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SteamPunk input needed
October
wilowisp
Ok, so me and drowdancer have been devouring the SteamPunk Tarot project. There are so many discoveries that feel like the deck is already made, we are just plucking the information from a huge, subconscious maelstrom. The minor arcana is rockin'. It's a piece of beauty so far and I expect it's only gonna get better.


However, the minor arcana is only half of the whole. I believe that the minor arcana is the setting, but the major is the story. So basically, we are trying to create a universal steampunk story. It's the closet thing we have to a structure, since we are trying to avoid simple substitution (ie, not just a Steampunk Magician, a Steampunk Hanged Man, etc.) This is where we'd love some help from Steampunk enthusiasts.

We want to know what archetypes you need to see in the major Arcana in order for this to be a real Steampunk deck for you. We obviously cannot incorporate everyone's ideas, but outside opinions will help us better understand the high level characters that give Steampunk it's unique feel. Any and all comments welcome! A few notes on our progress:

First, the court cards of the minor Arcana are as such: Supplicant, Sentinel, Savant and Sovereign of the four suits, Gears, Poppies, Pistols and Ships. Some of the archetypes might actually fit into the court cards instead of the Arcana.

Secondly, this is a list of Major Arcana we came up with today, but this was mainly a brainstorming session. There will have to be culling and merging:

People: The narrator (to replace the Fool as the aught card), the apprentice, the engineer, the governor, the geisha, the medium, the explorer, the captain, the automaton, the philosopher, the beggar, the druggist, the rivals, the judges, the general, the guru, the snake charmer, the privateer, the detective, the guide, the merchant, the golem, the clockwork person

Not-people: The flag, the compass, the ouroboros, the labyrinth, the séance, the throne, mastery, the tradewinds, the skeleton key, genesis, hypothesis, the aether lamp, inspiration, the gyroscope, the perpetual motion machine, discovery, madness, temptation.

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You. Are my hero. So fricking sweet.

drowdancer has been an amazing co-conspirator as well. She's kept my fire stoked and my brain a whirling.

I thought I had friended you a long time ago! I had not. Further evidence of my incompetence.

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I love the performers! We could combine together under the Vaudevillian?

So, what are the ones from the list that you simply could not imagine a SteamPunk deck without?

I think the Beggar might be better as the Pickpocket. Or possibly the Cutpurse.

I like them all as a reminder of the other within the hegemony. We talked so much about the colonial aspects, the go forth and conquer 'the other' as alien peoples, ideas, landscapes. The cutpurse (or equally underbelly representation) can embracing the unpleasant aspects, or the dangers of ignoring them.

So are there any things from the list that you couldn't live without in a SteamPunk world?

Edited at 2009-10-20 02:50 am (UTC)

other non-people: penny dreadful, steam engine, time machine, tool box. i shall keep brain poking at it.

Some things, like the steam engine or the time machine, seem to work better in my brain as images within the cards - like the engineer is always depicted with his toolbox. Oo, oo, like the magician card has the four suits, the engineer could always have the toolbox that has a poppy, a gear, a ship, a pistol?

Let me know if there are any ideas that seem essential to you.

Sky Baron is nice. I think we would have better luck with SteamPunk created images (like a sky pirate) in the Major Arcana that we would in the Minor.

Does the Clockwork Executioner seem too close to the Automaton? A lot of the concepts translate, though Automaton seems to more bear the burden of drudgery than of moral discomfort. I really like the idea of doing a little knife-twist in the moral discomfort department.

I think Clockwork _____________ is our way to combine the automaton with another archetype, be it executioner, servant, solider. Whether that's cheating or not, I haven't yet decided, but it's not out the window yet.

AWESOME. Are you doing straight-up replacements of the traditional versions of Tarot cards, or something with a similar feel but an entirely different layout?

Have you done the Tower? At the risk of either being booed at by Arcanum fans or general people who think it would be in poor taste - the Zeppelin?

We followed the structure of the Minor Arcana pretty closely - 4 suits, 10 numbered cards, 4 court cards. We are taking some inspiration from the existing Major Arcana, like the Fool and the World, but we want to recreate a lot.

I am intrigued by the idea of tragedy and failure for an Arcanum. I want to discuss if we need a Tower equivalent in the Arcana, or if we're dark enough that most cards will already have that edge to them. The Zeppelin as an image, though, might fit better in the suit of Ships?

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Wow, that is an amazing list! Trouble is we're trying to essentialize what we've got, and you just dropped a bomb of good ideas on our head. I think there are a lot of interlocking ideas, and we're gonna have to combine, abstract and (unfortunately) let go of some. So, that being said, what are your essential images?

Right now, I feel like we will want to stay away from images that are too evocative of a specific 'story' - either fiction or true Victorian history. The World's Fair, for example, does seem to have a universal, translatable appeal of the era, while Paddington Railway Station seems a little too concrete.

I think your historical background could be very helpful to us in getting the language of the deck down. We wracked our brains for about an hour trying to come up for a new word for "Aces". For now, we settled on Primes, but it was a fight to get there, not an easy discovery.

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I am so excited to be reading about this project! Unfortunately, having just read all the comments my mind is still trying to assimilate a bunch of them.

I think that the narrator is rather brilliant actually. It has a way of both putting you into and out of the story, seeing things the characters might see, but also being blind and walking off the cliff.

The factory someone already mentioned, which was one thing that sort of came up for me, sort of linked up with the idea of industry, the beginnings of mass producing things on a different scale, supposed "progress," which of course both is and isn't.

The detective and the geisha were both things from your list that felt really right on some level.

I have been reading some Elizabeth Bear stuff lately that you might find fun. New Amsterdam and Seven for a Secret have the same main character. She mixes time frames on things, but the feel makes me think of this in many ways. You certainly get Tesla in an interesting fashion.

Hmm.... I will let things settle more and see what else comes up. The ouroboros, but that is always something that appeals to me.

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