View Full Version : How much interest (if any) would there be in a new gothicy clockpunky RPG?

2013-08-17, 10:36 AM
So, pretty much as per the title.

I've been writing an RPG, entitled "Guns, Swords, and Steam" for a few years now, and I'm not a million miles off having my basic rulebook finished. I'm sort of expecting to just dump it on the web as a free PDF where it'll probably gather dust, but I've had vague thoughts as to whether I should do anything more with it - from just trying to drum up more interest to actually considering some sort of publishing option - and so this is a dipping-toe-in-the-water post.

The setting mixes a lot of later fantasy elements - bits of lower-end steampunk and clockpunk (so Da Vinci inspired stuff and cranky steam tanks but not zeppelins everywhere and steam powered robots), bits of the gothic (vampires, werewolves, a troglodyte race who can use echolocation), a magic system but a fairly low-grade one (the higher end does include some fairly powerful summonings and illusions, but you're not going around swinging fireballs at people as fast as you can say "bat guano") and so on.

The rulebook has a detailed background section giving full exposition on all the major nations in what I've mentally termed "Area 1" (there's a lot more planned, but I didn't want to go too overboard when writing this rulebook: Area 1 is mostly places with a fairly European/Gothic feel). The basic system is d6 based. I'm still some way off finishing, mostly got to flesh out rules and write descriptions for over fifty career options as the biggest remaining job, but most of it's now in place so I thought I'd see whether people think it's an interesting project or whether there's so much stuff like this flooding everywhere that I should avoid bothering people with it.

Thoughts? Queries? :)

2013-08-18, 10:39 AM
I'll be honest, the biggest problem I have with new systems (even free ones) is if they can do something new. I'm familiar with a large number of systems, and unless this new system does something considerably different - interesting or unique mechanics, preferably related to the setting somehow - then I'm unlikely to do more than download it and save it to my RPG folder.

What will interest me is if your setting is interesting or unique, especially if it shows that you've done your research and if there are ways to generate content independent of the system itself. What I mean by that is if you have the Town of Townington already created with good RP information (so-and-so level of magic, distinctive people, reasons of notability) or if there are guidelines for creating content in the rules (a town will generally be X size to support a market of magic). By this, I don't mean "Roll DC 24 to discover information in Townington" or only relying on system-specific interactions.

It certainly sounds like an interesting idea, but I'd want a good reason to read through it.

2013-08-19, 05:51 AM
Hm, content creation guidelines are a good shout, I'll put more thought into that.

Currently the "background" section of the rules details the history/politics/culture of all the major states in zone 1 (and that's about nine thousand words of the 25000 word compilation thus far, it details all the more major cities and political players and gives a few unique skills/items from each area to add some flavour) - there are also petty principalities all over the place so I can write stuff to help GMs add their own one of those and certainly more information can be added on town sizes etc etc. Do you think it'd be worth including a full sample campaign?

2013-08-19, 05:58 AM
This sounds interesting, especially because I've been wanting a d6-based steampunkish RPG for quite a while now (but to be honest I haven't put much research in it yet). But I agree with Erikun that it would be far more interesting with a unique setting.

For publishing, you can always look into self-publishing platforms (Lulu, CreateSpace) - that way it'll become available as ebook and real book to anyone who's interested. But I suppose you have to be pretty sure that it's a good system, thorough playtesting and all.

Sounds cool though!

2013-08-19, 06:46 AM
Well, I'll give a bit more setting detail and see what people think.

There are six playable races - Human, Werewolf, Vampire, Grenlach, Troglodyte, Portune. Humans are by far the most common. Werewolves and Vampires are fairly standard, both will tend to be attacked/hunted down in a lot of nations (one of the largest, the Union, is actually run by Vampires on the other hand). The Grenlachs are a slightly Asiatic themed gremlinish species from the far West of the continent, particularly notable as gunsmiths and engineers. Troglodytes are hunchbacked, bow-legged, pale humanoids who live underground and have echolocation abilities, and Portunes are six inch tall little-folk who are (unlike all the other races) all innately magical instead of it being a rare ability.

