Steampunk Society

The Cooperative Roleplaying Game

Copyright 2017 by Michael E. Brines

Version 2.02

Changes from the previous edition are indicated in red.

Joining Steampunk Society

Since the game is more about choices, role-playing and using what you have than vanquishing your rivals, there is no disadvantage to entering the game late. To join Steampunk Society, go to the social register and choose an non-player character (NPC) who is not a member of any particular faction. Then contact the GM at son@cox.net and tell him your choice and the name of your faction. This might be a political party (The Peasants and Worker's Party or the Technocrats), a club or society of some kind (the Thule Society or the Imperial Geographical Society) a corporation, guild or anything else you like. The GM will send you a turn packet listing any possessions the character owns. Submit your first orders by the next weekly deadline. Feel free to ask the GM questions.

A player's faction has an influence rating representing their public reputation that assists in recruiting new characters and winning elections. Influence begins at zero.

Other characters can be recruited during the game, expanding your faction. Once a character joins a faction, they can't be recruited by another. There's a significant difference between joining a faction and merely being hired by them to perform some task. It's also much easier to hire an NPC than recruit them.

Much of the game takes place on the game forum. Be sure to join it @ Google Groups "Fantasy Nations" forum. Go to my membership” settings and choose for email delivery preference “notify me for every message.” Save your choice. If you don't select this, the default is no messages and you'll be in the dark.

This is a new game, requiring extensive testing. As such players play for free in exchange for putting up with necessary rules changes from time to time. The GM encourages helpful discussion of the rules on the forum with the intent of perfecting them. Wantonly spewing unbridled negativity is neither helpful nor encouraged.

Characters are have abilities based on their class. They may also own wealth, resources, supplies, stacks of rifles or other possessions. Properties are located in a particular location and take the form of coal mines, oil fields, spice plantations, iron works, estates, factories, or shipyards. Properties have a capacity, +1, +2, +3 etc. representing their size and the extent of their production.

Character Classes

Characters are assumed to have a home appropriate to their status and a nominal income sufficient to supply food and clothing. For game purposes one wealth or $1 means one “kilo kronor” or 1,000 gold imperial coins.

Characters are members of one of ten social classes, each with its own advantages.

Duelists possess exceptional skill and training in sword-fighting, a manly skill for settling disagreements. While anyone can duel, a duelist has an advantage in a sword fight.

Fanatics are willing to die for their faction's cause. This can come in handy for things like assassination, where the perpetrator is usually killed or captured in the attempt. Only fanatics will attempt assassinations.

Industrialists possess coal mines, iron works or factories that generate great income. The top hat, spats and cigar are optional.

Inventors possess the creative genius to develop amazing new inventions. Time is more important to success than funding.

Military Officers have undergone extensive military training, usually at a military academy. This gives them an advantage leading armies or fleets. They are also more adept with weapons, especially service revolvers, than a typical civilian.

Mystics possess a strange paranormal powers. This “magic” is very low-key and more in the nature of an influence than direct action, so much that skeptics dismiss such abilities as mere trickery and slight-of-hand. True believers think otherwise.

Nobles form the upper crust of society. Tracing their linage back sometimes a thousand years, their estates form most of the farmland in the empire. Nobles are currently the only ones allowed to vote in parliament.

Renowned individuals include writers, explorers, opera singers, professors, and other famous people with prestige from their accomplishments rather than their positions in life. This notoriety can prove useful in influencing the masses or recruiting for your faction.

Royals, or members of the Imperial Family, possess even greater prestige. Each one holds a place in the line of succession should the current monarch die.

Scoundrels form the lowest tier of society. Liars, thieves, and swindlers, they have extensive contacts in the criminal underworld and excel at stealth and stealing. If you desire dirty deeds done dirt cheap, seek a scoundrel.

Playing the Game

Playing the game is as easy as 1-2-3: (1) manage production (2) write up your orders, and (3) submit your orders to the GM.

