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Tabletop Game: Castle Falkenstein
Castle Falkenstein is a quasi-historical tabletop RPG published in 1994 by R.Talsorian Games. A handful of supplements followed, and a GURPS adaptation of the setting was published in 2000.

The story is an alternate universe set during the Victorian era, mostly in Europe — or as its called, New Europa. Many fixtures of period fiction, high fantasy, and real history are all present, including high society intrigue, war between European powers, and the shadowy presence of magicians and faeries.

Rather than being a straight setting for the 19th century era like Victoriana, Castle Falkenstein defines itself with the slogan of "the Victorian Era as it Should Have Been", in which gallant men and women fight the forces of evil, steam-powered contraptions fill the skies and faeries are a regular sight in the cities of Europe. While calling itself a Steampunk setting, the books constantly imply and point that many of the technologies are thanks to subtle (and unconscious) manipulation of sorcery, making it's a straight Gaslamp Fantasy with a heavy dose of Two-Fisted Tales and Dungeon Punk for good measure.

The book itself is a whimsical mix of illustrated novel, world book and game; most of it is glossy, coloured, illustrated and completely avoids mentioning any rules, while the book tells the story of Tom Olan, a game designer plucked magically from Earth to help in the ongoing fight against the Unseelie and their human collaborator, Otto von Bismarck; occasional stops are made for more in-depth exposition about life in New Europa.

The final chapter details the rules; true to form, they're designed to be played in the context of Victorian-era aristocratic life. Therefore, action resolution is through playing cards (Which are a wholesome pastime), not dice (Which are for uncouth knaves), while characters are detailed using diaries, because Xerox machines for character sheets weren't available in the 1870's (Charles Babbage, however, invented data forms in the 1830s...so some kind of data sheet wasn't entirely out of timeframe).

(Not to be confused with Falken's Maze.)


Contains examples of:

