Monday, November 29, 2010

Elaborating on Campaign Characteristics #11 - Steampunk meet Cyberpunk

Based on some discussion about what Steampunk is really defined by, you would not define Mad Lands as the same traditionally recognizable Steampunk. It has elements that are distinctly different. However, you would not call it traditional high fantasy either - it is far too *cough* steamy for that. I would like to compare Mad Lands - my homebrew setting - as something that falls in between Steampunk and Cyberpunk. I'll explain after you read the following article.
by Sarah Brandel
After reading Sara M. Harvey’s novella The Convent of the Pure this weekend , I spent a while thinking about steampunk stories in general, and how their aesthetics, attitudes, and ideas compare to those of cyberpunk stories.
What struck me most with respect to these two genres were the differences in attitude, especially with respect to technology, society, and the individual. Below are some sweeping generalizations made about the genres with respect to these areas. Don’t take these as my last word on the genres; after all, these summaries are written to encourage debate!

Stories and novels in the steampunk genre seem to be more optimistic, with society riding a wave of technological wonders toward a brighter future, much like the scientific romances of yore. Of course, there may be rumblings of trade-offs and potential misuses of the new science and technology that underscore the optimism–and the novel’s antagonist may well be building a clockwork doomsday device–but a new era is dawning, and it is full of possibilities. Secret societies (composed of individuals in power) or conspiracies are often the source of problems rather than society in general. Individuals have the potential to accomplish great things, no matter how humble their beginnings.

Cyberpunk stories and novels, on the other hand, seem to wallow in dystopian futures where the world is overrun by megacorporations and the individual is just one more cog, or circuit, in the machine. Technology–specifically, plugging into a virtual network via computer or neural jack–can be both an escape and an addiction. Things have gone wrong with the world, or perhaps just a localized portion of it, and it’s up to individuals working outside of the mainstream culture to set it right. In general, however, there’s only so much that can be done, since society is sick to its core. Society is Darwinian with respect to individuals: the weak are swallowed whole and only the strong, the rich, and the clever survive.


My current setting although primarily a steam based fantasy world escpaes from the steam tech only standard through some very alien means; the Far Realm influence on the world is so strong that some have been able to tap into this power to create technology that simply goes beyond anything that human hands could produce. Therefore, the world falls, technologically, into both the Steampunk and Cyberpunk categories. However, I would say that I want the overall feeling of the world to be a little bit of both, and a lot of neither.

What I mean by this is that I want the world to be filled with unsurity and disharmony, much like the "modern" world we live in. It is not the optimistic past that you see so much in Steampunk, nor is it really the dystopian future. It is more of a very screwed up present that could go either way.

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