Your character sheet is sent to you every turn by the GM. A simple document listing your faction's possessions, at the top there are boxes indicating the total resources, consumer goods and wealth you have stockpiled. This may differ from what you had at the end of last turn due to game events beyond your control. If you think a mistake has been made, after you have read any notes from the GM, contact him for clarification or correction. Equipment you have stockpiled, armies you command with their location and a section with notes to you from the GM are recorded below resources. Beneath that is a series of asterisks separating the informational top half of the sheet from your half of the sheet. You put your orders for the turn under that line. Don't write above it.

1. Manage production

You want to start issuing orders by managing your production. Each property has a capacity representing the amount of resources or production available. Coal mines produce coal. Estates produce food. Iron works produce iron. Oil fields produce oil. Plantations produce tropical trade goods (TTG) such as copra, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber, etc.

All these require labor to produce. You may pay up to their total capacity to produce twice as much resources as you paid in labor. For example, an owner of an iron works capacity 6 could pay up to $6 for labor and produce up to 12 stacks of iron.

In the orders section of your turn packet write “Pay labor” and then the amount and then “Produce”, then the quantity of resources. If you sell or expend wealth or resources, make a note in your actions (such as “sell 10 coal” or “buy 7 iron.”)

Factories only produce if supplied with labor, coal and iron, one each per capacity. Every such capacity supplied with all three produces 4 production points (PP) of any non-ship items off the standard production list or any technological items you possess the plans for. (So a factory+3 requires $3 for labor, plus 3 iron and 3 coal to make 12 PP of stuff.) Production points (PP) cannot be saved or accumulated and have no value other than determining the items produced. Be sure to indicate what you used the PP for. Any not turned into items are lost. When producing consumer goods (CG), for game flavor you can specify what it is you're making: barrels of booze, commemorative plates, spatulas, left-handed typewriters, clockwork corsets, canned fruitcake, dehydrated water, etc.

Shipyards are simply factories located in a port. They are treated as factories for all purposes except their production points can also be used to produce ships.

Standard Items

Firepower

PP Cost

Resistance

Notes

Artillery park

0

10

0

Used to mobilize artillery regiments.

Consumer goods

0

1

0

Household items of the sort typically found in department stores

Gatling Gun

0

1

1

-

Stack of bombs

0

1

0

Ammunition

Stack of rifles

0

2

0

Used to mobilize infantry or cavalry regiments.

Stack of shells

0

1

0

Artillery ammunition

Stack of tools

0

1

0

Used to mobilize pioneer regiments.

Steam ship-of-the-line

4

20

20

A wooden warship with auxiliary steam power. Requires shells & coal

Merchant Ship

0

10

10

Requires coal

Ironclad battleship

8

40

40

Requires 2 coal and 2 shells.

Gas masks

0

20

0

Protects one regiment against loss from poison gas or cancels 2 losses from gas each turn.

Gunboat

1

4

4

A small warship that requires 1 coal

Firepower is the value of the item in battle. Resistance is the amount of damage required to destroy the item.

2. Write up your orders

You can attempt pretty much anything. Just tell the GM what you want to achieve and how you go about doing it. Success depends on the wealth, talents and effort you put into it. Not every talent helps every task and not every task is eased by throwing wealth at it. Magic, inventing and assassination attempts require particular talents only certain character classes have. Some specific details are given below but they can't possibly cover every potential task a player might decide to do. Remember this is a role playing game more in the style of Castle Falkenstein or classic D&D than, say GURPS or a board game. What you get out of this game is proportional to the imagination you put into it. Consult the GM if you have questions.

Specific details concerning particular orders are given below. Remember, you can attempt much more than just what is listed here.

