The Clockwork World was born out of a desire to create a kind of setting that we hadn’t yet seen. We wanted to make a world that was only one or two steps removed from actual history, rather than a world with one or two leaps and a windfall of changes in their wake. Hence, much of what we did wasn’t imagine up new things, but rather extensively research the oddities and inventions of the real world of 1896. We didn’t dream up much at all, but rather took what really did exist as either unique or unknown and make it ubiquitous. The result is a highly believable “unbelievable world.”
I had a conversation with our editor about the ‘Photophone,’ a sort of wireless telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell that encoded sound on light. The editor had read about it in the source material and suggested that we call it something else. I had to inform him that Bell really did invent the photophone just as we had written it. In fact, it was the invention of which he was most proud. You’ll find all sorts of things like that in the Clockwork World: voice synthesizers, and automatons that stand upright and run at nine miles per hour. We didn’t have to make Babbage invent a Difference Engine in the 1830s, because Per Georg Scheutz truly did invent one and displayed it at the World’s Fair in 1885. Our own real world of 1896 was brimming with fantastic technology, thus we try to create a more believable Steampunk World by simply making extant technology more widely available. We hope that it creates a more immersive world with much less of a fantasy feel, and provides players and Narrators a framework into which they may seamlessly insert their own ideas, research, and historical knowledge.
There are supernatural qualities to this setting, but even they are heavily researched and based on period documentation. We will talk about them in the next post.