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Although this is sometimes a contentious opinion, we believe fiction to be an important tool for framing a game world. Much of the background of Steamscapes is designed to leave the current state of the world less clearly defined than the history that has brought that state into being. This is largely so that players and gamemasters have the flexibility to create a wide variety of stories without having to worry about what may be "canon." So the places of the world tend to be presented in broad strokes rather than meticulous detail. However, fiction offers an opportunity to zoom in much closer and see how the world is experienced by its inhabitants while still avoiding a prescriptive approach to setting.
More importantly for us, the inclusion of fiction provides a chance to work with some amazing creative voices, both established and emerging. For the Gearsmith's Guide, we have been very fortunate to bring in Alyson Grauer to write the accompanying short story. Alyson is the author of On the Isle of Sound and Wonder, a steampunk retelling of The Tempest that recently won runner-up in the Chicago Reader's "Best of Chicago" feature.
Alyson came to us directly from the Steamscapes episodes of the One Shot Podcast, where she played the young spy, Koga Miyako. We are so thrilled to be able to showcase her work in the Gearsmith's Guide! Here's a short excerpt from her story, "The Dollmaker's Daughter":
Tamiko picked up the bird, turning it this way and that so her mother could see all of its angles, the glittering hand painted eyes, the carefully hand-etched feathers.
“Ah, Tamiko-chan, he is very lovely…and his voice?”
Tamiko turned the bird’s key a half notch. “Now sing!”
Obediently, the bluebird opened its brass beak and trilled a lovely, rollicking melody. The melody repeated once, and then the bird stopped singing. Tamiko picked it up again, twisting the winding key back the reverse direction. Tamiko’s mother smiled widely, clapping her hands together.
“Beautiful. Beautiful, my daughter! You’ve done very well.” She coughed again, the dry sound reaching way down through her chest. Asuka shut her eyes against it, and Tamiko set the bird down, leaning closer.
“Haha, do you need anything? Are you comfortable?”
Her mother tutted, leaning her head back on the stack of pillows. “I am fine, Tamiko-chan. You worry too much about me.”
“But you are my mother. What kind of daughter would I be without a worry for your comfort?”
Tamiko’s mother, Asuka, reached out and touched her daughter’s smooth cheek. “You are a good girl. You’ve never let me down, Tamiko-chan, and you never will. I have faith. Now go put that bluebird in the finest cage we have.”
If you are interested in Alyson's work, be sure to check out her Patreon. And if you are in the area, you may be able to spot her this summer in the court at Bristol Renaissance Faire as Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton.