With any type of writing, though I think particularly for something with an historical angle to its setting, it’s helpful (read: necessary) to have some references to point at for ideas and bringing the world building to life. Often, mediums other than just text can also be helpful to more directly relate ideas to our modern understanding. This is a lot of the reason why I use .gifs and pop culture references in these blog posts to help give the ideas I’m trying to convey a more solid anchor point that people of the modern day can understand. That and they add a certain visual appeal and some humor to keep things interesting.
So for this week, I thought I’d take a moment to share a few references to outside sources I use for some of the ideas I come up with, particularly some of the YouTube channels. As a warning, some of these may have additional paid content, but everything I’ve looked at is strictly on the free end, so you don’t need to go to that extreme to get some good content.
Hyce – Hyce is a YouTuber who works at the Colorado Railroad Museum that also for a time worked on the video game Railroads Online! (which is how I found him, and the game itself is also a good one if you have the interest in trains). He does a lot of videos talking about the engines they have at the museum and how they operate, and even in his game playthroughs he drops a lot of practical and historical railroading information. Bear in mind, his perspective is primarily from the American side of things, with a particular focus on the narrow gauge, so some of the terms will be different when you’re discussing the British side, but if you’re looking for some general concepts to help bring the railroads to life in your game, his videos are a good and entertaining way to do so.
Primitive Technology – This is one we’ve been referencing a fair amount writing for the Saurids, but could also apply for any sort of pioneers or people trying to build up a civilization from nothing as many would in the Gruv. They do a good job showing the processes involved to get resources and process them into useful materials, and can help generate ideas of what is possible when industrialization isn’t available.
Absolute History’s The Bizarre World of Victorian England – These folks have some fantastic videos that are directly relevant to the game world of 1879. They show not only the period around where the game takes place, but also information about the time leading up to it and the time shortly after, which is particularly relevant since things in the game world are advancing ahead a bit quicker than they did in the real world. I watched their three part series on bread, and was fascinated the entire way through.
Practical Engineering – This one is really focused on modern day infrastructure, particularly with a focus on American infrastructure, but a lot of the concepts that make up the foundations for the principles were started with the Industrial Era. Might be somewhat limited for how much can be applied to the game line, but if you need an idea for an adventure, he covers break downs on a lot of major engineering failures, and that could easily create ideas for disasters to send your players to try and avert.
Ian Davis, Missing Parts Club – This guy features some fantastic work on custom prosthetics, several of which he’s designed for himself and improved on them over time. If you’ve got a character with a prosthetic in your game, I highly recommend giving his channel a look.
Train of Thought – Another one for railroad enthusiasts, this channel covers several historical engines, including a lot of special cases and stories about them. Both good for learning about engines themselves and generate some adventure ideas involving them.
Anthony Dawson History – Yes, another on trains, noticing the pattern of my interests yet? As with Train of Thought, this channel covers a lot of individual engines and the stories and history around them. The railroad really was that important to the spread of the Empire and industrialization as a whole that it’s worth having multiple sources.
I think this should do as a sampling for the time being. There are hours and hours worth of videos on here that are both interesting and useful fleshing out your game world and maybe creating some ideas for adventures and characters for your players to encounter. Have any references of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments and on Discord; things like this actually are a huge help on the development side.