So, the last weekend in November, my group generated characters and ran the initial adventure in the back of Clockwork & Chivalry, the “clockpunk” RPG of the English civil war.
Clockwork & Chivalry is set in the midst of the English Civil War; the adventure we played was at the end of the year 1645. Making the game more interesting than a bunch of people roleplaying a mostly no-winners religious and political war, Clockwork & Chivalry adds the twist that the Royalists have alchemist wizards on their side, and Cromwell and the Parliamentarians have machinists who build clockwork tanks, motorcycles, and other war machines.
The character generation system starts with a similar style of stats system to D&D – roll 3D6 for some stats, 2D6+6 for others. Then you pick a social class, a profession, and a faction. As character creation goes, it’s faster than many, but not particularly speedy.
Both the joy and the difficulty in Clockwork & Chivalry comes from the faction system. It’s great fun that you can pick one of many truly rabid economic, religious, or political groups from seventeenth-century England, from the nudist Adamites to actual Satanists, with (among others) Anabaptists, Laudians, Puritans, and Scottish clans in between, but the game mechanics for keeping a party of differing interests together is weak at best. You get a skill bonus for being “connected” to another player character, but just because you shared some adversity ten years ago doesn’t mean you’re going to go traipsing all around England at war with someone who’d like a side adverse to yours to win that war.
Another side issue, which can be a lot more interesting if you really love to roleplay, is that certain professions in Clockwork & Chivalry can only be held by a character presenting as male. You don’t actually have to be a man to be one of these professions, but you must have (at least in the past) acted as if you were a man. This raised fascinating possibilities for people who love deep roleplaying (so not us) when one of the players decided to be a woman who was also a Devil’s Horseman, a member of a group of Scottish men who swear their souls to Satan for power over horses, but also believe that only men should have that power.
So, our characters were in Oxford for a Christmas spectacular that would go spectacularly wrong.
- Skill use and combat run really fast. Roll under your percentile (plus modifiers), and you do it or you don’t.
- The system for arguing with people of different factions, destroying their faith in their position bit by bit, is easy and a lot of fun.
- Percentile skill systems generally make you less good at what you do than other systems. Most “good” starting skills in Clockwork & Chivalry are at 60-some percent, which means that an unlucky third of the time you’re just going to fail. And that happens way too often.
- Don’t like the static initiative system for combat where it just runs off the dexterity stat.
- Remind your gamemaster that you have Hero Points that allow you to reroll critical failures, such as when you roll a failure that causes nearly all players holding a magical object to have the object explode in their hands.
- If you only have one pistol, it’s often a waste of time to keep reloading it, because loading a black powder weapon takes forever.
- Combat can be super-fatal as people don’t get a lot of hit points.
Fair. Would run it again; the book has lots of stats for random baddies and the rules aren’t too horrendously complicated.