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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/
Category Archives: Clockpunk
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
The story is that Leonardo deliberately built a design flaw into his famous tank design because he never wanted such a terrible machine actually to be built: that the hand cranks that turned its wheels revolved in opposite directions. Thus, either … Continue reading
Control of the Mediterranean and its rich trade routes is a key concern of the age, and the struggles between the Ottoman Empire and Christendom — and especially the Venetian naval superpower — will be crucial. Just think how useful … Continue reading
The trouble with writing clockpunk fantasy is that sometimes history one-ups you. Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen (1480–1562) was a German knight, mercenary, sometimes bandit and all-round-badass. One of his claims to fame is his common use of the expression “Leck mich am Arsch” (“kiss … Continue reading
Glassblower: Character 6: Dottor’ Dietrich, the masked medic from Munich with a steel scalpel in a brass hand
There is something especially creepy and atmospheric about the plague doctor’s mask, that long-nosed, face-covering and wholly useless accessory meant to protect the medic from the vile humors bearing the Black Death that has since become a classic carnival mask. … Continue reading
Sometimes I wish I had the time and skill to work wood (my grandfather certainly could, with amazing results). Then I could take advantage of these extraordinary plans for all kinds of wooden-geared clocks from Clayton Boyer Clock Designs. Want … Continue reading
The Renaissance saw the growing sophistication and spread of fencing techniques for both fighting as well as courtly dueling. While the earliest fencing manual dates back to the late 13th century, the invention of the printing press allowed not just … Continue reading