I found Castle Falkenstein at my local gaming store in the mid-90s, not long after it had been published. Back then I had no idea what steampunk was and my knowledge of Victorian history and literature was sketchy at best. It had been years since I had read any Verne or Wells or even Doyle. I was smack dab in the middle of what I like to think of as my angst phase, where most of my gaming time took place in a World of Darkness. Really, I had no reason to pick up the main rulebook for Falkenstein at all.
Except it was so. Damned. Pretty. I don't mean the pictures, which were gorgeous water colors and a treat for the eyes. I don't even mean the layout. It would be years before I had enough education in page design to understand how beautiful, evocative, and even revolutionary Mike Pondsmith's layout of the book was. No, what I mean is the writing.
I've always been a fast reader. In the ten minutes or so I spent browsing through the book at my LGS I was able to absorb enough of the amazing story of daring, adventure, magic, and glory to know it was worth whatever price was listed on the back of the cover. I fell in love that day. I bought the book. I bought the supplements. I bought the two tie-in novels written by John DeChancie (whose Castle series I highly recommend as a great example of comedic fantasy).
Why so much love? Perhaps it was because, as mired as I was at the time in the conspiracy and tragedy of vampires and werewolves and mages (and who isn't in their early 20s?) I longed for a world of color and hope and honor. Or maybe I was thrilled with the notion of being able to sleuth with Sherlock Holmes before sailing with Captain Nemo and all in a world where cavalrymen flew on winged horses and secret societies of mages wrestled with each other in the shadows of a fairy-tale castle. Perhaps the budding writer in me had fallen in love with a the sheer masterpiece of a game which was entirely in character, rules and all, from page one to page two-hundred and twenty-six.
Or maybe, just maybe, some little part of me saw the future and knew someday I would get my chance to be part of such an amazing legacy. I have written thousands of words over the years and, yet, I cannot find any to express the honor I feel at being given a chance to transcribe the words of Captain Thomas Olam and his compatriots from New Europa into new books for gamers all over our world to enjoy and appreciate and use in new campaigns. I hope fans of Castle Falkenstein find me up to the challenge.
Long live the Second Compact!
Your humble servant,