Need some game system advice.

I may be running a game for my group soon.  Looks like it’ll be steampunk; vampires have been requested, but not horror vampires.  I imagine that it’ll end up being something like The Parasol Protectorate series, only with Martian aether ships because dammit I want to have those.

I can easier put something together with 3rd edition GURPS, but I thought I’d check to see if people had opinions on a game system that might be specifically designed for such things already.  I have Castle Falkenstein, Space: 1889, Savage Worlds, GURPS of course, enough of the Hero System to work with the rest, Deadlands basic, and God knows what lurking in the PDFs.

23 thoughts on “Need some game system advice.”

  1. Love the Parasol Protectorate series. Also enjoyed the Victoriana ruleset, which was purpose built for Steampunk games, and you could outright Jules Verne the universe with no problem. Another good steampunk is S.M. Sterling’s Peshawar Lancers.

    Interested to see what Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, aka King of Crowning Moment of Awesome Fantasy) does with the Cinder Spires, HIS upcoming take on Steampunk. But if he has a T-Rex riding an airship, I will simply not read anything else, ever again. That much awesome will make my head explode.

  2. I think that GURPS 3e is your best bet, but I’d give a good hard think to porting over 4e GURPS: Social Engineering. (And if you don’t work in GURPS: Goblins, I shall be disappointed. Not only does the milieu fit, Goblin Luck is one of the best rules ever.)

    Savage Worlds would work with minimal tweaking. It would necessarily be less social and more action oriented, though.

    Castle Falkenstein could be good if your setting is close enough to the base assumptions of its setting, but if it isn’t…

    The thought of trying to do it in Hero makes me twitch. It’s doable. But you’d be putting an awful lot of work in up front.

    Deadlands is full of stuff you could mine, but it would be a PITA to convert. (Especially if you made the appropriate thematic change from poker to whist.)

    With the right group, you could have a lot of fun with The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchhausen in the frame of your setting. But then you wouldn’t really be running it, per se.

  3. Going with the generics (GURPS, Hero, chaosium’s creeky BRP, or even Torg), Savage Worlds would probably be the easiest (it has a setting book for Space 1889 too and any other fiddly bits you want to add). For steampunk specific rpgs Castle Falkenstein has some interesting elements to both in setting material but you’d have to tack on the aetherships to Mars consequences\guide-ons.

    The other steampunk specific rpg I’m familiar with is Space 1889. In play, 1889 mechanically is surprisingly bad. You can salvage the setting here but I would tack on a rules lite system du jour (especially if your players expect a little combat in their sessions).

    That’s it for the games I’ve played or run. Other steampunk rpgs out there that I know of (or rather lurking in my collection) are Victoriana, Age of Empire, and Etherscope but I’m not familiar with any of those to go into pros or cons. In your case I’d probably go with Savage Worlds and add in the subsystems you want as needed (fantasy monsters, steampunk elements…guns & inventions, and probably a magic subsystem).

  4. I haven’t heard of any of those series. I currently play D&D 3.5 in the Forgotten Realms setting.

    1. I almost envy you.
      I remember what an epiphany it was when I started reading other games system after playing AD&D exclusively for over a decade. It was a mind-blowing experience, of the good kind.
      .
      My recommendation is to pick up a copy of GURPS Third Edition, Revised. (4th is the current edition, but it’s kind of a mash-up of Hero and 3rd edition. IMO, the modular prior version is easier to handle than the construction kit of the current version, especially when it comes to introducing somebody making the transition from D&D. Although GURPS 4th does have the Dungeon Fantasy line that’s explicitly geared for people making exactly the switch from D&D to a skill/point system. I haven’t checked it out, but I’ve heard that it’s good.)

      1. I’m still relatively new to D&D, I’m still playing my 2nd character, a 3 ft tall halfling favored soul that uses a greatsword.

  5. Personally, my default setting is “do it with Hero” but hey, that’s just me.

    Otherwise, have you thought about just using the Chaosium BRP/Call of Cthulhu rules? You wouldn’t be making SAN checks, but the basic stats work the same. I’m pretty sure that vampires were statted out in the first “Blood Brothers” supplement that Chaosium did (which was chock full of non-mythos horror adventures as well as Abbott and Costello) and if they weren’t there, they probably showed up in Superworld.

  6. I’d say something like Castle Falkenstein over GURPS, for the MAD SCIENCE instead of piddling around with regular old science. Unless you throw Supers equivalent stuff into the mix.

  7. My default to a non-fantasy setting that’s not Star Wars is ‘just use Mutants & Masterminds’, but that’s probably not always the best option…

    1. Love me some Shadowrun 5th, and FATE (as modded for The Dresden Files specifically). So yeah.

      1. FATE might work.
        I’m not that familiar with it, so why don’t you sketch out the pros and cons?

    2. I first came across Moe reading his fan supplements for In Nomine. One of the systems for that was not GURPS.

    1. You mean, other than being an unbalanced system with massive amounts of power creep and very little to recommend it?

      1. Well, YEAH! LOL
        .
        Been a long time (25 year or so, now) since I played. Used to love that, and the Robotech/Macross system (same rules/system design.)
        .
        With Robotech/Macross, the “massive amounts of power creep” allowed you to play just like the Anime: as in, “a single squadron destroys an entire flotilla” kind of action. If you like the Anime, the game system helped you immerse yourself in it.
        .
        Anyway, beats the tar out of a THACO, IMHO.

    2. The guy who just suggested looking at Shonen Jump for inspiration thinks RIFTS might not be a good thematic match for steampunk.

  8. Okay, first you need to read a bunch of Shonen Jump manga.
    .
    Then you run a system combining Amber diceless, Eclipse Phase, and Legends of the Wulin.
    .
    Or maybe I plain have no taste when it comes to mash ups?
    .
    I speak here without knowing what I am talking about.

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