Now that the Game Guide for Mana Punk is out and available, I feel it is a good time to get everyone acquainted with the game system as well as the over all idea that drives Mana Punk. While I may not have been the person that coined the term, I do hope to give it as much depth and breadth of definition as other such descriptors as “Steampunk” or “Fantasy” hold. In order to do this we will need to help define the game system and the world it runs, which brings about the important question… what exactly is “mana punk”, anyway?
In the beginning…
Mana Punk’s creation springs from a desire for a high magic fantasy gaming world with steam-punk or clockwork technology to support it without having said technology feel “shoe-horned in”. Just imagine if a world existed where people really could command the magical energy known as mana. how long would it be before mana gets used as an energy resource to drive mechanical devices (almost as a substitute for the discovery or harnessing of electricity)? Such an innovation could revolutionize any society that witnessed its creation, producing waves of change that would ripple out through the rest of that world inducing both order and chaos in the process. The world of Zethyria, in which Mana Punk takes place, resides comfortably some 50 years after this conceptual point. While mechanical contraptions may have existed for hundreds of years (depending upon the culture you are talking about at any given point), these devices were usually very primitively animated using a complex system of spells and magical effects all tethered to a single technological conundrum. These items were vastly time consuming in their creation, requiring hundreds of hours in man power and strong financial resources to achieve genesis.
The ability for someone to manipulate a certain volume of mana into a state where it is on the verge of creating hot steam, then locking this virtual state into a physical casing yields a Master Piston. This Master Piston effectively works on steampunk principles while still being powered by magical energy (or mana) at its very core, giving birth to the idea of “mana punk” in the process. Now mechanical creations that previously required arduous marathons of ritual sorcery and understanding of complex magical principles can be produced and powered with just one single key component. Master Pistons are created to imbue mechanisms with the raw brute strength of steam. Gear Hearts transfer the quiet clicking grace and quickness of clockwork gears into whatever they are linked. All of these mana-powered motors then quietly sit and wait for the touch of an engineer to bring them to life, moving and working at the whim of their master’s will.
Mages rebel, panties get knotted
Once an innovation as powerful and as useful this comes into existence, it becomes nigh impossible to get the monster back into the metaphorical box. Engineers start banding together, pooling their resources and talents to advance the ease of creation and use for mechanical contraptions designed to further empower all of those not born with the gift of spell casting. Previously famous wizards, druids or shaman who held almost rock-star social status as a result of their ritual participation in the creation of once elaborate artifacts are now left to feel obsolete as technological innovation gives rise to the “Era of the Engineer”. Conversation in most social circles quickly swirls with the engineering buzz, tying the collective panties of the conservative magical front into even larger metaphorical knots than were hitherto thought possible. Mages inevitably wind up worrying over a wave potential unemployment that never comes, as day to day problems only conquerable via magic still present themselves in society. A tenuous social peace has now been reached between these two factions, despite the occasional nasty looks being thrown across the battle lines.
All of this means that the core meaning behind the phrase “mana punk” being used to define our game world inherently requires the presence of magic. Without some latent magical capability, an engineer would never be able to create the master gears or master pistons that drive there mechanical creations… reverting them back to the more traditional “steam-punk” existence. Mana Punk engineering ends up both tying itself to the existence of those considered magically gifted as well as empowering those people not magically gifted, granting them a wider range of capability and survival tools during a growing “Golden Age of Adventuring” sweeping its way across the land.