Negotiating with other characters, whether players or NPCs, should be done directly. Do not put this in your orders. Contact them directly using the address provided in the social register. NPCs can be contacted via the GM. Hiring NPCs is much easier than recruiting them into your faction. If you need assistance for a temporary project, try hiring a particular NPC to help. For example, if you need a dirty deed done, hire a scoundrel. The price is, of course, negotiable dependent on the nature of the work. Ask the GM. Be sure to specify who you are and to whom you are speaking. For game-wide messages use the forum, but please remain in character. Just keep in mind that the outcomes of uncertain actions are determined by the GM. Unless you're Baron Munchhausen and it's clearly a tall tale, don't post a long tale of how you personally defeated the invading Burgundian army single-handedly unless the GM informs you of your success in that endeavor. But feel free to make political statements, invite people to dinner parties and discuss events from the newsletter.

Everything other than communication is handled through your orders. Write up the orders specifying the details of your production and the actions you take and submit them to the GM. Try for clarity because if the GM misunderstands you may not like the result.

Buying resources from the open market costs wealth. Write the orders as “Buy”, then the amount followed by the type and how much you paid: “Buy 3 iron $3.” The current price of all resources is listed at the top of the Social Register on the game web site and remains constant until next turn. Any resources you buy can be used the same turn. You may buy as much of any resource as you have wealth for. To buy anything from players or NPCs contact them directly, make a deal, and then use a “give” order to send the money. They will use a give order to send you whatever you bought. Issue give orders by writing “Give”, followed by the faction name and the things given. Unlike buying resources from the open market, the price of everything else is up to mutual agreement and the item won't be available for your use until the following turn. You can buy stuff from NPCs and foreign factories, if they agree to sell to you.

Selling resources to the open market is at whatever the current price is. Money received can be used immediately. You may sell to other characters for any agreed upon price. Sending equipment or resources is handled using a “give” order.

Recruiting characters. The only way to gain additional characters is through recruiting them into your faction using influence, mysticism, and prestige. The relative recruitment difficulty is listed in the social register (in parenthesis) before the NPC's name.

Influence represents the support your faction has among the masses. This can be increased by publishing books or newspaper articles, charitable donations, overseas expeditions, hosting lavish parties for the “movers and shakers” of society, patronizing the arts, attending the opera, etc. All of those require the expenditure of money. You can also use your current influence to make speeches or lobby for particular causes. Other talents such as mysticism and prestige can also be used increase influence. Winning a duel increases influence by one. A male refusing a duel loses a point of influence. Smear campaigns can also reduce a rival faction's influence. Influence can be used to create volunteer private armies of militia, useful for riots and revolution. If commoners are allowed to vote for parliament, the percentage of the total vote gained in any election is based on each faction's influence.

Travel. Travel doesn't require an expenditure of money. It's assumed as part of your normal living expenses. Characters may travel using accommodations appropriate to their class. A royal might have a private train, while a noble or industrialist enjoys a private railroad car and a military officer a first-class compartment. A scoundrel might just stow away with the baggage or perhaps pass himself off as a ticket holder while avoiding the conductor.

It is helpful, although not required, if you provide the GM ending totals for your resources and wealth at the bottom of your orders. This saves him having to recalculate them for the start of next turn.

3. Submit Orders

At or before the turn deadline, send an e-mail message to the GM at son@cox.net. For the subject put “<the name of your faction> <whichever game turn it is> orders.” You can cut and paste your orders into the body of the message or attach them as a text file and send.

If your orders change before the deadline, send a new e-mail message to the GM using subject “Revised <your faction's name here> orders” and send the entire set of orders, not just the changes. The GM will delete the older set and carry out the orders from the most current "revised" packet.

Equipment stockpiles

On your orders all the “stuff” you own will be listed. This could be anything from piles of coal to motorcars or airships. Weapons can't be used for battle unless they are assigned to an army. So if you own an armored car, it's probably just parked in your garage.

Armies

An army consists of all regiments and militia battalions in the same location controlled by the same player, plus whatever weapons and equipment are assigned to support them. The only exception is government armies. Government armies are kept separate from private armies even if in the same location and controlled by the same player. While multiple armies can exist in the same location, only one government army can exist in that location, and only one private army belonging to a particular player. All Imperial warships as well as any ground forces in Spee are considered an “army” controlled by the admiral in command of the imperial fleet.

