If you are anything like me, you are probably sick of the Steampunk aesthetic. Sure, you liked Arcanuum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, and, freaky sex orgies for no discernible reason and lack of ending aside, you liked Diamond Age. You know, you probably loved The Amazing Screw-On Head, and were extremely sad it never got more than the pilot episode and the one-shot comic. You probably even loved tinker gnomes, and hold up Ak’Anon as one of the great MMO towns and concepts. Honestly, there is a lot you love about Steampunk, but it’s over a decade old and you might, just might, be a little hipster about this and mention how you liked it before it became a thing.
Then again, if you are like me you would be overweight and lazy misanthrope with too many cats. So your mileage may vary here. A tastemaker I’m not. At this point, you might be asking, “If you are a jerk about this topic, why are you bringing it up?” Simply put, because I love Professor Layton, and I was thinking about different games that might be fun to run as a one-shot convention or party. The high concept is simple, you have been invited to attend and participate in…The Institute of Occult and Scientific Advancement’s annual Academic and Thaumaturlogical Innovation Symposium.
The players of the game are called to the symposium to display their intellectual prowess. It’s a contest, and those that can form the finest creations, solve the craftiest puzzles, and outwit their cohorts by the end of the evening win not only prestige, but funding for their research and prestigious tenured professor position at the Institute. This is done through completing puzzles of all types, including stuff like punchdown circuitry, “alchemical” experiments with house hold goods, more traditional puzzles, and so on. Each player would make a couple of key choices at creation, such as their specialty (Thaumaturgy, Mechanics, or Anima (magic/machine combined)), career (bonuses to some puzzles), peer group (known contacts and rivals), shortcoming (your glaring flaw), aspirations (public goals), simple elegance (secret, probably diabolical, goal), and petty jealousy (ways to sabotage other projects).
The game staff are judges of the symposium, but they know that cheating, sabotage, and petty vindictiveness is what drives advancement, and will turn the other cheek to such acts. Of course, if the sabotage turns deadly, which it is sure to do so, then they might have to get involved.
So that’s the general concept. A single run event focused on puzzles, building things, and sabotage in the name of innovation.