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What is Steampunk...



  • Brass, copper, bronze pipes. Clockwork. Riveted steel plating. Everything already mentioned. However, also think Victor Von Frankenstein and perhaps Nicola Tesla. There should be weird electricity-arcing paraphernalia. A central concept of steampunk often is "Ether." Not the chemical, but the nineteenth century notion that there was a medium that propagated energy through space, and that was "the ether." So steampunk has a lot to do with weird science based upon that. Glowing crystals set in geometric bronze fixtures, antenna radiating arcs of polychromatic lightning, colored lenses set in clockwork movements. buildings rising to dizzying heights built upon the drab, soot stained streets of the downtrodden. That sort of thing.

    And, of course, the armored dirigibles and such.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    Thank you Rob :)

    Those dirigibles keep cropping up, don't they...

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    Oops! I missed Joe's, Quentens and DaltonSpence's comments in the page turn.

    Thank you very much, all of you :)

    Joe - I was already thinking of two sets of pipes - brass and steel/iron

    Quenten - Of course, the boilers ;)

    DaltonSpence - Some of those things are more dungeon scale, but larger automatons for a city map - certainly.

  • It might be useful to have a series of Steampunk "add-on" symbols, for things such as pipes, machinery items, odd-looking consoles and other features, ad infinitum, rather than trying to create new house, etc., symbols with the pipework, gears, and so forth pre-attached. Obviously, there will need to be new vehicles, but even there, something like a "normal" steam locomotive could be created, to which fancy pipework & co could be added to taste by individual map makers.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    That's what I was thinking for a while, Wyvern, but I think there is a bit more to it than that. The whole colour scheme and textures are different to any normal fantasy style. We'll see :)

  • What steampunk I've seen, doesn't include stainless steel. Mostly cast iron. Large bolts holding large objects together type thing.

    I don't remember anything that looked like aluminum. As far as I know, that takes huge amounts of electricity to refine from bauxite.

    As for the arc-generating items mentioned above... the original set for the Mummy comes to mind. Jacob's Ladder, huge gear wheels, arcs and sparks.

  • DaltonSpenceDaltonSpence Surveyor
    edited November 2021
    Another term that could be used for Steampunk is "Gaslight Fantasy" which was coined by Kaja Foglio to describe the "Girl Genius" comic universe created by her and her husband Phil. I came across this when looking at the preview for the Girl Genius Sourcebook and Roleplaying Game by Steve Jackson Games. This setting allows for (and is actually dependent on) "Mad Science" which means any inventions don't have to be strictly realistic. What that might look like I leave up to your imagination.
    JimPMonsenLoopysueRaikoRowan Hockema
  • Heyyas,

    If you take a look at this:

    Original Steampunk Art – Two for One Steampunk Canvases (

    you'll get a feel for what I think of for 'steampunk'.



  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    That's really interesting Calibre! It's nothing like the image I've been building in my own imagination.

    I can see this is going to be quite a prolonged project.

  • I find this whole discussion really fascinating, since in my world, steam is not so easy to produce in quantity - mush wood is hard to burn, and there is not much coal - there was no carboniferous period.

    So what they have instead is clockwork - lots of cogs and gears and levers. the springs that drive everything are made by treating a special plant with acid and medium fire, to produce a steel-like substance called restil.

    So these drawings are exactly what I have in mind for my world - cog-punk

  • 5 months later
  • JulianDracosJulianDracos Surveyor

    I am not sure if I should have started another thread or not. I also know that @Loopysue is busy working on a dungeon. However, I have realized that there is a type of map that really cannot be done in a steampunk style with the annuals that are available.

    There is not a way to create a steampunk dungeon/floorplan/VTT/battlemap. There are some styles that work for producing Victorian era floorplans that are suitable for putting in a book. They look similar to say blueprints or modern apartment flooplans you see online.

    On the other hand, there is not a color option for producing a small scale steampunk style that that would be suitable for VTT. I am thinking things like Naomi's Tavern or the Pelgrade Battle scenes.

    What I would like to do is be able to build a nice looking pub map, or a street scene that is suitable for steampunk. These could then be used for VTT play. This would allow for a lot of symbols that convey steampunk over something else. This could be used to produce maps for say a train car, steamship, or airship as well.

    General city maps or overland maps can be handled with other styles. But a detailed small scale map where you can see details on items to convey that they are steampunk I think is completely missing. Modern does not look right and fantasy is missing items. Nothing is really going to work to produce nice steampunk maps for VTT style play.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    I'm sorry, Julian. I'd almost forgotten this thread while I'm working on Creepy Crypts, but I'll come back to it in a couple of weeks time when I'm done with that.

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