This review has been far too long in coming. This is down to several reasons; I’ve just been busy with my day job working odd shifts so I haven’t had as much time as I usually would do to absorb something like this, and the time I have had has been spent on getting some ideas down for my own Steampunk RPG before I forget them all. And then there’s the fact that I just don’t think that this RPG was designed with me in mind. This isn’t saying that it isn’t great – I’ll get to the good bits shortly – but there were times when I found myself flicking past pages at a time because there wasn’t much to interest me.
It is a very light system, and all the rules – including character creation – take up so little space, it made me wonder what Ms. Hardy was going to do with the rest of the pages. A lot of the space was very well used, with some cracking adventures in there, running from the kind of intro game that a group could get through in a couple of hours, to a much more involved multi-scene set up that begs to be explored in detail. There was plenty of background about the game world too, with time lines mixing up some real world events with the fantastical happenings of the Empire of Steam. I could honestly go back and read them again, just for the fun of it, to enjoy some top notch writing.
But then there was a whole bunch of pages explaining to me what a role playing game was, and how to GM. I don’t mind these sections, but even in bigger games they don’t seem to make up as much of the page count and make more sense. Everything about this game screams to me that it should be picked up and played in less than an hour after purchase, with people who have never role played before. In my earlier review of the game I said that it reminded me of the Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The core of this game still does. You could still have a great deal of fun playing this with friends whom have never rolled a dice outside of a game of Monopoly, as long as you don’t let them read the rule book.
For experienced gamers, there’s a lot that night not necessarily be relevant, and for people who are joining a game of Steampunk silliness, they could be a little bit intimidating. That much information for a light hearted and system light game (seriously, the entire thing comes down to a D6 roll and some explanation as to why it will work, and you’re done) is a tad unnecessary. Does all of this mean that I didn’t like it though? Hell! No!
It looks an absolute riot, and I will totally be running it for our new season Freshers come the end of summer. It is a perfect example of how little is required to get an idea across of theme and genre, and tack that onto a system that anyone can understand. The look of the book is remarkable, with layout and artwork of a very high professional quality. I know I mentioned this before, but the artwork is a huge win. Cartoony, but not so much that it detracts from the feel. The best way to describe it would be Steampunk caricature gone mad. With a system as light as this is, you need to take every chance you get to highlight the setting and the feel you’re trying to achieve, and every bit of art used is perfect.
And I cannot commend Lynne Hardy enough for her writing in this. Everything from the character creation, through adventure writing and back ground on the Empire of Steam is pitch perfect. I have no problem at all giving her a huge bunch of the credit for inspiring me to start writing an RPG of my own, as I would love to be thought of as even half a good Steampunk creator as she clearly is.
The thing I look for in any system is that in compliments the setting, rather than being just a mechanical way of working out random events. There are three attributes in the game, and you already know what they’re called: Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks. That’s it. And you basically have two different levels they can be, so making the decision about balance takes less time than it does to brew a proper pot of tea. The only bit that you’re going to have to put some thought into is how your attributes are applied. Rather than having full skill lists, you just pick an area of specialty for each attribute, and as long as you can apply it to the test, you get a bonus.
This is a great idea, and another one that I’ve found myself incorporating into the way I play other games, as it gives me a much better feeling of being involved in the narrative. This is a boon to all players; the more experienced will relish the challenge of bringing in their specialties as often as possible while new gamers will be given the opportunity to delve deeper into a character as much as they like.
In conclusion, I think this a grand old game, full of cracking writing that jumps off the page. I can’t wait to run this game for some people to see what they take away from it, but I think someone new to the hobby might be put off by the sheer bulk of the text about gaming that may not ever apply to them. If you fancy some kick ass, light-hearted fun involving some alternate Victorian silliness, then this is very much for you.