Technologically speaking, powered flight has still not been invented, so it's very low-tech for a steampunk setting. A lot of stuff based on Da Vinci's designs is in common use (so the Da Vinci tank, for example, is in common use, they're called "Trammechs" in the game). Magic is an exceptionally rare ability - unless you're a Portune (and there are significant disadvantages to that, like the risk of literally being trodden on) you only have a very low chance of magical attunement. Most campaigns shouldn't therefore require magic at all (and like with vampirism there are risks if anyone finds out about it in many areas).

The different countries are all themed a bit differently, a random selection:
- There's a Papacy, except that the religion is really centred around our-world Roman gods and the Papacy is basically that of Jupiter and tries to stamp out the worship of minor deities (with varying success and a lot of witch hunters).
- The Union is the biggest and most industrialised nation, mix of steam power and large scale slavery, run by Vampires.
- Surany is a cavalry-centric nation with wide grassy plains and a mobile royal court that rotates around major settlements (a sort of 18th century Rohan). There are especially good horses that can be bought there, and some bonus skills as well.
- Chaltary is on the Union's southern border (and is the southernmost country in Zone 1). They're fairly mountainous (in general the Union's borders are where there are mountains or thick forests and they can't just chuck slave troops and Trammechs in until the enemy can't stand anymore).
- Tarrala is a tiny country in the far north where Artemis is still the primary deity and Priests are required to carry & train with longbows. Also there's an ancient relationship between the Werewolf packs of Tarrala and its Royal house.

That's just a flavour of it - I guess I'm badly qualified to comment on how unique it is because I'm not a massive, massive connoisseur of steampunkish settings. Does anyone have any thoughts on how bland/unusual it sounds?

2013-08-19, 11:24 PM
I'm not a massive connoisseur either, but I do know quite a lot of fantasy in general, if you'll excuse the tooting my own horn there. It sounds interesting and fascinating enough, except for a few done-to-death clichés.

The main one here is vampires and werewolves. It's all right to have them in your setting, but be aware that it's a very overdone cliché and that people nowadays will immediately associate it with Twilight and co. You need to either have some VERY original going on there, or think of just dropping/replacing them. Shapeshifters can be original, lycanthropy might be original, but vampires and werewolves are nigh impossible to make original.

Another one is that the Union is secretly ruled by vampires. A nation ruled by bad guys isn't bad per se, but why haven't they killed off the good guys yet? Are the vampires farming the humans? Why don't the other nations combine forces to destroy the Union? Why is there no rebellion going on or something? You might have actually thought out everything about it and the story might be quite good, but I'm just saying that at the moment it sounds quite cliché.

I do like the ideas of troglodytes and grenlachs - they sound very cool. Also the idea that it's not high on magic is pretty original, and works far better with steampunk than the magic steampunk stuff going on in Eberron, I think (not that I have played Eberron; just an example). The fairly low level of steampunk sounds interesting, but I think it needs a lot of attention to make it workable (i.e. not just a medieval world without machines and without magic - that'd be bland).

From what I've heard, though, it sounds interesting and I'd be willing to look into it and see what's actually going on! I can't give too accurate an opinion yet, because I obviously haven't read it all and don't know exactly what's going on. :P

2013-08-20, 05:18 AM
Okay, so on the Union: The Union is openly ruled by Vampires. It covers what were about three or four other nations, and is effectively limited by "places you can throw a ridiculously big army at with any success". So Chaltary in the south is protected by narrow mountain passes and some very deep, wide rivers, to the east is the sea, to the north are a collection of constantly rebelling islands, to the west there are the really deep forests of Wurttembuch and Tarrala and the hills and mountains occupied by the Papacy and a ton of vicious kilt-wearing tribesmen. They're still in fairly constant fighting against Chaltary, Wurttembuch, and Tarrala. And yeah, the Union's vampires would just drink the blood of some poor slave or other generally. The upper echelons of the Union aren't all Vampires, either - their head general is a human, mainly because Vampires, whilst brilliant organisers and commanders, really suck at thinking outside the box.

Also wrt to everyone trying to team up to kill the Union - everyone on their borders is fighting them, and that mixed with the terrain is just about holding things in place. Surany, Durginfeldt, and the more westerly nations don't really want to send armies west to run up against the largest military power on the planet and are too busy playing chess with the minor principalities the other side of the central mountains. It's also worth noting that previously, everyone DID try and team up against the Union (and occasionally won though lost more often), and that in the setting's "present" expansion is still a very active thing. In my timeline "now" is circa 1711, and the Kingdom of Axiosa was only destroyed by the Union in 1707.

