The Snowed Inn

A Steam-fantasy RPG


If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Technologies In Use

The inn and everything within its walls operate at a pre-1900 level of technology, that is maintained by magic, meaning that most machines you're familiar with will not function well, if at all. If you arrive with, say, a cel phone or laptop, it will turn into a large, circuit-filled paperweight, until you take it back out into the world. Non-technological products of modern technology, however, may be introduced, such as medicines, foods, or clothing.

Here are a few of the developments we do have, and, if applicable, their dates of invention in the real world.

Beer Engine

These are the the non-pressurised hand-pumps with which beers dispensed at the bar are sometimes still poured We keep our more commonly served drinks linked to these instead of in tapped casks for ease of service.

Candlestick Telephone

There is one of these behind the bar, available on request. It will make calls worldwide, as it is connected to an outside exchange, on the other side of the walls.

Ferranti Alternator

The small Ferranti alternator in the cellar is not working, but when it does, it provides 200Hz 1500V AC power, which is incompatible with most modern devices, without significant transformation, which Yaz will be working on, once he gets the thing fixed.

Gas Range

There is a small gas range behind the bar, used for heating water for tea and coffee. It's connected to the gas system that runs through the building for the lights. The kitchen, however, is still using a fire-chamber and separate masonry oven, as well as a large fireplace, in which the stew of the day is hung.

Ice Box

(before the 1850s)
We do not have a refrigerator, but we do have an ice box, which is a metal-lined cabinet with a compartment for ice and a drip tray to catch the water when it melts. Since the inn tends to maintain something of a blizzard just outside the walls, it's not difficult to keep the ice box iced.

Tankless Water Heater

Loosely based on Maughan's 1868 'Geyser' water heater, baths in the rooms are heated with these small gas heater-boxes that can be lit, in the manner of the lamps, and when the hand pump is used, slowly, water from the well will be drawn up into the copper coils in the box, and heated before being released into the tub.

Taking Pictures

The camera was widely known and used, well before 1900, but since its inception, there have been stories of the interactions between film and magic -- soul-stealing cameras, vampires that don't photograph, phantoms that do... This section will list a few more common cameras of the time, as well as what's likely to happen to any photos taken in the inn.


Roll a d100 for each photo. Match rolls to the table below.

01 to 50The photo comes out as shot.
51 to 55The photo is too dark. (But recognisable.)
56 to 60The photo is too light. (But recognisable.)
61 to 75The photo doesn't come out.
75 to 80Someone unexpected is in the picture.
80 to 85A person is missing from the photo.
85 to 90There is a peculiar blur over someone's skin.
90 to 95It's just a face covering the whole plate.
95 to 00The plate is untouched, like it wasn't shot.


The daguerreotype and calotype processes were both announced to the world in 1839. And although the daguerreotype, which etches a single image into silver, began to lose popularity after about a decade, the calotype, which prints less-detailed images reproducibly onto paper, remained in obscurity until it was made obsolete in 1851 by the collodion process.

Sliding Box Daguerreotype    

These are large units, taking silver plates 6.5"x8.5 inches, instead of what we now know as film. The exposure times range from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the light, and the process of developing the plates is quite toxic, being as it involves mercury, and produces a fragile image that must be sealed airlessly in glass to prevent its decay.

Mousetrap Calotype    

Talbot's more powerful lenses allowed a shorter focal length than what was in use at the time, enabling him to build his tiny 'mousetrap' calotypes. These generate negative images on paper treated with silver iodide, from which positive images can be printed onto paper treated with silver chloride. These images are not as clear as daguerreotypes, but they can be printed multiple times from the same negative. The developing process is less likely to result in madness, as it does not use mercury, but uses gallo-nitrate and hyposulphate of soda.

Wet-Plate Bellows Camera    

The collodion process is also called the wet plate process, as the entire photographic process needs to occur before the collodion on the plate can dry. However, this process results in stable, glass negatives that can be printed an unlimited number of times. First, the plate must be treated with syrupy collodion, then dipped in silver nitrate, to make it light sensitive. After this treatment, the plate needs to be kept shielded from longer wavelengths of light, so it is placed in a plate holder until it is loaded into the camera and ready to use. The concertina-fold of the camera is used to focus the shot. After a 20 to 30 second exposure time, the plate is sealed back into the holder and then taken to the darkroom for developing, which must also be done while the plate is still wet.

The Kodak    

In 1888, Eastman Dry Plate Company released the Kodak, the first film camera for amateurs. In 1889, the film goes from being paper to nitrocellulose, but the camera still ships with a roll good for 100 exposures. These are not intended to be developed by the photographer, but sent back to the company for developing, and the photos produced returned by post.

Making Music

The things we take for granted as antique methods of reproducing sound are not nearly as old as many assume, and although the inn does have a gramophone (possibly more than one model) down in the cellar, it is useless on more recent records, as the needle is much too heavy for anything later than 78 RPM records from before the second World War.


Wireless broadcasting was developed in the late 1880s, among a variety of competing inventors. It was not used for the transmission of news or entertainment, however, until into the 1920s, being used, instead, for telegraphy and naval communications. However, one of the first voice broadcasts made and received was at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, in 1894. AM and UHF receivers may function within the inn, if they can be powered, although there is no guarantee of what they will receive.


In 1877, Thomas Edison developed a system for reproducing sound, in which the sound waves could be converted to etchings on a foil-wrapped cylinder, and then played back from the same. He'd intended it for use in recording telegraph signals or automating speech to be transmitted by telephone, but before ten years had passed, music was being recorded onto the cylinders, and the first phonograph parlour opened in 1889. By 1890, the recording industry was in full swing, searching for ways to speed up the process of duplicating the cylinders. Because of the high cost of recording the cylinders, as opposed to discs, Edison ceased manufacturing cylinders in late 1929, and the market passed wholly to the gramophone.


By 1892, Emile Berliner had worked out a method of recording and playing back sound from a disc, rather than a cylinder, although because of the variance in rotational velocity between the inside and outside of the disc, the sound was not as good as could be had from a cylinder. It wasn't until Eldridge Johnson finished his work on the discs in 1901 that the sound quality approached that of the cylinders. Because of the ease and low cost of pressing discs, they eventually became the dominant medium.