Naturally, one of the things I get asked most commonly is, “What is 1879?” Whether it’s someone who already knows about FASA and our past, someone who doesn’t know about FASA specifically but knows about RPGs and is interested in a new one, or someone who is completely uninitiated and just wants to know what the heck it is that I’m working on all the time that keeps me from social engagements (and I don’t feel like telling them outright that I’m an anti-social hermit), over time I’ve had to develop the elevator pitch – a very quick run down that I can get through in the time span of an elevator ride so that they get the general gist of things.
Of course, the exact points I highlight vary a bit depending on how much time they have and where their interests are, and it has adjusted over time as the game has evolved. In lieu of anything else to write about this week (I promise I’ll have more soon, but we’re kind of between things at the moment as the writing for the Saurids Sourcebook is getting finished), I figured I might as well do a write up of the overview of the pitch in its current state. Bear in mind, this will have a few different layers for different levels of knowledge and interest, and it’s designed to be as short and broadly understood as possible; there are going to be some gaps and comparisons that aren’t the best, but are necessary to be understood by as many people as possible.
In one sentence: 1879 is role-playing game and miniatures combat setting created by FASA Games that is part steampunk, part magic, and part pulp adventure.
If they don’t know what a role-playing game is: Ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons? It’s like that, but different rules and different setting. (Yeah, I don’t like the comparison either, but it’s what everyone has heard of)
If they don’t know what miniatures combat is: Picture chess. Now picture the board is larger and is an actual map with terrain. Now picture the pieces are actual miniature figures to represent what they are, and there’s a lot more of them. Now picture that they have different abilities beyond just movement, like firing a gun, casting spells, controlling undead pieces, and so on.
If they don’t know what steampunk is: Remember the train at the end of Back to the Future? It’s like that; high functioning technology done with a Victorian era level of materials, techniques, and styling.
If they’ve got experience with RPGs: Ever heard of Shadowrun? It’s like that, but steampunk. (As a quick side note, I do get a lot of people asking of Shadowrun is a bad thing to talk about with 1879. In short, no, it’s not, but I keep it limited to broad strokes and general comparisons.)
So, what’s the setting actually like? (Here’s where it gets more long-winded, but I’ve practiced enough to have this speech down to about a minute and a half now): In the late 1800’s, a weird science experiment in the middle of Greenwich Park goes awry and opens up a portal to another world. This world has a higher magic level than Earth. Mana starts flowing through the portal and brings about a return of magic. A dormant gene in humanity gets set off and causes transformations into several of the classic fantasy races: elves, dwarves, trolls, and snarks, which is our term for orks in this setting (If they know about Shadowrun, I’ll shorten this to just refer to the Awakening). With magic back, all those obscure rituals that the Victorians liked to practice in secret salons and cults actually start to do things now. Religion also gets influenced with magic. How do you think the Anglican Church would have been affected if they had solid evidence of the soul? You want to talk to uncle Herbert who died last year? The priest can summon his spirit, and there he is, go talk to him.
In addition to the return to magic, several points in history prior to this have been altered that have encouraged more advanced study into science and engineering. Do you know who Charles Babbage is? (Often the answer is no) Real world person, he designed a steam powered clockwork computer. While he was a brilliant man, he was a horrible project manager, and in the real world the project never got completed. In the game world, the British government took over his work as an imperative for the Empire and made it happen, so basically mechanical computers exist in this world.
And then there’s the world on the other side of the portal. The British quickly find they aren’t the first ones there; these portals are apparently natural events, and one opened up in the past and allowed some of the Akkadians and Babylonians to go through. They discovered some sort of technology that allows them to directly manipulate mana into life energy and back again. Among other things, they use it to animate the dead as a manual labor force and as disposable troops to use in war games to settle disputes. The British hated them on sight, viewing them as desecrating the dead, and the Samsut hated the British for wasting a valuable resource, so war has ensued. There’s also a native race of lizard people called the Saurids on this world. They’re a bit of a mixed bag; some are allied with the British, some hate them, some are torn between whether they hate the British or the Samsut more. Beyond that, this world has entire new regions to explore with new resources, dinosaurs, giant bugs, man eating plants, and tons of other unknowns to go out and find.
So, are you a new person that’s had your interest piqued by my rambling? Or if you’re an experienced player, do you think I’ve hit most of the highlights? Anything you’d add? Let me know on Discord; who knows, maybe I’ll modify the pitch to add your points in.