It’s time in the Sun seems to have passed, but I still have friends who are fond of steampunk. Out of the many steampunk RPGs that have been made, are there any that you have played and would recommend?Prince Infidel
Hey Prince Infidel, great to hear from you again!
I also retain a soft spot for steampunk, be it in video games, TTRPGs, or prose stories. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of great steampunk video games, the other two categories are a bit lackluster. While there are a lot of systems out there like Iron Kingdoms and Full Light, Full Steam, most of them are very bad! Fortunately, I can still give you at least a few recommendations.
Rising Tide: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the steampunk game that I actually made, for sale on Mythcreants dot com! It’s heavily inspired by Sunless Sea and is all about creepy adventures on the high seas.
- Has a pretty good resource management system.
- I’ve been told it’s quite creepy.
- Players have a lot of options to customize their ships.
- It’s an expansion for Torchbearer, so you need that game to play it.
- It’s specifically designed for ocean adventures, so it doesn’t work so well if your party isn’t on a ship.
- I never did get the extended conflict system working the way I wanted.
Blades In the Dark: A dark and gritty game that borrows heavily from Dishonored and the Gentlemen Bastards. Does your group like stealing things in a haunted port city? This game might be for them!
- A superb system for managing the city’s various factions.
- A really cool rest system for healing PCs after a mission.
- Easy character creation that doesn’t take a whole session.
- A truly bizarre core die mechanic that risks turning every roll into an argument.
- Character creation is vulnerable to min-maxing.
- By default, the PCs are street criminals doing pretty dark stuff, which can be an issue in RPGs.
Unfortunately, those two are the only explicitly steampunk games I can recommend, but there are a few others that would work pretty well for a steampunk campaign. You’d just need to reskin parts of them.
Anima Prime: Admittedly, I recommend Anima Prime for a lot of campaigns. It’s a setting agnostic system that emphasizes your characters’ cool powers, whether that be magic, tech, or both.
- Easily the best combat system I have ever seen in a TTRPG.
- The main mechanic is moving dice from one pool to another and it is viscerally satisfying.
- Character creation is fast and easy.
- The game assumes you use combat for everything, which can be a pain.
- Character advancement is basic to non-existent.
- I couldn’t think of a third drawback.
7th Sea 1st Edition: A swashbuckling age-of-sail game that could be turned into a swashbuckling steampunk game without too much trouble. There’s a second edition, but I don’t know much about it.
- The hitpoint rules do a great job making you characters feel like swashbuckling heroes.
- A surprisingly fun combat system once you figure it out.
- Lots of customization options.
- Basically zero game balance.
- Character creation is really complicated.
- The magic waffles between totally useless and really overpowered.
Hope that helps, and good luck with your campaign!
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Comments on Are There Any Good Steampunk RPGs?
Heroquest 2nd Ed comes with a few drawbacks (there are a few abilities that very early on dominate your character) but it is system agnostic and can easily be a good steampunk game. I had immense fun, and feel the early specialization worked well for the genre.
There’s an excellent steampunk setting for Savage Worlds called The Widening Gyre that’s definitely worth a look.
What’s your take on Iron Kingdoms? I have the core book, but never managed to get a campaign rolling. Always wondered what would be the Mythcreants take on it.
Back in the day it seemed to me to be a good system, but today it’s far too crunchy to be attractive when most people are playing D&D 5e either way.
My main take is that it was doomed from the start when they decided to adapt the Warmachine/Hordes rules rather than creating something new. Warmachine is a good war game, but it doesn’t make a good RPG any more than you can get a good car by sticking wheels on a boat.
The IKRPG is an overly complex mess with a whole host of unintuitive and frankly unbalanced rules to navigate. And for all that, you can’t even do the obvious thing most players would want to do: emulate your favorite characters from the minis game, as many famous Warmahordes characters have stat combos that are literally impossible in the RPG. I don’t care much for D&D either, but the IKRPG doesn’t really do anything you can’t already get from D&D, and it seems even Privateer Press agrees, as they recently launched a wildly successful kickstarter for a 5E edition of the setting.
Would “Space: 1889” count?
Possibly, though I’m not familiar with that system. The cover image suggests more Age of Sail In Space. It also seems to be very much Victorian, which could be very problematic.
Space 1889 is a game which is explicitly about neo-Victorian colonialism being unleashed on the entire solar system. All the important powers in the game (from which the players originate) are European empires, and aliens are a 50/50 blend of Barsoom and Indigenous peoples.
And considering that its sci-fi elements are: “what if luminiferous aether existed?” I wouldn’t call it particularly steampunk.
Arcanum might qualify, if we’re adding computer RPGs.
Genesys is another setting agnostic system that could work. You might have to do some of the work upfront yourself, or find something in the Foundry on DriveThru RPG.
Blades is very hackable indeed, and I’m currently working on a monster-hunting game set in a post-revolutionary age of steam setting. So more punk, less steam, but a fair bit of demon-haunted dodgy engineering around the edges. The Jobs model scales quite easily to investigations for example, and there’s a mod for that. Meaning that providing you can knock up a setting, you can do a lot just with the default rules.
One thing I’d note is that the crafting rules are always something of a pain.
For a full on steampunk setting, I’d just flat-out replace Attune with Mad Science! leaving Tinker there for more standard engineering or medicine.