While this is getting tagged as a Steampunk Musha blog, its really for our shared world of Antikthon -- the planetoid that also includes the lands of Vathak from our Shadows over Vathak setting, and our planned settings of Neiyar and the Kingdoms of Sand (see a blog post here for more on those places).
"Say hello to my lil' friend!"
Works of Rosuto-Shima
The setting of Steampunk Musha has the word “steampunk” right in the title. While it is a Far East Asian inspired setting, and we have solid support for that presented in the Steampunk Musha: Explorer's Guide to Rosuto-Shima (a forthcoming book that we just handed over the full manuscript to The Fattest Goblin & The Janitor for layout) book does not include full rules for introducing steam-powered devices into your standard Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The system we are developing at Fat Goblin Games, which we are tentatively calling The Works System as in “steamworks” and “clockworks,” is going to be robust and ideally on par with both the systems for spells and magic items are for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
There are a number of reasons we didn’t include it then in the Explorer's Guide. The tentative length of such a system is part of it, but the most important reason has to do with the lack of a solid system for this kind of constructing of powerful devices that are the equal of magic items, but ideally more customization than mere spells. This system needs to be fairly advanced and customizable as we have plans for at least six specific classes that will be built around either creation or using these types of devices, as well as needing to include archetypes and alternate class designs to support having more traditional classes that rely on this system.
The current design adds to and partially replaces the existing craft systems used for both mundane and magical items (as well as firearms), with things like beneficial advantages and disadvantageous flaws being a natural part of constructing a device, be it a new advanced weapon for personal use to an entire train or a suit of steam-powered armor.
Flawed Designs We’re Hoping to Avoid
There are a number of common designs for this kind of system published by other companies for both Pathfinder Roleplaying Games as well as other systems. Most make the choices they do for either ease of design, or to let balance be a natural part of expanding game design. This can become problematic variously.
The most common “solution” is to make a few new Craft feats a la the Item Creation feats used to make magic items, and have them use existing spells as a basis. This opens up a vast number of spells to be made into essentially “spell-in-a-can” items that often have some minor flavor to make them “steam-y” or “clockwork-y” like “requires fuel to burn,” or “a mainspring must be wound,” for instance.
The second most common “solution’ is to not make a crafting system at all, but rather to make a number of “standard items” and then make a system that allows only for simple tweaks to those items. In these systems, you often have items that have rules all self-contained, and then certain classes are able to “hack” the devices or otherwise enhance them to allow for minor adjustments — so they fire faster, have increased capacity or damage, move more quickly, carry more weight, etc.
The core problem to both of these solutions is basically the same — you don’t get anything especially “new” from them. They mostly are just mimicking either existing magic items or worse, spells — which considering the kinds of adjustments made possibly with metamagic feats as well as a plethora of class abilities — always have much better chance of doing amazing things because they’re “magic.” In the end then, these solutions take away much “fun” for those what want to play “builder-types” that craft or engineer solutions to a problem, either on the fly or long-term.
The Kinds of Things We’re Hoping to Include
We are, instead, designing a system that starts with a core set of “features” that devices are able to produce — like “spray fire” or “enhance your movement.” These are being designed to be scaled and leveled in a way similar to spells, so that a lower level feature is less powerful but less costly than a higher level one. Additionally, a range of options can be built into a design, so that you can control the size of that spray of fire, or the length of time the enhancement to your movement exists. But on top of this, we’re designing it so that multiple features can be applied to a single device to allow for mixed interaction — leading to options like rocket-powered boots that not only enhance your jumping ability, but blast a small burst of fire out around where you just lept from.
We want the system to be “enough” to allow for a wide range of options, but also be expandable in later releases easily, and also to have a system that is fairly universal and not dependent merely on a single type of power source. This is important to us as we have plans to release a similar book for our Shadows over Vathak setting, which is almost a dieselpunk-like setting in a form of warfare more similar to WWI. And other planned settings have alternate designs that we hope to accommodate, so that our system that allows for say alchemically-powered airships can also be used to design muscle-powered flying ornithopters, and maybe even tap magical energies in a way different from “spells” and “magic items” to create new and wondrous devices like hellfire-powered warmachines or faith-fueled protections.
But our first steps are to design a system that can make a fun, easy to use system to design and create original steam-, clockwork-, and alchemically-powered devices that can give the technologically inclined residents of Rosuto-Shima a viable alternative to the traditions of magic and superstition that defined the previous millennia of their existence.
Hello and konnichiwa.
A Quick Update
Things are going swimmingly, with the last of the sections for the Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima getting their final tweaks and edits. Then the book will be off to layout.
In the meantime, Ismael Alvarez has done some amazing work on two new books that I can’t wait to talk about. One includes a very exciting class, but more on that in a few weeks time.
We spend a lot of time looking into real world history and culture. Partly it’s for inspiration, but it’s also to make sure things work. After all, if it existed in Japan, China, or Korea, then it could just as well exist in Rosuto-Shima. I’d been contemplating adding a “Further Reading” list in our Steampunk Musha - Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima, like in some of the other roleplaying core books of the D20 family, but in the end I thought it would be a rather weird beast — Steampunk Musha is so much more than the sum of its parts. So here it is instead, a list of some excellent resources, recommended by me for your Steampunk Musha campaign. I’ll try my best to update it with other resources we come across.
- Tasogare Seibei/Twilight Samurai, directed by Yoji Yamada
- The Last Samurai, directed by Edward Zwick
- Red Beard, directed by Akira Kurosawa
Animated Movies and Anime Series
- Steamboy, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
- Ghost in The Shell, directed by Mamoru Oshii (The live action film looks like it will be a great adaptation, and the manga is worth a look).
