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It could have been so different. Who knows, if Niccolo Machiavelli, military commissioner of the Republic of Florence, had not truly understood the scale of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius, he might simply have wasted his time painting portraits of women and doodling. Instead, Florence’s screwcopters, gun-turtles and organ-guns make it secure against the armies of the Pope, Milan and the French, and a haven for radical thinkers, artists and other inventors inspired by his example. Of course, though, success breeds jealousy amongst the city states of Renaissance Italy and beyond. The city’s winding alleys and cobbled squares swarm with sinister Venetian spies, sour-faced priests bearing secret Papal instructions, Milanese mercenaries hoping to earn the king’s ransom the Sforzas have promised for da Vinci’s secrets and even emissaries from France, England and the Ottoman Empire… Exciting times, but dangerous ones, too.
What if all da Vinci’s inventions worked as he had hoped? What if they had been enthusiastically adopted and that their successes had sparked a different kind of industrial revolution? Think of Gibson and Sterling’s ‘The Difference Engine,’ but amidst the sunlit artistic ferment of the Italian Renaissance instead of the smogs and fogs of Victorian England; think of primitive computers running on water clocks and embellished with cupids; think of swashbuckling swordplay as an army of robot knights marches past on their way to the Vatican; think of crossing wits with Machiavelli, avoiding the dangerous charms of Lucretia Borgia, hearing Christopher Columbus tell you about the new world he has discovered…
I am toying with a setting for the Wordplay roleplaying game system, one set in a version of the Italian Renaissance being transformed by weird and wonderful clockpunk technologies sparked by Leonardo da Vinci's genius. This blog is essentially a design journal, in which I'll note down random thoughts, plothooks, links to interesting images and websites, notes on play sessions and anything else which comes to mind...
Who am I?Mark Galeotti, who'd love to be a Renaissance man. You can also find my Mythic Russia game blog @ http://mythicrussia.wordpress.com/
What is Wordplay?An excellent, simple and intuitive d6-based roleplaying game system - you can find out more about the system and other settings @ http://www.wordplaygames.co.uk/wordplay.html and http://d101games.co.uk/books/wordplay/
Author Archives: Mark Galeotti
Here’s a fascinating 17th century lock that not only counts the number of times it has been opened, but also has multiple forms of locking and unlocking; I see no reason why, with the advent of clockpunk, this could not be … Continue reading
Certainly a must-see for me, the Science Museum in London is holding a special exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius, from 10 February to 4 September next year. Here’s the announcement: Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is … Continue reading
Nine years later than the 1510 setting, admittedly, and a few hundred miles to the north, but this intriguing — in ever sense — account from Atlas Obscura of how the German Fugger banking family tried to buy the Holy … Continue reading
As this project slowly continues, every now and then I’ll gladly release a little teaser. Here is the text to accompany one of Johnny Shumate’s brilliant colour character pieces, of a potential nemesis, albeit an honourable one… Lorenzo Neroni, Ruthless … Continue reading
Just a quick note of this forthcoming 3D History channel film, with Peter Capaldi as Leonardo da Vinci, that explores his ideas, experiences and travails with his own words and with what looks like some very nifty animation, too. This … Continue reading
It wasn’t just tanks, flying machines and siege engines. Da Vinci’s inventions also ran to a strange and novel musical instrument, the viola organista, that merged harpsichord and cello to be a keyboard instrument that sounds like strings, as spinning wheels … Continue reading