Steampunk Musha

Bi-Weekly Design Blog #7: Choosing The Path

Bi-Weekly Design Blog #7: Choosing The Path

The Test

The wind rattled the bamboo roof, but was it really the wind?

The venerable master lifted his tanto up before his face with arthritic hands and drew the blade a fraction from its lacquered sheath. He watched the polished surface as his first disciple dropped from the eaves to land soundlessly on the wooden floor behind him.

The master closed his eyes.

To the world he seemed almost asleep, just an old man feeling the fatigue of his years. Yet inside, his Ki flexed like the strong muscles of a youthful runner. He spread out his Ki, which surrounded him, a glowing force that appeared like a mirror-still pool of light to his inner eye. There he could see the ripples of the first disciple’s padded footfalls.

There, from behind the shoji screen, came the shallower, softer ripples of his second disciples soundless breathing.

Curiously, there was no sign of the third disciple.

Odd, for the third disciple was the most ambitious and impatient of the three.


We recently had a question from a fan regarding our decision to go with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game instead of the newer, “easier,” Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game.

Lucus gave some great insights into our thought processes in response to the question.

Let’s explore the lay of the land a little more.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a very mature game, in that there’s a huge amount of official and third party material to pull from. That makes our lives easier as designers, while giving us an opportunity to fill in the holes. Our Works System, for instance, fills the gap we’ve found with the existing crafting rules.

It also means that we can offer meaningful choices that breathe life into the world of Rosuto-Shima and make Steampunk Musha a meaningful game. Steampunk Musha is about so much more than clockwork ninja and steampowered samurai; we’ve worked hard to build depth and meaning into the game. That’s how we stand out from the competition.

Would we ever consider releasing Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons content for Steampunk Musha? You, the fans, have a voice, and we are listening. Personally, my market research points to the Dungeon Master’s Guild eating up a large portion of D&D sales, and that money does matter. With Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons having fewer mechanical levers to work with, it makes much more sense to stick with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to do all the groundwork, which gives us a solid base for later conversions.

Rodney Sloan, Line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games.

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Bi-Weekly Design Blog #6: Grab A Character Sheet

Bi-Weekly Design Blog #6: Grab A Character Sheet

Exciting stuff! The Steampunk Musha — Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima is almost here. It has been quite a journey, but well worth the wait.

Personally, I dislike talking about what we’ll deliver until it’s on the shelf. Something like 75% of games on Steam’s Early Access never get released (source). How awesome then that Lucus and the rest of the Fat Goblin Games team have fought so hard to get Steampunk Musha into players hands! And that’s about to happen. Very, very soon!

The Explorer’s Guide is bigger, at around 100 pages — although we’ll know for sure when layout is done — and better, with quality content you’ll find nowhere else.

As you’d expect from the name, we’ll take you on a tour of Rosuto-Shima, its lands and its people. You’ll discover its ancient origins and tumultuous history and uncover some of its many secrets. Beyond that we’ve covered a wide range of rules including Steampunk Musha specific classes, firearms, philosophies, the kami, and more.   

The layout is looking good, here’s a sneak peek I managed to swipe off Luke’s desk.

Explorer's Guide Sneek Peek 2

Explorer's Guide Sneek Peek 1

Watch the blog and Facebook for the release announcement!

Rodney Sloan, Line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games.

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Making Something that "Works"

Making Something that "Works"

Hello All,

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.

Lucus Palosaari on, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn -- and now on Amazon!

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Bi-Weekly Design Blog #5: Researching Steampunk Musha — Recommended Resources

Bi-Weekly Design Blog #5: Researching Steampunk Musha — Recommended Resources

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.


Recommended Resources

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.


  1. Tasogare Seibei/Twilight Samurai, directed by Yoji Yamada
  2. The Last Samurai, directed by Edward Zwick
  3. Red Beard, directed by Akira Kurosawa

Animated Movies and Anime Series

  1. Steamboy, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
  2. 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).

Non-Fiction Books

  1. The Samurai Sourcebook, by Stephen Turnbull.
  2. Strongholds of the Samurai: Japanese Castles 250–1877, by Stephen Turnbull.
  3. The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi.
  4. Secrets of the Samurai, by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook.
  5. Bushido: the Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe.
  6. Introduction to Japanese Swords through Pictures, by the All Japan Swordsmith Association.

Fiction Books

  1. Shogun, by James Clavell.
  2. The Young Samurai series, by Chris Bradford.


Rodney Sloan, Line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games.

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Bi-Weekly Design Blog #4: The Steampunk Musha - Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima

Bi-Weekly Design Blog #4: The Steampunk Musha - Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima

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.

For details about the release date for the Steampunk Musha - Explorer’s Guide to Rosuto-Shima, follow us on Facebook and join us on Google+

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!


Rodney Sloan, Line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games.

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