If you are looking for either a diversion from your regular Cthuhlu chronicle, or interested in a small, self-contain campaign, then Queensguard is the right title for you. Queensguard takes place in an alternate America, one in which the British Monarchy, having lost Europe has transferred the seat of power to Manhattan. Around them are a swirl of Norse raiders, the war with the Central Asian Empire rages and there appears to be dissent and madness even in those meant to be the closest advisors to the Crown.
The two new societies introduced are the Philosophers and the Queensguard. The first are a scholarly order, responsible for many of the steampunk themed inventions of this age, from airships and electric carriages to augmented goggles and alchemical fire. The second are the Queen’s personal guard who are a blend of bodyguard, elite military unit and national police force. Both orders are given enough treatment to make characters drawn from either to be playable and interesting.
The overview of the Kingdom of America, character creation, new magic and descriptions of the orders take in only twenty-seven pages and it is an incredibly compact, yet satisfying section. The remainder of the book (fifty-five pages) is given to a two-part module-style story. The running time asks for around four hours per module (for eight hours total), but I’d be keen to see this tested as I believe that it would be easy to drawn this out to double the length with imaginative players. In either case, it offers a good length of play experience and an interesting (albeit sparsely developed) campaign setting. If you did intend to pursue a longer-running story arc, the Keeper would need to invest some time to further develop the setting.
My main criticism was that the elements I’d associate with steampunk weren’t immediately apparent in the book. To me it felt like a blend of 19th century technology with magic, but lacked the same feel I get from Deadlands, or Iron Kingdoms. It almost seemed as though the word was used to give the product a genre and nothing else. That said, a Keeper familiar with the genre would be able to narrate the setting as they saw fit and make things a little more industrialised, smoke filled and mechanical – with that touch of magic thrown in for good measure.
The module is well-written and would be an enjoyable experience to run as Keeper, but does require some preparation. There is some solid advice in the ‘Contingency’ sections (in case the players make choices that aren’t explicitly covered) and also notes on scaling to be found in the end of the book.
Queensguard, whilst not living up to my expectation of steampunk Cthuhlu, is still a good read and the module would play enjoyably. I could honestly see this as an alternate Cthuhlu experience that you’d be tempted to revisit (and write your own material for) every now and again – and in that it succeeds admirably as an imaginative RPG title.