Sunday, October 26, 2008

Steampunk Away From "Home"

Since my group and I began our plans for Aeronef, we have discussed whether or not we wanted to use Earthly nations or go with something original. For me, this brought up an interesting question. Is Steampunk/VSF reliant upon Earthly components to avoid becoming purely science fiction or are the elements that make it Steampunk/VSF more a matter of style rather than historical reference? To me, it seems to be about style and theme, but perhaps a bit of a look at the setting we intend to play in will help to demonstrate where I am coming from.

Our setting is on an alien world outside of Earth's celestial sphere, the idea being that it had been reached by humans through an Ethereal Hyper-locative Aperture (wormhole) some time ago. Though colonized by Earthly explorers, the planet known as Terra Secundus was later isolated when the EHA closed. Since then, the human colonies have formed into their own nations, developing technologies to adapt to their new world.

Terra Secundus is not an Earth analog, though it does have many similar environments. It is characterized by massive mountain ranges winding steeply across the face of the planet. So extreme are these ranges that some go beyond the limits of human airship technology to overcome and in many places they dive down in sheer cliffs to a veritable maze of sees, oceans and water ways. This leaves little in the way of flat land to colonize, making such areas crucial peaces of real estate.

The planet sports a variety of habitats in the valleys and plateaus that make up its more level lands, but much of these have been settled and converted to one extent or another by humanity. In other places communities have sprouted out of the sides of mountains or built upon reclaimed land jutting into one water way or another. In all cases, humanity balances on an eternal precipice, not just figuratively but quite literally, his existence forever challenged.

The planet has a few indigenous sentient species some hostile, some friendly and some simply disinterested in the presence of humanity. Most notable are the humanoid Deva, a red-skinned people similar to the Martians and possibly related in the same way that the humans of Terra Secundus are to terrestrial humans. The Deva are masters of the aerofauna of the planet and live in towering terraced cities or in travelling caravans made up of domesticated floaters carrying barque-like vessels under them. Relations with the Deva have been hit and miss and much of it has to do with the particular city or tribe one is dealing with.

The other notable race is a rarely scene and as yet identified insectoid species which occupies an area rich in contragravital minerals. This species will be dealt with more once the player playing them defines them more.

The above mentioned contragravital mineral is called Gravicite and it is found naturally in deposits throughout the planet in varying quantities. The raw ore can be used to power gravity drives thus making the heavier than air movement of massive vessels as possible as moving nautical dreadnoughts through the use of coal. But Gravicite is not only available as mined ore.

The aerofauna of Terra Secundus are also rich in contragravitic compounds and, if hunted and processed properly, can produce industrial quantities of Gravicine, a liquid with contragravitic characteristics. This has led to the thriving industry of "sky whaling" with entire fleets of ships combing the skies of Terra Secundus, harvesting the massive floaters for their valuable Gravicine. This has brought humanity into several direct conflict with the Deva who do not take kindly to the industrial slaughter of the creature that have so defined their culture.

One last source of contragravitic compounds is a through refining of chemicals and mineral that can be extracted from various flora natural to the planet. These plants, though not all demonstrating their own contragravitic characteristics, have been cultivated on massive industrial plantations where they are harvested and refined into Grivicine Distilate. This is a poor form of Gravicine which cannot produce military grade contragravitic properties but is enough to power and drive smaller or commercial vessels of smaller sizes. It's primary use is by smaller or poorer nations or city states, or as a way to take the burden off of more effective contragravitic compounds in larger nations.

As you can see, the setting has all the basic building blocks for good old colonial fun as well as being founded on basic VSF/Steampunk themes. I have just chosen to take the setting out of our solar system and away from conventional Earth governments, though certain cultural elements will persist. This frees me and my group to create what we want, allowing us to use familiar themes in ways that the conventional frameworks do not allow for. For me, it means being able to design aeronef vessels that do not look like they belong in conventional earthly fleets.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Very interesting stuff. I look forward to hearing more about your Terra Secundus.

  2. I can't wait to actually get games going in that setting. Still trying to get fleets together and players motivated. Schedules and a total remodel of the game room have put this project on an almost year-long delay.


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