As I have said elsewhere on my blog, a couple of years ago some of my friends convinced me to run a role-playing game set in the same world as that of William Prenderghast, the world of a lot of my novels and short stories. Like a fool I agreed. After two years, I have not yet finished the said game. But perhaps it is best if I let the game speak for itself:
From Book to Game, taken from The Gas-Lamp Fantasy Campaign Book
One day, a couple of friends who I role-play with asked if they could role-play in the world of my novels. This led to me creating the Gas-Lamp Fantasy Role-playing Game, a long and arduous process. I drew not only on the details in my novels, but endeavoured to fill in all of the gaps which I had not written about, codifying things, like Magick, into a simple set of rules.
I also had to do all of the things which are presumed when you write a novel – such as the equipment which the heroes use, and the vehicles they travel in. more and more details had to be dug up out of the past, to make sure that it felt like a world of the Victorians – or a world of the Victorians if Magick was real.
It was also important to get the details correct, so that a person playing the game felt as though they were in one of my novels. In my novels, Magick can be useful – but it is also very limited. A wizard might only be able to cast two or three spells per day before becoming exhausted – in some of the more powerful spells, I wanted them to be so draining that only a few wizards might be able to use them. I did not want a sort of Dungeons and Dragons style world where a wizard could cast half a dozen lightning bolts before breakfast, and wizards have only become the artillery pieces of the campaign. Thus, anybody looking to play a wizard thinking that they will rule the campaign will be disappointed. Wizards, in my novels, treat Magick more as a form of science, something utilitarian. The spells most often cast are ones of Magickal detection, to find or track something, or to uncover some fact.
In creating my world I decided to modify the world of my books slightly. In my novels one of the heroes, John Briggs, is a DCI from a 21st century London, flung into a strange, mystical Victorian world of giant zeppelins, wizards and the occasional weird invention. by having one of the main protagonists come from our world things about this Gas-Lamp Fantasy world are explained to them, at the same time as they are explained to John Briggs, hopefully without the explanations feeling too contrived.
In writing my game I made an early decision not to have any link to the 21st century, or to the Real World, such as we understand it. I wanted characters to immerse themselves in the game, without it feeling false, or the players being reminded of the 21st century. Thus, anything to do with John Briggs was out.
Freed from including him, I also moved a few of the dates around, to streamline the timeline of my world, bringing some things forwards, putting others back. That is why, if anybody is familiar with my novels, some things may seem not exactly the way in which they are in the books.
Back to the blog: That extract, above, tells a little about creating the game, but perhaps not enough about the campaign. Here is another extract:
A Counterfactual World, Hurrah! taken from The Gas-Lamp Fantasy Campaign Book
The world of this game differs not only in that Magick is real, and that it works. The presence of Magick – and the weird inventions which Magick has allowed to come forth – has changed the history of the world, making it different to the world of the Victorians. This is what is known as a counterfactual world.
Counterfactual worlds have been written about before, famously in such novels as The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K Dick. This world, though, of this game was not one where the Nazis won the Second World War, or one where the Roman Empire fell, but one where the French won the Battle of Sedan.
France winning the Battle of Sedan led to a lot of changes from our world, as far as Europe is concerned. First of all, and most obviously, the Second Empire of France did not come to an abrupt end in 1870, but continues, with Napoleon IV on the throne of France.
Secondly, France gained territory from Prussia, territory which it still holds.
Thirdly, Prussia went into a period of isolationism, one which it has not yet emerged from. Prussia has, for the last twenty four years, been secretly building up its military resources, determined to never suffer another such loss as at Sedan. All of its money goes on its military, leaving its people to starve. It has only emerged from its isolationism to occasionally attack its neighbours, forcibly absorbing formerly independent states such as Anhalt into it.
This has killed German Pan-Nationalism dead. The other independent German states – Oldenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Württemberg, Saxony, Bavaria and the Free City of Bremen fear Prussia, and its aggressive militarism. Bavaria, for one, is much closer to France than to Prussia, although it is not technically allied with them.
Germany did not become united in the 1870s, but remains splintered, in several different independent states. Prussia is the bad guy, the North Korea of this world, not even bothering to engage at the ambassadorial level with its neighbours.
It has also meant that, when the Scramble for Africa took place, not one German nation was able to take part in it.
That one battle, Sedan, going the other way, has changed the history of this world forever.
Back to the blog: Both of those extracts were taken from The Gas-Lamp Fantasy Campaign Book, which is supposed to be an introduction to my campaign world. It is one of the RPG books which I have finished.
I have put a few supplements on Kindle but, because I don’t have permission to use some of the illustrations which I have used, these books are ‘vanilla’, with nearly all of the illustrations removed, rather than breach copyright law. The thing is that when I began designing the rules I only ever intended to play this with my friends, and I never thought that anybody beyond my small circle of friends would ever see it. So, when I finally decided to put these books ‘out there’, I had to remove all of the illustrations. I don’t even know where I got 99% of the illustrations from. The only illustrations remaining are a few maps which I did with Paint.
Books which I have completed for this RPG, so far, include:
A Soldier’s Life
Britain In The Gas-Lamp World
Complete Equipment Book
Egypt, Land of the Pharaohs
Gas-Lamp Fantasy Campaign Book
Gas-Lamp Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Germania: The Teutonic Nations
Italy In The Gas-Lamp World
Living In A Dangerous World
Rex Mundi (scenario)
Scandinavia: Land of the Vikings
Secret Societies Gazetteer
The Blood Is The Life
The Book of Magick
The Gas-Lamp World
The Next Thirty Years
The Unknown Ocean Depths
Several of my RPG supplements are already available as e-books on the Amazon Kindle store. Of the above, most will appear on Kindle, albeit as those annoying ‘vanilla’ editions. a couple will not, though, as they are simply too illustration heavy in their current for, and illustrations are needed to make the books work. These books are:
A Cast of Thousands
Animals and Monsters
Complete Weapons Book
Those are the books which I have completed for my game. In addition, I am currently working on the last few supplements:
Advanced Gas-Lamp Book
Alphabetical List Of Spells
Beneath The Gas-Lamp World
Doorways of the Sidhe
Hoodoo and Voodoo
Out of the Red Planet
Travel In The Gas-Lamp World
In future posts, I hope to give more detailed explanations of the RPG books, perhaps detailing one with each post. I also hope, at some time, to provide short, free articles on the RPG for Gamesmasters and players.