In my experience, Steampunk literature, movies and games fall along a series of spectra. Some stories tend more towards science fiction, with an emphasis on the technology of the time, while others focus on the world of the supernatural with its ghosts, vampires and other things that go bump in the night. Then there is the range of serious, like Whitechapel Gods, to the silly and fun, like Rae Smith and Penny Blake’s new release, The Everyday Extraordinaries: Extraordinary Adventures for Ladies and Gentlemen.
This live action role play (LARP) project has deep roots. Penny has been writing about the whimsical, alternative reality of “New World” for a long time before the larping book became available in September. It all started with Ashton’s Kingdom, which is a graphic novel series that is currently getting illustrated, and The Everyday Extraordinaries blog grew out of it. On that site you can explore the ins and outs of the “Universal Fruitcake Theory” and the benefits of “Cream Power.” In this land, disputes are settled by flinging cake and tea duelling, often with hilarious results.
Even though the title has “everyday” in it, players are encouraged to be extraordinary in a way that fits their schedule. Full-scale larping with friends, or just taking a few minutes to think about adventure is enough to join the rank of the Extraordinaries. The book has beautiful photos of different character types to help you create a persona to fit into the universe, including the Airship Captain, Resourceful Urchin, The Relentless Rogue and the Quiet Scholar. This game is designed to played by like-minded friends as well as being family-friendly to encourage Steampunks of all ages to engage with the content and 10 unique adventure “hooks.” You can decide if you are a law-abiding member of society, a neutral inventor-type or a sky pirate, it is all up to you!
I am pretty new to this whole RPG (role playing game) scene, but creator Terry Sofian was kind enough to share the games that he and a group of collaborators designed. The first in the “Hive Queen and Country” series is called Stars of Empire and was released in 2011, with a new edition currently in the works. It is a “d-20” game, meaning that players use 20-sided dice to decide their fates during game play, and characters grow and change with each adventure.
Sofian has envisioned a rich alternate history which revolves around the discovery of a mineral that helps humans achieve lighter than air flight at a much earlier time. Between its discovery and the perfection of Babbage’s Analytical Engine within his lifetime, the human race ushers in the space age during the Victorian era. Both in the RPG and on the Hive Queen and Country website, you can see the detailed timeline on which the game and accompanying fiction is based. The shift in the timeline towards greater technological advances deeply influences the geopolitics of the entire globe. New empires are formed, new (and often uneasy) alliances are struck, and some countries, like a United States still reeling from the Civil War is content to keep its head down. For now…
Intrigued? Well wait, there’s more! Within a few decades of leaving Earth’s atmosphere, humans have visited the moon (Luna), Mars and Venus. Luna in this scenario resembles First Men in the Moon, where the hollow body houses a network of tunnels. But unlike the Wells’ story, Luna has been abandoned by its inhabitants. The most troubling discovery is there also appear to be human burials on its surface, and no one knows how they got there. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that Mars and Venus are not quite so empty. The same care and detail are given to describing the back-story of the alien races as to their Earthly counterparts, and gives another whole dimension to the types of adventures that can be crafted within this world.
So far, I have only read Stars of Empire and it is not for the faint of heart. At almost 300 pages, this is not a game that casual players will be able to pick up and learn in a single evening. But, if you enjoy d-20 games and are looking for a Steampunk world to immerse yourself in, I would definitely check out this title. There are tons of creatures, settings and characters available to create interesting scenarios and keep you engaged. The tone is realistic and the story has gravitas, so be prepared to assemble a group of serious gamers to play with.
In the RPG, Sofian notes that the game can also be played with miniatures to enhance the look, and makes recommendations on the website about where to find suitable aliens and vehicles. Stars of Empire is the first in the series and uses a timeline that ends in 1893, but subsequent books move the timeline forward through the first and second “Hive Wars,” as well as conflicts on Venus. The book includes stunning artwork by several artists including Rachel Mayo and Paul Daly.
You can find all of Sofian’s RPGs in a digital format at RPGnow.com, and Stars of Empire can be purchased in print from Amazon.
Do you enjoy tabletop RPG’s? Have you ever played anything in the Hive Queen and Country universe? Please comment below!
February 19, 2015 | Categories: Entertainment, Games | Tags: aliens, Hive Queen and Country, Mars, Rachel Mayo, Role Playing, Role Playing Games, RPG, Stars of Empire, steam punk, Steampunk, Terry Sofian, Venus, Victorian | 2 Comments