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Herofest LARP -Steampunk History

In Herofest LARP: Letting off Steam, most of the world’s actual history remains as was with some key changes:

1860’s and the development of Aether and Aura

Steampunk at Herofest LARP HistoryIn the 1860’s two new and exciting breakthroughs in science and philosophy start to alter the way the world works at an amazing rate.


Sometimes referred to as ‘luminiferous aether’ is considered by scientists to be:

“A physical medium occupying every point in space including within material bodies. Aether's properties give rise to the electric and magnetic phenomena and determines the propagation velocity of their effects. Therefore the speed of light and all other propagating effects are determined by the physical properties of the Aether at the relevant location, analogous to the way that gaseous, liquid and solid media affect the propagation of sound waves”

In simple terms it is everywhere and the Aether field influences the extent to which other things (such as gravity) work. It creates a number of fixed pathways or Aetheric flows (it is ultimately these pathways that allow navigation to Mars), can be collected into valve based devices as a form of energy, has a complex inter-action with a number of other phenomena (e.g. steam power) and has been used to create many interesting and wonderful affects. Aether based technology is at the forefront of many engineering solutions on Earth and its applications extend into all areas of life.


An Aura is a field of subtle, luminous radiation surrounding a person or object.

At the same time as the great scientists discovered Aether, the great philosophical minds of the world began to discover how to ‘see’, or otherwise detect, Aura and to devise ways to tap into and utilise these fields. Philosophical experimentation led to several groups of people uncovering methods to read, interpret and manipulate certain Auras and ultimately to tap into the complex fields of Auras generated by all living things to achieve extraordinary effects. The Spiritualism movement was able to show that Auras were also generated by what they claim are the spirits of the deceased; whilst this remains controversial what is proved is that it has been possible to contain ‘spirits’ in bottles and draw on their energy and abilities. In addition Auric devices seem to show on occasion some limited form of intelligence or sentience.

These two amazing discoveries turn out to be great fields of endeavour with the full extent of their possibilities, and indeed how they relate to each other, still to be discovered.

By the end of the 1860’s Aether and Steam powered airships drastically cut down the travel time around the world by utilising Aether flows discovered at high altitude.

1870 and the routes to Mars discovered

In 1870 near simultaneous experiments by several countries and companies discover particularly strong flows of Aether that leave the atmosphere and head towards Mars. The space race is on!

1876 and the first Aether ships landed on Mars

By 1876 a number of missions had been launched towards Mars. To the great surprise of many leaving the Earth’s atmosphere proves remarkably easy and the journey amazingly swift, taking but six months or so. Travel to planets other than Mars proves fruitless due to limited Aether flows but by the end of 1876 the British, the Germans and the Russians have all landed on Mars and each claim to be the first!

On landing these explorers find both a breathable atmosphere and that Mars is already inhabited! The Martian civilisation seems have been in long decline with levels of technological advancement in most areas behind that of Earth, though with some signs that perhaps they were more advanced once. The Martians are strange and bizarre but at the same time rather familiar, bearing a strange resemblance to creatures from the old fairy tales of Earth. The most common form of Martian, with their green and brown skins and ugly appearance to humans are quickly named ‘goblins’ or ‘Low Martians’. The other type of Martian encountered is much rarer and quite aloof; with their pointed ears and often pale skin they are referred to as the ‘High Martians’ or ‘fey’.

Mars is very sparsely populated however not all the land is habitable with certain areas containing noxious gases and poisonous substances in the ground. The Martians are keen to trade for technology and Earth goods and soon a sizeable portion of Mars has been ‘allocated’ for use by those of Earth. Not all Martian tribes think this is a good idea and tension mounts.

It is also found that gun-powder and other similar explosives have a limited effect on Mars, some form of particle in the atmosphere causes the reactions to be dampened – additionally the gravitational effects on Mars significantly impede projectiles of any form other than the Grackle-back’s Gauss Bullets.

1877 and the riches of Mars

Steampunk at Herofest LARP HistoryWith great swiftness the explorers from Earth spread out and start to try and lay claim to various sections of the planet. This is soon followed by three great discoveries: The first, and the most significant in terms of driving interest in Mars, is the discovery that the land is rich in rare minerals and other valuable ores. The second discovery is of several very old, and seemingly Egyptian, ruins scattered amongst the ancient Martian ones. From the hieroglyphics found there is a direct link to Earth but there is no evidence (such as bodies) yet found to confirm whether humans came to Mars long ago or Martians visited Earth.

1878 and the Colonies

By 1878 the countries of earth have sent multiple ships to begin the exploring, prospecting, trade and colonisation works. Already mining operations have been started by several companies including significant American and German Empire backed companies and new teams of researchers have landed from both the Ottoman Empire and a tripartite consortium of European Universities. All these operations are of course backed up military support ‘just-in-case’ and by now several smaller independent ships have also starting making the trip. After some delay even the French Republic launch a mission sending a detachment of their Foreign Legion.

