Let’s Roll: GURPS Steampunk/Vikings

Siskoid welcomes back Daniel "Pout" Ouellet to continue their GURPS Shiftworld discussion, this time covering the award-winning GURPS Steampunk and GURPS Vikings, with a glancing blow at GURPS Atlantis. What are these books/settings like, and what opportunities do these genres offer? And in the GameMaster's Advice segment, Siskoid talks about building soundtracks for your games!

Relevant images and credits in the Let's Roll Supplemental.

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Leave us a comment, we'll roll with the punches!

2 responses to “Let’s Roll: GURPS Steampunk/Vikings

  1. Great episode, Siskoid! I’ve been listening, out of order, to the chronicles of your cross-genre GURPs campaign and have to say it sounds amazing! I tried something a little like it at one point, but never with the success you achieved. Hats off, good sir.

    The discussion on “punk” is a good one to start up.I see the “punk” being representative of the counter-culture nature of the protagonists within a genre: cyberpunk involves counter-culture heroes in a future setting incorporating advanced technology. If the word “punk” belongs in steampunk is a topic I’m going to be gentle about: I don’t really like the steampunk genre much myself, as it seems like it’s more of a retro-riff on cyberpunk than a “genre” itself. I prefer to label a lot of these as “Victorianna”, and that’s where I personally put things like LoEG in comics, or Castle Falkenstein in RPGs. I won’t defend or die on this hill though, so I put this in here as more of a thought and opinion.

    Cyberpunk, like Steampunk, has the narrative genre elements, and the aesthetic elements. When I see many Steampunk enthusiasts or consume fiction with that label, I see it hitting many of the same narrative beats you’ve described. Walking around in Holmes’ England, tailing Jack the Ripper, and seeing some of the future or extrapolative technologies are all fascinating. And indeed, many of the protagonists are much more egalitarian than their age would permit (suggesting the punk part), but we also rarely play or write characters in the modern age who are as colonial, racist, or troubled as the humans of their era. So is this part actually punk, or more a fashion of the present to ensure that our characters are sympathetic to the injustices of yesteryear.

    For example, if I’m playing a cowboy RPG, I’m not likely to make “Tex the Indian Hunter”. I might make a cowboy named Tex who’s grown famous for repelling some raids from the natives, but Tex himself is unlikely to brag about his conquests against the native Americans. For one, I’m not keen to be the colonial racist murderer in a game, and would likely leave the table if that became a recurring theme. But doing so doesn’t make my western game “westpunk”.

    So does introducing some modern and/or fantastical technologies to a western, such as in Deadlands, make it “westpunk”? Has the meaning of punk, in association with a genre, morphed into a catchword to say “extrapolative and alternative ideas within the overall aesthetic and style of the prefix genre”?

    Perhaps it has?

    Here we could begin down a rabbit hole of what is a genre, and what is an aesthetic…


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