- The Samurai Sourcebook, by Stephen Turnbull.
- Strongholds of the Samurai: Japanese Castles 250–1877, by Stephen Turnbull.
- The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi.
- Secrets of the Samurai, by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook.
- Bushido: the Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe.
- Introduction to Japanese Swords through Pictures, by the All Japan Swordsmith Association.
- Shogun, by James Clavell.
- The Young Samurai series, by Chris Bradford.
Hello and konnichiwa!
The team have been hard at work putting together the finishing touches on the final draft of the Steampunk Musha - Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima. Effectively, this is book 0, which sets the stage for every other Steampunk Musha book we’ve got planned.
It’s a big deal! Not only does it lay down much of the history and flavor of Rosuto-Shima, but it also introduces the fundamental aspects of playing a Steampunk Musha campaign. This includes concepts like playing a local character versus playing a gaijin character, the philosophy and honor systems, firearms in Steampunk Musha, and the religions of Rosuto-Shima.
There’s so much to cover, but you’ll find everything you need to get your feet wet and set off on your Steampunk Musha journey. We haven’t presented every class in the just yet, but we have looked at a wide variety of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game classes and explained how they fit into the Lost Island. Many other topics will be expanded on in later publications, but the Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima is the cornerstone of Steampunk Musha, so don’t miss it.
If you’d like to see what our other Fat Goblin Games Explorer’s Guides look like, check out Shadows over Vathak: Explorer's Guide to Vathak. Lucus Palosaari, who worked on Shadows, played a big part in mapping out the Steampunk Musha - Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima, and is one of the editors.
I'll leave you with Adam Savage and the Tested team visiting WETA Workshops and showing off some amazing Ghost in the Shell props — Inspiring Stuff!
Hello and konnichiwa!
Two weeks ago we looked at the reality of designing an Asian setting for a Western audience, and how it’s a lot like a Serbian Irish band. Today’s post continues from where we left off.
Back to our Serbian Irish band (last time, I promise). How do they “sell” Irish? It's an important question, because it’s what a good GM does at the table all the time, as they sell their world to the players.
It comes down to cues, those things that scream “Irish” or “celtic” so hard that you’ll look past the “non-Irish” disparities in the video (even if just for a moment). It’s his hat, it’s the bodhrán, it's the grass in his mouth.
Roleplaying is very much about cues. Traits are cues, Steampunk Musha’s philosophies and classes are all cues. The fact that we renamed the fighter to the ashigaru is a huge cue, and there are many examples besides that. These cues are there to give Rosuto-Shima form and make it come alive at the table. If players find it easy to imagine the lands and peoples of Rosuto-Shima, then I know I’ve done my job as a line developer and writer well, there is no greater reward than this.Often cues are drawn from stereotypes and assumptions. This is great if you’re playing a cackling goblin or a monologuing villain, but Steampunk Musha asks you to dig deeper than chopsticks and sushi, because nothing is ever as simple as it seems in Rosuto-Shima, where oni walk among us and the kami play their games.
Here are some major themes in Steampunk Musha:
Tradition vs Technology.
Indigenous vs Foreign (Gaijin).
Philosophies, and how they stand among other philosophies.
The Seen vs The Unseen, and, by extension, The Public Face vs The Private Face.All of these themes are at the core of Steampunk Musha, and each has its own set of cues that breathe life into the world.
Art is a useful resource for tapping into cues. If you need some great Japanese art for your game you can find some great Hokusai resources over at artsy.net.Till next time!
Rodney Sloan, Line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games.
Hello and konnichiwa!
One of my favorite Irish bands isn’t even Irish. They’re Serbian.
The Orthodox Celts mostly play traditional Irish songs with an up tempo rock element. They might not be everyone's “mug of Guinness,” but I discovered them when I was first exploring Irish music, and for me they fit nicely alongside Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys.
What has this got to do with Steampunk Musha?
It’s all about cultural appreciation.
Culture is “adopted” all the time. People find something they love and make it their own. Fantasy roleplaying is an excellent example of this, with all manner of inspiration drawn from other cultures. As we adopt something we like, we change it too.
Food is a great example. The chicken chow mein I had in New York is nothing like the chicken chow mein I get in South Africa, which is nothing like the chicken chow mein I ate in Beijing or Tokyo. Tastes differ around the world and chefs cater to those different tastes. The fact that we can enjoy Irish music performed by a Serbian band shows the international appeal of Irish music.
Steampunk Musha is a lot like a Serbian band playing a weird blend of K-Pop and J-Pop. None of us are of Asian descent, and even though we know enough Japanese between ourselves to get into trouble, we could never claim to have a full and complete understanding of the cultures that inspire us, although we do have huge respect for, and a desire to learn about, those cultures.
And that’s okay, and something I’m proud about. Like the chow mein chefs and the Serbian Irish band, we’re making something we’re passionate about accessible to a wider audience, an audience that is a lot like us; otaku, Asian history geeks, Steampunk connoisseurs, martial arts fans, roleplayers, and gamers.
We’ve set out to be as respectful to the source material and the cultures we’ve drawn inspiration from as we can be, while at the same time understanding that this is fantasy, and Rosuto-Shima is a very different world.
In our next installment, coming on the 21st, I’ll talk about how our Serbian Irish band sells “Irish” using cues, and the sort of cues you can use to create a believable Steampunk Musha for your players.