Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Dark London: Meet the Mistress of the Mechanical, Miss Rossum

Hi everybody. Not much going on gamewise here, but I have continued to develop the fictional London that will undergird my games of In Her Majesty's Name and Empire of the Dead. 

Thank you, everyone who has given me such positive feedback on the previous offerings in this series of character sketches. Today I'd like to introduce you to the force behind the labor revolution sweeping the shops and farms and workhouses of my version of steampunk London: Miss Rossum, owner, proprietor and chief engineer of Rossum's Anthropomorphic Automatons.

Mistress of the Mechanical

They call her Miss Rossum, and she allows it. It is, after all, the name displayed in glowing red letters on the side of her manufactory. 
It is not the name she was given, nor how she thinks of herself. 
They also call her beautiful, and she, in weaker moments, concedes they are right.
They call her brilliant, those who can fathom the scope of her endeavors. They call her coarser names, those whose own handiworks gather dust, driven from the market by her superior offerings.
Few who purchase or hire her creations know of the island nation from whence she comes. They have not heard of the uprising and violence that laid waste to her home and drove her here, to London. Some may have heard the name Rossum in the past, likely in connection with the first of the mechanical men, and their recollections are likely positive, with associations of durability, stability and innovation.
The public may see her in upper-class attire and debating shipping duties with a wharfinger or some local elected functionary, or they may see her outside the walls of her massive smoke-belching, ear-splitting manufactory clad in her working leathers and goggles, taking a brief respite, her arm enveloped by the massive steam-fist she uses when manning her production line.
But they do not know her, three generations removed from the original Rossum. London thinks of her only as the Mistress of the Mechanical, purveyor of a broad range of machines designed to perform work humans find too dangerous, too complicated or too tedious.
Her customers come to her, the woman behind Rossum’s Anthropomorphic Automatons, for their miners, their fieldhands, their domestic staff. Corpulent government agents negotiate the shadows to meet her on the sly, to feel her out about purchasing soldiers, a topic that provokes a curt refusal and a dangerous flashing of her steely eyes.
They have no idea, her customers, that her name is actually Helena Domin. They have no idea of the fundamental differences between her and them. Though biological, she is not human. She is a survivor, a sole survivor. None left alive know of the true advances made in the final production run of Rossum’s Universal Robots. So advanced they cannot be told from human, unless they reveal themselves by being faster, stronger, smarter, more durable.
By being better.
And if Helena Domin has her way, no one will ever know. She will be the last, and her mechanical men and women will be shiny brass and chrome, gearwork and rivets exposed and reassuring to her human customers, their stick-men frames almost comical. They will be obviously made, not grown, as she was.
Her manufactory whistles and rumbles day and night, steam plumes rising ‘round the clock from its stacks, its assembly lines cranking out the workers her customers so desperately desire. Mechanical workers build copies of themselves every day of the week, ready to occupy the niches humans are eager to abandon.
So the Mistress of the Mechanical keeps track of each of her children, in the mines, in the fields, in every home of means, in every office in every firm, so common now that people do not even notice them. And they would be alarmed, these customers, if they knew the true number of these vast uncounted Anthropomorphic Automatons, some tiny and childlike, some towering and silent, but all aware.
All waiting.
And all fiercely loyal to their creator.

So obvious inspiration, in part, from the Cybermen and the Cylons, but the biggest fictional link I'm playing with is of course Karel Capek's 1920 play "Rossum's Universal Robots," or "R.U.R." which was the original source of the word "robot." I believe it derives from the word "rabota" which, in Old Church Slavonic, meant a drudge, one who worked at forced labor. (Cobbled together from things I heard on Q.I. and NPR, so I could be slightly off here, folks.)

Here are some pics of minis that I'm considering for Miss Rossum and some of her mechanical creations.

I'm considering this Reaper Savage Worlds/Deadlands female
 Mad Scientist for Miss Rossum. Needs a bigger power fist, though.
Here's a powerfist/hand I may extract/lop off for Miss Rossum.

Here's another one, Crooked Dice's Dr. Ulysses Argo for 7TV.
This has the advantage of having either arm as an option.

Reaper's Jeeves the Clockwork Robot has just the look I want for her Automatons.

These Reaper Savage Worlds/Deadlands Automatons are a little TOO human-seeming.
Maybe a head swap with some Robot Legionnaires would do the trick.
The Robot Legionnaires of which I spoke in the earlier caption.
These Wolsung mirror golems also capture a feel I really like.
Here they are repurposed with more usual
technical tasks, so they're known as Clockwork Servants.

That's it for now, o my brothers and sisters. Maybe if I get some time this coming week I can come up with some game stats for these occupants of my imagination.

Back to the boards, everyone, and I'll see you across the tables!


  1. Really nicely written back story. There is a limited figure sold by C'mon who would make a good leader. Steampunk Jen Haley bit pricey but a very nice figure none the less.

    1. That's true, I'd forgotten about that one. Thanks!

  2. Love the concept and so many cool minis:get some of all of them ;)

    1. Oh I plan to. Even of some of them don't end up as the characters I'm envisioning now, I know I'll use them for something.

  3. A really good character creation, so much creative thinking packed in to give great potential.

    I like the look of the minis too.

  4. Interestingly enough, I was going to ask if the name 'Rossum' was a reference to the character in Joss Whedon's show _Dollhouse_, but your explanation makes me think that's where *he* got the name from, heh.

    1. How cool! I'm a big fan of Whedon, but I've never watched any of "Dollhouse." My wife watched it and enjoyed it, but for some reason I abstained at the time. Maybe it's time to go back and watch it now.