Castle Falkenstein is an Historical table-top RPG published in 1994 by Talsorian Games and a second edition (more like an update, really) from Gurps in 2000 with several splat books.The story is an alternate universe set during the middle of Victorian era in Europe or a it's called, New Europe during the rise of the scientific discovery craze and the rise of industrialization, just way out of proportion than in our own world. As such, many fixtures of Period Fiction and Historical Accounts are a common Fixture of game-play, including High Society Intrigue, War between European Powers and the Shadowy Presence of Magicians and Faerie.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.)
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.
Awakening the Sleeping Giant: NO ONE, not even the Unseelie lords of the land, want to mess up with Russia. It's being pointed out that it has enough soldiers and weaponry to crush all the factions in New Europa. Thankfully, it's Mad king is more occupied using all it's resources to screw it's own people to care what the other nations (and races) are doing.
Balance of Power: What is stopping World War I, called the Second Compact and it pretty much put everybody against everybody in Europa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.