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"What Is Victorian Science Fiction (VSF) Gaming To YOU?" Topic

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22 Sep 2011 8:17 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Cacique Caribe16 Mar 2011 11:05 a.m. PST


In your opinion …

A) Should VSF be more for gaming scenarios inspired by actual Victorian sources, like "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea", "War Of The Worlds" and other true Victorian SF* (stuff really written during the Victorian period by people like Jules Verne, HG Wells, etc.)?

B) Or are we talking about modern fictional material written during our time but about Victorian people?

C) Or do you feel it should include both?

D) Or none of the above. Please explain.


* Would that be TVSF then? :)

Murvihill16 Mar 2011 11:08 a.m. PST

1. No electricity.
2. 19th century weapons.

Lee Brilleaux Fezian16 Mar 2011 11:19 a.m. PST

If you stuck with A, you'd have very little to work with, honestly. You have Wells, Verne, Rider Haggard, Griffiths, and a few short stories by others.

Even if, like myself, you've done a "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" scenario, simply using the material in Verne's novel wouldn't give you a good game.

Even widening the definition to, say, 1914, adds Tarzan, 'The Lost world' and Fu Manchu. That helps.

But VSF is a mix of actual Victorian history, culture and society with experimental ("Mad") science, odd beliefs about occultism and prehistoric survivals, and sheer whimsy. Could anyone make up Tesla ("No electricity" indeed!)

There's no reason NOT to look at more recent VSF writings (I am partial to an author called Whitehouse).

And, of course, most of us make up huge chunks of fiction, because we can, and we want to, because that's who we are and why we aren't the sort of wargamers waiting for a FoG tournament.

RavenscraftCybernetics16 Mar 2011 11:19 a.m. PST

its sci fi so the evil genius always dabbles with electricity.

boy wundyr x16 Mar 2011 11:27 a.m. PST

I'm for C. The scientific romances and early sci-fi are the originals and the inspiration, but modern steampunk (and other sub-genres), particularly for gaming, have taken the ideas further. I also include Victorian/Edwardian "Invasion Literature" (there was a recent thread on this) as part of VSF, in a Tom Clancy techno-thriller sort of way.

I don't mind electricity though, as long as it's suitably steam-powered.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2011 11:28 a.m. PST

Like C), but to be honest I think that there is a lot more via the B) mode

Eli Arndt16 Mar 2011 11:31 a.m. PST

Really it's a matter of style and feel. Anythign can be morphed into a VSF element just with the judicious application of the themes of VSF.


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2011 11:32 a.m. PST

E) Gotta use 'em ALL. Otherwise, what's the point? evil grin

(I, too, am partial to that author called Whitehouse. Darned funny stuff, those books of his. Besides, he's got LIVE KILLER PTERODACTYLS, so I have to say that. "Nice birdie, nice birdie…")

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian16 Mar 2011 11:46 a.m. PST

I am partial to an author called Whitehouse.

Really? He always struck me as the kind of author who'd write about dinosaurs eating Hitler and other such silliness.

Reading his stuff you'd almost think this hobby was about having fun.

The Gray Ghost16 Mar 2011 11:48 a.m. PST

But VSF is a mix of actual Victorian history, culture and society with experimental ("Mad") science, odd beliefs about occultism and prehistoric survivals, and sheer whimsy. Could anyone make up Tesla ("No electricity" indeed!)

This is what I'd go for.

Scorpio16 Mar 2011 11:49 a.m. PST

All of the above. Sandbox is big enough for everyone's versions.

Watchtower7816 Mar 2011 12:10 p.m. PST

I like mixing up traditional classic elements of VSF using the Victorian period like HG Wells and ERB and then adding the Mad Scientists etc. For me it's all about dreaming of steam.

Caesar16 Mar 2011 1:02 p.m. PST


pphalen16 Mar 2011 1:09 p.m. PST

I'm more of an option F: WHY DO WE HAVE TO PIGEON HOLE the genre?

And what Jack said, particularly about the Whitehouse Lad.
Once my boy and I are through reading Rowling "together" I am sending him directly to the "Strictest School in the World"

Plynkes16 Mar 2011 1:35 p.m. PST

Rider Haggard. Begins and ends there for me.

