What the Devil is that Fellow Rambling On About?

This list should not be viewed as canon, but merely terms that get bandied about while discussing the topic at hand; especially on this site. Some of the items are ideas that have come up during play that needed to be defined, while others are terms used by various games. Many are completely fabricated by the author for the purpose of allowing concepts not necessarily native to VSF to be used in the genre. A few are general hobby terms. The particular feel of word won out over complete accuracy.


Aether - That mysterious, endless ocean of "stuff" thought to be what was between the celestial bodies.

Aethership - Any vessel that can travel through the aether to other celestial bodies.

Airship - Any vessel that flies (by whatever means) but cannot leave its planet. 

Ambulatory - To be able to walk. Often used in reference to a walking contraption of some sort with only two legs. 

Anthropomorphized - To alter an animal (usually, though not exclusively, through surgery) to appear or act more human. The experiments in The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells fit this category. Colloquial: "anthro(s)" or "beastie(s)".

Augmented - To have a limb or organ replaced with a mechanical one. Colloquial: "augie(s)".

Autogyro - A type of flying craft that resembles a helicopter, but the overhead rotating blades act only as a wing, not as propulsion.

Automaton - Any sort of contraption that can act independently of an operator, often resembling a living creature. Term used before the word "robot" was coined. Colloquial: (if humanoid) "metal man".

Bits - Parts, often leftover scrap or objects cleaved off other items, that can be used for modifying models or figures.

Cerebral Transference - To remove the mind (not necessarily the brain) of one being and place it inside another host, mechanical device or artifact. Colloquial: "brain-boxed" or "swapped heads".

Clockwork - A device that has inner workings like that of a wind-up clock or watch. Implies that the power source is mechanical (specifically springs and/or set of counter weights),  not electrical or steam. Sometimes used colloquially to mean an automaton.

Colossus - A large, humanoid contraption, often armed & armoured. Also referred to as a "titan" or a "metal giant".

Composite - Any creature created by combining living tissue from separate creatures, though not necessarily of the same species. Dr. Frankenstein's monster is one example. Colloquial: "patchwork(s)", "patch(es)" or "patchie(s)".

Contraption - Any sort of mechanical device, though often reserved for the menacingly large, daunting complex, or those of dubious worth.

Construct - Any contraption built to resemble and behave like a living creature, though not necessarily capable of operating independently. 

Conveyance - A transport that can carry only one occupant: the operator. This does not include riding beasts. A pennyfarthing or rocketpack come under this category.

Corporeal Performance Transmission Harness - A method of controlling a mechanical device (often a humanoid contraption like a colossus), which the operator dons a harness or suit that is connected to a series of pulleys, cables & gears. The actions of the operator are duplicated by the contraption controlled in this manner. This allows for finer movements and faster reaction times, though prolonged use is often an exhausting experience for the operator. Colloquial: "puppeteer's vest".

Cowpunk - VSF that takes place in the American Wild West. PEG's Great Rail Wars is an example of this.

D - A way of denoting a type of die. A "D20" is a twenty-sided die, while a "D6" is the common six-sided die. When there is a number used as prefix, then it's telling you how many of what type of die to roll. So, "3D6" translates into "roll three six-sided dice."

Drillship - Any transport that moves underground by digging its own tunnel. Colloquial:  "mole-machine".

Electrogalvanic - Something that generates electrical current.

Golem - Any inorganic creature created by other than mechanical means, usually implying supernatural or paranormal origin or motive power. Does not include contraptions of any sort.

Grafted - To have organs or limbs from another type of creature surgically attached. Colloquial: "graftie(s)".

Homunculus (pl.: Homunculi) - Any organic creature created from scratch by other than natural means.  This does not include the reanimated, anthropomorphized, or composites. Implies paranormal or supernatural origin, though it may have simply been grown in a vat.

Kitbashing - To take an existing model (or toy) and rework (or butcher) it into something different. The changes may be slight or dramatic.

Landship - A large land transport, often armed. Think of a tank the size of a battleship with nautical architecture. Also called "land leviathans".

Line of Sight - Having an unobstructed view between two objects. This is important for spotting or targeting during game play. Trees, smoke, fog, hills, structures, contraptions, troops and other items/situations can prevent -or "block"- line of sight. Often abbreviated as "LOS", "LoS" or "L.O.S."

Modifier - A value that is added or subtracted from a die roll to get a final number. A modifier reflects how much easier or harder it is to accomplish a particular task. Trying to repair a device in a well lit, well stocked laboratory is much easier than attempting the same endeavor out in the field, at night, in the fog, while it's raining, under enemy fire with only a small rock and an anesthetized chicken on hand. Modifiers may be beneficial or detrimental to the roll, and can quite possibly partially negate some of the effect or even cancel each other out completely.

Mount - A riding beast, such as -but not restricted to- a horse, giant eel or pteranodon.

Natural "20" - Getting a 20 when rolling a twenty sided-die (D20) without applying any modifiers. There is a 5% chance of doing this.

Ornithopter - A type of flying craft whose lift and prolusion are both provided by the flapping motion of its wings. 

Penny Dreadful - Lurid novels of adventure popular in the middle to late nineteenth century that targeted the younger male working class. They were called "dime novels" in the United States.

Powered Frame - A contraption (usually humanoid in design) quite larger than powered suit of armor, which the user "wears" as opposed to "pilots". The anime term would be "landmate". 

Reanimate - Any dead creature that is given the ability (by whatever means) to move and even think, though is not necessarily alive. Zombies are a good example.

Rotary Gun/Cannon - Any weapon that is composed of a collection of barrels that rotate in succession, allowing for a constant, sustainable rate of fire. While one barrel is firing, another is discharging a spent shell, while yet another is reloading. The Gattling Gun is the most famous example. When powered by mechanical means it can unleash a withering storm of bullets or shells. 

Scientific Romance - Victorian term for what is now called "Science Fiction". "Romance" generally meant a work of fiction.

Scratchbuild - To make a model from scratch as opposed to using a preexisting toy or figure as a base. A D.I.Y. store become a whole new world when you look at its wares in 28mm scale. This is where your bits become very useful.

Steampunk - Victorian Science Fiction that has dark & ominous tones, often where technology is an enslaving force and the main characters are fighting against the oppressive establishment. Cyberpunk with steam technology.

Vehicle - A transport that can carry more than one occupant. This does not include riding beasts.

Victorian Science Fiction -  Science Fiction that takes place during the Victorian era. Speculative to downright fanciful technology accomplished with "period" resources, and the supernatural is not excluded.  Often abbreviated as "VSF".

Walkers - A transport that utilizes legs for locomotion. Martian tripods from War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells qualify as walkers.

Whinge - To complain in a particularly annoying manner.


R & S Index