It's always a good idea to do a bit of research. When I made the claim that I didn't think there were many "steampunk boffer" games, I really hadn't looked into it much. I'd only encountered pseudo-medieval fantasy boffer LARPs, so that's what I assumed the majority were. It appears that there are a few steampunk options in existence.
That's not a bad thing, it just means that this game being designed needs a good point of differentiation. I think we've got that with the communal storytelling ecosystem (regardless of what genre it's applied to), but, now that we know of other games vaguely fitting the intended theme, we can actually use this to our advantage by researching their merits and flaws compared to what we're developing.,
Here's a few that I've found so far...
The Vorydian Chronicles - lots of numbers in this one, exactly the kind of system I'm NOT going for. Still, it looks like there are some interesting ideas that could be adapted to the direction where I'm heading. There's also abilities requiring prerequisites that require prerequisites abilities and minimum levels and complexity and...and stuff. I thought I was being a bit needlessly complicated with races, cultures, and occupations, looking at this makes me feel a bit better (hey, some people like games of this nature, and more power to them, it's just not me, and I don't find it very accommodating for new players.
Rise of Aester - an interesting system with finer gain of skill levels, where characters separated by two levels of skill automatically see wins going to the higher participant, but closer skill differences see a randomising mechanic used. Theres a bit more complexity thrown in, but I've seen this sort of system work really well with players who know what they're doing.
The Steampunk LARP - This looked alright until a couple of hours ago, and now it looks dead. (The site anyway). It did use that curious system where XP costs on skills vary based on attribute values, and played with other numbers in a way that asked to be metagamed. Lots of numbers doing all sorts of strange things. Hopefully this will pop up again later.
Dark Passages - another one that fits into the pattern of "old-school" Boffer LARP. Lots of numbers, but the more I look at this, the more I see good reasoning behind those numbers. It uses races, cultures and callings, and a more open ended character progression system. It also seems to have an interesting system for manufacture of goods within the game.
From each of these established systems, I've looked at the available list of skills for characters, then used it to flesh out the range of abilities in the game being designed.
General Ability List
Animal Husbandry 1
Shield Use 1
Obscure Ability List (each has a racial/cultural/advanced-skill requirement)
Bureaucracy (Imperial/Settlers) 2
Dream (faeblood/Incarnate) 3
Negation (Pureblood) 4
Rage (Dhampyr/Wyldling) 3
Theology (Church/Cult) 2
Transformation (Wyldling/Avatar) 4
Trade (Freebooters) 2
Local lore (Natives) 2
Each of these abilities has been allocated a number, purely for my own purposes at this stage, these numbers are a rough measure of how common the ability should be, they'll have no measure on experience costs or anything like that. 1 is common, 2 less common, 3 uncommon, 4 rare.
Each of these abilities grants three innate abilities to a character (one each at basic, intermediate and advanced), combining these abilities provides "techniques" which are special advantages. I'd like every race and culture to have at least one "obscure" ability, but for those that don't I might add a few more techniques to their repertoire.
4 days ago