Flights to Mars

First large hot air balloons are used to lift the Aether ships into the upper atmosphere (where the Aether conduits are more defined). Propulsion is undertaken in two manners, firstly large out-board riggers with screw devices provide slow speed propulsion (although space is a vacuum dust particles and debris provide sufficient traction to ease ships along). Rapid long distance journeys are undertaken using gun powder rockets for acceleration and deceleration, balloons are re-inflated to allow for the descent to Mars. The Aether conduits hold a basic atmosphere between the places they connect, sufficient to sustain life for the journey, which takes approximately six months.

1881 and the Great Calamity

A massive solar storm or explosion is observed in the sky and electrical storms ravage the surface of Mars. All Aether and Aura based equipment stops functioning and the great Aether ships implode and collapse. There are only limited communication devices with Earth and they all stop receiving any signals

The next ships due to arrive don’t turn up that week, or the week after. Six months pass and the colonies on Mars have no word from Earth: what has happened there? Do the Aether flows still link all the way from Mars to Earth?

Resources become scarce and the settlers from Earth develop somewhat of a ‘frontier’ attitude to possessions, land and people – a law-less period ensues!

1882: the Temple and the High Council of Mars

Still no new ships arrive and no messages are received from Earth. Tension is high with resources running low. Outbreaks of violence start to become common and rumours run wild. Some say Mars is now cut off forever from Earth, or that Earth is destroyed, and want to declare independence from all ties and start again. Others remain loyal to their Sovereign nations and remain confident that it is only a matter of time before contact is re-established.

Then a marvelous and astonishing discovery is made! A strange ‘temple’ is discovered that has seemingly survived the worst of the ravages of time and the decline of the Martian people. Everyone who entered this temple felt a strange comforting feeling, further investigation found that resting in the temple for only a few minutes cured minor ailments, longer periods of rest inside the temple removed significant injuries (broken bones etc). Even persons mortally injured (in gun-fights or mining incidents) were found to recover if left long enough. Strangely the High Martians have never contested the ownership of the temple (it was felt they would) and have said, although not in open discussion, that it is a cursed place.

All the colonies agree that they need to collaborate if they are to survive and prosper and so a High Council of Mars is formed with two representatives from each nation (or recognised faction) - they agree a basic set of laws. They take control of the ‘Rejuvenation Temple’ and all the mines in human hands and establish a set of companies to operate these mines as well as other key facilities.

1883 (The Beginning of Letting Off Steam): limited Aether and Aura devices have been repaired

Work begins on repairing an Aether ship to send back to earth. More survivors keep coming in from the surrounding areas drawn to civilisation (of a sort) and the factions start to jockey for position.

There are still explorations to be made, new technological discoveries to find, mysteries and secrets to be uncovered, rivals to dismay and of course plenty of tea to be consumed – so it’s not all bad.

Extract from the Diary of the Right Honourable Charles Forsyth, Martian High Council Member of Her Majesty's Great Expedition: June 1883


The formation of the High Council of Mars largely saw the back of the lawlessness, however on the new Martian frontier a few pockets of resistance remained.

William 'Hyde Park Bill' Jones lead one such gang of outlaws that continued to terrorise the mines and remote outposts of the Martian landscape.

High Council member Sky Captain Otto von Punisher and the Red Skulls of Mars placed a bounty on the 'Hyde Park Gang' and the nations were asked to muster under the banner of the Foreign Legion to eradicate the threat.

Independent bounty hunters also gathered and the New Dakota territories mounted a posse. Her Majesties Expeditionary Forces claimed that Jones should be brought before a proper court of law.

6 months passed since the Mining Automaton was brought under the control of the nations but still there was no word from earth. The construction of Aether Ships began in earnest but components for the broken communication device still remained elusive. Rumours abounded that Jones' gang held a stash of stolen components and Aether devices and they were to be approached with caution and everyone was told to consider them armed and extremely dangerous.

There was a strange rotting disease effecting those working in the deep mines of Mars which continued to pervade the common men of the nations. A new High Martian visited the settlements of Mars claiming to speak of or for the Wind Walkers.

Grackleback Shaman were seen chanting, stirring cauldrons of vile brews and sitting for hours in smoke houses. The Wind Walkers were reputed to come when Mars needs cleansing and the 'un-clean' were told to prepare themselves for their final hours.

Had any news been received from Earth? How close were the Nations to succeeding in the construction of an Aether Ship?

Renewed sightings of the 'Wraiths of Mars' reminded the Nations that destruction of an enemy on Mars was not an easy task and as two shadows aligned on the settlements there was a stand off between all those that claim to know the truth of Mars?

Booking details for Steampunk @ Herofest LARP/LRP are here »

For more information, or to post your completed booking, contact Paul Matthews at Herofest LARP/LRP, Unit 42A/6, Morelands Trading Estate, Bristol Road, Gloucester, GL15RZ.  Alternatively email us for information or details on how to make a Steampunk @ Herofest booking at: paul@herofest.co.uk.

Steampunk at Herofest LARP

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