue – Beastmen of Britain (retail $5): Sordid and disreputable rules for playing characters of mixed human and animal ancestry.
- Darwin’s Catalogue – The Outsiders (retail $5): Five playable nonhuman races, plus Corporeal Mediums who can perform incredible physical feats.
- Liber Magica (retail $18): More magical options and new challenges — rituals, alchemical physics, tattoo magic, bardism, Haemomancy, and the Consortium of Hermetic Guilds.
- Streets of Shadow (retail $18): A complete six-part “shilling shocker” campaign involving proletariat unrest over the Crimean War and the Conscription Bill.
- The Smoke (retail $15): A 187-page guide to London in the world of Victoriana.
- The Havering Adventures (retail $15): Three introductory adventures and a family of ready-made player characters.
- Jewel of the Empire (retail $20): Colonial India in the Victoriana setting.
- The Devil in the Dark (retail $3): An introductory penny dreadful about strange goings-on in a Midlands coal mine.
2. STEAM-POWERED BUNDLE [all-new]This brassbound collection showcased steampunk attitude in many settings and genres. From classic Victoriana to high fantasy to alien worlds, these games let fly at societal strictures and authoritarian industries. Inspired by Jules Verne, Wild Wild West, The Difference Engine, and more, these designers show steampunk means more than cogs and flywheels.
There were three titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $55) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks:
- Airship Pirates (Cakebread & Walton, retail price $25): Time-tossed post-apocalyptic steampunk inspired by the lyrics of Seattle band Abney Park.
- Victoriana: The Concert in Flames (Cubicle 7, retail $18): A guide to the steampunk Europe of Victoriana.
- Sweet Chariot 2E (Better Mousetrap Games, retail $12): A lost colony world built on steam-driven technology.
- Pure Steam (retail $13) and Westbound (retail $15): ICOSA Entertainment’s complete Pathfinder campaign setting and its new Wild West supplement. Bring the Age of Steam into your fantasy world!
- Airship Pirates: Underneath the Lamplight (retail $20): The massive Neovictorian worldbook for Airship Pirates.
- SteamCraft (Perilous Journeys Publishing, retail $15): Industrial Age meets Information Age in this gritty “New-World” dystopia of steam-tech and fantasy.
- Airship Pirates: Ruined Empires (retail $8): An swashbuckling romp of piracy, betrayal, and intrigue.
- The Widening Gyre (Blackwyrm Games, retail $10): Savage Worlds steampunk for the “Industrial Age As It Should Have Been.”