Steampunk Sunday: D and D

This is a guest post from James the Mad over at The Prone Ooze. It’s posted as is, without comment from me (the blog owner), and I’m very happy he wanted to come play in my pond. Thanks, James!

I’m a Steampunk Exterminator!
I have enjoyed the Steampunk genre since before it had a name. I enjoyed the Will Smith version of Wild Wild West, and I think that was before the genre had solidified. In fact, I wake up every Sunday morning and I feel a bit like it is Christmas because I get to open a new Steampunk Sunday article. I am honored to have the chance to participate in this and I hope you all enjoy it as well.
Ever since I read this article I have been thinking about ways to bring some Steampunk into my D and D game. I liked all three of the songs, but my favorite was the second one. It really made me want to run a Steampunk adventure, if not an entire campaign. I have come up with a list of ideas that you can incorporate into your game to bring a little bit of the feel of Steampunk, whether you are a player or a DM.  
Here are some ideas to bring a little bit of Steampunk to your character if you are a player. The first thing I should tell you is that you should talk to your DM about your ideas, because even though I advocate Yes and… the game will run much more smoothly if you have DM buy in to your concept. Maybe you can even give him some ideas about how to incorporate a little Steampunk into his adventure design if he is interested.

I am going to play Flibber the Gnome Pilot.Wait, where are you all going?
The most important thing to do when trying to make a Steampunk inspired character is to have a good concept in mind while you are building your character, and to keep your concept in mind while playing your character. I can’t tell you what aspects of Steampunk will most appeal to you for your character, but I would suggest that you find something simple and easy to portray and stick with it. The idea of a single sentence which defines your character such as an engineer, who can fix anything, is the better than an elaborate and complicated idea which is difficult to put into words.  Often such an idea with a bit of DM buy in can be enough to bring some Steampunk to your character, but if you wanted some ideas for some specific mechanics to fit a Steampunk concept I have some for you.
I’m Thief/Lover not Fighter/Thief
While any race can make for a good Steampunk character, there are a few which work especially well. Humans can work well for any type of Steampunk character. Most Steampunk fiction features humans as the main characters, if not the only characters. An Elf or a Half Elf would make an interesting noble or gentleman (or lady) adventurer. A Gnome character would make an excellent mad scientist or engineer. Truly any race can make a good Steampunk character, with the right concept. Warforged deserve special mention because much of Steampunk features interesting constructs. If you give your Warforged a few steam vents you could make an excellent Steampunk creation. This works especially well if there is another player who would be interested in playing an engineer who could have “created” you.
Like race many classes can work for a Steampunk character. A Fighter or Rogue would make a good adventurer or dashing swordsman. If your DM allows guns a ranger would make an excellent marksman character. A warlord would make a good airship captain. A wizard could fulfill a variety of Steampunk roles. If you took alchemy a wizard could make a wonderful mad scientist. With the right familiar and some summoning spells a wizard could be an engineer who is constantly trying out new machines that break down almost immediately.  When magic does make a showing in Steampunk it tends to be darker in flavor than high fantasy. A warlock character could take that idea and really run with it. Just make sure you work with your dm to create a patron that will feature in the story.
Of Course! It all makes sense now. He was a GNOME!
The key to making a Steampunk character is to fit the fluff of your choices with your concept. Instead of summoning a hellhound, perhaps you build an iron horse that expels steam and that you have to activate before it inevitably breaks down or runs out of fuel. Once again there is a class which deserves special mention. The artificer from Ebberon would make a superb engineer especially one who was more tinkerer than machinist. In truth any class can work as long as you have a good concept that you hold firmly in your mind while you are playing.
Perhaps you have more than a single character that you want to bring to life in full Steampunk glory. If you are a DM seeking inspiration for a full blown Steampunk campaign, or even a single Steampunk themed adventure I have plenty of thoughts for you as well. Again the best advice I have for you is to have a solid concept for your campaign and don’t let the fluff get in your way. As long as you are willing to do a little creative re-skinning much of what is already in D and D can serve you well. Find a source of inspiration like Wild Wild West or Girl Genius and run with it. Really that’s all you need.
Lightning Rail in Ebberon
You’re still here? Ok, fine I have some specific ideas for you too. It is no accident that the Warforged and Artificer got special mention in my player list. The Ebberon campaign setting is the closest thing to an official Steampunk D and D we are likely to see. It has magic trains, airships, Gnomish Engineers, and even a telegraph system. If you don’t want to run an Ebberon game, you can still take a lot of ideas from the system to inform your own D and D game.
Another key idea to running a successful Steampunk game is to steer away from traditional dungeon crawls and run more event based adventures. Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade for Ebberon, which is a Third Edition module is an excellent example of how to run an event based adventure with some Steampunk tropes. I don’t want to spoil too much but the encounter where the players were fighting pterodactyl riding Halflings on a speeding train was the most awesome thing ever.
When crafting your adventure make sure you create real villains with goals and create a plan of what they will do and then think about how they might react to some things your players might do. That’s good advice for any DM, but it is especially important for Steampunk. After you have some plans for world domination in hand go ahead and come up with some truly epic and awesome set piece battles. I’m talking crashing an airship into a skyscraper here kind of awesome. Turn it up to 11. The most important thing to remember here is to let your inspiration inform your game and let your players be the awesome Steampunk heroes you all like reading about or watching.
I am James the mad, gamer dad and erstwhile dungeon master. You can find my arcane ramblings here at Prone Ooze. We now return you to your regularly scheduled step on the journey.

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Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, Steampunk DnD, Steampunk Sunday

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