You can take equipment or resources from a stockpile and assign it to support a regiment or battalion. This will remain part of that army unless you order it returned to your stockpile.

An army must be commanded by a particular character. No character can command armies in more than one location at the same time. An army without a commander just defends its current location.

Supplies. Every regiment you control must be supplied every turn. Every regiment (including police regiments) requires one food per turn as supplies except cavalry units, which require two. Supplies can be taken from that army's stocks or from that player's stockpile, if the army isn't overseas or surrounded. Unsupplied units desert (taking their equipment with them) unless you order the unit disbanded as an action. Mobs of disgruntled hungry deserters wandering around armed is a bad idea, so if you can't feed them, order the units disbanded and put their weapons into storage.

Disbanding regiments (also known as “placing them in reserve”) is a better alternative than having them desert because you can't feed them. The soldiers are discharged and their equipment stored in your stockpile. Infantry regiments become stacks of rifles. Cavalry regiments a stack of rifles and a herd of horses. Pioneers become stacks of tools. Artillery regiments become artillery parks. On a later turn the equipment can be mobilized and become a new military regiment if supplies are provided.

Mobilizing new military regiments requires equipment of a particular type depending on the type of regiment desired. Indicate the type and quantity of regiments mobilized. Units mobilized also require supplies the same turn. A stack of rifles mobilizes an infantry regiment. A stack of rifles, plus 1 wealth for a herd of horses mobilizes one cavalry regiment. A pile of tools is required for a pioneer regiment. An artillery park is required to mobilize an artillery regiment.

Mobilizing militia. Militia are groups of civilians armed with their own weapons. Depending on who mobilized them, militia might be government volunteers, a private army, political storm troopers, a noble's retainers, or even just angry mobs of workers or peasants. They require no supplies, fight poorly and have a firepower of one but no resistance. They are lost if they engage in combat, suffering heavy losses with the survivors deserting afterwards. They can support “real” soldiers, but having few weapons and no training are fairly useless for most military purposes. Any faction can create ten militia “battalions” by reducing their influence by one permanently. Surviving battalions can be demobilized to restore the faction's influence.

Moving armies overseas requires merchant ships or transports, one per regiment or battalion. Any supplies and equipment assigned to that army are included.


Firepower

PP Cost

Resistance

Notes

Artillery regiment*

3

Artillery park

10

Artillery, requires a stack of shells

Cavalry regiment**

2

Rifles + herd of horses

2

Requires double supplies

Infantry regiment*

1

rifles

2

-

Militia battalion

0

0

1

Untrained volunteers.

Pioneer regiment*

1

tools

1

For constructing or demolishing fortifications.

Police regiment*

1

0

0

Mobilize for free if you provide supplies.

*Regiments all require supplies (food) every turn

The Government

The head of the faction controlling the most votes in parliament will be invited to “form a government,” becoming Chancellor if he can assemble an alliance of other players/factions controlling a majority of votes (51%.) This is generally accomplished by allying like-minded factions and/or “bribing” them to join by passing out various government offices. (You make this guy Minister of War and he promises to support you with his votes.)

If players in the government abandon their alliance and the Chancellor no longer controls a majority of the votes, the government is said to have “fallen” and new elections are held. Players who quit the alliance should post this clearly on the forum as soon as they decide, so the election can be held that turn. If you wait until the last minute to announce, the GM may change the deadline to allow players to issue new orders to campaign for election.

The Chancellor appoints all government ministers, passing along any instructions he may have for them. The ministers then fill out the specific orders for their ministry, posting the packets into the forum for public notice by the turn deadline.

An office holder submits separate sets of orders for his personal position and his government office. Transferring things between such positions requires a “give” order, although you can use the items the same turn since they aren't coming from another player. While his personal orders are secret and only revealed to the GM, the actions taken in his role as government office holder become public knowledge when they are posted on the forum. This may lead to scandals, his being fired by the Chancellor or perhaps the fall of the government if other members of his coalition don't approve.

