Steampunk inspiration and resources

How to Punk Your Steam Part 2: Make it Playable

For many, the joy of Steampunk is the ability to leave your everyday world behind. You can do this by attending conventions, like the Steampunk Symposium in April, reading fun and interesting stories, watching awesome movies, and now more than ever, by playing a game. Whether you are looking for computer game, table top role-playing game (RPG) or live action role play (LARP), the Steampunk-o-sphere has a game for you! And as the numbers of these games rises and the audience grows, there are chances for creators to get in on the action.

Adapting Something That Already Exists

Many of the stories that laid the groundwork for the Steampunk genre are old enough that they are in the public domain. The works of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all fall into this category, and people who love these authors may be interested in playing a game. There are 56 different short stories and 4 novels about Sherlock Holmes, for instance, which could be adapted to a playable format. A person could add a technological twist or a supernatural element to the original plot lines to keep players on their toes, or plan a murder mystery dinner party based on a tale.

Alternatively, you could start with a game that already exists and add a Steampunk twist to it. For instance, a regular deck of playing cards with famous figures of the Victorian era or using gears and goggles rather than spades and hearts can add a steamy element to poker or cribbage. Bicycle brand offers a deck that adds metallic elements and gears to the existing suits, which proves there is an audience for it, so a creator could take this idea and add their own unique twist. I also found a Steampunk-themed tarot card game and book while I was doing my research. Cards Against Humanity is a hilarious game of filling in the blanks and playing the best (or most awful) thing you want, and you can get blank playing cards to allow players to add whatever they want to the mix, so why not add your own Steampunk elements? Personally, I am working on plans to make my own cribbage board either in a gear shape or using octopus tentacles as the tracks to add a little steam to my favorite game.

D20 dieDungeons and Dragons is a classic RPG, and with the right game master, there is no reason there couldn’t be a Steampunk aspect added to it. Over at The Doberman Defense, Dr. X has written a great guide for the best ways to add blimps/dirigibles and robots to D&D. And if you are thinking about making your own RPG or LARP game, there are templates available so you don’t have to devise your own scoring system. “D20” games are the most common (and complex) RPGs, and use 20-sided dice to decide how the action will proceed, but you can devise ways to use standard 8-sided dice for your own creation if you don’t want people to have to get special equipment. There are also tons of miniatures (scale models of characters, creatures and vehicles) readily available for people who want to add a visual aspect to their games. For many, painting these miniatures and adapting them to their own game universes is a big part of the fun of playing the game, but there are also pre-painted miniatures you can buy.

I haven’t played any D20 games myself, but I LOVE strategy games like 7 Wonders and the Firefly game. These games use cards rather than dice and there is no game master who sets a unique task, but depending on the game there could be lots of different adventures to choose from. The character (or place in the case of 7 Wonders) dictates the kinds of actions you can take and what strategy you need to employ to succeed, so in that way it shares common ground with other tabletop RPGs. This notion could easily be adapted to a Steampunk setting, employing archetypes or real people from the Victorian era as characters.

Starting From Scratch

Do you have an idea for cool take on the Victorian era but you don’t feel like you’ve got a novel in you? Consider making a game instead! If you like creating creatures and thinking about adventures that characters could have but you don’t want to try to fit it all into a single narrative, this could be a great way to get your creative vision out there without restricting yourself (or readers) to a single plot or set of characters. You lose a bit of the control, but it also allows your creation to grow and change in new and interesting ways.

Playing a Game that Already Exists and Supporting Others

Not sure if the world of RPG’s or larping is up your alley? Trying giving someone else’s game a whirl. Conventions often host gaming as part of the festivities, so you could join a table and learn from other people’s experience before setting off on your own. Or, you could always ask your friends, you may be surprised to find out you already have access to some games through people you know.

This month, I told you about two different games that you can easily get your hands on; Stars of Empire and Everyday Extraordinaries. These are both Steampunk games, but are almost as different as you can get. Stars of Empire is a serious RPG, where Extraordinaries is a whimsical LARP-fest. There are also several games that are currently looking for supporters on Kickstarter, so you could get in on the ground floor of something brand new.

A Traveler’s Guide to Edara: A Steampunk Renaissance

Edara mapEdara: A Steampunk Renaissance is a pen & paper tabletop RPG set in a detailed fantasy world at the birth of its steampunk era. The setting combines classic Tolkien fantasy with Renaissance ideals of art, philosophy, and invention and all the great new technology that the power of steam has unlocked.” You can get the original game as well as the new supplementary materials by contributing $15 or more by March 10.




WarRab: Veteran

War Rab banner

“WarRab: Veteran is a 2D, Fantasy/Steampunk RPG containing real-time strategy and platforming elements. You take on the role of Flappy, a young, assertive sailor who is fighting to save his kind from being hunted by the ruthless Howler Warriors. Through this very raw and original story, you travel the developing world of Andoran meeting new friends, foes and choice-driven fates. The music and artwork, completely composed and designed by Chadrick Evans, merges together to express the perfect blend of emotional empathy. Diving into new areas will fill you with a sense of curiosity as the soundtrack builds up and attracts your attention.” For just a $5 pledge you can get this game. The campaign has already been funded, but you can get in on the special price if you make a contribution by March 10.

Here are a few more titles and supplies that I have found:

Tephra: The Steampunk RPG– as the name says, its tabletop D12 RPG

Gearworld: Borlderlands– A tabletop strategy game for 2-4 players based on the original Borderlands game.

Bret Airborne– puzzle game for computer

Steam Marines– adventure computer game

Steampunk people miniatures

Vehicle miniatures

Steampunk polyhedral dice– Beautiful wooden dice to add a little steam to any RPG


In August 2015, I hosted a series of guest posts by Andrew Knighton about Steampunk gaming. Read all about it!

Looking for more ways to “Punk Your Steam?” Check out the series!

One response

  1. Pingback: How to Punk your Steam Part 1: Make it Futuristic | For Whom the Gear Turns

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