As to the gothic creatures: Vampires aren't necessarily "always evil" like in some settings - the compulsion to drink blood is there, but if you can get around that in a non-evil way fair play. Generally most Vampires can't, or get driven mad and kill themselves trying. Similarly there aren't clear "good guys" on a nation-level, though it's probably a given that the big slave-owning industrialised Vampire state isn't going to have many friends among players. I guess partly the originality with the Vampires is to have them openly at the level of statesmen and military commanders; they don't always fill this "creature of the night" role so much as usual.

The Werewolves on the other hand, yes it's a cliche, but from the earliest versions of this the mythos of them being the chosen creatures of Artemis and tied up with the Tarralan house have been in there so I'm loath to get rid of them too easily. I could well just rename them to Lycanthropes or Vulkodlaks or another equivalent term to escape the name "Werewolf" of course. I'll have a play around with it.

As to the steampunkness, I'm working on the medium level (3rd and 4th) careers at the moment, and after that engineering rules are probably the next job. :)
...this is probably a good point to warn you that I can keep talking on these subjects for far too long. :smalltongue:

2013-08-21, 06:58 PM
looks very intresting so far :). do you plan on posting the rules/full background for us to peruse, or will you just continue to taunt eith little glimpses till desire drives us all insane?

2013-08-22, 12:53 PM
I want to get the rules a bit more finished before a proper release of them.

The project does now have a little subforum here if anyone's interested enough to go do suggestions & FAQs etc;

I could probably post more full background info, but again that's still a bit in flux - currently I'd most like people to be asking questions about different things so I can work out what people are most concerned about and what I might have missed. :)

2013-08-22, 04:27 PM
On uniqueness and Cliches:

Vampires: The things that make vampires feel cliched and auto associated with twilight and other modern works is that they are so common that everyone knows their traits, and there is no surprise. Are your vampires the bog standard suite of vampire traits or do they subvert certain expectations? Playing fast and loose with their abilities and vulnerabilities is a great way to make them feel more unique and can give some interesting flavor to the setting. Here's what I consider the "Standard Vampire", which is subjective:


Stronger than Average Human
Faster than Average Human
Able to Charm or Entrance people, whether supernaturally or just being gorgeous and eternal.
Eternal YOUTH (important that it is youth, not just life).
Very durable against normal harm and able to heal quickly.
Heightened Senses.


Sunlight Burns and Kills.
Must drink blood on a regular basis to survive.
Inability to reproduce, forced to spread vampirism to others.
Stake to the heart spells death.
Undeath, and all that it entails.

And here are some other traits that show up in various works and mythologies which are less well known:


Shapeshifting abilities into Gas, Bats, Wolves, Rats, or others.
Telekinesis, Telepathy, or other psionics.
Climbing Walls without aid or grip.


Water burns and kills.
Inability to cross running fresh water (rivers/streams...) of their own volition.
When killed, all of their spawn or those they passed vampirirsm to also die.
Inability to enter a home without being invited.
Transformation completely alters the mind of the individual, essentially killing the prior person and replacing them with a monster who has their memories and body but is not them.

Vampires have rich and ancient mythology surrounding them and playing with the modern image is a great way to make them unique. Immediately I wonder if your Vamps are vulnerable to sunlight, since if so that is a tremendous drawback for a military soldier/general to have, since battles often happen in the daytime and you would need to be able to move quickly and freely in that situation.

All of the above is true for Werewolves too, with the note that altering the name a bit is a great way to make them feel more "yours" and less the cliche werewolf.

Standard Werewolfs:


Shapeshfiting (modern versions often have it as voluntary).
Superior Strength.
Superior Speed.
Heightened Senses.
Animal Affinity.
Prolonged Life (though not necessarily eternal).
Healing Factor.


Shapeshifting limited by outside forces (typically the moon, though becoming rarer in modern media)
Vulnerability to Silver (or other materials, also becoming less common in modern media.
Lycanthropy spread by bites.

Rarer Werewolf Traits:


Inate ability recognize their own kind, and often other strange creatures too.
Lycanthropy covering a wide range of animal types.
Eternal Youth.


No Self control in animal form.
No ability to control transformations.
Inability to Breed, must spread by infection.
Weakness to certain herbs.

So after all of that my question basically is: What pulls your Vampires and Werewolves away from the rest?