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Steampunk Spotlight: Victoriana RPG update

Steampunk Spotlight: Victoriana RPG update

jewelempireA couple of weeks ago, I began my exploration of steampunk – one of the most popular subgenres in speculative fiction today – with a review of the upcoming board game Kings of Air and Steam, currently being funded through Kickstarter. (There’s still about another day before the deadline to pre-order a copy at a huge discount.)

Kings of Air and Steam focused on the more mundane aspects of the steampunk setting – shipping merchandise by airship and railroad. There’s certainly a lot more to steampunk than that and one game which embraces the more fantastic end of the spectrum is Victoriana RPG.

What is Victoriana?

Picture a traditional fantasy adventure setting, such as those made popular by Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons, complete with elves, dwarves, sorcerers, undead, monsters, and so on. Now advance that world about 500 years, from the classic Middle Ages setting into the Victorian era. That is, essentially, the basis of Victoriana.

I favorably reviewed the Victoriana core rulebook and several supplement books in Black Gate #15 (now also available in Amazon Kindle format), but they’ve come out with three new sourcebooks since then. How do these new supplements stack up? If you really want to explore the world of Victoriana, these are definitely what you’ve been waiting for, although you will need at least the core rulebook to get started.

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Steampunk Spotlight: Kings of Air and Steam

Steampunk Spotlight: Kings of Air and Steam


I was never a huge fan of history class. It wasn’t until after college that I really began to enjoy history, and then it was mostly in the form of alternate history novels. This reading motivated me to begin reading more widely in real-world history, too, though I still like the alternative stuff a little better. In 2005, I pulled some of this reading together into an essay for The Internet Review of Science Fiction on “fantastic adventure history“, stories blend alternate history with fantasy.

Definitely the most potent type of alternate history in publishing these days – with or without fantasy elements included – is the sub-genre known as steampunk. This alternate history is set in an Industrial Revolution or Victorian-era setting, but the steampowered technology is ramped up a bit beyond what was realistic for the time. The look and feel of steampunk is so enticing that even Disney has gotten into it, releasing a limited edition pin set, The Mechanical Kingdom, that features the classic Disney characters in steampunk variants.

Steampunk got its start as hard science fiction, as described at the recent “Founders of Steampunk” panel from the World Fantasy Convention, but it’s definitely moved beyond that. In fact, my first writing for this magazine, back in Black Gate 10, was a review of the fantasy steam-fueled roleplaying game, Iron Kingdoms, in which powerful wizards are able to control hulking mechanized constructs called warjacks. (Interested? Check out this interview with Iron Kingdoms artist Matthew D. Wilson.)

Without really seeking them out, these steampunk games seem to keep coming across my path … probably because there are just so darn many of them. In Black Gate 15, I reviewed the Victoriana roleplaying game (available on PDF at DriveThruRPG), which also has strong fantasy steampunk themes. In that same issue, I reviewed the steampunk zombie novel Boneshaker (Amazon, B&N). Today, steampunk seems to permeate through all sub-categories of genre fiction.

It also seems to permeate my house. I’ve got several steampunk novels, collections, games, and other oddities that I have had every intention of getting around to reading and reviewing. So, in an attempt to clear through this pile of steampunk populating my bookshelves, I’ve decided to begin a series of posts on recent steampunk goodies, starting with an upcoming steampunk board game: Kings of Air and Steam.