Homebrew Worlds

Reading the blog for the Victorian Apocalypse campaign has been fun. Honestly, I’ve never had any interest in Steampunk as a genre. It’s always seem like more of a fashion movement. I don’t know if I’d say Victorian Apocalypse is straight-up steampunk, but I do like it. The time line (that link) is really well done. I’m always amazed when people can come up with homebrew settings that seem to well-reasoned, creative, and engaging. My friend Bob does that with his Wuxia games. He’s become very knowledgeable about ancient China, and he’s able to weave that knowledge into his campaign. Being a massive Wuxia fan, familiar with all that genre’s characteristics doesn’t hurt either.

From the time I started gaming, it really never occurred to me to run anything but a homebrew world. We bought dungeon modules, but we always just dropped them into our own campaign worlds and modified them as we saw fit. But being  young kids at the time, we didn’t expend a lot of brain cells considering the histories of our worlds. We just tried to create fun dungeons to explore.

Anyway, back to steampunk and stuff like that. Reading that blog has gotten me thinking a lot about my own cyberpunk world, it’s timeline, etc. I’ve been working on a timeline, and damn, coming up with something that doesn’t seem stupid is not easy. There’s some retconning that needs to be done too. There are some technologies that the cyberpunk literature seems not to have fully anticipated. Wireless tech is one of them. The Sprawl Trilogy seems like it largely missed that.  Bladerunner did too. The real game changer is nanotechnology. How far should I let nano go? Because if it goes too far things start getting really weird. Or quantum computing. I may simply have to say that those technologies — nano and quantum – are simply so dangerous to work with that few people are willing to delve into them, and perhaps there’s some super-secret agency that goes around “handling” those problems.

Such are the problems of a person of limited intelligence trying to design a tight homebrew world.

Yesterday I found a copy of GURPS Deadlands: Weird West at a local gaming shop. It’s a very cool setting. I bought it, and read the introductory chapters at lunch. Very well done. I think these kinds of setting books are great. I love seeing how talented writers create a good setting, incorporating real history with all sorts of weirdness and fun. I’ve never wanted to run a full western game. But the notion of weirding it up is really appealing. How about the world of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (already super weird!) with magic and monsters? I like that.

I need another five hours in every day to pursue all this stuff.

2 responses... add one

Good post, Bob. Writers of wuxia fiction don’t create detailed fantasy worlds like western fantasy writers do, so wuxia stories are set in real, actual dynastic China (though sometimes this is just implied). I don’t feel like I’ve actually “created” anything for the wuxia games I run – I think actual Chinese history and culture is far more interesting than any “China-like” setting I could create. Even the crazy Chinese martial arts stuff in my games is mostly taken from real Chinese legends, history, literature, and wuxia movies.

I don’t envy your struggles with creating a consistent and believable cyberpunk world. I sense that you may be more interested in reproducing the alternate futures described in cyberpunk novels of the past than in producing an extrapolation of current technology. Towards this end, would it be possible to simply stipulate that wireless, nano, and quantum technologies were never developed in the future of Cyber-Tex and leave it at that?

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