I have a desire to do something Steampunky and I was thinking about how would one do this?
I was looking at the image above and thought how would I run that in the session. I came up with two approaches.
This approach gives the GM the greatest amount of variety. let me take that giant scorpion machine and build it this way. Take a Gemsting from Creature Law (or any version from C&T or C&M) apply the heaviest armour (AT10 for RMu and 20 for Arms Law) and apply two size level increases. For an RMC Gemsting, it would add 20 hits and double the total and add 40 to its OB, and it can ignore two levels of criticals.
This approach uses only a few creature stats. We take a Golem or other construct and then add, in this case, a poison stinger and scale the thing up.
From the GM’s point of view most machines would fall into the same basic stats as there are only a limited number of constructs. For the player characters, they would still see a myriad number of different threats and creations.
Which to Choose?
Both options have strengths and drawbacks. I play with a lot of systems and see a lot of different ways of doing things. Stars Without Number, for example only has about 8 different ‘creatures’. They are defined by ecological roles or niches such as small grazers and large predators. The actual physical characteristics are either rolled or picked from a set of tables on a body part by body part basis.
It means that if you have a vision for how you want your alien threat to look you can simply pick the body parts from a list and then apply the most suitable archetype.
If you don’t know what sort of alien threat you want to can just roll on each table and build a ‘monster’.
Classic Traveller had a very similar approach. It gave you the basic game mechanics and it was up to you clothe them in a physical form to describe to your characters.
You have a limited number of possible archetypes but a near-infinite number of possible bodies.
ZWeihander has a different approach. There are a few different challenge levels, a handful of different body templates that define the monster’s stats and the challenge level tells you how many talents you may add to that creature. From then on you can pick from a menu of about 40 talents, each on adds abilities and or modifies stats. That gives you the stats and basic nature of the beast and it is then just up to you to clothe it in a suitable appearance.
D&D and all its variations and derivatives have used a great plethora of different beasts and the stats that define them are largely arbitrary. If you want a 10 hit dice hamster then there is nothing to stop you.
From the player’s side of the GM’s screen, the stats that make up a monster should not matter, but often they will. We will all have played with someone who has strategized almost every monster so they know exactly how to best hurt every creature. Which attack with which weapon or what spells in what order.
With that sort of player, the few monsters approach means that they will soon learn how to defeat all the monsters. For argument sake, if none of them can bleed or be stunned then that is going to change the choices you make for weapons and offensive spells.
The greatest threat you are ever going to meet will always be the NPC villains. They have the same options as you and are probably a higher level. NPCs do bleed and they can be stunned, at least once you get them out of their machines, in the contest. So maybe a steampunk setting would just put more emphasis on the NPCs? Machines are just machines, they have stats so we can kill them.
The more I reflect on this the more it seems that RMu and in particular Creature Law will end up being the perfect accompaniment to a steampunk setting. We have a wide range of base creatures from which to start but we also have archetypes we can use as a base. Regardless of which method we use we can apply talents that give us the abilities we want. If the thing needs wings to fly or a poison sting then we just apply the right talents.
I was hoping, originally, that this steampunk thing was going to be a Christmas one-shot. I would only need two or three threats. I could strip out all the magic (pure, semi and hybrid) professions and have the PCs are just fighters/rogues. As RMu will not be released in time I think this project may be pushed back into the new year. The sad thing is that the part I need the most is Creature Law and that has always been the least well developed of all the books we have seen to date.