Reliquary Game Studios

A Clockwork World: One Step From Reality

In the Clockwork: Dominion Core Rulebook,  you will find a fictional world inspired by the historical Earth of 1896. The British Empire under Queen Victoria is at its apex. It is a time of etiquette and gentility; a time of war and colonialism; a time of science and discovery. Yet the Clockwork world makes slight deviations from its historical analog, taking things “one step from reality.” Rather than creating a game world of fantasy birthed completely from the imaginations of its creators, the Clockwork is instead a product of extensive research used to craft a historically feasible steampunk world peppered with supernatural elements based on the beliefs of the time.

This world does not contain much technology that didn’t exist in our own world in 1896. We needn’t speculate what would happen if Charles Babbage completed his room-sized mechanical computer, because Swedish inventor Per Georg Scheutz created a table-sized working difference engine in 1843 and his model was improved upon by his contemporary Martin Wiberg in 1875. We simply take this rare computational marvel and ask what would the world be like if it was more ubiquitous. To create a believable steampunk world, we take this and many other technological advancements that were rare or unique and spread them throughout the Clockwork world and imagine the impact they would have on society.

Some technologies that seem fantastical are not as unrealistic as one might think.

In 1845, Joseph Faber exhibited his “Wonderful Talking Head,” a stationary automaton capable of fully synthetic speech. In 1893, George Moore invented a steam powered automaton in the shape of man that could stand upright and run at speeds in excess of five miles per hour. Putting these extant technologies together with Wilberg’s computer and some of the sensor and communication devices invented by Alexander Graham Bell allows for plausible clockwork automatons that can walk, talk, and perceive. Many of the more outlandish technological devices in the Clockwork are simply the combination of this sort of extant technology, or a slight fast-forward in its development.

Similarly, the supernatural elements of the Clockwork are not invented whole-cloth by the authors, but are based on myth, religion, and unexplained phenomenon reported in newspapers and in popular belief at the time. We draw heavily from Victorian fiction, folklore, Abrahamic holy texts, and popular apocryphal religious texts that were in circulation during the Victorian era. You will see biblical citations within the descriptions of the nephilim, magic, and the cosmology of the Clockwork. You will read snippets of ancient alchemical texts as translated by Sir Isaac Newton. You will see references to the Brothers Grimm and to other historical fiction and folklore when reading about the fey and the myths that surround them.

The Victorian era, for all its achievements, was also a high point for many forms of social injustice and reaction against it. As such, it saw the beginning of many movements for greater equality and freedom. For players that want to explore social themes, the Clockwork world likewise has these movements more vocal and more widespread than in actual history. The advances in technology – especially in communication – and differences in metaphysical belief about the workings of the world have likewise made social debate more active.

All efforts have been made to stretch circumstance, history, and myth minimally to create a believable fantastic world. We hope this allows players to immerse themselves into the the Clockwork and that it provides a suitable stage for any stories they wish to tell. What we present in this book is a broad view of the Clockwork world, and we encourage players to draw on their own knowledge and enthusiasm for the Victorian era to explore it, adapt it, and make it their own.