Monday, November 4, 2013

Victorian Era Monday: Steam Wars

Image ©2013 Sillof
As you may recall, back in January of this year, I decided to devote Mondays to blogging about pulp-noir: games, comics, TV shows, movies, and books with a 1930s pulp theme that can be used as inspirations for your games. In that first post, I talked about why I love that era so much, and how I often gravitate toward media in any form that uses the era as inspiration.

In an effort to expand a bit on some other influences that I enjoy, I'm going to open up Mondays to bit to also focus on material from other eras, including the Victorian era which is the subject of today's post. I really like the Victorian era (or you could call it the Industrial era) based in part on some of the early books I read by H.G. Wells and also the horror stories of Poe, Dracula by Braham Stoker, Shelley's Frankenstein... that era is one that fascinates me because on the one hand you have the advancement of logic and scientific reason over superstition, and on the other hand you have the fear of that science and what it means for mankind creating all of these crazy twisted horror stories. That superstition that we try to hard to shed is still lurking pretty prominently in the background. And, although you've got things like gunpowder, steam trains, and maybe telegraphs, life wasn't all that unlike it was a hundred or two hundred years prior, making it not far removed from the typical fantasy era in which a lot of role-playing games take place.

Since I began playing D&D, I've always liked the idea of "advancing the timeline" so to speak - the
Sir Benedict Kellion
Image ©2013 Sillof
idea of playing a D&D game that does involve some of the technological trappings of latter society but which is not fully "modern." The Victorian Era fits the bill for that type of thing.

My last Pulp Noir Monday post was on a series of customized action figures created by artist Sillof based off of a Star Wars theme that he called "Noir Wars." I thought it only fitting to show you yet another example of Sillof's artistry with a figure collection he calls "Steam Wars."

As a quick aside, you may be wondering a few things, so I'll try to answer them briefly:
  • Why are you showing pictures of action figures as an inspiration for role-playing games? Well, as I've mentioned before, inspiration can come from a variety of places. I also think it's interesting to break down the basic elements of a story, especially a well-known one such as Star Wars, and think about how it could be implemented in a different setting. 
  • I only play fantasy-themed RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. How is this useful to me? See above... just because you're playing a fantasy game with elves and magic doesn't mean that you can't grab some inspiration from another source. Both the pulp era and the Victorian era are full of great examples and inspirations that can easily be tweaked for a fantasy setting. For an extreme example, there's the Iron Kingdoms setting, which bills itself as "Full Metal Fantasy." It's an excellent example of how to integrate some clockwork type creations, like their Steam Jacks, into a "standard" fantasy setting without turning it into the Steampunk genre. 
  • I'm looking for rules on how I can continually tweak an OD&D Cleric so it's "just so" or a post about whether we should have thieves in D&D. Sorry, you've got the wrong blog. I read those posts by other bloggers, too, and I sometimes enjoy them, but I'm really more about ideas and settings than I am about rules. I figure you can handle the rules on your own. If I had to boil it down, I guess I'd say that one of the main focuses of my blog is showing where my gaming inspirations come from and ideally helping give you ideas on how you can look for inspirations from a variety of non-traditional sources and incorporate them into your role-playing games.
Ignatius. Sillof does
all the Bounty Hunters.
Image ©2013 Sillof
With that out of the way... let's get on with it.

What Is It?
In the same vein as the Noir Wars figure series linked-to above, this is another set of beautifully detailed customized action figures based on the Star Wars movies (specifically, the real Star Wars movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s), taking all of the characters we know really well but imagining them in a different setting. In this case, we're treated to a glimpse at Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest as Victorian-era characters with a steampunk edge to them.

The creator, Sillof, mentions that his inspiration for this line came from Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Terry Gilliam, and Guillermo Del Toro, as well as as few others. These inspirations clearly come through in the resulting figures, and it's not hard to start creating your own stories in your head as you see the figures and think about how they would interact with each other.

Any Good Ideas Here for my Role-Playing Games?
Of course there are. If you take nothing else away from seeing these figures, you'd at the very least be able to look at them and then start wondering, "How could I make an archetype like this Star Wars character in my favorite non-space opera RPG?"

Of course, that's just the very bare bones of an idea. The really cool thing that I'm always inspired by when looking at Sillof's transformation of Star Wars is thinking how to adapt the characters to the setting. That is, you've got the very basic archetypes of Stars Wars (the farm boy, the pirate, the princess, the wizard/old man) but in each type of setting, they behave differently based on the "rules" (that is, the environment and the physical rules of the world) of the setting. It's fun to think about dropping a force-sensitive Luke Skywalker or Ben Kenobi type into a magic-based setting, but what about a straight-up Victorian setting with no magic? How would those characters behave in relation to non-force characters like Han Solo? What about C3PO and R2D2?

Unlike the Noir Wars characters, Sillof doesn't provide any little hooks here behind the characters, so you're on your own to figure out their motivations and how to ground them properly into the setting, but we're all creative types here so that shouldn't be a problem.

Who Will Like It?
As I said in my last post on Sillof's figures, "If you can't appreciate the artistry of these figures or look at them and think of ways that you'd want to use these characters in your games, I don't know how to help you..."

This is a combination of spectacularly artistry in terms of the physical product of the figures themselves combined with the imagination that went into creating the setting and figuring out how to change the costumes of the characters appropriately while keeping them recognizable. Plus you've got the added bonus of then taking Sillof's ideas and figuring out how to reinterpret them to fit your game world.

Is It Good For Kids?
Admiral Augustus
Image ©2013 Sillof
Your kids will love seeing their favorite characters re-imagined as Victorian era steampunk heroes and villains.

One thing Sillof does in this particular series that I really enjoyed was that he went deep with the characters.Many of his Star Wars series just focus on the main characters - Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, the Droids, Darth Vader, the Stormtroopers, and of course fan-favorite Boba Fett. However, in this series, he also did designs for all of the bounty hunters from Empire Strikes Back, an Ewok, Yoda, Lando Calrissian, a Snow Trooper, TIE Fighter Pilot, the Emperor, the Emperor's Royal Guard, that little rat-monkey guy that hangs around Jabba the Hutt (Salacious Crumb), Jabba himself and his major-domo (Bib Fortuna), and probably my personal favorite, Admiral Ackbar ("It's a trap!").

Again, as with the Noir Wars, and most of Sillof's figures, these aren't for sale, so you won't be buying these to put under the tree at Christmas for your kids. But, you can still enjoy the pictures with your kids, and a fun activity might be to create a collaborative story with your kids where you re-tell the Star Wars story in a Victorian setting like London using these characters.

Click here to see the entire collection of figures on Sillof's site. 

Hanging: home office (laptop)
Drinking: Just tap water today
Listening: "Milestones" by Miles Davis

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