  • Action Dress Rip
  • Action Girl: Marianne from the "novels". The gentlewoman, the Demimondaine and the sorceress for the actual game.
  • Anachronism Stew: In part because of the Faeries, who had traveled trough several dimensions, some of them in the space age. Mostly because there are enough Mad Scientist to give Girl Genius a run for her money.
  • Arabian Nights Days: The Ottoman Empire sourcebook (published by Steve Jackson Games and dual-statted for the GURPS conversion of the setting) looks, not surprisingly, at the Ottoman Empire in the Falkenstein world — drawing on history, Arabian fantasy, and authentic Muslim folklore.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: NO ONE, not even the Unseelie lords, wants to mess with Russia. It's pointed out that it has enough soldiers and weaponry to crush all the factions in New Europa. Thankfully, its mad emperor is too occupied using all its resources to screw its own people to care what the other nations (and races) are doing.
  • Balance of Power: What is stopping World War I from starting early.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Russia, Prussia and England.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: The Marxist character type, and members of the World Crime League.
  • Cloak & Dagger: If you want information, you better be ready to get your hands dirty.
  • Cold War
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Tom pointed out that in his four very active years as a spy for Bayern, he had yet to found a secret organization that doesn't do this in some nation.
  • Crapsack World: The books doesn't shy to remind us how messed and screwed our world and our society is at every opportunity.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Russia, followed slightly behind by Prussia and England.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Dragons are part of the political scene and are known to be the descendants of pterosaurs who survived the extinction of the dinosaurs by developing intelligence and magic.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Russia. France in a more harmless way.
  • Duel to the Death: Honor and Virtue are really that important in the 19th century.
  • Divided States of America
  • Evil Gloating: A must for any dramatic persona of the Villain category.
  • Fair Folk: The Unseelie, who want nothing more than to wipe/enslave all of humanity, because that's what they exist for.
  • Fisher King: New Europa seems to work, at least in some degree, like this. Compare the rulers from Bayern, France and the Bear Confederation with Prussia, Russia and the Otoman Empire and see how their territories exist. Hell, technically speaking, the entire adventure to crown Ludwig was because of this trope.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: How most New Europa see Bismark and Prussia, especially since 20 years before the only true powers were only France and England.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: It's the hobbies for all the gentleman and gentlewoman of good breed in New Europa.
  • Gadget Watches: There are probably a couple of jewelry and gentleman affects that aren't this.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Played with. While sorcery is not truly gender restricted, women tend to be far stronger, dexterous and numerous than men in magik. This is one of the explanations why the women emancipation worked several centuries earlier in New Europa.
  • Geometric Magic: Sorcery as science in a nutshell.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In universe. The Great Game sweeps the drawing rooms and saloons of Europa, from the must humble middle man to nobility and is greatly enjoyed (and endorsed) by Kings, Lord Faes and otherworldy beings alike.
  • Glove Slap: If you are not ready to die for your words, then be silent.
  • Gratuitous German
  • The Illuminati: A force of good and the nemesis of the Unseelie and the World Crime League.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople : Most of Europe - sorry, "Europa" - has the same names and borders as in our reality, but South America is Antillea, and the Atlantic Ocean is the Atlantean Ocean, among other things.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: One of the first and most lasting cultural clashes of Tom with the citizens of New Europa. As far Tom is concerned, all technology will end in distopya (a rabid dog as he put it) and destruction and is a firm support of the second compact, whose purpose to slow (and in some cases stop all together) the advancement of technology for the sake of the world.
  • Karma Houdini: If the complementary book "Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie" is anywhere near correct, all the Fae, whether Seele or Unseele are unrepented mass murderers, literally killing, raping, torturing and bringing two entire dimensions worth of Millions of Humans to extinction... and so far they have shown no sense of remorse. It really gives you a new perspective on the witty, charming Fae you met in the Ballroom, huh?.
  • The Kingdom: Bayern. Is in fact constantly pointed out how "Postcard disney-like" Bayern actually is compared to the rest of Europa.
  • Lady of War: Every gentlewoman without exception.
  • Lightning Gun: The Lightning Hurler (more formally, the Focussed Electrical Discharge Cannon) in the Steam Age supplement. It fires a lightning bolt as far as the horizon that can burn its target to ashes, including destroying the walls of a fortress.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The Castle Falkenstein books are allegedly written by Tom Olam, an acquaintance of game publisher Mike Pondsmith who mysteriously vanished during a vacation in Europe; Olam sends documents to Pondsmith claiming to have been abducted to a Steam Punk-plus-magic alternate world, in which he wrote the rules to the game using cards because the local nobility were scandalized at the thought of gaming with dice.
    • Invoked In Universe, to say that characters and their authors each exist. For example, the author relates an incident in which while attending a lecture by Darwin, he notices A.C.Doyle and Dr. Watson having a discussion between themselves about the lecture.
  • Mad Scientist: So abundant that there are periodic tabloids that post monthly news and journals for the new scientific overlord in the making.
  • Mata Hari: Quite active in the age and one of the ways to play the Demimondaine.
  • Mayincatec: The blood mages
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Every splat book has a appendix with scores of real historical figures and how they live in this Universe.
  • One-Gender Race: Dwarves are exclusively male. They mate with the females of other Faerie-kind; male offspring are Dwarves, while female offspring are the same kind of Fae as their mother.
  • One World Order: Bismark ultimate goal.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Magical Dragons that survived the extinction of the dinosaurs several millions years ago.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Sentient energy beings.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Somewhat Averted, while dwarves have some of the miners/dwarfclan/short temper typical feel, they are completely immune to fire, need other races to reproduce, and you will hardly ever find a "Viking-type dwarf", they being consummate engineers/mad scientists. They are also rather indifferent about their beards - but don't you dare to mock their feet.
  • Praetorian Guard: Tom and co. are part of this for the "Mad King" Ludwig.
  • Police State: Russia could give university courses to Moriarty and the World Crime League about it.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Prussia and France.
  • Reading The Enemy's Mail: Half of the job of spies. The other half is fighting, hunting and not getting killed getting them.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most
  • Self-Deprecation: A non-humorous example. There is barely a introduction of a facet from New Europa that doesn't have or end with a cynic jab to how much our world suck, to the point of almost making Tom a quisling.
  • Sourcebook: Original 6 in total. The Core book, Steam Age, Memoirs of Auberon, Six guns and Sorcery, Book of Sigils and the Notes of... For Peter Jackson Games gave us Ottoman Empire and the Core book revised 6 years latter.
  • Spy Couple: Tom and Marianne.
  • Spy Fiction: Of the Martine Flavored to the point of intoxication. Justified because all the deals and power plays are done in salons, clubs and high class reunions. It's pointed out that for all skulduggery, professionalism and double dealing, the spies can't be any less hammy than the society that spawn them.
  • Summon Everyman Hero: The Castle Falkenstein backstory tells of Tom Olam, computer game designer, who is summoned into a world of Victorian Steampunk Fantasy by a mighty spell. Although he proves to be of some value, the real prize is the book he brought with him - he picked it up at a used-book shop cheap, and it holds the secret to Saving The Day.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Explained word for word why Tom is so against the uncontrolled advancement of technology in new Europa.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Several for Tom. From a normal American game designer to one of the best secret agents in New Europa and hero of Bayern. Bonus points for gaining this abilities faster than most Adventurers gain pc levels.
  • Translation Convention: The spell seems to have given Tom the ability to speak "all tongues" since he can understand old German, Russian, French, Polish from the get-go. That or everybody in New Europa or at least Bayern speak fluent English with an accent.
  • The Wild Hunt
  • World of Ham: EVERYTHING IS DONE WITH CLASS. If you can't put it in style, then it really isn't worth doing.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: England in the past. In 1900 they have the greatest navy the world have ever seen and their sailors are second to none.

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alternative title(s): Castle Falkenstein
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