Idea Guild > Cosmic Pluralism

Bronze Steampunk

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Kinslayer:
There were a number of wondrous inventions created centuries ago, some of these were not recreated until the 19th or 20th centuries.  While most of these brilliant inventors were from my hometown of Alexandria (hence my initial interest), there were others from Rhodes, China, or the Muslim world.  

Heron of Alexandria was the inventor of the steam engine (his "wind ball"), odometer, cheiroballistra (early large weapon--later used by the Romans who were never able to create a more advanced version), dioptera (remarkably similar to the modern theodolite of surveyors), & numerous automata.  One of these was the first robot:  it was a full play-in-a-box, that rolled itself out onto the stage, offered music & sound effects (instruments & additional items, such as a thunder machine, also created by Heron for this device), moved "actors," changed backgrounds, rolled off of the stage at the end, and reset itself for the next performance.  Many of Heron's devices had clever self-regulating feedback control devices (such as the self-trimming lamp) that formed the basis for modern cybernetics.  

Yet another remarkable ahead-of-his-time idea is that of sequence control, or programming.  He was able to craft devices that could control the timing and sequences of actions indirectly, without any direct control.  For example, he would wind a cord in a specific fashion around an axle studded with pegs.  As a weight pulled the rope, it would unwind and pull the axle in different directions at precise times.  This in turn would be the main power for a series of gears that would be engaged, activated, disengaged, and reset, according to the motion of the axle & timing sequence.  

Supposedly (no artefacts or diagrams have been found), Heron created devices that could speak, and others that could record sound.  

Archimedes was considered such an ideal thinker that the story of his death became something of a parable.  His inventions were perhaps even more numerous and remarkable than Heron.  Where the Alexandrian inventor was more focused on remarkable gadgets, Archimedes thought big.  He crafted numerous war engines, each more terrifyingly effective than the last.  One of these used mirrors to direct the sun's energy at enemy ships.  The radiation would burn the ships within seconds (wood, not just sails, as these were furled during an attack) at a distance greater than their archers could retaliate.  His "iron hand" could move or destroy ships.  He is also the inventor of the compound pulley, and may have invented an early camera.  

These are just two of the great inventors of antiquity.  With their ideas extrapolated (instead of just the military ones captured by the Romans), there could be an entire genre of Bronze Age Steampunk developed.  

Imagine articulated bronze limbs--with their own feedback system for ease of control from Heron & incredible strength from Archimedes, Archytas's flying machine, Ctesibius's hydraulic systems, Antikythera computers (based on an astronomical device that used a differential gear & far greater degree of precision than was thought possible prior to industrialisation), and giant clay & iron monstrous mobile statues marching about the land.  The very lack of certain technological developments forces even greater cleverness in design.  The possibilities are truly endless.  

Development of these ancient ideas into a fantasy campaign works, even outside of their contemporary setting.  I have employed some of the ideas, inventions, & principles, into Midian's steampunkish elements.  Thus far, it's worked quite well.  Of course, as a potential niche genre itself, Bronze Steampunk would work great in its proper ancient setting.  

Ideas?

Anteaus:
Are you looking for ideas for machines and devices, or for roleplaying options, or asking how it could fit into a game world.  And if you are looking for machines, how much magic are we looking at here?  None at all, like groups of gnomes or the orcs from the LoTR movies?  Or Fire elemental powered steam engine, spin the glowing gem just right and you get leveitation type?

CaptainPenguin:

--- Quote ---Or Fire elemental powered steam engine, spin the glowing gem just right and you get leveitation type?
--- End quote ---


No, I believe that the idea behind all of this is that it is NOT magical in nature, and actually existed at some point.

Kinslayer:
That's exactly it, CP.  Not only were these devices impressive by themselves, but it's even more amazing when you consider their age.  Most of the world hadn't even discovered eating with utensils, but these guys were creating things that our modern & industrialised society would find it a minor challenge to repeat.  

Anteaus, I'm not actually looking for any of those things, only discussion on a topic I find interesting.  Heron, or Hero, is something of a hero to me, in addition to being my homeboy. His warmachines (including crossbows, ballistae, and catapults) were of such fine engineering, that the Romans, who later used them extensively, never improved upon them.  

Using magic for Bronze Age Steampunk is a bit cheating.  After all, what's the point of making a mechanical man, if you can just animate a golem, or even easier, to just summon a monster for the same tasks. For Heron however, the reverse was true.  Waiting for divine intervention to work miracles wasn't worth the wait, and magic provided equally unsatisfactory results. Note that magic was considered very real--and rather accessible--as he lived in Egypt during the early part of the Ptolemic reign, and THE Library at Alexandria was in full operation. So, for Heron and his inventive contemporaries, using physics, mechanics, and mathematics, were much better options than divine or arcane magic.

Thanks for resurecting this thread.

Rob Lang:
I'm glad you did resurrect this thread because I think the idea is simply splendid.

Having studied a fair amount of Cybernetics (my first degree and Masters), I have seen many of the principles but study normally ends going back as far as Victorian times (late C19th) where the principles of feedback were first truly understood and applied.

I think this would make a wonderful setting. One might take the world a little further and say that each classical civilisation (Egyptian, Roman and Greek) each had their own form of technology. Of course, the overlap between these civilisations was quite small, ending with the Roman expansion. However, it would be interesting to take a point in history (around 100AD, I'd guess) and detach the game timeline from historical time. Keep the Greak and Egyptian civilisations alive and extrapolate their abilities.

Perhaps also borrow some of the technology from the Mayans, whose stonework was second to none - creating perfect fitting joints with blocks weighing 40 tonnes was quite amazing.

The setting could revolve around the manner in which these civilisations use the technologies against each other. Constant shifting alliances would make the landscape dynamic. This may very well depend on the style of state leadership (Democracy, Republic and Monarchy) and succession. A republic may not want a costly war but a Monarchy is bound to its Pharoh.

Given all this, we'd be looking at a very Mediterranean centred setting and so air power and naval power would be very important. I like the idea of steam vessels not powered by a propellor but a full archimedes screw. Or even a sort of jet system involving the pressure of the steam itself. A sort of steam jet thing.

My creative juices are overflowing. I love it. Always did have a passion for steampunk too. :)

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