The Steampunk Society Game Rules

Copyright 2021 by M.E. Brines

Version 3/30/21

Changes to previous edition in red

In the Steampunk Society Game, players role-play noble electors in a steampunk Victorian-era Holy Roman Empire. (It's The King's Dilemma crossed with a role-playing game.) A maximum of 32 players act as a team to resolve one or more "dilemmas" to thwart external enemies or internal revolutionaries scheming to subjugate or dissolve the empire. How those dilemmas are resolved sets up the next turn's situation. The object of the game is to preserve the empire through a series of crises threatening its demise. The Empire is an archaic multi-ethnic monstrosity, inhabited by restive and rebellious peasants and surrounded by hostile powers in a dangerous world. Players could steer the empire in any direction, transforming it into a multi-national force for "good," trying to dominate the world, or anything in between. The game only ends—and the players lose—if the empire is conquered or dissolved. Can YOU preserve and modernize the empire?

Set in an alternate universe where Austria and Russia partitioned Prussia during the Seven Years War. In July 1806, the formation of the French-dominated Confederation of the Rhine, comprising a majority of the electors, made it possible that Napoleon could be elected Holy Roman Emperor. To forestall this, instead of dissolving the Holy Roman Empire, Emperor Francis II broadened the electorate to include all imperial princes, making a total of 33 electors, the majority outside the area of French domination.

It's now a generation after Napoleon's defeat and the restoration of a king to the French throne. The Holy Roman Empire stretches in the west from the French border along the Rhine, eastward to Russian Poland and south as far as Venice in Italy and the Danube River that forms the border with Turkey.

Emperor Ferdinand, being of unsound mind, is incapable of ruling. Affairs of state are conducted by a council of imperial electors led by Chancellor Metternich and the emperor's uncle, the Archduke Louis. The chancellor appoints ministers and military officers but matters of state must be decided by the council. Resolutions (called dilemmas) pass if the aye votes outnumber the nay votes in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag.) The electors also administer the empire.

The Emperor (or in the case of his incapacity, the Chancellor) appoints electors as government ministers and military officers. Other than the Emperor/Chancellor who can hold one other position should he desire, a player can only hold one office at a time. The Emperor/Chancellor can appoint/remove office holders at any time by a direct message notifying the Game Master (GM) who the new office holder is. (And he needs to tell the previous holder he's been sacked and the new guy that he has the job, again directly.)

The Foreign Minister speaks for the empire when dealing with foreign countries. He communicates with foreign nations by exchanging messages with the GM.

The Director of the Imperial Academy of Science! controls the development of secret weapons and new technologies with a 10% chance times the imperial Science! rating, which starts at one and may increase with successful scientific expeditions. Expeditions could be botanical mucking about in the jungle, geographical like trying to reach the Pole, archaeological like searching for the Holy Grail, or sociological like studying the shape of their heads.

Generals control one or more armies, as assigned by the Chancellor. In their orders, generals can move armies to other regions and either launch attacks, or assign their army to internal security duties. An army attacked while on "internal security duty" defends normally.

Admirals control one or more fleets. In orders to the GM, fleets can be ordered to control sea zones, or to attack, or bombard an enemy coastal region adjacent to a sea zone you control.

The Imperial Spymaster controls spies and spying. Spies cost $5 each. In his orders, he can attempt to get a number of questions answered about foreign nations up to the number of spies, or spend one gold per question.

The Course of the Game

The Game Master (GM) announces the results of last turn including several political dilemmas based on actions the players took previously. Players then discuss the situation on Discord. They may also question the GM directly for clarification. Players may receive private income and may petition the crown and introduce "laws" and proposals of their own.

By the turn deadline, players send their orders via e-mail to the GM @ Please include how you vote on the various dilemmas and any personal spending.

The GM carries out the results of the vote, which may require taxes that decrease imperial economic growth and increase unrest. He then updates the map, which shows the economic value of the various imperial regions, which ones are suffering unrest, and the location of imperial armies (A) ships (S) coastal defense (C) and fortifications (F). Players can view this HERE. On Discord the GM lists the total economic value of the Empire, its current treasury and debt, as well as the current rating of Imperial Science!


