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.