You can keep the rest.

teenage visigoth16 Mar 2011 2:07 p.m. PST

Saving the world just before tea. Betrayal. Corsets. Monocles. Giant animals that should not be giant.
Strange Apparatus.

-By no means a complete or exclusive list.

Watchtower7816 Mar 2011 2:15 p.m. PST

Hey badmash can I use "Saving the World Just Before Tea" as the title of my VSF skirmish game for WTNW? Would you mind? I absolutely LOVE IT! The skirmish game is going to concentrate (at least our first book) on the HG Wells type Martian invasion of Earth. The difference being of course that the Great Powers have landships and airships!

Personal logo martinjpayne1964 Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2011 2:24 p.m. PST

Girl Genius!!!

Pole Bitwy PL16 Mar 2011 2:39 p.m. PST

Option C please and some more.

Dasher16 Mar 2011 3:06 p.m. PST

Lots and lots and LOTS of stuff out there that was inspired by the giants (Wells, Verne, haggard, etc.) but written by other, lesser-known writers. Even Lovecraft's stuff can be SF once his basic premise is acceted, that the Powers of his mythos are not deities, but extra-dimensional or extra-terrestrial beings worshipped as such by primitives and lunatics.
Look for the excellent anthologies "Science Fiction by Gaslight" and "The Lucifer Society" for inspiration.
"Science Fiction by Gaslight" was edited by Sam Moskowitz, contains stories of exactly the period its title describes, and not an overly-famous author in the bunch.
"The Lucifer Society" was edited by Peter Haining, and while not all the stories are science fiction (many are horror or suspense), the hook is that all were written by authors not known for their excursions into the macabre, like John Steinbeck, William Faulkner… and Winston Churchill's grim fable, "Man Overboard".
Check 'em out.

teenage visigoth16 Mar 2011 4:35 p.m. PST

Watchtower78, as we are gentlemen of the better sort, I'd be most pleased for you to do so. Huzzah.

Be so good as to send me your scenario and details as re compensation (PM me!).

-BS, off to hunt Pterodactyls in Wales.

freecloud16 Mar 2011 4:39 p.m. PST

I have 2 VSF outfits:

- "British Colonial in Space"
- "She meets Lost World"

As for backstory, I have taken elements from the Greats, from Space 1889, and from modern authors like Toby Frost's "Space Captain Smith" and Philip Reeve. And I want Dashing Heroes, Beautiful Adventuresses, Mad Professors with Infernal Devices, Evil Masterminds with Minions, Archaeologists in Fezzes, and – along with and monocles and corsets, of course – I need Hardlove's Impermeable Rubber suits for the Royal Space Marines

Dragon Gunner16 Mar 2011 5:45 p.m. PST

Darkest Africa exploration with no preconceived notions of what to expect. Exotic ruins, dangerous flora, fauna and natives. The occasional hostile great power or treasure hunter that crops up and tries to steal your treasure. Campaign play with map making.

Steve16 Mar 2011 6:32 p.m. PST

I stick with ACW but with steam tech. Things that are possible without too much stretch. Steam powered tanks and walkers, rockets and the stuff put out by Brigade for that era. No dinosaurs, no ray guns, no aliens for me.


AlbertaAndy16 Mar 2011 6:39 p.m. PST

For me naming it VSF implies that it's either inspired by actual Victorian science fiction or would be completely compatible with the imagination, thinking and technological base (real or imagined) of the Victorians, so for example Verne writes about Aeronefs, so those would be included. I'd also include Space 1889 as it's entirely consistent with Victorian ideals, but exclude Barsoom and Cthulu, which might better fall under pulp or another genre. By the same token I'd say a lot of steampunk isn't VSF.

Having said that I'd play any game and enjoy it! I just wouldn't call it VSF.

Cheers, Andy

Grand Duke Natokina16 Mar 2011 7:12 p.m. PST

I think both. And some electricity, even Holmes used the telephone in later stories. And automobiles. You need t define a timeline I think maybe ending at 1914 or even 16 [with the battles of Verdun and the Somme]. It should start somewhere about 1850.
Anything used in reality in those times is valid and anything a knowledgeable author can postulate based on the technology of the day carried a bit further.

kallman16 Mar 2011 7:41 p.m. PST

I am with what Howard aka Mexican Jack Squint stated. VSF is a wide host of things that could have been and would never be all set in a late 19th to early 20th century backdrop. I in particular love what Bob Charette did with his Valor and Steel and Flesh rules that borrowed from War of the Worlds, ERB's Mars novels,as well as Jules Verne and a number of other authors and stories and stirred all together in one pot.