The Imperial Succession. On the death of the emperor, the electors will elect a new "King of the Romans" who can title himself emperor after being crowned by the Pope. If the new emperor is a player, the office of Chancellor becomes merely ceremonial and the Emperor takes over as head of state until such time as the emperor's death. Under the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, females can be elected Empress.

The State Church is Catholicism and as such any government funding it gets counts as social programs. Other religions are tolerated but not encouraged. One non-player elector, the Archbishop of Regensburg, is under control of the GM and will vote against "anti-Catholic" resolutions. If a single player consistently supports the Church, acting as its champion, he gains the support of the Archbishop and his vote in the reichstag.

Unrest. Regions have an economic value that represents the amount of gold that can be extracted from them each turn in taxes. Any gold not taken in taxes will grow the economy. Based on the players' actions, the economy may grow and unrest may spring up or disappear. Red asterisks* on the map indicate regions in unrest. Any region whose economic value increases becomes content and loses any unrest. Any region whose economic value declines goes into a state of unrest or revolts if already in unrest. Unrest can also occur as a result of crime, famine, epidemics, and other bad things. Unrest is the last step before open revolt. Every gold taken in taxes provokes unrest. Armies on internal security duty reduce such provocations by their strength, gendarmes by twice their strength. Economic development typically adds +1 to a region's economic value for every $13 spent and will eliminate any unrest in the region. Propaganda, social programs, and support for the State Church reduce provocations by 1.5 per gold spent. After accounting for all these, each remaining point of unrest has a 10% chance of driving a region into a state of unrest, or if already in unrest, outright revolt!

Debt. If the Empire has a debt, the interest MUST be paid every turn. Interest is 5% of the debt, rounded up to the next full gold. Failure to pay the debt results in losing the game.

Troops (T) cost $5 per strength. An army is one or more troop strength in the same place. If at least one gold is spent for "supplies," an attack can be launched against an enemy-controlled region. The strength of the attack is one per additional gold spent for supplies plus any non-engaged armies in adjacent regions used for the attack. Gold and supplies could be allocated to increase the strength of a defense in the same way, but won't be spent unless necessary. Defenders must retreat if the attacking modified strength is at least three times the defender's. Forts can't retreat and if defeated, they lose half their strength and are captured.

Forts (F) cost $5 per 2 strength. Forts don't move.

Gendarmes cost $5 per strength.

Ships (S) cost $5 per strength. A fleet is one or more ships in the same place. If one gold is spent for supplies, a fleet can attack an adjacent sea zone, or bombard or invade an adjacent enemy coastal region. If fleets contest a sea zone, the stronger has control. Bombardments have a 10% chance times the attacking fleet's strength of reducing the economic value of the target. For amphibious landings, the fleet's strength is compared to the defending forces to determine the victor.

Coast Defense forces (C) cost $5 per 2 strength. They consist of gun batteries, gunboats, naval mines, and such like for defense of a coastal region against amphibious invasions and bombardments. Coast defense forces can be ordered moved by their commanding officer, which could be an admiral or general.

The Robarth is a much hated medieval holdover tradition where peasants owe their noble lord two days of free work each week. Since elector-players are all nobles they each receive one gold per turn income from this.

Private Enterprise. Players can spend their money on anything the government can except raising a private army, which is illegal. However, since you can spend a gold to launch an attack with an army strength of zero, modified by gold spent, this doesn't prevent a player from making attacks or defenses, just large ones. Players can purchase spies, ships, castles (forts), invest in economic projects like railroads, factories, and shipyards. They can finance scientific expeditions, engage in social philanthropy, propaganda, support the Church, etc.

Silver is worth 1/20 the price of gold, therefore, one gold = 20 silver. (In case you need to make change.)

Tropical diseases. Without a reliable source of quinine, any Imperial attack in the tropics has its strength reduced by half.