(I confess I initially was going to post this for a forum, but those aren’t necessarily good for discussion and I didn’t have time for an forum battle. So, posted to the blog.)
An article by Charles Stross: The hard edge of empire. My read on it was: it is a criticism of being caught up in the aesthetics of steampunk and Victoriana without paying attention to the horrors of the age. This is a viewpoint that’s been brought up by others before, but this is a good rendition by a respect author. So.
(Note that I still like the steampunk aesthetic, as does Stross; it’s not an all or nothing thing.)
So, a while ago I playtested Bliss Robed Lie, a gnosticpunk hack by JWalt. (See also: AP Report.) I’d like to share some of my (rekindled?) thoughts from the playtest, and keep in mind that my interpretation may be different from the author’s intent (so he is welcome to clarify).
Our game was a kind of a Victoriana matrix-esqe situation. From our ship in the Arctic, we would broadcast our consciousnesses into London, through a variety of pseudosciences of the age (mesmerism, galvanism, etc.). How did we get around the city? The Morgue. We controlled unused “bodies” from London and made our way through the city to accomplish our mission and fight the enemies of gnosis.
The pregens in the campaign reflected a variety of genders/races/backgrounds, but then this was cast upon the realities of Victorian London in certain ways. A few of the crew may have been rebellious brahmins, but many more of us were subalterns in the face of colonialism and empire and all the harsh realities of the era.
Our technology was grim and taboo, the conflict was dirty and violent, and we fought a pitched ideological battle for the liberation of minds in a very authoritarian world. An extended campaign would have brought the matrix/gnosticpunk/steampunk action, but I feel would also have brought us deep into the issues of the time. So, I think that worked.