28mmMan16 Mar 2011 8:04 p.m. PST

95-99% Victorian history + 05-01% steam and gear fantasy

J Womack 9416 Mar 2011 9:04 p.m. PST

Lots of brass, gears and steam.

British infantry wearing red.

The luminiferous aether.

Space 1889, Barsoom, and so many other things, all thrown in to one big pile and enjoyed.

J Womack 9416 Mar 2011 11:32 p.m. PST

And, of course, most of us make up huge chunks of fiction, because we can, and we want to, because that's who we are and why we aren't the sort of wargamers waiting for a FoG tournament.

Hear! Hear!

Although, actually… and I hate to admit this here… I, um… actually I am working on a FoG Renaissance army… please don't hold it against me.

And that Whitehouse fellow's books are alright, if you enjoy that sort of thing. I suppose.
</tongue in cheek>

DLIinVSF17 Mar 2011 3:23 a.m. PST

In think that I fall under B)using the background of Space 1889 to base my games on.

Early morning writer17 Mar 2011 9:09 a.m. PST

Another vote for start with reality and don't extrapolate beyond the laws of physics. That means earth based – well, maybe a shot to the moon (with concomitant disasters) – and staying well within the bounds of probability as opposed to flights into the fanciful. It's all a matter of Science Fiction versus "Science" Fantasy and, it seems to me, most people opt for the latter. Mind you, if they're achieving Whitehousing fun, more power to them. But they are not playing Science Fiction. Science Fiction, for those of us old enough to remember, was all about an extrapolation of reality, not descent into fantasy – once upon a time, when there were still real book stores, they had a section for each, now its all one big lump, and damn little real Science Fiction. This is not a rant against the Fantasy side of things, lots of creative stuff there. It's just not Science – or even remotely resembles it. So, again, for me VSF is all about what might have been. Although, I'm okay with the Lost Worlds approach of a dinosaur rumbling by as long as there is some justification for it. Of course, I've been wondering if the real demise of those Leviathan's might have promulgated from some change in the earth's atmosphere. Then again, I'm all in for the contemporary theory is that they did not go extinct but evolved into birds. I just wish more people were selling stuff in 15 mm for building steam traction type vehicles – that is a fertile field for modeling and imagination but hardly explored at all. And, for those not familiar with steam traction, this does not involve anything running on treads like tanks. Enough said, but nice discussion.

J Womack 9417 Mar 2011 10:08 a.m. PST

See, I couldn't care less about the physics of it. Steam-powered space travel is fun. My aetherships use a mineral called handwavium to generate an enormous amount of heat through a chemical process. This heat is used to generate steam without flame, thus preserving O2 levels in the sealed aethercraft.

Another mineral which I call unobtainite pushes against the local center of gravity when a galvanic current (electricity) is passed through it. More voltage yields more resistance. The blue crystals are incredibly rare on Earth, but more available on Mars. They are quite unknown on Venus, but scientists believe this to be a result of the near constant thunderstorm activity across the Veiled Planet. Millions of years worth of lightning strikes are believed to have released all of Venus's unobtainite.

Anyway, I wrote a better definition of VSF on my blog last night when I couldn't sleep. if you are interested.

Watchtower7817 Mar 2011 10:17 a.m. PST

Handwavium nice!

Early morning writer17 Mar 2011 11:02 a.m. PST

Just so no one thinks I'm Too Serious, how about another discovery: Slightofhandanite?

(duly patented, copyrighted and trademarked and hereby all such rights waved so that my amazing "discovery" can spread far across the space time continuum.)

Muah ha ha17 Mar 2011 1:11 p.m. PST

Green Martians with four arms.

Spaceships with rivets.

Robots running on clockwork power.

