Author Topic: Steampunk and the British Throne  (Read 83 times)

honeybee42

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Steampunk and the British Throne
« on: September 30, 2020, 10:07:15 pm »
Why gaming?  Because this is RPG related.

So I picked up this book (Brass & Steel) which is a ruleset for an alt-Earth Steampunk game (and I'm still thinking about running a game with the rule set).  Some interesting elements as far as how the alternate history unfolded, but one thing that does have me thinking is that the game sets the date as 1905 but kept a "surprisingly spry" Queen Victoria on the throne instead of letting that particular thread play as it did in the real world.

Now, most of the steampunk I've read is set very solidly in the Victorian period (1860s to 1880s for the fiction), but what would be so earth-shatteringly different that it would be a problem with the date as 1905 but Edward VII on the throne instead of extending Victoria's reign even longer than it was?

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Aleko

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2020, 01:57:40 am »
International relations would have been totally different. Britain and France had been traditional enemies for hundreds of years; in the 1860s they found themselves on the same side in the Crimean War but there was no undertow of sympathy. Victoria had no interest in improving relations with France, which she thought frivolous, immoral and (eeew!) Catholic, and no talent for it even if she had. But Edward not only saw the need for diplomacy but excelled at it; he set out to charm the French by regularly visiting Paris, and simply dispensing bonhomie while being seen to appreciate French cuisine, champagne, racehorses, and not least, beautiful ladies.  It looked like pure hedonism (and don’t get me wrong, Edward was good at pure hedonism), but there was method in it; by 1904 he was so popular in Paris that he was known as “notre roi“ and had got the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain signed, without which the fallout of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and the course of world politics, would have been very different.

honeybee42

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2020, 06:34:24 am »
Hmm--with that, it seems like it would be much better to put Edward on the throne in the game, because the world background info includes the Entente Cordiale as being in place (I'm guessing that there are things that the writers, which are only three individuals and not a big company, didn't fully think through with their tinkering in the timeline).  There's still the Three Emperors League (Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary) in the game, and of course the addition of magic and so forth, so who knows how things might turn out as to whether there's the assassination, some other trigger, or whether the world somehow manages to avoid the world war altogether.

Of course, for the characters, it doesn't seem that it would be much difference between saying "for king and country" vs "for queen and country", so all in all it sounds like it would make a whole lot more sense to make the minor change to let Edward reign (and maybe the magic and such would even let him live a little longer, though I'm not sure what the further ramifications of that would be, but in this game world, German doctors came up with a cure for hemophilia, which strengthened their ties with Russia (and perhaps would have had an impact on how that history plays out), if the game should go on as long as that.

Aleko

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2020, 07:45:05 am »
I have a soft spot for Edward VII, because around in 1901 in Marienbad he doffed his hat gravely to my 11-year-old grandfather. That's what I mean about charm. My grandfather was a very small nobody, but Edward knew what mattered.

honeybee42

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2020, 08:42:50 am »
That is way cool.

The game is tilted toward an assumption that the PCs are British subjects, and also has some setting changes with respect to the Ottoman Empire (which ends up with Constantinople becoming British, along with much of the Ottoman Empire as the British Near East), with Constantinople as the setting for one module and Egypt for another.

Aleko

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2020, 02:15:53 am »
I wonder if they consider monarchs just as figureheads and don’t really think that the personality of whoever who was on the throne would make any significant difference to the course of events? If so, their rationale might have been that people generally equate steampunk with ‘Victorian’ and it might confuse people who buy a steampunk game to find that the monarch of the British Empire isn’t Victoria. (Incidentally, it did surprise me to learn a few years back that the term ‘Victorian’ is often used by Americans to refer to 19th-century American fashions, attitudes, etc. Very odd. But I’d be even more surprised to learn that they use the term ‘Edwardian’ in the same way.)

I’ve always wondered what would have happened differently if Edward VII  had been still alive and active enough to travel in August 1914 (which he easily might have been, especially if he could have cut down smoking). Could the “uncle of Europe“ have schmoozed all his nephews successfully enough for them not to have gone to war? I think it’s possible. Rebecca West reckoned that the responsibility for starting World War I actually lay at the door of Count  Montenuovo, head of protocol at the Austrian court, who insisted that it was out of the question for Franz Ferdinand and his non-royal wife to have a state funeral, with the result that none of the crowned heads of Europe came together with the opportunity to talk; as they certainly would have done if Franz Ferdinand had been buried with all the normal ceremony due to the heir apparent of an Empire. And she certainly had a point. Doubly so if one of the most powerful monarchs there had been Edward, with all his diplomatic skills and family seniority.

honeybee42

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2020, 06:57:47 am »
It could well be that they didn't see the monarch's personality as being a significant factor, though I wonder why they didn't just drop the date of game events back by ten or more years when Victoria would've been on the throne anyhow (except then they'd have had to fiddle with the date of the signing of the Entente Cordiale or just not have it in place at all).  Sometimes, there's just so many down-stream effects to consider with alternate histories.  At first, I thought I must be missing something about why Victoria should be kept on the throne for an even longer reign, but it seems like the game writers missed something about why Edward was important.

In any case, I don't see why Edward couldn't have been on the throne at least 5-10 years longer than in the real timeline, either from smoking less or through use of the magical medicines of the game world.  Even though PCs wouldn't actually meet him (probably), the more I'm learning about Edward VII, the more I like him.

honeybee42

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Re: Steampunk and the British Throne
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2020, 06:24:45 am »
And just in case someone reading the thread is interested:
Quintessence: The Hotaether Element