Campaign Related Topics

The Steampunk Genre

Welcome to the world of steampunk – a place that can be more dystopian than 1984 or more hopeful than Utopia. Steampunk might be factory girls scuttling from the path of roaring steamcars as they cut through the soot-choked streets of London, or Luddites destroying the machines that threaten their jobs. Steampunk is spies seeking out the latest military breakthroughs in flying warships and it is marvels such as clockwork prosthetics, flying cities, and even space travel. Steampunk is supercomputers driven by steam turbines and expeditions into the past – or the future. It might even be a world where mentalists and spirit mediums contact Things that Man Was Not Meant to Know.

It all centers around the question “What If?” as applied to the vibrant and complex Age of Steam. What if the 19th-century boom in science and technology went faster and farther? What if computers were invented a hundred years earlier? What if the British Empire had to fight the French for territory on Venus?

Steampunk is the Age of Steam that might have been…

In terms of literature, steampunk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.

Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk and shares a similar fanbase and theme of rebellion, but developed as a separate movement (though both have considerable influence on each other). Apart from time period and level of technological development, the main difference between cyberpunk and steampunk is that steampunk settings usually tend to be less obviously dystopian than cyberpunk, or lack dystopian elements entirely.

Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual craftpersons into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.


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