Published in 1994 by R. Talsorian Games, Falkenstein conjures a New Europa where the forces of wizardry battle on the gaslit streets of an alternate Victorian Age — where The Lord of the Rings meets The Prisoner of Zenda. Inspired by a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Mike Pondsmith (Cyberpunk, Mekton) created a splendid frappe of a rulebook. It’s told as the narrative adventure of one Tom Olam, a computer game artist unwillingly transported to New Europa by a powerful sorcerer and the King of the Fae. There he creates (in collaboration with the Prince of Wales) a “Great Game” that brings roleplaying to the salons of Europa.
The Great Game, and the Castle Falkenstein game itself, are high-spirited endeavors in unabashed melodrama, where adventures feature a Fiendish Plot, an Insidious Peril, Imprisonment in Durance Vile, and a Fate Worse Than Death, along with hairsbreadth escapes, deathtraps, and perilous battles. Players not only fill characters sheets for their Dramatic Characters; they also keep a diary of the character’s life and times in the Steam Age. Start a session of “the Great Game,” and soon you’ll be speaking and writing like Captain Fortune himself: “I’ve a loaded reciprocator in one hand, a saber in the other, and a deucedly good Helical Rotor Ornithopter to get me where it’s needful. What say we take a flight over the Channel and beard the unscrupulous bounder in his very lair?”
There were four titles in this revived offer’s Starter Collection (retail value $48) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks:
- The full-color 226-page Castle Falkenstein core rulebook in a beautiful recent scan with corrected errata.
- Comme Il Faut: The player’s essential guide to “all things right and proper” in the aristocratic courts of New Europa and beyond.
- Steam Age: A comprehensive equipment guide and interviews with many notable mad scientists and masterminds, like Captain Nemo and Lady Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers.
- Six-Guns & Sorcery: Adventures in the Steam Age version of North America, a high-weirdness patchwork of bizarre nations.
- Curious Creatures: The comprehensive Falkenstein monster manual.
- Firearms & Margarine: A full-length Adventure Entertainment set in Paris, where a mystery surrounds the assassination of a Brownie labor leader.
- Variations on the Great Game: Optional rules that let you customize Falkenstein to your exact taste.
- The Book of Sigils: A new magick system, many new Sorcerous Orders and lorebooks, and rules for the animated dead, ghosts, and spirits.
- The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci: Retrieved from beyond the Faerie Veil, this codex presents sorcerous devices and rules for the construction of magickal engines.
- The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie: The High Lord of the Seelie Court reveals the secrets of the enigmatic Fae. By Jeff Grubb (Marvel Super Heroes, Spelljammer).