The naval brigade sent into battle with lots of weapons that it barely understands, and some nutty German scientist to operate them.

billthecat17 Mar 2011 2:33 p.m. PST

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson…. and then the Cthulu mythos shows up…

Alfrik17 Mar 2011 4:19 p.m. PST

My suggestion is to type up a Timeline and fill in your Gener setting before you start any games, this way you can be consistent within your games you would play. Don't let science get in the way of a great game session. When I did have a fellow tell me that something did not work "that way" I said, fine, next session bring a full schematic on how it would run with documentation……… and got back to the game.

J Womack 9417 Mar 2011 9:05 p.m. PST

TImelines? You want timelines? I have one for an alternate Texas Republic that starts in 1836 and continues to 2036.

John Treadaway18 Mar 2011 3:57 a.m. PST

"Lots of brass, gears and steam.

British infantry wearing red.

The luminiferous aether.

Space 1889, Barsoom, and so many other things, all thrown in to one big pile and enjoyed."

J Womack has it surrounded, I think.

Murvihill said
1. No electricity.
2. 19th century weapons.

I would say primitive electricity but not no electricity. Arc Lights and stuff. Telegraph and that.

John T

freecloud18 Mar 2011 4:07 a.m. PST

How seriously do you all take your VSF? Do you like or eschew stuff like lancers on unicycles, triumphapedes etc? Are silly names good or bad in your view/

(So far I've gone for silly models and infernal devices while trying to pretend everything is totally "normal" – but I am getting an idea for a "silly" German Colonial VSF army using pickelhaube-wearing Grots )

Mapleleaf18 Mar 2011 9:08 a.m. PST

Now if you were talking about Victoria Secret's i would be interested. The catalog is a great reference for painting various skin tomes

J Womack 9418 Mar 2011 9:37 a.m. PST

Silly names are par for the course.

Captain Compost-Pyle, for example, or Sergeant Harry Nuckel

Watchtower7818 Mar 2011 9:53 a.m. PST

What about Professor Blunder De Buss and his sidekick Explosive Dan?

Edit: Or Lead Ge Derman and his faithful hound Blot.

J Womack 9418 Mar 2011 11:21 a.m. PST

My primary mad scientist villain is known as Otto Maton.

TheBeast Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2011 8:02 a.m. PST

I'll take C), but the B) portion should be carefully weeded.

It's less about when the sources are created, as whether the sources have the actual feel of the era. THAT'S what separates what I may call mainstream VSF gaming and Steampunk. Unfortunately, as I've said before, most folks 'can't define it, but know it when they see it.'

I actually am less fond of the over-the-top weird names, though subtle misdirection, even if I need explanations, are cheerfully accepted.


PS By the way, if we were talking about VSF from a literary perspective, I might well suggest, nay insist, a tighter definition. Don't you think saying 'nay' imparts a proper VSF posing?

Dasher11 Apr 2011 8:36 a.m. PST

For me the charm of VSF or any alternate reality genre is presenting it with absolute sincerity and seriousness, providing an alternate reality with rivets.
"Cutesy" names and punny titles are fine for children's games and books, and believe me, I can sling that trash with the best of them.
But it's far more satisfying when a game of ACW/VSF like Great Rail Wars is described in set-up as being a skirmish between two factions to secure "a treasure hidden in a child's chest somewhere on the battlefield", and the players begin to look for furniture on the board but can only find a group of schoolchildren chained in a circle, all of them with fresh surgery scars over their breastbones.
Sir Headmouse Furrywart would have a tot of woe chuckling that one off, ey, wot? >:-)

J Womack 9411 Apr 2011 7:57 p.m. PST

If youa re interested in a scholarly literary definition of Victorian Science Fiction, you might be intereste in the work of the Steampunk Scholar. Seriously.


Chris PzTp12 Apr 2011 7:00 a.m. PST

Technicaaly didn't the Victorian age end with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901?

Thus many people limit it to the latter two thirds of the nineteenth century.

Most extend it out at least to 1903, to include Well's Land ironclades, and many extend it out to 1914.

Personally, I like to extend it to 1919, so I can game "Plan 1919 with Wells thrown in."

Once you hit the 1920's, with bootlegers, gangsters, H.P. Lovecraft, etc, I see it more as Pulp gaming.

…but I don't expect anyone to actually agree with this, and I suppose that this post has little to do with the the original question :-)

J Womack 9412 Apr 2011 10:40 a.m. PST

Needs more rivets. And boobies.

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