Historical Easter Eggs - Steamscapes: Asia Teaser #4

Long ago, I explained our use of alternate history as a form of social justice - specifically, that we can employ it as sort of a "fix fic" for real history. We can imagine what a world might be like without some of the injustices that really occurred, although that often means that other injustices do end up taking their place. (People are people, it turns out.) Nevertheless, this idea of imagining a history that could have been - by dialing down the success of European colonialism just a bit - is one of the core philosophies behind the Steamscapes setting. It is absolutely essential to our approach to Asian alternate history.

Healing Without Magic - Steamscapes: Asia Teaser #3

As with many multi-genre systems, Savage Worlds has a very clear distinction between magical and non-magical healing. Magical healing is fast and powerful and can happen at any time. Non-magical healing is slow and difficult, unless you roll really well right after combat. In Steamscapes: Asia, we are introducing the Apothecary profession, approximately half of which is devoted to healing. But how do you make such a thing interesting and useful in a realistic setting without making it too powerful and "magical?"

Martial Arts With Real Variety - Steamscapes: Asia Teaser #2

I will begin this week's teaser with a quote from Chapter 4 of Steamscapes: Asia -

Martial arts already exist in Savage Worlds. There are Edges and maneuvers that can model many of the things you might want to do as a fighter, and the concept of Trappings allows you to describe the effect in any way that might be appropriate to your character. The rules listed in this chapter are intended to supplement those existing systems to both expand the options available to the player and also to focus on developing individualized styles of combat.

I want to talk a little bit about what it means for fighting styles to be "individualized."

Inspiring Diversity with Sample Characters - Steamscapes: Asia Teaser #1

It is time! We are close enough to at least the digital release of Steamscapes: Asia that we can begin to preview some of what we have been doing. This teaser coincides both with our preparation for Gen Con and with the arrival of several key art pieces by the wonderful and talented Cami Woodruff. These pieces are being used for some of the sample characters in the chapter on game resources, so I thought I would take a moment to talk about how art and character design can go together to inspire roleplaying of diverse, non-stereotypical characters. (Note - all our sample characters were created as Seasoned, so if they sound a little extra powerful that's because they are.)



Dev Notes 21 - Constraint and Choice in Roleplaying Games (Part 2)

In the last Dev Note, I talked at moderate length about four different kinds of constraint that can be experienced in roleplaying games in a variety of ways. I also discussed some of the implications for each of them in terms of play experience. In this note, I want to examine how designers can address each of these constraints with intentionality and conscious choice to make the game that most fits the play experience they want to craft. I am going to show this through the lens of a game I am currently designing.


Dev Notes 20 - Constraint and Choice in Roleplaying Games (Part 1)

Give me a genre, a location, and something you might do on a date...

As roleplayers, we often think of ourselves as improvisers. My friends at the One Shot Podcast Network (Patreon funding now!) are actually trained in this particular mode of performance, and they have excellent insights into how such training supports their gaming. Part of the fun of improvising, both on stage and in gaming, is the power of making choices in the moment. And because we enjoy this, sometimes we think that more choice is always good, that the freedom to make up whatever we want will let us explode in fountains of creativity. It turns out that this is not the case. And trained improvisers know this very well, which is why so many improv exercises and performances begin with the selection of constraints.

Whose line cast

Welcome to roleplaying, where the characters are made up and the dice don't matter.

Constraint is not the opposite of choice. It is merely the practice of having the available choices or parameters for choice presented to the chooser instead of created by the chooser. In the absence of external constraints, we all first narrow our own list of choices before making our final decision. No one considers all possible options equally and chooses from them. Whenever we come too close to doing that, we inevitably suffer analysis paralysis. There are just too many choices for us to consider, and we shut down rather than moving forward. One way or another, we need to make the list more manageable.


Dev Notes 19 - Escapism is a Dial, Not a Switch

As much as I enjoyed Birdman, I felt that it contained a certain amount of artistic insecurity even beyond that portrayed by its main character. The movie as a whole offers a straw-man depiction of how people in the theatre feel about film - this idea that stage looks down on screen because it views screen as less serious, more worried about popularity and money than art. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and in fact we are in something of a golden age regarding the love-affair between stage and screen. People and shows move between the two all the time, and no one is seriously arguing that one medium or the other is more inherently artistic. Had this movie been written in the late 80s, I might have bought it. But now? Not so much.

But this insecurity is not unusual. A similar thing happens in most art forms. A categorical distinction grows to define that which is serious from that which is not, and then we start arguing about what specific pieces go where and why. In the midst of this argument, one word almost always appears: escapism.



Dev Notes 18 - Roleplaying the Other

In my previous two Developer Notes, I have discussed assumptions that people have about both game settings and the writers of game settings. These are certainly among the barriers of entry that come up when players try to explain why they avoid “Asian-themed” settings, or indeed any fictional setting with real-world cultural elements that are not their own. But I think the biggest barrier lies in the assumptions of play. Yes, there are some pedants who believe it is their job to police what games are written, but we can easily ignore such folks. The people we really want to reach are the people who don’t think they can play realistic games as characters unlike themselves. So in this last installment, I want to address the idea of roleplaying the “other” - that is, playing as a character unlike yourself in a world unlike your own.


Call for writers for Steamscapes: Asia!

UPDATE - All assignments have been filled, but this was a great experience! I hope to be able to do it again in the future.

Do you want to be an RPG writer?

Ching Shih wants YOU!

Dev Notes 17 - Writing For, Not Writing About

In my last Developer Note, I outlined some of the key issues and assumptions that people have with game settings that claim to be “Asian-themed.” In that note, I asserted several times that we are doing things differently with Steamscapes: Asia. I hope that my explanations of how we are doing so support that assertion, but it does bring up another question that one might ask - What gives me the authority to write this setting? Is this even a question worth considering?


Fair enough. All questions are valid.


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