Who is the Steam Highwayman? You are the Steam Highwayman!
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Download a short ‘demo’ version of Steam Highwayman 1 here: DemoSH1.1
Steam Highwayman is an Adventure Gamebook in which the reader explores an alternate 19th century England mounted on a steam motorbike, robbing, duelling, discovering and rescuing. You have choice to find your own destiny: will you side with the Compact for Workers’ Equality and work to bring about revolution in England? Will you find a place in high society and become famed for your gallantry and style? Will you find your own path through the smog of the cities and beneath the branches of the quiet woods?
Steam Highwayman is planned as a series of modular, open-world gamebooks. Quests begun in one location may lead you far abroad; tales of your deeds may follow you to the valleys of Wales or along the length of the Great North Road; you may find that your hard-won reputation in one region is worthless to the rebels of Cornwall or the new nobility of the Imperial Capital.
Your adventure is only limited by your success in pursuing your own goals. You have no single quest to complete and there is no fixed ‘story’, but you will encounter many quests, missions, puzzles and mysteries throughout the books. Your journey through these becomes your ‘story’ and when it comes to an end, you can begin once more and explore what might have been.
The series is planned as a sequence of six gamebooks, each of which will be crowdfunded on Kickstarter to pay for art, printing and distribution costs.
Volume 1: Smog and Ambuscade – Explore the melting pot of the Thames Valley, where rich and poor live cheek by jowl.
Volume 2: Highways and Holloways
Volume 3: The Reeking Metropolis
Volume 4: The Prince of the West
Volume 5: Dark Vales and Dark Hearts
Volume 6: The Great North Road
What is a Gamebook?
A gamebook is more than a simple branching narrative: it is an explorable world that resembles a solo Role-Playing Game, with quests, encounters, non-player-characters and many of the other features of modern fantasy RPGs. For example, you will need to track your character statistics (RUTHLESSNESS, ENGINEERING, MOTORING, INGENUITY, NIMBLENESS and GALLANTRY) and to make skill checks at crucial points in the adventure. You will also track where you have been and what you have experienced through a combination of tickboxes and codewords that you collect. This means that you can return to locations or meet characters for a second time and discover new content – perhaps dependent upon your earlier choices.
A gamebook works by presenting you with short pieces of narrative, interspersed with choices. Each choice will direct you to another numbered passage, where you can read the consequence of your choice.
All this on paper?
Yes. While a computer-based RPG does all the jobs of skill-checks, level-ups and path-tracking for you, making your experience arguably more immersive, a paper gamebook retains something special: the feel of story-telling. Instead of reloading repeated saves to get the best outcome, a reader is limited by the number and arrangement of fingers they can stick in the pages. The discipline of keeping a pencilled list of skills and possessions means that every object gained or lost has a little more value to the reader. The tantalising prospect of coming across fascinating shards of narrative in the next or previous passage to the one you are meant to be reading prompts the reader to wonder how their choices can ever take them there.
On top of this, the entire content of the 1000 passage world is open to scrutiny: you can definitively know how much of the world you have experienced and which strands of story remain elusive. In this way, Steam Highwayman and other gamebooks are not at all like modern RPGs or computerised Interactive Fiction. Instead of a graphics card, you have your mind’s eye. Choose your own soundtrack, pull up a comfortable armchair, pour a glass of something historic and lose yourself on the open road…
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