Being a government minister grants a player powers and may provide control of certain items including military or police regiments. Those are kept separate from a player's own possessions. If a player loses the government office, all items and units associated with it are transferred automatically to his successor.

A particular character can only hold one office at a time. Baron von Richthofen can't be both Chancellor and Minister of War at the same time. However, a player may control any number of characters holding offices. Theoretically, a player whose faction controls 51% of the vote by himself could form a government run entirely by his own characters, but in practice this is very difficult to accomplish. Normally, it will take an alliance of several factions/players to form a government.

While the Chancellor can instruct his ministers to do certain things, those ministers have complete control over anything associated with their office. If the Chancellor orders something done, it doesn't take place unless that minister issues the orders in his own packet. The Chancellor can fire him later for insubordination or incompetence, of course.

The Law specifies how government works and what various ministers are allowed to do. The law can be changed by majority vote. Be sure to submit the suggested change to the GM for review before you vote. The Chancellor proposes a change and everyone who can vote votes on it in their orders. If the change fails, the government falls and new elections are held.

Changes to the Law cannot alter the laws of nature (i.e. the game rules) and are posted and take effect at the start of the next game turn.

COUPS

Before they declare a revolt, potential rebel factions should agree between themselves the laws the “new” government will operate under, which of them is to be the chancellor and who controls the various government ministries. Factions attempting a coup then issue orders to mobilize militia, subvert government forces, incite riots and have their private armies attack to try to take control of as many vital locations as they can, treating government forces as enemies.

When orders are processed and the results revealed, the game halts in limbo as the government has the choice to give up and agree to the change in law and government based on the success of the coup. If they don't think it'd be worthwhile fighting back, the game continues with the rebels forming the new government. If the loyalists refuse to give in, the rebels have the option to surrender. (Maybe things didn't go as well as planned.) If the rebels also decide to carry on, a civil war results with the country splitting in two. All factions must declare for either the rebels or the loyalists. (And factions originally involved in the government or with the coup plotters may switch sides at this point, if desired.)

CIVIL WAR

In the event of civil war the locations controlled by the rebels become a separate country. Any properties in those locations belonging to loyalist factions are considered captured by the rebels. All other locations remain loyal. Any properties in those locations belonging to rebel factions are considered captured by the loyalists.

Both sides have separate governments that follow whatever the laws are for their country. This continues until one side controls all locations in both countries either through military victory or a surrender. “Foreign” influence has no effect, so rebel influence has no effect in loyalist-controlled areas and vice-versa.

SOCIAL PROGRAMS

Social programs include art & music subsidies, child care, orphanages, commerce regulation, consumer protection, disability pensions, disaster relief, environmental protection, forestry, health care, housing, old age pensions, parks & recreation, poverty assistance, public information, propaganda, public works, schools, and unemployment assistance. If the “government” funds social programs all factions involved in the government gain influence equal to 1/10 the the amount spent, divided equally between them. Fractions are ignored. For example, three factions budgeting $30 on social programs would gain +1 influence each.

Miscellaneous rules

Crime is a natural occurrence in human society. If a location doesn't have enough police, crime does damage to property located there. Characters caught stealing, attempting to assassinate someone or guilty of manslaughter are imprisoned. Successful assassins are guillotined.

Fate. There is no fate but that which we make for ourselves. Characters only die from dueling or assassination. This has no effect on possessions as it is assumed their next of kin continues to support the same faction.

Imprisoned characters cannot command an army, serve as a government minister, or use their talents until they are ransomed, rescued or released. The imperial prison is located on the outskirts of the capital and is automatically defended by any police regiments assigned to that city. If it is captured by an attacking army, the prisoners are released.

Line of imperial succession: The Crown Prince, Prince Humperdink, Princess Penelope, Archduke Fester, Archduchess Karlotta, Countess Bathory, Peter the Pretender.

The Church receives a regular stipend from the imperial government with which they operate various orphanages and charities. In return the Archbishop supports the emperor and his government and the Chancellor gains +1 influence.